31 March 2014

Ultrarunners are gross, focused, and crazy. I'm proud to be one.

Run Love

How would it be to never run?

Wayne and I met through our running club. On our second date (what I have often joked, still hasn’t ended), we woke up the next morning, blissful, and headed upstate to go trail running. I felt so happy to finally have met a runner – but there were so many things other than running that we had in common. Like biking around Brooklyn, or eating good food, or talking about politics or good books or what we heard on NPR, or street art, or traveling, or Burning Man (eventually for Wayne; I had to introduce him to it.), or the beaches, or heading to the parks for summertime picnics, or petting the Luna Dune, and basically, everything else. But still – it was nice to run.

All our runs together weren’t blissful, but it still was fun to have a built-in running partner. In the cobblestone streets of Peru, or the beaches of Zipolite, Mexico, or through the gorgeous eternal spring-like streets of Medellin, we ran together, exploring, laughing, talking in English when Spanish was all that filled our ears otherwise. He met me on Valentine’s Day on the Williamsburg Bridge, and we stopped home and bought a bottle of champagne to drink post-run. We ran through the streets at night, streets that were so empty we felt like we owned them, finishing off in Kellogg’s Diner, eating food that only tastes good at 3 a.m. In the Marin Headlands, and in Big Sur, Wayne paused so I could hug the giant trees we ran past. We crossed the finish line of the Brooklyn Marathon together hand-in-hand. In his first ultramarathon, Burning Man 50k, when I saw him at the turn-around point, he just bawled in my arms. “Cherie, this is so hard. I love you.” And I kissed and held him tightly.  

This year, he didn’t run the Burning Man 50k; he was injured. When I came in for my last four mile loop, he was laughing, drinking a beer. “Please, come out with me. I’m having a terrible race.” I had spent approximately 40 minutes in the (thankfully clean) Port-a-Potties that dotted the course. He ran into our tent to pull on running shorts and sneakers. “Let’s go!”

We ran down C, making a right on 7:30. I ran like a maniac, weaving in and out, stopping at Bubbles and Bass for a cup of champagne. We finished, and I spent a good two hours hunched over sitting on a cooler, clutching my miserable tummy, in between handing out medals and sweaty hugs to finishers. It was so hard for him to watch and support and believe in my race, as an injured runner.

He has been having issues for a year and a half and was told this morning that he shouldn’t run again. Nothing impact. He has a form of arthritis and now is starting a round of oral steroids. Next up, injections.

It sucks so bad when you can’t do what you love most. He is hoping that the steroids and if he does strengthening and core that he’ll be able to start running someday. He is signed up for the Brooklyn Marathon this autumn, as am I; I had hoped we could celebrate together.

From so many misdiagnoses to a depressing diagnosis, I hope he can get to where he can once again, do one of the things that he loves most in the world.

30 March 2014

Tutu Love

After finishing the NYC Marathon in 2013, I was overcome with emotion. Not my fastest marathon by far (3:45) BUT I had run a PR for 24 hours (nearly 116 miles) the week before, where I also placed second USATF woman and won $750. I started sobbing of what a long running journey I had been on and who even knew? Most people in NYC really only care about the marathons, not these crazy long-ass races I like to do. But I can do both, and enjoy both.
copyright robert james reese

Recently, Self Magazine criticized a woman who ran a marathon in a tutu, ranking it high on their "BS" meter as "lame." (BTW Self, calling something "lame" is not exactly PC or sensitive. HELLO!) Turns out, the runner was fighting cancer and was running through chemo. Pretty impressive and amazing. There was zero reason Self should have been nasty, condescending, and cruel - esp about a woman fighting cancer.

Self, I will never buy your magazine.

23 March 2014

Merge 25k: "That's a downhill in the opposite direction."

Superchunk has been one of my favourite bands since high school. When I heard that Merge was having a 25k race in honour of their 25th anniversary, I knew of course that I should go. I really hoped I would see Laura and Mac in sweaty running clothes, and we'd talk about gus and pacing and that twinge in my hamstring. Oh, and my sister was having her second baby right before, so the timing was perfect.

I headed down to NC on Friday to spend some time with my sister and her adorable babes. Saturday found me shivering at the starting line of the Merge 25k with 10 other NBR peeps - yep, 10 of us flew down from NYC. People were baffled by us and our North Brooklyn Runner shirts, "Wait, where are you from? Brooklyn, NY? Really? And you flew down here?"

