Wednesday, February 29, 2012

March in March

Not sure if we'll ever get this good, but at least it's something we can strive towards...

Walk this month. Dogs & cats welcome too. Log your time on the spreadsheet link here or on March in March link on Blog.

If memory serves me right, last year this was a really fun challenge.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Whidbey Challenge

Lovely Langley!

I've been a parent for 200 months. This 200th month has been the most challenging of them all. Had every excuse to skip this month, but thanks to some BRS pals, I realized there's no reason not to keep the streak alive...

No cramps, no car, no flats, no rain today. Just headed out the door, ferry, wind, open roads, and beautiful Whidbey Island...

Although a short ride, Whidbey does not mess around.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Losing my (100 mile) virginity

At first the idea of running 100 miles was just the next thing on the bucket list, one and done (like the marathon, yeah right?), I mean, who wants to run all night? But after my DNF at VT100 (see July 2011 entry) it became a mission. 7 months and so many DNFs later, fear of failure, at least, was less of a problem.

PART 2: JJ100 (Javelina Jundred, Nov 12-13, 2011)

It was designed to be the “sure thing”- a “party” ultra, “easy” course, food, camping, costume contest (running in costume is popular at many ultras; last year’s winner ran the entire thing dressed as a toilet). It is around Jalloween on desert trails near Phoenix. It is 6-3/4 x 15 mile loop changing directions each loop (101.4 miles), total of 5200 ft elevation gain (~1300 ft per marathon, which is a lot for most marathons but ridiculously low for most 100s). It attracted over 350 runners, both “elite” folks looking to break records, veterans looking to PR, and many more beginners looking for their first finish. The biggest challenge might be not stopping at 100k because people who quit at 62 miles still got a finisher’s buckle.

Picked up my rental car and drove down with fellow Maniac Francesca, met up with her friend Scott whom she’d met at the Rocky Raccoon 100, a local who had extra camping gear.
The forecast called for rain overnight, when does it rain in AZ? No matter, I was ready and I was not going to give up this time. Almost down to my “wedding weight”, armed with 6 pairs of socks and the baby wipes that people said would prevent heat rash on the feet. Even had a costume. Found this shark fin in Portland, had to duck tape it so it wouldn’t fall off my head.

First 3 loops were fairly easy…. too easy. Beautiful day, seeing familiar faces, chatting with new people, cheerfully yelling, “good job!” to perfect strangers coming the other way, the “Jesus Loves You” equivalent of trail running. Got lots of comments like “Hey, Landshark” and “are you a Jimmy Buffett fan?”, or “are you a rhinocerous or a shark?” was I making a statement I hadn’t intended? . The elites zoom past you at amazing speeds, you barely have time to get out of the way, they are smiling and don’t even look like they’re trying, like their feet don’t even touch the ground.

Had to stop at mile 45 to change clothes and socks. It took >15 min to peel the tight, sopping sports bras off and get dry enough to apply more glide, but definitely worth the time. The sun started to set and the effects of all the bean burritos I’d been eating also started to set in. After 12 hours, there are only so many PB&J sandwiches, boiled potatoes, and chunks of pumpkin pie one can eat. It’s really hard to run with gas, even if you’re not too concerned about asphyxiating the runner you’re chatting with next to you, you just can’t be too confident it wouldn’t evolve into a Code Brown and there’s not enough cover in the desert to go to BR on the trail.

Started to slow exponentially in the dark. Turned on my 2 headlamps, still didn’t feel confident on the loose rocks. Slowed to a 3 mph walk. Started to get cold, temps had dropped from 70’s to 40’s. I got to 100k at 16:00 and checked my feet. A small amount of itchy rash but not puffy yet.

It had started to drizzle and the back of the pack had really thinned due to 1/3 of the runners dropping out after 100k. All I had to do was walk 3 mph the entire night and I would still finish under 28 hours. I didn’t have a pacer but figured, it’s a loop, there are over 350 people, I’d try to latch on to someone else. But there was no one else.

