I thought we talked about this.
This time he’s passing it off as his birthday present.
I thought we talked about this.
This time he’s passing it off as his birthday present.
And now we pick up where leg 2 left off. We’re done with that phase of running and we’re on break again for a few hours. There aren’t any pictures from our time off between leg 2 and leg 3. It was dark. Folks were burning out and in need of some personal space. Nothing was open in the middle of the mountains so we drove straight to our next transition zone at a volunteer fire department. (Aside from the outlet center, all of our transition zones were churches, schools, parks and fire departments)
This fire department was running a baked potato bar as a fundraiser. Earlier in the day I had thought that sounded odd. Who needs to eat in the middle of the night? And why a potato of all things. Why not pizza? Or cake? I figured I could eat one of the Luna bars I had with me if I happened to get hungry. As we rolled into the parking lot though I suddenly could not resist the siren call of those taters. We got inside and, in the fire dept kitchen, there was a big pile of enormous baked white potatoes, country crock “butter”, sour cream, canned chili, fake bacon bits and highly processed shredded cheese. I loaded my potato up with all that chemical laden crap (not the chili, I had to draw a line somewhere), doused it with salt and wolfed that thing down. It was divine.
Another thing I had not figured on being able to do was sleep. During our afternoon break, after my van housekeeping, I stretched out on the grass and read a magazine. In the the van all day and evening, I was wide awake and into the action. This night stretch was our one real chance at some sleep. I brought a sleeping bag planning to lay down outside the van but I honestly didn’t think I would sleep. And when we tossed our sleeping bags onto a patch of grass and discovered that grass was soaking wet? Yeah I figured I’d just lay there and be miserable but quiet for a while. Imagine my total surprise when the next thing I know I am startled awake by Maddie poking her head out the van door and whisper-yelling (being noisy in the a middle of the night transition zone will get your ass kicked. fair warning, y’all) that she’d just seen a post on Facebook and it looked like van 2’s last runner would be arriving at the transition in 20 minutes. Ack!
I have to give us some crazy credit. We jumped up, broke camp, re-loaded the van, made the long dash to the portapotties and got runners 1 (maddie) and 2 (me) dressed, night geared, numbered and ready to rock. With like 6 minutes to spare! We got Maddie to the line, sent her out, grunted a sleepy greeting to van 2 and got back on the road.
At the next exchange I hopped out, ready to knock out my last leg. Initially this leg had been 4.5 miles long and rated “moderate”. This was to be my easy peasy, victory dance. A couple days before the race a change was made due to a bridge being out or maybe it was Rebecca screwing with me again? Either way this leg got detoured, adding another 2.5 miles and bumping the rating to “Hard”. Again with the hard. At the exchange zone I asked the volunteer if he knew anything about the route. His response was, “Well, first you’ll go down hill for a nice little while. Then there is a BOOGER of a hill. Then you go downhill a little bit again. Then you go uphill a bit to the school”. Well okay then.
Maddie comes in , hands off and away I go. It did roll downhill in a very pleasant manner. Then it flattened for a while. Then there was a fairly short but pretty steep hill. I assumed this to be the booger. We all know what assuming does, right? Yeah. Rolled downhill again. Its still pretty dark but lightening up just enough that I see it looming. The booger. Rising up to the friggin sky. Oy.
Just as I start to hitch my giddy up to begin the climb I see a blinky light, like the ones we are all wearing on our shirts. This blinky light is below the road level though and its not moving. As I come up on it I realize its attached to a runner who is laying in a ditch below the road. He is curled up in the fetal position but I can make out a smile on his face and he appears relaxed. I know some ultra runners will take trail naps and they get annoyed by people waking them up. I slow as I pass him and take a good look. He seems ok but I feel super hesitant to leave him..you know, in a ditch in and all at 5am. He suddenly groans a little bit. I stop and call down asking if he is okay. I think I hear him say “no” so I climb on down into the ditch to ask again. He never did open his eyes and there is a cow laying not 4 feet from him. I don’t know why it matters about the cow but I found it amusing. Anyway, I ask again if he is ok and he says, quite clearly, “Yes”. So I apologize, climb up and move along. I looked back and saw a van pull over as well so I felt a little better. I later found out that medic and police (who I also saw but thought nothing of) were cruising around looking for this guy. Turns out he was pretty screwed up. Umm oops, I am so sorry!!
That booger of a hill took it out of me. It was long and steeper than my evening run had been. When it ended though I was gifted with a nice, long downhill. That felt so good. And then the “uphill A BIT to the school” part showed up. Uphill this time was insane and it took well over a mile. I dropped to a walk behind the guy I’d been cruising along with. I hated the walking but I didn’t have anymore left. He and I picked up a run about a half mile before the exchange and happily passed off our bracelets one last time. Whew!
