Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Brittany's Fat Ass

31 miles in 100 degree heat? I knew I could use this one as a "stop-whining-look-what-I-did" for at least a few years. Drinking out of a spring instead of a cooler? Post run grill, beer, and body shots?

Oh, VHTRC, where have you been all my life?!

Hanging out with Mark at the race start
Picture courtesy of Bobby Gill

The day started late--at 8:00 a.m. I had two handhelds and started off on my own, with no one to talk to, and trying to decide what I felt like doing today. There were two distances offered because of the heat and I was contemplating either racing, or taking it easy to get more time on my feet. I started to join a group of 4-5 men, and ended up sticking with Sniper for the rest of the race. Sniper and Mark both ran Grindstone twice, so we talked about the race a lot. I ended up running the rest of the race with "Professor" Sniper who did what he could to get me well-educated on trail running. He's run almost 200 ultramarathons.

On the trail
Picture courtesy of Bobby Gill

The first 8-9 miles were without aid, with some fun climbs, rocky downhills, and hot weather. We came into the first aid station just to eat, before heading up a gravel road about 1.5 miles to a natural spring to fill up water and they poured buckets over our heads to soak us up and cool off.

 Best post-race party ever (with ultrarunnergirl)
Picture courtesy of Bobby Gill
The volunteers were amazing and I ate more at these aid stations than I did at my last 50k. I ate PB&J sandwiches and they settled very well. I need to remember to eat gels more because I was starving at the finish. I stayed well hydrated in the heat (I had to pee three times) and had no cramping. I was disappointed the race wasn't actually 31 miles, so we did the overlook twice, taking down those ribbons for the sweeper. I ended up doing 8,224 feet of elevation gain and 8,243 of descent--way more than I expected.

I'm big at stealing hats when I'm drunk
Picture courtesy of Bobby Gill 

The after party was a blast. It was hot, but I handled the heat well. We all but bathed in the streams and I carried a rag to dip into ice water at the stations and in the creeks to cool off.  My knees felt way better than they have for any long run and with a slow, 8.5 hour finish, I felt great at the end. And yes, my average moving speed was only some 14 min miles, but I think it was smart. Sniper made the point that today would probably be more beneficial if we took it slow, since at Grindstone "this may be the fastest you can move."

and holy hell was he right.

Almost there!

On Sunday, my friend and I climbed Elliot Knob, one of Grindstone's big climbs. There was a 1.5 stretch of gravel road, and in the heat it was just way steep and really brutal in the sun. The four mile climb was tough on my legs, and I wasn't even planning on getting another 98 in that day. The loose gravel would make running down it without tripping very tough on the way back to the start.

 The gravel road

I also realized that planning to run with a pack, and then not doing so all summer was a big mistake. I might plan to run with two handhelds. My shoulders were sore after hiking in my backpack all day.

At the summit of Elliot Knob

All in all, it was a great weekend. I got 40 miles covered, ate a lot of good food, was surrounded by good company, and learned a lot. Next time I'm planning on getting out to the mountains is for the big training weekend August 14-15th! Way too far away!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Playing hooky

I skipped my race this weekend. I was moving, my family was in town, I had a lot to do, my legs were tired, and I didn't really have a ride.

So, I'm ok with it! Instead, I got my whole room unpacked, my old place closed up, and I got to see the boy before he left on vacation.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Race Report: The Skyline Challenge

I signed up for the Skyline Challenge 50k Tuesday last week. The "thrifty fifty" option offered a 50k supported long run in the mountains for $20 with aid stations stacked with Hammer products (my new favorite nutrition line). I had to get up at the god-awful hour of 1:15 a.m. to catch the last metro train out to Bethesda to get a ride with Brian out to Ward, VA.  It started pouring rain, and the drive was actually quite frighting. I can't believe we didn't get lost, and made it to the race start with about 40 minutes to get situated.

I'd been feeling awful and tired all week. My knees still hurt a little, my foot was starting to bug me again, and my stomach hadn't felt well all day on Friday and I really didn't want to eat any food that morning. I expected to have a really bad run.  The elevation ended up being twice what I expected (I was told 3,000 feet of elevation gain and it was close to 6) and I had no idea what the terrain would be or what the course was like. 

This was a memorable race start, when over 100 runners took the wrong trail in the first mile. We were heading up a hill when everyone started running back down it, and almost everyone just laughed it off. The first few miles included some big climbs so steep that climbing them could be considered a calf stretch (elevation profile said 18% incline). It also got so muddy from the rain that the trail was unrunnable unless you wanted to trip. Being in a group was helpful since you saw what worked and what didn't. Climbing on the side of the trail worked. Trying to run up the muddy climb caused you to slide and fall into mud covered rocks. We all climbed our way on the side of the trail. It took almost 2 hours to do the first 8 miles!