After several minutes I realized, I had not seen anyone in awhile, but kept going with that sinking feeling reserved for getting pulled over by a cop and getting lost in the dark on the trails. Then it started pouring rain. The $*%&$#% shark fin didn’t fit well under my rain jacket, I’d get hot running in the jacket, then freeze when the jacket came off, had to keep one hand free for the water bottle and the other for the spare headlamp. After over an hour of dead end after dead end, yelling, “HELP!” and being near tears of frustration, I got back to the camp and looked at the clock. I was still well under the cutoff. My legs felt fine and I decided this time I would wait and follow someone. I tried to follow several, but I couldn’t even keep up with the walkers. The desert trail was transformed to mud slicks and I started stumbling on the rocks. I got colder and colder and started to feel confused, or were my headlamps really dying? Did I really hear that coyote? Forever and ever, a couple more wrong turns, a couple runners passed me with encouraging words that rang hollow. I start doing mental calculations every couple of minutes. It took me over 4 hours to get to that aid station which was filled with people huddling near the heater, soaking wet. I saw a woman who was running her 5th JJ100 (which earns you a jacket) and was at mile 85 but close to dropping from hypothermia, and her pacer was trying to get her back up. The thought of struggling for another 10 hours only to not finish under the 30 hour cutoff was too much to bear, so I dropped at mile 70.

It was another couple of hours until a pickup truck came to load me and a dozen other folks who dropped back to camp. I showered and crawled into my tent, and instantly felt so much better that I started beating myself up for quitting. A few hours later I went to the finish line and saw several of the runners who had also been freezing at that rest stop but kept going and finished. I learned later that a couple of people who had paused to change into dry clothes or sit under the awning until the downpour stopped may have lost an hour doing so, but saved themselves from freezing which caused the biggest dropout rate in the race’s history. That did not affect the fast people who finished before the rain, 2 course records were set that day, including the winner Hal Koerner in 13:47.

Chapter 3: ATY (“Across the Years”, Dec 29, 2011-Jan 1, 2012)

I ran my first loop race at the Pac Rim One Day in Longview, March 2011. I ran for a bit with a Maniac named BB, who said “I only run trails, and I only run 100 milers”. His hero is this guy who had never run a marathon before, decided one day it would be cool to run Badwater (a 135 footrace in Death Valley in July) but needed to qualify, so ran a 100 with little training. He broke all the bones in his feet, shut down his kidneys in the process, but still landed on the podium, how cool, right (sarcasm, folks)? I explained I had not run 50 miles before but was there hoping to qualify my first 100 miler in July; I planned to drop after 100k. He thought my plan to drop at 100k was good because I shouldn’t make this my first 100 miler, I should wait for a real one, you only run your first 100 once. My real motivation was to be able to stop by 10 pm, go to my hotel to shower, drink beer, and eat steak and cheese subs.

Fast forward 9.5 months later to New Years Eve in Phonenix…. Across The Years is another one of those multi-day, fixed time, flat loop races where distance addicts of all types, from hard-core trail runners to ultra newbies go to test their limits. How many times can you run around a 1.05 mile dirt loop (new course; previously was on a 0.3 mile track) in 24, 48, or 72 hours? Well after 2 DNFs I wasn’t too worried about whether I would lose my virginity to the hot trail race or to the flat loop race, I wasn’t getting any younger/ faster, it was time to just get ‘er done. I had signed up for the 48 hour. I could walk the whole thing, take a nap in the middle, and still finish. You can’t DNF a loop race. Can’t think of a better way to ring in the New Year.

