Sunday, September 13, 2009

100 mile recovery

I'm thinking the best way to recover from running 100 is to spend a month traveling a foreign country and indulging in all sorts of bad things like drinking lots of beer and doing a whole lotta nothing! Erik & I are having a great time rambling all over Australia.. we're going wherever we feel and doing lots of camping and hiking. We've spent some great time with Erik's family and friends... we helped his parents celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and got to watch a high school musical directed by one his best mates from high school.

Running has been on the backburner for the most part... although barefoot running on the beach has been pretty damn great! I'm definitely feeling the beer drinking and laziness... I think I've put on a good 8 pounds since I've been here! Whoops! I had every intention of running the Sydney Marathon on the 20th, but I think I'm going to end up giving it a miss... I'm having a hard time spending almost $200 on a marathon. Leadville was $250! As much as we're trying to just enjoy this holiday and not think about the unemployment factor, it does colour alot of our decision making. Lots of camping and cooking on the camp stove and staying only in cheap motels when it's going to rain or we need to shower. The gorgeous spring weather and the fact that we love to camp makes the spendthriftiness quite OK. We are totally lucky that Erik's sister lent us a car and camping gear so we didn't have to rent stuff.

Getting to Australia is always an adventure, but we try really hard to make things as easy as possible on ourselves.... flying Quantas is the first step. Even if it cost's a bit more, we would NEVER fly an American carrier overseas.... foreign airlines take much better care of you! We were able to get vegan meals that we fairly good and the seats just seem so much bigger... and everyone just seems so much more friendly and helpful. We left Denver and flew to LA, had a thankfully fairly short layover at LAX. That airport just sucks ass.... at least the international terminal. The only place to eat that was open was a hotdog stand, fortunately there was also a bar so we drank our dinner hunger pangs away..... sadly when we got the bill, we found that our Kirin beers were $8 a piece so then we had money pangs instead. Usually dinner is served fairly quickly after takeoff and since we get a "special" meal we get served first, so I was real ready for the plane to take off. It takes about 40 minutes for the plane to taxi over to the runway and I settled to take a short nap until dinner and then was rudely awakened by the captain announcing that someone on board had gotten ill so we were going to have to turn around. 40 minute taxi back to the gate, a nice long wait till there was an available gate and then time spent digging the ill person's luggage out, meant we were going to miss our train when we got to Sydney. We were taking the train up to Erik's sister place and there is only one a day.... it left 4 hours after our plane landed and under normal circumstances we would have had NO problem making it. Sadly for us we had bought our tickets online and there were non refundable, so we had a 17 hour flight to be cranky about wasting $150, and having to find a hotel in Sydney (more money) and missing some of the weekend celebration for his parents anniversary. The flight was smooth, but my sore muscles and achy knee from Leadville made it really hard for me to get any sleep. I kept trying to stretch my legs and get comfortable, but that's pretty rough at the best of times.

When we landed we had a little over an hour until our train left so we figured we see how fast we could do the customs/luggage thing... maybe we could still make the train! I put to good use my super fast hiking skills and we motored through the airport. When we hit customs, we handed our passports over and our visa info and since we came over on a permanent residency visa ( we still haven't decided if we're going to move) we had to give an Australian address, well the only one Erik has memorized is his parents out in Lightning Ridge, and the agent thought it was hysterical that we were going to move there... we then had to reassure him that there was no way. Lightning Ridge is an opal mining town, in the middle of nowhere. Erik grew up there and unless you are an opal miner or doing something related to that... there's nothing there. Drinking and playing the pokies is the only entertainment. It's about a 10 hour drive from Sydney, so no chance of popping into the big smoke for a fun evening either. We got through customs and thought that we still had a slight chance of making the train, but our bags were some of the very last to be unloaded. DOH! We decided to hit Central Station anyway and see if they could do anything for us or to find out if we had any other options for getting up to Moree that day.

We got a super nice Countrylink agent and she just transferred our ticket to the next day! Phew! No having to spend an extra $150!! We still had to find a cheap hotel in Sydney (hah!) but at least the tickets were sorted. Erik's sister Heidi was able to get online and find us a $100 hotel near Kings Cross and we headed that direction. Kings Cross is the redlight district so it's always a fun place to people watch. We checked in and headed off to wander the city, which is our favorite thing to do in Sydney anyway! We had a great Thai lunch and gave ourselves blisters before heading back to the hotel and crashing hard. The worst part of the trip is the awful jet lag, so we picked up some hummus and VB beer and spent the evening sitting on the porch at our hotel watching people.... staying upright lasted until about 7 pm when we couldn't fight it any longer and crashed hard. Going to bed that early means a 4 am wake up, so we got to do our favorite early morning hike around Sydney while the sun came up. Wandering around Circular Quay, which is where the Opera house and Harbour Bridge are is magical in the early morning.

To be continued!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Leadville Trail 100

This whole summer my entire focus has been to run Leadville and to run it well. I received a ridiculous amount of support from my husband in pursuit of this....and a ridiculous amount of encouragement from my friends, family and running partners. I can't imagine life without these people.... and I CANNOT imagine trying to do Leadville without crew and/or pacers, hands down, there is no way I would have finished without them. The race certainly didn't go the way I had envisioned, planned or hoped for.... but I got it done.

Erik and I drove out to Colorado Springs on August 15.. a week before the race. Since the beginning of July my life has been stupidly busy. I had no idea that shutting down a business would take more time and energy then opening one! My band also had our first show just days before we left for Colorado which meant lots of extra practice and since Erik & I are leaving from Denver to fly to Australia for a month just days after Leadville, all my ducks HAD to be in a row! We spent a few days in the Springs, relaxing and adjusting to altitude, and then on Wednesday we drove to Leadville. The days leading up to the race were full of full on panic and fear mixed with strange calm mixed with dread. I tried to just concentrate on getting my stuff together and staying off my feet as much as possible.

Thursday night was packet pickup and the pasta feed and it was good to hang out with a bunch of my KC area friends. There was a whole huge herd of KC folks coming in over the next few days, runners, pacers, crew and groupies.... yes, runners have groupies! I admit to a bit of star struck, girly, squealing when I caught sight of Anton Krupicka on Friday morning at the pre-race meeting, but I wasn't the only one! Thursday night after the pasta feed, my good friends Mac and Angela called to tell me.. Surprise! They were flying in late Friday night and would be in Leadville by start time to watch me race. I almost fell on the floor....and it almost made me not want to race! I knew that everyone was going to be having such a good time hanging out at aid stations and partying, I wanted to be there with them! OK, that was probably just the nerves talking...

Friday morning was the med check and pre race meeting. Due to a helicopter crash on Mt. Massive, the race had to be re-routed a bit, and rumours had been flying about how the course was going to go. After the meeting the day seemed to crawl by in slow motion, I tried to get a nap in, but finally gave it up and started getting all my aid station food ready. I wasn't going to do drop bags since I had such a bad ass crew (5 people dedicated solely to me.. not including 2 pacers.. I felt like a rock star!) but I wanted to get everything as organized as possible so I could just grab food and go. My plan was to spend just a minute or 2 in each aid station especially in the beginning and try and bank as much time as possible. It finally got dark and I drank some chamomile tea and hit the bed.... I slept much better then I thought I would, but by 2:30 I was half awake before the alarm went off. Getting dressed, number pinned on and eating felt sure didn't feel like the race I had prepped for all summer. I forced food down my throat, grabbed my stuff and walked the 2 blocks to the start. In front of the video store, the whole KC crowd met up and exchanged hugs, stories and good lucks.

We made our way to the start line after what seemed like a million pictures were taken by friends.. Nick and I planted ourselves kinda in the middle of the packs and waited for the shotgun blast. While standing on the start line, I realized I hadn't gone to the bathroom, but it was too late.. BOOM and we were off! It was a slow start with just over 500 runners starting, and we had time to look around and find Gary and Willie and Adam... more KC runners. We ran past a house that had Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" blaring at top volume and probably 40 people standing out front cheering us on with beers. The morning was surprisingly warm, which did not bode well for the rest of the day. I felt good so instead of starting out slow and holding back, I would run at a comfortable but quicker pace until I started feeling like I needed to back off.