We drove to the next exchange and I jumped out to change one last time. After my other legs I changed in the porta potties. I’m super private with my nekkid and changing in the van just was not for me. So I’d drag my stuff to the porta potty and (with a headlamp for the night change) do the delicate dance of shower pill bath and clothing change without allowing any naked parts or clean clothes to touch the porta potty. I’m a damn pro at this now. Seriously, I’d show ya but, again, I’m stingy with the nekkid. For this last change, I was tired and the porta potties were really far away from the van. I decided to risk a side of the road, hiding behind the van and under a beach towel change. I managed to get it done just in time to look up and see a guy in another van just openly looking at me. He’d seen a fair bit I’m sure. Jokes on you, eh, buddy?? Whatever. I was clean(ish) and dry and clothed again!
On to the pictures I have from this leg
Getting ready to send Karen back in.
Monica crossed the road and this car came blazing up out of nowhere and got real close to her. But she scoffs at cars and sprints on.
Monica to Karen.
Karen has the best running hair. Just look at her all disheveled in a sexy manner!
Karen passes the bracelet
and jumps right back in to team captain mode. She’s still actively dripping sweat but also updating the time sheet and calculating our next move. Multitasker!
Handing off the bracelet to van 2’s Laurel.
Laurel is embarking on the most ass-kicking hill I think I have ever seen. And she’s cheering about it. Van 2, were you guys eating funny brownies or something? Just driving that leg gave me nightmares. Word on the street is that Laurel shimmied up that hill like it was nothing at all!
And van #1 is DONE!
We then headed into Asheville, knocked back some lunch and awaited the rest of the team at the finish line.
All righty, we left off at the end of Van 1’s first legs. We finished up that round right about lunch time. We conferred with the map to figure out the location of the our next transition zone (transition zones are where vans trade off, exchange zones are where runners trade off). We headed towards it and googled around for a nearby restaurant. I say “we” and I mean Karen. Karen ran the roster/time sheets, googling and navigation for our fearless driver, Rachel. I farted around on Facebook and ate Twizzlers.
We eventually settled on a barbeque place in Blowing Rock. I actually had to go google to figure out where all that went down. I really never had any idea where we were or what time it was while the relay was happening. After a lunch packed full of hush puppies, we motored on down to the next transition zone at the Tanger Outlets, also in Blowing Rock.
Let me rewind to the relay for a second. While your van is actively on the course things are busy. I had assumed it would be boring and slow, recall I even brought magazines to fill time. Drop a runner off, drive a few miles and then wait around for a while for the runner to arrive, how hard can it be? And that is basically what is happening but it goes by in a crazy blur most of the time.
It goes like this and it goes fast:
Running that routine from 6:30am to about 11:30am leaves a van load of girls awful tired. We were definitely ready for some downtime. When we got to the Tanger Outlet center it was pretty quiet. Just a handful of vans milling about. People were staking out spots on the grassy ; medians, rolling out sleeping bags and installing hammocks. We followed suit.
Because I am a class A psycho about neatness and order, I used the first hour of rest time to reorganize the van. I was super concerned that we’d be rifling through a giant mess in the back of the van in the dark of night. We hauled everything out, set out sneakers and towels to dry in the sun and then put everything back in neatly. And then I could breathe again.
Jaime and Rebecca practiced activating their glutes. It was a busy time for us all.
A couple hours later, this parking lot was a full blown gypsy caravan city of white vans. Only these gypsies were decked out in gajillions of dollars in compression gear. There were people running around sneakily tagging vans with their team logos. People playing football. People shopping and eating fudge. Or maybe that was just me.
Eventually van #2 showed up which alerted us to the fact that we would soon be back on the clock. Rebecca got ready and in rolled Chris. Here’s Chris now! Handing off to Rebecca.
Now let’s talk about Chris a second. Just a few days before the race we lost a runner and Van 2’s driver suggested his friend, Chris. Chris is a boy, ya’ll. The team’s name was Sole Sisters. We were an all girl crew. Luckily he is a very brave boy that didn’t mind joining a team of 11 sweaty, spandex clad women in the close confines of a van on an overnight trip.
Wait a second…what the? Chris! You sly dog! Anyway, Chris had done this race 5 times in the past and still took a chance on a rag tag group of rookie girls. We were so lucky to have him. He was super pumped up and immediately became our mentor. He sent us motivational videos and helpful hints in the days leading up the race. So the Sole Sisters took a Mister and boy, are we glad we did!
And now Rebecca takes Van 1 back on course while Van 2 is off for some dinner and rest time.
