31 May 2009

south mountain 100k

On Saturday, I ran the South Mountain 100k. It was a tough course, with three loops of two out-and-backs. Lisa and I arrived 10 minutes late, but quickly started off on the course - perhaps too quickly! We attacked the hills early on, running fast, trying to catch up with the others. 51 runners started the race, and only 11 finished - and I was pleased to be one of the 11 runners!

The first loop we were so focused on catching up that I didn't notice the difficulty of the first loop. There were rocks, roots, and plenty of hills. When we finished the first loop, we fueled up at our drop bags and headed back out. The second loop was much more runnable; there was an especially pretty meadow section that reminded us of The Sound of Music (and thanks to Lisa, I got it in my head every time we ran through the meadow). At the second out-and-back's aid station, we chatted with volunteers about the VT100 miler, VT50, and I enjoyed some delicious iced oatmeal cookies.

The first loop of 20.whatever miles was tough, but I felt strong. The second loop was difficult, but we remained in good spirits. Especially good was ice-cold watermelon at the second aid station! I def need to keep that in mind for the VT100 - it was a lovely treat. Otherwise, I ate strawberry banana gu, pretzels, some sports jelly beans.

I was in some pain miles 40-50, but pushed through it. Lisa was an amazing hiker (on the uphills we walked, she was tough to keep up with) and I struggled behind her. I felt my asthma struggle a bit (perhaps this was a precursor to the intensely scary, almost emergency-room-visit-requiring asthma attack i had today), but my albuterol kept things in line.

The last ten miles were great. I had borrowed Brennen's headlamp, which we didn't use until the very, very end (maybe the last 1/2 mile or so), and as the sun went down, we struggled on the trails. I felt great and pushed as best as I could, though I was looking forward to taking off my sneakers - I had a painful blister on my ankle I really wanted to free from the constraints of my shoe. Watermelon 5 miles from the finish really perked me up (ahhhh!) and Lisa and I ran in strong to the finish.

It was great to do an entire 100k with someone else; Lisa and I chatted, she offered lots of tips and advice from her experience in the VT100 last year. We kept each other motivated, and at a fast pace.

I woke up sore and in pain, but now, I'm almost 100%. Actually, I'm going to go pop that blister now...

29 May 2009

trail running on the greenbelt

last saturday, i headed out for an adventure on long island. i had the entire day ahead of me, a nathan-pack full of gels, pretzels, water and sports jelly beans, and i was ready to run!

after a subway ride and the LIRR, i arrived in cold spring harbor. it's a fairy easy trek to the greenbelt from there - you cross the parking lot, make a right on 108 (i believe that's the name of the road), and make your first left. shortly after, you'll hit the trail.

i ran for hours. i got lost countless times, pushed myself whenever i could. the scenery was lovely and i mostly had a great time.

i hit rock bottom; that's what i love abt endurance running: the intensity. i had some really intense highs were i was flying up hills, running hard, pushing myself, loving every last minute of it. but then i kept getting lost - the trail was poorly marked at parts, i was getting lost, running through poison ivy, getting attacked by thorn bushes. i started to cry a little. "i can't do this anymore." were my mother home, i would have called her and asked her to pick me up. she wasn't, and i was alone. i had to figure this out for myself.

i'm glad i did. when a trail ended on a road and i couldn't find my way out of it, i ran back the way i came. it was a long run back, but it wasn't boring. it was still pretty. i found a grocery store where i was able to wash my arms and legs free from potential poison ivy; i filled up my water.

i kept running. i got lost. i couldn't find my way out of the stupid park. i kept asking for directions from some mountain bikers; we kept running into each other, all of us lost. when i found my way out, you know what i did? i ran back in on an easy trail (where i wouldn't get lost) for another hour. i wanted at least 8 hours of running.

and i ran more than that. i ran. i felt great. at the end, i was thirsty and light-headed. i ended at the same train station i started at, and collapsed on the platform in the two minutes i had before my train arrived. i ate a powerbar protein recovery bar (yum!) and drank some water. everyone stared.

i felt strong. accomplished. i feel ready for the VT100 miler. it's the mental i have to get through, and i know it will get tough, but i know i will survive.

18 May 2009

those moments

those moments come when you least expect it. like when you're in the card aisle of cvs on a break from work, picking out a father's day card for your father. you don't have a lot of time, so you decide to leave the father's day card for your grandfather until another day. (you have, after all, over a month until father's day.) and this is fine, until you realize: you may not need a father's day card for your grandfather. he is 89 and having surgery this week.

and you try not to crumple into tears with q-tips, hair elastics, toothpaste, and a father's day card for dad in your arms, and someone reaches past you to open an insipid musical card, and new york city never lets you have peace - but sometimes, it's easier this way.

