Monday, November 4, 2013

Dublin Marathon

Dublin Marathon

Sight seeing before the marathon and learning to draw our own Guinness

             We had a good couple of days before the race seeing the sights, but the weather was awful so I have almost no pictures. It rained, the wind blew, and it was COLD! I was seriously worried about this race. There was a storm brewing that had the news channels all warning everyone to batten down the hatches, they were saying it would be the worst storm since 1987. I had not packed particularly warm running gear and thought perhaps I would have to drop out with hypothermia. I bought a pack of disposable rain ponchos and headed for the start line. 
Fearing rain, I was prepared with a poncho,
if I could get it open!
Reluctantly shucking my coat
and revealing my goofy outfit 
                Despite the dire warnings, the morning dawned brisk, but beautiful with the promise of a great race. My husband stayed with me at the start until the last minute so I could keep a coat on as long as possible and then waved me off to join the throng of the third and final wave. I was a little sad that I had missed the group picture for the Marathon Maniacs, but I spotted Anders in his red shirt, standing up on an island, surrounded by a sea of people. Even though he had a bib for the first wave, he had waited to look for other Maniacs (have I mentioned what awesome people Marathon Maniacs are?) Anders had run Frankfurt the day before so he was ready to take it easy and hang with the slow pokes at the back. Dublin was his 112th marathon and also rounded out 12 marathons in 12 countries in 12 weeks. (At the writing of this blog, he just finished the New York Marathon so that all bumps to 13!)
                ALL of the following photos were taken by Anders  Forselius. He is an awesome Marathon Maniac and writer for Runner’s World Sweden! He was such fun to run with and totally kept me going with his boundless energy, (despite his having run the Frankfurt Marathon the day before!)
Anders has fun with the spectators and helpers

                A short time later, we heard a shout and found Danielle “T-Rex” Hastings catching us up. Wow, another legend in the Maniac community! This was shaping up to be an amazing day! Not for my running though, I seemed to be struggling from the get go. Thanks to two days of speed walking though rain and wind to get from one tourist attraction to the next, my legs were far from fresh and I was totally exhausted. Anders and Danielle, on the other hand, were fresh and daisies and chatted along like they were out for a walk in the park, LOL. It was so awesome to just be able to listen to them. They stuck with my through my Galloway style run/walk with 3 minutes of running to 1 minute of walking even though they could have gone much faster.

      I also met Lichu Sloan. She has run over 150 marathons all over the world, including the amazing feat of 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 weeks (I’m seeing a trend here, LOL)!  I can’t wait to see her again in Florida when we run the Jacksonville Marathon!

                There were so many Maniacs on the course it was fantastic, I met another when I was looking for my start coral, and ran a bit with James Daly who was having a blast taking in the sights. I really do love finding Maniacs at races, they are always so friendly and upbeat!

                At about 18.5 miles I really started to struggle. Since the wicked bouts of bronchitis in Korea, my lungs have not been the same. I was hoping moving the clean air of Yorkshire would help, but it looks like the problem will be with me longer term. I have had great results with taking Singular, but of course, in the race morning excitement I forgot to take it. I do carry a dose of Sudafed to deal with allergies en route so I took that, along with a good dose of salt and pushed forward. It made a huge difference and by mile 20 I was ready to get it done!
                Anders and I caught up to the 5:00 pace group and then started moving ahead, still maintaining that 3/1 run walk. When I stopped to take my salt and Sudafed we fell behind the 5 hour pace group so Danielle decided to go on ahead. Her boyfriend was expecting her to finish in 5 hours and she did not want to miss him. It was so awesome of her to stick with me for so long! She is such an amazing young woman, very accomplished in her work life, not to mention running 43 marathons in her young 27 years!  Danielle’s is a great writer and blogs here, (finding her boyfriend did not end up going so well): T-Rex Goes International
Spectator support was great!

I think Anders ate his weight in candy during the race, LOL

Danielle was having a bit of knee trouble
so I showed her my favorite mid race stretch

There were some impressive costumes!


