Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Gosh, is the race here yet?

Holy Crap, We Run A Lot
Saturday, June 2nd
The weekends are starting to run together.  My life can be summed up in a few simple words.  Work, sleep, eat, run, study, spend time with John and his kids (my favorite part)….then repeat!  This weekend was no different.  It feels like every trail run starts at the “butt crack of dawn” and my body is instantly tired at the thought of putting trail shoes on my feet at 6:00 a.m.  Of course, we start the runs early to avoid heat stroke, but sometimes I think a stroke would be worth the extra sleep.  Okay, I’m not serious but I am tired.  John and I knew we had a very early trail run scheduled with the Burning River 100 training group on Sunday.  We decided to sleep in a little and hit the trails at the “butt crack of whenever we felt like running” those dang bug invested trails. 
I am a creature of habit when it comes to breakfast.  I wake up and eat breakfast immediately.  I eat Mango Chobani yogurt, a bagel with peanut butter, a banana, and cup of coffee almost every day.  I have never been a person impressed by expensive gifts, but I am the person that notices random acts of thoughtfulness.  For example, I told John I’d like some bagels, Chili Cheese Fritos, and Coke Zero while I’m at his house.  I substitute the Coke for coffee while at John’s because he doesn’t have a coffee maker (I also don’t know how to make coffee, but know how to stick that Keurig pod in the slot like a Starbuck’s barista).  I go downstairs for my pre-run breakfast.  I open the door to get my Coke Zero and what do I see inside the fridge?  Yes, Mango Chibani yogurt is waiting for me in his fridge.  I did not ask for this yogurt, but he saw it in my fridge a week earlier and made a point to get me some.  I noticed that you noticed, John!  You got some huge bonus points for that one, my dear!  I pounded down some food like a linebacker.  John probably ate some cereal and a tiny grape.  I am amazed how much food I eat before and during a run compared to John.  He knows what works for him.  I know what works for me.  Apparently, eating a side of beef and a pound of potatoes is what works well for me. 

Exhibit A- "Make My Butt Tight Enough To Crush Walnuts"

We parked at Boston Store and ran one of my least favorite sections of the course.  The truth is I have a lot of sections I dislike (pretty much because I don’t like trails all that much).  However, I do really like the Towpath sections.  I’m pretty certain most hardcore trail runners just threw up reading that last sentence since the Towpath is pretty much a road.  Anyway, we ran the section I’m calling the “Make My Butt Tight Enough to Crush Walnuts” which starts at Boston Store, goes towards Blue Hen Falls, goes through a hilly and cruel section that makes a good Christian want to curse or question why God created hills, towards Snowville Road, and back.  We added some more miles on the Towpath because I needed a break from anything that involved trees, mud, pine cones, chipmunks, bugs, or water.  John and I started down the Towpath.  I ran ahead towards Lock 29, saw John along the way, ran towards Boston Store, and then back towards Lock 29 to meet up with John and finish our run.  I logged about 22-24 miles. 

We had a really nice time on our run.  We don’t talk a lot which works for both of us, but there was one topic of discussion that proved both interesting and funny “Things you can say on the trails that would also be funny/suggestive in the bedroom with a partner.”  O.K., now let that topic marinate for a little bit.  Trust me; you can come up with some hilarious phrases.  John and I crave Coke during and after our runs.  As a result, we rarely make it home without making a pit stop at a convenience store or local drive-thru.  Today’s stop was McDonald’s where I added a healthy six piece McNugget to our order and John got French fries. 
I like being with a person that enjoys going out on dates.  Typically, we relax on Friday evenings or do something with his precious children.  On Saturdays we often run, get cleaned up, and go out on a date.  John is not a fan of chain restaurants.  He does a wonderful job finding fun locations that support the local community, give me a chance to dress up a bit (and not look like a sweating trail hog), and we get to reward ourselves with fabulous food.  Did I mention John likes to order dessert at restaurants?  Did I mention I’m pretty certain this makes him perfect?  We enjoyed a lovely dinner at http://www.100thbgrestaurant.com/100thbg/.  After dinner, we laid out the supplies we’d need for the Burning River 100 group run the next morning and got some much deserved sleep (after watching a Boston Celtics game, I’m sure). 
Holy Crap, We Need More Sleep
Sunday, June 3rd

