Thursday, March 29, 2012

Can I Play with Madness?

Mountain Madness Preview Ride

Last Saturday we headed up to the Elijay area for a preview ride of the newest Half Iron distance triathlon in Georgia called Mountain Madness. The race takes place in May and will be a good training day in preparation for Ironman Louisville. I had previously ridden in this area while training for Ironman Coeur D’Alene. In fact I was training with the race directors who decided to take their love of the sport and make a business out of it. Together they formed Zone 5 Events. That being said, I had a vague idea of what was ahead including a climb up Fort Mountain. What I didn’t know was that the climb was 6 miles and that was just one of the many climbs I would encounter on my 56 mile journey. 

    Prior to Saturday my longest bike ride this year had been around 15 miles (the previous weekend!) I had made sure my few bike outings were hilly in order to prepare a tiny bit but I knew I was in way over my head. So much so that I brought my rarely used road bike so I would have that extra granny gear to get my a** up those hills. I was less intimidated than I would have been had I not done so many hills last year and 2 trips to the gaps. That was a big confidence builder and although slow and painful I was pretty sure I would survive.

    Saturday’s forecast was warm with a slight chance of rain. We packed up the car the night before and headed up to Carter’s Lake. I brought all kinds of clothes to cover the changing temperatures and settled on a short sleeve shirt and light jacket with bike shorts. The ride started on a super steep incline to get out of the park with no warm-up and knew this would set the tone for the day. Thankfully, I was able to pull my a** up the hills getting out of the park and started onto the main road. The first major road was a nice downhill stretch which had me cursing since I knew we would be climbing back up that hill on the way back. There was tons of support out there with people stationed at every turn plus the turns were all marked. I started to recognize parts of the route from my previous ride up there. I knew the middle stretch on the out and back was not too bad. I also knew I wasn’t moving fast but I wanted to take things easy and save my energy for the mountain.

I was making my way along the road and enjoying the scenery when I spotted a little grey blur off to my right. I thought it might be a squirrel and hoped he would just stay put. Well, it started coming closer and getting bigger and I realized it was a small dog. It ran onto the road and started barking and chasing me so I had to pick up the pace or be in danger of it biting me or me running over it. Eventually, it got tired and I was able to get my heart rate back down (you could actually see the spike on my Garmin data!!).  I hate dogs while on the bike. Thankfully, I could outride this little guy.

At the base of the big climb there was a store where many were stopped to either grab some food and drink for energy to get up the hill or as a little rest before heading back to the start. I still had yet to see anyone head back down the mountain so either I was keeping good time or the mountain was really a bitch! Once I started the climb I felt better because I knew it was tough but totally doable. In fact it was not as steep as stuff we did last summer so I just settled in and climbed. The worst part of the whole climb was that I was at the back of the pack doing the whole route so I had a truck riding my butt to keep an eye on me. I tried very hard to shut out the sound of the engine but it was a bit nerve racking.

Eventually, I made it to the top and grabbed a snack and a drink and headed down. In some ways down was worse because my brakes were not super grippy and I had to really squeeze to engage them. This combined with the whipping wind caused my hands to go completely numb and they were totally frozen when I got to the bottom. I spent a little time warming them up and then headed back on my journey.

I was still feeling good. A little tired but not completely wrecked like I have been on other rides. This was good since I had already doubled my longest ride for the year. The flat part was nice and I kept it easy since I knew the final climb was coming up soon. As expected it was a bitch but I kept climbing along with my entourage of trucks right behind me. I am sure they were thinking why doesn’t this bitch just stop. I thought that a few times myself!! I had plenty of offers to take my bike and get a ride to the end but I didn’t feel too bad and although I was slow I felt good knowing how much I had accomplished on Day 13 of my training.

At last the big climb was over and I just had to turn into the park and get back to the car. I made that last left turn and said “WTF?” I had completely forgotten about the realtively short but steep hill before we turned onto the main road. Grumble, grumble , grumble I got up it and finished the rolling section and back to the car - finally. Bill Monahan called out my name on the bullhorn as I came into the parking lot. I was, as per usual, the last person back who did the whole ride. I yelled back “I hate you!!” but it was all in good fun. It was a tough, tough ride but I made it. Now I just have to shave about an hour off that time!