In the morning, the 72 hour runners were still going. I saw “Mad Hatter-Fancy Pants”, a Maniac who holds the Guiness World Record for most marathon miles in a year (>3500 miles) previously run >250 miles in these types of races, already crossing the 100 mile mark the first day. There’s a 71 year old guy who ran over 300 in another loop race (but at altitude with 1000’s of feet of elevation gain) 3 months prior (he was at the RR100 too). A woman from Germany who comes for this race every year and when I asked her about GutsMuths (45+ miles) she said she didn’t like to do races that short. There is always someone crazier than you. You are among others like yourself, who can spend hours and hours talking about different races, shoes, anti-blister strategies…you meet the most amazing people and get to hear their life stories of perfect strangers who instantly become lifelong friends.

One of these strangers I met is an ultra icon, known as Ray K. He has run over 500 ultras (winning many of them) and previously held the American 48 hour record (and is also in the 1989 film “Staying Together” filmed in his home town). These days he takes it easy by doing "only" 200+ miles in 72 hours, thus meeting slow folk like myself. He got me through 1AM- 6 AM, my first overnight, regaling me with amazing stories and belting Billy Joel songs. I tell him I know how I will die; someday paragliding in southern France without a parachute. He proceeds to tell me all the reasons why such a plan should fail. And how someday I will find a reason to live. And the cure for heat rash? Corn starch!

Everyone talks about what a boost it is when the sun comes up after slogging through the night. It only filled me with dread because I knew it was going to get hot again, that the 100k foot rash problem was likely to happen. I run into these guys drinking beer, who offered me one. I only take a half- ice cold and really refreshing. I zoomed through the next loops. A couple hours later they offer me another. This time I took a whole one in my water bottle, big mistake. Day 2 was hotter than day 1 and dehydration hit me at mile 96. I could barely walk 2 mph and started weaving. A Canadian woman who was going for her national 72 h record informs me, “you know, it would hurt less if you were running”. Gee thanks, really? I was so close to finishing 100 under 30 but I could not go on another mile. I stopped just short of mile 97 next to my friend Jill, with whom I’d run the first 40 or so. She was already done and helped pour water over my hat. “You can do it” she kept trying to get me back but my legs would not hold me up. She got me a piece of pizza and helped me hobble to my tent where I lay in the blazing heat all stinky, for a nap.

I got up from my nap really sticky, and my feet were swollen and rashy. I stopped by the heated medic tent, where they popped my blisters with a tuberculin syringe and put tincture of benzoin and tape on them. They didn’t know what to make of the rash and ankle blisters, but I knew what it was because it hits me any time I try to go over 70 miles. After the obligatory jokes about amputation, they advised me to stop but I knew I couldn’t. As a compromise they got me a bucket of ice water to dunk my feet in. 20 min should kill whatever what causing the swelling. Memories of the Davis Challenge where the finalists had to dunk their hands into ice water? It hurt like a M.F. But my feet would still not fit in my shoes.

I still fit in my crocs, so I put on some woolley socks and my crocs and started walking.  I walked the next 12 with Scott who was also still walking, and hitting 100 and even the midnight mark was a little anti-climactic. We stopped by the heated tent at base camp which was by now overflowing with people trying to warm up. Canadian lady was yelling at her husband. Scott was talking about how orgasmic it felt to get off his feet. I was looking at some serious ugly blisters, including a big one covering the entire sole of my R foot.

I took another nap and got up to walk the last few before the 9 AM cutoff. Managed 113 miles. Later at the airport I got some suspicious looks from people as I walked about 1.5 mph across the terminal in my Ugg boots. Later after the blisters exploded I put duck tape over the wounds and ran 50 miles the following weekend at Running from an Angel.

Chapter 4: Rocky Road 100, Feb 18-19, 2012

Booking the travel arrangements for races is far more work than running the actual races. I was supposed to fly to South Carolina to run a 12 hour loop race, then the following weekend a 50 miler in Coto de Caza CA. Reading the web site to plan my travel logistics, learned the Rocky Road endurance run in Coto de Caza had a 34 hour cutoff for the 100 miler. It is groomed horse trail, i.e. non-technical, 15 mile loops with aid every 2.5 miles, 12,000 ft elevation gain. I had already thought of bailing on the South Carolina run due to hassle/ cost of travel. At least Coto is near LA, where cousin Eric lives. Crazy thoughts of upgrading to the 100….

