30 September 2012

My First 24 Hour Race: 113 Miles, 1st Woman, 3rd Overall, and a TON of PRs

The highlights: Being 1st woman; Being 3rd Overall; Running the most I’ve ever run (113 miles); On my way to 113 miles, running a 50k PR of 5:18, a 50 mile PR of 9:08, a 100k PR of 11:28, and a 100 mile PR of 20:58!!!! Plus, great volunteers, pretty course, never got boring, challenging yet not too stressful, friendly people, great schwag, and a fantastic price tag of just $24! (Take that, NYC Marathon and your stupid high fees.)

Ray K. convinced me to sign up for the Hinson Lake 24 Hour Ultra. I’ve never been a fan of the idea of timed races, primarily b/c my mantra is, “The faster you run, the sooner you’re done.” Finishing should be the reward for running fast, not more miles.

But I wanted to visit my little sister and her adorable baby anyway, and the race is in NC, “close to your sister, maybe an hour,” Ray told me. After the plane tickets were bought, my sister informed me it was more like two hours. Nice white lie, Ray. (I’m glad he told it.)

It’s funny; I decided not to do Pinhoti or Georgia Jewel mainly because 100 milers suck, but I ended up signing for a 24 hour race in which my goal was over 110 miles. It was also my first 24 hour and I was really nervous – how would I handle the repetition, the time constraint? What would be my motivation to go fast when it didn’t mean I would end sooner?

I arrived tired at the race start, having been tired the day before and struggled to stay awake during the run. I quickly registered, set up my stuff near Shannon’s stuff, and got nervous. What was I doing?

The race is well organized. It is a 1.52 mile loop around a pretty lake. The course has some ups and downs, nothing you’d call mountains or major hills, but at the end, the Mt. Hinson sign felt appropriate. The last loop, you carry a banana with your number and once the horn is blown, you stop, leave the banana, and head on home. The volunteers were super cheerful and friendly. The aid station fare was decent for an ultra – soups and some kind of meat and PBJ an pretzels and crackers and cookies and M&Ms and all sorts of goodness, most of which I did not eat due to my tummy feeling like a nightmare.
ray and me...

motivate me!

the bridge

pretty swamp/lake

the hill

the other hill

The race is a real family affair – most people have tents and/or shade structures, and bring out the entire family, kids and dogs included. A young girl did her first marathon; a 9-year-old boy ran 45 miles. These two cute little girls liked me, because I was “the funnest” and “the nicest,” and we talked about how we liked the color pink. I was wearing a bright orange-ish-pinkish running outfit, which received many compliments, most importantly from these sweet little girls. They called me “Pinkie Pie” and made up a song for me and ran with me. They were really such big highlights in my race.

And we were off! I began running too fast, as is usual for my character. Sub 9 minute miles. I knew I should be starting out (according to Ray’s plan) at 10 minute miles, but the 8-something minute miles felt good. I ran with a nice guy Brett for a loop and then this guy Andre, who had just been one of the 19 lucky finishers of George Jewel (which he described as a “rock garden”) last week, so his feet were completely trashed and he was tired – but he impressively finished the 24 hour at Hinson!

I ran into Ray early on and he yelled, “What are you doing here?” “What, am I going too fast?” I asked innocently. He calculated my pace. “You are on pace for 153 miles.” Ummmm let me slow down.

I still kept up a good pace, feeling good and not wanting to slow down. When I got to 26.2, I looked at my watch to see that I just ran a 4:25 marathon. And then I hit the 50k march in a PR time of 5:18. And then I hit the 50 mile mark with a PR of 9:08. And then I hit the 100k march with a PR time of 11:28.

Night hit. Headlamp. Struggling to see the roots and rocks so I wouldn’t trip and fall on my face. I was about to crash. I changed my sports bra, due to ridiculous chafing from previous sports bra. I changed my shirt. The people at the shade structure next door gave me some aquaphor and Vaseline. I got up and felt like crap, even after sucking down a 5-hour energy shot. I walked up the mini hill and decided to listen to my ipod mini, which I never do in races. But I felt like I needed it now. I flipped through the songs and started “Helicopter.” “Are you hoping for a miracle? That’s not enough.” And something hit me – I was off. Fast. Everyone was amazed, especially as how I had been so cramped up and barely able to stand much less run. How was I suddenly running this fast? I didn’t know, I just knew I had to keep on pushing. Pushing. Pushing. I passed Ray. “You are phenomenal.” I tried to believe it. I lowered the music as I passed people to stay encouraging things to them.

