Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Following the Philosophy of Yiannis

             A surprising benefit of running the Desert Solstice race a few weeks ago was the goodie bag, which had a copy of the DVD “Forever Running,” featuring Yiannis Kouros.  For anyone who hasn’t heard of Yiannis, he is the best ultrarunner ever, holding many records including the World’s 24-hour record at 188 miles.  He set that record in 1997 and many believe it is untouchable.

            After returning from the race, while procrastinating over writing out holiday cards, I decided to distract myself and popped in the DVD to check it out.  Not knowing what to expect, I quickly became engrossed in this seemingly low-budget movie shot in Greek with English subtitles. Most of the DVD is Yiannis either running or providing insights into his philosophy of running and training, etc.

            It is hard to compare myself to Yiannis. I require more that 2 ½ hours of sleep a night.  I also do not run marathons in sub-3 hours.  I also do not have 150-plus World records! 

            It turns out, however, that Yiannis and I do have a few things in common.  Unwittingly, over the years, I have subscribed to some of his training philosophy.  I wholeheartedly agree with Yiannis’ observation that “some runners worship the body, simply run all day.  If I am to do this, I shall become inhuman and will not find inspiration in the race.  I practice a couple of hours morning and evening with many breaks.  Run too much, where is time for something else? … I disagree with speed and quantities; I do quality training with rhythm depending on the race’s needs.”

             I am also in the less is more camp.  Unlike many runners I know who spend their entire weekend running, I spend very little time running but instead enjoy time with family, friends and other hobbies.  Then, when I actually run a 24-hour race, the experience is very fresh since going into the race I haven’t run for more than 4-5 hours at a time.  For my preparation for my last 24-hour race at the North Coast 24 in September, I concentrated on speed work and running twice a day and had my best race ever!

            Yiannis also comments on the concept of patience in an ultra race.  “The verb ‘endure’ is not a physical verb, it’s a spiritual one. Endure means to withstand…you must be patient and then do solid training. Without patience, you will never conquer endurance.”   Also, “No one completes a race via his body but with his mind.”

            I too think of the 24-hour race as more of a spiritual experience than a physical one.  I find it to be a form a meditation.  In a 24-hour race, there are no physical obstacles, no need to pay attention to rocks, roots or see if you’re still on the course.  It is just running and, at its best, I tune out everything and just concentrate on running.  I ignore other runners since, as Yiannis also says, “we are not racing against co-runners but we are racing against nature, clock, time, distance.”  Those are the only thoughts that cross my mind as well.  I know that at the end of the race many runners who are faster and much more talented than me will have faltered so I do not pay any attention to them but only to the clock, time and distance….  You can be well trained but if your mind is not focused – a certain mental toughness – your body will not cooperate.

            Finally Yiannis sums up why ultrarunners run.  The rational in doing such a sport is to experience the extraordinary moments of ‘exceeding.’ You cannot experience them in normal life.”  Ultras are truly extraordinary events and it is for this reason that we all keep returning to run them again and again.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Desert Solstice - Breaking Records on a Track

            A few months ago, I received an e-mail from Nick Coury inviting me to a track 24-hour race in Phoenix called the Desert Solstice.  The purpose of the race was for record setting and as a qualifier for the 2012 U.S. 24-Hour team.  The idea of running a track race has always intrigued me.  Running at its purest.  Nothing to think about, just running.

            I had been fortunate to actually qualify for the U.S. Team at the North Coast 24-hour Nationals in Cleveland this past September.  I looked at the American age group track records, though, and the longer distances seemed beatable so I signed up to try to get at least one age group record.

            While having the best of intentions, since the North Coast race, my training has been a bit thin.  Curling 3-4 times a week cuts into the running hours.  As the race approached, I realized that I had done no long training runs since the Chicago marathon in early October.  This made me a little nervous so, the week before the race, I ran 20 miles on Saturday and then again on Sunday.  That would have to do.

            Before race day, the race entrants ebbed and flowed but at the starting line nine individuals were ready to run.  There were three women, Carilyn Johnson, Suzanna Bon and me.  We joked that we should all place in the race.  Both were trying to qualify for the U.S. team, Carilyn having been on the team in 2009 and Suzanna in 2010.  Three of the men were “only” running 100 miles and were lightning fast the entire time they were on the track.

Suzanne, me and Carilyn before the race.
            The 400 meter track was a rubberized surface at a local high school.  The straight-away surface was only a year old and the turn surface was four years old so the course was in excellent shape.  The track, however, was quite open with only some aluminum bleachers around part of it so nothing to block any wind.

            We started running at 8:00 a.m. under cloudy skies.  Weather initially looked promising but a fairly stiff breeze started blowing early on, hitting us in the face on one of the turns.  Then the clouds blew away, the sun poked out and it started getting plenty warm for a Clevelander used to GRAY skies and COLD weather!!! The aid station workers were awesome, however.  They had everything and so I bummed sun screen from them and also put a bag of ice on my head to try and keep me cool.  Regrettably, I had forgotten sun glasses since the forecast was for clouds and rain but I did remember a hat.  I originally was planning a fairly aggressive pace (at least for me) but decided because of the warmer temperature to run a little slower in the early part of the race.

