Saturday, June 29, 2013

DNF (Subtitle: GBRC Ultramarathon take 1)

So I tried out the Ultramarathon experience today.  Let's just say I'm not an ultramarathoner...yet.

I signed up for the GBRC 6hr/8hr ultra this week.  Partly because of some peer pressure from my running friends, partly because of the swag (neato wooden medal and a backpack!  Squeeee!).  When will I learn that life's problems are not solved by cool race swag. 

The answer is never. OF COURSE life's problems are solved by cool race swag!

The other thing that tempted me was the fact that the start line is about a half mile from my front door.  That's a huge plus right there.  Plus it's a trail I run all the time, so I knew exactly what I was getting into.  Or so I thought. 

I felt good on the first 4.4 mile lap.  Nice morning, good temps, fresh legs.  Lap 2? Ditto.  Felt fine.  Lap 3? Slowing down a touch, but nothing major, still feeling pretty good.  Lap 4?  Lap 4 kicked my ass.  I started out fine, then felt my back sort of slip.  It happens to me from time to time, always has.  I have a slight scoliosis of my lumbar spine, and sometimes it rears its ugly head.  Or tail.  Or whatever.  I could feel myself beginning to lock up about a mile into the fourth lap.  I tried to keep running, but as the distance ticked by each step became more painful until finally I was walking.  My shoulders were twisted up to my ears, my back was totally locked up, and my legs.  Sweet cheeses, my legs.  They totally betrayed me. 


I've never, ever understood "The Wall".  I've never even gotten close to that level of exhaustion.  I have always been able to keep going.  Always.  No matter what my brain told my body, I could not move any faster.  Walking was becoming painful.  My legs were made of lead.  I get The Wall now.  Man I hope that never happens again.  I didn't bonk, I still had my mental faculties, but my body was DONE.  This did prove to me that a 20 mile run is plenty for a marathon/ultra training run.  Too long of a run and you just burn out. 

I finished my 4th lap way off pace and called it.  DNF.  I did not finish 6 or more laps in 6 hours.  No medal. I did get to keep the nifty backpack, though.  Woo!  I would be disappointed in myself, but I don't really have a reason to be.  I still completed nearly 18 miles today.  18 miles I didn't plan on and wasn't really training for.  I stopped so that I wouldn't hurt myself, and there's no shame in that.  It would have been cool to call myself an ultramarathoner, but I'm 35.  There's plenty of time.  I have gone from zero to repeat marathoner in 5 years.  I'm not done yet.

This event was really, really fun.  There were about 60 runners between the 6 hour and 8 hour groups.  Everyone was incredibly friendly on the course (seriously, the level of encouragement was off the charts).  It was refreshing to be on a trail, and because it was a multiple loop route even back of the packers like myself were never really alone.  I met a nice lady named Tamara from Cincinnati, I got to run with some friends that I never get to run with, I met some GBRC people that I only knew from Facebook.  Big win all around. 

Positives for this event:
1. Really pretty course.  Gravel, blacktop, and chip trail complete with big ol' trees and streams and shit.
2. Very friendly feel, lots of excited chatter at the start.
3. Nifty swag.
4. Watermelon in the woods.  This is fucking brilliant.  You come out of the trees and happen upon a waterstop.  Where they have watermelon.  It was...beautiful.
5. There's a lunch buffet after!  With gluten free and vegetarian options! (I didn't eat it, as I went home to swallow a handful of Flexeril and lay on a foam roller.)

1. Wood chips in your shoes.  Ouchie.
2. Gravel in your shoes.  Ouchie.

I will totally do this next year.  Only I'll sign up for the 8 hour.  That way I will for sure get 6 laps :)  Who knows, maybe I'll hit a 50k next time.  It could happen.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

You CAN Run a Marathon on Little or No Training!

Title credit: Lisa F.  (subtitle "True story, Bro")

Ah.  Grandma's Marathon.  I signed up in a fit of athletic stupidity last year.  I started training, then got a new job, and well....stopped training. 

Ok, I didn't STOP stop, I just...stopped except for long runs.  Except when I didn't feel like it.  Then I didn't do long runs either. 

I did do a 15 miler!  Sort of.  I got water belly at mile 10, so I didn't actually "run" 15 miles.  I walked/ran the last 5 miles.  Pretty much only because my car was 5 miles away.  I know.  I'm a total badass.

In June I raced 2 10ks and did a Ragnar!  And that was all.  Seriously.  Aside from one commute run I didn't run a step in June that wasn't a race.  Maybe that will become my new training philosophy: I run for t-shirts.  I will ONLY run if I'm going to get cheered at and handed a tshirt and a medal at the end.  Sounds fair.

So I ran a marathon on Saturday.  The weather was shitty.  Seriously shitty.  It rained on Thursday and was so foggy that Duluth was invisible on the hill.  Friday? Rain and invisible Duluth.  Saturday? Invisible everything.

