Posts Tagged ‘Running’

image

20160109_142633-1.jpg

My friends, it is quite possible that G-town was the last rodeo for these shoes. Trail shoes wear so differently than road shoes. *sigh*  I love these shoes.*

2016 kicked off with a trail half-marathon – an inaugural run at Kercher Park in Germantown, Ohio – for which I was woefully under-prepared. I’ve been running pretty regular, but since my PR at Iron Horse last October, I haven’t gone further than 7 on trails, less on pavement.  In other words, I knew this was going to hurt.

But it was the first ORRRC run of the season (Eric & I just joined)

And it was my friend Lance’s first gig as an RD, so I didn’t want to miss that.

And we hadn’t been to Kercher Park before…I love new trails!  (which if I’d had my head on right, is really bad logic for signing on to a 13.1 you haven’t trained for). And, and, and…

And so even though I knew this was going to hurt, off we went. To the hurt. On a beautiful morning in January – it wasn’t sunny, but about 50-degrees. Lots of mud – rain earlier in the week had made things slick, so most of what we ran in was that kind of mud that makes a sucking sound when you lift up your foot. It sticks to your shoes and every step is like lifting an extra 2 lbs of weight from the suction.

Later I would ask Lance “Why do you hate the dry land, Lance?! What did dry land ever do to you?” because SO. MUCH. MUD.

The first almost mile was a paved park trail, a nice warmup since we got there literally, in time to make a U-turn and start the run, courtesy of my crappy navigational skills. We started LAST. Like, the very last 2 people to cross the line. Though chip-timed on finish, the start line was manually set at 10:00am start.

After the first mile, we turned off pavement and the trail started to climb. Forever.

Kercher Park is freaking BEAUTIFUL! Eric & I were talking about how much we wanted to come back to the trail before we even got to the car after we were done. IT. IS. THAT. BEAUTIFUL!  But WOW! Does it climb! Garmin says 1560+ ft in elevation gain, 1506 ft of coming back down. There is not much flat at all. The uphills are long and twisting, the downhills are fast and steep – meaning you spend a lot more time climbing than you do descending. But there are moments in those climbs, running alongside streams and reaching overlooks, that will take your breath away if you pause to look up.  Especially with it being January, when you can see between the trees. I am sure I would have finished much faster if I hadn’t stopped to absorb so much nature into my eyeballs.

Later I would ask Lance “Why does the trail only go UP, Lance?!” I don’t think he took me seriously, but it was a real question.

Also, I would have finished faster if I hadn’t stop-drop-&-yoga’d a couple times in miles 10-12. Leg fatigue. I needed to stretch to keep going. On trails, once you pass the water stops, there is no DNF – mainly because no one is coming to get you unless you’re bleeding. And honestly, I’m not sure how that would work either. Maybe that’s how woodland gnomes are made. Trail runners that DNF’d between water stops.

Water stops were at miles 3 & 10 – which were the same as the course is a loop (water & gatorade), and 7 (H2O, gatorade, snacks).  Very well placed with more than enough when I came through at the back of the pack. For back of the pack runners, stops being packed up or out of supplies is a concern – so there being plenty for me when I knew I was pulling through 5-6th place to the end is important for me to note. My BOTP friends, you are not abandoned here. The cutoff to mile 10 is also a very generous 4-hours. I had concerns about it knowing that I would be moving slowly, but I hit the cutoff with an hour to spare.

Some things to be proud of –

  • Through almost the whole race, I stayed in a really good place mentally. I saw the stirrings of what I dub “fuck soup” – that moment where a porridge of ‘fuck this race’, ‘fuck this mud’, ‘fuck running’, etc.,  begins to coagulate into a blob that spins ugly in your head. Giving it a name helps me have some power over it and when it came up, I told myself I was NOT. GOING. THERE.  New trail, fresh year. I was not going to allow it a start with beating myself up.  Instead I looked up, I looked around, and I told myself that going more slowly wasn’t going to make it hurt any less. Keep moving. I smiled and laughed and let the joy in, of just being and doing what I was doing.
  • I spent a lot of the race alone. In a long race, I think you meet yourself several times. Let’s just say that at Forget the PR Mohican 25k, I met myself in a very bad way being alone in the woods for an extended time. It’s good to have the ghost of that out of my head a bit and realize that this time, I didn’t even realize how long I’d been out of sight of other runners for quite a while. I was in my own race.
  • A woman said to me “You’re pretty good at the mud” when I slogged past her as she was picking carefully through a downhill.  We’d been leap-frogging for half a mile at that point through some serious slop. Lady, that comes with practice! Mud is less my enemy now than it was at the WORST F*ING RACE EVER at East Fork last Summer. I’m learning to manage it. Slog through it. Minimize it slowing me down. She was right, I’ve improved greatly at handling mud.
  • My nutrition was SPOT ON! I’ve struggled with this a bit on trails.  A piece of cinnamon toast on Oatnut Bread 1.5 hours before the race. An apple in the car 45 minutes pre-run. Every mile, a decent sip from the hydration pack (I took in about 1 liter from the pack, total.) and a shot of H2O and gatorade at each water stop. A strip of dried papaya after mile 4. Half a Gu before mile 7, where I had 5 gummy bears. Somewhere between miles 8-9, a tablespoon of nuts from my pack. At mile 10, I put the best thing I’ve ever eaten on race in my mouth – half a slice of dried pineapple. OH MY GOD!  IT WAS PERFECT! Not too much sugar, and solid – so it didn’t make my stomach sloshy.  On the whole, that doesn’t sound like much for a 13-mile run, but it was exactly what I needed. Note to self: Pineapple, nuts & papaya should always be in the hydration pack!