By the time I hit the first aid station at May Queen, I HAD to stop and use the bathroom on the way in.... I dropped off my long sleeve shirt and headlamp with my dad, grabbed some watermelon to eat and was off again. I caught up with Nick and we spent some time running with Anita Fromm, who holds the record for fastest DOUBLE Badwater.... she proceeded to scare the crap out of both of us by telling us that Leadville was way harder then Badwater. Not really what you need to hear at less then 20 miles into the race!! Nick and I stuck together climbing up Hagerman Pass road and then I got in front of him a bit coming down the Powerlines section... I was trying to go slow and save my quads but not so slow that I trashed them by braking too much. It's a fine line and I definitely have some serious work to do on learning how to run downhill. Maybe someday when I'm living somewhere that actually HAS long downhills, I'll learn.

When I hit the pavement on the way to Fish Hatchery, I realized how hot it was getting and how my stomach wasn't feeling real great. I was trying to think ahead to the aid station and what I might want to eat but nothing sounded good. Coming into F.H was like coming into a party, people were cheering their heads off and everyone was having a great time. I checked in and pretty much right out again and headed towards my crew... they got my water refilled and I tried to interest my stomach in some food, but a few watermelon pieces and some sips of a ginger drink where about all I wanted. I was hoping the ginger would settle things by the time I hit the next station, but I had plenty of food in my pack in case things improved quickly. I was starting to get a bit concerned about the lack of calories, once you get into a caloric deficit it can be really hard to make it up.. there is only so much food your body can process at one time.

I caught up with Nick on the way out of the aid station and we cruised along together on the road. This section pretty much sucked.. it was either wide open pavement or wide open dirt road for about 4 miles. The sun was blazing down and it seemed like an endless section. During 1 point I had to pull over and use some bushes and then a few miles later, when I got to the aid station I had to use the bathroom again.... my stomach was not very happy with me. I had a few sips of a peach/strawberry smoothie and tried some cookies but nausea had set in good. I left my crew and headed off, a short bit down the road Nick's family had set up a small aid station that was just a few yards from their house and Shane offered me some ginger chews that helped for a short bit, enough for me to get down some Hammer Gel anyway. I finally caught up with Nick again and we decided to stick together at least through Twin Lakes.

It was so very helpful to have each other to push on with. I think at this point we both did a bit of bitching and moaning, we were both having issues but quitting wasn't an option for either of us. It was absolutely breathtaking scenery and we'd look around occasionally and decide that life didn't suck. We may have been hurting, but damn... we were able to run allllll day and allllll night in the beautiful Colorado mountains, with amazing crews to tend to us and see to our every need and at the end of the race there was a red carpet to run down and a shiny new belt buckle waiting. Going into Twin Lakes there is a super steep rocky downhill and Nick warned me not to fall... I didn't but I did have a close call or two and let out a few girly squeals. Coming into all the aid stations was so much fun! The cheering crowds were amazing and everyone wanted to help right away.
I sat down for a couple of minutes at Twin Lakes for the first time and tried to come up with something to eat.. once again, a few sips of this and a few bites of that were about all I could stomach. My mom soaked my hat and bandanna in cold water and that made me feel a ton better. I hit the porta potties AGAIN on the way out. Nick and I started out together but at some point I was chattering away with some other runners and lost him. The stream crossing wasn't very high.. only about knee height on me, I was hoping for about waist high so my quads could get a nice icy immersion. I guess I could have stopped and spent some time in the river, but I had forward motion going and I didn't want to stop!! I was about 2 minutes into my climb up Hope Pass when Anton blazed past me down the hill on his way back to Leadville.... all I could do was stand aside and cheer for him.... he was running like the hounds of hell were after him, chasing course record ghosts. I succeeded in that, I wanted to at least be ON Hope Pass before I was totally passed by the leaders.. but knowing that these people were going to finish in the daylight is totally mind boggling! I have such admiration for the speedy guys and girls!

Going up Hope my nausea got worse.. I figured it was a combination of heat and altitude that was doing me in... but it seemed to be doing everyone in. I have never seen so much puke on the sides of trails before! I made some contributions and knew that I was in real trouble. If I couldn't get food in me, I didn't see how I was going to be able to finish. It was the first time that I thought about a DNF. Hope Pass is a hard ass climb, but I just put my head down and kept going up, I stopped when I needed to stop and pushed on when I could. I chatted with a bunch of people on the way up and I always stepped off the trail and gave the speedy ones plenty of room as they flew down the trail heading back to Leadville. It was a great excuse to stop and rest in addition to being able to cheer them on fully.

When I finally hit the Hopeless Aid Station, I filled up my water and took a minute to look at the gorgeous llamas up there. The aid station stuff is all packed in on llama back and those people who run it are bad ass!! It is such a help having them up there and gave me a definite lift. I grabbed a few saltine crackers in hopes of calming the guts and continued upwards. I hooked up with Josh who was a KC runner now living in Manhattan, Kansas and he really helped me get over the top and down most of the other side. He, too was having stomach issues and I offered him everything in my pack hoping he could keep something down.. but no such luck. The descent on the back side of Hope was quad and knee killing. I almost fell, I don't know how many times and the trails are so narrow that trying to get out of the way of the runners coming back up was a bit hair raising at times. Your choices are either a steep drop off on one side or such a severe side slope on the other that you'll bust an ankle trying to stand on it. I ran some bits on the descent but the constant stopping and letting people by disrupted any rhythm. By the time I hit the dirt road and had 2.5 miles to go to actually get into Winfield... I was out of water. This section was pretty miserable, the cars were stirring up so much dust that I was wearing my bandanna like a mask, I was waterless, I was totally out of energy and still puky. Those were some of longest miles I've ever been on!

I made it into Winfield and was weighed at the aid station..I was afraid I'd lost too much weight but surprisingly I was up 2 pounds. (I deliberately waited to go to the bathroom until AFTER weigh in) My crew swung into action and got me ready to make another Hope crossing... they tried everything possible to get me to eat. Coming into Winfield I told them I was in real trouble, I was totally out of energy and had to come up with something that stayed down. Luckily for me this was also the point I picked up my first pacer Debbie. She packed her bag with all sorts of things to eat and we headed off down the road with my spirits considerably lifted. We chattered away and as we headed down the road we came up Nick on his way to Winfield. He looked bad and my heart was breaking.... we gave him huge hugs and in my heart all I could do was pray for him to make it. A bit further down the road we came upon our friend Rick, now normally Rick would have been a good 20+ miles in front of me... he had kicked some butt at Western States, but today the altitude and heat got to him too. He had been resting at Hopeless Aid Station when I went through and I didn't even realize it. When he hit Winfield, he had already passed the time limit, but his weight was down so much that he would have been pulled anyway. My heart was breaking for him.
Debbie kept my spirits up and kept me moving over Hope... this was the very worst of the nausea, and it took me forever to make it back over. I kept having to stop and breathe and try and keep from puking. Debbie put up with some serious whining at this point but ignored me and kept prodding me upwards. When I hit the top of Hope again... I stopped and yelled as loud as I could "SCREW YOU HOPE!!!!" and started running down. At this point it was obvious that the majority of my problems stemmed from altitude sickness and not just heat since the quicker I dropped down in altitude the better I felt. I thought it had taken me so long to get over Hope that I would have timed out at Hopeless, but apparently I had plenty of time, so onward we went.

Originally I had planned to be at Twin Lakes again before the sun went down, but luckily my crew knew that there was no way I would make it, and stuck my headlamp in my pack. On the way down, we kept blinding baby mice on the side of the trail and they would get confused and try and run under our feet, so we had be careful so we didn't squish any of the little things. When we hit the water crossing, I sent Debbie ahead to tell my crew to make up some oatmeal, since finally something was sounding good to eat!!! At about this point Nick and his pacer Ben Reeves came up behind me and I have never been so darn happy to see someone in my life! Nick has this amazing ability to come back from the dead and keep running! Ben kept us moving
into the aid station where I peeled off to the bathrooms again....(you can skip this next section if you don't want to hear my poop musings ) I was constantly amazed at the amount of crap I was producing... I had hardly eaten all day but stuff was coming out of me from both ends like I had been hoggin' at Country Buffet all day. It amazed me that I was still able to move forward at any sort of speed given the fact that I probably hadn't even consumed 2,000 calories over the entire day and most of those had come out of me in one form or the other.