We ate and drank beer on Thursday.  Friday we went to the aquarium and to a movie (Star Trek: Into Darkness.  See it.  Zachary Quinto is hot.), then ate and drank.  Saturday we ran.

It was so foggy that Lake Superior was invisible.  I could hear it, but couldn't see it.  The runners around me vanished in the fog rolling off the water, then reappeared only to vanish again.  It was like a bad zombie movie (especially at the back of the pack). 

My strategy was simple:  Don't breathe hard.  Keep it easy and just go as long as you can.  I felt pretty fucking phenomenal until mile 10, and even then I felt pretty good.  One bad thing?  I lost close to 20 minutes overall to port-a-john breaks.  10 of them at mile 5.  Can you say gastric emergency?  I can.  Still, aside from answering nature's call more frequently than seemed normal, I kept moving. 

This race was different than my first (failed) marathon and my do-over.  I was in a good place mentally.  I told my husband "My only goal is to finish upright and smiling" and I achieved it.  In spite of the rain, the gut busting, the fog, and my complete training fail, I felt strong at the end.  What helped?  Finding a friend in the fog!  The completely awesome Lisa F. from my 2012 Ragnar Chicago van was on the course.  She and I leap-frogged a couple of times at the port-a-johns and I thought I'd lost sight of her for good when her neon self appeared ahead of me in the shifting fog.  I picked up my pace to catch her and fell in for the last 3ish miles.  She said her hip was hurting, and I was just lonely, so we finished the last few miles together.  When the rain started I was especially glad to have a friend as that would have pretty much taken the wind out of my sails.  Instead I got to finish happy in 5:49:11.  Upright and smiling.  That's me.

Afterwards I rewarded myself with a small snack
Don't judge me.
Then a nap and a big steak dinner.  I was off to dreamland before 10pm.  Because I am old.  With all this "I'll only run if you give me a medal" I may need a new medal hanger soon.
This one will look great in my living room.
There were several awesome things about this weekend:
1.  Being there when my husband finished his first marathon in 5:11:01
2. Spending time with two of my best friends that I hardly ever get to see
3. Seeing my friend's husband achieve his goal of completing a marathon after rehabbing an injury
4. Seeing (and getting to finish with!) one of my Panty Raiders
5. Finishing my 2nd marathon
The weather was shit, but the weekend was good.  I'm done marathoning until I hit 40, though.  There just isn't time for that kind of training in my life right now.  This is the summer of CrossFit, and I'm excited to get started again. 
Whew.  Two blog posts in one day.  I'm exhausted.


Oops, I Ragnared Again...

Anyone who has ever read this blog (all 12 of you) knows that I developed a serious Ragnar sickness last year.  I've managed to reign it in a bit, but I still jumped at the chance to sign up for the inaugural Ragnar Niagara Ontario.  I even captained the team.  Team American Bacon.

And I meant business, bitches.
I threw out a Facebook message and tagged everyone I've ever met that has ever run a mile and got 8 "YESSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!" responses almost immediately.  It was awesome.  So I registered us and we found some awesome friends of friends who would become new friends (sickening, right?) and we were set!  Here is the super kick ass part: Absolutely every single solitary person PAID ME BACK!  From what I hear that is vanishingly rare in the Ragnarverse.  I was very, very happy.
No Ragnar is without its hiccups.  Pretty much every one I've ever run has had something go awry.  From family emergencies to transportation difficulties to multiple runners dropping out with days to go before a race, it happens to every team.  This Ragnar hit a snag when the fabulous(ly stupid) people at Enterprise realized they ordered a fleet of vans for the wrong weekend then called all the teams a week beforehand to notify us.  Fortunately we had the vans from 2 different companies, and we were able to scramble together a Yukon XL for the missing van.  Unfortunately, one team member had to drop out the day before the race for a family emergency.  We sent out mass emails and texts, but ended up running one runner down. 
Still, 11 runners is a pretty good crew.  Especially when one of them is some kind of robot superhero who volunteers to run doubles AND hula hoops "to keep my hips loose."
Super Susan!
Once we had the runner situation squared away (and our travel woes behind us-damn thunderstorms), we were off to Canada in our supersize vehicles.  Driving a huge white van across the border was a trifle nerve wracking.

I pictured "the man" as somewhat more ominous.
I'm fairly certain the guy that checked out passports was Archie Bunker.  He also didn't appreciate my attempts at humor.  Whatever.  At least he didn't notice the birthdate on my passport is wrong.
We drove through driving rain and shitastic traffic to a town called Port Hope where we bunked for the night.  We found a decent restaurant to have dinner at just a couple of miles from the hotel, and were all happily snoozing by around 10pm.  I was the lone Van 2-er in a room full of Van 1-ers that had to be ready for a 7am start.  I didn't mind.  I'm pretty much incapable of sleeping past 6am.  I was dressed and ready to cheer the team at the starting arch.
Since this was an inaugural race, there were only about 120 teams.  The starting area was sparse, but there was plenty of parking, and everyone was in great spirits.  The weather was perfect, and we were ready to haul ass around Lake Ontario!  But first?  Breakfast.

