running alone

11 Aug

I run alone a lot.  I trained for my first 50 miler almost exclusively by myself–it was HOURS of me time in the woods.  When I first started out trail running, I would never have dreamed of venturing on the trails alone–what if something happens to me out there?  What if the bad guys try to get me?

 

When I finally got “brave” enough to go it alone, I got questioned by well-meaning people in my life–what if something happens to you out there? What if someone tries to hurt you?

 

And so I found myself having to defend the solo running.  Having to explain why I feel safer out on a trail alone than I ever would on a road, especially if it’s trails I know well.  That I run with my cell phone on, Eric always knows where I am going/approximate routes. That sometimes I’ll even carry pepper spray and a knife (when I remember, which is admittedly not often).  And I never really stopped to consider what having to defend my running meant–that ultimately it was because of my gender that I had to take extra precautions.

 

I remember talking a few different times with Eric about things that worried me, concerns that maybe I shouldn’t run alone at this particular place at this particular time, even calling someone on the phone when I was feeling sketched out by someone I’d seen on the trail…hoping that would be a deterrent if the guy really was a creep.  Eric was incredulous that I’d even think that way.  And that was the first time it really dawned on me that men don’t have to think about things the same way that women do.  That for the most part, men don’t worry that someone might hurt them or rape them, that they might not be powerful enough to fend off an attack.  But women…we do…we carry that burden when we go places alone.

 

Or don’t we??? Do we worry about those things because people ask us to justify doing things like going for a run alone–something that should be so ok.  So safe.  Maybe the fear surrounding “alone” activities comes from cultural expectations that women don’t go places alone, that we want to (need to?) be social, that we are fragile and need to be constantly protected..

 

This topic has been written about so much by outdoor women all over–runners, hikers, cyclists…so I don’t need to elaborate on why so many women feel so comfortable and confident hitting the trails alone, whether that is a misguided notion or not.  Lots of women do lots of stuff alone, and most of the time, they are perfectly fine.  But when they are not…then we hear about it.

 

But I think what we always seem to forget in these discussions about safety is WHY we even have to have them in the first place.

 

A couple of years ago, my car (along with several others in the parking lot) was broken into while I was out for a run. The cop scolded me for leaving a bag out in the open (full of clothes for post-run, a library book and my glasses).  If the thieves hadn’t seen it, they wouldn’t have targeted my car.  And so I found myself feeling bad, like it was partially my fault (and maybe it was) for doing something so stupid as to leave a bag in my locked car. This is a constant issue in the Monroe County Parks…so much so that they spent money to install new signs in all the parking lots, warning patrons to lock up valuables and leave nothing visible and report suspicious activity.

 

And I was PISSED the first time I saw those signs.

 

Those signs are the equivalent of the news articles now suggesting women never run alone, or the ones after someone gets raped saying how she was dressed in skanky clothes and got drunk so what did she expect. I just read this article from Runner’s World, and it got me all fired up over this.

 

The fact is, as a woman, I DO have to be more careful.  And that sucks.  I DO have to put everything away when I leave my locked car.  I DO have to think about which parking lot I use and whether it’s easy to see from the road, making it (and me?) less of a target (hopefully) for douchebags.  I DO have to think about what I wear, how much I drink, and who I am around and whether those three things will combine to create an unfortunate situation for me.

 

But the fact is ALSO that I SHOULDN’T have to.

 

If something is not yours, you don’t take it. I shouldn’t need to even lock my car, much less hide things away.  And that goes for my body, too.  It’s not yours. You don’t just get it because you want it. That’s Kindergarten 101.

 

If you see a woman and think she’s cute, you find an appropriate way to express that…and no, screaming and whistling and making vile suggestions/comments is not appropriate.  If you wouldn’t want someone saying it to/about your mom/sister/daughter/wife, then you probably shouldn’t say it at all.

 

If you are a man, and you are around other men making vile suggestions/comments that are not appropriate, you call out those men.  Because standing by while it happens makes you part of the problem.

 

And really….the violence that happens against women starts small–it starts with those small comments that are “jokes”…it normalizes that women are less. That it’s ok for women to be treated as such.  That we are fragile and need protecting (because therefore men have power over us and can wield it for good to protect us, but also for bad to hurt us).  It can lead to worse. Watch this Australian ad.  It’s actually one of the best ads I’ve ever seen.

 

I don’t even know how to end this rant.  All I know is that I should not have to worry about my sisters the way that I do.  I should not worry about my friends who are heading out for runs to clear their heads.  I should not worry about myself out on a run.  And the solution to the problem lies not with women being smarter and safer, but with men not being creeps and calling out the guys who ARE creeps and raising little boys who will turn into men who aren’t creeps.  So work on that, mkay, guys?  Your women [running] friends will thank you tons!

Lakeside

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I’ve always found water to be soothing. The sounds, the smells (most of the time haha), the feeling of swimming…I loved swimming, and was fortunate enough to grow up with a pool in my backyard. 
On weekends, we would head to Lime Lake, where my grandparents owned a cottage. We’d swim, water ski, tube and just relax. I. Loved. It.

 

one of the first times we ever went there together

  
After we got married, we started to camp more. We headed to Indian Lake in the Adirondacks and fell in love with the paddle, camp on an island, hike, swim, watch incredible sunsets over the lake lifestyle. This summer is the first in a very long time that we didn’t spend our anniversary there…and man did I miss it.

 

home is wherever i am with you

 
 

and if we love the water, picasso super loves it

 
 

seeing if it sinks…then seeing if you can paddle a sinking canoe…

 

just chilling

We went to Bermuda for our  friends’ wedding. Of all the places I’ve ever been, I think it’s my favorite. Because it’s such a small island, there were beaches and water everywhere. 

a girl could get used to these views

  

exploring one of many incredible beaches

 
When training for my road marathons, I planned long runs to cut up to the lake, where I’d run with Lake Ontario to my right and one of many ponds (the size of small lakes) to my left. I would run by the waterfront houses and daydream about living in them. Water made those runs beautiful. They flew by. 