Rebecca’s leg here was 7 or 9 miles and it was all a steady uphill. We drove past her on our way up and she was looking good, working hard. We parked at the transition. I got geared up to run and we waited. At some point a runner comes walking up the line of parked vans calling out for the Sole Sisters. Turns out Rebecca had flagged him down on the road and asked him to let us know she was injured and didn’t think she could make it. Oh. Shit.
We started scrambling on what to do, consulted the rules, etc. If runner #1 cannot finish her leg then runner #2 runs down to her, takes the bracelet and runs it back to the exchange where runner #3 slides down and takes on what would have been runner #2’s leg. The rest of the roster moves down in succession. On our second legs this was going to drastically alter the mileage for several people. Before setting that into motion, we decided that a couple of us would drive down to her and assess while the rest of us waited at the top for a phone call.
God love Rebecca. She was hurting but she knew immediately that we needed her to finish if possible. Girlfriend took a Motrin and said she’d limp/walk it in as best she could to spare the leg switches. So there we are hanging out at the exchange figuring we have a good amount of wait time when I suddenly hear some serious hooting and hollering in the crowd. I looked up and here comes Rebecca. She is not limp/walking. She is limp/running and good god did it look like it hurt but she was doing it. I’m not a crier, certainly not a public crier, but I saw her and instantly teared up. Her IT band had gone to complete shit, she was in serious pain and she would not let us down. It was the proudest moment. We all started screaming, I threw my phone at somebody and ran for the exchange. She handed off the bracelet, I didn’t want to be a pansy ass wimp so I just told her she was awesome and ran off.
I’d been sweating this leg all day. No actually I’d been sweating it since the day I saw it as one of my assigned legs. This leg was my “very hard” rated leg, 10 miles entirely uphill. Remember that team meeting I missed? That was the one where they picked who was running what legs. Rebecca was my proxy and picked these for me. Apparently I’ve wronged her in a past life or owe her money or something.
I think it was kind of good that I’d been distracted for the last little bit of time before heading out. As soon as I started running I was immediately into self pep talk mode. “This isn’t so bad yet. Just enjoy it til it gets bad. One step at a time. Wait, isn’t that for alcoholics? Damn is it getting dark? And steeper? You can do this. Its only 10 miles. Shit. TEN MILES.”
My Garmin would not come on for this leg so I have no real reference points. I can tell you it was dark within the first 10-20 minutes. Like pitch black dark. Oddly, this made it more fun. Just me, my headlamp, a shit ton of noisy bugs, some bats (First bats I’ve ever seen!) and the dark, dark, dark road in the middle of nowhere. The dark made it hard to see the incline coming until I was right up on it so I didn’t get a chance to look ahead and freak out about it. I really enjoyed the peace and quiet and solitude of the dark.
The hill, though. The hill. was. relentless. It wasn’t ever super steep. It was just never ending and medium steep. I did some walking. I chatted with some passing runners. I stopped counting how many people passed me when it got past 12. One guy came up on me as I started to walk a second. He slowed and told me to get moving. Said he’d run with me a while and he hung out with me for about a mile. Runners were like that all day. Really made the experience all the more fun. (My teammates are reading this and thinking,”Bitch was at cruising pace enough to chat/run with people?! She’s not all that friendly just standing around in the exchange but she can go all social butterfly on the run!?”)
I finally made it to the exchange at the top and I was so relieved!
Maddie in her night gear glory. Probably taken during leg 2.
And that concludes the pics I have for leg 2 because it was dark and things moved super fast. The remaining teammates’ legs were shorter and had some good downhill. Those girls went full on Olympic sprinter on them to take advantage of the terrain and pick up some time for us. I was seriously impressed. I rolled in from my cruising, parade-like mountain climb and the girls took my pic and tossed me in the van because we barely had time to make it to the next exchange zone before Jaime and her sub 7’s rolled in! The next three were similar breakneck speeds. These girls had busy roads AND darkness to contend with and they still kept the hammer down. Pure craziness.
We met up with van 2 around 11pm (correct me if I’m way off, Karen), Maddie handed off to Laurel and van 1 signed off to go find someplace to eat and sleep.
I have a ton of pictures from this one which is good because there are so many things to say. If I took my eyes off the boy child long enough to write all those words he would no doubt poop his pants. I cannot take the shitty pants any more, people, so bear with me and know that nothing I could say here would properly describe the utter awesomeness that was the Blue Ridge Relay anyway. So you get you what you get and you better not pitch a fit.
