Monday, June 20, 2011

Survival of the Fittest Weekend Recap: Friday, June 17th and Saturday, June 18th

This weekend was a hot Crockpot full of crazy trail adventures.  I'm not exactly sure where to start.  I would like to preserve the dignity of Steve, but I’ll find it very hard because when you spend hours/days with a person not much is sacred.  I should probably recap Steve’s week for you before blazing ahead with my running rampages.  On Saturday, June 11th Steve got the flu.  This “crap-a-palooza” continued all week!  Imagine being sick for an entire week, but knowing you have to run 15 miles on Friday and 35 miles on Saturday.  Yep, it would suck. 

Steve is a well-educated mechanical engineer (although he works in business development because he could talk an Eskimo into buying ice).  Engineers are an interesting breed of people.  They are the most linear thinkers on this planet.  A linear thinker must process each thought by carefully following cycles or step-by-step progressions where a response/action to a step must be elicited before another step can be taken.  A linear thinker could never go from Step A to Step C (bypass Step B)…their heads would explode. 

I’ve always gotten along with engineers because they are darn handy to have around.  If you give an engineer a paperclip, Hubba Bubba Bubble Gum, empty hairspray bottle, old cell phone charger, and a deck of cards they’ll create a pair of shoes and a jet engine.  I say ALL this about engineers and Steve’s linear thinking so you’ll fully appreciate the efforts he made to prepare for Friday and Saturday’s trail run.  Steve realized the “earthquakes” were still happening in his “southern hemisphere” and completed STEP A by contacting an endurance nutritionist to talk about proper food intake/hydration during a 100 mile race.  STEP B was contacting his doctor to get medication to stop “crap-a-palooza”, but he was sadly informed the flu had to “run through him” and advised to consume clear liquids for 48 hours.  Of course, STEP B was not a satisfactory answer.  Steve proceeded to STEP C by explaining his goal of completing the Burning River 100 and his plan to run 50 miles during the weekend.  Always the engineer…he was seeking clear-cut answers.  The doctor’s response to Steve’s training goal was, “Um, that may be difficult!  Take Imodium AD.” 

Do you get a clear picture of the gastrointestinal challenges were fighting against here?  Well, we learned the hard way……the colon always wins! 

Friday, June 17th
Headlamps, Coyotes, and Tree Toilets

  • We got off to a rocky start because we were supposed to leave at 5:00-5:30 pm, but didn’t leave until after 6:30 pm.  It takes us about an hour to reach the trails and then another 30-40 minutes to drop off our supplies at aid stations. 
  • We got lost because anything that involves the Cuyahoga Valley National Park system is confusing as a bug in a ballerina costume.  I’m still perplexed why these darn parks can’t have addresses with clearly defined Garmin locations.  Come on, Ohio!  We finally managed to drop our supplies off at the various aid stations along our route. 
  • We are high-maintenance trail runners.  The entire trunk of my SUV is full of supplies (coolers, duffel bags, Ziplocs, Tupperware containers, food, towels, any type of ointment known to man…You name it and we’ve got it!)  Yes, we actually use all the crap we bring.
  • This was our first trail run trying Hammer Perpetuem for our primary source of fuel.  I hate it!  Won’t drink it again.  Drinking that stuff is like wearing white pants the day you start your menstrual cycle…mortifying and tragically disgusting. 
  • Steve had not eaten much at all on Friday.  What he did eat was ready to “roll” by the time we started running.  Of course, Mr. Linear Thinker thought about how much toilet paper he would need (8 sheets per poop) and carefully placed the TP in a Ziploc bag that he carried in his trail belt.
  • We both hate bug spray.  We act like absolute children spraying that stuff on our skin.  We dance around, complain, cough, and frown.  Really, you’d think we were applying acid.  We look like two squirrels being chased by toddlers.  I’m proud to announce we decided to have a “personal growth” moment and used Deep Woods bug spray.  We only complained a little bit….right, we complained a lot!  
  • I spilled an entire bag of Hammer Perpetuem in my car.  Apparently, I cannot open a Ziploc bag and place the contents in a water bottle to save my life.  It still looks like Scarface was selling cocaine out of my trunk.  

