28 October 2013

24 Hours the Hard Way: Race Report for 2013 Super Fun Race!

Initially, when planning my race schedule, this race, 24 Hours the Hard Way, was not part of my plans. It was the week before NYC Marathon, where I wanted to race strong, and it was pavement, and it was in Oklahoma.

Ray K. convinced me to do it, and I'm so glad I did. But really, I'm not sure what pushed me into going, now that you ask me. I think it's just Ray's persuasive and charming personality.

Going out to Oklahoma was a little insane. My life has been insane - Hinson 24 Hour in NC, followed by Ted Corbitt 24 Hour the weekend following, then visiting my bestie in Buffalo (wine! tea! fun!), then Toronto for work and the Toronto Waterfront Half. I came home on Wednesday from my work trip, unpacked and immediately repacked my suitcase. Then I took a nap, worked a day, then flew to Oklahoma. Ray K. and his son Jon picked me up from the airport, where I had shared a flight with the legendary John Geesler (who frightened one of my pacers at the VT100 two years ago when he was literally sleepwalking on the course...of course I was uber impressed).

The race was full of impressive runners - American 24 Hour Women's Record Holder Sabrina Little (who dropped out due to having a wretched cold/bronchitis/asthma), Connie Gardener, John Cash, plus a lot of of the older-but-super-fast-in-their-time runners. I met "Doc" aka Andrew who gave me advice on the damage that my frostbitten feet are STILL experiencing. 

Race morning, Ray impressed many by arriving more than 4 minutes before race start. We put our chips on; they used the ankle strap but I have never loved those. I imitated Ray and strung it through my shoelace (which just meant I had to move it when I changed shoes, which I did three times).

The course is a loop just under a mile - something like .96 mile. It's pavement. The course winds a bit, so you have to take the tangents so you don't run way over, but it's not horrible. It's pretty. Since Oklahoma is warmer than NYC, there were more plants alive, and it was pretty. The sun set later, which was nice, though it also rose later, which wasn't as fun. There were some slight hills, which we all regarded as mountains later in the race. "Cherie, toss me your crampons," Ray would yell if we'd pass each other on a "hill." Really, they'd classify more as "rolling hills."

The organization was pretty good. Chisholm is super-duper friendly, and his wife was amazing too. There was a big problem with timing (The display wasn't working, some laps got missed, and everyone was confused about their mileage, which was irritating.), but hopefully things get solved soon. I still am unsure of my exact mileage - I believe around 115.4 miles, which is a PR. Sweet.I missed my goal of 120 miles but I also had some issues, and it was not the perfect day for me - so to get a PR on a less-than-perfect-day is great.

The aid stations were great. There's one water and Gatorade stop in the middle of the woods, which I only stopped at a few times, but was nice to know that it was there. (So if I wanted a gel mid-loop, I could get some hydration with it. Yay.) The main station included a separate section for beverages, which was great if you were blasting through and just wanted to grab some liquid - water, Gatorade  sodas, red bulls of various kinds. They were lacking ginger ale early on, but after maybe 8 hours, they had some, which was nice that they listened to requests (I requested it; not sure if others did too?). The food - broth (chicken & vegetarian, yay, vegetarian!), standard ultra snacks of chips (but different kinds, how neat!), lots of hammergels, skittles, starburst, muffins (mmmm), frosted cake, grilled cheese, burgers, pulled pork, peanut butter, graham crackers, cookies, pretzels, and so many things. Basically, even a picky-in-ultras-eater like me was quite happy. I LOVED THIS AID STATION! I supplemented this with Delta cookies I hoarded from recent flights. 

Also, people moved a Halloween costume hammer around the course, and several balls. It's just a thing you did; pick it up and hang it from a tree branch or put it on a bench...They hung white Christmas lights in two different dark spots on the course which were pretty and fun...and combined with that and the brightly-lit sky, you did NOT need a headlamp.

I started out feeling good. As I blazed through the start/finish/main aid station, I thought, "Oops, a little too fast." I was running with a super nice woman Carol, also wearing pink (whose two sons were also running, how neat!), and said, "Ray is going to kill me." I was running sub-9s for a while.

