Sunday, April 29, 2012

Triple Crown Trail Marathon: I ran & ran

I ran and ran everyday and I acquired a sense of determination .
A sense of spirit that I would never, never give up.
The triumph cant be had without the struggle.
-Wilma Rudolph

Last year at this time I would have been tapering for my first ever marathon but life would have it differently and was instead just returning to running from an injury. Then last fall I tried again for a marathon but life decided that it would be way more fun to run a 50k! Now I am training for another 50k and decided to run TC marathon as a "training run". No big deal right? Just another long run....

Saturday morning was chilly and overcast. Stacey's perfect running weather! We got to the White Clay park of Delaware early and checked in. Then nervously chatted with friends until the start of the race. Why so nervous for a long training run you ask? Because this race has a creek that is 80yards wide and can be anywhere between calf to waist deep. FYI-I have an extreme fear of water that is not in a pool! I wasnt the only one interested in how deep the creek was that day because it was one of the first questions asked. The RD said something about it being 5ft high while pointing right above his knees...

The half marathon people started first and then 10mins later we were sent on our way. Started out nice and easy while chatting with a friend. Things were going good and then I heard it...the creek. We got down to it and I realize that it is not near as bad as I had pictured it in my head. Whew! But man was it cold. Got to the other side and had to walk for a couple of steps until I could feel my feet again. Then we start winding our way around some single track following the red pie plate markers. This section had alot of little downed trees to jump over. Then came the section of little MTB roller hills-they were fun! I passed the aid stations as I had my pack on and didnt need anything. But my stomach started to bother me which is weird because I never have issues and certainly not this early in a run. I thought maybe I was pushing to hard so I backed off my pace a bit.

By mile 8 my gut was hurting and I was mentally calculating how many miles to the bathrooms. I quickly decided 5miles was to much and head off trail and up the hill for a big tree. I turned around and saw runners down below so I headed up a little further to another tree. I squatted for a bit and nothing as I watch more runners fly past below. I realize that this is not going to work so I stand up and my quads immediately scream at me for squatting to long. I hobbled down to the trail and start running again. My quads are fine. My stomach, for what ever reason is now fine. But my left knee is so tight, sore and almost locked up. WTH?! I keep running happy to be following the blue plates now which means I am on the return trip. I am happy to get to the creek this time because I knew the ice cold water would feel good on the knee. I go running thru with a couple of other people and up the muddy hill. My time is slower then what I was hoping but I am still moving at a pretty good pace.

Mile 13 is the half way point and the end of the first loop which is the start/finish area. I stopped to fill my pack and take some Ibuprofen. My knee is really hurting bad. I know that my goal time of 5:30 is out because it is almost 3hrs at that point. My friend tells me she is dropping because her husband dropped and she doesnt want to make him wait a couple more hours for her. I said that I was gonna run back down to the creek (3miles) and if my knee wasnt any better I was going turn around...hoping that was enough time for the meds to kick in. I catch up to two girls who are walking and I walk with them while eating my Fig Newtons. They seem to be about my speed which is cool so we hang together with them chatting and me saying one or two words, the usual. Find out that the one chick is running her first marathon but has already run a 50k, like me! And the chatty one is doing 12 marathons in 12 months deal. She is on #8 today.

We do good for these three miles. Walking the hills and running the rest. My knee continues to hurt but I just keep jogging along. We get down to the creek and without thinking about it I cross with my new friends. Except that they are taking forever to cross so I take off running awhile and at that point I realize that I am in for the full marathon. No turning back now! Still walking the hills my knee is starting to finally settle down and we get to the really nice section of single track which is fairly flat, nice greens and a bunch of small downed trees. My knee must have been feeling okay because I went to jump over the first very small tree and about died of pain when I lifted my leg that high. I continued to run along but at every tree I have to stop and either lift my other leg over first or do an almost straight leg pass with the left one. Grrr!