My stomach became a wreck and I had trouble eating basically everything. I ended up finally stomaching Saltines and then was finally able to run faster. I was up and down but a lot of up.

Throughout the race, I was tied with another woman for 1st place. When I came in around 22 hours, they told me she had fallen behind. I pushed. I ran into Ray who told me she wasn’t in contention and that I should go for the record. 114.6 miles. Could I get it? I pushed, I ran so much faster than I had been running. Fast, push, fast, fast. I was tired, but I still had it in me.

I was so close, but I missed. But oh, how I pushed at the end. I ran so fast, most everyone was walking and they just stared at me, “You are a beast.” Um, thanks.  I guess I’ll take that as a compliment. Most of the time, the runners gave each other kudos and other positive feedback. It was hardly boring because you were constantly passing/being passed by other people

After, I was presented with a super awesome sculpture and money for being first woman, and I hobbled back my rental car. I felt better than I had after a 100 miler. Yes, this was fairly flat (compared to the other 100s that I’ve done…), but I pushed myself like I hadn’t before. It wasn’t a competition thing, really, but a goal thing: I wanted to run more than I had ever done before (The most I have ever run is 104 or 105 miles, which I did after getting lost at Cajun Coyote last year.) – so the main goal was 110. When I saw I had the potential to get PRs for various other distances, I was inspired to push it, push it harder. And when I got those PRs, I was so happy. I almost cried when I realized I had done what seemed to be almost impossible for me – to break 21 hours in a 100 mile distance. I hadn’t set out to do that – and doing so was just absolutely enthralling and wonderful.

Running 24 hours is a mind-body thing. You need a strong mind to complete such a task. I am definitely hooked and want to see what I can do next (especially if I went someplace flat…hmmmm….). I do need to figure out my nutrition better, and organize things better because I found I spent too much time at aid stations and at my drop bags. Changing shoes into sneakers a half size bigger is crucial for me. I also need to stop using body glide and starting using something that doesn’t leave cuts and welts and chafing all over my body. I need to learn how to adjust things when the pain gets deep. I need to figure out how to deal with the nausea and what I can possibly choke down.

But next? Yes, I want to run another 24 hour. Which ones? I’m hurting, but really, the endorphin high is soaring me high, high, higher.

23 September 2012


During the JW Corbett 50 Miler, someone informed me that I was “first woman.” I was excited, and almost said, “I’ve never been first.

But actually, I have been. I’m lucky, I guess. (And have done enough smaller or less competitive races.)

400 Meters, 1994
In my first race ever, I won it. It was really exciting. I also threw up my breakfast below the bleachers afterwards, and have never since then eaten scrambled eggs and cheese before running.

The first year of the race, I ran the entire time w Jeff and Michele. Michelle and I tied for first woman.

Wayne and I ran this “just for fun” race, and he stuck w me the entire time. My asthma was a bit out of control, but I still won.

That’s it. A handful, but yesterday’s first woman award makes me still feel happy. Plus, it was a fun race - which is of course, the most important thing!

I won! J.W. Corbett 50 Miler Race Report

I'm still riding on the endorphins from yesterday! I was first woman, sixth overall, in yesterday's JW Corbett 50 Miler. It was tough, it was pretty, it was fun, I had a blast!

I am always looking for good races near Gram's so I have a double excuse to head down to Florida. Originally scheduled to be help in a park infested with alligators, I was rather glad when it got moved b/c the other park was entire under water. This park, only some of it.

It was four washing machine loops of 12.5 miles (My GPS read more than 12.5 miles, but what fun is an ultra if it's exactly measured correctly?). 

The first part (or last part, depending which loop you were on) was flat, 7 miles-ish, along the levee, completely exposed. It was very pretty, but when you're in pain, pretty only gets you so far. "Those flowers are lovely, but oh my god, my toenails are killing me!"  