After two hours, my tummy told me it was in charge. Good thing there were plenty of port-a-potties (always with toilet paper, yay) along the course. I stopped eating gels, visited the potties, and took an Immodium. Sad face. I hate my tummy sometime.

I slowed down, and skipped on gels for four or six hours. I switched to pretzels, veggie broth, and blueberry muffins. I was sad when they ran out of blueberry muffins (possibly because I ate them all) and I was forced to eat the lovely-but-just-not-as-delicious banana nut muffins.

And then, somewhere around 40 miles, I ran into Jameelah, and she told me her insane journey of getting to the race (which involved sleeping in a Walgreens!), of recovering from a recent injury, and then she mentioned the medics had done some work on a blister of hers. I had already changed shoes back and forth to accommodate my blister pain that day, so figured, why not stop by?

As I watched John Cash and Sabrina Little and Connie Gardener blow by me, the medical staff were super awesome and attended to my needs. First they taped up my toes together, and then did some massage to help my stomach, and gave me Rolaids and a ginger root pill. I ran a lap and felt like I was going to fall over - my balance was totally off with my toes taped together. They tried to cushion it. I ran another lap. "This is still not helping," I told Jared and the medical director. "Run another lap - we'll get the scalpel and then try to scrape it off."

I ran another lap and saw Jon mid-way and told him what they'd be doing. "Scalpel? Can I take photos?" Sure, why not. So of course he ran over to the medical tent. He wasn't running, but was taking photos.

I spent a little too much time getting my toe scraped at. Basically, there is a callous that has grown, and the blister was underneath. Or something. I'm headed to George Morgano tomorrow, my awesome podiatrist, who will hopefully help. So they had to scrape it down, then put these cushion things on my toe, then tape it up. Then I put on my cut-apart sneakers, because every ultrarunner has shoes with the toes cut out, right?

And I felt better. 

I ran on. I chatted with people, smiled, got lost in my head. I counted the laps, pushed up the hills, sipped broth. And I was feeling mostly good. It was an ultra. It was a 24 hour race, which is where you get to make friends with the fastest and the slowest of runners. I loved the people who set up some carports and hung their TV in the middle of the course, watching "the game" and updating everyone with the score. I laughed. I had fun. Even when it hurt, even when it sucked, I still had a lot of fun.

It rained. Silly Oklahoma. I wore a rain jacket, which normally would dissuade the rain, but the rain didn't listen. It wasn't heavy, but I wanted it to stop. It got a little muddy by one of the port-a-janes. It stopped before nightfall.

Night fell. I changed into a completely dry outfit in my new BFF Sherry's tent. (I was squatting with my plastic bags of supplies outside her tent and we became friends.) I felt amazing in dry clothes. I ran a lap and then ran into Chris Roman, a good friend of Tony's. We began running together....

...and we didn't stop until the end.

It was pretty awesome. I was pushing him, and he was pushing me. When I felt like crap, I thought, "I can't lose Chris now. He's pushed me so much already." And we were doing that thing, where I thought I had to run faster to keep up with him, and he thought he had to run faster to keep up with me. Basically, we spent over 12 hours running together, talking, laughing. I got a lot less sleepy and hallucinated a lot less than normal, mainly because Chris was keeping me focused and awake the whole time.

Don't worry, I did hallucinate though; I kept seeing headless runners (I'd see someone but see no head) or it would look like runners were running with their heads on backwards. Ummmmm....I have strange hallucinations.

Chris told me stories of running the Eerie Canal, the Brazil 135, races he had done, stories of mutual friends. He cursed when I convinced him to run up a hill. Sorry about that, Chris, but I figured that uphill was good for us. You know, good for you like cabbage.

I hit the 100 mile in 20:28! A PR by 30 minutes. I was SO excited. I believe I was screaming  in the aid station. Everyone seemed amused. Oh well. Good for something.

One of the race timers told me, "You're third woman overall, 2nd USATF." 

"What does that mean?"

"You're third woman. The second place woman isn't USATF. So you're second USATF."

"What do I get?"

"A shiny silver medal."

"I want a pony!"

But alas, I did not get a pony, but I do get a rather nice cheque. 