Everything ached and screeched at me by the time I finished, but as I said – I knew I’d signed on for the hurt.  Slow, but done – and a great start to the season!

ORRRC does 2-3 runs per month, most of which appear to be trail runs. They are either free or dirt cheap if you’re member – and still cheap even if you’re not. We paid less for a year’s membership for the two of us than it would cost for one of us to register at most 5k’s now. Go check out their calendar! See you in the woods!

_____________________________

*(Sidebar: Brooks, I’m side-eyeing you on where these are failing. I know a couple other runners with failures in the same spot on their Cascadias.)

IMG_3463

My friends, I am obsessing with the thistle in this damn picture (a trail at my office I try to spend my lunch on running once a week). I wanted to post a few close-up shots I took of it, except…I already did. A few posts ago – down there vvv.  In fact, the picture I am specifically obsessing about is that one. I have no idea why other than that there has been some type of monsoon hitting Southern Ohio and the gray and rain just. WILL. NOT. STOP.

This picture is not gray and rain. If I reach for it, I can smell the perfect weather air around this thistle. It smells like warm with that slightly dusty feeling. I run past the foreground at the top of this section of trail before turning a corner to go over the bridge you see. At far left, that hill is a steep set of stairs which lead up to an overlook before heading back into the buildings of our office complex. All in all, this section is probably just over a tenth of a mile, but it marks the usual halfway point of my lunch run. I always stop at the overlook. I like to breathe there and look for deer and birds down in that pool of tall grass. Remind myself for a moment that I am more than spreadsheets and cubicles. Then I turn around, head back down the stairs and return whence I came – back past the thistle and through the woods on campus back towards the building where waits my cubicle and spreadsheets.

It is early, on a Tuesday and I am with my coffee. I have a new coffeemaker – it has a “bold” button. A BOLD button. There is now a button with BOLD on it in my life. That I can push. And be made BOLD by dark beverage.

I am sore. And I woke up STARVING! which is annoying. I do not like waking up to my stomach complaining.

After an entire week of too much excellent food and missing workouts for work, my body was begging for movement. So yesterday lunch came with a treadmill and no thistle, because rain & gray. (Did I mention it just won’t stop raining?) A 30-min progressive run following by 10 more minutes of bringing it back down gradually on pace.  Then I hit up a Slow Flow yoga class after work. I needed that bad! But slow is a speed, not a skill level – so it was a good workout too. Today = sore, and probably a pool day this afternoon. I need to get back in the water too.

Germantown Gem 13.1 is in less than 2 weeks and I need to get my ass moving if I’m going to feel even remotely ready for that. Eric & I joined ORRRC for 2016 – which is RIDICULOUSLY CHEAP for membership. So add those to the races I’ll be doing regularly.

It’s also time to start training for Run the Bluegrass 13.1. I’m pretty excited to be run-ambassadoring for that again for 2016 and leading the yoga classes at the hotel the next morning. Every time I think Eric & Rachel can’t possibly come up with anything new to add to race weekend, they add more. This year, a big addition is Running Nannies – people who watch your children while you go run. How awesome is that?!

The Topo Winter Series has already passed race #2. Race #1 was back at East Fork. After some rain earlier in the week, it was muddy but WARM.

Friends, some day I will run East Fork when it is not a muddy mess.

Can you even believe running a trail race in Ohio in December in short sleeves?! 60-degrees! I’m proud of how I did on it. Eric took Fred’s leash and started with her at the very back, then quickly caught up to me. We ran most of the 5.2 mile loop as a family, with me setting pace and finishing together. So that was really cute. When I looked later, I’d beaten my Summer series race time on the same loop by more than 6-minutes!

Topo #2 was at Big Bone Lick State Park in Ky. We bagged that one because of rain and gray and weather radar that looked like Pac Man was about to gobble up the course. Friends who ran said it didn’t start to rain until the last mile, but photos tell me it was still a mudpit of a run.

We’ll miss Race #3 because it conflicts with Germantown. 😦

image

It’s like a weight-loss commercial – before & after.  Toes take a bit more than the usual abuse when running trails.

Cynthia Running Rule #1: ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS take care of your feet.

Topo Series kicks off in 2 hours. 

It is just before 7am again, with coffee and snoozing dogs. I like to write in the morning. Mornings set a precedent for the rest of the day in that way that they come before everything else.

By 10am, I usually know whether or not I am going to kick that day’s ass.

My body is sore this morning. An ache across the neck and shoulders, and what feels like a sense of phantom fatigue through the ankles and shins. That’s after the chiropractor and a full day’s rest on Monday – other than training work with Fred, which involves numerous climbs of stairs at the moment. Some walking and yoga yesterday.

That’s the result when you venture into a 7-mile trail race after two months of slacking in the 3-to-4 mile distance range.  Fact: you can’t cram for a race. It just doesn’t work. And it makes your training-run-skipping ass sore.

On Sunday, Eric and I had put a race on the calendar. Eric a 13.1, me the quarter at 6.55 miles.

The day dawned pretty enough – a chill 28-degrees when we left the house with “freezing fog” that was starting to burn off. The sky looked like it was going to go blue, and eventually it did. As we picked up packets and got settled, big drops of water began to fall from the trees as the frost melted, slicking up the trail a bit.

My friends, when you’re short-cutting through foggy woods, and sunlight begins to stream through the fog, sending big droplets of nature down onto your head, it’s like the universe is telling you a pretty awesome secret. Most people don’t get to see things like that.