When I switched to trail running, Durand quickly became my favorite–running around all the ponds was the best!

  

Of my Facebook cover photos, the majority seem to have water (or have been taken while I was very near water). 

So…I love the water. It’s soothing and calming and beautiful. I feel happiest, most centered in places where there is water nearby.  And Eric loves it as much as me.

We have talked about buying a house lake front for a long time. We didn’t know if we could afford it. We started looking,mostly for fun. Nothing serious. We like our little house. It’s served us well. We recently looked and realized there was a house we really liked. It reminded me a little bit of my grandparents’ cottage at Lime Lake. 
We put in an offer..and it was accepted!!!! Holy hell we are thisclose to living ON water…not visiting it, not vacationing to it…actually living there. 
Tonight after we finished the race stuff, we decided to drive up toward the house to see it again. I’ve been telling Eric all weekend to temper his excitement. “Don’t move in yet,” says Oliver, our realtor. We still have a home inspection and selling our home to get through. 
But tonight, watching Eric walk out on our dock (yeah…it’s apparently ours in my mind haha) I got so happy. So peaceful. Content. This could be my view every day.  

  
I feel so lucky. Like how did I ever even get to this point??? How do u deserve this amazing life??? I don’t know. I just have my fingers crossed all over the place that this works and next summer we’ll be swimming off that dock and enjoying lake front living.

picasso’s morning run

17 Jul

This morning’s run, told through Picasso’s eyes:

 

Mom and Dad wouldn’t get out of bed today. I was lounging on the couch in the living room when I heard her whisper to dad that she was going to take me…she forgets sometimes that my hearing is incredibly good and whispering doesn’t hide anything from me. I got so excited I paced around the house crying, especially when she took out my harness and leash.  I don’t even like those stupid things, but I like all the places we go when they put them on me. Mom took forever to get ready…stupid humans and their stupid clothes.

We got in the car and I hung my head out the whole way, which was really cool when we went by a deer! We started to run and a mile in I saw a mud puddle I just couldn’t resist. I almost dragged mom in, too, in my mad dash to get there. I thought it was funny. She was much less amused. She let me poke around in the mud for a good long while, which was super cool.

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shaky shaky

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this stuff smelled so unbelievably good. decaying things and mud. my favorite.

Then we kept running down to the lake because mom said I was gross from being up to my shoulders in mud. So I swam while mom talked to a friend she knew there. Then we kept running.

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glad mom got distracted by a friend so I could enjoy some extra water time

After the mud puddle incident, I was on my best behavior and followed all of her commands, even “leave it,” even when all I wanted to do was go meet that big, angry-looking Rottweiler. I think being friends with me would make him want to kill less living things, but mom said no…

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running down the bike path, which means getting closer to the lake!

We finished running and went back to the beach. Mom even came in the water with me!!! I swam a bunch, then we got back in the car. It was a very good morning indeed.

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doing what I love most (after eating, of course)

Top Ten Things We Learned About Traveling to Ireland

14 Jul

**Disclaimer: This is a small novel. Short version: We had a great trip, a ton of fun, and learned a lot while figuring stuff out on the fly.  If you’re going to go to Ireland, take the bus, book rooms as you go (except on weekends), bring rain coats and good walking shoes, and plan on wet weather.**

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When Eric found cheap (relatively) airfare to Ireland this winter, he booked the trip pretty abruptly.  We had no idea where we would go in Ireland and hadn’t even booked places to stay.  I am a super-planner, so these facts gave me some anxiety, but also made me feel a bit adventurous.  We had decided that we’d spend our almost 2 weeks in Ireland driving around the country in a rental car, stopping at various places to camp for the night before heading out to see more.  This seemed like the most perfect plan…

But perfect plans on paper are not always perfect plans in reality, and what little planning we’d done went to shit early on.  Over the course of 12 days on the Emerald Isle, we learned an awful lot.  I know Ireland is a bucket-list trip for so many people, so here are the things I wish someone had told us about traveling to Ireland.

  1. Do NOT, I repeat DO NOT, think you are going to drive yourself.  At least not easily.  We rented our car, left the parking lot, and promptly broke down on the side of the road.  After some tense conversations between ourselves and also with the rental car place, trying to explain where we’d gone so that they could find us, we were delivered back to the airport.  We decided against even attempting to get a new car. Sure having a car would have been convenient–we could’ve gone exactly where we wanted, exactly WHEN we wanted (which crossed my mind every time we were waiting to go somewhere via bus).  But in my opinion, the bus was the better option for many reasons.  First, it was cheaper (Bus Eirran, the national bus company, has an open road pass that is relatively cheap–we paid just over 100 euro each, way less than we’d have paid for a car, insurance and gas, to use it for unlimited trips for 6 days…additional days could be purchased for 16.50, which was less than most tickets between cities would’ve been).  Because we were on a bus, we could both just watch where we were going instead of naviguessing navigating  or focusing on the road and driving.  Apparently roads in Ireland aren’t labeled, or are labeled very differently from ours (see Number 5 for more info), so following directions without a GPS could be nearly impossible.  Read: If you are getting a car, you are going to want to pay for a GPS, too.  But perhaps the best reason to just bus it was that the roads are SUPER narrow and wind-y.  There were times when vehicles had to stop and inch their way around each other.  The side mirrors on many cars are ripped off. Combine all of that with the “weirdness” of driving on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.  The bus system in Ireland is a little tricky–the bus schedules could be hard to find (especially to get to small towns) and you had to be very careful to read them correctly.  But they were clean, comfortable (most of them) and even had power outlets to charge stuff and free WiFi!
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Glad this guy had to drive and we didn’t. Thanks, bus drivers, for getting us safely around the country!