                Crossing the finish line I gave Anders a huge hug for all his help and motivation and we ambled though the gauntlet collecting our medal, shirt, and goody bag. I had not spotted my family yet, but the crowds were thick and it was getting colder by the minute so I went straight for my check bag where I had smartly stowed sweats that I could throw on over everything. Eventually, my husband and daughter found me and we headed back to the hotel for a hot shower and a cold Guinness, YUM!  Guinness is totally different in Ireland; it is fresh and has no preservatives so it is smooth as silk with a light sweetness and no bitterness.
                Even though the running did not go as well as I hoped, the weather was better and the company was extraordinary! I had such a good time making new friends and seeing Dublin in the way that only marathoners do.

(pronounced 'slawn-cha', meaning Health! ‘Cheers’)
RA report: Despite the cold, exhaustion, being on my feet for two days, and living on tourist junk food, my RA was tolerable. I definitely felt the fatigue that came with eating too much junk and I was stiff and sore before I got to the start line, but I did not have any acute joint flare ups and even the knee that has been bugging me stayed quiet. I did use KT Tape on the knee, and even tried taping my hip, but I managed to pull it mostly off the first time I dropped my tights to go to the bathroom, LOL. It is time to stop slacking and get more serious with my training! I've been lazy with the move and not gotten back on track like I should, but I have a month before the next race and it will be an easy one so my focus is on doing a good job at Jacksonville! 

Onward and upward! Next race is Newcastle Race Course with the North East Marathon Club and then on to the Jacksonville Bank Marathon in Florida.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Robin Hood Marathon, Nottingham

The Robin Hood Marathon in Nottingham

     This run sounded like so much fun! Unfortunately it ended up being pretty run of the mill. The scenery was so-so. We had some nice park mileage, but mostly it was industrial. I thought they would play up the Sherwood Forest theme and that there would be more people dressed as Merry Men, but it was not so. They sold costumes inexpensively, but they were fleece and it was a warm day. Anyone in a fleece tunic and hat would have been pretty miserable in it.
                The weather was pretty good. Mild temps, but with a stiff breeze at times. A lot of people were cramping, probably because you do not realize how much you are sweating when the wind blows it all away. I went through way more water than usual and was very glad I had carried a few doses of Salt Stiks. I gave away one dose about half way through to a kid that was already cramping. It was his first marathon and he was clueless. I hope it got him to the end, but I’ll never know since I do not remember his number.
                One interesting feature of this race was the way they handed out water, in Iconiq water bags. At first I thought this was kind of cool. Less waste, easy to hang onto when the water stops were 3 miles apart, and fast to hand out which kept the water stops from being such a bad choke point. With the wind, I ended up going through 15-20 ounces of water every 3 miles so my small hand bottle was no
t enough by itself. With the baggies of water, I was able to grab two at a water station and wait until the next scheduled walk break to empty one into my hand bottle, and drink the other on the run.
                There were some serious down sides though. Near the beginning, when the course was still packed with half marathon runners that had taken off with us, someone stepped on a full water bag and it exploded, spraying me from head to foot in water! I was very glad it was not something with sugar in it and I dried out pretty quickly, but it still sucked to be sprayed down like that. Next, they are not easy to get the water out of. You have to squeeze hard and make sure the little tab/spout stands up right. Once you get the water flowing, it squirts out with such force that more than once I managed to shoot it straight down my throat and into my lungs! At one point I did such a nifty job of it that I had to stop until I could catch my breath while every muscle around my ribs cramped up from the coughing spasms. My ribs were still sore the day after. I supposed they take less plastic and so should be more eco-friendly than bottles, but the way they were blowing about and lying in the gutters, I could not help but think about how much harder they would be to pick up and how easily they would wash down the storm drains. It was an interesting innovation, but one I hope not to see in a race again.
                Near the end we ran around a lake that was man made, so not very interesting, but it had more swans than I have ever seen at once. A pair came in for a landing very near me and that was pretty cool. They sound like helicopters and skied for a good 30 feet before settling down on the water.
                The race ended pretty uneventfully, I was ahead of the 4:45 pacer, but he finished late. The last out and back of about half a mile (it stinks to see the finish line and then have to run the other way for another 5 minutes,) allowed me to wave at and give thumbs up to a few people I had talked to during the race. I gathered my medal and goodies and headed for the massage therapy tent I had been eyeing at the start. All they wanted were donation so I emptied what I had in my SPI belt (which was less than $10) and got a wonderful workout of my calves, hamstrings, and glutes. It was awesome! I thanked them profusely, especially for being willing to work on sweaty, stinky runners. I cannot imagine how they kept from gagging, LOL. Marathon finishers do not smell good under the best of conditions!
    Considering how pathetic my mileage has been, I was very happy to finish under 5 hours (which qualified me for Two Oceans,) and without any major pain or issues. All and all, I am glad I ran it.

