Tuesday, December 1, 2015

JFK 50 Miler - second ultra distance, first 50 miler, huge learning curve!

I debated, got nauseated, got excited and nervous thinking about doing a 50 mile run.  WHY? HOW? IS THIS POSSIBLE?  But too much karma came together to make me hit the button and sign up for the JFK 50 Mile Endurance run.  http://www.jfk50mile.org/

Training went well, I had put in my long runs, back to back runs, and runs keeping leg speed turning.  I knew I needed to stay healthy and thanks to David Roche, I did! My goals for the race, wait...GOAL...FINISH.

 The night before the race I spent the night in a Boonsboro hotel room feeling anxious and excited, writing scribbles with a sharpie on my arm of life events and aid station mile markers.  I knew this was going to be a mental test and I needed to keep my focus positive with little reminders of my family, friends and life events. 
Scribbles of on arm
Race morning I am geared up and was excited to be toeing the line and catch a glimpse of stellar runners such as Sarah Bard, Emily Harrison, Ian Torrance, Michael Wardian to name a few.  As we waited for the countdown Sarah Bard lined up beside me and I said "Are you Sarah?" she answered "Yes," I congratulated her on her win at JFK last year and her huge successes in running. 

 Away we went headed up hill on paved road. It was beautiful and I was enjoying this moment but also knew not to push and get caught up in someone else's pace.  I kept Sarah and Emily in my site, not that I would have any chance of hanging with them, but I thought I needed to try or at least see how my pace would roll out.  We headed on to the AT and it was gorgeous, very rocky and even slippy with leaf cover on the rocks. It was during this section we started meeting runners that started at 5am and it felt great to wish them well on their journey.

Appalachian Trail  photo credit Geoffrey Baker www.geoffreybakerphotography.com
 During those 16 miles Sarah, Emily and I exchanged positions and chatted.  Such lovely running ladies!  I was lucky to be running with them but also felt like I had no business to be running with elite women, however the pace was relaxed and effort was good. 

 After those 16 miles we hit the towpath and it was nice to just zone out and cruise on flat straight trail.  I picked my leg pace up but it was not the pace I hoped for, so I kept conservative and even, not knowing how the later miles would feel. 

 At mile 26 the achiness started to settle in my hips and legs.  I got nervous..."if I am aching now, it's only going to get worse and I don't know if I can do this."  I kept cruising, thanking volunteers and smiling, but as I got by myself on the towpath I had to dig deep.  Mile 26-34 became a mental journey.  "Why am I out here? Maybe you can't run ultras? Just stop, call it a day," but I just couldn't give up.  I had a choice to quit or to finish.  I then started to gaze at the scribbles on my arm.  I smiled, even giggled.  I remembered a quote saying "the pain doesn't get worse, it's just if you can tolerate it." I kept moving forward using small increments to keep me motivated, "get to the next big tree, aid station etc." I got passed by some runners and one guy empathized with me, he said, "I am sorry you are walking, you looked so strong, " "Thank you," I replied, "it is what it is." It was then I knew I just had to start running with this group of guys, I needed their company.  It was during these miles I thought about the history of this race and getting a medal with JFK on it.  "Screw it, this is not the pace you wanted but you NEED to finish this goal no matter how long it takes." I needed to show my boys, Morley and Alex, that even tough challenges can be accomplished.   I kept plugging away, singing Christmas carols, smiling and enjoying the beauty of the day.  Soon those rough miles were done...it was now time to get off the towpath. "What?"  My watch said 40 miles!!!  "Oh wow, I have never run 40 miles!! Yay!!!"  Now the excitement and smell of the finish was growing closer.
Photo credit Geoffrey Baker www.geoffreybakerphotography.com
I hit the pavement of the last 8 miles of the race.  As my muscles adjusted to running on pavement, the achiness subsided and I knew, "I got this, you will finish. This is not the time you hoped for but you will achieve the goal!"  The miles kept coming and finally there were no more aid stations.  As I rounded that last mile I could start to hear the loud speaker calling runners in and I teared up, "I am going to finish this! I am going run 50 miles today! 50 miles! Almost 2 marathons! Wooohoooo!!!"  As I looked down the street, there it was...the finish line.  I was overwhelmed with joy and the muscles in my cheeks cramped from the huge grin on my face. I DID IT!!!!  I DID IT!!!
Finish!!! Photo credit Geoffrey Baker www.geoffreybakerphotography.com
I hugged the race director and another older man who resembled Santa Claus, perhaps some karma coming back to me from singing on the towpath! It was perfect...well at least until I had to bend down to grab something off the ground...good golly that was tough! OUCH! 

JFK 50 Mile Endurance run is a well oiled machine! These race directors know what they are doing and do it well!  The course is beautiful and offers a nice change of scenery from trail, towpath to road.  Thank you to all the volunteers for helping me achieve my goal, just being out there clapping helped me more than you know.  Thank you Geoffrey Baker for the great photos www.geoffreybakerphotography.com .  Congrats to Sarah a on great win and getting a PR!  Also a big congrats to Laurie Paretti Dymond, 49 years old, who was the 3rd woman. She PR'd her 24 hour race by 15 miles this year! Amazing!