2. As much as it sounds crazy, you should try to book your rooms as you go.  The only times when this seemed false is for weekends and/or if there is a festival going on in your destination.  The reasoning for this is that if you get to a town or city and really love it, you might want to spend the night.  If you get somewhere and hate it, but have already booked a room, you’re kind of stuck there, and it sucks (we learned both from experience).  The nice thing about the bus pass was that if we couldn’t find a place to stay, we could just get back on the next bus (so travel early enough to do that haha) and head to another town. Having no plans made us able to be really flexible. There were a wide range of hostels, hotels and B and Bs in every town, even the really tiny ones.  We stayed in B and Bs and hostels mostly–I had stayed in some when I lived in Spain, and they were mostly the giant room with bunk beds and shared bathrooms, so basically college again.  In Ireland (and maybe this is true now of other places), you can get a room with a double bed and “en suite” (aka your own private bathroom) in a hostel.  Which means you have your privacy, but also can access lounges with games and books (I learned how to play chess on the trip!) and the kitchen (so you can cook your own meals if you want to save some money!) at a bit cheaper rate than a hotel or B and B. A lot of pubs/restaurants also had rooms above them to rent for the night.  Since the buses had free WiFi, we would often book a place to stay either on the bus trip to the next place or even more daringly in a cafe/pub when we’d arrived and realized the place we were at was cool enough to want to stay put and explore more.

3. Make sure you bring a good rain coat because it WILL rain.  In fact, bringing clothes to layer is a good idea, since the weather in Ireland can change dramatically in the course of even just a few minutes.  You always hear this, but I didn’t understand just how quickly the changes could come.  We were hoofing it around Limerick and I was digging through one of my bags to find my sunglasses.  Not five minutes later, we felt a couple of rain drops, which turned into a deluge two more minutes later!  No worries, though, because 15 minutes later it was super sunny again.  You need a rain coat.  And sensible shoes.  High heels on wet cobblestone is not smart, as evidenced by the wide number of women stumbling around like baby giraffes when heels got caught in uneven stones or slipped.  Also, ladies, if you can’t walk in your heels, you shouldn’t wear them out.  You look ridiculous.  But I digress. (Side note: I used to wear heels in Spain all the time…fml…I think I’m just getting old…fml.)  Also 60 degrees may sound like t-shirt weather, but it is not that warm–I had at the last minute packed a couple of extra sweaters, and I pretty much lived in them except when we were out hiking/walking and I had on my rain coat.

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Thanks, Columbia, for amazing rain gear that kept us mostly dry during what was apparently a very rainy (even for Ireland) two weeks!

4. Because of all the rain, things are not going to dry.  We’d packed lightly thinking we were going to have a trip similar to camping–so we’d wash our clothes at some point and hang ’em up to dry and be good to go.  Except nothing dried, except in the hostel that had the “drying room.”  I rarely blow dry my hair because it air dries quickly (like within 30 or 45 minutes usually)–there were mornings where I’d washed my hair and 2-3 hours later it was still damp!  NOTHING seemed to dry well there.  Leave heavy cotton, jeans, etc at home because if they get wet (when?) they will take FOREVER to dry.

5. Ireland does not believe in street signs.  If there are street signs, chances are good they will be on sides of buildings on the corners (so look there first).  BUT don’t count on it.  We were over a week into our trip and stopped into a tourist information center for our second set of directions to our hostel (the first ones were confusing–another fun fact is that people in Ireland give confusing directions).  There was another couple inside, asking for directions.  The man said, “Are there street signs in town for us to follow?” and the woman at the counter just laughed.  We got our next directions…and still had to stop one more time to confirm directions.  So three stops for three different sets of directions (WITH a map to follow btw) all to get to our hostel, which was ONLY a half mile from the bus stop.  Ask for directions.  Multiple times if need be.  I consider myself to be pretty good with a map and directions, and I found myself struggling a bit to find my way around some of the cities we visited.

6. Most places closed down in Ireland by around 6 pm, and many things weren’t open at all on Sundays. We aren’t big shoppers, so that was ok, except that tourist offices, where you could get maps of the city/ideas for things to do were closed on Sundays.  Which made getting off a bus in Galway city on a Sunday a little daunting–luckily I had grabbed a map in another city’s tourist office and had pre-looked up directions to our B and B for the night on the bus.  If you’re going somewhere on the weekend, you should probably book your room for the night and at least get directions to that before you get there.  I suppose that’s cheating a little bit on the “don’t plan anything, just see what happens” front.

7. Walk.  I’d say this about traveling anywhere new, though.  You will see more, experience more, learn more if you are walking and not driving.  We walked a LOT–and in Ireland that meant that around every turn was something new or cool or funny to see.

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If you walk, you could find cool rocks to climb… or cannons… or sheep that have escaped and are being chased by their farmer…

8. If you don’t want to walk, rent a bike.  I am a nervous cyclist, but drivers in Ireland were very respectful of us.  I never felt like I was going to die (except going up some of those hills…when they tell you a route isn’t very hilly, just know there will be hills to climb).  And we were able to leave the little town of Letterfrack in Connemara to explore places that would’ve been too far to walk to.  Looking back, we probably should’ve rented bikes a few more places…it’s relatively inexpensive and a quick way to get around, particularly if you’re in the countryside.  Also they are going to tell you that you don’t need bike locks and no one steals things.  Try not to be too surprised by this.

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The views from our bike ride through Connemara were pretty incredible! Mountains to one side, coast to the other!

9. When booking flights, if possible, book overnight flights and get there early in the morning and then book flights out in the evening, so that you can maximize your time there and not waste money on hotels for a night when you didn’t actually get to do or see anything.

