Conquer the Cove 25k (June 2, 2019)

I’m going to just go ahead and call it. This is officially my favorite race.

I’ve done the 25K three times now and the marathon once.

I love the course. It’s challenging but completely runnable. The race starts and finishes on a gorgeous lake (you can jump in when you finish!). The mountain laurels are in bloom and the food is AMAZING! My plate was so colorful this year. I had a veggie burger (with that yummy cooked-on-the-grill char) topped with juicy tomato, red onion, three colors of peppers, guacamole and black bean salsa. Plus fresh fruit, veggies, chips and home baked treats on the side. It’s basically a full-blown cookout.

The shirts are always nice too, with the “Run MTNS” logo. This year they had tank tops for the women, which was awesome!

Even though I knew I wanted to run this race (I always want to run this race) we waited until the Friday before to register. Originally I didn’t know how I’d be feeling after Promise Land 50k and our trip to Finland. Then there was my knee and the fact that Molly is sick again.

My knee seemed to be doing better though. I had a physical therapy appointment on Tuesday and my PT thought I should be fine to run this weekend. My neighbor said she’d be happy to check on Molly for me.

So we set our alarms for 3am and were on the road by 3:30. We scored a prime parking spot right by the starting line thanks to Brian’s small car.

It was unseasonably cool before the race. I wished I’d thought to bring a coat.

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Nobody wanted to be up near the front at the starting line. There were a few fast people at the very front and then a huge empty space, and then everyone else.

I started out feeling pretty good. The first mile on the road went by quickly. As usual, there was some congestion on the single-track climb. But I felt like I managed a pretty good balance of getting around people when the trail allowed and enjoying nice little walk breaks when it didn’t.

I was pretty proud of myself for keeping a decent pace going down the other side of the mountain. People definitely still went flying by me, but I felt like I was able to let loose at least a little. Progress.

The rolling miles after the first big climb and descent were hard because I was caught in a little group that was pushing my pace faster than I was comfortable with. But it’s probably good for me. I know I’m way too conservative these days. Anyhow, even though I was not exactly comfortable, I was still feeling waaaay better than I had at this point in the race last year. I sipped on my Nuun and ate a few pieces of black liqourice that I’d brought home from Helsinki.

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Photo credit: Jay Proffitt

The day was warming up quickly. I was trying to remember the cut-off time at the first aid station. I was thinking it was an hour and a half. It wouldn’t affect me because I was only running the 25K, but the year before I had arrived at the aid station right at the cut-off. I was hoping I would be ahead of it this year, but it was getting pretty close to an hour and thirty minutes and I still wasn’t at the aid station. And then finally I was. Presumably ahead of the cut-off (I just checked and the cut-off was 1:45, not 1:30.)

I grabbed a chocolate energy gel and walked out of the aid station with Brian. We started running again but after a few minutes he said he wanted to walk. I was feeling fine, so I just kept jogging at my very slow pace. I caught and passed maybe 10 people who were walking during that 2.5 mile stretch. I ended up walking some too, toward the end of the climb.

At the aid station at the top of the mountain I took a cup of Skratch, a caramel machiato gel (Not my favorite. Now I know) and an icy washcloth. It actually had big chunks of ice stuck to it, which felt really good.

My IT band felt fine, but my right ankle was feeling a little wonky and I felt a few twinges in my knee, so I didn’t push the pace at all on this steep, rocky descent. I’m pretty sure everyone I passed on the climb passed me back on this stretch. Including Brian. I couldn’t believe how fast some of them came barreling down the hill.

I wasn’t going fast, but I kept chugging along even after the trail flattened out and then climbed a little again. I slowly passed some of the runners who had flown past me on the descent. I felt like walking, but I knew I was close to finishing under three hours which had been my goal. In the last two miles I didn’t really think I’d be able to do it, but I was determined to keep trying.

It hurt, but I was feeling pretty happy as I pushed to the finish line in 2:57:53. Thirteen seconds away from placing third in my age group.

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Photo credit: Jay Proffitt

Then I got to jump in the lake, eat delicious food and enjoy the sunshine.

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My neighbor sent me a text that Molly was doing well.