The USATF thing...you have to be a member of USA Track & Field, or you won't be counted in this race as a USATF winner, and since this is the national championships, it makes sense to be a member. I'm a member. The 2nd place woman didn't realize this, was not a member, and was rather upset at the awards ceremony. I don't blame her, as she ran a stellar race, and it wasn't acknowledged in the awards ceremony officially.

Anyway, the last 3.5 hours were rough. Chris and I both felt pretty tired. He hit a wall around hour 23 and I am afraid he may have been cursing me frequently in his head. I believe I did the same at one point. Something along the lines of, "WTF, why are we running? OMG this hurts, UGH, I hate this." But we stuck together. We were at the point where we had run together so long, we were NOT going to lose each other. We'd coordinate our bathroom breaks or I'd walk while he'd go or vice versa and then we'd catch up with each other.

We finished. Chris ran more miles than me early on, for 127 miles total. WOW. I kick myself for my stupid blister problems, which I probably wasted about 45 minutes total on. (What can you do, though?) Possibly more. Ouch. And my stomach is always a challenge. Luckily, Immodium, pretzels, veggie broth, and muffins saved the day.

At the end of the day, I had something like 115.4 miles. A PR. I was very proud of myself. 2nd woman USATF, 3rd woman overall.
I was a little delirious. I ate food, then we left partway through the awards ceremony so I could throw myself into the shower, shove all my disgusting and stinky and wet running attire and supplies into my suitcase, and rush into the airport and onto my flight with wet hair and bags under my eyes.

And then it was all a dream...an amazing race...new friends made....those paths will never leave my head.

Next up....New York City Marathon! I don't think the aid stations will be anywhere near as good, but I always love a running party! 

Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon

Evy is the star w her garbage bag pre-marathon attire

My work told me they were flying me up to Toronto for a conference we put on, so I could do social media. Neat. When I mentioned it to our Events Manager in Toronto, she told me there was a half-marathon and marathon the day before. Hmmm....

A marathon was a bit too much the week before a 24 hour race (I would be running 24 Hours the Hard Way the week after), but a half? I could do that. I did that the week before Hinson Lake 24. So yes, I'll fly up a day early and run a half.

I like a low-key race. Big crowds are also fun, but they usually are not combined. But here, yay, they were.

I headed over to the start with friends running the marathon, including Mary, Evy, Kino, and Thunder. We left our hotel after 8am for the 845 start.

We squeezed into our corrals shortly before the start. And I took off.

I felt pretty decent, and stuck to low 7s, even pushing it into the high 6s at times. Ooops. Oh well.

Around mile 8 or 9, my feet started hurting me. I've been having a weird problem - it is likely related to the frostbite I had a few years back (and am actually going to my super awesome podiatrist tomorrow about it) and my stomach hurt. Bleh. Push it. Bleh.

Close to the finish, one of my former Toronto colleagues, also a runner, screamed for me. Pretty awesome. Then, a few blocks later, my boss and three of my colleagues, up in Toronto for the same conference, were screaming their heads off for me. Really nice finish.

1:46. Not bad. Not my best, but my 3rd best. And not bad for the chaotic preparations (aka none) and the insanity beforehand (Saturday involved four trains, a plane, a cab, a rainstorm, and a power outage). I finished and was quickly covered with yogurt (um, I ate it but somehow got it all over me). I showered quickly and headed over to the work hotel, and on the way, got to see Kino, Evy, and Mary and scream for all of them. Fun times!

07 October 2013

Ted Corbitt 24 Hour: A Great Race Honoring a Great Man

This great race, The Ted Corbitt 24 Hour, honoring the spirit of the Great Ted Corbitt, began with Ted's pre-race mantra:

*I will be relaxed and free of all restrictions, free of all coordination tensions in running.
*I will feel buoyant and strong while running.
*I will run in a perfect pacing coordination form.
*I will be at ease during the morning of a/the race and my pulse will not accelerate before or during the pre-race physical examination.
*I will run hard and enjoy the effort.
*My gastro-intestinal system will remain normal in function on the day of a race and especially during a race.
*On the day of a race all body organs will function perfectly, especially the heart and digestive systems.