  • Poor Steve was doubled over with stomach cramps by mile three…as the miles progressed the pain got worse.  The second I hear him burp I know we are going to be walking for the next five minutes while his tummy settles.  If he burps and doubles over….add twenty more minutes of walking and a Tree Toilet (poop stop). 
  • It was a blessing we ran in the dark because the poop stops were necessary on Friday evening.  He either stopped once or twice to “christen” a tree.  My favorite comment was, “Hope, start humming when I tell you to hum!  Can you hear me?  Are you humming?”  My second favorite comment was, “Hope, we can’t run in these woods for awhile.  We have to wait until the raccoons find what I left behind.  I don’t want to run past there and see what I did.”  I almost crapped my pants laughing.  I’m amazed how Steve kept his sense of humor and good temperament during this run.  Thanks, Steve!  

This sign should be posted in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park after the experience this weekend
  • Trail Tip-If you keep your headlamp “on” when you poop in the woods…people CAN see you!  If you run with me and keep your headlamp on…I will sneak a peek. 
  • I’m not a very good nighttime trail runner. I’m like a deer on Dramamine because I’m all wobbly and uncoordinated.  I’m not one bit graceful.  Steve can bounce over the roots and rocks like Bruce Lee battling a dragon.
  • I often wonder why God created bugs.  I really don’t see the purpose in the stupid things.  Clearly, we have to wear headlamps when running at night and the bugs fly right in your freaking face/mouth.  I will ask God very poignantly (when I get to heaven) why he created bugs, poison ivy, and cats.  I will also ask why he created mice, allowed a person to create Crocs, and why Mikhail Gorbachev was cursed with that nasty birthmark on his head. 
  • We heard COYOTES in the woods.  Yes, COYOTES were howling like they wanted to eat our legs for dessert.  I’m pretty sure they’d eat Steve first because he’s bigger.  I don’t think they’d waste their efforts on me, but I could be wrong.  The COYOTES sounded pretty close.  As I’ve mentioned before, I like to be the “alpha runner” and run in front at all times.  During our COYOTE invasion I had absolutely no problem letting Steve lead.  He ran like a bat out of hell.  His stomach issues were suddenly better and his feet were flying.  My favorite part of this adventure was when Steve picked up a giant stick and ran for several miles looking like a wild caveman prepared to kill a wildebeest.  Thanks for having our backs, Steve!  Mr. Linear Thinker made a point to find a park ranger on Saturday and asked the appropriate way for us to handle coyotes if we see/hear them again. He’s a planner….gotta love it!   Apparently, they are more scared of us.  I find that very hard to believe!  
  • He had a long night, but never complained
  • We successfully finished our 15 mile run without falling, crying, or quitting.  We got back to the car safe and sound, went to our homes, slept, and got up to run again the next morning. 

Fueling up on peanut butter and cracker
Saturday, June 18th
That Which Does Not Kill Us Makes Stronger