The run was at East Fork Lake – which is GORGEOUS – but has also brought me my WORST, MOST AWFUL, I HATE ALL THE RUNNING THAT IS MADE OF RUNS run earlier in the Summer.  At another trail series, I did an 11.8 miler there in calf-deep mud that about broke me. Thinking about that, and the slick below my feet, I had to shake off some negative head shit – a dullness from 2 margaritas at dinner and a migraine starting up – remind myself that I was only going 6.55 today. I’d survive.

Wave start put Eric on course 10 minutes before me. The first mile was on pavement to let people sort themselves – I really would’ve like less pavement time, but I can’t argue that it kicked off my first mile with a solid split.  Then it was off into the woods. East Fork rolls. Few flat spots in it. Several kinda challenging uphills which are offset by long slopes of down-hill. It’s a GOOD course for making time if you can handle the uphill consequences that go with those long downhills. I heard some people talking about what a rough course it was, but I guess after Mohican and Rugged Red, my definition of a tough uphill is altered.

I was still keeping good time through mile 2, but into mile 3 the wheels started to come off in the form of nausea. The migraine was starting to up it’s game. I backed off to a 3:1, then let that go to a ‘do what you can do’ after stopping to help a runner that twisted her ankle and then wiping out myself.  East Fork is also mostly single-track, so once the fast marathoners started lapping me, I had to keep stepping off course to let them pass.  It’s a courtesy. And also, you’re kind of an asshole if you don’t.

Not feeling well at all, I decided to focus on enjoying the scenery, get the demons out of my head. Even with the slickness – it’s not very technical in my opinion. A few spots for tricky footwork, but not a lot of climbing over things or navigating rockbeds. There are moments when the sun breaks through the trees, hits the mud on the ground and reflects that slick surface as if the trails were made of gold. Nature can make mud dazzling.

Nothing impressive on the finish. On the whole, it wasn’t an awful run – more in line with numbers I put up when I first started trail running than the ones I’ve been putting up lately. Slow. SLOW. Amazingly I did not finish last. I knew there was at least one person behind me, but frankly, there were a few more people back there than I knew about – so that made me feel better when I checked results. After the run, I pulled the car closer and got changed into warm clothes while I went to wait on Eric’s finish, hang out with my Team RWB peeps and listen to my head pound. My entire focus shifted on getting some migraine drugs and going to bed.

The good news, is that I get a second shot at it this upcoming weekend. Hopefully without the migraine, and definitely without the pre-race margaritas. Topo’s actual trail series kicks off back at East Fork on Saturday 12/12.

The Topo Adventure Winter set is a series of trail runs going through some of the more interesting trail systems in the area. It starts with a signature marathon, with a 13.1 and 10k option, that has all the frills of shirt, medal, pint glass, timing but still manages to keep it cheap at $40 for the 13.1 and $25 for the 6.55.

After the marathon, there are six (6) no-frills trail races – $15 a pop regardless of distance, no swag and hand-timed. Most offer 5-or-10 mile options. The first one is back at East Fork Lake this upcoming weekend.

IMG_3484It’s Saturday. A slow coffee kind of day, starting with a movie on Netflix and afternoon-ing some miles in with both dogs. Despite just finishing up two weeks of vacation, recent life has felt fast. There was a trail 5k I wanted to do about an hour East, but my legs are still tired from last weekend, and frankly, a day of quiet is in order. Soul feeding quiet. Observing my friends’ FB feeds fill with results from a local pavement 7k/14k.

This is how I think of races now – pavement or trail first, then the rest of the details.

Somehow the year of being 40 turned me into a trail runner.

Since Run the Bluegrass, there were 2 shorter pavement races – Joseph House 5k (which was an EXCELLENT little race & I highly recommend doing again) and the Flying Pig 10k, where I stepped in to fill a bib for a friend at the last minute.  Beyond that, the Summer has been spent on a slew of trail races to good and hard result. I can’t say a day on trail is ever bad, just good or hard, or good AND hard. There was…

Forget the PR, Mohican 25k, which began April with a great big DNF. A heck of a way to kick off a season. A HARD, but fantastically beautiful course with long, steep hills that never seem to end. I learned there’s a thing you find out when you run trails and you’re slow, and that thing is what ALONE feels like in a whole new way. Lonely and ALONE are verrry different. In this race, I found my limit on being alone at mile 12 and I simply didn’t have another 5 miles in me. DNF.

A week later, the local Dirt Days Trail Series started. This is where Eric joined in the fun. After a Winter of mulling, a decade of repairing me after races, and some time spent watching the snow fall from the treadmill, he got his own bib for the Ault Park Switchback run – and every race thereafter. We did 5 of the Dirt Days races together – from a HORRIBLE, NASTY, (humbling), MUDDY MUDDY MUDDY 11-miler at East Fork that *still* makes me shudder, to a repeat of the Powder Keg 5k where I beat last year’s time by 9 minutes.

Somehow the year of my being 40 turned Eric into a trail runner.

Interspersed with DD, was the Topo Adventure Sports Summer Trail Series. A good, no-frills race setup. I like it. Also, these guys stay till the last runner comes in with a smile. I really like how they handle their show. Through these two series I learned that if the trail is wet, you step in the first mud puddle you see. Get it over with. Your feet are not going to stay dry, so find a way to be happy about it, and take the race that comes to you. Also, Body Glide on your feet is GOOD.

