Friday, December 27, 2013

Cool Curling Travels

One of the best things about curling is all the cool people you get to meet.  One of the bad things about curling is all the "cool" places you are forced to travel in order to meet the cool people....  Now, there is nothing wrong with the places I have travelled to curl in the last few months... but, face it, my ultra-running travel destinations are WAY cooler.....

So, beginning in November, I've had the fortune of curling in Albany, Schenectady and Fargo.  On the near horizon, I'm headed to St. Paul, Sarnia (Ontario) and Eau Claire, Wisconsin.   Although these places will be downright COLD, I can't wait to get on the ice with my cool teammates!!

Typical Fargo temps!

The reason I curl - my COOL teammates -  Carmen, Connie & Martha

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Can't Shut A Good Run Down - Towpath Marathon 2013 Report

This is the marathon that almost wasn't.  The Towpath Marathon runs through the very scenic Cuyahoga Valley National Park, following the historic Ohio & Erie Canal.  The race is scheduled to take place in early October, just in time for peak fall leaf colors to decorate the flat trail, composed of a mix of limestone and asphalt.  The reason for the near disaster was the U.S. Government shut-down that literally padlocked the trail and facilities.
Can't get much better than this!
The Towpath Marathon raises substantial funds for the Ohio Canal Corridor, which helps build local trails in Northeast Ohio.  Canceling the marathon, then, would be a real blow to fund-raising efforts....
Once sanity returned to Washington, the organizers of the Towpath went into high gear to reschedule the race.  I can only image the hard work that went into that effort.  Once the new date of November 3rd was secured, I felt compelled to help out the race, especially since I assumed that a number of registered runners dropped due to conflicts with the newly rescheduled race date.  And once I saw the "new" design for the shirts, I was "IN!"

New design added to back of T-shirt
Wrong date, right race - recycling the "old" bibs!
Race day was a cool 38 degrees with the sun was peaking out through clouds.  After the start of the race, I soon realized that my legs weren't quite back to normal after last week's 75 mile run in Arizona.  Since I wasn't going to be too speedy, I popped in my I-Pod and listened to tunes, enjoying the scenery and being invigorated by the wonderful cool temperatures.
Since the course is along the towpath, it crosses a number of boardwalks over water, under stone bridges, by marshlands, etc.  There is always something interesting to see.  I have to say there were also a number of amusing signs at the aid stations, including one at Mile 20 that said "You are running better than our Government."  That brought alot of chuckles, I'm sure.
When all was said and done, I finished at 4:01, not great but could have been worse.  It was good enough for 2nd in my age group and a framed photo of the park as a prize.  Very cool indeed.  Not to mention the spread of food at the end - including turkey sandwiches, lots of chips, yummy chocolate cookies, candy bars and lots of fruit.  I can't think of a reason NOT to return to support this very worthwhile race.  Not many races can brag that even the Government can't shut a good run down!

Front design of T-shirt

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Scorpions & Tarantulas & Snakes, Oh My - Javelina Jundred Race Recap

Yes Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.... Lines from the "Wizard of Oz" kept popping into my head while running in the very unfamiliar desert this past weekend in Arizona. Whose idea was this anyway? Oh, right, it was mine....

The idea started out innocent enough. I'd been emailing Carilyn Johnson, one of my US 24-hour teammates. We both had hardly been running since the Worlds in May, nursing various minor injuries. I mentioned we should just do a race somewhere just for fun, no pressure, no competition. While I was thinking spring, somehow the Javelina Jundred came up, probably because it just looked like so much FUN, being close to Halloween, costumed runners, “easy” trails, etc.   Carilyn had run the course before, in fact she had ran it last year dropping around mile 75 due to breathing issues (yes, there is lots of dust). I managed to talk her into returning, and so there we were, at the starting line in the middle of the Arizona desert in the dark at 6 AM with temperatures climbing from the mid-60s.  So much for cold desert nights.

Our plan was to stick together no matter what. We wanted to be very conservative so we aimed for a 3-hour loop time, with each loop about 15 miles. We walked the uphills and took it easy, finishing the first loop just under 3 hours. The time really flew by as we discussed everything imaginable. When there was a lull in the conversation, we started naming rock formations based on the body parts that they resembled (I'll just leave it at that). The second loop was around 3 hours.... but now came the HOTTEST part of the day. We were at noon at the end of the 2nd loop. Being from sunless Cleveland, although I had sunscreen caked all over, I still felt like my arms were going to spontaneously combust. I ended up putting on a long-sleeved shirt for the next loop, which did help somewhat. But did I say it was HOT?