Yes, Merge Records is awesome and why not fly to run someplace different?

My hamstring was feeling kinda crappy, so I vowed to take it pretty easy. I wanted to keep my pace between 8 and 9 minute miles, and I spent many of the early miles chatting with fellow runners, cursing at the hills, smiling. I was wearing my pink tutu, so I got a lot of cheers for that.

Around mile 8 or 9, my hamstring cursed me out and began to really hurt me. I stopped and stretched but yep, it still hurt. I slowed the pace, tried to smile when inside I hurt. Why is my hamstring not getting better? I have Umstead 100 in two weeks. Eeek!

Oh, and there were approximately a million hills. Steep up, steep down, and some gentle ups and downs too. Fun times. They had signs everyone kilometer, and some of the signs had fun facts about beloved Merge bands like Superchunk and Arcade Fire. The course was full of pretty quiet roads, lots of hills and pretty houses and cheering people here and there.

I finished and felt crappy and went straight to the PT tent. I used the foam roller and felt nothing; then one of the friendly PTs gave me a mini-massage and more info.

I hung out in the sun with everyone from NBR. I watched an amazing performance - a combo of jump-roping and gymnastics. And no one messed up once! I cheered for them.

Mac also was djing at the finish line, and played Pavement. I was walking around, looking for NBR, and I couldn't help by sing along with "Shoot the Singer." I saw some random runner indie-rocker-type singing along too. Awwww. I felt at home.

The bands started. First up was Cosmic Punk and they were INCREDIBLE. I was dancing and so happy to be bopping around. Post-race, awesome music - YES! Bomina and I both wanted to buy their CD only to find out they don't have a CD and they are just in high school. And they're THAT awesome? Yes!

The rest of the day, we hung out, drank, had food, danced, listened to music, spent too long in the sun. It was fun to see a combination of music fans and runners and beer drinkers (sometimes all three were the same!). Also, I stood behind Laura from Superchunk and gawked.

Post race, local ultrarunner Mark Manz showed up and he came with the NBR crew + Ray to get brunch.

Merge, I love you for putting on this super fun race.

19 March 2014

SC 24 Hour: Not a Way You Want to Run 24 Hours

In a recent Ultrarunning Magazine, Ann Trason talked about running a 24 hour on the track. She said, "It's kind of zen."

Well, yes. In a way, that really oversimplifies things. It is that, but so much more.

I thought I would hate running a 24 hour on the track. When Ray K. told me he wanted to put on the South Carolina 24 Hour, I thought, "Well of course I have to do that. But it will suck." It didn't. The constant support, everyone cheering each other on, the energy...it was wonderful. It was a party.

The fearless 24 hour runners!
Ray had his high school runners as timers. My timer was the super friendly Harriet who was out on the track for most of the race (though she went home to sleep, smart girl!). We made eye contact every time, and she'd say things like, "40k" or "68 laps" or whatever. Plus everyone else cheered me on. The kids LOVED the race, and we loved them.

Logistically, the track was easy to set things up. The high school runners brought out SCHOOL DESKS and we set up our little personal aid stations on the school desks. It was great for us out-of-towners who flew in and didn't have chairs and much of anything. Fantastic.

Most everyone was friendly. Zach Bitter (who ended up breaking the 200k AR during the race, and currently owns the AR for 100 miles and World Record for 12 hours) said encouraging things nearly every time he passed. Harvey ended up qualifying for the World Team, but started the race chatting and laughing with me. I made new friends - the runners, their crews, and the timers - and it was really a lot of fun.

"I want to puke!"

I started out feeling okay. Some of the women were hammering (Go Katy - she got the 200k AR and ran one of the fastest 100 mile times ever - but she always had a kind word and compassion, especially as she could see I was suffering.) and I probably went out a wee bit fast, in the 8:00-9:00 range, occasionally faster. I felt good, drank water, laughed, chatted, enjoyed the run.

That lasted for about an hour.

My stomach turned into a nightmare. I began feeling queasy. I kept up my pace the best I could, and began begging Wayne (who was timing) for cups of iced ginger ale when I came through.

My stomach grew worse. I ran through the aid station at one point and cried, "Wayne!" He ran over as I cried while dry heaving. Miserable.

