Since the Spring of 2013 I have continued to pursue Ultra running goals and have traveled to some cool places. Most notable were Iceland for a 55k ultra and Scotland for a 5 day 130k trip from Inverness to Skye. Both of those trips increased my confidence to travel alone and tackle new challenges, I got to experience some unbelievable environments and meet some amazing and inspiring people along the way. In the Spring of 2014 I accomplished my goal of running 100 miles at the Sulphur Springs trail race in Ancaster, It was a huge challenge and I battled with sore feet and blisters and took 27 hours to complete. After finishing it took me awhile to feel motivated to train again and I didn't really do much all summer and ended up not going to Minnesota for the Superior 50 because I was so horribly under-trained. It wasn't until running in Scotland in October that my passion and love for running started to come back. Finally in January I was able to commit to training more seriously and make some goals for 2015. I signed up for my first 50 milers in the mountains, the first one will be Big Horn in Wyoming in June and the second will be Fat Dog in British Columbia in August. They both scare me a bit, which is a good thing, I like to go out of my comfort zone and being scared motivates me to train that much harder. Both of these races also fit into my other lofty and very long term goal of completing a race in every state and province. I have a long way to go. Thus far my list includes: Ontario, Prince Edward Island for Canada and Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Ohio, and as of this weekend Kentucky for the USA.
Getting back to this weekend, I decided in January to make the trip to Kentucky for the Land between the Lakes 60k because it fit into my plans for several reasons....
a) I already had the weekend off and it was the start of springbreak for John
b) It was in driving distance (just though... it was a bit long at 13 hours with stops)
c) South enough to hopefully have no snow/ice in March
d) Get a long run in that wasn't in horrible conditions or road
e) one more state to add to my list.
As it turned out the weather had some other plans in store. Before the race Western Kentucky had one of their worst snowstorms in history followed by days of rain, and flood warnings. This led to the tough decisions by race organizers to pull the plug and move the race from the trails to a road course. Thankfully they didn't cancel outright and I'm sure put it lots of extra hours to come up with a new course at the last minute. We were already looking forward to the trip and because of our tough winter about 75% of my training had been on country roads anyways. I haven't even done a road marathon since NYC 2010, so I was a little apprehensive of how my body would handle 60k of pounding on pavement, but decided to embrace the opportunity and be positive.
So Wednesday after a short shift John and I headed out for our road trip. John has never done such a long road trip and wasn't really understanding why we couldn't fly. He did pretty good as navigator and embraced such American specialties as the Waffle House and got a kick out of friendly waitresses with their southern twang and being called "darlin". We stopped in Toledo for the night as I was pretty tired after work and then we made the final journey Thursday. It was a long day and we made it to Grand Rivers, KY by 4:30, crossing over to Central Time saved us a much needed hour. We stayed at Green Turtle Bay resort and had really sweet condo on the lake. Friday we had a pretty chill day meeting some of the locals and John tried some fishing and I had my last shake out run. I am constantly amazed how the day before a race that 5 k feels like the hardest thing ever and I spend the whole time doubting my ability to complete the next days challenge. It never fails, I remember feeling the same before Boston marathon and many other races.
We went to packet pick up and met the RD Steve and I introduced John to him and the other volunteers. This would be the first time that John would be volunteering, they had assigned him to Aid station # 1 and they were super friendly and thankful for him coming down. Then it was off to the local tourist attraction Miss Pattis 1880. As previously described on my FB status it is like the Crackle Barrel on steroids, a restaurant with gift shops, over the top decor, waitresses in pioneer dress and mammoth portions. I still never know what the hell to eat the night before a race and ended up picking at my dinner and looking on in amazement of the non-stop bread bowels, gallons of pop and insane portions that other diners were consuming.
(John and his 2" porc chop)
(The chef salad)
Usually I would be slightly envious, but that night I just felt nauseous. We had an early night and I actually slept pretty good with the assistance of a glass of wine and one gravol......forgot to mention that the county was a dry county so couldn't enjoy wine with dinner, but earlier I crossed the state line loaded up with beer, moonshine, bourbon and a bottle of wine. The rest I would save for home, but did enjoy one glass of wine before bed.