For just one morning it felt like everything was okay.

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Placement:

  • 88th out of 200 participants
  • 4th out of 18 in my age group
  • 30th out of 96 females

This eight year old kicked my ass.

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Photo credit: Jay Proffitt

By quite a bit.

 

Helsinki Running Day Half Marathon (May 18, 2019)

Helsinki City Running day is an impressive (and very popular!) event with something for everyone. There is a 1K mini-marathon for kids in the morning. Then a half marathon, full marathon, marathon relay, double (half and full) marathon and a 5K.

We did the half marathon which was the second event of the day (after the kid’s mini-marathon). The half was split up into 5 waves with the first wave starting at 11:30 am and the last one at 12:10. We were in the very last wave based on our projected finish time (i.e. slow).

Unlike at the race we did in Belgium, the lines for the port-o-johns were really long. We also quickly realized that it must not be taboo to wear the race shirt on race day in Finland. Maybe that’s only a U.S. thing? Anyway, I’d say at least half of the crowd was wearing the purple race shirt.

Lots of purple in the port-o-john line

Even with so many waves, we were pretty bunched up for a while at the beginning. It didn’t bother me at all though. Brian and I were running together and he was counting on me to set the pace (he’s notorious for going out too fast). I had settled into my all-day-ultra pace (pretty much the only pace I know these days). A little exercise and a nice tour of the city was all I was looking for.

What was strange was how quiet it was. We were in the very last wave, where, especially so early in the race, just about everyone is usually chatting away. But we were the only ones talking. And we tried not to say too much because everyone could hear what we were saying (because nobody else was talking!), which was awkward. Plus we didn’t want to be the annoying loud Americans. The spectators were quiet too. A few people would say “hyvä” in a normal speaking tone as we ran by.  Hyvä translates as “good” but we reasoned it must mean something like “good job” in this context. Even the music was quiet. Strangely, someone early on was playing the “Footloose” album for us as we ran by. I definitely approved!

We ran through a park by some marshland,

followed a paved bike/pedestrian path, skirted the water,

ran on some soft dirt (heavenly!)  through beautiful green woods,

IMG950405crossed several bridges,

ran through some not-so-pretty areas of the city with quite a bit of construction and finished up back at the Töölön Sports Hall.

IMG950415There were several water stops along the way with Sportyfeel and water. I had some Sportyfeel at two of the stops. It tasted fine. Kind of like Gatorade. But both times I drank it, I got a side stitch. So I switched over to just water after that.

It was really hot out. I kept hoping someone along the course would have a sprinkler on so we could run through it. No such luck, but at one point there were a couple of people with spray bottles offering to spray down runners legs. Brian and I both said yes to that! It felt really good. With about four miles to go we ran back by the water. I told Brian that if the finish line was anywhere near the water I would definitely jump right in as soon as we finished. Unfortunately, it was several miles away.

The last three miles were pretty excruciating. I thought I was just dehydrated because it was so hot and I wasn’t carrying any water. Less than a mile from the finish line we turned a corner and I suddenly felt light-headed. I told Brian I needed to stop for a minute. He was carrying a couple of bottles of Carbo Pro. I always make fun of his Carbo Pro. It is supposedly flavorless but has calories and carbohydrates. So basically it’s water with calories. I prefer my calories to have flavor. I don’t understand the point of Carbo Pro. Just before the race he had asked me what it would take for me to drink some. I told him I would just have to be really, really thirsty. And now I was. I drank some stupid Carbo Pro. And it actually tasted like sugar-water as opposed to plain water but I’m not sure that’s really any better. Regardless, he felt pretty smug and I felt a little defeated, but also physically a little better.

He asked me what I’d had to eat and I told him nothing. I had a couple sips of Sportyfeel twice. Maybe 8 ounces total. But it was just a half marathon! I thought that I had read that they would have gels at the water stops, but I guess I was wrong. But I hadn’t thought that I would need anything, anyway. I really thought my problem had more to do with dehydration than lack of fuel.

But once we finished, I realized that we hadn’t started running until 12:10. I would have been fine if the race had started at 8 or 9. Probably even 10. But it had started after lunch time. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. It was close to 2:30 pm and I’d been running for more than two hours. Of course I needed fuel!

