Saturday, September 25, 2010

Headwaters 100

My friends Jon and Erin are going for a bike ride today. Not just a ride around the block but a 100 mile bike ride. They are participating in the Headwaters 100 which is a bike tour around the lakes country of Park Rapids, Itasca and Lake George area. You can follow their progress by clicking on the link on the right side of this page.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Will Run For Pizza

The trip out west started out nice though as we left Fargo mid afternoon on Friday, things started to deteriorate. Sunny skies turned grey, then rain turned hard(frozen) and then to snow. Yes, snow. September 17th. Kristy and I were sitting in a Bismarck restaurant and laughed as outside it looked like a nice Christmas eve snow. It wasn't bitterly cold and on another day we could have enjoyed it, except in the back of our minds we knew that we were there for a running event and would have to be out in this weather if it held on until morning. After supper it was off to Kristy's brother's house. Kevin, Leigh and their 2 kids, Harley and Tom welcomed us to their home. Some good conversation and we then retired for the night.

Up early and we slowly start getting things ready to go. As usual, the pace quickens as time ticks away until we realize we are just a little behind. We get into the car for the 15 minute drive to the event site and click. Click. Click. Having some mechanical skills, I quickly diagnosed it as a bad solenoid on the starter. We rummaged through Kevin and Leigh's garage to find a flashlight and a needle nosed pliers. That is all I needed to get the car started and we were off. Would it start again? I didn't know but at least we were on our way. With a start to our morning like that, I wondered if things would deteriorate like they did the day before but all in all, Friday turned out to be a pretty good day. Maybe this day would be the same.

Once at the start of the event with our running mates Jon and Erin, we started to hatch our plans and strategy for the race. Remembering doing this event a couple years ago, I mentioned to Jon that they had a tent just for pizza at the finish. Of course, he already knew as that is why we run. I asked Jon for a prediction of our finish time and he quickly said he didn't see a problem with us coming in easily under 4 hours. I said "No way". Jon and Erin just one week prior had busted their butts at the Beardsley half, Kristy has such a laid back approach to running she has to be slow and I am just getting some legs back under me after Lean Horse. My math had us at a 4:09. 4:06 at best. No way could we come in under 4 hours.

About 15 minutes before the run starts, we split up and I walked to my relay exchange station said to be 500 yards away. Actually it was a mile, but it was a nice early morning walk/warm up to running. As I walked past the finish area, I looked for the pizza tent but didn't see it. Erin and Kristy took buses to their exchange points much further out on the course. Jon was taking the first leg, so he stayed back at the starting area. I knew how far the first leg was and figured how fast Jon would be running. Simple math said he'd be there at 8:19 give or take a minute. As that time started to get nearer, I slowly started shedding my warm clothes (it was 31 degrees) and preparing myself for the run. With 5 minutes to go, I was 100% ready except for a trip to a Spiffy Biffy. When I came walking out with 3 minutes to go, there was Jon, calling my name. What the heck I thought. How could he be here so soon. Talk about getting caught with your pants down. Literally.

My run went smooth and without issue. With untested legs, I started slow and let the pace come to me running mostly by my heart rate monitor. The first mile was the slowest and each one got progressively faster for a nice finish to my leg of the event. Being we were running the 5 person relay with only 4 people, it was nice to have Erin's parents, Tony and Luci, as our honorary 5th team member supporting us along the way. Besides cheering us on, they would pick us up at the end of each of our legs and at one point had 3 of our tired, sweaty bodies in the back of their van. I hope they can get the smell out.

Erin was leg #4. For not having done much speed work in her half marathon training, she ran a fantastic leg and kept a sub 10 minute mile pace throughout her 4+ miles. Of course I told Kristy to expect to see Erin come in at around 11:00. So when Jon and I showed up at the last relay exchange at 10:30 and told her that Erin was 7 minutes out, she looked at us in disbelief and scrambled to start getting ready for the final leg of team "PaceMakers" effort.

After Erin handed off to Kristy, we headed to the finish line and to wait for her to come in and maybe grab some post race pizza. Jon thought we'd have enough time to eat pizza, watch Kristy finish and then say, "Hey, let's go get some pizza". By my estimation, a well thought out plan.

The math wasn't looking good for a 4:09 or even a 4:06 finish as I had predicted. Oh well. I've been wrong before but it just wasn't making any sense how I could have been so far off. As we were waiting for Kristy, a running friend of ours, Heather, who had tried to and missed qualifying for Boston at the Fargo Marathon this spring, was giving it another try. She came smoking across the finish line so fast it was amazing. It was a treat to be standing there to see the look on her face when she realized that she had run a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon. Well done.

A few more minutes went by waiting for Kristy to come in and as I watched the clock tick away, I still wondered how my math could have been so far off. As we stood there waiting, we were looking around for where the post race pizza would be and out of the corner of my eye I saw a familiar face coming towards the finish. What? It can't be. My math was off even worse than I thought. It was Kristy. She was running smooth, smiling and looked like she was on her first mile. It was stunning to say the least when I looked at the clock and saw the results of our combined marathon effort. 3:52:50.