I grabbed my oatmeal from my crew and quickly checked in and out of Twin Lakes aid station, after which I could take a minute to stand around eating it... it was hot and tasted pretty good, I also downed a few watermelon pieces. Debbie and I were off again into the night. I had forgotten how much climbing was in this section and I was back to moving VERY slowly. At this point I started getting very, very sleepy, and found myself dozing off and stumbling all over the trail. I kept begging Debbie to just let me lay down and sleep for 5 minutes, but all she would give me was 2. So I did that a few times until Nick and his pacer Shane came by us like a freight train but stopped long enough to ply us with caffeine pills. Debbie had the sleepiees too, so she took one a tried to keep me moving. I feel awful about this part of the race.. I was exhausted, crabby, and mentally I couldn't imagine climbing up powerlines again. I told myself at this point that I was quitting when I saw my crew again. All I wanted to do was crawl in a warm sleeping bag and sleep for a few days. I started voicing these thoughts to Debbie, but she didn't want to
hear them. She really took the brunt of my absolute depths of despair and kept me moving.

When we got into the Box Creek Aid Station, mentally I was telling myself that I only had 3.5 miles to go and I would quit when I saw my crew. I was sitting in a chair with my head in my hands and the uber helpful volunteers at Box Creek were trying so very hard to help me out. Finally I took a few handfuls of watermelon and some sips of coffee and we were off. I started to enjoy myself a tiny bit at this point because mentally I was checked out of the race. I made Debbie turn off her headlamp so we could enjoy the AMAZING array of stars. It was a gorgeous night and instead of plodding along with my head down, I started looking up. When we finally hit the road where the crews were waiting I told them I was done. I couldn't officially drop out there because it wasn't a true aid station but I wanted a ride to Fish Hatchery where they could snip my med bracelet and I could go to sleep. Unfortunately for my plans, my crew was having none of this. They told me I was going to have to get to F.H on my own 2 feet. I cried at my husband, and whined at anyone that would listen.. but they weren't actually listening.

So I found myself once again heading down the road to Leadville and I felt kinda confused as to how they bamboozled me into 4 more miles. I walked this entire stretch of road, there was no attempt at running, but I have a pretty mean power hike so we were actually moving fairly quickly. I kept turning down food from Debbie and telling her, that I didn't need it since I was dropping out in 4 miles. I spent half the time trying to justify it to her and myself, I kept telling myself that it was amazing I had gotten as far as I had on so few calories and it was impressive that I had continued on being as sick as I was. I was almost able to make myself feel good about dropping out. We hooked up with a group of guys a few miles from F.H and they kept us entertained, but my mind was still made up.

When I got into F.H, my crew descended on me and hustled me to check in and then out since I was so very close to the cut off. I kept saying it didn't matter, but they said I wasn't allowed to make any decisions until I had had some soup. So I ate a cup of some amazing vegan broth and the next thing I knew I was changing into tights and putting on new socks (my feet had some yucky blisters). This was where I was dropping off poor, beleaguered Debbie and picking up Christy (who was quickly being briefed about my mental state by Debbie). My mom made me eat a spoonful of peanut butter over my protests that I was not going on, I almost puked it all up again but I managed to keep most of it down. I stood in the middle of this group of wonderful people, whining my head off about not wanting to do powerlines but they just ignored me, and kept telling me to move on out. At this point my dad gave me a huge hug, and told me that I had his strength and had to finish... we both got all teary and that was it. A switch had flipped in my head and I was going to finish this damn race. As Christy and I moved down the road, I kept quizzing her to make sure we had enough time... I didn't want to do powerlines only to be timed out at May Queen. She assured me we could do it so off we went.

When I was in Leadville in June, I remembered the climb up powerlines as being super steep and I was thinking it was going to be like Hope Pass, but my thinking was faulty and I think that broth was magic, becuase it felt like we flew up that section. I'm not entirely sure how many people we passed going up (powerhiking) but it was quite a few. Christy just kept pointing out glow sticks so I was concentrating on passing those instead of going up hill and the next thing I knew, we were going down Hagerman Pass. Christy kept telling me stories and making me talk and we kept passing people on our way down. At one point we came upon a guy who was NOT doing well, he had a pacer with him and they asked us to send help when we got to May Queen. We picked up the pace a bit more and a mile or so down the road a Search and Rescue truck was on it's way up the hill, so we flagged him down, gave him the guys number and crossed our fingers that it wasn't anything serious. When we finally got off the hill and onto the trail again, my memory started to go, I had thought the trail section was much shorter then it was and I started getting SUPER cranky when the trail just kept on and on and on. I snapped at Christy a few times and got a bit hysterical that I wasn't going to make the time cut off. But finally we hit the paved section and got to the aid station in time.

Another cup of broth and another stop at the porta johns and I told my crew that I would see them at the finish line. Christy told me I was going to have to make up some serious time going around the lake since I was only 4 minutes ahead of the cut off, so I put my headphones on and we ran, from ribbon to ribbon, and powerhiked the hills. When we hit the Tabor Boat Ramp and found out we only had 7 more miles to go and almost 3 hours to do it in, I knew short of disaster, that I was good. I settled down into my powerhike since running was making my blisters scream in excruciating pain. Once we got off the trail around the lake and onto the dirt road I felt like I was homefree, but I didn't realize just how long this stretch was and once again started to get super cranky and panicky when it just continued on and on. My bits of running here were nothing more then a shuffle punctuated with me grunting in pain. Christy offered me an advil and I gratefully accepted... I should have grabbed a few more from her, but advil can be so very bad for your kidneys during long races so I had kept myself to taking a total of 4 over the 30 hours. Finally, after what seemed like lifetimes long, we could see town. Spectators kept saying.. it's not far.. and I had to restrain myself to keep from screaming.. How far is not fucking far?????? I was at the height of my crankiness and poor Christy finally just dropped behind me a bit, (she would have had every right to just push me off the nearest cliff!) When we hit the pavement, it was like I was a new person... and I could see the finish and hear Christy sobbing behind me. She gave me a huge hug and Dad came out and met me a bit less then a mile from the finish and ran me the rest of the way in. Scattered along the way were my KC friends and they cheered me on in. All I had eyes for was that red carpet and finish line banner, and then finally I was running down it and into the arms of my crew. 29:48:07.

There was much hugging and crying and then Merrilee put my medal around my neck with a big hug and then I was swept off to the med tent and weighed in. I was up 3 pounds and by the amount of swelling I had going on in my hands, face and feet, I was surprised it wasn't more. I grabbed a few pieces of watermelon, found my crew and sat my butt on the grass. I guess everyone had been freaking out thinking I wasn't going to make the time cut off, but I knew I was. Christy and I had been keeping such a close watch on things, and since my legs weren't totally shot, if I had to run fast.... I would have. My feet would have been hamburger but I could have done it. Just a short 12 minutes later we heard the shotgun blast to announce the end of the race and my heart ached for those people still coming down the hill. Not an official finish.. but they finished in my eyes.

I really tested my crew and pacers at this race and I'm honestly shocked they are still talking to me much less willing to hug me afterwards! There is no way I could ever repay them or make it up to them, I would absolutely have NOT finished this race without them.

My husband Erik is an absolute angel, he kept urging me on even when he knew how badly I wanted to quit. He spent 30+ hours driving around, trying to get me to eat and giving me support. I won't ever be able to repay him. My parents were amazing... my mom thought she had retired the crew chief hat, but gladly took it out again when I asked. She is truly a selfless woman. My dad.. who inspired me to keep going and kept telling me I could do it. Mac and Angela, who flew in for a super quick weekend, and would not take QUIT for an answer. Apparently I had told them not to let me quit, and they were bound and determined not to let me. All the other KC folks, Laurie, Stacy, Kyle, Caleb, Shane, Ben R, the Lang family, Julie, Ireland Dave, Angel, Tony, Rick, Josh, Gary, Willie, Adam, Darin, British Mark, David, Stu and Deb, all the encouragement, hugs and advice you gave were oh-so-very helpful. I stole bits and pieces of your energy and it helped get me through. Nick, my friend who I can't seem to run a race without.. thanks for all the support... as always it was a pleasure to run with you... next year though, I'm gonna kick your ass ;) ! Finally, Christy and Debbie... my pacers extraordinaire, once again I couldn't have done it without you. I'll never be able to repay you guys this one... you truly saw the absolute worst of me, but continued on with me anyway. Thank you from the bottom of my heart..... I owe you beyond words.
Ultrarunning is such a selfish sport, but somehow this selfish runner managed to find an amazing group of family and friends (who ARE family) who are completely selfless and loving. I am blessed beyond words.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Better to burn out then fade away

(My race report for the PCT 50 is almost done and it's coming soon.. I promise!)

