11 June 2013

North Face Endurance Challenge DC 50 Miler - Fun, And Why Not?

When corporations put on ultramarathons, well, you lose some of the specialness. You don’t get homemade cookies at aid stations, or medals that differ year to year (Hey, they got a good deal on medals years ago…and use the same exact medal for all of their races, regardless of distance.) and lots of newbies without a respect for the trails (I saw one dimwit actually toss his trash INTO the woods, you know, so it didn’t spoil the trail itself.). But still, it can be a fun race.

The temperatures were predicted to be in the 90s all week, so we were getting emails from 
The North Face reminding us too hydrate. Too bad they didn’t take the severity of the heat into consideration and stock their aid stations with lots of ice. I was a 50miler, and ran a fairly decent time, and still, I found the aid stations to be lacking ice. Cold (esp ice cold) water is absorbed faster than lukewarm water, and we really needed to be on top of hydration on a hot day like race day.

I started out in good spirits, running at a good clip, feeling fairly well. I was jockeying between 3rd and 4th woman for the first ten or so miles…and then my stomach began torturing me. I ran into the bushes, a portapotty, the bushes, the bushes. Oh, what fun. I subsisted on gels and Clif Shot Blocks (tropical bunch flavor, baby). A lot of the food tasted funny or was soggy w the humidity. Yuck. I don’t know why I’m picky when running ultras but I am.

The course consists of running about 2 miles, then doing a lollypop loop, then running out about 6.7 miles without aid stations (which was pretty hard in the afternoon to handle this section with just one bottle of water). Then you do this 7-ish mile loop three times. And then you run back that entire first section.

There’s dirt. Some rocks (inc where I smashed my foot really, really hard the first time – and I ended up taking it super duper easy the rest of the times bc my foot was absolutely throbbing). Some hills. Some heat. Some high grass. Some pretty views of the river.

Well-organized, yes. The special loving touches of an ultra, no. They ran out of ice, ran low on some goods. It seemed like those volunteering at aid stations and buying supplies had never run an ultra. I would get to an aid station and they would want me to fill my own bottle – which normally is fine but not usual but my hand is actually severely and painfully injured with awful tendintis – ouch – so I couldn’t open a bottle. I’d have to ask every time.

I had tummy problems, that smashing the foot problem. The heat wasn’t killing me – but around 42 or 43, I started feeling woozy…I knew it was the heat. I had seen people passing out and not responsive – so I consciously began to walk, dump water on my head, hoping to cool myself down.

I finished – 9:51, a better time than last year, not what I had wanted to do, but quite respectable given the circumstances.

Sweaty stinky mess, yes. And loads of fun. A lot of newbies who didn’t know to pick up their gu wrappers. But what a fun day regardless. Pretty and running is almost always fun.

Puerto Rico...

I wanted to go to Veracruz in Mexico, spend a week exploring beachside towns and doing a little hiking, and heading over to Mexico City to see (and run with!) some friends. Or just go to Austin for the weekend for the Flipside Festival.

 Wayne didn’t want that. He wasn’t sure what he wanted.

And somehow, we ended up in Puerto Rico.

It was a trip where we spent and wasted a lot of money. True, we relaxed, and some of the beaches were nice, but neither of us fell in love with PR. I don’t think we’ll be back.
Funny, I had always wanted to explore PR – I have a friend with lots of family there and always thought if I would go, I’d go with her. That would’ve been a very different experience.