Future races that I am already registered for:
Dublin Marathon Oct 28th
Newcastle Race Course Dec 8th
Jacksonville Bank Marathon Dec 29th
Coastal Trail Series, Anglesey Jan 18th
Malta Marathon Feb 23rd
Manchester Marathon March 6th
Coastal Trail Series Sussex March 22nd
Two Oceans Ultra 56K April 19th
Windmere Marathon May 18th
Wales Marathon July 13th

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Yorkshire Tough Mudder 2013

 Yorkshire Tough Mudder 2013

The wall we climbed to GET to the start!
My game face

My "OMG, what am I doing?!" face
Clean and smiling :-) I kept smiling, but definitely did not stay clean long
    The Yorkshire Tough Mudder was a blast! I won’t do a blow by blow of each obstacle, since you can easily Google images and descriptions for each one, but I will say that, despite the difficulty of some of them, the hardest part was the mental aspects of talking myself into continuing on when I was cold, wet, exhausted, and spent.
Ice being added to the water for Arctic Enema,
the second obstacle of the morning

My "OMG that was cold!" face

  I know it sounds crazy to voluntarily put yourself though something like this, but it is one of the many ways to test your metal in a non-threatening, and fun atmosphere! Knowing you can quit at any time and be picked up and driven to the finish (minus the t-shirt and head band,) give you a safety net that can be good and bad. Good because if you truly can’t go on, you have an exit, but bad because you have any easy way to quit.

    Even though I was a lone runner, I had plenty of help when I needed it and everyone was wonderful. That being said, I don’t know that I will do it again alone. Listening to the banter of the teams made me feel a bit lonely at times, wishing I had a team of my own, but it is tough to get involved when you register from half a world away! I was invited to join a couple of teams, but they had very different start times. So nice of them to invite me though :-)
Another lone runner that I teamed up with for the "Buddy Carry"
Yes, I carried this guy piggy-back for a good 25 yards!

  As for doing a Tough Mudder with RA, I won’t lie to you, it was not easy. Cold makes my joints ache and I spent a lot of time in icy water. Plus, I was covered in bruises by then end. Bruised elbows from pulling myself along on them through pipes, bruised knees and thighs from climbing over walls, and other assorted bruises that I can’t even guess the origin. I don’t know how it could all have been worth it, but it absolutely was. I supposed proving to myself that RA does not stop me from joining in on the fun stuff is the big draw. I like scaring myself with new challenges and some of the obstacles were definitely scary!  I have not jumped off a high dive in years and I have certainly never pulled myself along a horizontal fence with just inches between it and muddy water!  I only really failed at one obstacle, the monkey bars. I was just too cold, numb, and tired to grip the bars and hold myself up, so I fell off the second rung and swam across. Hey, at least I tried! I also only made it to about the second block on the one where there are floating squares, strung across water on a rope. It did not occur to me to climb back up and try again, probably because I was so shocked when I went straight in the water and never touched the bottom, with a huge rush of mud up my sinuses.

  How this company makes being totally miserable so much fun is beyond me, but they have definitely found a gold mine! While I’m at it, I should point out that my husband, who is specializes in logistics in the Air Force, said it was incredibly well organized and operated, and he is a tough guy to impress!

Getting zapped

Finished at last!