I slowed down. Walk. Run. Cry. Dry heave. Cry. Walk. Run. Run. Run. Dry heave. I was not eating and I knew this was dangerous. I didn't know what to do. I asked Coach K for advice; he tried to get me to drink watered down Coke and I threw a fit and it made me more nauseas.

My tummy felt  little better, and my hamstrings - yep, both - seized up. I ran, walked. I wished I could eat. I found myself getting lapped and lapped and lapped - "Hi Zach, Hi Katalin, Hi Harvey, Hi Everyone..." and the sufferfest went on.

Should I quit? Was I pushing myself unnecessarily?

Ray suggested I take a nap. I did and it was good but I was still sick. I ran some more. I walked some more. I drank some ginger ale and cried. I went to lie down again. I got up. I ran. I walked. I dry heaved. I cried. I wished I could eat. Everyone said such encouraging things, even the kids as I told them, "Don't tell me I'm doing a good job! I'm not! I'm sucking." Oh, but you are, they told me, repeatedly. "I am feeling miserable and running horribly for me. Maybe you could say other things?" So they began talking about how nice I looked and how they liked my outfit and rainbows and unicorns and I loved the kids at Wilson High. I thanked them profusely at the end, and really I cannot thank them enough.

I ran with lots of different people. I walked with different people. I was in my head. I listened to music. I didn't listen to music. I felt the heat of the day (probably why I was sick) and the cold of the night. I pushed beyond what I could and it still wasn't enough.

My friend Iliana arrived to crew me approximately 6 hours late. I was freaking out, with stories in my head that she got in a car accident and was dead and now everyone would blame me because she was driving to see me. She arrived around 5 am and took charge, organized all of my stuff, and was an amazing crew. She said encouraging things.

In the end, Shannon and Harvey qualified for the National Team for World Championships. I envied them and admired their amazing performances. It was not my day at all. 

It was a day to have Alec, Lara's husband take a knife and attempt to pop my blister mid-race. It was a race where I ran the last 50 miles in shoes with the toes cut out. It was a race where the volunteers (including my boyfriend) ate more than I did during the race, much more. It was a race with blazing sun that burnt me, and rain that led us to our finish. It was race with so much fun (Colorful characters like Andy, who suffered immensely but pushed through with his pink power to complete 100 miles.). A lot of the other runners has issues with nausea, but apparently I had the worst problems, with nausea dominating 23 hours of my race.

I ran with Chris at the end, and then took a walk break. The last hour I found myself running pretty strong, knowing the end was near. I finished with nearly 90 miles, and was so grateful to finish.

Thank you to Ray, all of the runners, their crews, the volunteers (yes, I love you all), Iliana, Wayne. I had a blast, even if my stomach hated me. And I ran while carrying a slurpee. That was awesome.

Total food consumed:
  • one vanilla gu (33 minutes into the race)
  • Some cliff shot blocs (not too many)
  • 2 pop-tarts (Thank you, Max, for letting me raid Meghan's food supply)
  • a handful of cheese nips
  • some broth
  • a couple of crackers
  • two pretzels
  • a popsicle (Thanks Kelley!)
  • a slushee mmmmmmmmmmmmmm

09 March 2014

TGNY 100 Miler Training Run #1: Bushwhacking, Snow, Getting Lost, Donuts, People Dancing on Railings...

Running is only as much fun as you make it.

The trick about TGNY 100 is that the course isn't really marked; this year, American-record-holder and RD decided to host training runs along the course so we could figure out the course a little bit better.

We started from the starting point in Times Square, and I only planned on running 12-15 miles because I have a 24 hour race next week. No problem, right? Easy peasy? Well....

We started out and I hung towards the back. My hamstring has been feeling funny, so why not take it easy?

We started out on the streets, chatting, laughing. Overheard dialog included, "The cock was exposed..." Beth and I tried to get further details, but did not. Oh, well!

I felt pretty good and was cheerful. The hamstring was behaving and I walked anything that somewhat looked like a hill. It was cold, but not too bad. Everyone traded running partners and got to know each other.

Then we got to a big mess of snow and ice and it took me forever to brave with, with Byron letting me cling onto his arm. Then we got to the bridge to cross into the Bronx, only to realize we could not cross. Alas, the photo below.