Sunday night was the final day my record store was open, and over the past month since we announced that we were closing we have been overwhelmed by the amount of love our customers/friends have for us. The store has been constantly busy and everyone has stopped by to tell us how much we meant to them. It's been very gratifying to hear that we will be missed and how much we figured into peoples lives. I wasn't sure how the last day was going to go, but I was certain that I was going to be a crying, sobbing mess. We planned a private party after we closed for some of our customers that truly kept us in business over the 6 years we were open... the type of customers that were in weekly and spent half their paychecks with us. My friend Cat even came up from Texas for the last day... she had been there for the very first day so she decided that she had to be around for the last also. We invited some of the kids who had grown up in the store.. they went from riding their bikes over to browse the racks to being able to drink with us in the time we were open. I was looking forward to drinking some beer with some really good people to end things on a happy note.

The official store closing time was 6pm, and then the party was scheduled to start at 6:30, but sometimes the universe takes the best laid plans and turns them upside down. At 5:30 we still had a good 30 people in the store, grabbing the last minute deals. At 5:50, there was a huge explosion and all the power went out... a second later the lights flickered and went back on for a split second and then another huge explosion and power was back off again. People were screaming and hitting the floor.... it was a bit unnerving to look outside and see huge showers of sparks raining from all the power poles up and down the street. It was apparent after a few minutes that it was going to be awhile until things went back on... unfortunately, no power meant no computer, no lights, no a/c, and most importantly for us.. no credit card machine! We could do paper receipts and use cell phone calculators but the no credit card thing was NOT good.

Everyone was awesome and just said they'd run to the closest ATM... but since a couple mile radius was affected by the outage, the closest ATM was a good 4 miles away. We swung into action hand writing receipts and Cat was the cell phone calculator wizard... it was pretty damn stressful and with no a/c it was getting pretty darn hot too! Meanwhile, because it was taking so long for everyone to find ATM's and us to write up sales, our party folks were arriving and adding to the confusion. We explained the situation to a few people and asked them to keep the party folks outside until we could get the "regular" customers taken care of and out the door. As soon as the last customer was out the door, the beer cooler came out of the back room and I broke into one.... we all needed it! The original plan was to order pizzas from next door and luckily for us, the ovens are gas and they agreed to make us up a bunch of 'za by flashlight before they closed.... they couldn't even ring us up!

Thankfully everyone took the problem in stride and had a great time hanging out, drinking much beer and shopping by flashlight.... a few of our emergency battery backup lights were on for a few hours but soon even they went out. It was great to spend some time thanking some wonderful people for all they did for us over the years. And because of the chaos and stress of the evening, I didn't even cry as much as I thought I would!! We kept trying to bribe the guys fixing the power by offering beer and pizza, but they were having some major problems. By the end of the evening there was 4 trucks of guys working on the power and they were yelling and fighting amongst themselves. Yikes! When it got fully dark, the party broke up and most everyone took off.. a few of us hung out and talked by candlelight until 11:30 but finally it was time to go. Thankfully the wonderful husband was driving because as soon as I got into the car, I started crying and didn't stop until we got home 20 minutes later. The store had a great run and I'm not sorry we're choosing to close it, but I will truly miss seeing some wonderful people on a weekly/daily basis. It was time to go.. and the universe helped us "burn out" instead of fading away on Sunday.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Running in the mid-west in the summer, frankly, sucks ass. The temperatures during the day range from the upper 80's through the low 100's and when you add humidity on top of that... YUCK. The nights aren't any better.. temps don't usually get lower then the mid 80's. So keeping motivated during the hot summer days can be difficult. A week ago, I started my run at 6:30 am, it was already in the mid 80's and rising quickly, the humidity was high enough that within 5 minutes of starting my run, I was literally drenched. To compound things, the bugs are ridiculous right now, so I'm covered in sticky sweat and bugs are landing on me and becoming glued to my skin.... and then I start hitting the spiderwebs. I know spiders are smart critters, but when they build huge webs right down the middle of the trail, I have to question their smarts. I grab a long branch and run, wielding my web stick knocking down huge webs and HUGE spiders as I trot along. Usually I try not to disturb nature while I run, but I have no choice in these instances... build the web on the side of the trail and no one gets "bugged", down the middle and you're gonna be rebuilding that thing over and over again.
At the start of the summer, the webs and spiders are small and you can just run right through them without a second thought, by the time August rolls around, these suckers are the size of your fist and the webs are so strong that I've literally bounced off them before. I guess, what I'm trying to say here is that running hasn't been as fun as usual here. I'm really looking forward to running in some other places (Portland, Colorado & Australia) and really looking forward to fall running. I'm craving running through that crisp, cool fall air.

Originally I was going out to The Mt Hood/PCT 50 miler to crew and pace for my friend Christy, but then another friend was not able to use her entry so now I'm just going to run the whole thing with Christy. We train together quite a bit and though my pace is a bit faster then hers, we're still able to make things work... for instance during the PCT race, I will run the whole thing at her speed, both to give her companionship during her first 50 miler and to keep me from running too fast a race just one month before Leadville. Then during Leadville she will pace me in the later miles when I'm moving much slower. Even with the nasty heat and spiderwebs, training has been going well, I've been lifting 4 days a week, doing hill repeats once a week, and the rest of the time trying to get in as much mileage as possible....I hope PCT feels good and goes well, since I'm pretty much out of time. Not a whole lot left to do to prepare for Leadville now but pray and try not to dwell on it!

I bought a new (to me) car as part of my L-ville prep... I've been wanting a Honda Element for awhile and hitting a deer in my bug meant I needed something new. I'm pretty excited for all the room for gear and ease of cleaning and space for my crew (my husband) to stretch out and take a nap while waiting for me. It also means that my Great Dane Otis doesn't have to fold up like origami in the back the bug... it's a win-win situation for everyone!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

All Things Must Pass

This post has bugger all to do with running.. so if that's all you're here for you can skip this post and I won't be offended!
For the past 6 years, my entire life has been taken up with owning a record store with my husband. In the beginning owning Needmore Discs was definitely a 24-7 job, but then as we got things running, it smoothed out and we were able to relax.. kinda.. I don't think any small business owner ever REALLY relaxes! We were able to pay off the business in the first 2 years of operation thanks to our uber-loyal client base... and things were fun. On a busy Saturday we could have a store wide conversation going amongst complete strangers..maybe over which was the best Beatles album, or maybe the differences in LP sound vs. CD sound. We did midnight sales for big new releases and sponsored a weekly show called "Boozeday Tuesday " at a local bar which all sorts of great local bands played at, we donated money and gift certificates to local high schools, and bands and whatever worthy causes we could.
But then slowly, slowly things started changing, customers who always swore they'd never download started coming in less frequently and when they did they sheepishly admitted, "yeah, I got an iPod". More and more people started bringing in their entire collections of CD's to sell, telling us "I'm going all digital". Then the record labels got into the action.. suddenly all these big artists started releasing CD's exclusively through W*lmart or T*rget or B*st Buy, or just making it available for download only.... we just got more frustrated and hurt too. The independent record store has been the cornerstone of music since the first LP's but it seems everyone has forgotten that... or just doesn't care anymore. And honestly I'm not blaming anyone, it's so very convenient to pick up a CD along with your new shirt or toilet paper.... or with 1 click, download it right to the computer or order it online to be delivered in just a few days, instead of driving across town to a separate store.
For the first time ever, we didn't have the new generation walking in the doors all wide eyed and excited. It was always so very much fun to see the kids discovering "new" music.. watching their tastes progress, and getting to turn them on to obscure bands and have them turn us on to new bands too. We watched them grow up, start driving, go to college, and come back and visit us over vacation... but then it stopped. The 13 year olds were downloading.. they didn't give a shit about CD's, most of them had never even owned one. Nothing wrong with that, but it makes me sad... I love browsing book store, music stores, junk stores... I can't imagine growing up not having done that my whole life. Walking into a dark, stuffed to the gills, musty smelling record store or book store for the first time, not knowing what sort of treasures you might find is like Christmas, Halloween and my birthday all rolled up into one.
When it came time to renew our lease, Erik & I looked at each other and just decided that we didn't have the heart to do it anymore. It stopped being fun a few years ago, and with the economy tanking it was getting close to being not economically viable anymore either. We decided to jump before we were pushed. August 2 is our last day of business. After we close up and pack up whatever is left we're going to spend a few weeks in Colorado and then after I run the Leadville 100, we're hopping a plane for Australia for a month. Time to regroup, renew and decide what the heck we're going to do. I don't want anyone to walk away from this post thinking we're bitter, because honestly we're not. Both sad and excited, but not bitter.... just wishing things were different. I'm going to miss the hell out of a lot of my customers.. there are people I have seen every week for 10 years now.. they have become family and I'm going to truly miss them.