After we crossed the finish line and were handed our medals, we were led through another buffet line of goodies. I downed several cups of water and a vanilla recovery drink and started feeling much better.

IMG950420Helsinki City Running Day was (mostly) pretty awesome!

Promise Land 50K++ (April 27, 2019)

Training for this race went pretty well (for me). I only got one twenty mile training run in, but I had several in the 16-18 mile range. Almost all in the mountains. Weekly mileage hovered in the high thirties for the most part. Not ideal, but pretty good for me.

My anxiety flared up as the race got closer though, and the last two weeks were rough.

But I made it to race day. Uninjured. (I think??)

We stayed in an Airbnb in Bedford the night before the race. Most people camp out the night before, but Brian doesn’t do camping if he can help it. The night turned out to be really cold and windy, so I have to admit I was very happy to have a roof over my head and a warm, comfortable bed to sleep in. It was also nice to eat breakfast and drink coffee inside in the morning.

It did mean waking up earlier, though. It was a little less than a half hour drive to the start and we needed to be there before 5am to pick up our numbers. I’ve been getting up between 3 and 4 anyway lately (insane, I know) so it wasn’t really an issue for me.

Early race morning at the start/finish area

The temperature was in the high forties, but the wind was still blowing like crazy, so it felt COLD as we waited for the race to start. I stood in line for the bathroom twice. Pre-race nerves, plus it was warm in there.

I felt significantly better once we lined up at the starting line. All those bodies blocked the wind and I was ready to go run.

Start to Aid Station #1 (miles 0-3)

I was wearing a tank top and shorts with a hat and gloves (the forecast was for 70 degrees and sunny). The first three and a half miles were climbing, so I was fairly comfortable other than my hands which were freezing. I thought with lows in the upper forties I would be okay with gloves. But nope. I definitely should have worn my mittens.

The first three miles were uphill on a gravel road. I was surprised at how bunched up we were. I hadn’t really expected that. I didn’t really mind though, because I knew it was best to take these first few miles very easy. Everyone was mostly power hiking. Just before the aid station I caught up with a lady (Carolyn; a fellow Charlottesvillian) and we started talking. She was trying to figure out how many times she’d run this race. Nine?Maybe it was 10. The commotion of the aid station interrupted our conversation. I didn’t need anything and wanted to hold onto my headlamp just in case I still needed it as we were about to head into the woods. I checked in and continued on.

Aid station #1 to Aid station #2 (miles 3-10)

This started with a section of technical single track that continued climbing for another mile or so. My nutrition plan (I’m not very scientific about it) was to try to eat something every 45 minutes. I ate half of a Lara bar as I made my way up the rocky trail. After a short descent we were in a small green field and I was suddenly feeling incredibly happy.  Then I turned a corner and the sun, so bright and low on the horizon was shining through the tender fresh green leaves and petals and grass. It all looked like it was glowing. As if someone had dabbed every green thing with white-yellow paint and then lit it from behind. It was one of the prettiest things I’ve ever seen. We were on a soft, undulating section of single track in that beautiful forest for only a couple of minutes before we were spit out onto a fire road.

It was very runnable (mostly) downhill for a couple of miles with a view of the surrounding mountains off to our right. I was leap-frogging with several people here. There was a lot of young poison ivy mixed in with the grass. I tried to stay on the dirt path to avoid it, but at times that just wasn’t possible. I tried not to think about the urishiol that was probably all over my shoes. I made a mental note not to touch my shoes. I have a habit of forgetting my mental notes.

The easy downhill (I say I hate downhill, but I mean steep downhill. Gentle down is nice) was over all too soon and we were again climbing.

Both of my shoes felt loose and it was starting to irritate the bottoms of my feet. I stopped to tighten them, but my fingers were so cold that I could barely move them. It took me so long just to get the left one re-tied (and it didn’t even feel any tighter) that I just gave up on the right one. I would just have to deal with loose shoes and hope I didn’t end up with blisters.

At some point during this climb it was time to eat again, so I finished off my Lara bar.