First off, lets talk about the relay in general. If you ever get a chance to do this race don’t even think twice. In fact, go put together a team right now and then come back and finish reading. If you cannot talk 11 friends into doing this race then
find new friends inquire with local running groups until you find a team needing a runner. It does not matter if you don’t know each other now. Other than the one team meeting that I went to (there were two team meetings but I missed the first one), I had never met 8 of the 11 other runners or either of the van drivers prior to the race. And now? Now I want them all to move to a giant compound in the middle of nowhere and run with me all day long every day. Stacey, you can take breaks from running to bake things.
(In the time it took me to type the above, the boy child shit his pants. Again. I hate potty training.)
Okay so twelve runners and two drivers. We rented two fifteen passenger vans and split into two groups. Each group consisted of 6 runners and one driver. You totally saw that coming, right? I hope so. There’s a lot of math in a relay. Maybe grab a smart friend to do the math part. While one van is actively on the course the other van is “resting”.
Based on your predicted overall average team pace you are given a start time for Friday. Ours was 6:30am. Faster teams started as late as 2:30pm. Those 2:30pm people are scary as hell when they bear down on you all of a sudden out of nowhere in the middle of the dark ass, country road night. Then they pass you and are never seen again. We covered 208 miles (actually more I guess because there was a detour that added some miles to a couple legs) and had to be done by, I think, 5:30 or 6p on Saturday. You’re loving my very precise details, aren’t you? Read the race site. I’m not your damn maid.
Essential relay packing tip : Ziplocs.
I packed each of my three running outfits, complete with everything from shorts to headbands to socks, in a separate large ziploc bag. This comes in handy because it keeps all the details together and, more importantly, you put all your sweaty clothes back into the bag after each run. Seal up that funk and keep the van odor to a minimum. I also had a fourth large ziploc that I labeled “in between and just in case”. This bag had clothes for lounging in between runs and extra gear in case of cold/rain/apocalypse. I brought a running skirt, lounge pants, clean undies/bras, a long sleeve top, and gloves/hat. Aside from the gloves and hat, I used everything that I brought.
The race provides absolutely no food or water. You must pack in, or buy along the way, all the things you need. Because all I’ve done since April is ultras, I had a hard time on food packing. They warn you not to overeat while sitting in the van because you’ll end up feeling crappy on the run. I’m just so used to packing up a ton of sugar to get me through. So I packed this giant bag of snacks. Then, just as my ride pulled up, I panicked about being labeled a lard ass, overpacker and tossed a bunch of it back into the pantry. I did bring (and use)the twizzlers, stuff to make a couple PB&J’s, chocolate milk, diet coke, a case of water, accelerade and a couple gels. We also stopped for lunch at a BQQ restaurant and we partook of a “baked potato bar” fundraiser that a fire station/exchange zone had in the middle of the night.
I know you love pictures of my matching luggage. The large purple tote is full of ziplocked clothing. The black and white is the food bag that I actually ended up paring down to a smaller tote. The polka dot bag functioned as my purse and misc stuff bag. I had my wallet, sunglasses, garmin, various chargers, toiletries (I had everything just in case I stumbled upon a free shower. But really you NEED deodorant, baby wipes and toothbrush/paste for good vanmate relations (ewww not like that. I did not have relations with any vanmates)), and some magazines. I brought magazines because I worried I’d get bored. I laugh heartily at that now.
The flat of water, a sleeping bag, more water, a yoga mat that I didn’t end up bringing and a bag of general van stuff. We each volunteered the bring some stuff to share vanwide. We didn’t need every one of us to bring toilet paper and first aid and such. I brought markers and glow sticks for van decorations, as well as shower wipes aka Relay Gold (seriously, get you some. Now.) and some other crap I can’t even remember now.
Our team captain had handled van rental and pickup so we met up at her place to load, decorate and ponder what the hell we were doing.
Karen brought first aid. If I were to tell you to bring first aid you might show up with band aids and motrin, right? Karen had a full CVS inside of two grocery bags. We could probably have performed surgery out there. This would come in handy later when I, for the first time ever, suffered horrendous gas pains on one of my runs. I got in the van and started bitching about them and Karen was like “voila, bitch, Gas-x!”
Van paint job that then got rained on and runny making it sort of appear like the van window was bleeding.
Because of our early start, and the fact the start is a couple hours from Charlotte, we went up Thursday afternoon and spent the night. We stopped for a beer (carbs!) and pizza dinner and then proceeded to Sparta, NC and the Allegheny Inn. Clean, cheap, no bed bugs. Karen, Stacey and I could not find our room for a long while. Then we discovered it was hidden behind the office, conveniently located by the public restroom and conference center? We were also on the first floor and had a window that opened onto an alley and would not lock. Whatever. Clean, cheap, no bed bugs. That is all I need from a race hotel and this fit the bill nicely.