The Beginning
  • We got off to another rocky start.  Our goal was to start at Pine Lane and run to Happy Days, Pine Hollow, and Covered Bridge.   Again, I cannot figure out how these trails connect to save my life.  We even went to Pine Hollow to drop off supplies and then realized it was the “blind leading the blind” and we should just run the trails we know.  We are both looking forward to the next training run with Jim Chaney on Saturday, June 29th because we’ll figure out those tricky trails.  We dropped supplies at Pine Lane, Boston Store, Snowville Road, and Station Road.  We packed a ton of supplies, but still ended up bumming water off a gracious trail runner that had extra goodies stashed at Snowville Road.  Trail runners really are the nicest people on this planet…they’ll help anybody!
  • We arrived at Pine Lane around 9:15 a.m.  A super fast and beastly group of men from Vertical Runner emerged from the trails sweating and panting like dogs in heat.  Those men were insanely and scarily fast.  Steve and I continued to apply every type of lube, ointment, and spray Walgreens has to offer.  We mixed that stupid Hammer Perpetuem drink for our water bottles and I gobbled down another granola bar. 
  • Steve’s stomach was still having major issues.  I got the bright idea for him to take two Imodium AD gel caplets.  He was hesitant at first, but y’all know I’m persuasive.  He downed those pills like a college student playing beer pong.  The “poop stopper” pills become our biggest mistake of the day.  Actually, they plugged him up for at least two days…they work! 
  • We were about three miles into the run when I heard Steve’s feet stop moving.  I looked back and he was already doubled over with stomach cramps.  This was not a good start to the day.  The miles continued, the walking stops due to tummy issues continued, the sun continued to sizzle, and the day continued to get longer. 
  • Steve managed to run (with some walking) until mile thirteen.  He made a couple Tree Toilet stops, but was unsuccessful.  We learned Imodium AD doesn’t take the “feeling” of having to poop away, but it takes away your capacity to “produce” the poopadoodledoos. 
  • At mile 14 we stopped and sat on a random bench we found in the woods.  I was not in the mood to finish this run.  I was worried about Steve and knew we still had 21 miles!  I knew the rest of the afternoon was going to be long and difficult, but I’m amazed how he kept going.  The poor guy was sick and he never once gave up.  Amazing.  I was just drained around mile 14, but I have some strange endurance ability to get boosts of energy that just propel me forward.  Around mile 15 I got my boost and I was ready to roll for the rest of the 20 miles, which helped me take care of Steve for the remaining miles.
The Middle
  • We kept plugging towards Station Road, which included another unsuccessful stop at a CVNP port-a-john.  I must compliment the CVNP port-a-johns because they have plenty of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and a can of spray air freshener.  I was standing a respectable distance away from the port-a-john when I heard Steve say, “You better start humming.  Can you hear me?  Hum!”  I just walked farther away and started laughing because he mentions humming every time he takes a poop stop.    
  • Steve exits the port-a-john and says, “Hope, I feel like I won the Velveeta Cheese Eating Contest.  I’m bound up!”  I about fell over laughing.  You could tell he was miserable, but he smiled and we kept on running.
  • We arrived at Station Road, which also has amazing bathroom facilities.  I can tell you about every single bathroom stop from Squires Castle to Happy Days.  Since Steve and I are super organized/anal I’m sure we’ll eventually develop a “Cuyahoga Valley National Park Sanitary Station Ranking System” in an Excel spreadsheet.  I’m sure our spreadsheet will have a sorting system to analyze the cleanliness, spaciousness, odor, lighting, additional amenities (air fresheners), etc. of each location.  Y’all may laugh, but that would be handy information and I bet you’ll send me an email requesting the details. 
  • Steve was starting to worry me around mile sixteen.  His eyes were glassy, his skin was clammy, and he was pale.  I made him eat some food and refilled all his water bottles.  We sat for a little bit and he eventually regrouped enough to start the 19 mile adventure (and I do mean adventure) back to our car. 
The End
  • Around mile 22 things went from bad to worse.  Steve was getting dizzy and had lost every single ounce of energy he had left.  My heart was breaking for him and I just wanted to get him to the car.  At that moment, I wished I was Joan Jetson and had some floating car that would teleport us back to the start.  Instead we started the walking portion of our journey.  Steve almost passed out and he sat on some steps along the Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s version of Mount Everest.  I swear, some of these trails are beyond hilly…they have MOUNTAINS!  Bless his heart, he was immediately attacked by about 15 mosquitoes, but didn’t have the energy to swat them away.  I asked him to walk in front of me or next to me for the next couple miles.  I needed to keep an eye on him.  I was 100% certain he was going down the side of the trails if I wasn’t careful. 
  • He was pretty queasy at one point and I suggested he stick his finger down his throat and just “take care of business” and see if he felt better.  The poor thing didn’t have enough food in his system to even “close the deal” and I just felt so bad for him. 
  • We had several other moments where I thought he was going to crash to the ground, but we managed to forge ahead…I’ll spare all the details.  Just know that Steve was in bad shape, but that man never ever gave up.  We may not have covered all the miles the way I had hoped (running), but the miles were covered.  I’ve got to give him credit because most people would have just quit.  Honestly, he should have quit….but he didn’t!  I admire that tenacity/stupidity in a person. 
  • We finally made it back to Boston Store, which meant we had 4 miles to our car.  It was getting late and we didn’t have headlamps because we should have been home hours ago.  We ended up walking Riverview Road to 303 back to our car.  We arrived at the vehicle around 9:30 p.m.  
  • We made our traditional stop at the BP on 303 for junk food.  Well, I got junk food and I got Steve a Sprite to settle his tummy. 
  • If training for an ultra is about “time on your feet” then the run that should have taken 6 hours and ended up taking 12 hours will definitely get us ready for a 250 mile race! 
I learned several valuable lessons from Saturday’s run:
  1. Do not let a person run 35 miles if they’ve had the flu all week. 
  2. Steve is more stubborn than I expected.
  3. Silence is golden.  We walked for hours in total silence.  You know you are “trail compatible” with a person when you don’t feel the pressure to “fill the silence” with chatter.  I’ve always believed more is said in silence than with words.  Saturday we proved we trust each other, we watch out for each other, and we don’t need to talk to understand what the other person is feeling. 
Steve, thanks for hanging in there when ever ounce of your body wanted to give up. 