I had gotten a little out of shape since ATY. It happens quickly with my lack of dietary discipline. I had gained almost 9 lbs since JJ100. That is like carrying a gallon of water (8.34 lbs) everywhere you go. Wow. I wasn’t ready to do a 100, but… 34 hour time limit? I could walk 100 in that time, if I could find a flight late enough….

So I buy a new return flight and switch from the 50 to the 100 just a couple weeks prior to the event. Flew to LAX and drove a rental car to cousin Eric’s place. LA seemed like paradise, 70 degrees, sunny, ocean, great restaurants…. Went to a fancy grocery and got 4 bags of groceries: ensure shakes, special K protein shakes, Starbucks Frappuccinos, hot pockets and foil to wrap them in, snickers bars, trail mix, mini-oreos, bananas, Gatorade, AAA batteries, pop tarts… He and my aunt (Dad’s youngest sister) take me out for sushi then help me assemble my drop bags.

Got up at 3 AM and drove down to Coto de Caza, home of the “Real Housewives of O.C.”, one of the richest areas in CA, 1.5 hours away. Started in the dark but sun came up quickly. Quickly met up with Hilda, a 49 year old local doing her first 100. She is 4’7” single immigrant mom who survived an alcoholic ex-husband and now coaches a running club in Pasadena with over 1000 members. She has a full crew, like a pit stop at Indy 500 who change her socks and massage her calves and hand her hot food, and 6 pacers who obviously adore her. I know I’m going to stick with her… she has one of the most positive attitudes I’ve ever seen. She says she loves her life and her past has made her who she is… and that no matter what you should wear good underwear because you’re worth it. The first 45 miles zoomed by listening to her wise, humorous words.

Despite conscientiously changing my socks and powdering my feet I had terrible blisters and some early heat rash by mile 30. I was saved by Supergirl, rather a woman in a Supergirl costume who was crewing for a runner dressed as Supergirl. She had this awesome blister kit with Witch hazel wipes to cleanse (which are apparently used on hemorrhoids), nail clipper to pop the blisters (like that scene in "Run, Fatboy, Run"), tincture of benzoin to seal it up (stings like a MF), and kinesio tape to cover. She also had salt capsules and helped fill my water bottle. It totally saved me. I changed into my 5-toe socks but lamented I only had one pair of those, so stayed in them for the remaining 70 miles!

I stop to change my clothes at mile 45. It takes forever. I lost Hilda. I asked her entourage, they said she had left so I took off, racing. Could not find her. Saw her on the way back and realized she had been behind me with her pacer. She’d be alright but my feet were starting to itch. I stopped at 100k, again around 16:00. My feet were starting to swell again, sat down on a curb to loosen my laces. Crap. I heard a woman ask “is she OK? She doesn’t look so good”. I was thinking, “I can hear you”. A runner in her 40’s was talking to her mom. I got up and started running with her. Loree had DNFd once before at Tahoe Rim and was also signed up for Miwok 100 and American River 50 like I was. We talked about the O.C. locals who didn’t seem too happy we were there. One guy started yelling at a rest station guy complaining about ?the unsightliness of aid stations? Another woman drove by in a Mercedes SUV multiple times yelling insults and “why are you fools still running?”. It’s like trail hikers who compelled to pull ribbons off trees causing trail runners to get lost, even though the ribbons will be pulled a few hours later by sweepers.

By now it was close to midnight, and we were starting. Eric had agreed to drop off some Banh-Mi sandwiches from his fav Vietnamese sandwich shop in LA. and drove all the way there to drop off sandwiches and ensure shakes! I gave Loree some of my Honey Stinger Stroop Waffles, my new favorite race food (Lance Armstrong swears by them!) and ate half a sandwich. She had a burst of energy and took off, whereas I started dozing off.