We got up around 4:30am, left the hotel around 5 and hit the road for the start line, arriving just in the nick of time for check in at 6. Good thing Runner #1, Rebecca, is such a mellow girl because we barely had time to get her in her night gear (reflective vest, headlamp, and blinky lights on front and back required from 7:30p to 7:30a), pin a number on her and send her on her way.
The sunrise as we drive down to the first exchange to wait for Rebecca to arrive.
Now its daylight-ish so we can start with the constant group pictures. You know what we also did constantly? Headcounts. Every time we’d get in the van, before driving away, we’d take a quick roll to make sure nobody got left behind. You laugh but it could totally happen!
Night gear because, despite the daylight, it is before 7:30am. Also because I think its totally swanky looking. I’m wearing it 24/7 these days.
Waiting for Rebecca and being a dorky turd.
Taking the slap bracelet nice and slowly. Don’t want to pull a muscle or break a sweat.
My first leg was mapped as 7.5 miles of downhill and rated “Hard”. The notes claim it was rated hard because it is downhill for so long which can really give your legs a beating. I think maybe it might have been hard because of the two sizeable hills I had to climb up, while shaking my fist at nearby livestock and muttering, “Not downhill, still not downhill. Oh shit is that a dog, please don’t bite me.” I also kept thinking, “wait, if this is “Hard” and I’m feeling so tragic…WTF am I going to do about leg #2 rated “VERY hard” and admittedly uphill the whole way!??!”. Then I just tried to think about lunch. Lunch always makes me feel happy. I also enjoyed the gorgeous, gorgeous bunch of scenery. Little mountain houses, animals, fields. Really pretty, especially at sunrise in the quiet (aside from my muttered cuss words).
Handing off to Jaime. Jaime’s like, “where the hell have you been, out staring at cows or something!?”
Jaime, like a bat out of hell.
Jaime is back already because she pretty much broke the sound barrier. Jaime passes to Karen.
Finish your leg and cross off the leg # on the side of the van.
Take a group picture while waiting for Karen.
Rebecca deals out some french braids to keep me and Maddie from getting gnarly hair.
Oh look, its Karen! Coming in fast. Turns out, I was totally the snail of the group. I tried to make up for it with witty commentary.
Karen to Monica. Monica is the fastest runner known to man. We actually picked her up to fill a last minute vacancy on the team. Less than a week’s notice and this girl stepped up and signed on to a team of 11 complete strangers. I believe somebody posted a note on a local running board and Monica answered? I think that’s what happened. Or maybe we found her at a local womens prison? Crap, I should have asked… Anyway, she was fast and funny and never smelled bad. That’s really all you need in vanmates. Everything else can be purchased or stolen from other vans.
Karen’s debut outfit was my favorite of the day.
I’m already in my lounge clothes and hoping I can talk somebody into a cheeseburger break soon.
No, those cheeseburgers are too fresh, Rebecca.
Karen doing a behind the van change after her leg. Jaime and I held the towel and also took pictures. Duh.
Monica tearing up the countryside to bring the bracelet to Maddie.
I don’t have a picture of Monica passing to Maddie. I’m sure there is one. I feel like I saw one. I just can’t find it. I swear it’s not because I hate Maddie. Even though I do sort of hate Maddie because she’s all super skinnier than me and her stomach can be bared in public.
Here’s Maddie! Passing to the first runner of Van #2, Laurel. See Maddie, I don’t hate you. Skinny Bitch.
We cheer Laurel out the gate and then Van #1 is done for a few hours. Whew.
On our way home from a road trip to Maryland in July, Jeff noticed that the little round mirror on my drivers side view mirror was coming loose. I think he originally stuck these extra little mirrors on my car because he wanted driving a minivan to be even more humiliating than it already was. And to that I say, bitch please. Me and my van are total BFFs. You know where one friend looks a lot hotter just because the other friend is so ugly.
Even though we were barreling down highway 81 at full speed, he became very concerned that this mirror would fall off and be lost forever. Apparently this mirror cost like $1.97 and he did not want to see it go to waste. I should point out that the mirror has hung for probably 2-3 years so one could say he’s gotten his money’s worth. But in order to say that one would have to not know my husband very well. Remind to show you the stash of cardboard stereo boxes he has saved for “just in case”. We’ve had them 7 years, even moved once in that time, and never have these boxes been used. They have their own attic above the garage. He doesn’t think I know they are still there but I do.
Anyway I rummaged in my purse and this was the best thing I could come up with because I don’t chew gum. Nor do I carry a hot glue gun.