So, what’s on tap for the upcoming weekend? I am signed up for GUTS Operation Endurance 12 hour race starting at 8pm on Saturday through 8am Sunday. Not sure when this sounded like a good idea because it just sounds like a pain in the a** right now. I know I will have fun while I am there but there is no reason why I need to run for 12 hours right now. NONE. I am just starting my Ironman training. I have a decent run base (I did a 50K and a half marathon 4 weeks ago). I could drop back to the 6hr run which starts at 2am Sunday morning. This will just screw up my sleep schedule and again, what is the point? John is running the 24 hr race. It was supposed to be training for his 100 miler this year but we got that out of the way back in December . So, who knows why he is doing it. Regardless, I need to make an appearance but I am dreading the drive and I would rather just stay home right now. Things have been so hectic and stressful lately that a weekend at home sounds really good right now. As things stand I think my plan is to sleep in, get a massage Saturday afternoon, ride for 2 hours later that day and then head down to the race sometime Saturday evening. I need to gett some sort of run done (my schedule has me running 2 hrs) so I will run a little at the race (it’s a one mile loop) and just generally help out, nap and probably whine a bit (or a lot). Then I will drive home, nap some more, maybe do some yard work, laundry, eat and get ready for another fun week at work.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

It Just Doesn't Matter

Ironman Training has started!! A few weeks ago I was starting to freak out a bit about it being 6 months before Louisville and not having a coach. So much so that I needed Juanita the weasel to illustrate my true feelings. For the story behind Juanita check out the Bloggess.

The search for a coach was very frustrating but finally I have a coach!! Now all I have to do is look at my workouts and do them. Simple, right? So far things are going well on that front so one less bit of stress. Now if I can get rid of a few other pesky stressors I will be all good. Work has been extremely busy the last couple of months combined with working short since November it's getting pretty tiring. Looking forward to being fully staffed in June - what Juanita? yes, I said June!!!! Hopefully, we will make it. To add to that there are some other major annoyances going on which I can't really talk about right now but will hopefully be over soon as well. I am trying hard to put this all in perspective especially since a friend is dealing with a major health issue right now. Something that literally changes your life. It makes me look at all of this stuff and say it just doesn't matter. We create most of our own stress and sometimes it takes a serious reality check to make us appreciate the things we have.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Reverse Redneck Goofy Challenge

What an amazing and truly exhausting weekend it has been. It all started a few months back when Barb Blackford suggested that MS50 might be a good first ultra for those willing to take up the challenge. We looked at the web site and description of the course and it sounded relatively flat and easy (at least as far as an ultra is concerned). The race offered a 20K, 50K and 50 mile option. At this point I was heavy into my Pine Mtn 40 training so the thought of doing a relatively flat 50 miler a few months later seemed interesting. So, I signed John and I up for the 50 miler. Eleven other friends signed up for various distances so it was going to be fun little road trip no matter what happened.

December came and Pine Mtn 40 was a disaster. At that point I just decided I had too much on my plate to stress about doing a 50 miler, especially one with a 12 hour cutoff, so I focused on the 50K. In January I was on track with a 28 mile showing at Fat Ass and running every day. Then my right hamstring started acting up. It never prevented me from running but continued to nag at me from time to time all month. A vacation came and went and in between work was stressful and hectic and the launch of a my new training group - No Boundaries Multisport - took up most of my free time. I did get a few runs in but nothing like I should have done in preparation for my race. Again, I was glad I had made that decision to just do the 50K. 

Before I knew it the weekend before MS50 was here and I was no where near prepared. I had spent the last couple of weeks working on getting a personal coach setup for Ironman Louisville among other distractions and long runs let alone swims and bike rides were not part of my days. The Sunday before the race we hosted an Ultra Q&A/ movie watching party. All of the MS50 participants came over to ask any last minute questions and get some advice on what to do on race day. Nine of the eleven other participants were doing their first ultra. After the Q&A we watched Unbreakable the story of the 2010 Western States 100 mile race. What an incredible and inspiring movie!! I recommend it to anyone who has any interest in ultra running. 

The Friday before the race arrived and we dropped the dog off to be boarded, packed the car and headed to Laurel, Mississippi in the midst of a major storm heading east. We had a rather uneventful journey despite ominous weather patterns swirling all around us. The weather was clear and warm and it was a pretty quick trip. We hooked up with the rest of the group, had dinner, picked up race numbers and settled in for the evening. 

Once in Laurel, my phone basically stopped working almost completely. No phone, no data. Welcome to 2012 in Mississippi. There was wifi in the hotel so I at least was able to keep up with the weather and what was going on back home. Sounds like Atlanta got a nasty dose of storms Friday night and Mississippi was no exception. It started lightly raining around dinner time and continued all night. 