Finally, though the season still isn’t over, all of these efforts culminated in running The Rugged Red last weekend.The HARDEST terrain I’ve ever run. 1700 feet of elevation gain, some of climbing on all-4’s up round-edged sandstone. I came into the finish line to find my husband and a crew of my RWB peeps who’d waited over an hour for me to come in. People, that is some love right there! I still can’t believe I finished it – which was one of only two goals I had  – (1) finish and (2) beat the sweeper. I beat the sweeper with only 10 minutes to spare, but I did it. I’m not sure how. And that guy that kept trying to pass me again after mile 9-10, I kept him behind me. It might’ve been a full on goddamn sprint at the finish to make it happen, but it happened.

Somehow the year of being 40 upped my level of badassery just a little bit.

Recovery from all of these beatings came in the form of swimming and yoga (which I’m still teaching, but at a new place now). The training sessions at Caesar’s Creek last Summer taught me I was a pretty crappy swimmer. A new gym membership came in December and twice a week 6AM swims started in March with a friend training for her first half-Ironman. Swimming lessons followed to build the skill set, and while I’m working on strength and endurance, I’ve started to do decently in the pool. At some point I went from dreading the water to looking forward to a good swim.

Somehow the year of being 40 turned me into a swimmer.

My house is usually a mess because we’re too busy training. The dogs are usually stinky because four legs get muddier than two on trails. The number of pairs of running shoes in my house has almost doubled. Some of them aren’t even mine.

And I started giving my bike the side-eye about 2 weeks ago…when I turned 41.

Wow! People – I would love to sit here and say OMG – how is it already the end of March and RTB has passed again – EXCEPT that it’s already the middle of April. Time is moving FAST FAST FAST these days – and I say that AFTER I just finished up a week of vacation! Isn’t vacation supposed to be a slow-down time?  Nevertheless, it IS mid-April and two weeks have passed by since RTB was logged into the recordbooks. Some races, you write about right away. Others, you need to let soak in. RTB is a soak-in for me. Even with being a race ambassador (or Race AmBADASSador, as we call ourselves) again this year, there are so many details which Eric Marr (RD) and Rachel Crabtree (ARD), as well as their bevy of volunteers, invest themselves in, that I think they warrant a few moments of just absorbing the big picture of the event.

The Race:  Billed as America’s Prettiest Half Marathon, Run The Bluegrass starts and finishes at Keeneland Racecourse. Options available are 13.1 & 7-mile distances, run simultaneously. The 7-mile race splits off of the half-marathon course via a cross road and joins back up with it again before the finish. Race date is usually the last Saturday in March, which was 3/28 this year. The date has moved to the first Saturday in April – 4/2 – for 2016.

The Swag:  Swag has it’s own special personality at RTB, which is one of the things I LOVE about it most. Included in the race fee is a t-shirt, an option for a personalized bib, and your medal. I’ll admit, on the surface, this doesn’t sound like much – until you also add in the meet-up tents & INDOOR areas pre-race, the post-race PARTY, then the post-post-race party later that evening. There’s also the fact that this race is NOT a crowded melee like many others are these days – worth a premium to me. Other race organizers please note – capping race attendance is NOT a sin!

This year, there was a problem in shipping with the Nike shirts which would have delayed receiving them until after the race. For Eric & Rachel, this wasn’t an option – they knew runners would be disappointed and no one wants to see a sad runner. They sprang into action and got in some super soft hoodies! A lighter-weight version than the winter hoodies, I think I like it better than a shirt! (Especially since I’m trying to thin out the herd of shirts in my running wardrobe right now.) It’s unique and an awesome option to have available to throw over running or yoga clothes for post-workout beers. All of the runners I spoke with LOVED the hoodie and several were already sporting it at yoga the next morning.

wpid-20150327_215623.jpg

Also, they don’t skimp on the medal for this run. The medal is GORGEOUS!!! Beautiful detail and it weighs a ton! If you are into race bling, this should be one you seek to collect.

wpid-20150328_210650.jpg

The rest of the swag available is at your discretion – you have a menu to pick and choose what means the most to you in the form of one-of-a-kind experiences that you buy tickets for – thoroughbred farm tours, distillery tours, race course tours, excellent pre-&-post race dinners. I’ve done many of these experiences myself and this is swag you don’t forget. Last year, I got to pet a foal that in another year, I’m likely to see competing at Keeneland, making its name as a champion. I also learned all about making my own hooch distilling bourbon and found a new love in bourbon cream (who knew that existed?!). Um, I hear there’s also a yoga class the next day at the race hotel…I think I might know the teacher. 🙂  (And yes, I customized my bib to promo the yoga class.) You can EASILY make an entire weekend of the race, scheduled with events at a pace to suit you.

The Tag: Registration cost is on a sliding scale, depending on when you register. Registration for 2016 was already available at the 2015 Expo for $50 – RIDICULOUSLY LOW – for this run. Discount codes were emailed out to race alumni. Current 2016 registration is $70 for 13.1 and $60 for 7-mile distances. It pays to register early, though I don’t recall fees going over $85 for 2015 – which is still a decent price compared to the experience you get up against a higher fee for RnR races which are way too crowded to enjoy half as much.

The Course: As it says when you open the webpage, RTB is “One of America’s 20 standout, must-do half-marathons” per Runners’ World – and you know RW don’t lie! The course on this race is AMAZING – 13 miles of rolling green hills – pastures – farms. Million dollar horses watch you pass by. At one point in mile 11 – we saw SIX PAIRS of mothers & foals standing side-by-side in a pasture. On a blue-skied, Spring day with all the greenery beginning to emerge, this course is Americana at it’s finest.

It is also HILLY AS F-…hills can be. I have to be honest about the fact that this is NOT an easy course – you will be challenged by it. But that’s also what makes it majestic and completely worth the effort. It’s like running through a postcard. A very pretty, but also sweat-inducing, postcard. There’s a gopro of the course on youtube here. I’ll admit, I didn’t watch all of it because – 90 minutes, but next Winter when I’m training, this will be nice to throw on the iPad and watch from my view on the treadmill as an inspirational tool.