I ran most of this alone, chatting some with RussianBear (Peter) and some of Brian's friends. I did my best to focus on strong climbing, running up some of the easy climbs, and keeping my form and nutrition in line. I was passing people like crazy as I focused on my climbing and really felt those Mountain Man reps I've been doing. My hamstrings, hips, and bum were really being put to work! When we reached the top of the climb, you looked out and should have been able to see three states and seven mountains, but instead it was white. There was a 2 mile detour to an aid station that you could barely see because of the fog, and thank God because on the way back it looked brutal! This was a pretty rocky course and that was the worst of the rocks.

After hitting that detour, the trail was gorgeous. I tried to get in some quicker trail running since I felt good, and ran about 3 miles with a girl to the next aid. The switchback down the mountain was rocky and covered in wet leaves and so I took it easy and safely. After the next aid station at mile 13, there was 8 miles of road with the turn-around in the middle. I tore through it, running almost all 8, and finally getting some speed under my legs. My pace was dipping far under 8:00 and I tried to keep it slow! I did! A truck passed me and told me I was fifth woman, the fourth was ahead of me, and I could catch her. Fifth!?!? I had no idea I was doing so well! The guy lit my competitive side and I picked up the pace.

Brian came through in fourth place and it was great to see him running so strong. The first woman was all smiles and yelled "hey lady! Looking awesome! Go get those boys!" Feeling good, I gained on the group of men ahead of me (they told me to slow down!), and passed them. I was starving, but didn't want to stop for a gel. When I get to the aid station, I contemplated waiting to eat since I'd be doing some hard running back, but decided it wasn't smart. The fourth woman just left, and so I crammed pretzels, bananas, chips, and soda. The volunteers were quick to fill up my water. I totally improved my aid station times in this race. 

On the way back, I did about 7 miles with John, a Navy guy who has attempted and finished six 100s! The company was great. We caught up to the next woman and got some great running and climbing in. We did a lot of talking, he had great stories, and he complimented my trial skillz (I have them apparently). I was doing great on the technical stuff for a novice ("don't be offended by that word") and I've only been trail running for what, 2 years, right? "No, more like 2 months." He gave me lots of tips, including switching up the climbing so that your toes pointed outward and it used some different muscles.

Finally, we finished the climb, and he told me to go on and let him go. I ran ahead, concentrating on speed and using my small feet to navigate through the rocks.  I came around a boulder and there was a fork in the trail. I looked for streamers and turned to find two, big, black bears.

Holy. Shit.

I stepped behind the nearest tree and caught my breath, going over in my head about what I was supposed to do. Don't run. Make noise. But, I was pretty sure you shouldn't make noise when they were right there. So, I slowly went back around the boulder, and ran back toward John. He was totally confused until I told him about the bears, and so we ran together back through, talking loudly and clapping our hands. I hoped they were gone while he hoped he'd get to see them.

I jumped ahead again, and finally hit the last aid station. Now that I could see the mile detour, it looked awful! The last four miles were downhill, which my knees were not looking forward to. I was back alone on the trail, and now scared of bears. I started saying LA LA LA really loud in hopes to make enough noise, which turned into Ra ra ah-ah-ah-a ro-ma ro-ma-ma gaga ooh la la... want your bad romance.

Lets just say, the bears ventured away from my Lady Gaga singing. My knees weren't feeling too hot, and I switched my form which really helped. When we hit the last mile of road to the finish line, I took off! I got my pace well under 8:30 and finished in about 6:33, fourth woman, first in my age group, and 23 among 117 finishers! I'm really happy with my experience here! I learned a lot and proved to myself that I really can do this whole trail ultra thing.

