25 March 2012

Dances with Dirt Green Swamp 50 Miler - 3rd time around is 3x as hot!

                So I signed up for the Dances with Dirt – the  50k originally, then decided not to do the Santa Barbara 100 Miler, so switched to the 50 miler. Fifty milers are my favourite distance!
                It was cooler at the start, but we quickly warmed up. The high was 87, but it felt much hotter, especially with the sun, the constant exposed areas, and the incredibly high humidity.
                The race had the usual chill feel at the start of an ultra – joking, bantering, organizing, smiling, complimenting, chatting. I love ultras because you don’t get the super-hyped up stressed-out feeling that tends to permeate road races sometimes.
                We started at 5:30a.m., in complete pitch black darkness. Because I packed when I had food poisoning (Yes, I had food poisoning Sunday night onwards, so my week was a cycle of stomach issues and general weakness.), I forgot a lot of crucial items, including a water bottle with a  functioning top and a headlamp. Luckily, my dad had a headlamp at his place down here, which a volunteer duct taped smaller to fit on my head. I quickly learned it was a miserable option as a running headlamp – it was too heavy. Still, it lit the extremely dark path, which was filled with logs and roots and the usual. It was a 5 mile loop and with lots of tricky footing and extreme focus in following the trail. The course was well-marked with pink flags for fifty milers and reflective tape on the earlier sections in which we’d be running with headlamps. It took 48 minutes for the first section and when we got back to the start/finish/drop bag area, I left behind the heavy headlamp – and ran like hell for a guy running with light.
                “Hey, can I run next to you? My headlamp was really uncomfortable because it’s a borrowed one,” I asked a tall and friendly-looking guy.
                His response? Handing me a small light.
                Thus I stuck with Rob for the next few miles, until shortly after daylight when I hung back to pee. Later, he passed me – he had gotten lost at some point. I found the course exceptionally well-marked, but a few people still did get lost – which made me hyper alert.
                After I was alone, I began smelling campfire. No, make that fire. The course went through an area that had recently had a forest fire, and some of it was still smoldering. That gave a rather eerie mood to that area with small bits of smoke rising from the embers. My stomach also began hurting a little at this point, and I realized doing an ultra so soon after food poisoning was probably not a good idea. Oh well. Too late. I swallowed hard and hoped I could finish.
                The course is fairly flat (It’s Florida!) with some short ups and downs, nothing too crazy, with lots of running through fields and through little weird forest paths and past where armadillos live (though I didn’t see any). I ended up with lots of dirt inside my shoes, and my legs were pretty filthy upon finishing. The exposed sections felt especially brutal and it’s no wonder I had a sunburn after. The volunteers were super friendly, joking with me, being very helpful. The aid stations didn’t feature the most amazing food, but were fully stocked with all the basics, which was great.
                My back began aching, possibly from putting a much bigger than normal water bottle in my waistpack. Also, my hamstrings began cramping up, something that never happens, which was probably due to the heat. I was taking an endurolyte every hour, drinking a cup of Gatorade at every aid station table, and managing down just a few saletines every aid station. I also ate two and a half packs of Power Gel Blasts/Honey Stingers, but only one gu. My stomach was still destroyed from food poisoning. My whole body hurt – back, hamstrings, feet, oh my god, my toenails, all the dirt in my shoes was definitely causing blisters.
                And the heat. It was so hot. At one point, after peeing, everything felt all hot and horrible and I knew I was on the verge of being in trouble. So I squirted water in my face, poured it on my head, and walked. I was too hot. I needed to cool down. I spent time at aid stations putting ice in my bottles, drinking more Gatorade, and trying to remain mindful of my body and how it felt.
                The race went on. I wanted to cry, I was in so many pain. Everywhere. It was hot. Blindingly sunny. Humid. Every step ached. I laughed when I got near the water crossing, and my legs were so tired, I almost fell in.
                The course consists of a 5 mile loop, a 20 mile loop, repeat the 20 mile loop, and cruelly, do that 5 mile loop again. I say cruelly because when I was rehydrating and getting ready to finish my last 5 miles, they were announcing the winners of the 50miler. Grrrrr. I was still running.
                That five hour energy shot may have worked, or maybe it was my determination, or maybe it was that this part was shady – but I did great. I didn’t run as fast as my first loop obviously, but I kept up a steady pace, was laughing. Where the hell was the finish? This wasn’t five miles, it was fifteen. Oh my god. Faster. Push it. Yes.
                And the finish line. As I ran past the aid station that had helped me so many times so kindly, they erupted into cheers. I was so happy, I finished with my hands in the air.
                And then – the news.
                First in my age group, fourth woman overall. I took home a snazzy mug and a neat little clip light.
                And you know what?
                I bet I’ll be back next year – for more dirt, fun, and sun!