"You are the first woman across the finish line"

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Northumberland Coast Marathon, UK

Northumberland Coast Marathon
      The minute we found out we were moving to England, I started looking for marathons. In my search, I managed to stumble across the Northumberland Coast Marathon, which was a small club race put on by The Northeast Marathon Club. The race was billed as the most scenic in England and was capped at 100 runners. I signed up immediately since the fee was small and I was afraid it would fill up. It was a smart move since it definitely filled up quickly.
     This was my first trail marathon and since my mileage had been paltry at best during the move from South Korea to England I didn't have high hopes, but I figured I could finish inside the 6 hour cut off.
     I won’t type much about the race, I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves:

The start and finish area

3 - 2 - 1 GO!
All 72 of us :-)

It was a muddy start

Down the first of many beaches

Dunstan Castle 

The ridges in the sand were deep and brutal, I turned my ankle on every step

     I don't have any finish line photos since my husband was in the pub enjoying a pint (phone reception was terrible so he missed my 1 mile out text.) It was a fabulous race though, and it truly was one of the most beautiful races I have ever run. I’m so glad I didn't blow it off when my training had shriveled so badly. Despite the terrain and poor preparation, I managed a 5:15 finish so I had maintained at least a little of my conditioning.

  Also in the area is the Alnwick Castle where several movies have been filmed, including the scenes where Harry Potter learns to ride his broom. We decided to have a go at it ourselves.
Pick up your broom...

  It was a wonderful introduction to England and running through the English country side. I can't wait for my next trail marathon, Anglesey at Holyhead in January! In the mean time, I have several road races planned and next up is my Tough Mudder race report!

Monday, August 12, 2013

75 Miles for Cancer

In Memory of Bruce Robinson
Feb. 7 1952 - Jan. 29 2012
                After two previous Relay 4 Life events, my third effort came on May 5th, 2013. Since the last Relay 4 Life, my good friend and running mentor, Bruce Robinson had passed away from cancer. It gave a new level of purpose to my run to have him and his family in my thoughts and prayers.
                The track it was to be held on was not really a track, but cones laid out on a football field so I knew it would be small. What I did not know was the field would be lined with tents, and more tents down the middle so that we were running on a track that was about 7 laps to the mile, YIKES! I was immediately concerned knowing the problems I have had before with track running and constant, tight turns in the same direction. Oh well, nothing to it but to do it! I was also a bit worried about the mental aspect of running the same little circle hundreds of times, it would be a challenging race indeed.

0900 0 laps
                Unlike the Relay in Virginia where the ceremony/explanation of the rules started at 0700 and the running started at 0730, this event is not run by Ultra-Marathon runners so things went off a bit differently. The opening ceremony was lovely, but did not start until 0900 and the running could not begin until the ceremony ended so the run did not really get started until almost 0930.  Despite the late beginning, it was off to a fun start. We had a stage set up with lots going on, live music, games, announcements, and constant barrage of sound and activity. The track was packed and the walkers, who vastly outnumbered the runners, at times were hard to get past as they kept drifting into the inside “lane.” I don’t really blame them since it was not really marked. They were pretty good about gracefully getting out of the way when asked, but at one point I was walking myself and yelled at a whole group because I guy running and wearing a 70 lb. Explosive Ordinance suit was having to go out and around the walkers in a turn! The other road hazards included small children darting through the runners and walkers, and flying footballs and Frisbees. It was total mayhem, but very entertaining.

1224  100 Laps
       By noon it was starting to heat up, but the enthusiasm had not slowed down one bit. My daughter had been dropped off after an overnight camp and hung out to support me (by cheering, not running.) I sent her to make a Luminary for Bruce and then she hung out and ate my snacks until her dad came to pick her up. I got a pat on the back and a peck on the cheek from Hubby as they went home to relax.

1715 200 laps
                As the crowd thinned out it got easier to run, but after about 200 laps, my knee was beginning to balk at the tight turns.  I changed gears and began running the straights and walking the curves, which meant a lot of stopping and starting, but helped. Then I figured out that my knee did not hurt if I ran at least a 9:15 pace. I certainly could not maintain that pace for dozens of miles, but I could between walks! So my running got faster and my sit down to eat or drink breaks drug out a bit, but I kept at it. When I could not run, I walked fast, probably a little too fast since I am not trained at all for walking long distances. About this time I turned to my med kit for some Tums to counter act the Coke and coffee. I was horrified to realize I had forgotten it! I was able to acquire some, plus some Tylenol and Aleve for later (just in case) and was back in business. I was feeling pretty good about my pace. At 100 laps every 3 or so hours, I had a shot at my 75 mile goal, if I could just keep going. Even if I slowed down I still had a chance…