10.  If you are limited on time, based on our travels (Limerick, Killarney, Cork, Waterford, Galway, Letterfrack, Clifden, Cliffs of Moher), here are the best/worst things we did that we’d recommend to you:

Things/Places Not To Miss: 

  • Connemara:  The whole area, just outside of Galway, was really beautiful, and I’m not sure you can go wrong anywhere.  Think tons of small coastal towns, which means beautiful rugged coastline, awesome mountains (the Twelve Bens were something we missed but wished we’d had time to research more and do), fresh seafood (if that’s your thing), small shops to bum around in, great bike routes and walks.  If you go to Clifden, stay at The Inn to the West–it was by far the coolest place we stayed. People will act like it’s far from town–it’s MAYBE a half mile walk. And totally worth it.
  • Clifden Castle:  This is in Connemara, but I’m giving it it’s own bullet point because it was my favorite thing we did.  Take the Sky Road Loop from town…it’s a pretty walk on its own.  Stop for a trip up to the Darcy Monument, which is unimpressive, but the views from up there are sweet.  Keep walking.  Old castle ruins sit at the bottom of a muddy, rocky farmer’s road.  To get there, pass under the old castle gate and by the farmer’s house, walk by all his cows and horses and sheep, and eventually you’ll see a handwritten “castle” sign with an arrow.  Keep going.  It’s totally worth it to explore the old, busted castle and try to imagine what it really looked like and who lived there and what things had happened on the ground you are now standing on.  So. Cool.

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  • Kilkenny:  An old medieval city, the new stuff is built right around the old…and it’s really cool.  They offer a pass book for 25 Euro to get into most of the “tourist” sites (think: castles, cathedrals, Smithwicks) and if you do 3 of the things, you’ve already saved a ton of money.  We did pretty much everything (except the cycling because we didn’t have time for it) and it was so worth it!  Smithwicks was really well done (not just your average brewery tour–they go thru the history of the company, which involves the history of the country as well), the castle was cool (who doesn’t love walking around castles???) and the cathedral and climbing the round tower were incredible.  The best part was the ghost tour–you’ll feel like a total tourist doing it, but the guy who gave the tour was super informative and hilarious…also ours was 2 hours, so it’ll finish around 10, which means you are going to have limited food options at that hour (most restaurants there seemed to close around 9 or 10), so plan ahead.
  • Killarney:  This city was so festive and cute and the walk to Killarney National Park was pretty cool (there’s also a bus if you’re so inclined).  This place is the perfect mix of small city (bustling shops, busy streets, street music, live music in pubs, etc) and outdoors scene (bike rentals, the national park with places to hike, Torc Mountain and waterfall trails are right there, too).
  • Cliffs of Moher:  The Cliffs themselves are super amazing.  The Visitor Center was cool–lots of interesting information about how they formed and the history of the site as a tourist destination.  Cooler still, and what we wished we had known about, you can get off the bus in Doolin and hike all the way along the Cliffs, up to the Visitor Center (and another bus stop) OR all the way to Hags Head and then to Liscannor (another bus stop).  So basically you have options for a really beautiful hike all the way along the Cliffs.  Put it on your list of things to do.  You won’t regret it.

Things/Places to Skip if You Have Limited Time:

  • Waterford:  The oldest city in Ireland, it’s a port town with some cool history and buildings to check out and of course the crystal factory (if that’s your jam).  However it’s not a place I’d recommend staying in.  If you’re going to check it out, I’d recommend making it a pass-thru stop on your way to better things!

Overall, the trip was really awesome.  I think backpack/busing around the country was especially cool, and I feel like we really saw and did a lot of cool stuff. I wish we’d just planned to do things this way from the get-go, because I would’ve done more pre-planning, but ultimately it was a great adventure.  There were, of course, some frustrating moments, but figuring shit out on the fly is part of the adventure of traveling, especially international travel.  We’d normally be hiking mountains, paddling our canoe, and camping it up for our anniversary, but this was a pretty cool, different adventure for this year.  Here’s to an awesome 7th anniversary trip, and to an even better next year of marriage–and beyond!

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Doesn’t matter where we go as long as we go together!

 

progress

16 Jun

When I found out that I was teaching Kindergarten LEAP this year, I would be lying if I said I was not a little apprehensive.  LEAP is a sheltered English program–basically it’s a classroom of English Language Learners with a regular classroom teacher all day and an ESOL (now ENL) teacher for 2.5-ish hours every day.

 

I have been teaching since 2006.  I have never NOT taught middle school (hey hey double negatives).  This marks my first year not having big people.  Or even medium people.  I have Kinders and 2nd graders.  And change makes me nervous.

 

I have loved every most minutes of it!  It’s been a great change of pace–one of the things that I love about ESOL is that what I am teaching is constantly changing.  It allows me room to grow professionally and challenge myself with new grade levels, curriculum and students.

 

Today we took our Kindergarten class to Springdale Farm for the second time this year.

 

The first time we went was late September.  We had a very small class (we started the year with like 12 kids and then gradually added more throughout the year and lost some and we’re up to 21 at this point).  The kids in our class were almost all brand new to the country–within the past couple of months.  They were tiny and scared.  There were tears daily from some of them.  They rarely spoke.  That first bus ride to the farm was SO quiet.  The kids had very little to say–many of them were still in their silent period.

 

Today, the difference was remarkable. Even having added new students (some within the past 2-4 weeks), the bus was noisy.  Kids were asking questions about the animals and the farm–not just to me, but to the woman giving us the tour.  They were excitedly pulling me around and telling me about the things they saw.  On the bus ride home, we sang songs until they all fell asleep (well 14 of the 20 anyway)…

 

And as I sat there, with a kid sleeping on my lap and another one resting on my shoulder, I couldn’t help but be unbelievably proud of the progress my kiddos have made.  Not just in their ability to speak, listen and use their English, which is HUGE.  But they are reading.  Tapping out words.  They know their letters and sounds.  They are writing simple sentences.

 

To have a front row seat for this kind of learning….it’s so special.  I don’t know if we will ever have our own kids…it makes me so sad to think we may not get to be there for our babies’ growing and learning.  But I am incredibly thankful that I get to be there in this way to watch these kids and help facilitate their learning.  It’s the best part of teaching–knowing that you are responsible for these little people, watching their minds growing and changing.