Ted was considered to be one of the greatest American runners, and was an active and incredible marathoner and ultramarathoner. His friends honor his spirit and accomplishments with this 24 hour ultra.

I originally didn't want to do this race, because it was a week after Hinson Lake 24 Hour. Well, duh, of course I can do two ridiculously-long races two weeks in a row. So says Ray K. And I'm stupid so I listen and I signed up.

The race was located in Juniper Park, less than 5 miles from my home. 1.1982 miles was the loop, and you ran it as many times as you could in 24 hours. 

I started out and immediately felt the hard miles from the week before. My hamstrings were TIGHT. Ouch. I was tired. I took it easy, walking laps here and there. 

My parents showed up, with TWO apple turnovers from the famed Malverne Bakery, and a carrot muffin. I have to say, apple turnovers are AMAZING during ultras. I walked a little with my parents, though they do walk slow (and my legs had already running many miles).

My time was much slower than at Hinson - I could feel the miles of Hinson. Okay, 4:30 for a marathon isn't terrible, neither is a 9:30 50 miler. But this wouldn't be a performance like Hinson. Okay. Well, you can't have two tough long runs two weeks in a row.

I got to meet new friends - this is why I LOVE 24 hour runs. I talked with Emmy a little. I caught up with Erin, chit-chatting with her about the latest in our lives. I met Fred Davis, Jay, Louis, Nick, and others. We cheered each other up, cheered each other on, joked about the tiny hill being a mountain.
me and emmy, pretty in pink!

Wayne stopped by in the early evening, which was a nice surprise. He was in back pain and didn't want to even walk a loop with me. Boo you. I'll run instead. Ouch.

I bantered with the aid station, placing elaborate orders for meals we all knew they couldn't provide, laughing the whole way. The aid station was a step above basic: pbj, chips, pretzels, honeydew, cantaloupe, pasta at night, pancakes in the morning (heavenly!!!), bagels & cream cheese in the morning, broth, tea....

I was running up the hill toward the turn when I heard my name being cheered...by Bomina & John Slaski! I got so excited, I screamed and jumped up and down! They walked towards the timing station and hung out with Wayne for a while, watching me run laps.

The night crew came on in the timing station around 10pm - lots of awesome people, like Phil, Chip, Skye, Shane. All friends of mine so it was lovely to see a cheerful person every lap.

I grew tired. I took my 5 hour energy shot, but it didn't perk me up. Susan's husband made me a perfectly terrible tea (As he put it oh-so-hilariously, "You take a Tetley bag, combine it with bad water and questionable sugar, you get terrible tea." Hahah.) and that actually perked me up, even if it did taste terrible. I ran. I sang to myself aloud. (Sorry, other runners around me!) I even danced while I ran. I tried to avoid the occasional rat. I chatted with my friends as we passed each other.

Morning came. People were running on the track, walking their dogs, chilling in the park, way before dawn. People, what is wrong with you? Go back to bed! I slogged around.

100 miles in 21:50. Not bad. Not bad. I napped in a chair for 15 minutes, then ran some more. And walked when it hurt. And ran.
this is how i run an ultra

I ran 108.56 miles, not bad. Third woman. The blisters on my feet were horrendous, and I couldn't fit my feet in shoes after. But I learned a lot, I had a lot of fun, spent some good time with good friends, people watched in a super interesting park for 24 hours. How much more fun could one have in 24 hours? Normally, not this much - you'd be sleeping, missing out on all of those hours and hours of fun!

06 October 2013

Hinson Lake 24 Hour Race Report (or 17.5 Hour Race Report)

You can't always get what you want...or what you train for.

Hinson Lake 24 Hour is one of my favourite races - the people are just wonderful, helpful and energetic. I have never been to a race and met so many new friends. The race entry fee is only $24 ($1 a mile), and the support - the volunteers, the food, etc - is outstanding. You also get a tshirt and a pint glass and sticker. (Pint glasses are good, since our house we break them a lot.)

I was really excited to run here again - it's such a fun race, and I get to combine it with a visit to my baby sister and her absolutely adorable baby. We had a complete blast and her baby is now a toddler and in love with me and she's SO much fun!