Happy Trails…

Friday, June 17, 2011

Weekend Recap & Random Ramblings: Saturday, June 11th and Sunday, June 12th

  • Steve and I ran 20 trail miles on Saturday and another 20 trail miles on Sunday.
  • Steve had some tummy issues, which we discovered was the flu.  However, he never gave in or gave up.  He is the essence of grit, stubbornness, and determination.
  • I still have all my toenails.  I have a lot of dirt under my toenails, but that's nothing hot pink polish can't disguise. 
  • Steve lost another toenail that had been hanging on for dear life since the Flying Pig Marathon.
  • We both learned a 4 hour trail run can turn into 6 hours when your body is tired and hungry.
  • We met with an endurance nutritionist to help us figure out the best fueling plan for our long runs and during the race.  We were pretty much doing EVERYTHING wrong. 
  • Steve craves Lay's Potato Chips around mile 15.  I crave Chili Cheese Fritos around mile 18.  As a result, we make a stop at the BP off of 303 after EVERY single trail run. 
  • We both adore A1 flavored Beef Jerky!!  It is a little piece of leather heaven in my mouth.
  • Steve could drink enough water to drown a camel.  I need to drink WAY more water....I will spare you the details of our urine color. 
  • I am a VERY friendly runner.  I talk to every single person I pass on the trails.  If Steve finds my "perkiness" annoying he's done an excellent job not letting me know.  He did ask if I was going to say, "Would you like cream with your coffee?" 
  • The bikers on the Towpath from Station Road to Brecksville are RUDE.  We made it our personal mission to extend perkiness and kindness to every single person as they pass.  They failed to see the amusement. 
  • The bikers around Boston Store are friendly! 
  • Yes, I still have poison continues to spread...I continue to complain.
  • I hate bugs!  Bugs love me...I continue to complain even more! 
  • I still adore road running.  Steve could abandon the roads forever.
  • Yes, I get a shower and shave my legs before every trail run regardless of the start time. 
  • No, I don't have a single washcloth in my house that is still white.
  • I'm pretty certain we both wear cologne during our trail runs...this could be the cause of the bug issues. 
  • I am an "alpha-runner" and ALWAYS have to run ahead of Steve.  It is the "deal" we have and he just agrees.  I do give him the lead every so often, but it kills me.  I just like being in front...always have...always will.
  • Even though we train on Saturdays and Sundays we have never missed a church service.  We found a church that has a Saturday night service.  We have NOT abandoned our priorities!
  • Steve talks more than me!  I'm a listener and he's a chatter during our runs.  Except if I get "on a roll" just watch out and I'll talk your ear off.
  • Every runner has a "shut up threshold", which is when you know the other runner is struggling.  Your job is to run beside them and shut your mouth!  I have found Steve's "shut up threshold" and he found mine last week.  It was around mile 20 and I was words needed to be exchanged.  However, we just ran next to each other and finished off the miles.
  • I love the heat!  The hotter the better.  Steve, does not agree.  
  • We both like to eat!  Really, we can pound down food like two linebackers!  
  • Steve can pee in the woods like he's power-washing a tree.  I am terrified to pee in the woods because I don't want poison ivy anywhere near my "lovely lady" parts.  I don't even want to think about mosquitoes!!!! 
  • I have heat rash all over my chest.  I'm vain and hate this beyond explanation.  Yes, I went to a dermatologist to get cream.  No, the cream has not worked.  Yes, I'm still annoyed! 
That's all for now.  I'm sure more adventures await this weekend.  Happy trails...