About an hour into this loop I get to an aid station and ask the girl to get my other Ibuprofen out of the back of my pack. I have never taken two doses of Ibuprofen on a run but I also have never had pain like this before and knew that if I wanted to finish this thing that this is what I would have to do. Onward. Mix of walking hills and running the rest. Chatty girls caught back up to me going down a hill. Which surprised me because I though I was running pretty good at that point.

At about hour 5 the pain meds have taken hold and I am running with more of a stiff knee then pain. Get to another aid station and chatty girls hang out and I head off on my own. I hear them behind me once or twice but they never do catch up and I run the rest of the race alone. I cont to follow the red plates. At one point I am crossing a field and start to walk just because I am tired and am ready to hit the blue plates and be on the return already! All of a sudden I see the turn onto a fire road where I know that this is where the blue plates start and I start running again. The fire road is downhill and this is where, on the first loop I had stomach issues and think how good I am feeling this time around.

I hit more single track and feel like I am flying. I look down at my watch and think that if I can keep this pace I will be under 6:00. Everytime I wanted to walk or started to walk I would look at my watch and would start to run again. I really wanted to get under 6hrs now. I wind down to the creek one last time and it hits me. I am alone. Just me and the creek. I wont lie, anxiety came over me and I stood there for a couple of seconds just looking at it. Every other time I just ran right through it with everyone else. This time it was just me and the creek. I took a deep breath and thought "man this is going to feel SO good on my knee" and I stomped right on through that creek!

Up and out the other side I have about 3.5miles to the finish. I just keep trying to run the best that I can. Although my knee left knee wasnt to bad I must have still been running weird because my right knee was starting to get sore too. I pass the last aid station and up the last fire road and onto an uphill single track. I hiked it up the hill the best I could but could see that I was not going to make my 6hr goal either. So I pretty much just had it in my head to keep moving as fast as I could so that chatty girls wouldnt catch up to me! Once I got to the top of that hill was one last section of single track where I saw Rik waiting for me! Out of the single track and up one last grassy hill-I am pretty sure it was the biggest hill of the whole race! At the top people start yelling my name so of course I have to start running again. You run the field along a tree line. Around the end of trees and back up to the finish. Came thru at 6:12 in the end. It was so awesome to have everyone cheering me in!!!
There is actually so much more I would love to say but this is already long enough! Thanks so much for reading if you managed to make it the whole way through!

-Finished my first official marathon and did it on the trails.
-Rik PR'd his marathon with 3:58 and came in 4th place.
-Got to meet Kelly & his awesome wife Jo.
-Cheered in Jody and then her 70yo friend who was completing his 900th marathon!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Spring Valley Adventures (aka LOST!)

This blog was started and still remains as a folder for my races. However, my run today was more exciting then some races so I feel like I need to document it.

You know how you can sing along to a song on the radio and know every word. But take away the artist singing and you fumble with some of the words. Yeah, well my run today was kinda like that!

Spring Valley Park is only about 900 acres of old agricultural fields and uneven aged forest but the trails are not well marked and it has many little roads (which are often not marked either) that run through it. Its easy to get lost driving thru the park let alone running there! But its only about 7miles from the house and offers lots of hills so Rik & I like to go there every so often. We always run the same 6mile loop even though there are alot of other unmarked trails. In fact we ran there just the day before and were pleasantly surprised that some trail work had been done and even some new trail markers were up!

To bad that it was a warm day yesterday and I had a bad run. My asthma was acting up and it just sucked. As usual I followed behind Rik and every turn he made I already knew that that was where we were to turn. I was so mad at myself for being so slow and having to hike so much. I was mad at myself for making him wait for me. I had vowed to return the next day for a more productive run and I wanted to run it by myself. That way he wouldnt have to wait for me & could go explore some of the other trails! I was confident of the trails I was going to run after all!