Race morning the temps were in the 50's and it was lightly raining on and off. My first plan was to wear a running skirt, calf sleeves, gaiters, short sleeve shirt, arm warmers and a light jacket for the beginning of the race. We drove 30 minutes to the race start over many muddy, dark forestry roads in the DeSoto National Forest. We checked in for the race, setup our tent and I decided a wardrobe change was in order. I was getting increasingly cold and the nasty weather was not encouraging. I always end up wearing more layers than most runners - partly because I am slow and don't generate as much heat and partly because I am just cold natured no matter what. I know that if I got cold and wet my day would end a whole lot sooner. I added running tights a long sleeve pullover, gloves and a raincoat to my attire. 

Some of the ultra newbies were starting to get a little nervous but I assured them it would all be fine. It was just going to be a long day and everyone would do great. The race started with little fanfare and we were off at 6am.  The course consisted of a 12+ mile loop and a 6+ mile loop. The 50K would be 2  big loops and one little loop. The 50 miler would be 3 big loops and 2 small loops. It was already getting very light so we all ditched our head lamps in the first 10 yard as we ran by our campsite. We ran for a bit and I was feeling good. I even ran ahead of John for a while since he was conserving energy for the 50 miler. Soon, the crowd spread out and the mud began. The first couple of mud patches were annoying but passable and then we came upon a water crossing (basically a rain swollen creek). There were no rocks or logs to assist in the crossing so it was just plunge on through with water up to your ankles. OK, shoes and socks are wet!! Glad I brought spares. Continue running. More mud, more rain, and now more water. A whole lot more water. I have no idea how many water crossing there were but it was at least 5 or 6 on the large loop and 3 or 4 on the small loop -with 2 being as deep as mid thigh and the rest ankle to mid calf depth. It was nuts! 

As per usual, I found myself in a weird place in the race. I was slow enough that I lost the fast group but had just enough trail and bad weather experience to be a bit ahead of some of the other newbies who would typically be just ahead of me or right near me in a road run. Thankfully, my nano was working and I had a good audiobook going all day. There was a little out and back part on the big loop so I saw a good bit of the group there but never saw the faster runners. I did see Kate Brun from Big Peach and GUTS run by me twice on the way to her first female finish in the 50 miler. She was amazing to watch as she handled the mud and hills with ease. I want to be Kate someday! I also saw Leslie Lybarger as I finished loop 2. I thought I was hallucinating since I was not expecting her to be there. It was such a lift to see her smiling face and get a hug before I started the final loop. Thanks Leslie for getting up in the middle of the night to drive to Mississippi!!

Kate and her first female trophy!

I stayed mostly warm all day with a few bouts of being hot which quickly passed and then cold which also quickly passed. The rain came on and off and there was a bit of thunder but for the most part it was just overcast and ugly. I felt like I was moving well although not running as much as I had hoped. The constant stop & start for nasty mud patches and water crossing made things tedious. Whenever there was a nice patch of clear trail or road I ran as best I could. Many of the faster runners would just trot on through the mud but I was always worried about twisting an ankle or getting needlessly hurt. I wasn't  winning this race and it was not an "A" race so I stayed conservative and safe. I don't think I drank enough but still had to make 4 stops to pee. My nutrition consisted of an energy bar before the race, 2 uncrustables, a couple more PB&J squares, a couple of oreos and mini twix. I never felt hungry, thirsty or overly tired. As I was running along the final 6 miles I noticed my time was 8:05 and I thought I might have a chance to finish under 9 hours. If so that would be a PR even though it is really impossible to compare these types of races. I ran up to the finish line and my times was 8:53:38. Not spectacular by any means but a PR none the less. 

Race Impressions: Nice, low key and cheap race that was not far away from home. The shirts and medals were nice and the 50 milers got buckles. The weather was crappy but nothing can be done about that. I wish I had known about all the water crossings but then again if I did I might not have done the race. I did feel the landscape was kind of boring compared to other races I have done but it was probably much nicer in better weather. It was flatter than any other 50K I had done but there were a few hills and the water crossings and mud made up for the lack of hills. The aid stations and volunteers were great. Good food, smiling faces and fun little signs along the trails to keep your mind of the miles. I would recommend the race to others.