(reading back over this post, I sound really old and mildly thing you know I'll be yelling at kids to get off my lawn!!)

Listen to the Minus 5 "Down with Wilco" CD (or download it, you philestines) while reading this post.. somehow it fits it perfectly.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Colorado trip part 2

continued from previous post.....
(I meant to get this post done over the weekend but between At&T and their cruddy DSL service and following along with Western States online, I got nothing done!!)

Saturday I got up early and headed out for an exploratory Salida run. From my bedroom window I could see this big hill with a winding dirt road spiraling up it ... oddly enough it was called "Spiral Dr." Go figure! I headed toward it and found a nice runnable dirt road with a steady but not leg breaking climb, at the very tiptop of the hill there is a weather station and little hut, I spent some time at the top taking pictures and video and visually scouting out the BLM lands to the east of Salida.

I saw some interesting trails so headed down the hill... as I was heading down I passed a ton of people on bikes and foot on their way up... I guess I was the early bird! I headed off onto the trails and ran around for about 12 miles, but I hadn't brought enough water with me for any further explorations. It was just wonderful to be under the bright sun and Colorado blue sky. The skies in Colorado are such a particular shade of blue, when I first moved to KC I would wake up crying with homesickness after dreaming of that shade of blue. The trails were nicely groomed, rolling hills, with great views. I knew which mountain I was staying near so I didn't have to worry about getting lost, when I was ready to head back I just jumped on a trail that headed in the direction of that mountain! Can't do that on the prairie! After lunch Mac, Angela and I drove up to Cottonwood Pass and hiked up there for awhile... it was quite chilly but good for some altitude adjustment. Cottonwood Pass is amazingly gorgeous... it's right on the Continental Divide and the snow capped mountains all around & elevation of 12,126 make it quite breathtaking... literally and figuratively!

Sunday I spent in Salida again exploring trails and getting lost... at one point I was running up a canyon and in the middle of a section of smooth sandy trail, I came a bone... nothing else around it.. just a fairly good sized bone. Animal? Human? Who knows, but I decided to pick up my pace a bit and hope that some mountain lion wasn't going to jump on my back. I spent about 4 hours on the trails but headed back when the heavy clouds started to gather and the lightning got pretty close. We spent the evening getting our camping gear together and early the next morning we headed for Leadville. We all squished in the 4-wheel drive truck, it was a bit uncomfortable on the drive up, but worth it when we got to Winfield and got a camping spot up the 4 wheel drive road. We got camp set up and then went for a gorgeous hike. We drove into Leadville to pick up a few things that afternoon, and I started feeling a little odd. It was the first time all trip that the altitude actually seemed to affect me. My head hurt, stomach was a bit queasy and I felt a touch dizzy. I drank a bunch of water and ate lunch, which seemed to help quite a bit. I kept a journal of how the altitude was affecting me from day to day so hopefully I can figure out the optimal time frame to head to Colorado in August, and other than the first day this was the first "significant" problem. That night I slept pretty good, even though it was pretty cold.. I'm guessing somewhere in the 30's. I ended up with some really crazy, vivid dreams of mountains falling on me.
Got up early the next morning, and had butterflies... it was Hope Pass day. I didn't know what to expect, since everyone talks about Hope with a combination of respect/horror and dread. I knew that I wasn't going to get the "real" experience 'cuz I wasn't going to run 50 miles first, but I wanted to go home knowing that I could get my ass over the pass. I filled up the biggest waterpackI had (100 oz) and took plenty of warm clothes..I didn't know how long it would take me, if there was anywhere to get water or how the weather was going to behave, so I had to be prepared. I figured carrying the extra weight on my back was good training. I had some Lara Bars, Raw Revolution bars and some homemade gu in the pack, but I forgot to grab the bean and rice burritos I made up. Doh! I told my friends that if I wasn't back in 10 hours.. to call out the Calvary. Of course, HOW they were going to do that, I had no idea since none of us had cell reception and neither of them knew how to drive a stick shift!! I wasn't really worried but it was something to think about.
I had my map and directions from the race packet and set off running down the dirt road to Sheep Gulch where I hopped on the trail. It immediately goes up... and up.. and up. NO switchbacks! I literally stopped and laughed a few times (in between gasps of breath) because I was on my toes the whole time, it was too steep for my heels to hit the ground. Needless to say I was NOT running! I kept as fast of a pace as I could manage, but had to stop and take pictures and gasp for air occasionally. (I uploaded a ton of pictures to my Flickr account.. the link is on the sidebar). I hit the top of Hope in about 1:49.. one of the slowest 5 miles I've "run"! When I got to the top it was super windy and cold but I took the time to enjoy the views, knowing that I probably wasn't going to be looking around much in August! As I started to descend the other side towards Twin Lakes.. a big black dog appeared out of nowhere at the top of the pass and started barking at me. Scared the shit out of me since I had seen absolutely no one! The dog continued to bark his head off and start to come down the trail toward me.. and all I could think was.. "great.. this makes for a really crappy ending to my life.. mauled to death by a dog on a mountain. Nothing exciting like a bear or mountain lion or even a rabid marmot, but a common dog." Luckily for me, the dog was either called by his humans or decided I was too scrawny to eat and took off back down the other side of Hope. I never did see any other humans, but I can't imagine he was up there by himself!

The descent into Twin Lakes was gorgeous.. running next to a mountain stream NEVER sucks. I had plans to follow my directions and just keep following the course for as long as I could, but a deep, rushing water crossing caused me to turn around. A mountain biker was trying to figure out how to get across, but I took it as a sign that I should just turn around and head back over Hope. The mountain biker started following me and when I looked back somehow 2 more cyclists had joined him.. they were pushing their bikes and finally I stopped and told them that they were on the trail to go over Hope Pass which caused them to quickly turn around and head back down. Going this direction over Hope was much easier.. there was actually sections I could run. The descent on the Winfield side however is a quad killer! My biggest concern for the whole darn race is how to keep my quad from totally fizzle frying by the end. We just don't have long downhills in KC to practice on and I'm pretty darn sure my gym is not going to allow me to prop the end of a treadmill up on 2x4's to simulate downhills! I made good time down off Hope but then the 2 1/2 miles up the dirt road to Winfield was kinda not fun. It's really dusty and felt a lot steeper then it looks. As I was approaching Winfield, I heard cheering.. and couldn't figure out what the heck was going on. Mac & Angela had set up an aid station for me and had food and water ready and had been hanging out, reading books and waiting for me to show up. It was awesome! It was a great finish to a great day.
I finished just in time since some rainstorms moved in and we decided at that point instead of dealing with trying to get a fire started with wet wood and getting rained on all night, we'd go into Leadville and get a hotel for the night. We ended up at the Super 8 where I have rooms booked for the race and found they have a teeny tiny sauna and the rooms are not very well soundproofed. We ended up on the first floor and had a family of very large, insomniac clog dancers staying in the room above us. Mental note: call hotel and see if I can request a 3rd floor room for the race.
The next day I headed out to run the Powerlines section of the course..yipes! Yet another big ass hill to go up. I went up and up until I couldn't go up any longer due to a big ol' snow field and then I turned around and ran down. I stopped to talk to a couple of mtn. bikers that were out training for the MTB100 miler and we traded admiring compliments. I was a very lazy cyclist and didn't like to ride uphill very much so they have my admiration for all that uphill on a bike and I had their admiration for running 100 miles. It was a very uneventful run.. I went up and then I went down and the buzzing of the powerlines was in my ears the whole time. I decided that I need to incorporate a lot more hiking in my training and also a lot more time on the stair climber.. the hills were steep enough that it was more like going up stairs then being on the treadmill with the incline cranked. Downhills are still a problem but I will continue to do lots of squats and lunges and hope that having really strong quads will help.
Thursday I had to head back to Colorado Springs, and did a short run with my Dad on the Air Force Academy. I meant to do a long run but my calves were so trashed that at one point Dad found me "stretching" against a tree but I was actually crying 'cuz my legs hurt so bad! He scolded me and made me turn around and only do 6 miles for the day. I'm not sure how they got so trashed but I had to take a few days off running when I got back to KC. Yoga helped a lot, but they felt sore for many days. It was really a great trip: I had a really good time, I got to run sections of the course that I wanted to, I did some altitude work and I didn't have to deal with the heat and humidity for a week and I got to hang out in my favorite state.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Colorado Trip part 1

(I'm making this multiple parts since the word concise doesn't seem to exist in my little corner of blog land.)

