31 March 2011

Final Taper Run Before Umstead


My stomach feels literally, cliche or not, like butterflies are fluttering about, from intestines to stomach and all over my body. I'm tingling with nervousness.

The 2011 Umstead 100 Miler will be my 5th 100 miler. That doesn't mean it's any easier. Instead, I feel this intense pressure to perform well. To run fast. To not have any problems.

There's a lot I've done to prepare for this race - the intense training; the long runs; the races; the cross-training; the running in suckiest of weathers; the visualization; the prep I'll do with food the next two days (Bring on the carbs!); the packing; the meticulously arranged drop bags. But when it gets down to the race, anything can happen, things you can't control. Stomach problems. Random pains. Injuries. Nausea. Where's the bushes? Electrolyte deficiency. Who knows?

But there's nothing you can do, but embrace it all. I'm excited to run with good friends, run on pretty trails, run in weather that will be warmer than in NYC. My mom and my sister will crew me. It's going to be so much fun.

As I tapered this morning, all these thoughts flooded through my body. An excitement pushed my feet - flying. I saw three of my totally awesome NBR teammates during mile repeats - I chatted to them while they rested before their final repeat. Then I saw another NBR-ite on her way to work. We chatted. They all believed in me. They think I'm crazy, but they were supportive of what I can accomplish.

And accomplish I will.

No matter what I do, I will have won in my heart.

30 March 2011

Umstead Packing!

I'm packing right now, with the assistance of my cat. She's staring at the stove, waiting for another mouse to emerge. I'm forgetting things like, non-running underwear, packing way too many gels (Conversation goes like this: Me: "I'm packing 24 gels." Wayne: "You going to eat that many gels? Wow." Me: "Of course not. I'm going to eat 4, feel like if I eat another I'll vomit, and then stick to race food the rest of the time, and my mom's cookies."), worrying I don't have enough, pretty sure I have too much.

A rough packing list (borrowed from previous blog posts, and to remind you/me!):

  • 2 sports bras
  • 2 tank tops
  • 2 running skirts
  • 2 pairs of underwear
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 2 sneakers (one is a half-size bigger, which will feel like heaven at mile 70!)
  • 2 thin long-sleeved shirt
  • 2 warmer running shirt
  • visor
  • 1 pair of gloves
  • baby wipes
  • body glide
  • packs of tissues (for when you gotta pee on the trail (Yeah, we get lazy and don't even move off the trail sometimes!) or a port-a-potty that of course, has no tp!)
  • foradil (asthma medicine)
  • albuertol (asthma medicine)
  • singulair (asthma medicine)
  • dulera (asthma medicine)
  • 22 gels (though I never eat this many, just in case!)
  • 12 sports chews (power gel strawberry blasts)
  • 1 sports beans
  • 30 endurolytes
  • gaiters
  • Hydration belt
  • 2 water bottles
  • 1 5-hour energy shot 
  • Energy chews (Caffeine in the for of gum!)
  • Ziploc bags
  • sunglasses
  • headlamps
  • extra batteries
  • Advil
  • Imodium & tums
  • mints (I like Mint-o-Green lifesavers)
  • 2 Drop Bags
To buy when I arrive:
Sunscreen, Coconut water

Can't wait to see my sister, run 100miles with some of the most amazing peeps I know!

25 March 2011

Are You Batshit Crazy? AKA The Burning Man Ultramarathon

For those of you who don't know, I am the race director of the Burning ManUltramarathon. If you've ever wanted to try an ultra for the first time, this is def the place for it. The course is a loop course (5-6 miles, depending on what I measure when I get out there), fast and flat (though there is sand - be sure to wear gaiters!), which makes it logistically easy (1 drop bag, cram as much as you want in there, and do as many costume - yes, I said costume! - changes!). You might think a loop course is boring, but def not at Burning Man. I would say it was my funnest race in my entire life. You run past clubs, people in body paint, kissing booths, giant buses filled with enormous speakers and dancing crowds...You start at 5am when it's cold (Last year it was in the 40s!) and run as fast as you can before it gets hot and dusty.

Burning Man - you kind of have to go, it's hard to explain. It's changed my life more than anything else. Every time I leave, I have a new perspective on life. You might come back, quit your job, sell your house, move across the country to be with the person you met and fell in love with and start a video production company (as happened to someone I know). Burning Man is a week-long arts & musical festival in the middle of the desert. A city is built on the wide open desert (aka playa) with beautiful mountains in the distance. You buy a ticket and everything else is free. Free drinks. Free lessons on bondage. Free Bach & Brie. Free Furkini workshops. Free talks on how comets are formed. Free Madonnathons with pickle martinis. Free pancakes for breakfast. Naked people, half-naked people, beautiful costumes. Free drinks at the Librarian Cocktail Party (ahem...). It's amazing. It's beautiful. It's my favourite week of the year.