The next morning went fine, I broke the rule of never trying anything new. A few new things I tried on race day
a) no watch
b) no hydration pack//bottles
c) ate oatmeal gave up my usual pre race bagel and PB
d: drank coffee in my travel mug till 5 mins before the start
e) made my choice to forgo carrying hydration without really knowing the course of the layout of aid stations
f) taping the soles of my feet
We started at 730 central time, so we didn't need headlamps, there were four races going on.... half marathon, marathon, 60 km, 50 miler. We all started at the same time. So I let hundreds of people start ahead of me. For the first two miles it felt like running a road marathon. I haven't run with so many people in a long time. I felt super slow and was feeling a bit negative. People seemed a little serious or people were in their little cliques, so I didn't find anyone to chat with right away and I was thinking this was going to be a long day. At the two mile mark I saw John for the first time and I cheered up, I was proud of him for volunteering on his own and he seemed to be doing ok and at that point we got off the road and entered the park on "scenic drive" this was a paved hilly path that ran along the lake, I ran the first few hills and decided to walk the remaining as I doubted that I would run the hills the third loop. At this point I had my ipod on in one ear and was treating this like a training run. At the six km mark we were at the north welcome station and the next aid station from there we got some dirt roads thru the forest which was a nice break and then I think maybe another 2-3 km another aid station. From there we did another hilly out and back along the lake and back to the same aid station. At this point the crowd had thinned and I could see some of the runners who were ahead of me but I wasn't paying close attention of who were in the 60 km race. Then it was a fairly steep downhill and a 4-5 k loop back to the north aid station. I tried to take the downhills easy and not pound too much as I knew I'd pay for pounding on pavement later on. Somewhere on this loop my ipod I guess was too wet and stopped working I was at the 10 km mark or so, I had a mild panic as I thought I really don't want to run another 50 km on paved trail/road with no i pod. I got over it and started running with some of slower half marathoners, and the next thing I knew I was back at John's aid station, and what do you know my i pod started working again, and then it was two miles back on the road to town to the start/finish. I finished the first 21k in 2:27 or so.
The second loop I got stronger as I went on. After I saw the state of my feet I rationalized that if my feet acted the way they did at Sulphur 100 that I would drop down to the marathon. The race generously and/or cruelly lets you drop distance in the middle of the race. I think this is extra challenging when you loop thru the finish chute to not just stop and get a medal anyway. Also this makes it harder to know where you are in the standings when people drop down at any point. Anyway my feet didn't really bother me and I started feeling stronger mentally and physically on the second loop. With no watch I managed to run really consistent and came in for the marathon just under 5 hours. With no real idea of what the course was like my original goal was to run around 8 hours for the 60 km.
I was still feeling good the third loop and stayed consistent running anything flat and down and power walking the ups. Throughout the race my mood improved and chatted to other runners, most seemed to be from Kentucky or neighboring states. I stuck to two gels a loop mixed with water and coke/sprite at stations and couple of peanut butter pretzels. I saw John a total of six times, on the sixth time I picked him up from the aid station, he wasn't really dressed to run and I was feeling better than expected so he walked it in and I ran the two miles to the finish. I crossed in 7:12, I got my buckle and then the volunteer handed me a trophy, I assumed we all got trophies and then I looked down and saw the trophy said 5th female overall. I was really happy, at this point I had no idea how many people were in the 60 km race. According to ultrasignup there were 31 women and I think 100 runners total. I was 31st overall. I was really happy with that. Of course now I wonder what I could've done if I wasn't so chill and lolly gagging at a total of 18 aid station stops lol.
My feet are actually fine, no blisters. I took my recovery more seriously this time and took advantage of staying at the condo and had an ice bath immediately took my recovery drink and ate a snack and enjoyed one Sam Adams Winter Ale. The next morning I felt good enough for a shakeout 3k and another ice bath before the long drive home. We did it in one long stretch 13 hours total, the ice bath and compression socks helped, but that much travel I was still pretty puffy when I got home, but feeling pretty good today. I enjoyed having some one on one time with John, I think my throat is more sore than my legs we sang for about 10 hours straight!!
Next up Big Horn, Wyoming..... I am in need of some serious hill training.