I got up at 430am & headed out to drive from my sister's in Raleigh to the race. I freaked out when there was some weird closure and no one had any clue what was going on and we were stopped for over 30 minutes.

The start of the race was a reunion with friends from last year. A lot of people remembered me (my signature buns and pink running skirts) and I was delighted to see my two favourite Hinson-ites, Alyssa and Hailey (sp?), daughters of Joe Fejes and Kelley Wellls (not together - they are daughters of them separately) who are BFF at races and they are super cute and yell, "GO PINK LADY" at me when I run by. They made me a bracelet they presented to me on one of the early loops and I really treasured it. Ultrarunning is really special.

Everyone was chatting and helping each other out. Because I came from NY, instead of having a shade structure and chairs and coolers, I had a bunch of plastic and tote bags. Ghetto fabulous. A random runner (turned out to be women's winner Andrea) invited me into her shade structure and she and her husband were super nice - "Oh, use our cooler if you want." "Sit in the chairs."

After around 30-something miles, I was maintaining a comfortable lead, feeling good. And then, a blister...ouch. I had to stop. I pulled a safety pin out of my bib (ouch, not that hygenic!) and popped my blister. I put moleskin on it and tried to run. Not happening. Kelley, who was not running this year due to injury, duct taped my toe and I must admit, it was better than a band-aid. Maybe she should try this in her role as a nurse? Ha. After a lap, it was still bothering me and I knew what I needed to do: have a Ray K operation performed. Eric, Andrea's husband, cut my shoe for me so there's  nice big hole in the side of the shoe, next to my big toe. Air conditioning! But seriously - it worked and my blister didn't bother me the rest of the race.

I was running pretty solid, chatting with lots of people. I was pushing the pace, but it felt do-able. I ran a 4 hour marathon, 5 hour 50k, and sub 8:30 50 miler...which is pretty freaking good considering my PR for 50 miles is 8:31 at Lake Waramug. I ate a mixture of gus, a few random aid station snacks, and lots and lots of ginger ales.

I kept going. I felt good, but as the sky grew darker, a pain popped up in my groin. A pain that I've never had before. I began to get worried. It hurt too much to walk - and running was hardly pleasant either.

I made a tough decision - having 3 more 24 hour races this season, and 2 marathons, I decided to stop at 17.5 hours. I was sad, and actually cried quite a bit about this. This was after I tried to lie down and couldn't - I was in too much pain. I walked to the car, devastated, but at the same time, hoping I was making the right decision.

After some time off, my groin is totally better. Whew. Was I overcautious? I don't know. But I do know I'm not hurt, which is really huge. So I'm glad that I"m not, but disappointed I didn't get to do the famed banana lap.

04 October 2013

Race Report: Narrows Half Marathon, September 15, 2013

I was not sure if I wanted to do this race, mainly because my girl V was in town and I wanted to spend time with her. But somehow, I ended up getting up ridiculously early and heading down to Bay Ridge to run this awesome race just under the Verazanno Narrows, along the water. I have run this before, when pacing in the Great NY Running Exposition, so I really loved this race.

NYC Runs put on the Narrows Half Marathon, and I have to say, I do love NYC Runs (and it's not just because I am so over NYRR). They put on a low-key race, but with nice treats at the end (bagels, cream cheese, fruit, etc) and nice little trophies (which I ended up winning one of, yay!). There's just a much better vibe at all of the races. It's a shame that so many NY runners are a slave to the 9 +1 (To get automatic entry into the NYC marathon, you have to run 9 NYRR races, volunteer at 1 race, and be a member. Way to fill NYRR's coffers.) because there are so many races that are MUCH better and more interesting and fun and unique than yet another trot around Central Park.

The course is flat and fast. You run out about 2.5 miles, come back to the start. Then you head out about 4 miles, and then come and finish.

I ran most of the race with a woman named Emily (Her teammates would not stop shouting her name so I learned it quickly.) and we tried to push each other through the race, which was nice. I had no clue what we'd ultimately run and when she said she was trying to break 1:35, I thought, "Hmmmm..."

1:35:something was my PR.

I came in at 1:34:46.

With a neat-o trophy.

Wayne drove a very happy Cherie home.