What happens when two anal-retentive perfectionist become ultra runners?

I highly doubt Steve will ever write anything for this blog, which means all stories are subject to my twisted and self-biased interpretations. 

Conversation between Hope and Steve (feel free to read or skip)
Steve-I’m organizing our volunteers, secured a pacer, plan the routes, and help pack our supplies.  I do not think it will kill you to write one or two blog entries to help recap our adventures.  Of course, if I disagree with any of the content you’ve written about me…I’ll refuse to post the information!  J  

We are both anal-retentive planners.  Our spreadsheets have spreadsheets….do you get my point?  We hate disorganization, poor leadership, and unfriendliness.  We both have an amazing capacity to extend compassion to others, but can be extremely hard on ourselves.  We are both stubborn as mules, but never argue.  We both have a quick-wit and don’t take ourselves too seriously.  We are just trail compatible, which is why this process has been/will be so enjoyable. 

Planning for our weekend trail runs starts around Tuesday of each week.  I get in “super planner” mode and send Steve an email outlining our plan for the week and what miles we need to accomplish.  I’ve learned Steve reads the emails I send, but never replies.  I don’t get annoyed by his unresponsiveness to my planning agenda because he faithfully shows up every weekend to train…and he brings plenty of supplies all perfectly organized in Ziploc bags.  Thanks, Steve!    

Our Friday evenings consist of perfectly packing (or quickly throwing) our gear in duffel bags.  We learned the hard way that FOOD is an important item to pack for trail running.  A couple packs of GU and a granola bar only sustains you for so long.  Our supplies usually consist of:

Bug spray
Poison ivy lotion
Wet naps
Toilet paper
Ziploc full of water w/washcloths
Shot Blocks
Hammer Perpetuem (Strawberry Vanilla)
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
Peanut butter and crackers
Butt paste (don’t ask)
Burt’s Bees Replenishing Lip Balm
Flip Flops (wear to the trails because our shoes are too dirty)
Trail shoes (perfectly placed inside the Rubbermaid containers we purchased)
Nathan Fuel Belts

Many trail runners are very “Zen” about their running.  They just show up, join a group, enjoy nature, eat some leaves, and run.  We have not become “hippie” runners and still have Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C perfectly crafted in case the “hippies” don’t plan things perfectly.  However, we have noticed the trail running community is the absolute nicest group of people you’ll ever meet.  We have met some lovely, extremely helpful, and amazing athletes on the trails.  Happy trails…

Trails, Toenails, and Tick Bites

Steve and I have six weeks left until the big race.  We have already had a pretty humorous and interesting journey.  Many of our friends and family ask for recaps of our weekend trail adventures.  We both realize training and running this race is a life-changing and ambitious endeavor.  We are running this race to simply make memories.  We are not worried about a finish time.  I'll confess, we are two of the most goal-oriented and stubborn people you'll ever meet.  We just want a challenge!  Of course, we also want to strut around and say, "Heck yes, we ran 100 miles.  Want to see my belt buckle and ugly feet?"  In the event we both land in the hospital with severe memory loss or die of heart failure…I figured I'd write a blog of our trials and triumphs, tears and laughter, hills and spills, toenails and tick bites, and other crazy life lessons we’ll learn. 

Happy trails….