If you have any friends who go, please pass this on. We're seeking runners, and oh yeah, there's a 5k as well!  We're also seeking volunteers so this is the perfect time for your partner to shoot you with a watergun repeatedly for a couple of hours.

Facebook info for ultra

Race Website 



24 March 2011

Thinking Big

"You cannot get what you don't go after."
--Ray K.

Umstead 100 Miler. Just the very thought sends my mind someplace else...to those well-groomed carriage trails, to last year's race, to that seemingly torturous hill after the second main aid station (the one where I clutched my stomach after learning my limit of M&Ms, and where I had a woman stop her race to help offer me Tums...), to how I do not plan on spending time inside the lodge, to how I want to PR, to how strong I need to run to do this.

I haven't had the best training, I know. Backpacking seemed to take a priority over long runs (Hello, beach! Hello, surfboard! Hello, rum! Hello, awesome new friends! Hello, Cacao Shaman! Goodbyes all around!), and while in Central America, though I did run 1-2 hours nearly every day, I still didn't get in my usual amount of long runs. The weather back home was so miserable that instead of laughing around Bear Mountain, Rockefeller, and Minnewaska, I probably would've been slogging miles in paved Central Park with the dreaded iPod.

But - more than anything else - I have the desire. The want. The burn inside. Ray K. told me we could do 18 hours - I don't know if this is possible. My sister wants me to run as fast as possible ("If you finish before 11 o'clock, we can still get a table at this restaurant!" "The quicker you run, the more time you'll have to eat."), my mom is sad I plan on spending less time at aid stations, and others doubt if I can do it. I'm not sure.
When yr crew has a spread, grabbing what you need is easier.

But I'm still going to TRY.

But if I have a good day - and I'm planning on having a good day, that's what I marked my calendar for! - I can run strong and fast and well and have fun. I hope to stay with Tony and Ray in 10 minute miles for the first 50 miles. I'll have to learn to get in and out of aid stations quicker - have Lissy and my mom prep water bottles for me, and give me my extra bottle of coconut water, my savior, and whatever delicious snacks I'm desiring of. I'll have to plan my drop bags out a little better than I have previously.
Prepping drop bags cluelessly before my first 100miler

Next week - I'm serious - sleep. Lots of it. Lots of carbs, good food. Just a little running, to keep the legs in motion - but getting lots of rest. I'll cut out caffeine (Makes that 5 hour energy shot kick me into gear a little stronger!). I'll stretch. I'll make my sister promise to force me into an ice bath (and she can be fierce, so I know she'll make me do it).

And victory...I want to taste it. I want it so bad. I need to go after it in order to get it.

Can't Stop Listening To It...

This is the kind of song that takes over you. The kind of song where you suddenly realize something, and you walk out into a rainstorm in a forest, wearing a dress, a full face of makeup, and can't tell if it's raindrops or teardrops. It's the kind of song where someone comes into the forest to kiss you, and again, is it sweat or tears or rain? And it's the kind of song where you feel so mellow, floating along, down a river, where nothing could possibly be wrong, even when everything really is.

20 March 2011

The Best People in the World

I feel so lucky for having so many amazing people in my life right now. People who absolutely blow me away. 

My trip is coming full circle. Getting tipsy with friends from Nicaragua, about to host Brian from Panama City/Bocas del Toro/San Jose/San Marcos for a few days, Carlos coming in a few days, Jarret and Rio coming to Burning Man. All the amazing people I've met were no limited time offer. The amazing people stay.

And I just read Nelson's book. Wow. I felt sucked in, wanting to rescue Carmen. The writing is so brilliant, and Jonathan clearly remarked that the writing reminded him of his - so true. Both are able to use few words in such a powerful, intense way that is far from my style.

And then there's Ray K who will run w/ me at Umstead. Tony who I'll train with, who will make me laugh so hard while running that I'll feel like peeing in my pants. And Iliana with all her kindness. And Rachelle taking photos of me swimming in Odwalla bars. And my running club, North Brooklyn Runners, with all their fabulous energy. And my Burning Man community here in NYC, with white and silver and blue body paint, and sparkles. And Greg and his psychedelic art. And Gwendolyn with her brutal honesty. And my sister with her nickname for me, and I for her, "The Beast." And Venessa and her letters and way of living I often envy, the renegade gardener. And Wayne... And everyone else, for meaning so much.