If 4:06 was probable, sub 4:00 impossible, what do you call this? I call it a team effort. We all exceeded our expectations. Even though we all intended on going out and just having a good time, this was a team effort and nobody wants to let each other down. Individual accomplishments are nice but they pale in comparison to a successful team effort. Sharing this accomplishment with friends and family is something ultra special.

Kevin, Leigh, Tony and Luci were there to watch the finish and snap a couple photos so all in all it was a great day despite the early morning troubles. Nobody even cared much after we found out that they didn't have any pizza at this years finish line. I guess we were running for something better than pizza.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Headed Out West

Kristy and I are heading to Bismarck today to run the marathon relay with Jon and Erin. We'll spend the night at Kristy's brother’s house, get up early to run the event and head back home tomorrow afternoon. Jon and I will take the first legs and the girls will be doing cleanup. Did this 2 years ago and it was a hoot. Hoping for a sub 4:15 team effort but predicting 4:09.

Her First 100

As I've mentioned a few times, a year ago, I was a the only active Ultra-Runner in the FM area and 1 of only a couple in the state. Now the area has more than a half dozen. One of these runners, Maggie, did her first ultra a year ago at Lean Horse doing the 50k. This year she bumped up to the 100 mile. Here is her story:

Lean Horse was an amazing experience. I knew going in that I was up to face challenges that I had not yet faced in my life. That is why I was so excited to get started.

Up at 4am the morning of, we packed the van and headed to the start. My husband Cory facing his first 50k and Rachel crewing for us (bless her heart!).

We arrived at the start and took some pictures and chatted a bit. The start at an Ultra is not the same as other races. I didn’t even notice the countdown, just that the folks around me were starting to walk.

I was able to run the first 12 miles or so with Cory. Then I began to pick up the pace on my speed walk. My running pace was around an 11mn mile and so was my speed walk. This is why I was able to finish.

I was doing pretty well then my music died…..Facing the heat without tunes was rough. As I came to the aid station around mile 37 I sat down and had a good cry. I picked myself up and forged on. I began to sing out loud, and found almost right away that this was the ticket!

I kept experiencing these ups and downs of emotions with no warning. I would cry and have no reason for it? And when I was feeling high I was on top of the world.

As night approached I watched more people drop so I told myself I would not sit at any more of the aid stations. Another reason I finished in time. Just 5 extra minutes here and there would have put me on the DNF list.

I loved the night I felt like a car! As I would approach small towns I would turn on my headlamp to dim, and as I would leave the town I would flip on my brights! I was totally alone and free. Never in my life have a I felt more calm, safe and at peace with myself.

As night wore on I meet a friend named Perry. Perry was running his first 100 mile as well. He was getting pretty sleepy and didn’t feel so well. So I made it my mission to get him to the finish line. He was very funny and I enjoyed the company very much. Then Perry grew stronger as day was breaking and by then my knees were pretty well gone. Rachel, who had been crewing me all day and night began to run with me the last 10 miles. Things were falling apart. By this time Perry had to move on as I was down to a 40mn mile. My knees were grinding into each other and the heels of my feet were completely full of fluid. The heat was climbing and I was not ready to face it in this state. I was sobbing and in excruciating pain. Somehow Rachel got me to the finish and to this day I have no words to express my gratitude for that! Cory also crewed me all night after running himself. I knew that Rick and Cory would be waiting at the finish. I just could not let them or myself down. I was very ill when I finished but I take it all as a learning experience. I can’t wait to do it all again.

Maggie Beal

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dick Beardsley Half

Kristy and I headed east early Saturday morning to the Dick Beardsley Half Marathon in Detroit Lakes. Being I'm still in recovery from Lean Horse and not running much yet, I was looking forward to being on the sidelines with Kristy cheering on friends.

We got there about an hour before the start to catch some of the excitement and wish our running friends well. If you read this blog and are not a runner, be careful if you ever attend a running event like this one. The energy is overwhelming. I was so cranked up before the start, I felt like running it in my blue jeans. Thankfully my friend Jon, who was running and hoping to PR at this event, handed me his camera to take some photo's as today was his bride's first ever half marathon. Erin and Jon have been training hard for a while now and today was hopefully going to be payday. As it turned out, it was as Jon did set a personal best and took 30 minutes off his DB 1/2 marathon time from last year and Erin finished 1 minute better than her goal time.

We watched the start and were able to catch the runners at 4 or 5 spots along the coarse. We'd see them and then hop in the car to leapfrog ahead. At the 3 mile mark we were coming up from behind and passing the last runners. About a quarter mile ahead of the them the city crew were already picking up traffic cones. Kind of disrespectful to the last couple dozen runners, we remarked to each other, if not a safety issue. We ended up stopping at the 6.5 mile mark, got out of the van and stood on the corner to cheer the runners on and wait for our friends. There were cones on the corner were we were standing and after about 5 minutes, here comes the city crew to pick them up. At this point, in my estimate, less than half of the runners had come by, I remarked to the young man picking up the cones that it seemed a bit premature. He said he was just doing as he was told. I asked who had told him to pick them up and he just said, "The city." Kristy and I kind of barked at the more mature guy driving the truck and he came out to chat with us, saw how busy the corner was and told the young men to put the cones back. Surprise. Somebody can reason. I just can't imagine what the hurry was picking up the cones.