10 May 2009

North Face Challenge Bear Mountain 50 Miler

I was very hesitant about signing up for this race not only because the terrain is SO technical (and technical running is NOT one of my strong suits), but also because last year the cutoffs were SO tight that the majority of people who started did not finish. I did not want to have a DNF after my name, but decided the pursuit of running happiness ranked higher than the potential DNF. I signed up. I really do love running; this is what sustains me, more than most people. You know how when you go to your parents' house you go straight to the fridge, pour yourself a glass of milk and can eat cookies and talk with your parents and feel so at home? That's how I feel when I'm running. More than anything else, it's ultimately, 100% me. It's my authentic self.

Starting at 5am in rain, I quickly remembered that running with my headlamp is annoying. (I was glad when it started to get light, and removed my headlamp.) The start was difficult, with some rocks, water, splashing, downhills, more rocks, rain, and still, the feeling of excitement ran through my body.

The rain stopped after about an hour or so; I drank water in between aid stations, would fill up on oranges at the aid stations, but mainly ate my own foods, which I carried and/or left in the drop bags: strawberry banana gu, pretzels, fun-sized snickers bars, and animal crackers.

I'm not the strongest technical runner, so whenever we reached a semi-flat part or less rocky part, I pounded out those miles. People were impressed (but probably not impressed with how wussy I was on the downhills). The earlier miles I ran with a bunch of people, but was very careful on the slippery boulders I ran across. I lost them then, but passed them on some flats. It's how it goes.

One of the things I love about ultrarunning is how so much can happen in one race: I met so many people (including someone who had NEVER run on a trail before in his life!) yet also spent a good part of the race by myself, admiring nature, doing some thinking. On the parts where I was able to go fast, I got to reach that state of euphoria that only running can give me. Ah, endorphins...

Around mile 18, I ran into a guy who said he was hurting. He drank some of my water, and I ended up almost not getting my water bottle back. At the mile 20 aid station, I regrouped with Nelson, saw Matt (amazing cheerleader of the day! Go Matt!), and headed out. Shortly after this, I lost Nelson and everyone else and was running alone.

I was ecstatic to make all of the cut-off points, at the mile 34.5 cutoff, I made it with 31 minutes to spare, making up time. The volunteers were so amazing, treating me like a muddy princess.

The trails...they were up, and down, and very, very rocky. We have been having heaps of rain all week, so the paths were incredibly muddy...some of the trails were SO wet, it would appear I was running in streams, or even lakes. "We need flippers for this," one trail newbie grumbled to me. It was quite mucky and I tried not to think of snakes. Luckily, I only saw one snake, and it was a garter snake. The terrain being so wet and crazy, and me being a less confident and especially less experienced trail runner, I lost time on some of these parts.

Around mile 30, my right shin really started hurting me. I had problems with shin splints two months ago or so, and while I thought they healed totally, the pain was excruciating. It was so painful the thought of dropping out crossed my mind for one second -- "In the long run, for the health of my leg, it would probably be better" -- but then I squashed that thought. "I am not causing permanent damage, I will finish. I will not DNF." Whenever the pain got bad (which was, unfortunately, quite often, especially when I was walking or starting to run again), I thought of my grandmother -- "She has cancer, had surgery, is starting radiation -- her pain is worse than this. This is for grandma." So I continued.

The volunteers were great at all of the aid stations, grabbing my water bottles, constantly asking if I needed anything. The food selection wasn't the greatest, but I enjoyed the oranges and the occasional salty potato.

I had a lot of quiet time, wit nature, to just observe and feel free. It was a struggle, but mostly, it was pure bliss. The time between aid stations seemed enormous ("This must be way more than what they said!") but the day flew by and felt much quicker than the 12:30 it took me.

There was a horrible hill around mile 46 ("There's a bit of a hill," the volunteer at the aid station prior told me unhelpfully; it was THE WORSE hill on the whole course, and seemed to go on forever), but between the last aid station and the finish, it was mostly runnable. I flew (except for where I hit the lake that took over the trail, there I ran sloppily, hoping there were no snakes).

I came in to the finish, arms raised in the air, ecstatically happy to have completed. The course was tough, the day tested me, but ultimately, I persevered.


it's weird. on sundays, i finally start to feel like my true self -- and then i realize i have to go back to work monday. true cherie for just one night, i suppose.

08 May 2009

Wise Words to Live By

"Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself that you tasted as man as you could."

-Louise Erdich, The Painted Drum

04 May 2009

trying to think my way out of the "corporate box"

"i don't want to be a professional. as soon as you become a professional, half the inspiration disappears."

--larry harvey, burning man founder