Now onto part 2 of the weekend Odyssey: The next bit of idiocy was because of an agreement between Olga Henao and Barb Blackford. Barb wanted Olga to do the New Orleans half marathon with her the day after MS50. Olga agreed but only if Barb would do the Goofy Challenge at Disney (run the half marathon on Saturday and full marathon on Sunday). The MS50 and NOLA half then became the "Redneck Reverse Goofy Challenge".They agreed and well a bunch of us lemmings followed suit. So, with the MS50K and 50 miler behind us we packed up the car, showered, ate dinner and then headed to New Orleans. Seven of us decided to do this but 2 had to head back to Atlanta for business and could not make New Orleans. 

The drive to New Orleans was miserable. Not much to occupy the mind along the way and combined with our sheer exhaustion it was a fight for us to stay awake. John stopped about 25 miles out to drink some Mtn Dew and to wake up a bit. We scooted in to NOLA, checked into our hotel and dropped in bed around 11:30 pm.

The alarm went off at 5:30 the next morning followed by groans and general displeasure. We scrambled to get dressed and headed down to the lobby by 6:15. Fortunately, we were only a block or two from the start. We got our race numbers and headed to corral 17 to meet up with some friends. By now I had woken up a bit and did not feel too bad. The plan to was to walk and just enjoy ourselves.

The race started and we moved up to the start line and then we were off. John, Terrie Tillman and I started jogging and were feeling pretty good. Next thing I know we had done a mile and we were heading into an out and back along St. Charles. We moved into the center island and ran along the trolley tracks looking for some friends running the marathon. We saw almost everyone and had a good time cheering them on while running along. By now we had run a 33 min 5K and I was seriously impressed that I could do that with so many miles on my legs. I asked when we were going to do this walking thing and John said when we got to the turn around. OK, so we continued to run along and when we reached the turn around it was close to 5 miles. I suggested we run for the 10K if we could and then for fun lets just make it 6.5 so that we can say we ran half. We kept moving. We would slow at the water stops and walk quickly through but then pick up running. There were also a few picture breaks, a port a potty stop, and a beignet break (thanks to Faraz - awesome support all weekend) but essentially we ran the whole frikkin' thing! Terrie and I took turns feeling good and "sprinting" ahead or feeling like we couldn't make it but still chugging along. John stayed with us the whole time and I asked him to not sprint ahead at the end since this would probably be the only time we would ever run a complete race together. Finally we were finished with a time of 2:37.  I was shocked! I couldn't believe we ran that entire race, took pictures and generally had a good time and still had a decent finish. Wow! That was fun! Especially, since my official finish showed me finishing one second before John!!! (that will never happen again1!) Gone was all that grumbling the previous night about how stupid an idea this all was. My legs felt pretty good despite a little soreness in my ankles. Of course every time we sat down it was hard to get back up but I felt fine once I started moving. 

We hung around after the race for a while to check on everyone else we knew who were finishing and finally we just had to head back to the hotel to get a little nap. We slept for 2 hours and then went out for Oysters & beer and to experience a little bit of New Orleans night life. Everyone was having a great time and I just wish I had the energy to play a bit more. We finally headed back to the hotel around 10:30 and crashed. 

Race Impressions: This was my first Rock n Roll race and it was great! Coming in at the last minute and avoiding the expo and lines was priceless. We were able to pick up our numbers race morning and Tshirt after with little or no fuss. The race waves moved quickly and worked great. The hotel Barb found was 2 blocks away from the start. The food and entertainment were great and overall I really enjoyed myself. However, I don't recommend doing it right after a 50K. 

Weekend impressions - it was a fantastic weekend!! I had a good race on Saturday even though I was undertrained and feeling a bit injured. Guess what? My hamstring is not bothering me at all right now so I am quite grateful. I was super impressed that I was able to RUN - not fast, but really RUN a half marathon on Sunday. That really gave me a boost to my ego and was a good kickstart to Ironman training. Now we need to get the bike and swim training going. 

I was so completely impressed with all the new Ultra marathoners from Saturday - Olga, Barb, Terrie, Miles, Mike L, Tripp, Kim, Maria, and Celi. You guys rocked it!! I am also humbled and impressed by the incredible efforts of Cherie and Peggy in their attempt at the 50 miler. They gave it a great shot but the conditions were just not favorable. I am confident that a second 50 miler is in Cherie's future and Peggy will get her first very soon. These ladies are much stronger runners than I am so my decision was really the right one to concentrate on the 50K. 

Now, I am typing on my laptop as we drive home. Next up for me race wise is Operation Endurance 12 hr run on Apr 1st. Why did I sign up for that? More insanity. In the meantime Ironman Louisville training is starting in earnest. I am hoping to have a personal coach in the next 2 weeks and it's Game On! Look out Louisville I am coming for you.