This little issue pales in comparison to the stories I've heard of the disgruntled postal carrier but maybe points to just a little disorganization of the event. (check out Steve Wagner's Addicted To Running Blog) This event brings a lot of people and money to DL and they need to show the runners a bit more respect much less do more to keep them safe.

All in all it was a super day at the races. Beautiful fall weather in the beautiful Detroit Lakes area is hard to beat. The neatest part of all is to see the satisfaction in the tired and beaten bodies of the runners who, at one point during the event, all questioned why they are doing this only to have a renewed enthusiasm after crossing the finish line. Most of them are already looking for another one.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Earning A Buckle

Before I headed out of town last week for the Lean Horse 100 out in the Black Hills, my friends were asking me if I was ready. I want to be honest - but don't want to cause concern in my non-running friends so I usually just say yes. To my running friends I'll usually say, "No I'm not, but I'll make it through". This is probably my attraction to ultra running in that you never really know what is going to happen. How can you be ready for what you don't know? Will I meet my goals or will I even finish? In an ultra, there is a lot of time for things to go wrong but also a lot of time to correct them.

Going into this event, I had my usual 3 goals where if I accomplish any one of them, I will view it as a success. First was to finish, second was to improve upon my Kettle Moraine time of 28:21, and third was to finish sub 24 hours. Like I said earlier, with so many variables over 100 miles so many things can happen. If my only goal was to break 24 hours, which I did not, then the event would have been viewed as a failure. I think Lean Horse was a success in that it taught me quite a bit and though I believe I am capable of a sub 24 on this course, it just wasn't my day and I'm OK with that.

Being I didn't have any family support or crew with me, it was nice to have 3 other local ultra runners (Cory, Maggie and Rachel) down there to hang out with on Friday. We got signed in, picked up our bib numbers and then hooked up for supper at a local diner in Hot Springs. And speaking of "Hot", it was 102 on Thursday, 100 on Friday, with the forecast for a cooler Saturday which saw a high of only 93. Much better than Thursday and Friday. It's a dry heat.

Saturday morning we met up at the start and posed for a quick photo. It was a starting line full of excitement as Cory was starting his first ever ultra in the 50k. Poor guy had never run a marathon and now he was toeing the line of an ultra in the Black Hills. I guess that's what happens when you are married to Maggie, who was lined up for her first ever 100 mile ultra. Our friend, Rachel, who was going to enter the 100 mile event but had to withdraw because of an injury, was there which worked out well for the rest of us needing some support. Though she was there to crew primarily for Maggie, I knew in a pinch I could rely on her to bail me out. That safety net offered me much peace of mind throughout the event. When Cory had successfully finished his 50k, he and Rachel were a welcome sight when I was coming in to the aid stations. They were generous with support and encouragement and I'd always leave the aid stations feeling energized. Until they themselves run a 100, I don't think they'll ever know how much their support helped me have a successful event.

The only negative of the event was some poor judgement on my part. I got myself a bit dehydrated early on and with it being mostly sunny and 93 degrees, I was playing catch up all day. Once I realized my situation and started to rehydrate myself, I then became low on electrolytes which get diluted down too much with more water intake. The downward spiral continued. It had me confused to whether I was over hydrated or under hydrated, too many electrolytes or not enough. A frustrating situation that I had put myself in and I was very disappointed in myself as this is not the first event this has happened to me in. You'd think I'd have learned by now. The dryness of the air I think fooled me into not realizing it was as hot as it was so I was only drinking an average amount of water. It was probably mid afternoon when I realized I was in trouble and nearly midnight before I had things under control. Those were some difficult hours, but I think you have to anticipate difficult times in events like this and just keep moving forward.

So move forward I did for the overnight hours and then having 17 miles to go just before the sun was coming up I was re-energized. I saw the crew as I was leaving an aid station and Rachel said it looked like I finally had some color back in my face. After slothing through many miles during the night, a hilly part of the course let me get my legs loosened over a few miles which let me put the hammer down and make the final 10 miles some of my fastest of the event. I passed over 20 people in those last 10 miles. Most struggling with every step. It was hard to not feel bad for them as I passed wondering if they'd finish which, at that point, was all they were trying to do literally, one step at a time. These are some tough people.

With 2 miles to go, I was back in Hot Springs as the locals were buzzing around town doing their business and some heading to church. They must have been very aware of what was going on as they'd all honk, wave and yell congratulations. It was quite humbling to hear congratulations from strangers for doing something as goofy as running 100 miles.

Starting the event at 6:00 a.m. Saturday, I crossed the finish line at 8:38 a.m. Sunday morning giving me a finish time of 26:38 and earning my Lean Horse Belt Buckle. Maggie finished her first attempt at a 100 just behind me for an awesome effort earning her buckle and placing within her age group. 159 people entered the event and 95 finished. I finished 48th. Looking back on all of the struggles I went through, I wouldn't change a thing. I learned so much about the Black Hills environment, camaraderie and myself that I can say I enjoyed every mile. Can't wait to do it again.