Day One:
The night before was filled with doubt (“Should we just cancel our tickets?” “I don’t really want to go.”) We got our bags packed and left our house at 4am to catch the morning flight down. We felt sullen, disinterested. As soon as we arrived, we immediately got ripped off by our taxi driver, which put us in a foul mood.
We dropped our stuff off at the friendly Andalucia Guesthouse, used their sunblock (Glad they provided it free since I had forgotten to pack it!), and headed to the beach. The beach was nice and Wayne decided he wanted to get his kite stuff. And then he was kiting a long time and I had no sunblock and I became torched. I was in tears when he came in, I was so crispy red. We went back, showered, and Wayne slathered me with aloe. We explored the neighborhood and ate Peruvian food our first day in PR, which felt a little weird.
Day Two:
We realized we didn’t have anything booked for Vieques. The original plan now was to go to Austin (but we later discovered that was too $$$$ so we couldn’t) at the end of our trip. I was annoyed bc I don’t like wasting time planning this kind of stuff on trips and Wayne was so indecisive so we had figured zero out. I booked a place, then we went to Old San Juan. (Taxi drivers ripped us off in both directions.) Cute, but nothing life-altering. We got frozen yogurt and then headed back to the guesthouse to grab our stuff and go to the beach. Wayne went kiting, I went running and read Trail Runner magazine. (Doesn’t that sound like wonderful beach reading to you?) I wore a shirt because my entire back and butt were crispy burned. Wayne and I got burritos for dinner (mmmmmmm ginger-tamarind margaritas and cinnamon-cranberry margaritas!!!) and bought bathing suits at the surf shop and got some rum and passionfruit juice to drink back at our guesthouse. We chilled in the Jacuzzi and had drinks on the balcony.
Day Three:
Ran on the beach, during which some idiot stole my flipflops. I was so pissed. I have been to places much more dangerous and impoverished, yet here in San Juan I get my flipflops stolen? My favourite and oh-so- comfy. We got breakfast, then I bought new flipflops at the surf shop, Wayne rented a too-expensive car (WTF $40 a day for insurance?!?!) and we headed to el Yunque. It was a pretty rainforest but it was raining and it was paved (WTF?) and it was crowded. Wayne’s back hurt and it was slippery. We were a  cheery bunch indeed. Then we hopped back in the car, had some pretty roads to drive back on, and arrived in Fajardo. We got a hideous lunch at a horrific bakery and then hopped on the super-crowded, late-leaving ferry, where they made all the tourists wave in a separate line so the locals could board first. You couldn’t wait on the outside part of the ferry because the waves were so rough. There were a million cops, apparently because there had been 15 murders in the past 3 months (drug-related). Finally, our ride ended and we lugged our suitcase and kite bag off the ferry and up to Casa de Amistad.
Our hosts were super friendly. We were immediately at ease. After we settled in, we headed to Al’s Mar Azul for Mexican dinner – which was fantastic, as were the pina coladas. We sat right on the water, trying out the different hot sauces, relaxing a little bit, finally.
We wandered around the town, pretty quiet, empty. We were staying in Isabel Segunda.
Day Four:
An early morning run. I ran out on 200, felt like crap, rain pouring down, dogs chasing me, horses wild on the roads, a little bizarre. I headed back, showered, and we discussed what we should do. No idea.
We ate breakfast at Buen Provecho where a surly expat insulted me about my wrist brace. WTF. Then we booked ourselves on a bio-bay tour for the night, and rented bikes for the day. We packed water, granola bars, towels, sunblock, and headed out.
Our ride was hilly and tough, and cars came whipping around the corners. And then it began pouring and we were going to the beach…misery.
So what do you do when it rains on the beach? You go and get cocktails. We ended up at Bananas, drinking Chocolate Banana Mudslides and Pina Coladas…and eating….and drinking, and chatting w the expats.
Day Five:
Go running. I get chased by dogs the entire time, growling, ready to attach dogs. Hop in the back of a pick-up truck to get past the worst of the dogs. Freaking frightening. At one point, a dog jumps over a fence and began chasing me. The other dogs that didn’t jump barked like crazy. I went insane, screaming and threatening to throw a rock and charging at the dog. I don’t know how I got out of there. So scary. I was shaking when I finished my run.
Rent a yellow Jeep which turns out to be held together with duct tape. Take off the roof and drive around like maniacs…drive down bouncy roads, to desolate secluded beaches. Branches falling in our car. Snorkel. Drive down to the abandoned and freaking scary deserted military bunkers. Stopped by random spots. Scary bumpy crazy roads, is this even safe?
Day Six:
Flat fire. Return the car, get a new one. More beaches. Beach, beach, beach. Go to the Sol Food truck for delicious lunch And then Wayne of course wants to go kite surfing and we can’t find where to go or is the wind just bad?
And then…two flat tires. Someone driving by calls the rental car place bc we don’t even know the name of the road we’re on. Then the cops come and wait w us, telling us the road is really dangerous bc it is “solitary” and there are lots of “stoned” people. Then the cops wait, they have to go. “Stay in your car w the doors locked.” Um great. Finally the car people came, put on two new tires and we drove back to town. “I want to return this car now,” Wayne said, but we just chilled out in town.

Day Seven:

Up early. Run and a pina colada with breakfast. Return the car. Hop on the miserably crowded ferry, ridiculously delayed and stuffy and stinky. Wayne and I hop into our waiting rental car and drive it to San Juan.

Beach. Kite surfing for Wayne. Relaxing….

Day Eight:

Beach. Run. Beach. Kite surfing for Wayne.

I call JetBlue to see if we can change to the earlier flight. We throw all our stuff in our bags, head to the airport and get on the earlier flight, thank goddess.

Vacation is over.

We were so happy to be home….

03 June 2013

Short and Sweet

In the past few weeks, I’ve done some short races. I stopped doing short races as much, mainly because it was depressing to go from my faster days (PRs include 19minute 5k, 38minute 10k, 1:35 half) to  be a slow ultrarunner. But I guess I’m not as slow as I thought…with the Ray K inspired goal of “having the most fun” I ran some pretty decent races in the recent weeks.

Not bad. Wearing a multi-coloured tutu, I set out to have heaps of fun. Knowing I had run a 50k the week before (and a 50miler the week before that!), I figured I’d be slow and set a goal of sub 1:50- and I ended up running 1:37. With high fives, smiles, I could not believe how good I felt…almost like I could run that exact distance at the same pace. Not bad…and with a fun beach party to follow!

Not bad either. Wayne noticed the name of the race in the NYC Runs Twitter feed and I immediately remembered the fabulously-named race – and decided to run it, despite the fact that I was still in an airport and wouldn’t get home until midnight. Oh well. I slept in until 8am, run about 4 miles to the start, ran the 10k with a giant smile, ate an ice pop, and ran back home. LOTS of fun but taking my inhaler wasn’t so much fun. Oh, and got 1st in my age group, snagging a sweet trophy.

Two days before a 50miler, no packing done, too many things on my mind, and way too hot, on a really windy and crowded course, I came out…and ran quite a respectable pace.

What’s different? I’m doing a lot more speed workouts with Ray K training me, and with less pressure of “I MUST PR OR MY LIFE SUCKS,” I have been running at fun paces. Also, running in cute outfits always pushes me. Ha!