I flew into DIA on Wednesday morning and upon landing I kissed the ground and then peed (in the bathroom.. duh!) . I don't mind flying, it's not my favorite thing to do.. especially not since 9/11 but I don't usually get nervous or uptight about things.. but this flight was determined to rattle me. It started out by being delayed.. no biggie, I called the parents and told them to hold off leaving Colorado Springs for a bit (kinda odd that it takes the same amount of time for me to fly across Kansas as them to drive to DIA from the next "town".) We took off about 30 minutes late and horror of horrors I was seated next to a very small child and her parents. I have a multitude of reasons for not wanting or having kids but uncontrolled screaming ranks pretty high up there.. which is actually amusing since I was a total screamer as a child.. my parents wanted to get me in the Guinness Book for shrillest scream. Anyway, the little one was pretty good and was fascinated by my TrailRunner magazine so I pointed out things and she would grab at it and make happy noises... trail runner in the making I think. Well, all this went downhill quickly when we hit some bad turbulence, that went on and on and on. The Captain told us to sit our asses down NOW and remain down and belted in. I'd never heard a pilot say sit down NOW before, but I cranked the iPod and relaxed, or tried to.. the little one next to me started shrieking like there was no tomorrow and the plane started bouncing up and down like a kangaroo. For the first time on a flight I was pretty sure I was going to die.. or at least I WANTED to die. The child next to me managed to drown out even the most noisy of punk rock on my headphones. I really couldn't blame her.. I felt like screaming a bit myself! Finally we landed, and my luggage was acquired and parents found with very little problem.

It was my dad's birthday so we went to the Tattered Cover bookstore and I quickly accumulated a huge stack of books I wanted, but then a semblance of sanity asserted itself and I put them back. (sniff) My luggage didn't need to be overweight due to 90 new books. We had lunch at a great little place in Castle Rock, that catered to my every vegan whim... it was awesome, I don't know if I've ever been someplace else that was so eager to make me something not on the menu. We made it to the Springs where I tried to digest my amazing grilled veggie lunch in short order since I was due to meet Steve and Kathleen for a run through Garden of the Gods. I had a great time running with them, and thankfully they were very patient since 6 hours is not enough altitude acclimatization time for me to be able to run fast, or even up hills! I was sucking some serious wind and at first when my fingers went numb and my eyesight got a bit dark, I thought I was going to have to bag the run, but Kathleen took pity on me and my darth vader like gasps and slowed the pace down. Steve bounded ahead and we would come around corners to find him snapping shots of us.. now I see how they get so many amazing pictures on their blog! I had a really great time getting to know them and I hope to run with them again.. maybe next time after a day or 2 of adjustment! After the run they were talking with my Dad and it turns out that they knew who he is and use his trails website a lot and Kathleen knows Dad's long time running partner... crazy small running world!

The next morning I got up early and went up Pikes Peak. Dad came along but wasn't planning on going as far as I was so he brought Sammy, their adorable golden retriever as company. I was really surprised at just how much I was able to push the pace going up, I figured after my performance of the night before I'd be dying again, but I guess a good nights sleep and lots of water helped. It was a cool, gray day and by the time I made Barr Camp at 10,200 ft it was starting to snow a bit. I decided to turn around there instead of pushing on to A-frame.... I had a jacket with me, but you never know in the high country how bad a storm will get. I was able to make really good time on my way down with minimal quad soreness. Pikes Peak is my favoritest mountain.. I guess it's because I grew up in it's shadow but it never fails to make me happy, when I die I want my ashes scattered on one of the slopes.

That evening I made a vegan stir fry for my parents.. lots of organic veggies, tofu and soba noodles. Dad eyed it with askance but ate it anyway and even had seconds, mom is very open to moving towards a more veggie based lifestyle so she was cool. After dinner I curled up on the couch with a hilarious mystery picked from one of the million books scattered all over the house. My friends Mac and Angela were driving in from KC and would spend the night and then the next morning we would be on our way to Salida and the house they own. They made it in around midnight and immediately crashed. We spent the next morning relaxing on the back porch, gazing at Pikes Peak and enjoying the perfect Colorado weather, until we roused ourselves enough to head to Whole Foods and the best outdoor shop in Colorado Springs - the Mountain Chalet. Locally owned, has tons of great stuff and always very friendly and helpful.

I picked up a pair of Vibram Sprint Five Fingers (in PINK, no less!!), I've been eyeballing these for awhile but wanted to try them on before buying. I tried 3 sizes and finally settled on the smallest size, I still think the next size up would have been perfect but that size made my big toe hurt.. like someone was poking hot needles in it.. not fun. I think the seam where the sole and the stretchy upper meet was rubbing just wrong. I wore them out of the store and only took them off all week to put on running shoes... definitely not ready to run in them though. Finally we finished all our shopping, loaded up the cars and headed out to Salida, which is about a 2 hour drive from the Springs. Dad was very nice and lent me his emergency 4-wheel drive pickup to drive all over Colorado.
I love that truck, it's an early 90's Toyota with high clearance and a growly engine, and it makes me homesick. It's the stereotypical mountain town vehicle; 4 Wheel drive, banged up and worth a heck of a lot less then all the gear inside it. It's not quite the same now that I'm not racing bikes, but back in the day my bikes were always worth more then my cars. Anywho, we made it to Salida uneventfully, and pulling up at Mac and Angelas house, I realized they were going to have to drag me kicking and screaming back to KC. It's a gorgeous house that sits on a bluff above town with an INCREDIBLE view of the 3 mountain ranges that surround Salida (Sawatch, Mosquito and Sangre De Christos).. and the hot tub has the perfect view of all 3!! They showed me around Salida, picked up some beer and we headed back to the house for dinner. Not only was I staying in paradise, but I was staying with 2 gourmet cooks... no way was I leaving! Dinner was awesome and as we were sitting in the hot tub watching the stars come out, a friendly local fox came sniffing up to the edge of the hot tub.. for a few minutes we honestly thought he was going to jump in! It was the perfect capper to the evening.

(part 2 to come)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I'm back!

I had every intention of posting periodic reports during my trip, but the allure of being totally cut off from the computer, cell phone and outside world won out. I got lots of running done and scared the crap out of myself..... Leadville humbled me and I'm heading back to the training "drawing" board and changing some stuff up. I'm still trying to unpack, do laundry and reacquaint myself with my husband so a bunch of longer, picture filled reports are on the way!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Colorado bound

I'm about to leave for my beautiful Colorado mountains! 10 days of nothing to do but run, run, run and eat, eat, eat! I'm flying into Denver, spending a few days with my parents and then I'm off to Leadville/Salida to run as much of the Leadville course as I can squeeze in. I'm hoping for a quick, easy adjustment to the altitude! Tonight I get to run with 2 of my favorite Colorado bloggers, Steve and Kathleen.. check out their blog, it's chock full of gorgeous Colorado scenery and good writing. And then on Thursday I'm going to run Pikes Peak with my dad.... at least as high as we can get, from what I understand A-frame might be the best we can hope for right now due to the heavy snowpack. I'll take any amount of uphill and downhill at high altitude as I can get! Then on Friday I'm off to L-ville! I got a new Flip video camera the other day, so expect some video in addition to still shots!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I've had a few people comment on my blog and also email me in awe of being able to go out and run a 30 mile training run at any time.. but it's taken me a long while to get to that point and most importantly, you have to WANT to run that far... everyone in this world has the ability to run 5, 10, 30, 50, 100 miles if they so desire and work towards it. Not everyone has the time or the desire and there is not a damn thing wrong with that. We all have amazing strength inside, but sometimes we get lazy and don't let it come out and play.
Right now, I'm watching 4 of my formerly non running friends find their wings. Abby, Angela, Mac and Rhonda kicked some serious ass last Saturday at a local 5K. Abby is 3 weeks from a double mastectomy, Angela and Mac are barely 6 weeks from a total sedentary lifestyle, and Rhonda broke her foot back in January and has been recovering from that. I LOVE getting emails or texts telling me how for the first time one of them got the runners high, or made it all the way around the park without stopping or added another mile. They are training for a triathlon in August, but there are already plans for more races in the future. Another good friend Beck, has been quietly, steadily running for a year, battling through some killer allergies and running on a treadmill when she just can't take it outside anymore. She has expressed an interest in doing a trail half marathon in the spring! It makes me so very happy to see some of the joy I feel reflected in their faces and voices. They are letting their inner strength come out and play... how are you letting yours out?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

the best days...