Ain't no way I'm passing up bacon.
Then we hightailed it to Exchange 6.  Again, much more lightly inhabited than past Ragnars I've done, but that was not at all a bad thing.
Van 2.  Emily, Jen, Megan, Jess, Me, and Brett
Oh.  One more thing about Exchange 6:
Only slightly photoshopped.
Motherfucking elephant rides.  Now before you go all animal rights, this elephant is named Limba and she is a rescue that is unable to reside with other elephants because of the way she was raised.  The zoo in Bowmanville takes good care of her, and her human trainers are her surrogate family.  The money charged for riding her pays for her food and care.  She was adorable, and very, very gentle. 
So we ran.  And we ran some more.  And it was hot.  HOT, I say! Not Chicago 2012 hot, but hot.  Still, the scenery was beautiful, and we handed off to Van 1 at Exchange 12 then headed in to Toronto for some food and rest.  Only we didn't really rest.  First, we ate pork products and sampled a Canadian favorite: Poutine.
Yeah.  This did nothing for me at all. 
French fries with gravy and cheese curds.  No.
We took a little driving tour of Toronto and then went up the CN tower (the tallest building in North America!) and took in the sunset over Toronto and the lake.  The view was amazeballs.
oooooooooo.  aaaaaaaaaaaaah.
While we were taking in the sights, Tim was dodging cruisers (I'm not talking about motorcycles, people) on a dark beach trail and Charli was getting scared out of her wits by her husband who found us on the trail and surprised her (is that cute or what?).  We made for exchange 18 and prepped Megan for her first ever midnight run.  She was lit up like a Christmas tree and armed with mace.  We honestly thought she was going to mace random runners.  "How many kills did you get?"  "ALL OF THEM!!!! I KILLED ALL OF THEM!!!"  She was also carrying a tiny teddy bear that seemed to give her confidence.  Whatever works for you...
We had been warned and warned and warned again to "Respect the Residents" in a particularly swank area of the western Toronto suburbs.  There were fucking road signs that the race peeps put up all over the course to remind us.  Imagine our surprise when one of the residents mugged a runner.  Tried to steal her $5 headphones.  Fortunately, there were a crapload of cops all over (you know, to manage us rowdy runners) and the incident was dealt with swiftly.  Still, having been the victim of violent crime in the past, I ran my dark leg like I was being chased.  2.4 miles, 22:57.  As a result, I had to wait at exchange runner was still in the port-a-john.  No one expected me that soon!
After the handoff, we went to exchange 30 and took advantage of some indoor sleeping.  It was nice of the church to open their doors for us, but I could've done without the piped in Jesus music.  It was another gorgeous day and we took the handoff from Van 1 for our final legs.  Everyone was running on a mission.  In spite of the heat they all did great.  Emily was a frakking machine on a sunny leg through a vinyard.  We barely had enough time to stop for fresh roadside strawberries.  Tragic, right?
When I took the hand off for my final leg (just shy of 8 miles, pretty much all uphill) I warned my team not to look for me for at least 90 minutes...probably longer.  Turns out that was pretty accurate.  I ran, and walked, and took pictures.
Water stop.  That's a Buddhist temple.
In spite of my snail like pace, I scored 2 kills on my final leg.  As we came into the finish, I was feeling pretty damn good.
There are some advantages to being the captain.  Finishing is one of them.  Especially when this is the view from the finish:
Now, the fact that the finish line was up a flight of stairs was a bit of a bummer at that point, but that view makes up for a lot.  Also there was beer at the top.  I fucking love beer.
The whole team gathered for a shot at the end:
Charlie, Annette, Emily, Jess, Jen, Me, Megan, Brett, Marc, Tim, and Susan
Team American Bacon!
That night we ate an obscene amount of Greek food and watched hockey while we drank.  It was a big lovefest with both vans.  The very best of Ragnar.
The next day we said good-bye to several team members early (after slamming a couple of bottles of wine that we couldn't carry on the plane). Then some of us went hunting for tshirts, etc for the smalls in our lives.  Niagara Falls themselves are visually stunning.  The town of Niagara Falls?  Visually sickening.  To quote Brett "It's like the Wisconsin Dells and Reno had a bastard child."  So what did we do? Played Dinosaur Putt Putt golf, of course.
Because nothing says "Niagara Falls" like plastic dinosaurs.
This was a great team.  We had a great time.  I would Ragnar with any one of these people again in a heartbeat.  The course was beautiful and the race was extremely well organized (especially considering its inaugural staus!!).  Staff was always available, and the atmosphere was really positive.
This year's medal style was a little different than last year.  So were the tech shirts.  I liked them both.  Charlie was fond of the medal.
Who needs a medal hanger when you can hang them on kids?
Of course we were already discussing our next adventure by the time we got to the airport.  Lake Tahoe trail Ragnar 2014.  Can't wait.