My good luck charm watching the race.
            We switched directions every four hours so we could use some different muscles.  Every time I passed the clock, my pace per lap was displayed.  This was awesome as I could know every 400 meters what my pace was.  This kept me occupied for most of the race and believe it or not I did not get bored at all!  I really didn’t pay attention to much else.  By 12 hours, I was close to 72 miles, a very good pace for me.  I was shooting for 133 miles for 24 hours (American age group record) and that seemed doable if I had no major catastrophe!

            After the sun set, temps were cooler and downright pleasant.  Intermittently, a few sprinkles kept us cool, but nothing major.  Phoenix definitely has a dry climate.  I was drinking plenty of fluids or so I thought.  The first time I had to go to the bathroom, however, was 8 hours into the race!

            From the turning motion, I did develop some blisters on my feet.  I also think I had a small rock in my shoe that I didn’t want to stop to address, causing a blister on the bottom of my foot.  I probably should have stopped early on to fix my feet but I just kept going and started calculating what my time would be at the 100 mile mark.  There was a fairly soft age group record of 19 hours and 25 minutes.  I thought I should be able to beat that, no problem.  That became my goal and my fixation.  Round I went until I hit 100 miles, about 17 hours and 14 minutes.  Hooray!  I had a new record…. and I then promptly went to check on my foot situation.  By then it was raining, I popped a few blisters and then pondered whether to continue and try for the 133 mile age group record.  Based on my 100 mile split, I definitely had enough time to hit those miles… but I was not feeling confident that I could maintain a steady pace without a lot of discomfort, started thinking I was really not in great shape to continue strong for another 6 ½ hours and so decided to stop at that point.  I was very happy getting my age group 100 mile record, however, and now I have something to shoot for when I run another track 24-hour!

            Congrats to Suzanna for getting an American age group record for 100 miles (around 16:02) and to Carilyn for running almost 131 miles.  Also the super fast guys had a good day.  Mike Arnstein ran a 13:46 for 100 miles and Jay Aldous ran a 13:52, which was a new World record for his age group!

            Nick and his crew did an excellent job with the race.  Everything was spot on and I could not have asked for anything more.  Looking forward to trying it again!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Trials, Tribulations and Chi-Town

As scheduling would have it, right after the North Coast 24-hour race, work went crazy.  The timing from a running standpoint was just pure luck because after September 18th, I didn’t have time to even run a few miles a day.  My forced recovery period actually was pretty good for me.  I really feel totally recovered now and ready for another running challenge.

My work commitments culminated in a 4-day jury trial starting on October 3rd.  When those happen – most cases settle so this is not too often – you feel like you’re in a black hole.  You live and breathe the case and of course no running.  The jury deliberations were pretty quick and ended with a unanimous verdict in favor of my client.  We went for a celebratory lunch and drink.  I then headed to my bee hives since I had neglected them too.  I needed to remove the honey frames and harvest honey before it got too cold.  Well, I was almost finished with my harvest when I got nailed on my outer thigh (through thick blue jeans) by a honey bee.  This was quite painful and I hobbled into the house to assess the damage.  The stinger was still implanted so I quickly removed it and downed a few Benadryl.  Over the course of the next day, the sting spread until I had an 8-inch round, red swollen welt on my thigh and it hurt!  This happened on Thursday.  On Friday I flew to Chicago to run the marathon on Sunday….  Again, good timing as if I had been stung before the NC24, it could have been real trouble.

As it was, the swelling started migrating in my leg down to my knee and was not so fun on Sunday….  Before the marathon, however, I was able to squeeze in a few fun things....

Dinner with friends Sharon & Meg

My first Big-10 game, Michigan/Northwestern
For the marathon, I was running incognito (with someone else’s bib) so I was really planning to make this a “fun run” anyway….  But as I plodded along the streets of Chicago after starting in the “open” corral area, I was constantly being elbowed, tripped, and generally trying to dodge slower runners.  Then at aid stations, it was a battle to get to the water and Gatorade (UGH) not to mention the million cups and sponges that runners threw in the middle of the road.  I had not run a “big” marathon for a LONG time… and with this experience fresh in my mind I can’t say I would run another one.  It was fun being with friends and the free beer at the end was a nice touch…. Otherwise I’m sticking with the smaller marathon…

312 Beer tastes better than Gatorade any day! With friend, Karen at the finish.

Monday, September 26, 2011

North Coast 24-Hour - PR's Are Possible At 50-Plus!

A confluence of events came together at the North Coast 24-Hour race (Sept. 17-18, 2011) in order for me to reach a long-held goal of hitting 130 miles in a 24-hour race – excellent weather, a fantastic crew and a little bit of luck.