Of Course: Guys, I teared up at the start line. Normally, that’s a finish line thing – but honestly, I was doing my best not to take a minute just to sob it out at the start of my 13.1. Not for any awful reason, but because being able to do this race for the 13.1 distance was a hugely emotional thing for me. This was my 3rd attempt. In year 1, I dropped to the 7-miler at the expo because I was undertrained for the race. Year 2 – the knee injury had me hobbling around taking pictures. I had to admit that there was no way in hell I could run it, not even the 7-miler, a week before the race. After having an entire year to prepare, that sucked. So at year 3, and a year after that injury sidelined me, to just be standing at the start line was a victory in and of itself. Whatever happened on the course was gravy.

My Day:  Eric & I opted against getting a hotel this year. We’ve done a hotel the past 2 years, to varying degree, but Lexington is only 80-90 minutes from my house and an EASY drive, so we decided to try handling the experience without one. This would let me rest & recover in my own bed, and keep us from having to book a dogsitter. We drove up for packet pickup on Thursday – the first opportunity. The expo was not crowded and was set up with a walk-through flow that kept you moving. I was able to pick up packets for myself & several RWB friends who were running. Eric & Rachel were both there, greeting runners and helping out. There were a LOT of other local races there and part of what was nice was that you actually had time to stop and chat with the booth people about the runs – as opposed to being hurried due crowds. We stayed for dinner, grabbing a great burger and beer at the Shamrock, then back home.

Race Day started by being out the door at 6:45 with RWB Rebecca joining us for the drive down. We made a pretty seamless drive, got through Gate 2 to park and made it to our RWB tent at 8:35. In that venue, 25 minutes to a race start is PLENTY of time to get where you need to be – except that the porta potty lines looked LONG, but we’d already taken care of that on the way.

Wave starts kept the running crowd from being overwhelming, although I think RTB has done a great job choosing a 5000 runner cap on this race. Then we were off! I had strategized to do a 3:1 interval for this race and not worry about the clock. As I said before, I planned an aggressive Spring racing season – and I wanted to be able to race the whole season, not off myself in the first one. It was perfect running weather for me – I set my dial to HAPPY and got moving. The first 1.5 went by nicely and I was setting up for a great run. Around that point, I came across my friend Jenn. Jenn & I swim together twice a week and she’s on my short list of great training buddies. She was walking and I decided to walk with her – not really sure how or when both of us decided that was the thing to do – we’re pretty good at pushing each other – but we ran a little and walked most of the rest. Keep in mind, other than driving it – I’d never seen the 13.1 course the way it needed to be viewed. And Jenn ran in 2014, in that HORRIBLE weather – head down, don’t look up, kind of freezing cold rain – so she hadn’t really seen the course the way it should be viewed either. Seriously folks – YOU DON’T RUSH YOUR EXPERIENCE ON THAT KIND OF GORGEOUS. For the next 3-hours, we took the time to soak in how beautiful the route was – stopping to take some pictures, chatting, talking training plans for triathlon season. Both of us have our competitive, PR-driven sides, but there was this mutual agreement that happened which threw that out the window for a minute to really see this run. We were enjoying the day, and that was AWESOME!

On meeting Eric at finish, he commented that this was the first half-mar he’d seen me look genuinely happy crossing the finish line.

We took advantage of drinks and food, and the massage table lines were short by that time, so I took advantage of that too.  I hugged a few friends and then it was time to ride back. RWB Rebecca had PR’d significantly on that hard course, so it was fun to swap our race stories on the way home. I declined going to the post-post-race party that night as I had to prep to teach 2 yoga classes at the race hotel the next day.

The Ending Line: As I move more into trail running, it’s getting harder to hear the call of pavement, so I’m not sure what will happen in terms of my choosing to run this race next year. It’s likely that I will, but weather made training this past Winter a miserable endeavor. It was tough to get the mileage in that I needed to really make a go of this race. So lots to mull over there. Trying to decide whether the 7-mile option might be better for me, though missing some of that scenery in the upper miles of the 13.1 is a heartbreaking thought too… There’s also the camaraderie I’d miss from the RTB friends I’ve made through being a race ambassador and yoga teacher, as well as the RWB Chapters that showed up from Chicago, Cincy & Lexington.

The Next Race: Um, the next race was this past Saturday – so I’m behind a full race recap on Forget the PR Mohican 25k.  Trust me when I say, I need to write that one up! Lots to say about that. Two weeks into the future, I’ll be doing a girls’ weekend at Country Music Half-Marathon in Nashville.

My friends, race season started EARLY this year. Usually, the first time I cross a starting line any given year is March. The later the better. BUT, somehow I’ve talked myself into a really aggressive (for me) series of half-marathons this Spring. That means trial races to keep the base building interesting have to come earlier, and I need all the trail time I can get to build my skill set because you do not learn to cross creeks and climb tree roots on pavement. On to it!

The Race: The Rocks and Roots Trail Series is a 2-race series up at Alum Creek State Park in Delaware, Ohio. Available distances are 10k-20k-30k-40k-50k for the first race, with an option of a 50-miler available for round two. Runners can choose a different distance for each race date. I picked a 10k for Race #1 and a 20k for Race #2. Race dates this year were January 11th and February 8th.