 

I have one more week of teaching.  And then I will be done with my tenth year teaching, and my third full year teaching ESOL. It’s been a really great year for me professionally, and I am already excited for next year!

 

progress

cheers to a year of progress

So…What’s next?

9 Jun

I don’t really get taper tantrums (at least…i don’t think so).  I actually kind of enjoy the laziness of taper.  But recovery after a big race…man this shit sucks.  I get antsy to run, but also know my body needs deserves recovery time.

 

Today, I am sitting here on the couch…thinking about going for a run…knowing that I should wait.  Everything feels ok (leg-wise) and has been pretty good for a couple of days. My chafe is almost gone, my heel blisters are healing.  But there are things that are out of whack still.  My face is breaking out like crazy.  I’ve had a raging, borderline migraine headache.  I am not sleeping normally yet–I am exhausted, but for some reason not sleeping through the night.  My appetite is off and on.  I told myself a full week of no running before I even attempted a run.  And I am sticking to it…

 

So instead of running, I am scheming up next running endeavors.  I created a spreadsheet of sorts to research fall races.  I had a few goals when looking at my options:

  1.  50k-50 miles is going to be my fall focus.  I believe that getting faster is important before stepping up in distance.  Of course, faster is completely objective.  I have no idea what I define as fast.  But I know that I am not there.  I did not feel fast on Saturday–I felt sloooooowwwwwww.  Maybe faster isn’t so much to do with a pace as it is to do with a comfort level.  That’s not to say that I expect to be comfortable during an ultra–because that would just be silly.  But I do expect to feel in control and strong.  At Virgil, I felt amazing.  Saturday I felt anything but.  Which tells me I’ve got some work to do before I contemplate stepping up to a 100k or *gasp* 100 miler.  After Virgil, I said I could never imagine those distances.  I can honestly say now that I can imagine them…sometime in the future…maybe.  But for right now, I want to focus on working hard to get faster, to get even more comfortable on the hills, to improve my mental game.  Also maybe training in black trash bags so that heat doesn’t bother me.  I kid…I kid…kind of.
  2. Challenging courses are cool–but it’d also be really cool to see what I could do if I trained this hard and then ran an “easy” (hahaha ultra hahaha easy haha) course.  P.S. It is challenging to find an “easy” course…so this is a wish-list item that I am willing to compromise on.
  3. I do not want to be driving for more time than I am running.  So if we take my time from Saturday (because dear, sweet Baby Jesus I don’t want to run a slower 50 mile now..forward, faster progress, people), then we’re looking at races within about 6 hours of us.
  4. Going along with the driving distance comes lodging–races that we can camp beforehand get bonus points because if we’re paying to drive, PLUS paying for a race entry, PLUS paying for lodging, the cheaper the lodging, the better.  Also I love camping.
  5. I do not want to spend a fortune.  With entry fees climbing all the time, I am not interested in an expensive race that offers things like special food (I don’t really eat aid station stuff anyway, I bring my own so I KNOW I have what I want/need) or fancy swag (that I will likely not use).  So a race that costs more than $100 ($2/mile for a 50 miler) is almost always going to get tossed out.  There are still affordable races out there…so why pay more than $2/mile?
  6. If I stick to my recovery plan…the next couple weeks of June will be recovery/easy miles, then we go to Ireland, and I will likely not run much.  So I won’t start real training until mid-July, meaning I’d ideally pick a fall race in October/November to give myself enough time to actually complete another training cycle and have more than a month or so of training before tapering again…Sadly the 50 milers (and a couple 100ks) I’ve seen that looked promising so far have fallen in September…and I’m not sure that’s enough time to train…

So those are my criteria.  I have still not decided for sure on a race…there is more research to be done.  I haven’t seen any 50 milers that I am super interested in for the fall…so I might opt for a 50k, which would be good in terms of focusing on speedwork moving forward.

 

No matter what I decide, the ultimate goal (as of now) is to train hard for a fall race and then roll that training over into training for Cayuga next spring.  That course, man…what an amazingly beautiful course.

 

So that’s that.  If you know of a good 50k or 50 mile race that is in October/November, that is <6 hours from Rochester, that costs <$100, and that is relatively easy (although not too flat…I mean…hills are so fun and all), let me know so I can research it and get it on the list of potentials!

CT50 Race Report

5 Jun

Wow.  I can’t believe I finished my second 50 miler.   And I can’t believe I am able to mostly walk completely fine the day after.  I certainly can’t believe I PR-ed after what I am still struggling (despite a lot of reasoning) not to see as a less than stellar performance.

 

Short version report:

Course was absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful (I knew it would be).  It got really ridiculously hot.  I thought about quitting very early on when I realized it was not going to be my day.  Except I hate when people quit, especially if I quit, especially early on in what is going to be a long day for everyone–a lot can change from mile to mile in an ultra, so I feel like I owe it to myself (and to Eric, who is always there to crew my dumbass and give up his time and energy for me) to see it through to the end, even when that end doesn’t go as planned.  My nutrition was off, my hydration was off, my stomach was off, I was off. But I battled through.  I ended up finishing the race with an hour PR on “not my day.”  I guess I’ll take it.

Long version report:  

We went to bed relatively early and listened to drunken idiots in the campsite across from ours.  Somehow when we camp at Ithaca we end up next to the drunken disasters.  They finally went to bed around 12 or 1?  They had left their light and radio on, but it was kind of soothing.  I slept off and on until about 4, when I got up to pee (I’d hydrated a ton knowing it was going to be a hot race day.)  I couldn’t go back to sleep so I just laid there, thinking about how pretty everything was going to be and getting geared up mentally.  We got up, got ready, and got to the start.  It was uneventful.  I almost cried again at the start, but then a group of people were hanging out chatting, and I snapped out of it.  It felt like we stood there forever before we could finally actually get moving.