We completed the 3rd loop around 4 hours and the 4th loop, even slower, around 4 1/2 hours. By then it was pitch dark (sun setting around 6 PM) except for the beautiful twinkling stars. The "rocky" parts of the course, which were very runnable in the daylight, were now looking like boulders. It was during the night hours that Carilyn gleefully pointed out the desert "wildlife," which she categorized by "those that cane kill you" - scorpions and baby rattlesnakes - and "those that can only hurt you" - tarantulas. Spotting each of those creatures was good incentive to not go off the trail too far when nature called.

As we were on our 5th loop, I slowed considerably. My quads were toast. No surprise that my lack of training, and specifically hill training, was taking its toll. Carilyn would run ahead and then have to keep waiting on me. We had been talking for about 15 hours straight but the last few hours had been quiet. Finally, Carilyn decided to put me out of my misery and recommended that we stop. She reminded me that this was supposed to be fun and the fun was wearing off.  She was still fresh and could have easily finished but I was struggling. With a few miles to go on the 5th loop, we decided to drop at the start of the 6th loop, which was the JJ Headquarters (or "Jeadquarters," as they say at the race). When we crossed the lap counter and the end of loop 5, we were at 75 miles, taking 18-plus hours. It turns out that only 44% of the 100 mile runners finished the entire course.  WOW!
This was definitely a fun race. Not only did I get to hang with Carilyn all day and night, but the swag was cool too, a North Face shirt, duffel bag, hat, bottle opener and (not sure why) a finisher buckle (maybe for 100k?)  The Coury brothers have a first-class race and the volunteers were AMAZING. I would definitely go back but next time be much better hill and heat prepared!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

North Ohio Marathon Debuts With Ideal Weather

The new Northern Ohio Marathon was scheduled to take place on the same day as the popular local Towpath Marathon, October 13th.  As fate would have it, however, with the US Government shutdown not being resolved and the Towpath Marathon taking place within the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the Towpath had to be rescheduled to November.  While I had registered for the Northern Ohio Marathon months ago, it was clear on race day that many Towpath refugees had come to run.

Although the registration was a bit chaotic with many last-minute registrants, the race itself only started a few minutes late and began with a nice downhill to a road running alongside Lake Erie.  The theme of the race incorporated wonderful views of Lake Erie.  At one point, we ran for a stretch on a sandy bridle path overlooking the Lake, then through Mentor Headlands State Beach and also through many beach communities.  There was lots of crowd support as it looked like many residents came out to support the race.  The course was relatively flat until at least three good size hills toward the end of the race. 

The weather was good, cloudy and not real hot although it was pretty humid.  I had not been training too much so was just hoping for a sub-4:00 time.  I ended up crossing the finish line around 3:53, good for a Boston Qualifier (always nice to get just in case) and was later surprised to see I came in 2nd in my age group.  The speedy Pam Rickard (involved with an incredible charity, Runwell) beat me by many minutes to take first in our age group.  She would have been even faster but she stopped many times to take pictures!  That was the only time I could catch up to her!!  Guess I need to start training....

No. 26, Pam Rickard, with me in the gray shirt way BEHIND her. Go Pam!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

E-Race to Support Epilepsy Awareness

The inaugural E-Race took place this past Sunday, June 23rd, in Berea, Ohio at Coe Lake. The ""E-Race" has a number of meanings.  The "E" stands for Epilepsy, of course.  "E-race" was used as it sounds the same as ERASE. One of the purposes of the E-Race was to ERASE the stigma that has been associated with those afflicted with epilepsy and bring awareness to the general public that epilepsy is not something to be feared, but to be dealt with like any other health issue.

We had 220 runners and walkers tow the line for the start of the race in 90 degree heat.  Thank goodness it was only a 5K.  I was definitely feeling warm at the end. 