The Swag: 

wpid-20150111_152104.jpgMy new favorite Hoody, my new favorite Balegas, my new favorite soft t-shirt. Or at least contenders for the “my new favorite” for sure – they’re really SOFT. Seriously though, there’s a HOODY in the swag! That’s cool. The full list included the hoody, a t-shirt, a handheld Amphipod, a pair of Balega’s and samples of Cliff bars & drink additive. Along with the finisher’s medal.

wpid-20150111_152113.jpg

The Tag: 

Including the processing fee – $97.20 total for BOTH races. Looking at the swag and organization/support – this is an EXCELLENT price tag on the race. Averaging less than $50 per, I’ve paid more for pavement 5k’s that had far less swag and were far less interesting, even with over-the-top themes.

The Course:

The course is a 10k loop, so you go around as many times as you signed on with opportunities to take a break and access drop bags/porta potties in between. In the second race, they changed course for the 50k & 50-milers only – presumably bringing in some additional mileage to drop the number of loops needed. Race organizers had scattered some large speakers around the course to play music, which was AWESOME – particularly since it was tunes I like. 🙂

Right around mile 2.5 was probably the BEST AID STATION I HAVE EVER SEEN. This might just be a trail running thing or an ultra trail thing, but the aid station had M&M’s, gummy bears, pretzel bites, jujubees, other nibbles of varying sweet & saltiness. I think there were 3 different beverage options, but maybe more. OUT ON THE TRAIL!  There was a man in a BEAVER COSTUME! Cheerful volunteers at the trail aid station as well as several points between. The main aid station – home base – was even better stocked. Amenities there included cookies, swedish fish, coffee, hot chocolate, and CHILI. There was a FIRE to get warm and more good cheer.  Special bonus points for volunteers being sweet to my husband and my Fred dog while they waited on me.

wpid-20150208_105557.jpg

A couple GoPro’s of the course are up on YouTube here and here.

Of Course: Because helloooooo, January! February! MIDWEST! The first race, there was some fresh powder on the trail. Seemed like an inch or so, loose and a little slick, but not terrible. The February run – if you watch the first 10 seconds of the video – all that gray they’re walking around on is ICE. ICE EVERYWHERE. The entire trail was covered in an alternating deluge of ice, snow packed hard into ice, 2-inch deep mud and a muddy-slush covering ice. While I’ve got some time spent on snow pack, my experience level running on ICE is ZERO. The trail itself had a bit of everything – a few flats, a fair amount of up/downs, several creek crossings, a few switchbacks. Nice variety.

Also in the videos – take a look at how many Team RWB Eagles are out on the course. My red shirt is hiding beneath some warm gear, but it’s there. I know there were members from the Cincinnati, Dayton & Columbus chapters. It would be an interesting tidbit to know how many different chapters were represented. Nothing like running to bring a group together.

My Day: Both days started at 4AM. That’s because Delaware, Ohio is around 2 hours away from Cincinnati, give or take. I had to get up crazy early! Race #1, I met my fellow RWBer Jeff and he drove both of us North, where we met another RWBer- Brian- that had picked up both of our race packets for us because he’s awesome. Jeff & I were in for the 10k that day and Brian was going for the 50k.  Race #2 – Eric & Fred decided to come along, so we drove up as a family, meeting Jeff & the RWB crew at the park.

The first race was slow going, more from lack of experience than anything else. I am only starting to learn how to navigate obstacles such as creek crossings with slick banks or muddy, steep downhills. So these made interesting snow-covered challenges for me. Plus, I’m still very cautious about my right knee in these situations even though it’s rarely bothering me now. I took things as slow as I needed to and I had decided up front to be happy with the day no matter the clock time. It’s about learning and adding skill sets. I was particularly impressed with myself about this sliding thing I did in a side-plank down a muddy hill. Because ninja! Jeff, usually a little faster than me, wasn’t feeling great, so we were keeping pace with each other using run:walk and pushing each other after about mile 2. By mile 5, we were both ready to be DONE! – and getting thirsty. We’d both opted not to carry anything since a 10k isn’t anything new to either of us. Another lesson: a 10k with obstacles can take you just as long as much further distances sometimes and you need water over time as much as over distance. Next time, carry water. I finished feeling proud of myself for managing the terrain well and ready to eat.

The second race – UGH. Excuse my language, but FUUUUHHHCK. Race #2 was the same loop. A completely different beast, but still the same loop. I’d signed on for the 20k – so 2 times around. Twelve miles was a bit of a reach for where my training was at, but I planned a 3:1 approach and was excited about everything but the 4AM wake up going into the race. This time I brought my Camelback 1.5L Mule for water. Then we got there – and SO MUCH ICE!!!!  It just never stopped being icy. Except for where it was muddy. No traction to be had except on the fringes of the trail. I tried to stick to my plan and was successful for a bit, but even with a much shorter stride I was sliding all over the place and felt like I was barely moving. The 2.5-mile aid station felt like it was 4-miles away to my legs. By the time I reached the actual 4-mile point, I was cussing every time I slid and my mental game was gone. I realized that I was getting lapped. It was NOT. A. GOOD. DAY.  When I finished the first loop at my worst time for a 10k EVER – seriously, 40 minutes SLOWER than the one where my knee injury had me come in dead last, I was in a horrid mood. It was time to call it quits. My body felt over 6 miles like it had been beaten for 12 and I didn’t have another loop in me. After watching several people wipe out, I was afraid of going back through again tired as I was. As I put it to Eric, I might’ve had another 2-3 miles in me, but definitely not 6. If I thought the first race was hard, this one was misery. Jeff had completed his 10k and gone. Brian was working on another 50k to go for a buckle. Our friend Mark was doing 30 and taking off for his final lap when I came in off of my first. Race #2 brought with it another shirt and another finisher medal. A huge helping of humility.

wpid-20150216_085532.jpg

Snacks and fire with the husband and my furry sidekick helped lessen the blow my ego was taking until it was time to head back to the car – and my dry bag of clothes – and my thermos of chicken broth. No joke – chicken broth is a magical elixir after that kind of run. Taking my time with getting changed, I realized that if we gave it another 10 minutes, we would probably see Mark in the home stretch of his final lap (the parking lot is next to the trail for a minute at that point) – and so we cheered him on as he passed by. Yes – Mark ran about 5 miles in the time it took me to eat cookies and change my clothes. Then we pulled out of the parking lot for the 2-hr drive home, most of which I slept through. It is still amazing to me how two loops of the same course can feel so different. Race #1, I still had some energy left for lunch in Columbus and the ride home. Race #2 – I was plum worn out!