Right now, I'm having an amazingly kickass training cycle. Everything feels good and every run just makes me feel stronger.... call me Super(wo)man! I wish it could always feel like this.. no aches and pains, just easy, fast, amazing runs on strong legs. Even my weightlifting routine is going great! I know it won't last for long, because well, that's the nature of these cycles but damn I'm enjoying it while it does. My biggest worry right now, is figuring out how to feel like this come August 22!
My mom is so great, she found this vintage postcard from the 1940's showing Twin Lakes in Leadville. I framed it and it sits above my computer reminding me when I feel lazy that Leadville will chew me up and spit me out if I don't work hard. I can't gut this one through on minimal training. For my friends who aren't familiar with the Leadville 100 race course, Twin Lakes is the location of an aid station that you hit at 39.5 miles and 79 miles... it's also more importantly, 2 gorgeous lakes (hence the name Twin Lakes.. duh!) at the base of Mt Elbert. I've been to Twin Lakes many times before, but always as crew for my dad.. it's going to be scary/exciting to have the roles reversed!
I'll have the worlds best crew in the form of my mom, who is an uber-experienced ultra crew chief. She knows how to hustle and how to remain calm in the face of blisters, puke, blood and whining ultra runners. She is also a great judge of telling you to either "get your ass out of that chair and get going" or "get your ass in the car before you die" She's been doing this for about 30 years now and I'm blessed that she has agreed to take on another generation.
My Dad will be helping also and I just hope Mom will be able to keep him from dropping everything and taking off running! I do look forward to having his advice at all the aid stations, not only has he been doing this for longer then most people, he's done Leadville many times and also paced friends in years he wasn't doing it himself. I look forward to giving him a big hug at the finish line!
My wonderful, patient husband will be breaking his ultra crewing cherry! He'll be in the best of hands and my Mom will help him remain calm... if she can keep him from worrying about me he'll have a great time! He has been so very supportive and encouraging about this summer, I really can't thank him enough. He's been ensuring that I can get in as many training miles as I can and covering my work shifts so I can go train in Leadville for 9 days in June. I am a lucky, lucky girl. I can't help but have a great race with 3 of my favorite people in the world taking care of me and giving me encouragement!
Lastly but certainly not leastly is my pacer extraordinaire Christy. She gets to hang up her crew chief hat and just run with me! She's actually been training like she's running the whole thing herself and since she already did pacing duties at Rocky Raccoon she knows what works and doesn't work for me. There will also be many other Kansas City area runners out there, so seeing them and sharing positive energy with them and their crews will help greatly.
As I get more and more things set and dialed in, I can't wait and at the same time can wait! I would love for it to be next weekend and at the same time I know I'm not ready yet!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Squished bug

Friday I headed out to Clinton Lake early in the morning to get in 30 miles, originally Christy was supposed to join me but she was still deep in paper writing hell, so I was on my own. It was a humid morning, the sort that coats you with a layer of sticky, salty schwee right away. (and yes, schwee is a word) I kept thinking my Nathan pack was leaking but it was just the Midwest.

I had a great time taking pictures and enjoying having the trails to myself.... well myself and all the great wildlife I was seeing! Turtles, lizards, snakes, squirrels, deer, skunks, birds (lots and lots of birds).. it was a freaking Disney movie! The worst part of being on the trails first thing in the morning is the spider webs... it's still early enough in the season that the spinners haven't gotten real bad, but I was definitely trailing webs off my hat and face. Running trails has helped me get over some of my arachnophobia, I used to be HORRIFIED of spiders. Screaming, running away, & hysterics at just the sight of a small spider was the norm for me. Now I can deal with them a bit more calmly... I'm still not crazy about them but I can even deal with having small ones on me. I ran on the white trail out to the 12 mile marker, stopping at the swim beach to refill with water, I briefly thought of dropping down to the blue trail but since that one tends to be a lot muddier, I just turned around and headed straight back on white.
About a mile from the car, my cell phone rang and it was Christy warning me that they had issued tornado warnings for the area.. my original plan was to refuel at the car and go out for the remaining 6 miles, but then decided maybe I shouldn't push my luck. I bagged the run at 24 miles... I think I got lucky after the Freestate tornado, I don't want to tempt the trail gods. As I was cleaning up at the car, a couple mountain bikers were heading out and they stopped to ask me how muddy the trails were and our conversation went like this:

MB: How muddy is it?
Me: The first 3 miles are total mud bogs, but it's good after that until the 9 mile mark and you'll hit another bog, and then it's clear at least to the 12 mile marker.. after that I don't know.
1 MB to the other: Dude! Did you hear that.. she just ran 12 miles.. you're such a pussy you can't even ride 12.
Me: Actually I ran 24 miles.
MB: .........
and off they rode. Didn't even say thanks for the trail info.
As I left Lawrence and headed back to KC, the sky was looking wicked dark and scary so I was really glad I bagged the rest of the run.. turns out there was some torrential rain and hail moving in.

Saturday morning was the Trail Hawks group run at Clinton and then our first official group meeting afterwards. As I headed west on I-70 at 80 mph (yes, I was running a few minutes late) a (luckily) small size deer decided to risk the crossing... sadly for both of us she stepped right in front of me. The deer went splat and my bug went smush. I was in total shock as I pulled off the highway, but as I took stock I realized how lucky I was! She didn't come through the windshield and my bug seemed to still be drivable (after I ripped off the dragging front bumper anyway). I was pretty freaked out and made a couple of hysterical calls... first to the husband and then to a few people in the Hawks, so no one was waiting for me. In hindsight I maybe should have waited to calm down a bit before making the calls, since I was a crying, sobbing mess. I hate losing my cool in front of others and I think I scared some people. I headed back home and skipped the run, I was definitely too shaken up and wasn't sure just HOW drivable the car was.
My poor bug, I named it Smush a few years ago, 'cuz it's seen it's fair share of problems. I bought her from my brother who used to rally car race her, so that was my first mistake! This is the second deer/car incident she's been in and then there was the time (only a week after I bought her) that I hydroplaned on I-35 and did 3 loop-de-loops and played pinball with the guardrail. I swear I'm not a bad driver although one of the guys I run with commented that I drive like I stole it. Sadly for me, I was only carrying the minimum insurance on the car, so I have to come up with the moolah to fix her. I guess I'll be learning the intricacies of junkyards! Luckily silver bugs are pretty common... and if I have to get the whole thing painted it would be a good chance to paint it pink! WHEE!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Watch this video!

Someone posted this on the ultra list yesterday and it's just too good not to share! For all my non trail running friends... THIS shows why I do what I do and if it doesn't make you want to go out and run... well, I give up.

UltraRunning from Matt Hart on Vimeo.

Monday, May 11, 2009

(real) Rock Creek race report!

(I realized while typing it that most of my race reports start out with the phrase "I got up early....", this one is no different!)

I got up early after a few too short hours of sleep.. damn those friends of mine scheduling rock shows the night before races! Seriously, everyone needs to check my schedule before booking shows! (kidding, only, kidding!) I drove to Lawrence and met up with Christy, Nick and Renee at the River Trails trail head and we all 4 carpooled to Perry Lake. Less emissions and the chatter kept me from falling asleep. When we got to the park, there was much greeting of friends and hugs while waiting in line to check in. Willie and Karen Lambert put on a great race and they really know how to take care of the runners but their races are also laid back affairs which I really appreciate. I checked out my goodie bag and tried to decide what to wear... it was a pretty brisk morning (Gary was wearing tights!) but I knew it was going to be in the 70's later.. but the questions was.. how much later?? I chose to wear my short sleeve Atayne shirt and giraffe print Moeben sleeves, (it turned out to be the right choice.. when it got too warm I pushed the sleeves down and kept on going) grabbed my handheld bottle and I was good to go.