A flag bandaid that my Dad gave my son back in May. Dad offered it to Denny not knowing that Denny is philosophically opposed to bandaids. Denny ran screaming from the room and I had to hide the bandaid. Its been in my purse since May, wrapper all peeling of and getting mangy. I gave it to Jeff who put the window down and performed this delicate repair while driving 80mph on hwy 81 on Monday, July 16th.
And it’s still there. And it probably will stay there forever because that’s the lazy ass way we roll.
The other day Anna asked why the bandaid was still there. I told her it was holding the mirror on (duh!?) and she said, “Oh I thought it was because we really like America” and I replied, “well of course, that too!”
This week I ran a little longer but slower on each of my weekday runs. Then I cut my 10 down to 8 yesterday and my 20 became a 6 today. No real reason for any of the deviations. The weekday runs just lucked into some extra miles. Yesterday I had an opportunity to run with a new friend who only had time for 8 miles. Today. Well today fell victim to general summer weekendness. It happens. Sometimes my running hobby needs to be shown that it’s not top banana around here.
Normally, on weekends, I get up anywhere from 5a to 7a depending on how far I’m running. I get back from a weekend run anywhere from 8a to 11a. No matter which way you try to rationalize it, running long does take away time from family time. My family is understanding and accommodating beyond belief. They support my silly hobby proudly but I know it has to wear on them sometimes.
Last night I stayed up way too late having way too much fun with some neighbors. As I was going to bed I asked the family if it would be ok if I slept in and did my 20 mile run a little later. Usually I get up pretty early for a 20 to lessen the impact on the rest of the day for everyone. Because my family rocks, they assured me it would be okay to sleep in.
This morning I woke up at 7 and heard pouring rain. I lazed in bed listening to the rain and was soon joined by snuggly kids. That 20 miler started looking less and less attractive. I was surprised that I didn’t feel compelled to get up and go out for the run though. Rain be damned, I have a training plan! I was downright shocked when I actually found myself thinking,”Meh, I could skip it”. We all got up and lazed some more downstairs with leisurely turkey sandwiches (requested by my oddball kids) for breakfast. Nobody even changed out of their pajamas until 10. We hit Costco for some back to school lunch supplies and then went back to our vegetative states. It was such a perfect Sunday morning.
Eventually I did sneak out for a 6 mile run. I took a new (to me) route from home instead of driving to one of my tried and true routes. It was a hilly butt kicker but it was convenient and got me back to the house and family much quicker than my usual. While I ran I thought about my goals for my fall marathon. I considered the potential impact of screwing around too much with the training plan.
I’m not a naturally gifted runner. I’m a “have to work my butt off to actually see even a little improvement” type runner. I’ve been derailed a bit in recent weeks with trips to Maryland and Colorado. I still got most of the goal mileage each week but my pace was completely shoved to the backburner. I haven’t always hit the long run target but instead stretched a lot of my shorter runs into middle distance runs. I’ve totally run according to what adventure was currently available to me and what I felt like doing, training plan be damned.
I let myself feel tense and worried over that for a minute. Then I realized it really doesn’t matter at all. I know I will finish the distance at the upcoming marathon and there will always be another marathon at which I can hit that specific goal time. It’ll happen. There are, however, only a limited number of Sundays where my kids will actually choose to laze around with me. Where they’ll want to cuddle up and snooze with me. There are only so many days where I have the option to blow off a track workout for an evening trail run or a Leadville hike/run. I’ll take one of those Sundays, or a spontaneous runventure and cherish it. I’ll worry over shaving 10 minutes off a silly marathon later.
Or maybe I won’t ever shave those minutes. Whatever. I really don’t care right now. Summer running this year was supposed to be about getting faster and getting stronger. Instead I actually got a little slower this summer. Gasp! Summer surprised me with a lot of trail, great times with running friends new and old and indulging in the wicked treat of blowing off a workout to sleep in here and there. I’ve gone at some hard workouts, gotten my ass delightfully handed to me and then taken an extra rest day as a reward instead of going for a planned back to back long run. I went in to it thinking this summer I’d learn to be a hard core runner driven by a goal. I absolutely did push myself with new, harder workouts and varying terrain more. But I also learned to be an opportunistic runner always open to some fun along with challenge.
I probably won’t cross the Marine Corps Marathon finish line in the goal time I originally set out for. I also don’t think I’ll be wildly far off that time. The lazy summer with lots of kid, family and friend time and finding some new joy on the run was well worth it though.
Cheers to a perfect last day of summer break 2012!