The Ending LIne: While the races were hard, I can’t deny that I already caught myself thinking about how I’d like another shot at them next year. There’s no doubt that the course was a great learning experience for a beginner like me to work on water crossings, steep creek banks covered in ice & mud, hill work. A reminder to carry water even if the distance seems manageable without it. The people organizing and volunteering were AMAZING and obviously cared a great deal about putting on a quality event. The price probably barely covered the swag and set up. And frankly, it was worth the 4-hour round trip – and will be more so if I do it again next year with more experience and training to run a longer race.

The Next Race: Officially, my next scheduled race is Run The Bluegrass on March 28th. I’m planning on the whole 13.1 distance this year and will be back to teach yoga at the Griffin Gate the morning after the race. If you haven’t heard of it, go check out the site – and that INCREDIBLE MEDAL they’ve designed this year! ( & pick me as your Race Ambassador!)

BUT – it looks like the DIrt Days series is kicking off on March 14th with the Run for the Green 5k, so I might have to fit that in. C’mon – 2 calve-deep creek crossings! Sounds like a great opportunity to learn something. 🙂

“Holee crap, that was hard!”

This was my whole assessment of this race when I posted my finish on Facebook. Or at least, that was all I could mutter from the surrealism of race-recovery.

The Powder Keg 5k Trail Run was the next race up after Midsummer Night’s. It was on August 23rd, and ventured around the grounds of the Historic Kings Mansion in Deerfield Township. It’s also part of the Dirt Days series put on by the Running Spot each year. Having missed an opportunity to preview the course with some of my RWB friends, this was the first time I’d ever been there. Packet pick up was quick and easy. There was plenty of space to stretch and move, find my friends. The grounds were nice and I kept looking to the building and the barns thinking what a nice event space that would be, though it needs a little restoration in my opinion.

In 2 races, my opening observations are that (1) trail races are generally less expensive – MNT cost me $12, I think and this one was $10 w/o a tshirt and $20 with – and that (2) trail races are just way more mellow.  Starting times seem to have an ‘ish’ after them. We’ll start 9-ish. There’s a bit of courtesy extended based on how many people are still coming in to park and do packet pick up.  Distances have a “might be more” to them since you can’t measure exact finish distance on trails.  Powder Keg’s course description for distance included “Race is listed as a 5K. However, actual will probably be at least 3.5 miles.”  And mostly, which is part of the keeping the cost down I’m sure, they use gun time instead of chip timing. In a pavement race, that irritates the crud out of me, but for trails, the run really is more about how YOU FEEL about your run than what the clock says – at least for me. I’m digging it on the trails!

The run started a little bit cross-country before taking to a path that started off as asphalt, then that treacherous deep-rutted thing that asphalt does when water breaks it down, and then after that I think it turned to dirt. Compared with the narrow, single-file trail of MNT, this trail was nice and wide and winding. There were a few moments I’d pass on given the option – a right turn that drops about 4ft without much warning, a wide concrete pillar that makeshifts as a bridge except that it doesn’t have any railings, and that 12-14ft climb of a steep grass hill that is so steep you are literally climbing using hands as well as feet – but those are more due to my novice level in trail running than the obstacles themselves. Things just caught me by surprise a little, is all.

Among the other things on route were the stairs. OH MY GOD – THE STAIRS!  There is no running them. Steep, wooden and they feel like they’re going up the side of a mountain. Did I mention steep?  STEEP STEEP stairs. No passing. No running. Steep.

When the run was over I felt like I had been rode hard for sure! This 5k-ish course left me a little more exhausted than the 5-mile-ish MNT.

I also felt accomplished, hungry and ready for a nap.

Y’all, if MNT opened up the door for trail running in my lift, Powder Keg sealed the deal on a new love in my life. A trail runner is born.

IMG_1161_resize

It was A Midsummer Night’s Trail Run that started it all. Like I said, I’ve been cramming an entire racing season into the past few weeks, so when I started to write about this I would have sworn to you that this event was in July. It seems so many runs ago, but NOPE, MNT was on August 12th. Just 8 weeks.

A 5-mile trail run through Mt. Airy, the run is sponsored by RCGC, which makes a point near and dear to my heart of keeping run fees CHEAP and swag minimal. I remembered having my eye on this one in 2013, mainly because I liked the name of it, but I hadn’t done any trail running at all other than the trail at my office and I didn’t know anyone else going.  Basically, I talked myself out of it.

Since I’ve been training with Team RWB though, there’s definitely been a shift in my thinking about my training – and even better for me, there’s a trail running contingent in the group. When I saw the run event for 2014, I realized I would KNOW people AND after months of listening to my knee groan, FINALLY I’d gone a few consecutive runs with no flare ups on my knee. Now mind you, those runs were paved, and only 3-4 miles max, so I wasn’t exactly ready for this one. I also know that Mt. Airy is not wimpy trailing. Eric and I spend part of every Summer hiking the trails with the dogs. There are a LOT of elevation changes in Mt. Airy, that’s why it’s MOUNT Airy and not INCREDIBLY FLAT Airy.