Training for this 24-hour race has been interesting.  I typically am not a high mileage runner.  I usually though run at least a few "faster" marathons and at least one 5-6 hour training run before a 24-hour event.  For the NC24 race, due to other time commitments, I wasn’t able to get in any long runs.  After the 48-Hour race I ran in early May, my longest training run up to the NC24 has been 20 miles.  Since I didn’t have time for longer runs, I tried to double up, running 10 miles in the morning before work and 10 miles at night.  I never was able to hit 100 miles in any given week, but came close a few weeks.  I can also say it was a first for me to get out the door at 4:00 a.m. to squeeze in a number of 20-milers before work.  Just to mix things up, I also met my friend, Karen, at the high school track once a week  for some speedwork to try and energize my running since I felt I was getting way too slow.

Jamie Donaldson & me before the race
With my somewhat low training miles, I was a bit nervous going into the NC24.  The field of women runners was very strong and only the top two women were guaranteed a spot on the 2012 national team.  My only goal going in to the race was to hit my elusive “130.”  I really didn’t see a second place finish as a possibility.

Race day dawned and indeed the weather forecast was right!  Perfect running weather. At the start, I even resorted to gloves and arm warmers, which I peeled after a few hours.  My original plan was to start about a 9:30 minute per mile pace for the first three hours and then go right to a 10:00 pace for hours 3-6, and then every 3 hours adding 15 seconds to my pace.  Because the weather was so good, I abandoned that plan when I started running and hoped my exuberance would not be costly.  I started at a faster 9:15 pace and then dropped to a 9:30 pace for hours 3-6.

Everything was going like clockwork until about 4:00 PM when I started feeling kind of sick.  This coincided with the sun coming out and actually getting somewhat warm.  The way the course is configured, the northern side (by Lake Erie) was breezy and cool.  As soon as you turned the corner on the south side, the wind stopped and it was HOT.  Courtney, my crew chief extraordinaire, was on top of things and dug out some anti-nauseous pills and tons of ginger ale.  I also started increasing electrolytes.  Something worked and after an hour or two, I recovered.  From that point on, I felt remarkably well the rest of the race. 

I have been tweaking what combination of calories to consume during a race.  This time, I mixed 1 1/2 scoops of Perpetuem to fit into a small flask that I drank every hour.  I supplemented this with water as needed and hammer gels and hammer solids.  I can now say definitively that the solids are not anything I can use over very long periods of time.  Also the Perpetuem strawberry and coffee flavors were pretty good while the unflavored and orange got pretty nasty.  I was able to keep consuming this mix for most of the race.  I also ate oatmeal, oranges, peanut butter sandwiches and bananas and my friend’s special “long run cake.”  Courtney was excellent monitoring my calorie intake and kept shoving stuff in my mouth!!

Mission Control.... with crew chief Courtney
One new product I tried were these caffeine strips called “Sheets.”  I saw them advertised in a magazine a few weeks ago and thought I’d give them a try.  They actually had a strong bitter taste but dissolve on your tongue so they are convenient to consume and easier on the stomach than coffee, Red Bull, etc.
I don’t know if it was the “Sheets," cooler weather, almost stepping on a rat, or something else, but once midnight hit, I felt energized and was able to run at about a 10:15 minute mile pace from midnight to about 3 a.m.  I felt like I was "flying" because most people are either trudging or off the course at this point. 

This year the race had a leader board that I didn’t pay too much attention to during the first half of the race.  As is typical, most of the runners on the leader board go out too fast and fade before the race is over.  That certainly happened at this race… for different reasons both Jamie Donaldson and Anna Piskorska dropped.  Connie was her phenomenal self and unstoppable.  Lisa Bliss was running very strong.  I don’t think it was until the middle of the night before I caught up with her and got a lead.  Every time I saw Lisa she looked so strong so I knew I had to keep running once I moved into the number 2 spot.

There were a few glitches in the timing system during the first half of the race.  I was pretty sure that some of my laps were missed.  According to the official count, I hit the “130” mark with about 15 minutes to spare.  I wanted to quit then but Courtney wisely said, "Keep running…. You need one more lap for extra measure.”  I trudged on for one more lap.  With 5 minutes left, I kept running for a few minutes and then called it a day.  Final mileage, I thought, was 131.75, a little over 2 miles better than my previous PR.  After getting the laps splits and comparing them to my watch splits, I could easily see that some of my laps were indeed missed.  Bonus now for me is that I am getting"credit" for 3 additional laps so my actual mileage was 134!!!!

The end.... with Courtney!
When all the dust settled, Phil McCarthy ran a solid race and was the men’s champ with 153 miles and Connie Gardner was the women’s champ with 144 miles, just missing the women's American Record by about 1 mile.  I fully expect to Connie to break that record one of these days and I hope I am there to witness it!!  Jonathan Savage was 2nd with 146 miles and he earned a spot on the national team.  Still in shock over this, I also am now guaranteed a spot on the 2012 national team as the 2nd place female.  Lisa Bliss was 3rd female with just shy of 126 miles and could possibly qualify for one of the open spots on the national team.