We woke up at half past an elephant’s butt.  I mean, a little after 4:00 p.m.  Of course, I ate breakfast.  We got ready and were out the door by 5:00 a.m. to meet the group.  It was exciting to see many familiar faces from last year’s training runs, and thrilling to meet some new people training for the race this year.  We met up with the group a little before 6:00 a.m. at Station Road Bridge.  We carpooled to the start of our run, Harper Ridge.  We trotted along and the run went by quickly thanks to some great conversation with Bob K., David S., Charlie B., Kimberly D., Mark P., Joan C., John H., Matthew M., Radames C., Jim C., Mike S., Michele F., Jared (Mr. Lyme Disease), George T., and several more (that weren’t appropriately tagged in the Facebook photo).  It is pretty common knowledge that runners are often comfortable discussing farts and poop.  I’ve found trail runners are even more comfortable graphically discussing poop and thoughtfully demonstrating farting while running.  For the record-I have never and do not ever plan to fart while running with a group or a friend!  I think we were running for about fifteen minutes and the topic of pooping was on our radar.  Now, this group was clipping.  Typically, you run slower on trails than you run on roads.  I mean, the terrain slows you down.  Nope, this group was bouncing along doing 9:00-9:30 minute miles through sections.  Now, that may not sound fast.  However, it is fast on a hilly course when you are praying to sweet baby Jesus you don’t fall flat on your face in a pile of horse crap covered with flies! 

We would stop along the way to get water and make sure we still had everyone in our group.  I ran with the group for most of this run, but got the opportunity to run one-on-one with John for a nice section too.  Well, I guess we weren’t running one-on-one because we had another person running with us.  This guy was super nice.  I believe he knows more about Lyme Disease than any other person I’ve ever met.  Did you know Lyme Disease is very prominent in Delaware?  Did you know Pennsylvania has a lot of Lyme Disease around the Presque Isle area?  Did you know deer get most of the “bad reputation” for Lyme Disease, but white mice actually carry the disease too?  Did you know New Jersey has a lot of Lyme Disease?  See, we learned a lot.  Basically, I learned I don’t want a tick to hitch a ride on any part of my anatomy.  I don’t want to get Lyme Disease.  I don’t want to visit New Jersey.  Seriously, we got to run with some great people.  Thanks Jared for a fun run!  Also, thank you for keeping me company on that Towpath section when everybody took off like a white mouse (without Lyme Disease) on a motorcycle.  The last section of the run was on the Towpath.  Jim C. is such a strong runner.  He had that group bouncing down at 9:00 minute miles.  I was pretty much shot from the run yesterday and I didn’t have enough food in my system to plug along any faster.  I fell back a bit and just went to my “happy runner place” which really means, “leave me the heck alone and let me focus” and please for the Love of God don’t talk to me until I make eye contact with you or don’t look like I need to punch a gorilla with a phonebook. 

I need to brag on John once again this week.  As mentioned before, he had major back surgery about seven months ago.  Inevitably this has impacted his speed.  In the past, he was on target to complete Burning River 100 around 24 hours.  Currently, there are numb portions of his lower back and legs he still cannot feel.  However, that dude laces up his shoes almost every day and pounds that pavement and/or trails relentlessly in an effort to train for Burning River.  I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to have your entire life change overnight.  One day you are perfectly healthy and running carefree.  You have a back surgery and BAM everything is changed - the next time you run your legs don’t feel the same, you can’t run as fast, and you cannot do one dang thing about it.  I am a control person.  I pride myself on being able to handle any situation through determination, hard work, grit, stubbornness, and shear meanness.  So when I’ve tried to imagine what I’d be like if my capacity to run was changed overnight, I’m not sure I’d be as determined and fearless as John has been.  I am so proud of him! Really, I don’t think I’d have the gonads to push like he pushes.  He has a lot to process on these runs just dealing with his body feeling differently.  It says a lot about a man when he won’t sit around feeling sorry for himself and complaining how life dealt him a bad hand.  John is forging ahead through his training.  He probably won’t have a 24 finish time (crap, who does…I sure won’t and I’ve never had a major surgery).  However, I have no doubt he will finish.  If shear desire, determination, hard work, and ambition can be put to the test…John will pass the test with flying colors.  The dude is more stubborn than me, which should put this into perspective.  I am more of the silent stubborn type.  I come off as carefree and fun.  I come off as the girl who just enjoys running and smiles all the time.  Trust me; there is a stubborn streak in me that runs deep.  I never give up.  I never give in.  My point-my stubborn streak looks like a stream compared to John’s stubborn ocean.  Again, I give him a lot of credit and I’m darn proud of what he is attempting.  Yes, most girlfriends would think he was nuts and discourage him from running.  Not me!  He needs this race and I get that loud and clear! 
On our way back to John’s house we stopped at some convenience store.  From the outside it looked like they would only sell lottery tickets and cigarettes.  Thank goodness they actually sold Coke, 100 Grand candy bars, and Cheddar and Sour Cream Ruffles (I was not in the mood for Chili Cheese Fritos and decided to branch out to another equally disgusting chip).  We quickly got cleaned up, picked up John’s kids, and headed to Akron for the Akron Children’s Hospital 5K race.  All four of us ran the race. John ran with his son, Andrew.  Andrew did an amazing job! I mean fantastic!  This was his first 5K race and he finished around 33 minutes.  I walked the race with Karina.  She was absolutely precious the entire race.  I have to admit John’s kids are two of the most even-tempered and loveable children on this planet.  Karina and I were dead last in the race. However, we had a lovely time playing 20 Questions while walking through Glendale Cemetery.  She also did some impressive cartwheels across the highway while the police car (sag wagon) was following right behind us.  She is a super trooper.  I was very proud of her.  The dog race was starting in the other direction as we were heading toward the finish so Karina and I dodged some dogs.  As we approached the finish John and Andrew came out to run across the line with us and all four of us were focused on crossing the line …HOWEVER, beautiful Karina’s ever keen eyes spied a man on the sidelines wearing a cowboy hat and she began yelling, “Hey cowboy!  Hey!  Hey cowboy!”  I looked at John and started cracking up.  We crossed the finish, got some food, relaxed a bit, and headed to Luigi’s for a nice celebratory dinner. 
Basically, this was the perfect weekend with wonderful people from start to finish!  I’m a lucky lady.  Happy trails….