Fast forward to today...the weather is 15* cooler then yesterday and it is drizzling out. My perfect running weather! Im going to Spring Valley and I am going to have an awesome run all by myself! We leave the parking lot and head down the stone road together. As soon as we turn into trail 1 it is uphill so of course Rik is gone flying up that hill. No problem. I start heading up the hill and feeling pretty good...much better then yesterday. So I continue running and running knowing every which way to go. I am now on trail 2 and making good time. I really thinking this is going to be the fastest I've ever run this course! Next I head up trail 3 which is a long hike of a hill. I cant ever run any bit of this hill and today was no exception. However, I didnt have to stop to catch my breath today either, winning! It runs along a field and turn into the woods again and up another hill. I am chucking up this hill to. My head is down and I have my hat on because of the rain just looking down directly in front of me. I get to where I need to turn right and I do just that. Everything looks familiar and I keep going until I get to an intersection that I dont remember. It splits and I can either go left and up or right and down. I know that at this point I should be going down. I know that its a real nice down hill section here. But I also have an uneasy feeling because this just doesnt look right.

But I decide to take the down trail for a little to see. Yeah, I go down and then it starts taking me back up and by this point the trail looks quite unworn. I realize this is wrong and go back to the unfamiliar intersection. I stop at the intersection and try to decide what to do. I decide to go all the way back out  to the last main trail, its just straight ahead afterall. And as I start to run there doesnt really seem to be a trail. Where did it go. So I turn around again to go back to the "intersection" to start over again. Shit where is the intersection! Where is a god damn trail?! I start to panic. It is one thing to be lost on the trails. Its another thing to be lost with NO TRAILS! I stopped and looked all around. Nothing but trees. I am in the middle of nowhere. I want to cry but am to panicked to even do that.

I debate heading in the direction of the big trail but then I started to question my judgement on to which direction the big trail was. So I actually decided to go the opposite direction because that is atleast the direction I think I am supposed to be headed...just on a trail. And I decide that I need to start bushwacking my way down to the bottom of the hill/mountain to hopefully find a road or creek. All of a sudden I think I see a road down at the bottom and make a b-line straight down for it. Within a second I realize that it is actually the roof of a house. Good enough for me! I continue bushwacking my way down. All of a sudden I notice someone staring at me. "HI!" I yelled. I think she yelled hi back. I got a couple of steps closer down the hill and said Hi again and told her that I was lost and that I had been running in SV Park. She said she thought I was a deer. Haha, I would like to think I was galloping down that hill like a deer!

She started to give me directions on how I could get back to the park (because obviously I was no longer even in the park!) when a man pops his head out the door to find out what is going on. He asks if Im parked by the pond. I have no idea where the pond is in the park and tell him that Im parked on Line Rd. He says, "oh, Line Rd goes a couple of different directions" GREAT....just great. Just get me to Line Rd and I'll figure it out from there. So he tells me that I need to follow the stone road out to the paved road. Then follow the paved road to the guard rail blocking a road that says "road closed". He tells me to cross the guard rail and follow that to the creek which I will have to cross at some point. And then I think he said that was Line Rd but Im not sure because with the whole "follow the closed road and cross the creek" part were enough for me. Yikes! He did offer me a ride twice but declined because so long as I could get to a road in the park Rik would find me (I had my cell phone and Riks was in the Jeep). My legs are stinging from all the thorns I ran through and with the rain hitting it...ouchy! This is a picture of my leg after the run. They both look like this.

So I head down the road and was actually quite happy to see the closed road and jumped the guard rail without thinking twice about it. I was headed the right way after all! Then came the creek. I was blessed to find that it was only ankle deep and crossed it quickly and up onto a stone road. I stopped for a minute to decide which way to head on this road. And decided to go right. I took off running while I text Rik "LOST". I figured that would get me a phone call as soon as he saw it. I quickly came upon two guys fishing and their truck was parked on the road. I asked if I was on Line Rd. And the one guy says, "I'm not sure. I think it Line Rd". Thats what I mean about this park, there are so many little roads that you dont really know which one you are on sometimes. So I asked if he knew if I was headed in the direction of rt. 216. He said, "oh yeah".
I smiled and said, "AWESOME"! We all laughed and I kept on running. Now feeling better that I was back in the park and headed in the right direction!