Lessons learned? 
1. Expect the unexpected.  I’m feeling a little creaky and old at 52 to be on the national team but I guess that gives me incentive to stay as fit as possible for another year!
2. Stay out of the medical tent!  In my typical 24-hour races, I have to make at least one stop at the medical tent to get something fixed!  I love Dr. Andy and his medical students but this year I got to chat with them AFTER the race, which saved me a lot of time during the race.
3. Don’t overestimate the value of a well-organized crew.  This race, I thought absolutely about nothing…. To the point that I didn’t know who had won the men’s race until after the race was over….
4. Maybe my haphazard training program wasn’t so bad after all.
5. Comfort is key.  No chaffing or blisters this race.  My Epilepsy Association tech shirt worked perfectly.  And of course, Drymax socks were on my feet the entire race.  Thank you Drymax for your continued support of the National 24-hour Championship!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

24-Hour Racing: Individual or Team Sport?

Less than one week to go before the start of the North Coast 24-Hour National Championships in Cleveland, Ohio.  For better or worse, my training is complete.  Now, I just have to wait for the start...

With all this time on my hands, I started thinking about the benefits of running the race solo or using a crew.  While I have done 24-hour races without a crew a number of times, it is definitely not as much fun as having an attentive crew to help with anything you need.  Much of the details are worked out by the crew and at the end of the race I feel like we all ran the race, not just me.  Definitely a TEAM effort.

I am very lucky to have the National Championships in my backyard, just a few miles from where I live (and more importantly where my friends live).  From some crazy reason, I have a number of friends who seem to be looking as forward to the race as much as me.

Just one more bite, Courtney likes to say...
First, I have an amazing "Crew Chief," Courtney.  She is incredibly organized, stays up all night, and forces me to eat and drink.

What would I do without my own personal chef?  Karen is whipping up some awesome snacks.  They are special reserves to break open in the middle of the night.  I will definitely be looking forward to them.

Don't mess with Chef Karen.  She has sharp knives!
Night owl, Laurel, will be stopping by for the "second shift," any time after dark.  I will be using some of her lucky charms during the race....
No, this is not Laurel's lucky charm.... that is top secret....
I think though my number one fan is Mindy.  She is drawn to the race like a moth to a flame (or possibly a midge... hope they don't make an appearance at the race this year).  Her smiling face is a constant.... lap after lap.

Mindy's smile won't let me stop running!
Finally, my Equipment manager/photographer/master of ceremonies/masseur extra-ordinaire (and S.O.) - Roger.  He'd rather be doing anything else besides hanging out at Edgewater all weekend.  The race would definitely not be fun if he wasn't there!
Curling, not running, is Roger's thing!

I could post a TON more pictures of all the wonderful support I get during the race.  Those pics will be posted AFTER the race.  Whatever the results of the race this weekend, I know that I am spending 24 hours with wonderful friends and that makes me a winner any day.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Back to the Loop

This past Saturday we had our first "training run" for the North Coast 24 hour race.  We had some new faces show up to give the loop a try before the race in September.  The training run was combined with the kick-off for the Virtual Runner competition, a fundraiser for the Epilepsy Association.

The loop  is actually not exactly a circle.  There are several twists and turns so you get to use both sides of your body.  The loop is certified at .90075 miles. While I just like to think of it as a .9 mile course, those ".0075" miles add up over a 24-hour time period...

New this year for the race....  Honey Hut Ice Cream has its kiosk right next to the race aid station and they have PROMISED to be open race weekend!!!  For those not familiar with Honey Hut ice cream, it is delicious!!  Of course, having grown up in America's Dairyland (Wisconsin), any ice cream is delicious.  Last year the race temps were pretty warm so if that holds true this year, Honey Hut will have alot of customers (including runners).

Cruising around the North Coast race course, I am reminded how pretty it really is.  Part of the course is right along Lake Erie and some of the views are of downtown Cleveland (all lit up at night it's pretty cool to see).  On Saturday, the weather was quite warm but then suddenly a storm appeared to be brewing.  We all watched the storm roll in from the Lake and then as if by magic it disappeared.  I guess part of the challenge (or charm) of the race is trying to deal with and predict the weather.  Always be prepared is the key phrase.

A view of downtown Cleveland from the race course.

I am looking forward to the new runner faces -- Jeanette, Rick A and Bill D.... and possibly Bill R (on the fence)...  And for those of you ON THE FENCE, we are approaching our field limit of 200 runners.  Sign up now to avoid the price increase on August 17th AND the chance that you  just might get closed out!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lessons From My Cats

My kitten, Cartman, checking out my running shoes.
I have recently become the proud parent of two very lively kittens.  Their energy is unlimited and they have fun with the simplest of toys.  Wads of paper are their No. 1 favorite thing to play with.  It doesn't take much to keep them occupied and having fun.

For the last several months, I've felt like I've been running with cement shoes.  My runs have become a chore.  Taking  a few lessons from my kittens, I've decided to put the fun back in the run.  I'm mixing up some 5k races with long runs in between.  I've started adding some official speed work to my routine to get the energy back.  We'll see how this pans out in the fall for the North Coast 24-hour race.  Regardless, though, I'm having a good time with these simple, but new, challenges. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hanging Out With New & Old Friends At The Fair

It's been awhile since I ran a race.... work, curling and life in general have just got in the way.  When my schedule miraculously cleared, I jumped at the chance to try another 48 hour race in New Jersey at Three Days at The Fair.  The race took place on May 13-14, in conjunction with 72, 24, 12 and 6 hour races.