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hate Trail Running + Register for Burning River 100 (again) = Goal-Oriented Moron

I trained for the Burning River 100 last year and successfully completed the adventure within the 30 hour time limit.  I crossed the finish line and said, “I will never run this race again.  I am done.”  Shortly after uttering those words I puked pancakes all over my friends, passed out, and received a very expensive taxi ride ($565) to the local bar for vodka.  Wait, that is not correct.  I got a very expensive ambulance ride to the hospital where I received four bags of IV fluids, got to urinate in a bucket, and had electrodes attached to places only strippers expose for free.

The first three days after the race my legs looked like a pregnant elephant that was attacked by an angry peacock.  I was a hot mess of nastiness.  However, I started thinking about the fun moments during the race.  Approximately five days after the race I decided I needed to battle Burning River once again for several reasons.  First, I trained and completed the ENTIRE race with my friend last year.  I made a promise we would stay together no matter what during the race.  If he struggled…I stayed with him.  If I struggled…he stayed with me.  I have since learned people should never run a 100 miler with a friend.  We never argued….ever!  However, running a 100 mile race is an emotionally and physically daunting undertaking.  Trying to anticipate and accommodate the emotional and physical needs of another runner while working to keep yourself alive is darn near impossible.  Clearly, it is possible because we did it.  However, it was not pretty!   Second, I am a very independent woman.  Honestly, the majority of my independence and stubbornness stems from necessity.  However, the past two years has heightened my independence.  I survived a divorce from a man that liked me, but never loved me all that much.  I did not accept a dime in alimony, retirement funds, or savings accounts.  I kept my house, I pay my bills, I go to graduate school, I train for races, and I still manage to not be bitter.  Basically, I rely completely and totally on me, myself, and, I.  This past year I had a couple life transitions I didn’t expect.  I thought my life was going to be one way, but realized it was not.  There is no need to provide details because this is water under the bridge, but I felt like a kid dropped in the middle of a desert without any prayer of getting out alive.  I had to totally regroup and refocus.  I emerged victorious once again.  I am not good at many things, but I am dang good at surviving and then thriving.  I say all this to explain that I had a burning desire to conquer the Burning River 100 again this year.  I have some things to prove to myself emotionally and physically during this race.  My goal is to have a better finish than last year and not make a trip to the emergency room. 