Aid station #2 was an out-and-back. On my way in, I saw Emily leaving. She was just a little ahead of me. I checked in, gave my headlamp to a volunteer, and grabbed an Oreo.

Aid Station #2 to Sunset Fields Aid Station (miles 10-13)

On my way out of the Aid station, I waved to Mark and Wendy who were both heading in. This section quickly turned into a steep climb up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I was feeling good and hiking fast. Just before the top, I caught up with Emily. We crossed the Parkway and ran on the gravel road down to Sunset Fields together. This section went by really quickly with someone to talk to. It was so cold up there though. The temperature must have been several degrees lower and the wind was again relentless.

At Sunset Fields aid station, I had to ask a volunteer to open my water bladder for me as my hands were freezing and absolutely useless. He didn’t seem too familiar with the type of bladder that I have, but he tried to help me get it closed and back into my pack. I shrugged it back on and headed down the trail, only to realize that I couldn’t clip the pack back onto me. My fingers just could not grasp those tiny clasps. I was getting desperate when I heard someone say “Joey!”. Brian was coming toward me on the trail. He wasn’t able to do the race, but had just finished a 7 mile run down to the falls. I was so happy to see him. “I need your help!” (He later told me that I sounded frantic and he thought something was really wrong). But it was just that I was so frustrated that I couldn’t do such a simple thing as fasten two stupid little clasps.

As soon as I started running, I noticed the sensation of cold water on my back. Was my bladder leaking? As water started dripping onto my shorts I tried to convince myself that the outside of the bladder had just gotten wet when the volunteer filled it. There was nothing I could do about it, though. I wouldn’t have been able to get my pack off and on again never mind pull the bladder out and try to find the problem.

This was the infamous “technical downhill” portion. Probably because I had been warned in advance, it didn’t seem that bad. Yes, it was technical and yes, I hated it. But it wasn’t any worse than most of the trails at the Trilogy races. Not long into the downhill, the outside of my knee started hurting. Sometimes things hurt for a while in a race, but then go away. I hoped this was one of those things.

There were slippery wet rocks and several river crossings. My knee continued to hurt. At least a dozen people passed me (including Kelsey).

It did warm up considerably though as we dropped back into the valley. And although my dripping wet back and shorts were annoying, the leak seemed to be a relatively slow one. I still had plenty of water when I reached Cornelius Creek Aid station. I grabbed two Fig Newtons and was on my way.

Cornelius Creek Aid Station to Colon Hollow Aid Station (miles 18-21)

This section was mostly downhill and on a road. I saw a girl in front of me go off into the woods and thought that I probably should, too. Miles went by and I still hadn’t found a decent spot that didn’t look over-run with poison ivy. Searching helped the time go by, though. I decided I didn’t need to go that bad.

My knee hurt a little less. I’m not sure if that’s because it actually hurt less, or if I was just feeling a little better mentally now that I was off the difficult technical trail. Either way, it was a positive. I was happy to finally see the turn back into the woods. A little climbing on smooth, soft trail perked me up quite a bit.

At Colon Hollow aid station, I needed to refill my bladder and I also wanted to figure out what was leaking. A volunteer again helped me even though my hands were working fine by this point. Somehow I still managed to spill a coke all over my pack, the jacket I’d pulled out of my pack and the table. I checked the hose. It looked normal. Maybe. I don’t know. I wiggled it around a little, hoping I was tightening it, then stuffed it and my coke-sodden coat back into my pack. I stuffed a banana quarter in my mouth and headed out.

Colon Hollow Aid Station back to Cornelius Creek Aid Station (miles 21-26)

It didn’t take long before my back and shorts were soaked again. I guess I didn’t fix the problem.

I stopped to stretch my quadriceps, thinking that might help my knee. I bent my knee and grabbed the top of my shoe. Crap! Now I have poison ivy oil all over my hand. Mental note: Don’t touch any body part with left hand.

I caught up with Emily again. We ran together for a while, but as this was a mostly uphill section, I eventually ended up ahead. I took out my headphones. I’ve never listened to music during a race before and it really helped. Energy-wise I was feeling great. The pain in my knee was just so frustrating.

The poison ivy in this section!! It was knee-high and all along both sides of the trail. There was no avoiding it. I tried not to think about it.