After the race, we mingled with a number of runners.  Many had personal experiences with epilepsy, either through family members or having epilepsy themselves.  A very powerful event to see such strong runners and supporters.
E-Race runners posing with our medals post-race!
If you are interested in supporting the Epilepsy Association through a donation, click on the link here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

2013 World 24-Hour Report - A View from the Middle of the Pack

Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted." — Albert Einstein 

This quote sums up my race at the 2013 World 24-hour Championship.  My race miles added up to a not so impressive middle-of-the-pack finish. My amazing team mates (Sabrina Little (American Record of 244.669K), Suzanna Bon (236.228K) and Traci Falbo (229.702K) came to the rescue and finished 2, 3 and 4 to grab the women’s Team Gold medal.  My race didn’t end up counting but witnessing the performances at the World Championship was something I will never forget. 

My boyfriend, Roger, and I arrived in Holland about 10 days before the race.  I thought this would be a good way to taper and see the country at the same time.  The one and only time I’ve been to Holland was back in 1982 and one of the things I did was visit the Heineken Brewery.  I still have my ticket from back then, when the entrance fee was 1 Dutch Guilder and that got you unlimited refills of beer.  That’s the equivalent of 58 US cents!  So we did go back and the “Heineken Experience” was quite different.  Besides being limited to 2 small glasses of beer, the entrance fee increased to 18 Euros (or about $23.00)!  Times have changed. 

After spending a few days in Amsterdam, we headed to the countryside for our 5-day cycling trip along the canals to the towns of Haarlem, Leiden, Delft and Gouda.  The scenery was gorgeous and the people very friendly.  And the bike paths can’t be beat.  We had perfect weather, sunny and cool.   And the food: white asparagus, stroup wafels, cheese and pancakes.  Delicious!  
Love the tulips!

Saw many of these!

The Leaning Tower.... of Delft!

Thursday night before the race we headed to the hotel where the US team was staying about 15k from the race start.  I had seen earlier weather forecasts, which called for rain only on Friday.  Obviously, I didn’t look at updated forecasts as that would change.

Friday afternoon we headed to the opening ceremonies.  Many Steenbergen residents had braved the weather and had come out to see this strange mix of runners from 34 countries.  Flags flew, the local school band played and it was a very festive mood.  The rain held off but skies were threatening.  I have to say that the parade, through the streets of Steenbergen to the town square, was inspiring.

Connie Gardner with the flag at the Opening Ceremony
I awoke on Saturday morning to light rain and cold temps.  By the time everyone got to the start for the noon gun, the rain had stopped although temperatures remained cold.  Since Team USA didn't have any "official" race tops that were for cold weather, I put on a large long-sleeved shirt under my race singlet.  That made me look 20 pounds fatter but I wasn't there to win any fasion contest!  I just needed to stay warm.

The race course was on some very pretty streets of the village with little elevation changes, exactly as advertised.  The surface was a mix of different kinds of brick pavers but all in very good shape.  The race also had a giant computer screen so that even with my poor eyes I could see my laps and mileage every time I passed the timing tent, a very cool set-up.  An added treat was the announcer.  Hard to imagine but there was continuous commentary from the start of the race until 10 PM, which resumed about 6AM until the end of the race.  Loudspeakers were set up along the course so you could hear the announcer at all times.  This was pretty neat as I always knew the position of the top runners as well as the team standings.  I think the announcer had the toughest job of all!

From the start there were a few male and female runners that went out at a frenetic pace.  I think at one point Lizzy Hawker may have been leading the entire race!  It was dizzying to see these runners lap me effortlessly.  As is often the case, however, the lead runners at the start of the race are not the lead runners at the end.  

A special mention to Bib No. 200, Vilnis Pliete of Latvia.  Nice race!  We kept running into each other on the course so send me a comment if you’re reading this!

About eleven hours in to the race, I was slowing down.  The weather was quite cold and my legs were freezing.  I stopped at the aid station and got stretched by Dr. Greg and then did a quick change into running tights.  That stop took about 30 minutes but I felt refreshed and I was able to pick up the pace for another hour or so.  Sometime after that, the rain started not sure when.  I got soaked to the bone before I decided to put on a rain jacket (not so smart to wait).  These rain jackets were not meant to run in and were actually not breathable.  So I alternated between being cold and hot in my soaking clothes.  It apparently hailed at some point.  I don’t remember this at all as I had my jacket hood draped over my head…. I just kept trudging on.  Just when I thought the rain had stopped, it started pouring again.