So knowing I wasn’t fully ready to race it, I set the intention for myself of not worrying about it. Just get it done. Monitor the knee. Enjoy myself. So long as I started the line and crossed the finish, my Eagles would be there waiting for me when I crossed. Also, Maine decided to meet me there and run along too. Since my injury, I haven’t been able to run with her as much as we did before, so having her meet up was a nice bonus. I can never pass up on a chance to connect with my BFFs.

I had no problems parking, getting there about 20-mins before the start. Packet pick-up was race day, organized, quick and easy. (Am I the only one whose heart swoons over an uncomplicated packet pickup?) My car was close enough to walk my little swag back right back to it and get back to saying hello to my RWB peeps. I saw Maine getting out of her car. The event was that uncluttered – all of this was very easy – and there was plenty of space to stretch and socialize.

Then the race began.

The first mile was the getting used to it – trail running. I set myself at the back to start, so as we streamed into the trail, there were 2 girls ahead of me, 1 almost directly behind and another a little further back. I knew we were towards the end of the line but there were still another few runners a little further back than that. The trail was a single-file trail, no running 2-or-3 wide. As soon as I spied a broader spot, I stepped off right and let the girl right behind me pass. We’d been chatting but I could tell she was itching to speed it up and I didn’t want anyone breathing down my neck.

First mile split was around the 15-min mark. I can walk faster than that. Except that I hadn’t done any walking at all.

This, my friends, is the weird voodoo of trail running. You can be running the entire time, but the pace that you have to slow to when navigating tree roots and rock beds to keep from busting your ass, makes it seem like it would be quicker if you just walked it. Except in the same breath, you know that isn’t true. If you were walking, you’d still have to slow down your walk to navigate obstacles. Slowing down your slow. But your mind does this thing where it starts to compare your WALKING ON PAVEMENT times against your trail RUNNING times, and you realize you’d PR if you were walking. But then you look around, kinda laugh, and decide you don’t care. This is trail running.

After the first mile, I was mostly by myself for the next three. In a pavement race, that would be utterly depressing to me, but watching the greenery go by – Mt. Airy is forest, so trees, shrubs, rocks are most of your view – I still felt like I was flying. Plus, you have to concentrate on what you’re doing in the moment of trail running. You get lost in your head comparing this and that, you fall down and go boom. Fact. If the first split on my Garmin at 15+ mins gave me food for thought, my next split was just about 17 minutes. There’d been a lot more rock bed to navigate and I’d taken a pause to keep from getting hit by the same mountain biker twice.  But somewhere in miles 2 and 3, I went from being cautious to feeling really happy about what I was doing. Mile 3 brought me back down into the 15-min range, and as the run opened up into the ONLY point where it broadens into meadow for a split second, there was the water stop.  The gentleman running it asked “Are you Cynthia?”  Yes.  “Your friend is a little ahead of you, she said for me to keep an eye out for you.”  Awww.

I wish I could tell you more about the trail, which trail names turned on to which and this one was this way and that cool thing about that one. I can’t. When I’m focusing, distance starts to blur into swatches of greenery. Plus, I have the sense of direction of a dryer sock. The one that never reappears when you’ve finished folding everything and are left with one unmatched sock. Yeah. I’m the lost sock.

Mile 4 the path started undulating more aggressively, but the track itself was wider and smoother, less rocks. 13+ on the mile 4 split and right about mile 3.5, one of the runners behind me came into view again. Sometimes just over a block’s length behind me. and sometimes much closer, I decided I would not be passed. I was fighting the good fight for my run, slow as it was and I wasn’t going to give up to someone behind me this late into it. I made concerted effort to keep my time up and navigate obstacles more aggressively.

Finally, the vegetation started to clear and I could hear people – UP THE HILL. Bless the hearts of up hill finishes everywhere – my, my, don’t they make us stronger.  As I crossed the line, Maine was right there with a high-five. Some of the RWBers I don’t know yet were there, but the ones I did know came back to the finish as soon as they saw me. Apparently there were snacks up at the pavilion! Seeing as how I mainly run so I can eat what I want, knowing there were snacks made me happy too. When someone tells me it’s a “no frills” run, I don’t expect snacks. Snacks are frilly. AWESOMELY frilly!

Maine & I wandered up, got some GOOD sandwiches and chips. Included in the swag was a cute pint glass, but I didn’t really want a beer. Just lots of water.  Y’all, trail running is HARD! I mean, regular running is hard for me too, but trail running is HARD!! That run really took a lot out of me! In the best way possible though – I was exhausted but I felt AMAZING. Happy. Content.  It was a completely different thing than I normally feel when I’m racing pavement.  I knew there were only a few runners left behind me to finish, but I honestly could have cared less. We stayed to listen to the awards, and I ended up winning a tote bag as a door prize.

A five-miler might have been a little aggressive for a first trail run choice, and the soreness of my hips and abs the next day let me know that was fact, but I’m glad I chose to try it.

This is on my ‘must-do’ list for next season.

LATE ADD-ON: That runner that I promised I wouldn’t let pass me – when I dug in deep and committed to really working the course, ended up checking in 4-minutes behind me. Amazing what you can do when you decide to try! (Phhhht.)

___________________________________________________

Since I don’t usually run with my phone or camera, picture is another one from the Northern Cali tour this Summer, taken by Eric. Yup, that’s my butt.