Setting the Stage for the First Trail Run (of the season and as a couple)
Currently, I am dating a wonderful man who is also an ultra runner.  John has run the Burning River 100 twice and is running it again this year.  We live about an hour apart, but make a point to spend Wednesday evenings together.  Typically, we run and have dinner.  We also spend our weekends together.  Since we are both running Burning River it makes sense for us to train together.  We both prefer road running, but are goal-oriented and stubborn enough to grit through trail running.  We have run roads together numerous times and have a nice time.  Neither of us is overly chatty when we run.  Typically, I listen a lot to talkative people during a run and will add little comments or ask questions.  Well, I believe John is the same way.  Basically, we run side-by-side without talking much.  Honestly, I think it is pretty sweet and peaceful.  I do not feel pressured to fill the “space” with chatter and he doesn’t either (I’m guessing).  We are content just running and being together.  Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had some very interesting conversations on the roads.  John has a wicked sense of humor, which brings out my wicked sarcastic side.  Therefore, the majority of our conversations shall remain sacred because I know people from my dad’s church are going to read this blog and I don’t want them thinking I’ve purchased a one-way ticket on the crazy train to hell.  I haven’t people, simmer down! 
I don’t want to disclose portions of a story that aren’t mine to tell.  However, I do have to brag on John for a moment.  About 7 months ago he had major back surgery and now has an impressive titanium rod in his back.  After the major back surgery he had TWO (yes, two) vascular surgeries.  The poor guy had a blood clot in his leg the size of Mississippi.  Would most people be running after such major surgeries?  No!  Should John be running after such major surgeries?  I’m sure most doctors would say, “Heck no!”  Should John be running an ultra after such major surgeries?  I think most humans on this planet would say, “Heck no!”  However, you just need to meet John for ten minutes and you’d realize this is a determined, independent, and fearless man.  You simply need to step aside and watch him do his thing.  He may have been knocked down, but he has never been knocked out.  As a result, the stubborn mule has his own battle with Burning River. 
Yes, we have two fiercely independent and goal-oriented people running a race because they have things they need to prove to themselves.  We are not running the race together.  First, I like him too much and I think he’d kill me.  Second, I like him too much and I think I’d kill him.  We have agreed to train together (when possible) and recover together after the race.  Thank you in advance, Dad for agreeing to take care of two smelly and exhausted humans!
I do not run trails throughout the year (because I hate them and roads are everywhere).  I start running trails the end of May each year to prepare for the Buckeye 50K and Burning River 100.  Waiting until late May allows me to focus on my marathon schedule (Boston, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati or Cleveland).  My first trail run of the season was on May 23rd.  I ran ten nasty and hard miles.  I hated every moment.  Trails are hard, y’all.  I mean really hard!  Roads are a piece of cake compared to trails!  John’s first trail run since the 2012 Burning River 100 was going to be this weekend. 
Showtime: Act One-Saturday, May 26th

Goal:                    Run 10 Miles on Trails
Location:             Boston Store to Snowville Road (out and back)
Things We Learned During This Run
  • I hate trail running.
  • John hates trail running.
  • John hates heat.  Heat makes John cranky.
  • I like heat.
  • I need to eat while I run.  Not eating makes me weak and cranky.
  • John doesn’t need to eat as much when he runs.  I am still amazed how a 6 foot 3 inch man can fuel on energy gels and a 5 foot 2 inch woman could eat a house.    
  • I hate bugs.
  • We both hate hills.  We are both pretty verbal about our distain for hills.   
  • I trip a lot on roots. 
  • John can curse and run at the same time. 
  • I don’t give a rat’s anus about speed or minutes per mile on trails.  John is more precise about minutes per mile. 