Willie gave us some instructions "1/2 marathon runners follow PINK ribbons" blah, blah, blah "Did I mention 1/2 marathon runners follow the pink ribbons?" Then we all walked down the road a ways to a suitable crack in the pavement where we all lined up. Willie gave us a last minute instruction "1/2 marathon follow the PINK ribbon!!!" and we were off. I appreciated the constant reminder that I was to follow the pink ribbons since I had earned my first DNF out here last year by getting lost! Whoops! (for a recap click here ) The speedy guys took off down the pavement and up the hill and then turned onto the single track and the rest of us mortals ran the short pavement section at a more sedate pace. I really like how the pavement and the hill breaks everyone up before hitting the single track.. no dead stop bottlenecking!

It was a gorgeous morning to be running the trails with friends. Even though we had gotten a ton of rain recently, the trails were in great condition... a few small mud bogs here and there but mostly dry, gorgeous trail! The sun was out and peeking through the trees and I warmed up enough to push my Moeben sleeves down. My legs were feeling a bit heavy but I tried to keep a steady pace and got a chance to chat with a number of different people as the usual ebb and flow of the trails happened. I ran with Deb Johnson for awhile and she was trying to decide if she was ready to run her first 100 at Kettle Moraine in June, I did all I could to talk her into it. She's running so strong and has an amazing base she'd be silly not to! I just know she'd rock that bitch and rock it hard! She dropped me hard on the downhills (I need to take some lessons from her!) and after that I was by myself for the rest of the race.

My stomach got grumpier as the run went on... I really should know better then to drink beer on tap the night before a race. Most bars don't clean their lines often enough so draft beer can be contaminated with all sorts of nastiness. Maybe my next tattoo should read "bottles only!" to remind me.... or I suppose I could just not drink before a race! I kept eyeballing the bushes but lack of TP kept me from heading off trail.... there was no way I was going to use one of my beloved Drymax socks and I'm always forgetting what poison ivy looks like so I figured I'd better just deal with the stomach cramps instead. Other then the stomach, I was feeling pretty good after I warmed up. The course was very well marked..even to the point of wrapping pink tape on logs that were lying on the ground.. but of course I tripped on a well marked log anyway.. actually let's just say I tripped on the pink tape instead of the log. All I got were dirty knees and a sore shoulder though... phew! Perry Lake is much hillier then I remembered so it made it a very good training run! I'm going to be spending a LOT more time out there... the trails aren't blaze marked like Clinton Lake so I'll just have to go out and get lost a few times until I figure it out.... either that or try and hook up with some of the Topeka trail folks and let them lead me around!

The aid stations were great but I was going light.. just water refills and 1 orange slice... in retrospect I probably should have eaten a bit more but I was afraid for my wobbly guts so the last 2 miles were slower then they should have been. Each of the aid stations was very well staffed by an adult and also a plethora of kids.. it brought back memories of hanging out at races as a child and running around like a crazy person. I got a chance to wish Lee good luck at the last aid station, as he is running the Berryman 50 next weekend... so send all sorts of good wishes his way! I finished up in 2:36:03 (unofficial)... a bit slower then I wanted but not awful. The awards were going on as I finished which meant that everyone was still around and I got to hear all the stories... and we hung out till the end to help cheer everyone home. A truly enjoyable spring Saturday! Something I have to note: last year at this series I picked up a lot of trash on the trails during the race (empty gu & gel packets and cups), this year there was nothing on the trails for me to pick up! I was so very happy to notice it.. of course there is always the possibility that there was someone running in front of me that is just as cranky about seeing race generated trash on the trails and was picking it up before I got there.. but somehow I doubt it. I hope it's a sign that people are being more aware that it's NOT appropriate to throw their trash on the trails.

*photo by Rick Mayo who stomped all over most of the field as per usual and in addition to being a super, super fast runner is a really nice, encouraging guy to boot! He'll be kicking some ass Kansas style at Western States this year!

Rock Creek half mary and other runs

I've been sticking to my stated intention of hitting the gym hard in my prep for Leadville, but that means my legs have not been as chipper during my runs. It's kinda frustrating in the short term, but I know it's all for the future. On Tuesday I ran at the Prairie Center again.. with as much rain as we've been getting, it's the one trail around that's not 10 feet deep in mud. I headed over after work with the intent of getting in 2 loops before my friend Beck arrived to join me for another 2. (Each loop is 3.2 miles). The first one was a lollygagging warm up but when I got back to the car I realized that I had taken a bit TOO long and was either going to have to do the 2nd loop totally fast or leave my friend waiting on me. I try to be a good friend so I did my fastest ever loop out there.. running though all the water crossings, motoring up the hills and scaring the wildlife with my heavy breathing. When I got back to the car, no Beck yet... sweet! Turns out she got stuck in traffic anyway so I didn't have to haul ass quite so much.. but oh well, it's good for me! We got in 2 loops together with the last one being pretty slow so she could stop and make a homemade map so she could run by herself without ending up confused and lost. It started to rain just as we finished up... perfect timing!

Wednesday I spent the morning cleaning my house in prep for my Mom's arrival on Thursday.. first time in many, many years I got to spend Mothers Day with her! Wednesday night I headed to Clinton Lake in Lawrence to do speed work and hill repeats with Christy and Laurie and then meet up with the rest of the Trail Hawks and get in a few more miles. The 3 of us headed out easy to the flat, gravel dam where we could chase each other back and forth on the only level area around. Laurie has some serious speed and was putting the hurts on Christy and I with every step. It's good to have someone to try and catch.. I just wish I had a better shot of actually doing it!! After a few of those we hit the long, technical hill at the end of the damn and did a few repeats of that. We took turns leading and I really think it's easiest to be first up the hill rather then following! I definitely like the hill repeats better then flat sprints.
After we finished up we headed out on the blue trail to meet up with the Hawk Pack at Lands End, but when we got to our usual foot wetting stream crossing it had turned into a who-knows-how deep river! I waded in about 5 feet and the water was already up past my waist so we turned around and headed back. We cut over to the white trail at our earliest chance and headed out to the 5 mile marker and then turned around hoping to catch the Hawk Pack before they dropped down to the blue trail and ended up trapped also. Shortly after the 5 we ran smack into Jim and Nick, issued the warning and kept going back in the car direction. Minutes later we ran into Gary, and he decided to turn around and run back with us. It was the first time he'd been able to run since Freestate with his injured toes! We picked up Levi on our charge back to the cars and were hoping we'd find Mircea and Lisa also, but they cut the run short due to major school commitments. I finished up with about 9 miles on the garmin, we hung out waiting for Jim and Nick and then headed out for some dinner and drinks. Thursday morning I faithfully got up and did my gym workout but got in no running since after work I had to go pick up my mom!

Friday morning I got up really early to head over to the park to get in 20 miles, but the early morning lightning storm put the kibosh on that plan. I hung out and waited for things to settle down and got more and more cranky the later it got. I was only able to get in 10 miles because of the late start. My mom and I had appointments to go to the spa and get facials done in the afternoon so I had to wrap things up way before I was ready. I didn't think the spa people would appreciate a muddy, stinky salt covered runner so I hustled home and showered before heading over. Mom and I had a lovely time and came out looking at least 10 years younger (or so we told each other!) For dinner we went to my favorite veggie restaurant Eden Alley and I ate WAYYYY too much! After that we headed to Davey's for a benefit show for the Midwest Music Foundation, Mom was a great sport since the bar scene is NOT usually her thing! She got to meet a bunch of our friends and listen to some good music and Erik and I had some beers and relaxed. I almost forgot that I had a race the next morning! We left at an earlier hour then normal but I still only got in 4 hours of sleep.. oh well!

OK, this post has gone on WAYYYY too long so I will post my Rock Creek race report separately.. don't go anywhere!

*picture is my mom and I at Cafe Seed waiting for some tasty vegan brunch goodness on Mothers Day.