Going in to the race, I was hopeful that I could reach the 200 mile mark.  I thought I was capable of doing that at Across The Years this past New Years but just got annihilated and beaten down by the incredibly bad weather.  If I had good weather, I was thinking no problem....

Of course, then I totally forgot about actually TRAINING for the event!  Going in to the race, I had done limited long runs, basically one 4-hour run since New Years.  Would that be enough???

My friend, Courtney, rode with me to NJ, helped set up and stayed at the race for the first 5 hours.  She then went to NYC and planned to return to help on Saturday night and drive me home to Cleveland on Sunday.

Courtney setting up - No. 1 Crew Chief!!
I set up my aid with Phil McCarthy, who I knew was trying for a new 48-hour record.  I also had e-mailed back and forth with Sabrina Moran, a young ultrarunning phenom.  She was intending to run unsupported so I invited her to our "party."

Sabrina, Phil and me before the start
Race day started out cool and cloudy.  This was perfect.  The location was the Sussex County Fairgrounds.  Most of the course was asphalt with a little bit of gravel and grass thrown in the mix.  The first 5 hours of the race went totally as planned.  I was running at the exact pace that I wanted to.  Sabrina was whizzing by me but I expected her to run a fast 24 and then run out of steam.  I was planning to run slower but keep cranking out miles. 

In the afternoon, the weather started to get humid and warm.  The sun broke out from the clouds.  I'm not exactly sure how this happened but around hour 7 I started feeling sick...  I usually have a cast-iron stomach so this was somewhat new and I was not really prepared.  I took some Tums and ginger pills.  That did not help.  I kept running but in hindsight was not taking in enough calories.  I just couldn't eat anything.  This was not a good sign.  I knew in my mind that this was a recipe for disaster but my body refused to do anything about it.  When I hit the 100 mile mark around 20:30 hours, I decided to take a break to get my stomach under control.  I fell asleep for about 2 hours and then just sat in my chair watching the runners go by.  Every time Phil came around, he yelled at me to get up and start moving.  I eventually was shamed into moving and shuffled back on the race course with about an hour to go in Day 1.  At that point, my quads had turned to cement and I was reduced to walking.  I ended the first 24 hours at around 104 miles.  Sabrina was super strong and amazing, logging about 130 miles.  Phil was just a MACHINE on pace for an American Record!

At the end of Day 1, Sabrina and me - both HURTING!
For the start of Day 2, I was trying to run but I don't think you could tell my "run" pace from my "walk" pace.  Sabrina was not feeling well and took the opportunity to go home (10 minutes away) and regroup.  When she left, I wasn't sure if I'd see her again.  The rest of the day was a bit of a blur.  I did stop again in the afternoon for about 45 minutes for a nap.  My stomach had started to cooperate and I was able to eat and keep things down.  Unfortunately, my legs were like lead and I couldn't run.....  Phil was still amazing.  Anna P. had started the 24 hour race that morning and she was very encouraging every time she lapped me (which was many times!)

Late in the afternoon (I think), Sabrina reappeared.... energized and ready to run.  She again whipped around the course in what seemed like amazing speed.  I just kept plodding along.  As darkness fell, it started misting, which felt very nice.  Sabrina had slowed and we ended up walking together for a few hours, chatting about many things.  I had calculated out in my mind what my mileage would be if I kept up my excruciatingly slow pace and wasn't too happy about that.  Even best case, I would not hit my mileage from ATY.  If I had ANY run left in my legs, I would have stuck it out.  But having walked for HOURS already, I decided when I hit 150 miles that I would call it a race.  With around 9 hours to go (midnight), I retired to the tent.  Around 2:00 am, Courtney cam back from NYC and we drove to a hotel for a nice hot shower and a bed!

In the morning, we drove back to the race and I discovered that Phil had indeed set a new 48-hour American Record  by 9 miles with 257 miles!!!!!  I was so happy for him.  Sabrina was the women's 48-hour winner with 172 miles and Anna won the 24-hour outright with 115 miles.  I ended up in 2nd place and received a very cool piece of pottery and a 100-mile coin.

Lessons learned? 

1. I cannot fool myself into thinking I can squeak by for a 48-hour race with minimal training and expect big miles.
2. I need to be better prepared for the unexpected (i.e. bad stomach) and get it under control.  On my to-do list is to contact Dr. Andy for advice!  This was one of my first timed races without his sage direction!!
3. Sometimes these races are not about the miles but the people you meet.  Although my mileage goal was not met, I came out a big winner by all the wonderful runners and volunteers I got to talk with throughout the race and the new friends I made.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wine, Dine, Curl

Last weekend we headed south to Columbus for their Women's bon spiel, which had the theme of Wines of the World.  No one on my team had been to the Columbus Curling Club before, which has only been open at its new location for a few years.  We were all pleasantly surprised.  A charming place ... hard to imagine it had once been a warehouse! 