The uphill gave way to rolling terrain which gave way to a downhill section with several deep, shoe-sucking mud pits. My knee was really hurting now. I was wondering if I would be able to finish. If it got any worse, I didn’t think I could do those last four downhill miles to the finish. Several of the people I had passed when we were climbing passed me back as I painfully limped along.

Back at Cornelius Creek aid station, the first thing I did was ask for ibuprofen. I hate taking medicine. And I know that taking ibuprofen during ultras is pretty stupid. But I really wanted to finish this race! I needed to be able to run those last four miles.

I refilled my pack. Checked the hose again. Still looked fine. Grabbed a brownie and was on my way.

Cornelius Creek Aid Station back to Sunset Fields (miles 26-29)

I saw Emily again on the way out. She told me she was not looking forward to the climb. I know I was probably alone on this, but I was. My energy was still good and it would give my knee a much-needed break. I was dreading those last 4 downhill miles, though.

My back and shorts were already soaked. I could feel water dripping on my legs.

I had it in my head that I would be hiking exclusively for quite a while. But the guy in front of me kept running for short little bursts. My energy was good, but it wasn’t that good. Honestly, I didn’t want to be running. But I made myself keep up until the trail got really steep. Running uphill is hard, but walking uphill, that I can do! I slipped by him and passed at least a half dozen more people. Right after passing one man, I continued in a straight line, straight up until I heard him call “Miss!, Miss! the trail is over here.” Crap! I’d gone about 25 steps straight up the wrong way. I’m glad he was there to catch me.  So stupid! The trail was really just a jumble of rocks in places, though. It wasn’t always easy to follow.

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Eventually I made it to the falls which were impressive.

I loved the wooden bridges at the base of the falls. I didn’t even mind the stairs because the view was spectacular. Apple Orchard Falls on the left and an open expanse of spring-green mountains and blue sky off to the right.

Up, up, up. There was a lot of climbing beyond the top of the falls. It was hot. Salt was stinging my eyes. Finally, I met a volunteer who told me it was just a hundred steps up to the aid station. I didn’t count, but I think she was underestimating. It seemed like about three times that. Regardless, I made it up to Sunset Fields. I would have been a lot happier if I wasn’t so worried about my knee.

I had enough water and some Clif Bloks for the last section, so I didn’t even stop.

Sunset Fields Aid Station to the finish (miles 29-34)

Running hurt, but the knee felt better than it had going into Cornelius Creek aid station. I crossed the parkway and headed back onto a short section of gentle single track followed by a short steep up. I caught up to a man just as we reached the top. He stepped over to let me by, but I told him if he was planning to run he’d want to be in front of me. He said he was going to walk for a bit. I put my headphones in again and started running. These last four miles were going to be tough. A minute or two later, I stepped over to let the man by. I was surprised nobody else passed me. It was all downhill and just kept getting steeper and rockier. The pain in my knee had just about reached my tolerance level when I saw the road below. I was so happy to see that road!

The road was so ridiculously steep that it wasn’t much better than the rocky trail for a while, but I knew it would get less steep and easier. Well, physically easier. Mentally, it was still hard. Miles always feel so long at the end of a race. I’d been gaining on the lady in front of me for two miles. I caught her at the big squirrel mailbox (which I was thinking meant the finish was right around the corner.) She glanced over and said “you got me”.  I told her that the finish was right around the corner. We turned the corner and there was a sign, but it wasn’t the camp. “Shit!” I said, “I’m sorry. I thought we were there”. But then, just beyond the sign, I saw the cars. “No. I was right! It’s RIGHT THERE!”. She took off. I tried to keep up.

I could hear cheers and then Horton’s voice calling out my name.

I finished Promise Land 50k++!

34 miles and 7400 feet of gain.

 

*All the photos I used are Brian’s. I didn’t take any of my own.

*I’ve got an appointment with Dr. Wilder tomorrow to see what’s going on with my knee. It is swollen and still hurts.

 

Odyssey Trail Running Rampage half marathon (September 8, 2018)

This race has been on my radar for many years, but it never seemed to fit into my schedule.