Then you head into "Jurassic Park" where there were technical, single track trails, and TONS of swamps. I mean, running through water that was at least ankle-high and sometimes as much as mid-thigh. Yum. I tried not to think about snakes and alligators and when it got too lonely in there, I'd talk to scare away the beasts. Many parts of the swamp were impossible to run in because of floating logs and other debris. My friend Jessica who I ran the first loop with (and who had also paced me at Cajun Coyote 100 Miler) smashed her shin really hard in the swamp and ended up limping to an early finish. The last loop, this section was especially difficult because I was so tired I could barely lift my legs and kept smashing my sore toes and sore toenails into logs and other things. Ow. Also, because of running through so much sand (which was on the bottom of the swamps) and mud, I literally had to stop each loop, remove my socks, turn them inside out and dump the sand/mud combo out, remove my shoe insoles, scrape them as clean as I could get them, then scoop out any remnants out of my sneakers. This didn't always work as good and the sand/mud buildup would chill just below the pad of my feet and became very painful. Tears-in-my-eyes-painful. And yes, people, I was wearing gaiters. It was that bad.

Finally, the last section was again along the levee, on the other side, with a small bridge-crossing back to the start. And then you went back out the other way.

The aid stations had some of the friendliest, funniest volunteers I've met at any ultra. They insisted upon taking some of the most unflattering photos known to humankind, gave me cups of delicious gatorade, teased me, laughed. I told one of the volunteers I lost my toenail and he promised to keep an eye out for it. When I saw him a little later, he yelled at me across the levee, "I've been looking for that toenail, but I still can't find it!"

I started my race out at a decent clip, sub-9:30 miles, which doesn't sound too fast to a lot of my friends, but for an ultra, that's fairly good. Jessica and I chatted, laughed, told stories about our Burns, what happened in our lives. We suffered through the swamp for the first time together - I loved it, and used the opportunity to pass a lot of people. Some people can't seem to run in a swamp, for whatever reason. Hmmmm.  Anyway, maybe it's the fact that my first ultra had abt 4-5 miles of brook running (though that was heaps harder, but I had a blast in this section, until the last loop, when my toes and toenails started mutinying.  

After the first loop, Jessica and I separated, and I primarily ran alone the rest of the race. No worries, I had plenty going on in my head to amuse me.

Aid station stops were kept brief, water filled up, a cup of gatorade, maybe a handful of pretzels. I ate mainly gels - lots and lots of gels.

I felt better than I had and when I realized I was in first place, I pushed it. I haven't won races very often, but oh, how I wanted this. How I wanted to win. My mantra was, "The faster you run, the sooner the pain is done"  (adding that pain b/c OW, but also was "First place." It's weird, it's not like I got a prize or anything....but I still felt the need to get this. It wasn't like I was mean competitive, I was still talking and chilling and having fun. It just gave me a push. And people in the swamp were so nice, "You're in first place." I responded, "Yeah but I'm WET." "And I'm muddy." It was a lot of fun.

I had so much fun at the race - the people, the pretty trails, the palms, the water...and after, chilling, exchanging the ultra goss, talking with a guy who ran his first 50k (but had only ran 6 miles before that!), I knew that I'd be back.

16 September 2012

Why I Run...Again...And Again....

I went out fast yesterday, and today I don't even know what I did. I didn't think. I went out for eleven miles in crisp beautiful autumn weather, and I ran, feeling myself, feeling the weather, thinking, trying to make decisions, evaluate things, ponder things. It was not a run where I was pushing myself. I may have been running 7 minute miles. I may have been running 15 minute miles. But I don't think it was either; was probably someplace in between. I pushed sometimes. I daydreamed sometimes. I was just doing it. That's all it's about.

For me, anyway. Wayne is obsessed with time, with place, with "how many people came to your run," with "how fast did you do that in." To me, that sometimes makes it dirty. Yes, I have goals, but sometimes, I'm out there to just enjoy myself.

Sometimes we forget how to enjoy ourselves. Sometimes we forget what enjoying ourselves means. And sometimes we are so far from everything we once knew/thought/realized that we need to do these runs to get back there.

And so I run...

14 September 2012

Why ultrarunning?

"Are you looking for an exact distance, or for a challenge category? 
Trails are trails, with twist, cant, and camber. They go from here to 
there, some following contours and going around obstacles in a rolling , 
sinuous, graceful style, others marching you straight up hills or 
through ankle-biting rock gardens.