Courtney, Karen and Laurel

The ice was a bit challenging, very fast but some strange curls to it.  It took us awhile to get a read on the ice and we got behind in our first game.  We shook after 7 ends and wracked up a loss.  We took a break and were feted at the home of one of the Club members, a South American themed menu with accompanying Chilean wine.  That must have cleared our heads as we came back in our second game in the afternoon and handily won.

After curling concluded on Saturday, the Club hosted a wine tasting that evening, with different food pairings and tasty wines....  Laurel and I ended up the big winners in the raffle and our team won a prize for best song....  Good thing that wasn't recorded!

On Sunday, we won our final game and ended up the winner of the "B" event.  Prizes were bottles of wine (of course).

Me, Courtney, Laurel and Karen with our "trophies."

Columbus outdid themselves on a terrific event and we hope to return next year.

Curling Update - USCA Senior Nationals

Pardon the lag in posting.... but I've been busy curling!

First a quick report from the USCA Seniors, which were the first weekend in February in Bismarck, ND.  That weekend coincided with the worst snowstorm of the season that shut down a large portion of the country... nerve-wracking travel and one team from Maine cancelled due to the snow.  We also started the competition late in order to wait for all of the remaining six teams to arrive in one piece.

In a nutshell, the Capital Curling Club was a very nice facility with four sheets of ice.  We started strong, winning our first game against Wisconsin.  After that, our team struggled and we definitely did not play up to our potential.  We won one other game against North Dakota and lost to the eventual winner, Minnesota, as well as teams from Illinois and Washington.  We finished in a three-way tie at 2-3 with Wisconsin and Washington.  Since we had better scores for the draws to the button, we "officially" ended up in third place.

In between games we tasted some of the local food (deep fried cheese sandwiches!!) .....

And toured some of the sites.  It was pretty cold so mainly we stayed indoors!

My niece, Michelle, me and Sacajawea (the statute).

Overall, it was a good experience.  While my lucky socks didn't help us win more games, I will maybe give them a try at my next race to see if they work better when I'm running...

My lucky socks (although my Drymax socks are on underneath!)

Friday, January 14, 2011

MCC Hosts Scot Ladies on American Tour

It feels like a tornado came through Cleveland!  Yesterday, the Scot ladies arrived in Cleveland as part of their 30-game curling competition that started in Boston and ends in Seattle three weeks later.  Mayfield Curling Club was fortunate to be designated as home hosts for the 20 Scots and I was honored to be able to host two of the women, Caroleen from Glasgow and Barbara from Dundee.  The women had been on a break-neck schedule and were happy yesterday to have some "down" time for massages and manicures.  The evening was capped off with a McGonagall dinner, a very fun backward dinner (having dessert first, etc) to celebrate Scotland's worst poet William Topaz McGonagall.  We toasted the Poet many times throughout the evening!

The ladies Scots at MCC.

My house guests were super and were very thoughtful to give me a beautiful silver quaich (a Scottish cup for drinking whiskey) and a charming bookmark and pen in the design of famous Glasgow architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.  I also received a specially designed silver tour pin with a curling stone between the Scottish and US flags.

Caroleen, me and Barbara at the MCC dinner.

Today, three of the teams took to the ice for a match with three MCC teams.  Sadly for MCC and the US, we lost two of the games and only won one.  My team had a few problems (me!) and we had a few bad ends that brought us down to defeat.

Even with the loss, the game was very fun.  We exchanged club pins after the game, shared a drink, and they were off before we knew it in their tour bus to their next curling match at the Cleveland Skating Club.  I am exhausted and I can only imagine how grueling the schedule is for the 20 women Scots.  Thanks for the game and friendship and GOOD CURLING!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Across The Years - 48 Hours of Rain, Wind & Mud

“If you can’t change fate, change your attitude.” That phrase kept going through my head the week before the ATY 48-hour race. Each day, as I checked the local weather reports, the forecast kept getting worse and worse. Well, I guess I had to get used to the idea that conditions might not be ideal for the race. This I could handle but I was feeling very sorry for my crew…

Speaking of which, I had two wonderful crew members for the race. First, my boyfriend Roger – a nonrunner who absolutely hates sitting around watching these races. Can’t say that I blame him…. But he tolerates going (especially to cool places like Italy and France) and his favorite part of crewing is going on treasure hunts to find whatever is needed… he was able to track down asparagus soup in France and corn juice in Korea. He can find anything! My other crew member was Courtney. She is a runner but not an ultrarunner. She claims to have gotten “hooked” on these loop races when she helped out at the North Coast 24 in 2009. This year, she took control of everything at the North Coast race, doing a fantastic job, and then insisted that she really wanted to come and help at ATY. I still remain skeptical. I think this must be like watching a bad train wreck…. It’s an awful experience but you just can’t stay away…..

Roger & Courtney trying to stay warm
We were only delayed about three hours on December 28th, the night before the race, due to bad weather on the East Coast and got to our hotel about 10:30 pm. Plenty of time to get some rest. We arrived at Nardini Manor about 8:00 am on Wednesday, December 29th, and began scouting around for a good location for our tent/aid station. We ended up under a eucalyptus tree that in hindsight turned out to be a rather sheltered spot. Jamie and David Donaldson were signed up for the 24-hour run that day and we offered them a spot under our tent.