The course is basically an out and back with a lollipop loop on the end (at least, in my head that’s how I picture it).  Over the 50 miles, you climb about 10k (so it is a very challenging race–which is the usual for any race put on by Red Newt Racing and Ian Golden).  I think about half of that elevation comes on stairs, many of which are old, busted, broken down.  This description makes the course sound awful, but it is actually the most scenic course out there–the whole day you run around the gorges and next to waterfalls and through beautiful, lush forests.  There’s beautiful single track, the Finger Lakes Trail, and fields (god I hate fields, but we’ll get to that).  Honestly it’s a beautiful course-as Sean put it last night, it’s the perfect course for one loop so you can see it all and be done. But we were crazy and had signed up for a 50 miler, so the route had to be completed twice.

Section 1:  Old Mill

The start of the race went out hard.  It was a perfectly cool morning.  I ran the entire section, which shocked me because there is significant climbing over the 3.1 miles.  It was uneventful–the usual pack spreading out and everyone finding their spot in the conga line.  There was a bag piper on the trail and I almost started bawling because the last time I heard bag pipes was at Eric’s dad’s funeral.  I managed to hold it together and made it to Old Mill aid station, grabbed some new water bottles even though I’d only drank a sip or two, and cruised right back out.

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Section 2:  Underpass

The next 4 miles were rolling. I realized people were flying, and I wanted to make sure I ran smart in the first half, so I tried to slow myself down a bit. I was really worried about the heat later in the day, and I also knew that 50 miles is a long way to go–I kept looking at people flying by and thinking to myself “either there are going to be some incredibly fast times today or there is going to be major carnage when people blow up later.”  (Scotie would find me on the course later and tell me that both ended up happening–there were some speedy times, but also a lot of crashes, including 72 DNF’s…almost a third of the field…and 45 DNS’s)  Going down Lucifer’s Falls stairs in this section was scary–it was so steep and I started to get dizzy, which pissed me off because I’d done so much training on stairs.  My stomach started rumbling, so I ate some fruit rollups and made a mental note to eat more.  There was also a creek crossing in this section, and the cold water felt so lovely on my already-tired, already-beat-up feet.  The rocky sections of the course, along with the water crossings, would really tear my feet up over the course of the day.

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Section 3:  Buttermilk Falls

I blitzed through the aid station, ran through a short field, and found myself at the major creek crossing.  I carefully picked my way in, expecting thigh deep water. I finally found the middle and the water was to my boobs!!! The photographer was there on the other side and laughed at my expression.  I didn’t care that it was cold (it actually felt wonderful–I was already overheating by this point), I just hadn’t expected boob deep water.  I climbed out and continued through another field.  This section was THE WORST!!! There were a ton of field sections, none of which were very long, but the grass was tall and tickley (and probably tick-y…apparently Ithaca is overrun with ticks right now because they were EVERYWHERE).  I hate running in grass and fields, and it was already sunny and the fields were just holding all that heat in.  I started thinking about how much this section would suck a little later in the day when it got hot, but then told myself to shut up and stop being negative.  We ran a short while and then got to Lick Brook.  I’d never been there before, and the climb out of it was intense.  Sweat was just pouring off me.  I started to get frustrated by my perceived lack of progress, but then I realized that this climb was a baby compared to Virgil.  And I had made it through Virgil just fine, so I’d be fine here.  I put my head down and kept climbing.  I think this section was when I started tripping all over the place–I kept catching myself, so I never actually fell, but I realized I was going to have to be a lot more careful.  Coming off a road crossing, I heard someone scream “Yeah, Shme!!”  I couldn’t place the voice, but Sean had caught me.  We ran together for a mile or so, chatted.  Sean looked super strong and told me he was aiming for a 12 hour finish.  Fuck.  He looked way stronger than I felt, and I had hoped to be in the 11 hour range.  I reminded myself to run my own race and worry about me.  Sean left me to run ahead, and I covered the descent into Buttermilk.  It felt so good–I had run it before with Mertsock last year, so I knew exactly what to expect for the final mile or so.

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Section 4:  Back to Underpass

I was in Buttermilk briefly, it was good to see TrailsRoc people there (Thanks, vollies!! You guys consistently rock it out at aid stations!!!), and then out quickly.  I knew I was going to be walking up the stairs along the gorge, so I grabbed some food and started out.  I was so hot.  I kept drinking water, but I couldn’t get enough.  I stopped at a bathroom and filled my bottles with water and kept moving. I heard someone yelling my name again, and O’Brien caught me. All this getting caught by people was starting to wear on my mentally, but again I kept reminding myself to run my own race.  We ran together for a while down Lick Brook this time, and it was nice. Then I bit it HARD.  I supermanned down the trail, then popped back up, realized I was just really dirty but otherwise unscathed and kept moving.  Coming back through the deep creek crossing again was delicious.  I tried to rinse as much dirt off myself from my tumble.  I wanted to linger, but knew I needed to keep moving.  It was getting hot and I was slowing down from it.  I hung with Eric for a minute, chugged ice cold pop, almost puked it back up, changed bottles again, and headed back out.

Section 5:  Back to Old Mill

I think this is around when I started feeling sick to my stomach.  I was sweating profusely and smelled awful and the trails were starting to get crowded with people looking for swimming holes and shade.  I wanted to apologize to everyone I ran by for how disgusting I was.  I kept moving.  O’Brien went by me.  I put it on cruise control and just power hiked the climbs and ran the flats and downs.  People were still flying–I was running 10s and 10:30s on flat sections and people were blowing by me like I was barely moving. Climbing back up Lucifer’s Fall’s stairs, I kept tripping.  What the hell is wrong with you, I thought to myself.  Went through the creek crossing again and noticed my shoes had a lot of grit in them this time and it was rubbing badly. I got into a really bad place mentally, and I never really recovered the rest of the day.  Looking back, it is impressive that I pushed myself through another 30ish miles.  I texted Eric partway through and told him I was going to just drop at the halfway point.  He told me to get to the aid station and we’d reevaluate.  We never actually discussed dropping.  But it was in my head–I was so hot and uncomfortable and felt like I was not running well and it was so early in the race.  What was the point of putting my body through any more of this?