1929  250 laps  
     By 7:30 pm, I had slowed down a lot. Two hours to do just 50 laps meant I was going to be out there a very long time if I wanted to finish. As a general rule, I never take anti-inflammatories during a race, but 24 hour runs are different and I figured I could risk a little boost. My right knee had calmed down but my left knee was now complaining from compensating and my arch was acting up. I KT taped both and popped some Aleve. The KT tape was great for my foot, it never bothered me again, but it did not do anything for my knee and peeled off pretty quickly. (KT tape does not work over sunscreen and sweat :-P )  By this time the sun had gone down, the lights had come up, and the volunteers were busy lining the track with the Luminary bags in preparation for the ceremony to honor the current fighters, survivors, and those was had lost. For the first 200 laps, I had zeroed my Garmin each hundred, at 250 I switched to zeroing every 50. I was counting laps with a series of 25 rubber bands, moving one from my right wrist to my left every lap. Sometimes I got off, but my Garmin reconciled it. A couple of times I stopped my Garmin to go to the bathroom or eat and forgot for a lap or two to restart, but having so much data made it easy to extrapolate accurately. When in doubt, I went short so likely I traveled farther in the end than I had recorded.
    Around 9:30 pm they held the Luminary Ceremony and all movement on the track stopped as the lights were lowered. It was the only time I stretched out, but I did not sleep. I lay there, under the tent, watching the video on the big screen that was playing survivor stories. Then I listened to the roll call for the people the lights were dedicated too. When they called out Bruce’s name, my exhaustion overwhelmed me and I wept. All thoughts of giving up and going home left me. I was going to see it through and do the best that I could.

2152 300 Laps
   After over 12 hours of running and walking I was numb. I was only 50 laps away from matching my previous record, but so very very far away from my goal. I just could not think about it. Every 25 laps I recorded my distance, elapsed time, and cumulative laps on paper, and by now people were noticing me. My friends knew my goal and word was spreading. People that had gone home for naps or dinner returned to find me still on the track, still walking and running. I had lots of people to talk to and when I did not have someone to talk to I listened to the conversations around me. My favorite was the guy that said to his buddy, “Did you hear about the guy that has been out here the whole time? I wanted to beat him, but it is too late now.” I wanted so badly to turn around and say, “By the way, that GUY is a 44 year old CHICK!” LOL. At another point I was walking with a gentleman from Puerto Rico, we must have talked about food for a good 10 laps, another young man talked at length about growing up with a cleft pallet. They were all great and kept me very entertained and motivated, but as the hours crept by I found myself turning inward more and just not thinking at all.

2359 350 Laps
     Nothing special happened to mark the passing of midnight, but I watched the clock roll over as I choked down a bit of food and recorded my 50th mile. Every step was now a new record. Every mile was closer to my goal. I was two thirds of the way there, but I absolutely could not let myself think about the 25 miles or 175 laps left to go, it was just too much to think about. Things were still going on around me. There were Zumba classes, CrossFit challenges and something where a person on their knees had their face covered whip cream while their partner competed by throwing cheese puffs and getting them to stick to the fluff covered face (I may have been hallucinating this one, but my daughter assures me it is a common party game.) Now the real challenge began. Staying awake and continuing to move. There was no way I was lying down, I knew once I did that my journey would be over, so on I went.

0215 400 laps
                I don’t remember much at this point but I think this is around when the director decided I was the clear winner for the night and started talking to me about what they could do better for next year, asking if I needed anything and generally questions about me, my purpose, and my life. It is all a pretty big blur from here on out. People would ask me how far I had gone and I could not even come up with an answer because I could not remember which 25 laps I was working on or what milestone I had passed last.  Thank goodness I was writing it all down and my Garmin was recording it! By now I was getting to the end of my Garmin’s battery so I started zeroing it out every 25 laps and writing down the distance and elapsed time on every lap. My hand were so swollen and my head was so fogged that it took me almost the whole lap to get the info read, recorded and the rubber band moved!
        Somewhere around this time I passed a tall runner who said, “You are STILL OUT HERE? Go home and take a nap so I can catch you!” LOL He had been right on my heels for hours, but had caved in and slept for a while in his tent. Ya’ snooze ya’ lose!