Not much past the fishin dudes I see trail 4 on my left and where I was supposed to come out of trail 3 on my right. Now if I would have just kept on Line Rd it would have taken me back to the Jeep eventually. But I dont really know that road. I do, however, know trail 4! And without even thinking twice I turned onto trail 4!
I handle trail 4 fine and cross over onto trail 5. Rik finally text me back so I called him to let him know that I knew where I was now. Its funny how I knew trail 5 to but kept second guessing myself at intersections and even stopped twice to look all around to make sure I was going the right way.

Trail 5 is by far the nicest trail in the park and it was my reward for the run!
Now thats a trail! I actually passed the Jeep on the opposite side of the creek and yelled at Rik who was standing there patiently waiting for me. Ran down to the bridge and back up the stone road to the Jeep. Whew-what a run! Rik and I talked a bit when I got back to try to figure out where I went wrong. Then we even drove down and hiked back up the hill. And it ends up that I went the whole way up the trail on 3 instead of turning onto a trail about 3/4 of the way up. I think because I had my head down and hat on as I was chucking up the hill I never even saw the very nice and obvious trail that I should have turned onto.

I was so scared at the time but now we are laughing at me getting so panicked and the thought of me running back and forth and in circles trying to find the trail. And I think it was kind of a good thing in that I am proud of myself for getting out of the situation and finding my way back! Rik also did find some new good trails today but he says he wishes he would have ran with me...sounded like way more fun!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mt. Penn Mudfest & Conestoga Trail with Christopher McDougall & friends

Oh what a day. First of all, I had trouble deciding where I wanted to run on Saturday morning. Ultimately I ended up with the original plan and headed for Reading at 8am to run in the Mt. Penn Mudfest 15k. It was nice that this was a later start race of 10am and I could get a little extra sleep. Still wanted to get there early seeing as there were to be 800 people in this race!

I have never run this race before but have heard what a fun race it are all Pretzel City Races I think. The only problem was that one of the local parks said that they couldnt use their trails for the race this year and therefore the course had to be redone. This cut out 1.5miles of hill and 3water/mud crossings from what I understand. We still had one mud pit to cross and this "man made" one...haha!
And because I am a back of the packer it looked like this until I got to it! The cold water sure did feel good on the feet though!
It really was a fun run. The temps were in the high 40s and sunny. It doesnt get much better then that.
The race starts on a road section to try to spread people out a bit. But there was still alot of congestion for the first 1 1/2miles. After that it was very runnable. PCS is known to have alternative beverage stops at their races and while I know about the beer. I did not realize that they had margaritas! Which I mistook for Gatorade! Oh wow, that will wake you up. I would have preferred to stick with the beer had I known!!

And what trail race wouldnt be complete without falls. I paid my dues today with a good one coming up the steps right before the finish line! Ouchy! But I still finished the race feeling great. Good thing too because we had another run to do in the afternoon.

Fast forward to 4pm. And now we are at Tucquan Glen getting ready to run the Conestoga Trail with a small group including Christopher McDougall, the author of the book Born to Run. He is a neighbor of my good friend Gary and they offered for other people to come along...even slow people ;)
I have never been on the Conestoga Trail before but have heard about it and how hilly it is. It runs along the Susquehanna River and is just beautiful! I loved every minute of this run. Here is a view high above the Susquehanna:
Just follow the orange markers up the rocks...
And then, yep, keep going over these rocks too!
And then you are rewarded with some awesome runnable trails in between!

I ended up running a total of 17miles for the day and with ascent elevation totaling 3250ft. It felt like more and that is a very good day of running for this girl!
Run Free!!