My husband Paul, our sons, Morley and Alex, along with the rest of my family are the reasons I am able to do this! Thank you! David Roche, you kept me healthy and help me believe in myself!  SWAP - always an anchor!

 What went well:
1) Nutrition - no stomach problems and energy was good - VFuels every 20mins, Vega electrolytes and water as needed
2) No blisters or chaffing!! WWOOOOHOOO!! 
3) Smiling and thanking volunteers - this will always go well!  Can't thank those folks out there enough!
4) Sticking to my plan but adjusting my goals as needed

What to improve on:
1) Knowing you can tolerate the soreness
2) Picking up leg speed with achiness
3) Again...not every race is going to be good! Yes, this was not my time goal but I finished and that means it was a great day!

1) HOKA One One Clifton 2
2) VFuels gels
3) VEGA electrolyte mix
4) Nathan waist belt
5) CEP ankle compression socks
I got my medal!

Enjoying recovery and a bit of cross training!  Wish I was playing Ringette!!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Disclaimer: I try to tackle life with all I have and in doing so, I always look for the positive even when things aren't going as planned.

Table Rock 50k- My first journey in the Ultra distance
Artist: my son :)

After finishing my first road half marathon in 2011 I said, "I don't know how people run a marathon."  Fast forward 2015, I have run a few marathons but now a 50k?!  I never thought I would. 

Over the past year and half I have been fortunate, blessed, lucky enough to be coached by David Roche, - This man and his amazing SWAP group of athletes are so empowering http://someworkallplay.blogspot.com/ . I have had a great year of running, with a few niggles here and there but the allure of an "ultra" was dancing around in my head and David suggested..."Ultra?"  So I goggled "good first ultra's" BINGO! - Table Rock Ultras http://www.tablerockultras.com/- said to be one of the most scenic ultras, but not the easiest with almost 6000 feet of climbing! Whew! I wanted something closer to home and on trail, and this baby had it all! I wanted to test my ability mentally and physically to be on my feet for a longer period of time.

Training went well and I had put in my long runs but my biggest concern was "5+hours on my feet?" Ouch!  Blisters? Energy? Cramps? Mental Focus? Puking? I put my nose deep into researching and with David's help I had a plan. 

It had rained for a few days previous to the race, and race morning was no exception.  Views at the top to Table Rock would be fogged out but I was focused on the task at hand and ready to explore new trails and what my body could do.  I had marked on my arm the miles with larger climbs as well as aid stations.  I used this to help break up the run and keep my attitude...cheerful!
Climbing miles and aid stations.
I never sleep much before a race, so I was ready to drive up to the start in good time.  The drive was dark and rainy but I was excited.  I assumed the thoughts of 5+ hours on my feet would be more stressful, but it was the excitement of new trails, a new adventure that fueled my soul.  I arrived, got my gear ready and paced a bit.

7:00am  - GO!  We started in a field of a camp ground so footing was good but I knew I shouldn't push the pace, this is a long race and that could put me "in the rhubarb" by mile 20.  About 1/2 mile in we hit the woods then back on more field type trails. I didn't take a gel pre race but at 10mins into the race I took one, feeling I needed something.  From then on at 6mins, 26mins, and 46mins after o'clock I threw down a gel, I used VFuel gels.  Again this was another great mental distraction during the race.

First creek crossing!  I had not done many creek crossings before but I was ready "we're going for it"...scrambling through shin deep water for about 20 feet and back onto the trail.  I reached the first aid station with a smile and yelled "thank you!"  One of my goals during this race was to smile at aid stations and tell them thank you for volunteering. 

The second creek crossing, about mile 6, was pretty comical. The race director and another fellow were just getting the guide rope across but the race director was still holding one end.  This was not a skip through creek, this was large rocks, slight waterfall, pool at bottom.  I had no idea how to go about this, so I just grabbed the rope, slipped on the rocks and landed back first in the water almost pulling Brandon (race director) in with me.  Brandon, "Are you okay?" Me, still bugged out on race adrenaline, hollered "I'm good, I'm okay".  I immediately felt my pack to make sure all gels/water bottles were still in tact.  Whew! Good to go!

We then started doing some climbing, some single track and then gravel roads towards second aid.  I was meeting some 50milers on the way back from aid which was sweet! Even got high fives from Raleigh friend Jason Tischer, who placed second in the 50miler! Stunning run!  I got my water refilled and headed back down the road.  The next miles were mainly gravel to the third aid but still so peaceful and beautiful in the mountains. I sped my legs up a bit during this section knowing the big climbs were coming. The next few miles or so were very technical single track to Table Rock Summit.  It was a steep, beautiful, climb but with wet, slippy rocks that demanded respect.  I kept thinking how my husband and boys would love this and I hope we don't have to come back down this?!  The summit was beautiful even though the fog was so thick I couldn't see much but I could feel the beauty out there.  I got my bib marked, turned and headed back down the summit.  I was hoping these next few miles would be fast downhills, but there was no way you could on those rocks/boulders in some cases.  In fact while trying to grab a gel I totally ate dirt but as I looked over the cliff on one side of the trail I thought "relax, you need to get home for the boy's hockey games tonight"!!  Haha!  Onward! 