I was literally sleep-walking. Which was scary, though the trails were non-technical I nearly stepped off several high curbs or veered off into ditches. Stopped at the first aid station which smelled strongly of weed. Hell, I couldn’t blame the guy, who was manning an aid station solo from 1-6 AM. I sat down and tried to nap but it was 45 degrees and I was wet/ shivering. Drank a coke but it only made me need to pee in the cold. Stopped at the now overflowing porta potty then trudged off again. I slowed to a 1 .5 mph pace. I thought I would shortly be overtaken by Yolanda the “Walking Diva” a Maniac who has the Guiness World Record for most marathons in a year (106), and had already done 3 x 100 milers (including a loop one in under 26 hours!) and was never far behind me though WALKING the entire time.

Hilda passed me and asked me what was wrong. “I can’t stay awake”. A runner passing the other way stopped and gave me a No-Doze. Runners carry no doze? Most of the runners I met wouldn’t even touch advil, though being a firm believer in better living through pharmacy, I took one and within minutes I was awake. Wide awake and heart-pounding. I took off at a pace nearly as fast as my first loop. I felt no pain and was passing people, ran about 20 miles at what felt like marathon pace; if I kept going like that for the last 12.5 miles I could break 28 hours.

The clouds parted and I was blasted by the California sun. Actually it was a lovely 60 degrees or so but it felt like 80, the No-Doze wore off and I started to feel the effects of pounding my feet the past 4 hours. I had 2.5 hours to do the last 10 miles to go under 29 hours and I knew I had no more gas in the tank. Met up with Loree who didn’t feel like running anymore either. We walked the last 10 and it took nearly 3-1/2 hours, finishing together at 29:41:06. I saw Hilda come in at 29:58:29. The winner Jon Olsen finished in 13:14! I think the record at set at Rocky Raccoon was 12:44.

Now the real challenge, to get in my rental car and drive to Huntington Beach to my cousin Mia’s house to shower, then return my rental car to LAX by 4 pm to catch my flight. A lady volunteered to mail me back my drop bags and gave me 2 more No-Doze for the road. That was one of the scariest drives ever, in terms of driving sleepy- I resorted to yelling at the top of my lungs and slapping myself in the face. Mia gave me chocolate covered espresso beans which saved me. Is the whole world secret caffeine junkys? Alls I know is, No-Doze is going in my next drop bag, along with witch hazel wipes, tincture of benzoin, and anti-monkey butt powder.. My feet were so swollen I had to work in Ugg boots for 3 days, my feet would not fit in my shoes.

I saw a sign on one of the support tables at ATY. It said something like,
1. Relentless forward motion
2. Adapt
3. Enjoy every moment
4. You can achieve anything

I think that pretty much sums it up. People asked me if I feel high on my achievement and the answer is definitely no. Not even orgasmic. Humbled? Probably. You must fear and respect the distance even under ideal conditions. But I keep coming back (and signing up for races that are way too hard for me) because it teaches me about losing control, continuing on after failure, to accept and appreciate whatever comes your way, that everything’s easier with the help of friends and strangers, with help you do feel you can achieve anything. You have to try to live in the moment because tomorrow you could be back at work. Life goes on anyway.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

fURf to fMYf

Completed my fURf. It's now fMYf. Faced My Fuckiness.

I resolved a very, VERY important relationship in my life. My fuckiness was a relationship that needed attention, and I finally gave it, its proper attention.

Hardest part was opening myself up. To get there, I had to first free myself from my own thoughts about the relationship. Nothing mystical or magical, I simply just chose to face my own thoughts and feelings. I discovered, only through them can I actually go beyond them.

At that point, once I understood myself, the result didn't matter that much. When I act from good intentions, not selfishly, wanting to connect, time is always on my side.

The rest was all downhill. Easy. The result? Fuckiness is now awesomeness.