I just flew in from Colorado and boy are my arms tired! The family and I spent the last 10 days visiting my family in Breckenridge, Colorado. (I started writing this several days ago. I’ve been home for
four five days now. I’m just super tired and whiny about being home. I’ve been laying around kvetching instead of writing or doing laundry or bathing, for that matter.) It was a fantastic trip with several great running adventures mixed in to a lot of eating, drinking and general farting in the cool, dry weather. Over the course of the 10 days I got in five running days for a total of 43 miles. Not too shabby considering the other five days consisted of two travel days, two days volunteering at the Leadville 100 Mtn Bike Race and one day where I honestly can’t remember what happened. If I had to guess, I’d say beer and baked goods? Maybe some guacamole. My Garmin doesn’t record those things (thank God) so I can’t say for sure.
All five Colorado runs were challenging considering the elevation. According to my Garmin, the lowest elevation I was at for any run was 9,000 ft. Elevation is a total ass kicker for me every single year. Last year I tried to acclimate for 3 or 4 days before attempting a run. This year I figured it was going to suck no matter when I tried so might as well get through the suck phase ASAP and started running the day after we arrived. (There’s absolutely no science behind that idea as far as I know. Just me talking out my ass as usual.) All my runs were slow and, at the very least, slightly uncomfortable. I did way more walking that usual but I got through them so I’m pretty proud. Plus running helped erase the beer and baked goods. I came back the same level of fluffy that I went out with. Vacation Gold Medal!
My most challenging runventure of the week began when, approximately 30 minutes after I’d arrived in town, my Jeff’s buddy, Craig, said something like, “Hey, I’m pacing Ludwik in Leadville next week. I want to preview my section of the course. Wanna go with?” I should note that Craig had arrived in town maybe 5 hours before me, had immediately gone on a multi-hour mountain bike ride and still appeared to be feeling pretty shit hot. I was feeling sort of winded just sitting there eating a steak sandwich in a brewery. We had to walk 50 entire feet from the condo to the brewery! Whew. Since he didn’t want to go on the run for another 3-5 days I figured what the hell, “How hard can it be!?”, accepted his invitation and immediately volunteered my brother to accompany us. When I sense a bus, I like to throw Ryan under it. Its what sisters do.
Between the invitation and the run day, I went on three runs. They all kind knocked me flat but I figured a miracle could happen on a mountain in Leadville, CO! We got up bright and early on Wednesday, piled into the car and made the hour drive over to Leadville. We met up with Ludwik, who drove us another hour out of town to our starting point. About half of the drive time was spent on a super bumpy, rutted dirt road. Craig was working remote so at one point he took a conference call as we jolted along the teeth rattling, brain jarring road. Pure comedy.
The section Craig had in mind was a 10 mile stretch of trail on the course, from Winfield over Hope Pass and heading down the other side into Twin Lakes. Here’s Ludwik giving Ryan and Craig instructions on the route. I’ll mention here that Ludwik is participating in the Leadman series this summer. He’s sort of a general badass when he’s just standing there but Leadman is badass x 100,000. When he starts issuing instruction, you pay attention. Unless you’re me. Then you wander off to the pit potty and screw around taking pictures, assuming your brother will pay attention for you both.
Craig wore the brightest shirt ever made. I kept thinking that if a bear ate Craig we’d be able to identify him by the scraps of his shirt in the bear feces. Then I kept wishing I could stop thinking about bear feces. And bears in general.
The mess of a hill behind me? That’s where we’re going. I had just figured that out. I mean I had known we were going up and over a mountain all along. I think I just assumed we were making some upward progress via car before we got out to start our run portion? So when we got out of the car and the mountain was still looking really extra mountain-y? Shit suddenly got real.
I smile because a last photo should look good, ya know?
Normally, if I’m going to run within an hour or two of waking up and/or for less than 10 miles, I don’t eat beforehand. I just get up, chug a Diet Coke and get running. Because we had an hour drive (well I expected an hour and it turned into 2+ hours) before the run I played it safe, breakfasting on a chocolate chip cookie and a banana. You know, quality power fueling for my big mountain adventure. When we got to the bottom/start of this shenanigan a couple hours later and I was already feeling hungry? I got a little edgy. And when Ludwik eyeballed our water supply (one 20 oz handheld each), inquired about food (none of us were planning to bring any, its only 10 miles, psshaw!) and shook his head in total dismay? Oh goody. Bend over and kiss your asses goodbye, kiddies!
Ryan and I rifled around in our bags and came up with one Gu, a Luna bar and a Jolly Rancher. Craig located a protein bar. Ludwik advised we not ration the water. He strongly suggested drinking as needed and refilling from a stream if necessary. He went so far as to say it was, “worth the risk” to drink potentially bad water rather than being conservative with our bottles. All righty then, with that pep talk, we were off!
Garmin tells me we started running at 10,200 ft. The first two miles rolled along a nice fire road with a nice bit of downhill roll. No problem. I’m running Leadville now, bitches, woooo!