The traditional distance categories belie precision--50Ks around the 
country include races from 30.2 miles to 34++ miles; 50-milers have been 
known to be 48-53 miles, and 100Ks or 100-milers can range in mileage 
from a little under to when-will-this-thing-end.

We have the illusion of accuracy from GPS and Garmin devices, but 
really, isn't not knowing part of the fun?"

--Tia Bodington, Ultrarunning, Sept. 2012 issue

13 September 2012

Love, Burning Man, Oh I Miss It...

My boy and I in front of our tents....

A First: My First 24 Hour (Pre-Race Nervousness Post)

I really wanted to visit my sister, and was pondering weekends. My friend Ray mentioned a 24 hour race. The infamous Hinson Lake 24 Hour. I've never done one. Hmmm. Hmmmmm. Hmmmmmm.

My sister said that weekend was good to visit. I got into the race. I bought plane tickets.

What the hell am I thinking?

My mantra when I run ultras is, "The faster you run, the sooner you're done."

I know this will be a big challenge for me....flat....a good opportunity to PR....

I'm nervous just thinking about it.

I'm hoping for a good day...I'm hoping to push myself...I'm hoping to stay in touch w myself.

(Yes, I've run eight 100 mile races but never a 24 hour!)

I love you, Burning Man!

A video made by my friend Stefan and his love KJ...check out the cute couple around 1:11...

Because life sometimes ends

...grab the person you love and tell them how much you  love them and burrow in their arms and feel the love and enjoy them....because every moment ends....

07 September 2012

Burning Man 2012: Fertility 2.0

For my fifth Burn, I was well-prepared, busy, overwhelmed, so happy. It was another one of the most amazing weeks in my life…and you can better believe I have already been talking about “next year…” (And for the record, while waiting for dinner at the party central Burner-ified hotel, the Grand Sierra, Wayne and I made a list of things we need to do for next year. Top of the list: Puff’s plus to soothe my sore constantly-needed-to-be-blown-due-to-playa-dust-nose.) But the dust is still around my heart, glitter on my soul, and my body feels relaxed and happy in a way it hasn’t since last year.

Wayne and I spent five days in San Francisco prepping. He kite surfed during the day, I worked virtually from an apartment we rented in Bernal Heights, and nights we spent prepping: I doing cooking, Wayne doing errands, like shopping for wood. I cooked a bunch of meals (cauliflower tomato curry, curried tofu, pesto pasta with veggies, roasted mint carrot lentil stew, white beans with sage and garlic, garlic tomato pasta with veggies, coconut turmeric rice, etc.) and froze individual meals in zip loc bags. Then, Wayne and I would defrost from the cooler and put it in a pot of boiling water, and yummy meal would be ready in minutes – with little on-playa prep and clean-up.

We arrived on Friday with early arrival passes. We began setting up the camp – tent up first, and then we had a smaller older tent we used as our “kitchen tent” where we had room to store our coolers out of the sun and all our other food. I organized things inside and outside the car, unpacked the container (we shipped out some stuff on a shipping container from NYC to BRC) while Wayne hammered in rebar. I hate setting up camp and building things because I’m not very good at it, but Wayne is fortunately good at it and he likes doing it. Go figure. We complement each other in a lot of different ways.

I found myself doing a lot of organizing for the ultra – registering our camp and events at Playa Info, registering at Media Mecca so if I took any photos I could put them in Ultrarunning Magazine,  meeting with Emergency Services to make sure we had all the logistics hammered out, getting radios, and of course, measuring the course for the Burning Man Ultramarathon. I also spent some of Monday and pretty much all of Tuesday meeting with runners, describing logistics and outlining the course for them. It was fun and people seemed excited about it, but it was a lot of work and a lot less time for drinking and dancing. Hmmmm. I didn’t get to Distrikt to dance yet again this year. Sigh.
NYC Core Project

Wayne and I packed into the car at the gate

Utah and me! 

Great core project!

Dusty love :)

in the car...

asking god for advice...

protection from the dust

zip tie art...seriously wayne was drooling!

look closely...i'm a turtle!

okay i love this boy....

biking to dementha, my fave fave fave camp at burning man

at dementha

loving life!

only a librarian would write this

view from our plane ride...

gwendolyn, james cherry (our pilot!!!), me, wayne

the temple

the ultra....!