Before the announcer stopped for the night, I knew that my teammates Jon Olson and Sabrina Little, were high up in the standings.  As the night turned to daylight, most of the US runners were looking very strong every time they lapped me!  Around 3:30 AM, the rain seemed to stop and I stopped again for about 40 minutes to stretch and change my waterlogged shoes and socks (Thanks, Drymax for the many pairs of socks!).  My tights were really wet and cold but I didn’t have anything to change into so I sucked it up and went back on the course.  With the dawn, it became clear that there was a lot of carnage over the course of the night.  Many runners had stopped or were slowing down, myself included.  So it was exciting to see that the US men were running 1, 2 and 10 and the US women were running 2, 3 and 4.  WOW!  It was also amazing to see Mami Kudo, who ended up breaking the World’s Best Performance for a Road 24-hour with a 252.205k (156.713 miles).  At the end of the race, she was smiling and looked like she had just run a 10k!  The US ended up with 4 individual medals (Sabrina – Silver, Suzanna – Bronze, Jon Olsen, - Gold and first overall with 269.675K and John Dennis – Silver and second overall with 262,734K) and a Women’s and Men’s Team Gold medal.  Historic!

Thrilling to hear The Star Spangled Banner from the Podium!
I walked the last 4 ½ hours of the race but made sure to cheer on my teammates.  I finished with a little over 192K (almost 120 miles) and was 135 out of 243 total runners or 54 out of 89 female starters.  Not that good but, while my race didn’t count, as Albert Einstein said, “not everything that counts can be counted” and my experience at the 10th World Championship was one of these experiences -- priceless.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Preview of 2013 World Championship 24-Hour Race

          Although the 2012 World 24-hour Championship was held only nine months before the 2013 race is scheduled to take place, that fact has not dampened runners’ enthusiasm for the event.  Participation is again at over 250 runners (not including the Open division) for the 10th edition of the World 24-hour Championship in Steenbergen, The Netherlands.  I am also happy to see that, for the first time in its history, the number of women runners competing has broken 100.  Way to go ladies!
            As with last year's race in Poland, runners from 34 countries will be competing at the 2013 World 24-hour Championship.  For the team competition, 25 men’s team (up from 24 teams in 2012) and 23 women’s team will toe the starting line.  Again, the women’s teams continue to increase, up from 20 women’s teams from last year.  New to the competition from 2012 are women’s teams from The Netherlands, Sierra Leone and Spain.
            The US women are looking forward to defending their Team Gold medal and bringing home another one.  We have two new members, Sabrina Moran Little and Traci Falbo.  Both are very strong runners.  Coupled with super-athlete Connie Gardner (2012 Silver medalist), Suzanna Bon (5th in 2012) and Carilyn Johnson (making her 4th appearance at Worlds), I am anticipating big mileage numbers from my teammates.
            Competition, however, looks stiff.  Starting with the Japanese, World 24-hour track record-holder Mami Kudo will be leading the charge followed by her teammate Mikie Sakane (PB of 243k).  Lizzy Hawker, World 24-hour road record-holder, will be joining the already strong team from Great Britain.  The French team has two runners with over 230k as personal bests, Anne-Marie Vernet and C├ęcile Nissen.  Germany has two runners with personal best of over 228k,   Melanie Strass and Antje Krause.  And of course there are many amazing individual runners including 2012 Gold medalist Michaela Dimitriadu from the Czech Republic and Monica Casiraghi from Italy.  And I am sure I have missed some.  It will be an exciting race!
            On the men’s side, unfortunately 2012 Gold medalist Mike Morton will not be running on the US team as he is injured.  Nonetheless, I expect the US men will be right in contention for a medal with new team members Jon Olsen, Nick Coury and John Dennis.  US Bronze team scorers from 2012, Harvey Lewis and Joe Fejes, will be returning.  Last year, Germany won the men’s team Gold, followed by France with Silver breaking the dominance of the Japanese men's team for the last several years.  The Japanese men collectively had a bad race in Poland so do not underestimate them for the 2013 race.  Finally, I would be remiss in not mentioning that World 24-hour record-holder Yiannis Kouros will be competing for Greece.  Although he is 57 years old, he is still running strong and an inspiration to watch.
            Good luck to all runners or, as they say in Steenbergen, “Veel geluk!”