Writing more. Running more. Thinking more clearly. Being more myself. Utterly happy.

Thank you to all.

13 March 2011

St. Patrick's Day Marathon!

Sometimes a race is fun, amazing, and full of laughs, good conversation - and you get the ultimate high. And today was truly one day.

The Holiday Marathons has started hosting a series of fun races on or near holidays - on a 6.5 mile loop in Van Cortlandt Park up in the Bronx. A bunch of NBRites including Wayne, Anna, Aaron, Ben, Chris, Bev, Christine, Mishka ran it, plus I got to see a bunch of my other ultrarunning friends like Emmy, Frank, Ray, Jeff. So it was social and a great prep for Umstead 100 Miler.

With the whispered words of Ray K. in my head, "You can do it, you can run an 18 hour 100 miler at Umstead," I've been feeling sick with nervousness. But I pushed myself, ran faster than I thought I could, but felt absolutely great!

We started down the trail, chatting, laughing, sharing stories, talking about upcoming ultras. The hills were steep and I ran the first two loops with a bunch of NBR friends running the half marathon - so they pushed me hard, as did Mat who is doing some pretty hardcore training for Umstead 100 Miler. I felt good, impressing myself with running the first two loops (about a half marathon, slightly more) in just over two hours. Ray K. would be proud.

But it wasn't hard. It felt natural, good. Aaron told jokes, poked us, until we were laughing so hard we could barely climb the hills. Anna, of course, was kicking serious ass with Chris at their "easy" pace. And then I left everyone after a half-marathon - they went to the bar to drink and eat while I ran another two loops.

I ended up bonding with new friends, Chris and Mat, trading ultra stories, talking about traveling, love, understanding running - the usual stories. It was a beautiful day, lovely weather, and I pushed on. 

At one point, I raised hell on the muddy downhill (my favourite part of the race, where I always hauled ass down the hill, yay!) and pushed the pace so hard, Chris said, "Cherie, save something for Umstead."

We ran, chatted. I discovered Gu tropical gels are not the secret to my success.

I finished. Chris urged me, "Use your kick," and I ran as hard as I could to the finish. It felt tough, it felt wonderful, it felt like a beautiful day.

I'm feeling psyched about Umstead. Who knows what pace, but hopefully a fast one, and hopefully, a fun one. Because really, why we do this is for the pure love of it all, the joy, the fun.

09 March 2011

And Sometimes It Sucks

It isn't always glorious.

There are times where I'm hunched over, dry heaving. Or clutching my stomach. Or my hips, god, they hurt so bad. Or my shins. Or my feet are so swollen. Or that black toenail. Or my fingers have swollen so bad they barely fit in my gloves. Or my hamstrings or my calves or my quads or my back or my butt hurts.
Don't I look like hell?

And I might start crying.

I hate everything. I'm using every curse word there is, including ones I'm making up (i.e., fucknuts, shitola, assholic). I hate everyone. I hate even the people that love me, and I especially hate my mother for giving birth to me because she should've not done that, she should've known she'd spawn an ultrarunning lunatic. I hate the evil race director and I hate the weather and I hate the bad-tasting water and I hate the runner who just passed me, saying, "Good job."

None of it makes sense, really. I love all of this. But sometimes, you get stuck in the hate. You get sucked by the sadness. You just want to cry.

And I do cry. Loudly. At Miwok 100k, I threw myself into Stan Jensen's arms, bawling.

It's going to hurt. I'm thinking about Umstead, and I know it's going to suck for at least part of the time, hopefully not the majority of the time. Javelina was SO hard, but being with the amazing Jon helped keep my mind off how much pain I was in.

How do you pull out? It's kind of impossible, but things that help me pull out include:
  • a pretty view
  • a pacer or kickass crew member (like Matt Decker and Dierdre w/ brownies at Vermont 100!)
  • eating. M&Ms, Powergel Blasts, and other deliciousness
  • Singing. Between Margaritaville and Camp Ten Bears at Vermont, I sang Pink really, really embarrassingly loud.
  • A new running partner
Or sometimes, you just pull out. Nothing can control it; you just suddenly feel better. You pick up the pace, reach forward, are full of absolute happiness!

I hope I can cultivate these moments of happiness and beauty, but as all runners know, it's hard to create, we just hope it's mostly like that. And that's why we do it.


“Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass...It's about learning how to dance in the rain." Vivian Greene

On Sunday, all I wanted to do was stay in bed...I haven't been sleeping much the past few weeks, and bed was a beautiful place, especially after four glasses of wine the night before...but W insisted we run.  Umstead is coming up, and he had to run 14miles.
I'm glad I did after, but during, I felt down. I hate running in the rain, and while a mid-run kiss was more than a wonderful thing, the rain pours through you sometimes. In one of the Tarot books I was reading, rain is a symbol of tears. I wonder if that's why rain always feels depressing.

But it was joyous at times; the rain pouring down, the ridiculousness of it all, the pretty views of Manhattan we got on the bridges and alongside the East River. I grumbled, "If it rains during Umstead, I'm going to be so cranky."

And I'm sure I would, if it rained. But I also know it would be fun. I'll run with Tony, we'll catch up on our stories of what's happening with our lives. I hope to stick with him at least 2 laps. I'll run with everyone else who will be there, including the super awesome Ray K. I'll notice how, if it rains, my hands will be like a rainbow from the M&Ms I eat.

So even if there's no sun to make a rainbow, I'll find one.

And even if it's raining, yes, we must indeed to learn to dance in the rain.

And run.

08 March 2011

Grandma 50k

So there's actually no race called the Grandma 50k, but I invented it myself. I suggest you invent one yourself. Plot out how long it will take you to get to your grandma's. My grandma lives 16 miles from me, so I ran the long way, the scenic route. The route that takes you to south Brooklyn, to Queens, through the Rockaways and up to the Five Towns, then Valley Stream, ending at my grandma's house.

I left my house noon on Friday. I headed through Greenpoint and Williamsburg, saying goodbye to snazzily dressed runners and hipsters as I headed for some of the rougher areas. I passed street names that would have caused a pit in the stomach to many, streets that I have been warned to not go down. People smiled at me, a silly white woman running through the streets, ignoring me. I was of no consequence to their day.

I was on some ugly streets for a while, busy streets. I asked pedestrians for directions and they were often perplexed. "That's pretty far..."

Finally, I was on Flatbush. Over the Marine Parkway Bridge, a bridge I had run over with Crista a while back, I looked at the water below me, powered ahead. I didn't like this bridge for some reason, but no matter. It must be crossed, unless I wanted to swim. As the temps were in the thirties and forties, run the bridge it clearly was. And it wasn't too terrible. Just bumpy.

The Rockaways have some lovely parts. My father, who taught there his entire career, and used to live there "when things were good" might disagree, but there are some pretty houses (Okay, so that's Belle Harbor), the boardwalk is nice, and the people are friendly. But there's a beach, and I'd rather be on the beach than any other place...

I asked these kids for directions; two of the girls appeared to be late teens, so I figured they might know. They looked at me snidely. "That street's down there. A while."

Then one of the smaller kids piped up, "You running there?"


"That's FAR!"

"Oh, it won't be too bad."

"Where you came from?"

"Greenpoint. Brooklyn."

"Where's Greenpoint?"

"It's by Williamsburg."

"Wow. And where you going?"

"My grandma's on Long Island."

"What? You crazy! Mad props!"

And I got high fives, which felt great.

I kept going. I was starving, fantasizing about those amazing sugar cookies you get at bakeries with all the sprinkles. Of course the Rockaways are not known for their bakeries and my next area, the Five Towns, is Jewish, and it was Friday just before sunset, which means that nothing is open. Sigh. Oh, the suffering...I dreamt of those cookies for a really long time.

I became really tired. My pace grew sluggish. Where I started 8-9minute pace and felt like I was flying, a 10minute pace felt extremely difficult through the Five Towns. I ate pretzels. I ate a gel. I drank some water, not enough.

And I started getting closer...Valley Stream! I knew where I was...I pushed the pace...I felt amazing. There was the shop where I bought my prom dress, the thrift stores that supplied my high school wardrobe, the park my friend and I ran at in high school. I no longer had to consult with my Google Map directions to know where I was going.

I pushed it. Hard. Faster. I got it. I really had it.

I sang while I ran. I breathed in. Out. I felt everything, I felt so alive, so amazing. "Umstead is going to be a blast!"

I arrived at Grandma's! I went to give her a hug, and she immediately began yelling at me. "You shouldn't run so far. Your body - it's going to fall apart. Your bones are going to collapse! Your knees! You shouldn't run!"

She immediately fed me homemade Italian stuffed peppers, escaraole and white bean soup, and chocolates, like a good Grandma. Then we went out to dinner, where I impressed everyone with my appetite, and looked forward to a night in bed...

Not every day has to be a race. I like training runs with a purpose, and this was a great one - I could see my grandma, run in a different place. I had to get there before dark or grandma would worry, so that forced me to keep a steady, strong pace.