  •   John can do math in his head very quickly (minutes per mile + terrain considerations + barometric pressure + hydration + time needed for gastrointestinal issues = approximate finish time).  I am pretty sure he can give you the statistics (split times and average pace per segment) for every Burning River runner over the past five years.  My point?  John is crazy smart. It is sort of like running with an Ultra Running Rain Man.  He knows every part of the course (past, present, and future).  He knows the miles for each section, the aid stations, when you can get crew access, when you can get pacers.  I know nothing about the course changes this year, but I’m sure glad he knows and is willing to share his knowledge.  I worried about every single course detail last year.  I guess I got burned out on planning everything.  I’m going to show up on race day and follow the plastic plates with arrows.
  • I always run behind John during our training runs.  I am sure many of you just gasped from shock.  I am known as the Alpha Runner among those that I’ve trained with over the years.  I like to lead and I’m comfortable being the leader.  I may run steps ahead, feet head, or miles ahead.  I must admit, I don’t mind giving up my Alpha Runner title.  John, thanks for taking the lead.  However, I do have a really nice butt and you may want me to run ahead every so often.  The “scenery” won’t disappoint, my friend!  I have provided the “Bradley Butt Beacon” service to many runners in my day.  I’ve led people to marathon PRs with this free public visual pleasure service. 
  • I am a really bad hydrator!  However, when it is 90 degrees I need more than one water bottle.   I must repeat to myself, “I will not get dehydrated.  I will not get dehydrated!” 
  • I love my new Fuji Racer trail shoes!  In general, I hate trail shoes.  I have been running trails for THREE years and this is the first time I have a pair of shoes I don’t hate.  Yes, that means I ran 100 miles in uncomfortable shoes last year.  Yes, we know I’m insane. 
  • We survived!  We tolerated a crappy dinner at Main Street Grill in Canton and relaxed the rest of the evening. 
Showtime: Act Two- Sunday, May 27th
Goal:                     21 miles
Location:              Burning River Section One
We were supposed to meet the Burning River 100 training group at 6:00 a.m.  I live about an hour away from the meeting location, which means we needed to leave at 5:00 a.m. (wake up around 4:00 a.m.).  Neither of us slept very well the night before.  We learned numerous glasses of tea at dinner keeps John awake.  I learned a Starbuck non-fat/no whip white chocolate mocha is like giving cocaine to a donkey and expecting it to relax.  I was wired that evening and couldn’t sleep a wink.  I did enjoy Froot Loops at 2:00 a.m. 
Needless to say, we decided to abandon our plan to run with the Burning River training group.  We decided to run together after some decent rest.  We were starting at Boston Store and going out for 10 miles and back 10 miles.  Well, we made it about 1.5 miles out and were D O N E….done!  John turned around and started back towards Boston Store taking the roads.  I don’t know the roads very well around there and I sure as heck wasn’t hitting those trails for another 1.5 miles back to the car.  Since I don’t know my butt from a hole in the wall, I started following John out of the trail and down the road towards Boston Store.  I believe John wanted some time alone.  I was so happy to be “released” from the trail prison and shot down the road like a rocket.  I really didn’t know where I was going, but John told me to keep going straight.  I figured I couldn’t screw that up too badly.  I didn’t!  I arrived at the car without needing a police escort.  We were both pretty silent after the run and I thought we were headed back home.  I had emotionally accepted we weren’t logging 20+ trail miles and was content to head home for the day.  John was not willing to “throw in the towel” and he drove us to the Towpath where we could run some more miles.  I actually commend John for having us log some more miles that day.  This gave us an opportunity to run side-by-side and ponder this crazy goal of running the Burning River 100.  As I’ve mentioned earlier we are pretty content running without talking much.  Today, I think we both used this time to reflect, ponder, and refocus.  He knew I’d never give up running this race…I have too much to prove to myself.  I knew he’d never give up running this race…he has too much to prove to himself.  However, you had two people running side-by-side sweating like two whores in church really determining the “how” and “why” are we doing this to ourselves for the next two months.  We did discover a few things:
  • John really likes the 24 hour endurance runs on paved surfaces.  Basically, you run as far as you can for 24 hours on a paved bike path.  You have the thrill of endurance running, but you eliminate all the crappy trail terrain stuff he hates.  The more he talked about this race the more I look forward to registering for the May 2013 event.  I think I could rock at this race!  John has done very well at these events and I know he’ll do very well when he runs in May 2013.  He is the race director for the fall North Coast 24 Hour Endurance Run http://www.northcoast24.org/ Since he really enjoys this event the mystic of trail running has faded for him a bit. 
  • Bugs are insanely attracted to me and the Towpath has a lot of bugs!
  • Bikers are not always friendly, but I feel it is my personal mission to make them say “hello” and be friendly.  I often lose this battle, but I fight a good fight. 
  • I may never run another 100 mile trail race after Burning River 100 this year.  Yes, I am registered for Oil Creek 100 in October.  I will reevaluate that goal after this race. 
  • John may never run another 100 mile trail race after Burning River 100 this year.
  • We both know “never” is a bad word to say.  We both know we’ll probably run more of those races and complain about trails during the training.  Time will tell. 
  • We both needed an attitude adjustment about trails.  If we don’t adjust our attitude it is going to be a very long and miserable two months.  Also, if we don’t adjust our attitudes we probably cannot run together.  Therefore, we decided to throw caution to the wind.  We are going to keep training, change our attitudes, modify our expectations, and enjoy (tolerate) this journey.
This is exactly what we did.  John continued his weekly training.  I did the majority of my mid-week runs on the trails.  I decided I was going to enjoy the trails….I did! 
Here’s to next week’s eventful update….