Since I had two big overseas trips planned for spring and summer this year, I decided that I didn’t want the stress of training for a fall ultra. I registered for the half figuring that it would give me something to train for without feeling any pressure to get in really long trail runs (especially during the vacation weeks.)

I have to admit that a big draw for me for this race was that I knew there was a lake at Douthat State Park (where the race is held) and I was hoping I’d be able to jump in after I finished like I do at Conquer the Cove. I knew there was a good possibility that it would be one of those annoying swim-only-when-a-lifeguard-is-on-duty type of lakes, but that didn’t stop me from fantasizing.

Brian registered for the race too, and we made reservations at a local hotel. There are cabins at the park too, and in my earlier race-planning optimism, I pictured us spending the night convening with nature, waking up and leisurely sipping coffee on our lake-front porch before walking down the road to the start. But alas, the cabins are only available for two nights minimum on weekends.

So hotel it was.

Until it wasn’t. In the two weeks leading up to the race, Brian hurt his back and was no longer planning to run, we adopted a cat that our resident cat doesn’t like, and the weather forecast was calling for rain on race day. Driving down the night before and paying for a hotel no longer seemed worth it, so we decided to just drive down race morning. The half didn’t start until 10am and the drive was less than two hours. It just seemed to make more sense under the circumstances.

It was foggy and damp when we arrived at the park. There were tree branches and debris covering the ground. It looked like a big storm had just come through and apparently one had the night before. I was happy we weren’t tenting out (which had been another option I’d considered).

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There was a relaxed, low-key feel to the event. Runners doing the marathon and 40 miler had gear arranged in a circle on the far end of the field that they had access to when they came through after each 13.4 mile loop.

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When the RD described the course, he said the first mile was rolling, followed by a couple miles of climbing. To me, it felt like we were climbing from the time we turned out of the field and into the woods. I stayed in the conga line for the first mile or so as we all walked the steeper inclines and jogged the rest. I knew I didn’t want to push the pace too much early on, but after we’d been walking for a while at a much slower pace than I wanted, I mustered up the courage to ask if I could scoot by. I always hate doing that. When I hear someone behind me I always ask if they want to get by, or just move over so they can and I really appreciate when people do that for me. Many do.

Not long before I reached the top, I passed a lady who told me I was fifth woman. Seriously?! Could that be true? Was I going too fast? Was she confused about which distance I was doing?

The trail flattened out a bit as we headed to the first aid station at mile 3.5. It was overgrown in places and I tried not to freak out about all of the poison ivy that I was seeing. There were several blow-downs to hop over too.

The view from the aid station is supposed to be beautiful, but all I could see was fog. I didn’t need any water, so I just thanked the volunteers (who we were told had to hike in all that water) and was on my way. I was pleasantly surprised that the downhill wasn’t too technical. There were a few wet, rocky sections, but it was all totally runnable. Even so, I expected most of the people I’d passed on the way up to come flying by me, but only one guy did. I ran for maybe 2 or 3 miles before people started catching up, and only a few passed me.

The rain held off, but the humidity was pretty intense. Everyone was soaked. I was hot and thirsty and really glad that I had decided to start the race with my bladder about 1/3 filled with Nuun. I should have grabbed a water at the first aid station too, because I ran out of Nuun before the second aid station. When I got there, I drank a cup of Heed and a cup of water. I did the same thing at the third aid station.

As usual, the last couple of miles were the hardest. Mostly, I was hot and thirsty. I’d been looking forward to running by the lake, but by the time I got there the sun had come out and the heat was killing me. I would have gone a little faster if I’d known how close to the finish I was, though. My Garmin said I had almost a mile left to go when I crossed the finish line.

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The RD gave me a high-five. As far as I could tell, he stood there all day congratulating each runner as they finished.

I ended up placing 4th female which seems pretty crazy, but I’ll take it.

The race shirts and pint glasses for finishers were really nice. I love it when races give out something useful instead of medals.

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The race start/finish wasn’t on the lake and I wasn’t sure how to get to the beach. I also felt bad that Brian had gotten up early to drive me to the race and then hung around for hours in the humidity with the mosquitoes. Plus I wanted to get home to check on the kitties, so I never found out if I could have jumped in the lake. I did submerge myself in a little stream by the finish line, though. It felt good, but it wasn’t quite the same.