My goal before the race was to hit 200 miles. To do that, I planned to run about 120 miles for the first 24 hours and then get whatever I could during the second 24-hour. I had heard from many people that it is very difficult to get 100 miles the second day and that your miles really diminish…. I figured that if I hit 120 miles on Day One I should be in pretty good shape for the second day. The weather at the start was cool and overcast; I would dare to say almost perfect. I started out running 9:45 minute miles and planned to go a little bit slower in 2-hour increments (which was when we switch directions on the course). In spite of being the smallest loop course I have run, I found it to be a great course and not boring at all. There was a lot of vegetation and things to see on the small loop. Changing directions also gave a new perspective and kept everything fresh. Just when you were getting sick of looking at something, you got to turn the other way.

One of many statues lining the course.
I had started the race in shorts and a t-shirt. After a few hours, there were sprinkles but nothing serious. I then had to take a few work calls and e-mails so I walked for awhile. Once I was finished with those, I was totally chilled to the bone and this is where the race began to feel like a fashion show…. I have never changed clothes so many times in a race! I was putting on a long-sleeve shirt, then a vest, then a jacket, then switching to a short-sleeve shirt with jacket, then a hat, etc, etc, etc. It was crazy! For some reason I really couldn’t figure out the right thing to be wearing…. I was either too hot or too cold!

As usually happens in these timed races, I really don’t have a very good memory of exactly what was going on. I think about 9 hours into the race, I had to stop and change socks because my socks were so mud-encrusted and uncomfortable… What this means is that the sprinkles turned to rain and the nice smooth track turned to mud. At points it was raining quite hard and so the course could not properly drain. The volunteers were working hard to dig ditches and trenches to divert water off of the track but they could not keep up. I guess the good news was that the mud was not the shoe-sucking kind that grabs your shoe and pulls it off. The mud was not terribly deep but it was quite slippery. And, of course, it was sloppy and did get in my shoes and socks. Coupled with the mud and rain, there were fairly high winds making everything cold and I expended a lot of energy trying to make some headway against the wind. Then the course lights shorted out due to the rain so that the muddiest area of the course had very low light. I can’t see that well in the dark (must be old age) so going through this section at night every 4-5 minutes was not a lot of fun. I felt like I was slowing way down and also expending too much energy slipping around.

I plodded along however and at the 12-hour mark was around 66 miles. This was below my goal and things did not look good at this early time for hitting 200 miles. Around 2:00 am, the heavens let loose and I ducked for cover in our tent. It felt like a monsoon! David had also taken cover but we watched with amazement as Jamie ran by. We yelled at her to come in and get out of the storm but she was on a mission for 140 miles and said she wanted to keep running. After about 20 minutes, the worst of the storm had passed, so I set out again in the rain, this time having changed into Gortex pants.

At the 24-hour mark, I had reached about 110 miles. Based on that mileage, I was fairly certain that 200 miles was now beyond my grasp, especially since I had tapped so much energy to get to that point. I now started thinking about getting as many miles as I could and refocused on a new goal of 180. Jamie had finished her 24-hour race with 123.6 miles (well below her goal but good for a first-place overall finish!) and David with 74 miles.  They yelled to me as they were having a beer after their run and asked if I wanted one. Tempting…. But on I trudged!

Courtney had been sleeping during the worst of the storm and now, in the early morning, had changed places and Roger had gone back to the room to sleep. I patiently waited for him to return to the course (OK, not really, I kept asking Courtney, “Is Roger back yet?”) and then, once he returned about 11:00 am, we borrowed Dr. Andy’s table and Roger gave me an excellent leg massage. That was definitely heaven and worth the wait! Once that was over, back on the course I went.

The sun makes a brief appearance on Day Two.
With the start of Day Two, the rain had stopped. Nonetheless, the wind continued to howl making the temperature still pretty cold and a battle when running against the wind. The track did dry out by mid-day and I used that opportunity to change my shoes and socks. When I took off my socks, to my surprise, I noticed large bruises on the tops of both feet. That has never happened before. I suspect it may have been caused from running in the mud for so long as Jamie told me later that she also had bruises on the tops of her feet! After observing that, I hunted down Dr. Andy (who was registered for the 72-hour and was also getting in laps on the course). I followed him into the medical tent and he relaced my shoes to get the pressure off those spots and also put foam between my socks and feet to also provide more cushioning. That seemed to do the trick. After a quick stretch from Andy, I was on the track again.

Day Two, taking a stretching break
Around noon of Day Two, a high school friend of Roger’s, Doug, came to visit with his son. Doug is a transplant from Cleveland and Roger had hung out at Doug’s for a few hours during Day One. It was fun to get visitors but I probably didn’t make a good first impression as I think by then I looked like a crazy lady.