I hit the next aid, got some water and said, "which way?" hoping they wouldn't say, "back the way you came"...but yes they did!  Back I went, not back to the summit but down the rocky single track through the woods. 

At this point there is about 10 miles to go mostly downhill and single track. I was hoping to get some fast miles in but the single track was steep in sections and I knew if I pushed my quads would be done. I needed to respect what my body was doing for me.  Still enjoying the trails and being in the woods, I started meeting 50 milers on their way to the summit which was so nice.  We exchanged positive remarks...love that!

As I continued to maneuver the single track, I hit Steel Creek falls!  The rope was up and I managed better!  As I focused on getting over the falls I kept seeing a flash and thought, "oh, must be a camera on a tripod" so I turned and to my surprise a photographer was tucked in the rocks clickin' photos...of course I had to turn and smile pretty!

Photo credit Daren Wilz

Steels Creek crossing on way back. Photo credit Daren Wilz.
The next few miles were on a gravel road and it was during this point I was getting challenged mentally.  Some fatigue and muscle aches were starting to settle in, so I decided I needed to break the distance into smaller increments.  Instead of 9 miles left, it was 3 miles to the next aid.  It was during this section, that was totally runnable, I found myself learning to accept and relax that I may need to walk a bit, even if for 10 seconds.  I am not use to walking during runnable terrain but I knew I was out here to listen to my body and just take what I needed. 

I hit the final aid station thinking there were 6 miles left...you see...I kept forgetting to start my garmin at aid stations so the mileage was off.  As they greeted me with smiles and filled my water bottle they said "yay, only 4.8 miles".  I yelled with joy, "what only 4.8??? I thought it was 6!!! Woohoo!!"  I took off waving my hands in the air like a child.  

Entering last aid station!  Photo credit Victor Mariano

Leaving last aid with 4.8 miles to go! Woohooo!!! Photo credit Victor Mariano
The next 4.8 miles were little rollers on grass trails, which weren't much, but my legs were feeling the effects of the steep downhills so I managed what I could, and again being challenged mentally started with some self-talk and counting down "only 3 miles, only 2 miles...you got this Lorraine." I was sure someone would get a kick in the end and fly by me but at this point I was fine with that. 

I finally hit the field section about, 1/2 mile from the finish and I just choked up...I tried to cry but I was so happy in disbelief that all I got was the ugly cry face.  I kept looking behind me for the runner with the kick but they weren't there?!  I pulled myself together and pushed faster for that last 1/2 mile. I thought "oh my land, I did it!!" Reaching the finish the race directors were holding the ribbon for me and cheering.  I waved my arms in the air and smiled so big as I broke the ribbon!  

Smiling towards the finish! Photo credit: Table Rock Ultras

Woohoo!!! RAWR! Photo credit: Table Rock Ultras

They congratulated me and handed me a beautiful pottery sculpture of Table Rock and entry into Leatherwood 50k 2016!  What??!!!  May have to put that one on the calendar!

Pottery sculpture by Glenwood Road Pottery! Love this!
I did it!!! I was on my feet for 5 hours 11 minutes!  I had done what I'd come to do.  I stayed mentally focused, took my gels every 20 minutes, hydrated, broke the race into goals and smiled and thanked the volunteers! 
Thank you to the race directors, organizers and especially the volunteers.  I would definitely recommend this race.  Yes it's a challenge but it's so rewarding and beautiful . Brandon and Mark have done an awesome job balancing single track/gravel trails and the volunteers and aid stations were superb! It was great to meet some others runners Anne Wheatly, who broke her course record from last year by over 20 minutes, Andy Brouwer, and running with fellow Medoc 10 miler friend John Cochran.  Congrats to all runners!

Thanks to David and SWAP for getting me there and empowering me to believe I could do it. Thanks my family and friends...I hope you realize what you do for me.

1) Nathan VaporElite 2 Hydration Pak
2) Vega Electrolyte mixed water in one bottle, water in the other
3) VFuel gels
4) HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR
5) Nike Women's DF Cool Breeze Strappy Tank, Nike Women's 2" Rival Short, CEP Progressive+ Run Compression Women's Socks 2.0
6) Umstead Marathon running hat!

Where to improve:
1) Relax!!  You may/will need to hike or walk during some ultras
2) How to maneuver creek crossings
3) Not every race will be this good

What went well:
1) gel every 20 minutes
2) Hydration
3) no blisters and minimal chafe!
4) mentally breaking the race up in sections
5) I smiled and thanked all the volunteers - they deserved that and more! 

I am savoring this one for awhile. I plan on wearing my Table Rock shirt for a long time :)