Then we turned left and entered the trail portion. I don’t recall if the trail had a name. Maybe it was called WhatTheFuckAreYouDoingHereYouPansyAss Trail? Probably. Craig suggested we run until we hit a hill and were forced to walk. We agreed.
And .25 miles later, we were walking. For the next three miles it was almost all walking. Steep, slow, choking on altitude walking. Craig sprinted like a crazed gazelle right up the hill never to be seen again. Ryan had to stay with me because or else I’d totally tell Mom on him.
I took these two pictures, maybe a mile into the hill, thinking this was steep.
Looking up the trail.
Looking down the trail. Can you make out the 10 year old boy down there? He totally sprinted past me a few minutes later. Then he pulled over to the side of the trail to mix himself up a gatorade and I considered mugging him for the gatorade.
I wish I had taken some pics of when it REALLY got steep because it turns out that what you see there was absolutely nothing! Shit got real and then real-er.
I dubbed this trek up the mountain a “rock to rock” journey. I’d walk a bit and then spy a nice looking rock and sit a bit. Got to the point where even Ryan could identify a good sitting rock and would stop and wait for me beside one.
I wanted to sit here a minute longer so I made Ryan take a picture.
I kept looking at the top and saying I really didn’t see how we were going to get there today. Seemed like it was at least an entire day away. I kept asking if he was sure this was really possible because it really, really didn’t look that way to me. I’m sure Ryan enjoyed that.
I will say that, as hard as it was, I never stopped having fun with it. A few of those truly breathless moments were rough, sure. Mostly I was glad to be out trying something challenging and getting a run in with my brother. Used to be all we ever did together was go drinking. Now we go running and THEN go drinking. There’s less guilt during the drinking this way!
At some point Ryan started pointing to the top and saying, “looks like x number of switchbacks left and we’ll be there”. And I’d sit on a rock and argue that he had to be wrong. Then suddenly we were there! And the angels sang and I ate my Gu. All in all, it took us 2:18 to cover the first five miles and reach Hope Pass at 12,563 Ft.
Elevation gains per mile for the climbing portion, just for perspective:
Mile 3 – 776 Feet
Mile 4 – 1,146 Feet
Mile 5 – 981 Feet
Craig beat us to the top by 18 minutes and was waiting for us. I found a nice rock to sit on, held up my fist and asked him to slam his face into it a few times for me. Then we posed for pictures because that’s what one does at the top of a mountain.
Behind me is where we came from, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay down at the bottom.
Behind me is where we are going, Twin Lakes.
Me and my mountain savior, Ryan. We’re already planning a post run meal/drink.
Craig, who I didn’t kill. Not even a little bit. At the top of the mountain all is forgiven!
Once we got to the top, everything was a glittery haze of fabulous. Let the downhill party begin! It took us 2:18 to trek up 5 miles and 1:10 to barrel down 5 miles. It felt amazing and a little precarious all at the same time. It was steep and rocky at times but my legs were moving so fast that trying to stop was damn near impossible. We were screaming down that mountain. So fun!
On the way up the mountain I had polished off my water and half of Ryan’s. Its as though the minute Ludwik suggested we did not have enough water I was instantly struck with insatiable thirst. I’d spotted water a few times and asked about filling up. Ryan kept putting it off, wanting to get higher up for cleaner water. On the way down the other side I was feeling invincible and thirsty so I finally insisted on stopping at a stream and filling my bottle. I think he said something about just drinking enough to get by and not overdoing just in case it was funky water. I couldn’t hear him because I was busy chugging that icy cold, potentially giardia filled goodness down. Plus I’m probably one good stomach flu away from goal weight so fuck it, fill ‘er up! Giardia is delicious.
At the 8 mile mark Ludwik was waiting for us. He had been concerned we’d miss one particular turn. Ryan and I agreed we totally would have gone the wrong way so we were glad to see him. He was seated on a log when we showed up so I figured, “oh cool a little break”. But no. Ludwik spotted us and immediately leapt up, said, “Good, we go!” and darted down the trail. We chased him for the last 2 miles and rolled right on up to the truck. Whew!
In the end, I covered 10% of the Leadville course in 12% of the time allowed for a belt buckle finish.
Hmmm. So close.
Good thing I bought my own Leadville medals!
An hour ride back to Leadville. Another hour to Breckenridge. Came home to discover we were locked out of the condo. Jeff and Craig set about trying to break in and head back out for a mountain bike ride. Fools. Ryan did a quick change in the parking lot. I switched running shoes for flip flops and we headed to the nearest bar. Cheese fries and vodka drinks well earned!