By the time our friends had arrived, Wayne put up the monkey hut and built the shower and evaporation pond, we were ready! We spent a lot of time biking around the playa, looking at the amazing art. BM has started the “core projects” which are amazing pieces of art built in the circle directly around The Man, built by the different regional groups of Burning Man, and all pieces are burnt on Thursday. The pier was back, but with an abandoned pirate ship off the end of it, which was so cool, especially the slanted feel. There was a wonderful piece of art entirely made of zipties, various domes, and since many pieces of art at Burning Man are interactive, it doesn’t mean you simply gaze at a piece, maybe take a photo. Instead, you climb in, climb under it, ride it, spin it, push buttons to make it spit fire, hang upside down from it, engage with it. It’s a much better way to experience art in my opinion. It’s always hard to go back to the DO NOT TOUCH art of art museums in NYC because I want to rub my face against the furry part of it, sit on it, straddle it, climb it, worry it’s going to collapse on me, enjoy the view from it. Art should be interactive, as art is a big part of life. It is life. Living creatively and experiencing life to the fullest are core to my life – and Burning Man.

I biked around and interacted with art. I visited with friends. I gave out info about the ultra. I visited my friends at DeMentha and drank minty mojitos and danced my butt off. I talked with strangers. I built words out of alphabetic blocks. I tossed back shots of tequila after a stamp. I did RESIST, an old radical cheer chant. I talked with people. I asked for advice. I hugged strangers. I smiled. I gave compliments. I received compliments. I did some improve acting with my awesome campmate, Yosvany. I loved the costumes – the ones I made, the ones I saw, the ones my friend Gwendolyn made. I covered Wayne with glitter kisses. We danced in the sand. It was beautiful. Wayne and I went to a Thai massage workshop and massaged each other. We visited grilled cheese camp and ate tasty sandwiches. We drank wonderful drinks my friend Caretaker made us. We went to the gay Christmas camp where extremely hot gay boys in practically nothing danced with us to awesome tunes with lesbians served delicious snowcones. I visited DeMentha. I visited DeMentha. I visited DeMentha. I visited DeMentha. Yes, please. I’ll try that. Dancing. Dancing. Kissing. Am I flying? Faster on the bike. Let’s stop here. Art. Space kitties. And more.

We walked around deep playa – in the heat of the day, we visited the infamous Kathy Donofrio’s space kitty art piece. Wayne once again pointed out the Big Dipper. We avoided the cops with their unlit cars. We held hands, understanding that our love would carry us through yet another burn.

The Core burned on Thursday. We visited “Wall Street” with “Bank of Unamerica,” “Goldman Sucks,” “Merrill Lynched,” “Chaos Manhattan.” I loved the graffiti, especially the “Shopping at Wal-Mart is not radical self-reliance.” Wall Street was burned on Saturday night – it was supposed to be Friday, but insane winds prevented that from happening. The Man was burned on Saturday, as usual, which was the usual spectacle of wonderful fireworks, flames, and partying. Sunday was the burn of The Temple – it was also the anniversary of my grandfather’s death. I put up a note and picture for him in The Temple and bawled when the temple burned. (I also cried throughout that day and the week, remembering him. I still miss him.)

Background on The Temple – this guy built a temple for his friend, a Burner, who had died. He burnt it, like any good Burner. The next year, people began the tradition of writing memories to those they had lost. The Temple is a very special place – it’s not a party night when they burn it down. People are crying, remembering those they have lost. It’s also sad because BM is over. Sigh.

Overall, Burning Man has tons of workshops, but between planning the ultra (which was a lot of work but went quite well), meeting up with friends,  running the 50k and 5k (the latter of which I somehow won, the former of which I was plagued with stomach probs and felt wretched during), hanging out with my awesome campmates Wayne and Gwendolyn and Ofer and Ray K. (who had an absolute blast) and newbies Yosvany and Teddy. Yosvany is a former bartender and kept making wonderful playalicious drinks, like a sangria punch and using my jarred peaches and champagne to create bellinis. We all had fun riding around and laughing and joking around and doing some improv and being extremely loud and hilarious. Burning Man is about making new friends and bonding with old ones. You run into people when you least expect it – like when you are moving outside your normal limits and are tipsy-riding-over-bicycle-tipsy and you run into an old friend. Plus, by organizing the ultra, I ended up making a lot of new amazing friends (like Matt who wanted to run with his pith helmet which provided AC). Wayne and I grew closer, talked about our relationship, calmed each other down, and as usual, he ate more than everyone else at Burning Man put together and impressed all of us.