Section 6:  Back to the Start/Finish

My feet started to feel very torn up, and I knew I was going to need to change shoes.  My legs had started some weird crampy thing, but I didn’t know what to do–I had taken salt twice already (normally I’d take 2 salt tabs the entire race), had been drinking 20-40 ounces of water between each aid station (they were only 3-6 miles apart), and was cramping and had perpetual cotton mouth.  WTF.  This section was mostly downhill, so I made some decent time.  When I popped off the trail, I had to round the field to go back to the start/finish line–it was all exposed, and it was so hot.  I went through the line, then popped into the bathroom.  I didn’t think I had to go, but with all of the drinking I’d done, I knew I SHOULD need to.  I peed brown.  Not good.  I sat down on the tailgate, and we changed my socks and shoes–it is AMAZING how much better you can feel with just a simple footwear change.  I also changed shirts because I was sick of smelling, then I was off.  I finished the first half of the race in 5:35:xx.  It was decent–I had wanted to run around 11:30:xx for the race, so this seemed like an ok start.

Section 7:  Same as 1, up to Old Mill

I hiked every uphill at this point–I didn’t even attempt to run.  This section went relatively quickly and I don’t remember much about it.  I passed a guy who was struggling on a climb and I was like, “just think…we never have to do this climb ever again if we don’t want to…every part of this race now could be the last time if we want.”  We both laughed and I kept plugging along.  I came into Old Mill, I think this is where I saw Valone.  I didn’t stay to talk–I knew every minute I wasted in aid was going to be 2 or 3 minutes at the end of the day.  I chugged some cold pop, it almost came back up, grabbed new water bottles, and kept moving.  On my way out, I grabbed a Twizzler (one of my favorite candies), but I spent much of the next section feeling like it was going to come back up.

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Section 8:  Same as 2, back to Underpass

The creek crossing felt wonderful on my feet.  At this point, I was so hot that I wanted to just lay down in the creek. But I kept moving. I was still stumbling all over the place, and this section seemed to have a lot of trees down.  Every time I’d get moving, another tree was in the way.  The first time through, I’d awkwardly hurdled most of them (I wish I had video of my hurdling technique–if it looks as ridiculous as it feels then it’s gotta be a mess) and I kept stopping to go over them because I was scared I was going to bite it and really hurt myself.  I came into Underpass, chugged pop, grabbed new water bottles and kept cruising.  I had not been looking forward to this next section of trail, but knew I had to do what I had to do.

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Section 9: Same as 3, back to Buttermilk

I ran out of water a couple of miles into this section (I think) and stopped in a bathroom to refill water again.  I kept telling myself that each climb was the last time I ever had to do it again.  There was a gigantic tree down here.  The first time through, it was tricky but fine.  This time, as I heaved my body up and over, I literally groaned.  The fields felt terrible. I was pretty sure I was dying.  A lot of fast 50 milers were coming back, and they all looked strong but like they were working, which made me feel moderately better about the fact that I felt like a piece of shit at this point.  I caught up to a guy (or he caught me…I don’t remember), and we were running together when I bit it again.  Another hard fall.  Another time I lucked out falling in a section that was not very rocky, so I ended up just covered in dirt, but not actually injured.  I got to the final road crossing and the cops that were there were like, “you ok, can we get you any water?” They had brought a cooler of water and ice, which was really nice of them.  I told them I was good, that it was just another mile or so downhill in the shade.  I cruised down to the aid station and cursed about how hot I was.  But at this point I knew I was turning around and heading back to the finish line.  I also knew that I could hike the last half marathon (what I had left) and still make the final cut off.  So no matter what, I was finishing this race.  I was pissed because I figured there was no chance in hell of a PR, but did some math in my head and decided I could come in just under or very close to my time at Virgil.  And really at this point I didn’t care too much–I just wanted to be done.  At the aid station, Eric handed me a bag full of potato chips and instructed me to finish it.  I had not been eating much all day, and I’m sure part of my struggle had to do with poor nutrition.

 

Section 10:  Same as 4, back to Underpass

At this point, I was on a little island, which was nice.  I prefer suffering during a run alone.  My feet were really hurting–I was pretty sure there were some serious blisters on my feet, but I didn’t think I wanted to bother changing shoes any more.  Just get to the finish. I had to climb over a massive tree again (I think it was this section).  I selfie video-ed my climb. As I finished my video (which makes the tree look much less impressive than it actually was), I looked up to see a guy coming my way, looking at me like I’d absolutely lost my mind (to be fair, I was selfie-ing my way over a fallen tree in the middle of a 50 mile race)…he said he thought he was going to get pulled at the next aid station.  I said sorry.  At the downhill through Lick Brook, I caught a guy.  He was hobbling, we talked briefly.  He said he was going to DNF at the next aid station.  I told him to just hike the rest–7 more miles after the aid station.  He said he’d think about it.  I caught another guy partway down.  Passing people made me feel better–this was what happened at Virgil, too.  I started catching people on downs.  That put a little pep in my step (stress on little).  At the aid station, Eric threw a bag of ice on my back.  I didn’t even flinch, I was that hot.  Bonnie was there–she had seen Sean go through and then waited for me.  She grabbed ice cubes and started rubbing them on my neck and shoulders.  I was so hot.  Did I mention that yet?  I also noticed in this section that I was barely sweating any more.  My clothes were bone dry.  Things were getting really bad.