And much like a Horton race, this was a 50k++.

07 March 2011

Why We Do It

It hurts. It hurts really bad. But just like someone who has been broken-hearted, someone who swears never to love with their heart again, someone who refuses to get involved again, we go back.


Maybe not to the one that broke our hearts, but to another person, another race, another experience.

And it crushes us...but we love it anyway.

On the Ultra List today, people were talking a bit about why we run...and there were two delightful responses that made me think, "Yes, so absolutely true."

"Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot.  There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets,  apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time there is more to life than logic and common sense. The
ultra runners know this instinctively. And they know something  else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand perhaps better than anyone that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort.  In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being – a call that asks who they are."
  – David Blaikie

I'll answer your question. I run ultras because they are FUN ! I love to run and walk. Travelling on foot is first class travel for me and doing an ultra makes it even more appealing. Most ultras are catered (aid stations). There is motivation (a touch of competition). there is companionship (much more important to me than competition. People mark wonderful courses where otherwise i would get hopelessly lost. People create devilishly hard courses that are more fun than can be expressed (i
love hard bits). There are lots of reasons to do ultras. One big reason is that they are always a great party. I volunteered at a 50k last month to fulfill my requirement for Vermont and i still had a great time.
Running is fun ! Running events are fun !
--Marina Brown

04 March 2011

To R.

Is this what we thought we'd be doing at 31, where we'd be at? No. We were supposed to change the world. Or at least have some other things together. But seriously, we're totally awesome, we love our lives, and we're figuring it all out. We'll figure it out eventually. But just because we don't have the gold star standard of what you're supposed to have (white picket fence, spouse and 2.3 kids, car payments, mortgage, whatever), it doesn't mean we've failed. Far from it. It means we've risked something different, and we're going there. And we rock for taking the untraveled road.

The Latest Song I'm Obsessed With

She said 'How did we get ourselves so lost?'
And I said 'I don't know,
But we will not be leaving tonight.
When you hold me I, I feel better'

I only want one night, together in our arms
This is the longest night, we're meeting arms to arms

Nothing is wasted and life is worth living
Heaven is nowhere, just look to the stars
There is a day that is yours for embracing
Everything's nothing, and nothing is ours

Nothing is wasted and life is worth living
(I only want one night)
Heaven is nowhere, just look to the stars
There is a day that is yours for embracing
(This is the longest night)
Everything's nothing, and nothing is ours

And maybe if we'd never come this way
Then we would live and prosper
But I doubt it
We are a violent race
And we deserve what we get
When you hold me, when you hold me 

03 March 2011

Burning Man Build Up (Yes, Already!!!)

So Burning Man is coming up...in another six months.

It's a lot to make it happen. There's costume sewing and purchasing random camping equipment and trying to figure out what I will want to eat for a week in the desert (I've learned granola and jarred peaches and pickles and snow cones, not necessarily all together, work for me.) There's stressing out over which plane tickets and which rental car and figuring out the bicycle issue. There's getting in touch with friends (and of course, once you get there, you never run into them anyway, unless, of course, it's meant to be). There's making plans that fall through. There's packing lists and shopping trips - and forgetting the most essential things, like an extra flashlight or toilet paper or something.

My first year, stressed out in a pile of costumes and fairy wings and tools and sleeping bags in my living room, trying to pack, figure out the cat-sitter thing, and wondering what to do, I moaned to my friend, "This is so much work." She laughed at me, gave me more glitter to pack, and said, "Of course it is. This keeps the assholes out. You have to really want to go to actually go."

And she's right.

Rachelle and I have already started planning last month - we're discussing what kind of shade structure we want, who's going to camp with us (Probably Gwendolyn and Ray K and whoever else we can drag out to Black Rock City), what kind of decorations we want (Pink flamingos, cut-outs, a mailbox, signs, maybe a giant ultramarathon race course map...), costumes (I have this idea for an amazing fake fur dress, a sequined one-piece, maybe a new pair of wings, a fun top for the ultra...).

I already emailed my boss about the vacation days. I've started dreaming of dusty, glittery nights, of racing my bicycle across open playa with one of my best friends in the world, singing through the streets of BRC, dancing with my friends at beloved DeMentha (another mojito for sure!), heading over to Distrikt for some of the most awesome music, maybe there will be another slip and slide. Burning Man is a place to fall in love with each beautiful moment, to drink pickle juice martinis with your bestie while dancing to Madge, to finding yourself in the midst of a swirling dust storm, even if you can't find your way back to come.

I can't wait to be home!