   Side Observation:
             I know why people run with headphones. Not only did I have Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie in my head, but I also had Wilson Phillip’s Hold On stuck in my head. I couldn’t get them out of my head, though when I ran through tricky-to-run-through Lord of the Rings-like gnome land, I sang Total Eclipse of the Heart out loud, much to the amusement of some spectators waiting to watch me do the water crossing (which luckily, was much shallower this year and didn’t require getting wet unless you were clumsy).

23 March 2012


Drive ready.

Keys in ignition. Wave goodbye to Grandma as put car in reverse going too fast. Windows open, at least until the highway. Flip through radio. Nothing good. Nothing good. Get cut off. Sweating. Traffic. Lights. Cars. Traffic. Flip through radio. Nothing good.
On the highway. GPS instructions. Time ticking by too slowly. Slow down as I drive through booth. Take ticket. Where should I put that I won't lose it? In my bra. Drive. Faster. Sweating. Hot sun through windows. I'm getting a tan. AC is up. Not helping. Sweating. Seats soaked. Flip through radio. Nothing good.

Lean back. Lean forward. Pass that stupid car. They're tailgating me. Faster. Slower. Shit. A cop. Car won't read this CD. Why won't any radio stations playing "Rolling in the Deep" down here? Why isn't anyone calling me? Uncomfortable. Shift in seat.

See a Publix, swing car in, realizing I need coconut water. Buy it. Nothing else looks appetizing. Food poisoning after effects linger on. Back in car. Why is there traffic? Flip through radio. Nothing good.

Get to a booth. Exact change only. But - but - there's no cash booth? Ask car behind me; the truck behind them helps. Somehow, car trunk open. Slam it closed, throw quarters in, drive like hell.

Faster. Oh my god, how do people do this every day?

Drive. Flip through radio. Nothing good. Are we there yet?

Food. Off the highway, so it's not bad. Otherwise, it would be deep fried and meat. And that's not my style. Sip more water. Stay hydrated for tomorrow's 50 miler.

Drive. Drive. This town is frightening. Gas station - which side is the tank on? Pump six gallons into the car. And then park by hotel - really, this is what I booked on kayak.com?

And shower. Play music on computer. In bed. It's better than driving. Anything else.


I call them Floridays....

Floriday mornings....

Get up early, pull on running clothes (of course), towel, water, keys, and head to the car. Drive with windows open, music on, smile on my face.

And onto the sand. Run at whatever pace I want. Sprint when there are seagulls. Slow down when the sand gets tricky. Find the flattest, hardest part of the sand. Love the squish of feet between the feet.

Know tomorrow will be tough, fifty miles of fun. But today is fun. 

And after, straight into the water with running clothes on, letting the waves cleanse and excite me.

Good morning, Floriday!

22 March 2012

Dances with Dirt 50 miler...Again!

It's my third year in a row running the Dances with Dirt Green Swamp 50 Miler down in Florida, and while I wouldn't say it's the most spectacular race, I do like it. The folks are nice that organize it, it's small and not too crazy, the course isn't too insane, it's a great training run for longer ultras, plus, it's close to Gram.

I'm not in my best shape ever - I know this. A trip to Peru filled with tummy troubles and high altitude asthma problems, followed by more asthma problems, led me to finally regain my strength - only to be slammed with a case of food poisoning on Sunday. (Oh, Whole Foods salad bar, how could you fail me?) earlier this week - leading my body to become completely sick. Today is the first day since Sunday that I feel hungry - I just have felt too ill and too weak to want to eat.

But beach running today and yesterday have filled me with love and energy for the long run - though the runs were short, they were short in recovery from illness, and in preparation for Saturday's race.

Yes, it involved a flight, a long drive (4 hours each way from Gram's), plus hotel's, an annoying drive, did I mention a long drive? But it's fun. It'll be a beautiful day running my favourite distance - and what better way to spend a day than running?

Well, yes, sleeping in late with one's love and brunch and all that is also a wonderful way to spend a day...and yes, the beach...but this comes in just with those!

18 March 2012


airport madness—hordes of humans rushing and stumbling around luggage-crammed corridors, announcements blaring arrivals, departures, delays—i sit. i eat a muffin in the midst of chaos, crumbs falling in my lap, on the floor. people passing step on my muffin crumbs, carrying bits of my muffin in the grooves of their shoes across the country. perhaps my muffin bits are becoming transcontinental muffin bits. ringing cell phones destroy one’s perception of isolation in foreign areas. people grasp at reality, wondering, what time zone is this? amplified voices rock people out of oblivion and i rise too, rise for my flight, papers falling out of my purse. tickets collected, i.d.s checked, i am selected, randomly, to be searched. (they search everyone’s secrets.) carry-ons spill bras, lipsticks, toothbrushes, batteries, papers, the essentials of humans. shoes removed, pockets emptied, metal detectors bleeping, this complicates the simplified. if a plane were to simply burn up, crash, explode, dismantle itself—in air or sea or land—with deaths, what can we really care about any of this? simplicity eliminates these actions from mattering.