Maybe next year.

Brian and I have already registered for the 40 miler. Hopefully we’ll be able to stay a little longer to explore the park and maybe go for a swim. Although I think most Virginia State Parks only allow you to swim when there’s a lifeguard on duty.

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Jogging de la ligne (May 27, 2018)

Halfway through our vacation in Belgium, Brian and I saw a flier for a local race happening the next day. We decided to do it. We needed to run anyway.

Registration the next morning was in a school gym. The registration form was in French, but luckily it was pretty short so we didn’t have too much trouble. There was a 6.5K option and an 11.8K option. We signed up for the 11.8K (which only cost 5 euro each.) Less than $12 for both of us to run a 7+ miler! Not bad at all.

I was in awe of all of the fun-looking ladders and climbing things in the gym. I really wanted to take a gym class at that school.

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There may have been more men wearing Lycra, but other than that the runners looked much like they do at any other race.

The race director talked for quite a while at the start. We had no idea what he was saying. At one point, everyone laughed.

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The race was mostly on an old railway line which was now a wide, flat dirt path. There was also a decent amount of single track through the woods and a very short bit at the beginning and end on a paved bike path.

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There were a couple of water stops. One of them also had Belgian waffles.

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We took our time and stopped for a bunch of pictures, but by the end I was struggling to keep up. Really struggling. Brian later told me he’d never heard me breathing that hard before. Vacations wear me out. Plus it was humid.

I don’t think more than a handful of people finished after us.

Beer and all kinds of food were available for purchase afterward. The beer seemed popular with the faster crowd.

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I wished I felt like drinking beer, but my stomach was feeling a little too queasy.

The strangest thing to me about the whole thing was that there was only one bathroom for men and one for women (I’m talking one stall) and there was never a line. Do people in Belgium not drink coffee in the morning?  I’ve never not had to wait in line for the bathroom before a race. It was very nice, but very strange.

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West Virginia Trilogy 2017

Two years ago, the 50 miler on day two of the West Virginia Trilogy was my first ultra. This year, in a rare moment of bravery, I registered for the whole thing (50K on Friday, 50 miles Saturday and 13.1 on Sunday.)

Then, 13 days before the race, I sprained my ankle.

I was able to run the 50k on Friday, but I’m not sure that I should have.

I did two short, easy runs on the road the week before the Trilogy, but hadn’t felt ready to test it on trails. The 50k would be my test. It didn’t go so well. The uneven trail and slippery rocks took their toll. I was feeling the ankle just enough to make me worry. So I ran timidly trying to protect it, and ended up with some compensation injuries.IMG_0157

By the last six miles of the 50K, I could only run a few steps at a time before my knee would start burning. I hoped that by morning, everything would have settled down and I’d be able to run. But I don’t think I believed it because I was already feeling pretty bummed.

Saturday morning I got up feeling a little better. The back of my heel hurt in my shoes, but I had tied my shoes tighter than usual the day before hoping that would give my ankle a little more stability, so I didn’t think much of it.

Unfortunately, as soon as I started running, my knee started hurting again. I spent about a mile and half running a few steps and walking a few steps, hoping it would work itself out, but it didn’t. I knew there was no way I would make it 50 miles if I could only run a few steps at a time at the beginning. I was in tears when I decided to turn around and walk back to the start.

I finished the 50K, but I’ll still get a big fat DNF (did not finish) because I registered for the full Trilogy. And it feels like a big fat DNF. Actually, it feels more like a DNS (did not start). I feel like I didn’t even get a chance to try. It’s the second year in a row that a fluke injury has kept me from doing a big race that I’d trained for.

I’m not sure how my knee is doing because my heel ended up being a bigger deal than I’d thought. There’s a bump on the back that hurts too much to wear shoes. I can only wear clogs and flip-flops. I’ve self-diagnosed it as Achilles bursitis. Whatever it is, it’s keeping me from running and I don’t like it.

Registration for next year’s Trilogy starts February 2nd. I know what I’ll be doing that day.

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