We ended up walking on some other icy, snowy paths. And Melissa and I were chatting with Mat, and somehow got caught behind, alone, and took the wrong path. We got lost, and bushwhacked a bunch until we got to this lovely photo.

We met up with everyone at Twin Donut, and I was so hungry I ended up eating half of Beth's donuts, even though I really hate donuts. But ultrarunners have to eat Twin Donut in NYC; it's kind of a rule. So I did.

Beth and I ran for a bit longer, than hopped on the subway. I got probably 14 + miles in for the day (when you counted getting lost) though some of that was falling into the snow (Does that count?) and then we took the super long journey of the 1 train back downtown.

Pancakes, eggs, tea, and relaxing...that's the rest of the day for me!

Get the Runner's High!

In college, we wanted to get t-shirts that said "L.S.D.: Get the Runner's High."

L.S.D. of course stands for Long Slow Distance!

Our coach wouldn't let us. But I still say to this day, running is a real high.

I definitely get an endorphin high, and whenever injured, feel down, depressed. Last time I couldn't run, I picked a fight with Wayne, cried for no reason, and ate too much food. From ages 17-22, I was a hardcore raver, but straight-edge - I never did any drugs or drank. My friends didn't understand. Why would I need to - I had fun and if I wanted to feel great, I just ran.

But sometimes, we get high when we run. It's a natural, uncontrollable high....and then of course, we hallucinate sometimes, so it's kind of like drugs. Just much better for you.

I first started noticing how running altered my mind and my body in weird ways. I remember running back to my parents' house in high school; I never carried keys because I'd just ring the bell - they were usually home. And standing at the door, ringing the bell repeatedly (because that's the way we do things in my family!), I remember feeling my legs move up and down and suddenly confused that they were no longer running.

At Iron Horse 100k, I stopped and stretched a bunch. I'd lean over, and the ground would almost COME UP at me - it would be moving and swaying. Do you know what I mean? Wow, how interesting the dirt is!

I also have a tendency to hallucinate a lot more than others. At Croatan 24 hour two years ago, Wayne said, "Will you please stop telling me what you see - it's freaking me out." Thanks, darling.

I wonder what causes more hallucinations. More wobbly leg feelings. More visions. I know it's the more running, but why do I hallucinate more than some of my other friends?

Caumsett 50k: Why Not?

I signed up for the Caumsett 50k, with the intention of running a fast 50k. That did not happen, but I did have fun!

The day before the race, I was doing the best run my running club offers (You run over the Williamsburg Bridge and then everyone gets coffee and tea and hangs out. Yay!) and Mary and I were chatting, running an okay pace - not too fast, not too slow. Suddenly my hamstring began hurting me. Stupid ego got in the way - I was with my running club, I couldn't walk! - and it was WAY too cold to not be running with what I've worn, and I ran with pain the rest of the way. Then we sat with our tea talking for a long while and Wayne picked me up in his car. Hmmm, bad sign.

The rest of the day, I headed to the Russian Banya for Menachem's birthday where we sat in steam rooms, drank tea and fresh juices, and relaxed. I tried to stretch.

I woke up the morning, and did a test run a few blocks away. No pain. After talking with my coach the illustrious Ray K., I decided to take it easy. Run when I could, walk when I couldn't.
Very serious at the start of our 50k!

Mary and I ran the first 12 miles together. We had a lot of fun, talking, sharing stories, walking the hills due to pain in both our hamstrings (my right, Mary's left). Some snotty woman was like, "What, are you walk-running?" Mary responded, "No, we're injured."

Mary was in a lot of pain and wanted to drop out. She decided to walk a lap and then ended up running again and finishing not that long after me. Yay, Mary!

It wasn't until the halfway point when I thought, "Yes, yes, I can finish this." My hamstring was hurting me, but I walked many of the small hills which gave me a good rest.

The course is flat with a few small hills, and a 5k loop that you do 10k. It's nice to not need to carry a water bottle or much food. They have two water stops, and the main aid station has lots of food, including CAKE!

I notice 8-something miles as I was toward the end - not bad for a semi-injured runner! I finished in 5:18 and was very pleased. I stretched, ate a bit, and then headed home for a session in the bathtub with lots of Epsom salts and some stretching. What a fun day with great crowd support, a John Budge to help with scoring, and good friends en route!