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the bane of my existence…hot, open, grassy fields…

Section 11:  Same as 5, back to Old Mill

This section was a grind–I felt awful, I was getting really upset with my time.  I felt like a failure.  Just as I was about to text Eric to apologize for making him crew his loser wife, that I was never running again, that I don’t know why I ever thought I was capable of this kind of shit, Scotie poppped out of the woods.  He asked how I was doing, and I actually almost broke down in tears.  I managed to mumble that I was fine, just hot.  He hiked a bit of an uphill with me, and I was thinking about how he is this incredible ultra runner and was probably like what is this girl doing right now walking. But then we hit a beautifully flat section and I started running, and he ran for a bit and then went a different way.  I caught a couple more people here, then cruised into Old Mill aid station.  Eric and the Valones were there.  I wanted to leave my pack–I was sick of having it on.  But my stupid bib was on it, and I didn’t want to wait around for it to get unpinned and repinned to something.  I threw on a tank top against my better judgement–my underarms (arm fat?) were already starting to chafe a bit, but Eric told me it’d cool me down to ditch the sweaty, filthy (from my fall) shirt I was in.  I threw my pack back on, grabbed my half finished ice cold bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper to carry with me and started to run.  3.1 miles were all that stood between me and the glorious finish line.

Section 12:  Back to where it all started.

I was really moving now.  This section (in this direction) played to my strengths as a runner, particularly at the end of a race.  People I’d been passing were complaining about their quads being destroyed.  Mine hurt of course, but it was manageable, so I kept going.  I think I was mostly just tiptoeing down the trails…I’d imagine it looked a little something like this (and in fact I heard people hiking on the trail laughing and I can only imagine it was at me and my ridiculous “running” form).   I passed a few more people, including one woman–the first woman I’d seen in hours.  I thought for sure she’d go with me (we’d played leap frog very early in the day, but she passed me and I didn’t see her again til now), but she didn’t.  I kept looking over my shoulder, determined not to get re-caught, but I was golden.  I hit the final descent, passed two more runner guys who told me to go get it, and cruised through the finish line to cheers and cowbell.  I thought I was going to puke or at least dry heave, but I didn’t.  I thought I was going to cry, but I don’t know if there was any liquid left in me.  Shockingly, I managed to pull off a 12:15.  Eric found me sitting on a picnic table with my head between my legs trying not to puke.  He helped me take off my shoes so my poor, mangled feet could breath.  Then we walked back to the finish line and friends and beer.

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The Aftermath:

I went to the bathroom to change clothes.  I took out a wet wipe to clean off the dirt.  It was everywhere (including inside my bra wtf) from my two huge wipe outs.  As I wiped my body, my rib cage started burning intensely.  I almost yelled.  I looked down to find two huge “wings” of chafe from my pack. I have no idea how I didn’t notice it when it was actually happening.

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My under arms were also burning.  FML.  I had been so careful to Two Toms all the places I normally chafe before and during the race…but I had not covered my ribs because I’d never chafed there before.  Moral of the story: Just Two Toms your whole body from now on.  I managed to redress myself and stumble back to our little TrailsRoc crew at the finish line.  I chugged a huge water bottle and cracked a beer.  We stayed for a bit to cheer more people through, then went to Chipotle for guac and chips, which was the only thing that sounded edible to me at that point.  We spent an hour or so reliving the adventures at the TrailsRoc cabin and campfire, then went to bed.  I couldn’t believe how well I was able to walk!!! After Virgil, I could barely move without pain. The lack of pain made me feel better, but then I started to consider that maybe the lack of pain was because I hadn’t run hard enough.  I couldn’t sleep because of the chafe–my whole upper body was just on fire.  It started to lightly rain, which soothed me to sleep, but then we had a downpour for a good long time and I was up again.  I drifted back to sleep again after, but we were all up early–and packed and out of camp by 8ish.  I’m a little more sore today, but really just if I sit for too long–once I get moving, I am ok. I am obviously tired, and I am super hungry.  My feet hurt (I did end up with some blisters *sigh*).  My chafe hurts (I just told Eric I’d rather have run another 50 today than have this horrendous chafe to deal with).  I am disappointed in a way with how things went down yesterday.  I am not happy with my performance, certainly not happy with my mental game.  But I finished the race, and I am otherwise unscathed.

The Negatives:

I don’t know what happened with my hydration.  Something was off for most of the day.  I took more salt tabs than I ever have before (pretty much 1 every aid station), drank 20-40 ounces of water between aid stations and still couldn’t keep up.  I stopped sweating partway through the race.

The heat really got to me.  Eric thinks some of it was just in my head.  I joked after the race that I used to hate hills, so I trained on hills to get ready.  So maybe I need to train wearing black plastic trash bags on my body to train myself to handle the heat. I think from now on I should stick to races in the fall when chances of a cool day are higher.

My nutrition was also off.  I’m not even sure what I ate all day–a ziplock of chips, maybe 12 fruit roll ups, and one Twizzler–I’m pretty sure that was it.  I also drank 20 ounces of Mountain Dew.  That is probably not even close to enough calories for 50 miles…I just couldn’t stomach anything.

The Positives

  1. I have the best husband/crew ever.  I am so thankful that he not only allows me to run ultras, but comes with me to crew me.  Knowing I’m going to see him at each aid station makes getting through the tough sections so much easier. Being able to count on having my stuff at each aid station…not having to rely on volunteers or drop bags…is comforting.  When you know you’re going to be out there for the whole day, and you don’t know what’s going to actually happen–how you’re going to feel, how you’re going to perform–having something you can count on, like a solid crew, becomes indispensable.  I owe him a million and one thanks.
  2. I finished.  And it was still an hour PR.
  3. I am stubborn.  My Opa used to call us kids dickköpfig because it means stubborn in German.  That stubbornness is what got me through yesterday.  I was not prepared to mentally suffer the way I did…I stayed low from around mile 20 on, while hitting some really REALLY low points along the way.  I’ve never been that low for that long, so it was interesting to find myself in that place.  I guess this was a good training exercise in that way…at Virgil I had myself a day, felt strong most of the race, and so I didn’t really know how I’d be able to push through low points.  Now I know that I can do it.
  4. What a gorgeous course.  I mean for real.  I could’ve taken pictures all day long…

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What’s Next?

This got too long.  A what’s next blog will be what’s next.😉

 

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