Brian finished second! Totally kicked ass. He has so much potential! (He didn't sleep the night before, we did a trail marathon the weekend before, and he had the death race prior to that, and got SECOND! I'm amazed.) I stayed in Winchester, VA for the night and did a 7 mile hike on Saturday. My legs felt great! I'm really starting to feel more confident about Grindstone.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Just for fun: things in my purse

I carry around a giant bag all the time. And, I have a lot of random stuff, especially as a runner, that will hopefully either make you laugh or at least shake your head and think I'm crazy. On with it! (I'm bored at work)
  1. Water bottle (my camelback handheld) with a pocket with cash, my ID, a debit card, and my Smart trip.
  2. My entire make-up bag in case I need to look pretty
  3. A book
  4. Perfume
  5. My wallet (I have over 37 cards)
  6. Sunglasses with my giant pink case
  7. Sunscreen
  8. Camera
  9. Deodorant
  10. Keys (with a bottle-opener key chain--very useful!)
  11. Antibiotic ointment (I fall a lot) and bandaids
  12. My watch (a garmin, that doesn't tell the time, but can tell me my pace and map out my movements)
  13. Nuun tablets and clif shots
  14. A hammer (there isn't much pepper spray can do that a hammer can't! I take it out at night in case I get attacked)
  15. Headlamp
  16. Three chapsticks and a lipgloss since it takes me forever to find one
  17. ibuprofen
  18. A lock
  19. A pencil
  20. An extra pair of shoes (flip flops or heels, whatever I'm not wearing at the moment)
  21. Usually some sort of food
  22. Tissues
  23. Condoms
  24. Cell phone
  25. Ipod

Trains well with others

Before say, February, I was always dead-set on running alone. I liked to head out with my water, iPod, garmin, and feel free to speed up, slow down, stop to adjust my shoe, and run whenever I wanted to. I didn't understand why people ran with groups. Why on earth would you want to do that? When I did run with a friend that was visiting, or my roommates, it was nice but I wanted to put my iPod back on and reclaim my "me-time."

I joked that I didn't train well with others.

Now, I have two running groups and I almost always do my long runs with Brian. I only run with my iPod half the time, I'm moving into a house of ultrarunners, and I plan on taking advantage of group runs and training runs in the mountains. My last race, I spent more than half of it running with someone else. Basically, I have decided to let running take over every aspect of my life (including dating) and I've become a group run convert. Here is a narrative of my slippery slope.

First, in an attempt to get motivated almost a year ago I joined twitter, starting blogging, and started talking to other runners. I loved the community aspect of running, but still resisted running with people. I met someone who put me on a listserve of those running the North Face race, and it was selfish, but I started opening up to the aspect of running with them so I had access to the race course because I didn't have a car.

This is how I met Brian and we became very fast friends and both signed up for Grindstone, with the promise that we'd train together. We started running together and I couldn't believe how fast 15 miles went by when we were chatting. We volunteered at MMT 100, and met a bunch of people associated with VHTRC and were told we needed to go come out to WUS runs.

Woodley Ultra Society
It was mostly ultrarunnergirl's fault that I started coming to these runs. Two groups head out from "the ultra house" (a.k.a. my new home) into Rock Creek Park for about an hour and a half every Tuesday and end up at a bar with great pizza specials. The first couple times, I ran with the first, leisurely paced group and it was a blast. We talked, walked up hills, took it easy, and had a lot of fun as I learned how to navigate RCP. We all eat at least 1/2 a pizza and sit out on the patio of the bar after with a few beers, and then I run to my friend's house just a mile away to sleep. Its a perfect set-up!

I tried keeping up with the fast group a few weeks ago, and found that I was, in fact, able to run at a decent pace on the trails when forced to stop overthinking it! I'd like to run with the guys more to get faster on trails. They just fly up hills like they aren't even there and it encourages me the rest of the week to get better so I can keep up. A few weeks ago, Mike Wardian and Matt Woods (first place at TNF race) showed up. I was already feeling sick that day and only lasted 3 miles with them, but it was pretty cool to have elite runners show up for your group run!

What is hashing? Running, with beer stops, an after party, and constant sexual references. I've been told I needed to join for years and I can't believe it took me this long! A bunch of my college friends are there and I've decided its a must-do every week. The running isn't too difficult, but the "hares" lay trails through places like Pentagon City Mall, up a creek, and through backyards and ghetto neighborhoods. There are plenty of rules, and if you break them you're "violated" by being forced to drink a beer at the end of a run. Last week, I got four.
Photo by EWH3

With my group runs on Tuesday, hashing on Thursday, and long runs with Brian over the weekend, I'm doing half my running with other people, and I love it! I'm a group run convert, mingling social life with running and finding its much more fun!

With all these long training runs coming up, I'm getting three 50ks in 15 days, all of which were either free or less than $30. Two are in the mountains, and I know they will be great workouts and I always have fun at races.  In August, there is a big, group training weekend for Grindstone, where they split up the "out" part of the course into two days of running with camping in between. Do I have a tent? No. Have I ever been camping before? No. Have I ever been hiking before? No. I'm still trying to figure out why I think I can do this.