Around 7:00 pm, I had another surprise as Carolyn Johnson (US national teammate) and her family swung by on their way to LA from Texas. I only go to talk to them for a few minutes but it was very fun to see them. Once they left, I decided to take a little 15 minute nap. The race had a huge unheated tent with a small heated tent inside that had cots. I went in the heated tent, peeled off my jackets (at this point I was wearing two) and lowered myself for a little rest. I would repeat this “15” minute nap strategy three more times…. Although by the time I walked into the tent, took off my jackets, got settled, etc, it probably was closer to 30 minute breaks.

Throughout the night, the air temperature kept getting colder so in addition to two jackets, I also added long tights to my arsenal and changed into larger shoes. To make this last change, Courtney and I went into the heated bathroom, which was stocked which such toiletries as Scope. As weird as it sounds, I used the Scope and felt like a new woman!

By the middle of the night, there was heavy frost on the car windows, a beautiful starry night and a sliver of a moon. This was the calmest time of the last two days with virtually no wind. Unfortunately I wasn’t running very fast so I did not capitalize on the good conditions but it was just nice to not be battling the weather for a change.

While I was falling short of my goals, I still had my eye on what other 48-hour women runners were doing. Liz Bauer, who has run 200-plus miles in a 48-hour race this year, looked very strong early on. We were neck and neck for a long time. I think at some point she was having some ankle problems and ended up sitting out for a period of time so I ended up pulling away from her. The course had very good computer screens that detailed your mileage and pace per lap. There was a small computer that had the standings. I couldn’t really see the computer that had the standings on it (yes, I guess I should have been wearing glasses), so I would periodically ask Courtney if there were any other women who looked like they were mounting a charge as I had to look not only at the women I started with but also at the women who started the 48-hour race a day later. Based on her calculations, though, she didn’t see anyone who could catch me if I kept moving at a decent pace. This was somewhat comforting as I really did not have to focus as much on my competitors but only my own mileage goal of 180…. So, I just kept plodding. It seemed like I was stuck in the 130s for an eternity…

Not too tired to give the "peace" sign!
Somewhere in the middle of the night, Courtney told me that I was in 2nd place and that the 1st place runner, Davy Crockett, was off the course and not running. He had around 160 miles. I really didn’t think too much of this because Phil McCarthy, who started his 48-hour race a day later, was running strong and was hoping to reach about 240 miles. He has previously run 234 miles at a 48-hour race in France. There were also a few other 48-hour males who started the 2nd day that appeared strong. So I my mind 160 miles was not going to win any race. When I actually surpassed Davy's miles and held the “No. 1” spot, I found it pretty amusing since I have never held that spot before but really didn’t place any significance to it.

I had been eating pretty healthy the entire race - oatmeal and rice cereal were just a few of my delicacies -but John Geesler put it in my head that I wanted a milkshake. Yes, he had mentioned that he wanted one earlier in the day so Courtney went out and got him one. Once I saw that milkshake, I thought, that looks pretty good. As the hours ticked away, I asked Roger if he could get me one too. Maybe around 2-3:00 am, he came back with a vanilla and a strawberry milkshake. I had some of the vanilla and Roger donated the strawberry one to the aid station (and they said it was surprisingly popular). I then started thinking what I needed to do in order to hit 180 miles. I had really been lagging and was tired. Maybe it was the sugar in the milkshake but all the sudden I felt like I had a “burst” of energy and started running good. I kept thinking about how many miles I needed for the 180 goal. I didn’t want to be short! Every time I looped Dr. Andy, he’d give me words of encouragement, it was very fun. In this time frame, Davy had reentered the course and was moving fast. I knew if he kept that up he would take over the “lead” no problem but I was not concerned because I didn’t think our miles would end up being the top miles for the race (who would have thought?) It seemed like there weren’t a lot of runners on the course running at that time so it was good to see him running as it helped to keep me running too. Once everyone is walking, it’s easy to get sucked into walking…

Dawn finally broke even though roosters had been crowing since 3:00 am (don't they know how to tell time?)   With an hour to go, I hit 180. Relief! At that point, I was fairly sure that none of the woman would reach my miles and I decided to walk it in with Ray K. I was getting very drowsy in the last minutes but he convinced me that we could walk one more lap before I was done (he of course still had another day since he was running the 72-hour). Once I crossed the timing mat for the last time, Courtney turned in my chip, I hugged a few people, said some quick goodbyes and then we were off for showers and the airport. Roger and Courtney were worried that there would be a lot of traffic and the car return at the airport is just plain ridiculously slow…. We did make it to the airport with enough time to have a celebratory beer before boarding. Courtney, a frequent flyer, was super kind to give up her first-class seat so I had a wonderful nap on the plane before touching down in Cleveland to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

After arriving home, Roger and I managed to stay up until midnight and then went to bed until 2:00 pm New Years Day. After waking, I did check to make sure I was still in first place. I was surprised to learn that not only was I first place woman but also 2nd place overall! Davy had managed a first place win with 187 miles. I was just short of 183 miles. A huge congrats to Davy. There were definitely tough weather conditions on the course and he conquered the course. Way to go!!

As a postscript, I must say that, with the wet weather and mud, I changed my socks often.  At the end of the race, my Drymax socks came through with flying colors - no blisters!  THANKS DRYMAX!!
* Photos courtesy of Ray K and Tammy M.