0338 434 laps
       My Garmin finally went to sleep. At this point on it was all about the rubber bands. I knew from all my tracking that I had to move a rubber band at precisely the same point on the track every time or I would get mixed up. In my fatigue, I had on more than one occasion moved a rubber band and then checked my Garmin and confirmed that I had already moved it for that lap and just forgotten. From here on out, if I was even 10 steps past my check point and thought I had not moved the band, then it was not moving until the next lap. It was the only way I could be sure my count was honest. Failing to count a lap I could live with, adding in an unearned lap was unacceptable.
  By now my knees were a real problem, my other arch was hurting, and my heels had started to balk. This is the sticking point when you are reaching for a goal. I was indeed listening to my body, I knew exactly what it was saying and it was definitely asking me to stop. Every lap was a decision. Do I go on or do I stop? Is the pain in my knee something that will be sore for a few days or something with the potential to be much more complicated? The pain in my left knee was from walking and that concerned me more, but it was a manageable pain so far. I would listen and barter for a few more miles.

0430 450 Laps
   Right, Left, Right, Left, Right, Left…….

0537 475 Laps
    The sun coming up made a huge difference. I noticed when the stadium lights went out, but I would not say it was exactly light out. The fog was thick with a pale glow and people were offering me food. NOTHING sounded even remotely palatable. My stomach was empty and growling, but threatening to toss back anything I presented it with. The last thing I wanted anyone to see was weakness on my part. I did not want anyone to point and me and say, “See? That is why you should not try a stunt like that.” I wanted them to see me strong and capable, not sick or limping.

0745 500 Laps
  Hallelujah! Only 25 laps to go and I had over 2 hours to do them in! Then the announcement came over the loud speaker, all laps had to be turned over and we would be done at 0800. WHAT!?! It turned out that their idea of a 24 hour run was start at 9 and end at 9, including awards, closing ceremony, and clean up. I panicked! I knew though that I could walk 25 laps in an hour and 15 minutes, I would just squeak it in. I set off at a blistering walk passing people as fast as I could, but making way for the speedy runners that had been home sleeping in their warm, comfortable beds all night and were back out on the track racking up miles for their teams. Left-right-left-right-left-right
    When I got down to 10 laps, the director was counting. He caught up with me and said he wanted to announce my final lap and have everyone run it with me. Did you catch that? He wanted me to RUN the last lap. I looked at him like he had three heads and said I would do what I could. As I rounded the turn for my last lap, I heard the announcement and broke into a run. Shockingly, either because I was totally numb, or full of adrenaline, it did not hurt and I coasted around the track at a great pace. It felt AMAZING after the hours of walking and I was in no pain!

0748 525 Laps, 75 Miles
                I won the award for most miles run and was over 30 miles ahead of my next closest competitor. After the awards were given, we were all sent out for one more lap together. I ran around the track and then did it again, running the last part holding hands high with the 8 year old boy that had run 40 miles (he drives his parents nuts running all the time so they told him he had 24 hours to run all he wanted!) We were champions!
                What I did was hard, but it was nothing compared to what someone fighting cancer faces. I could quit any time I wanted, Bruce had to keep up the fight for 2 years. My run was dedicated to Bruce and his memory. He was with me every step of the way with all his good advice and his mantra of, “Baby steps, baby steps.”  When I wanted to stop, I thought of him and took another step. When the miles and laps ahead of me seemed too overwhelming I thought about Bruce and how he must have felt when he was told the cancer was back and he would have to start fighting all over again. He never quit, he never gave up, he never showed us the despair in his heart, and he just kept moving forward one baby step at a time.

Post Script: The 8 year old boy that I finished with was chastised by his teacher the next day for being a “liar” when he told his friends how far he and I ran. The teacher even went so far as to get the other kids to tease him for his lies telling them no one could have gone that far. He was devastated at the time, but fully redeemed when his trophy was presented to him in front of his class. I expect to see his name in the ultra records some day!