This year was about improving the organization of the ultra, spending time with friends, seeing amazing art, drinking lots of mojitos, listening to great music, meeting new people, and having some wonderful fun. I’m so glad I had yet another wonderful amazing Burn…and yes, I can’t wait to be back next year.

Burning Man 50k Race Report!!!!

“You’re organizing an ultramarathon where?” Yes, in one of the most inhospitable places for a race, but also, one of the most fun places for a race. Burning Man is a week-long festival in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada where crazy costumes, interactive art, loud music, dust storms, high heat, low temperatures, poor sleep, wind, and excesses are the norm. So it is a rather unusual place for an ultramarathon.

Runners donned costumes (including tutus, cat outfits, sarongs) or wore nothing at all. Runners began at 5am, though two runners began an hour earlier by special request. The course was flat, though Black Rock City is at 3,848 feet, and the terrain is soft alkaline dust and sand, which can be difficult to run through at times, especially on the 2:00 side of the course where the sand is similar to very powdery snow. The main loop (repeated four times) was 7.1 miles, followed by a short out-and-back of 2.6 miles. Each full loop began and ended at the main aid station, which was stocked with runner-supplied water and snacks, everything from cookies to pretzels to bananas to chips to beer to trail mixes. In addition, another smaller aid station was placed approximately halfway through, staffed by volunteers, and a friend (and personal trainer) placed an unmanned water stop about a mile and a half from the main aid station. In addition, various other camps set up water stops, vodka stops, whiskey stops, and moonshine stops. Rumor has it, the winner was fueled by some of these informal aid stations.

Runners ran past various pieces of interactive art, past (and sometimes through!) the giant rave camps blasting music until late morning, past people dancing, handing out beignets (for free – Burning Man is a gifting economy), people cheering, people daring us to hurdle them (and some of the braver runners even choosing to hurdle). The ultra has begun gaining more attention over the years, and many Burners know about the event, are impressed by it, and are really helpful in cheering us on and helping us out.

Winner Joel Fitzegerald stole the show with an undisputed win with a time of 3:48:31, and won the 5k the next day as well. Women’s winner Christine Mosley was followed just a few minutes later by artist (who had an art piece not too far off the race course) Kathy D’Onofrio.

Participants really were not just runners, but participants in the entire race. (“No spectators,” goes a saying of Burning Man.) Everyone brought a gallon of water and at least one running snack to share. Rachael Bazzett made bandannas for everyone, Ray Krolewicz embroidered hats and made numbers, Wayne Pacileo carved the medals, and Darkling Thrush’s campmates made post-race homemade ice cream for everyone. When the runners finished running, the party continued.

A special shoutout goes to Chris Tschintel, who got the starting time confused. Not to be dissuaded, and it being Burning Man, we were flexible and allowed him to run the race – at 5:30 p.m. (instead of starting at 5 a.m.). Without competition, but with the glowing lights of el-wire and glow-sticks and the glowing art of Black Rock City, and booming clubs his soundtrack, he ran solo, using the start/finish aid station remnants, finishing with a time of 6:45:44.

For a lot of runners, it was their first ultra – and some had not even run a marathon! It was a perfect first ultra, and also, a lot of ultrarunners used it as an excuse to head to Burning Man (as if you really needed one!). Plan early to get tickets (check out www.burningman.com as tickets go on sale as early as December and January), and make this flat, fast, and extraordinarily fun course on your to do list. This race may be the highlight of your week at Burning Man (as many claim), and Burning Man could very well be the highlight of your year!

Unfortunately, I crapped out (pun intended). While I did get a PR, I also placed a record for “Most Time Spent in the Port-a-Potty.” Stephen, being an awesome friend, waited for me the entire time, and we ran the race together. We shared a lot of laughs – like when he flipped over the trash fence (Luckily, he was fine.), and when an art car began heckling and chasing a naked runner in front of us. It was so much fun, even if I missed my goal by a long shot. And I have a new mantra: I will never eat beans the day before a race again…