05 March 2012

Long Run along the Thames

Yesterday, I aimed to run at least 24 miles.

Unfortunately, not for the first time, the weather ruined my run.

I've heard the expression, "There's no such thing as bad weather, there's only bad clothing." Whoever said that wasn't running in yesterday's condition.

I met up with ultra lister Paul Houston and we took the train to Oxford. We ran to the start of the Thames 100 Miler and watched the runners come in. Wow. They looked dead. Do I look that wretched after running 100 miles? Probably.

Then we ran along the path for nine miles or so - seeing various runners, cheering them on. They were startled at me, because they felt like crap having run over 90 miles and then there's this LOUD boisterous American girl. But they mostly seemed happy.

It was pouring rain during this time, but it was bearable. The trail was ridiculously muddy (poor Centurions!), and I kept slipping.

Then we took a side path and began running towards Oxford in a roundabout way. It sounded like it would be pretty, small villages and such.

But then it began snowing.

And snowing harder.

And windy.

And some icy sleet blowing in our faces.

And horrible.

I was soaked. I couldn't feel my feet, which is problematic after my frostbite last year. My gloves were soaked, I could barely carry my water bottle my hands were so cold. Finally, Paul said to me, "If we want to turn around..."


I have never been so cold. I was also feeling jetlagged, which has never happened. I felt spacey and dizzy and sick and terrible.

Running back, we ended up in a small town where we warmed up with hot cocoa. Paul bought us gloves and socks, which helped. It took me a while to feel normal (I felt like I was going to pass out for a while.) and get warm.

We hopped on the train back to London, chatting about upcoming races (Paul's training for a 95miler in Scotland), and ignoring the odd looks on our muddy attire.

A hot shower never felt so lovely!

04 March 2012

Febapple Frozen Fifty

Once again, I'd like to say, I set out to run 50 kilometers - not more. But of course I got lost and of course I ran more.

I tend to get lost in those sorts of races, but flour trail markings made it even easier this time.

Last year, when I ran this race, it was ridiculously cold, the course was covered with snow, ice, and worst of all, freezing cold puddles of water. I ended up with frostbite. Although since it was the race I did the day before my boyfriend and I got together, I somehow think of it fondly.

I've also run it as the South Mountain 100k (my first 100k ever) and the 
Mayapple 50k (recovery race after surgery). I loved it those times, so this time, sans snow, I figured it would be a fantastic race.

I did have fun...but it wasn't as fun as other times! Instead of the two loops we previously did, we stuck to one loop that was different than it had been other years - so it really wasn't the same course, just a different race in the same place.

The course is full of some ups and downs, a few technical sections, but nothing too crazy. Mostly, you had to keep your eyes on the ground because the course was marked with flour - which made getting lost very easy. (Nearly everyone I spoke to even got lost - two of them on their third loop (They ran separately from each other.), probably because the flour was really hard to see, especially after so many feet had run over it, and the rain the night before. I'm really not a fan of flour used to mark courses. I know ribbons require more time and more effort before and after - but they make it MUCH easier to see and MUCH harder to get lost.

I started out the first loop running, and ended up seeing Megan, who I hadn't seen since I ran Boston in 2009 or 2010. We had shared a room with our mutual friend. We ended up catching up, chatting. We ran into Ray and everyone was very chatty.

At the aid station, Megan and Ray were taking a little longer, so I didn't bother waiting. They'd catch up. Jackie and I began running together, and were having such a grand old time that we didn't notice something was wrong until the lead guys passed us. "Are you guys lapping us?" I moaned. No, they weren't. Hey! How were we back into the main aid station. I know time flies when running, but we must've run 2-3 miles, I knew, and the course was supposed to be 5. We tried to figure out where we went wrong and couldn't.

So Jackie and I fueled up and went out to re-do that last loop - and made it right the next time. Whew!

We ran another 2 loops, with less confusion. We were a lot more careful, as we had previously been lost, and as the race went on, the flour wore off and it was difficult to find your way.

But we had a blast. I got a nice easy training run in, didn't feel anything negative (other than tired at the end), hung out with superawesome Jackie, ate my homemade Ghiradelli chocolate chip walnut cookies during and after running, rode with Ray and Erin, hung out with lots of my other rad ultra friends...overall, a very good day.