Sunday, November 19, 2017

I Witnessed the BBA50K!

The Bills' Badass 50K is a legendary race that takes place in Peninsula starting from the Covered Bridge. Ever since I started trail running, I have heard people talk about its epic-ness: the weather, the stream crossings, the mud, the yelling of the RD.  I decided to volunteer at the aid station for this event, and I'm here to tell you that it is all true.

Here are the details of the race as I understand them:

It's free, but the racing community expects you to either donate your time to environmental cleanup or money to the cause. The causes this year were Edwin's Restaurant and Leadership Institute and the Doan Brook Watershed Partnership.

The race consists of 6 loops of hills, single track, and stream crossings. Runners check in after each loop. After the 6th loop, runners must ascend Candy Mountain where they will take a piece of candy out of the basket and bring it back to the finish line.

The goal is to finish the race, especially when the weather fights back. Those who do not finish the race are considered "candy-ass." They tend to take this label in stride and promise to complete the next year.

The race director, Wild Bill Wagner, carries a megaphone and likes to yell at people.

I showed up at 7:30 AM in horrible weather (cold, sleet, pouring rain, wind) to work the aid station. Thankfully, Wild Bill had set up a tent for the station, so I was protected from the elements. There was already a plentiful amount of food set out for the runners, and many participants brought in homemade and store bought food to share. We had tons of bacon (a trail runner staple), Subway sandwiches, pb and j sandwiches, pretzels, Pringles, M and Ms, salted potatoes, chicken soup. . . you name it; we served it up.

Do we have enough food? No?  There is lots more behind me in the tent!

I met my fellow volunteers, who were very kind.

Here we are in the red tent!
I had quite a few friends who ran this race, and I am amazed by their badassery. Here is a shot of the Burning River Goddesses (Nicole, Marta, and Jennifer) coming through after the first loop.

I stayed until 10:30 because I had to go home and wake up my kids. Wild Bill offered to yell at them over the phone, and in retrospect, I should have taken him up on it.

The weather got increasingly worse all day, so I am even more in awe of all runners of this race, even those who were "candy-ass," considering I didn't run a single mile that day, and I CERTAINLY didn't cross any swollen streams. Instead, I threw on every layer of clothing I had and tried to get warm for the rest of the day.

Will I run the BBA 50K one day? I don't know. The weather is a deal-breaker for me. Someday I intend to run a 50k, but I don't know if I want it to be this difficult. I do want to say that you will never find a more supportive community than these trail runners. Everyone was positive and encouraging and happy to be out there. I am honored to be a part of that family.  Even if I get yelled at.

Where did you run this week? Wherever it is, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Leaf Peeping

Today's run featured Marta for 4.5 miles

She is tapering for Bills' Badass 50k next week, but she was still kind enough to come out for a bit and show me some new trail. Sorry, I'd love to tell you where it was, but I have no idea.  Well, that isn't quite true. I did recognize Blue Hen Falls:

When Marta left I decided to test my common sense on the Buckeye Trail, following the blue blazes as Marta taught me. The leaves are still on the trees, and the colors are so vivid and gorgeous everywhere! Today I remembered how lucky I am to live so close to the Metroparks. I especially loved running through the pine trees:

I put in almost six miles for a total of 10.25. Not bad at all! The common sense thing ended when I realized that instead of attaching my key fob to my vest, I had attached my house and classroom keys.  Actually, I have no clue what these keys are doing on my key ring, but they were definitely NOT going to help me get into my car.   So, I had to call my husband and ask him to bring me a spare car key. He wasn't happy about it, but I promised to go shopping and buy steak for dinner.

As I was waiting, an older man pulled his car over to me and said, "I once hiked a trail around here. It goes through the woods and almost straight uphill. Do you know where that trail is?"

Me: "Ummm. . .yeah. That would be any trail around here. You can go there (pointing) or. . . "

Him: "No. This one was through the woods and straight uphill."


This was a great run today. I'm amazed that there are so many leaves around; it made for a dazzling long run.

Did you run in the leaves today? No matter where you run, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Race Recap: Run with Scissors

The subtitle to this post is "How I Ran More than a 25K when I Just Wanted to Run a Half Marathon."

This is the first time I've ever done Run with Scissors. You see, it has a reputation, and the crazies who embrace this trail race love the misery involved with it.

1. The weather will suck on the day of the race.
2. The trail markings will be confusing.
3. You will most likely get lost.
4. You will definitely get cold and muddy.

On the other hand, there are plusses:

1. You will get bacon.
2. See #1.

I decided to try the race this year just to have a long trail run. Some of the Burning River Goddesses signed up, too, so I figured it would be a fun time. . . and it was.  Sort of.

There are three races here: a half marathon (me), a marathon, and a double marathon (for people who generally like to be spanked, I guess). The half marathon started at 9:00, which was nice because I didn't have to get up too early to run it. I still didn't want to get out of the car and go out into the cold when I arrived at The Ledges Shelter.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I don't want to get out of the car. I really need to reconsider my life choices.

We listened to directions from the RD, Roy Heger; well, we pretended to listen to directions. Mostly people just looked at the runners who decided to run in Halloween costumes. I do distinctly remember Roy telling us to follow signs and markers on the right side of the trail. Pay attention because this becomes relevant later.

I took our obligatory selfie just before the start:

Me, Marta, and Nicole. Tracy and Katrina were also there. Katrina was a taco.
 Then we took off into the woods. 

It was a nice run during the first half of it. We stopped at the aid station located at Pine Hollow, and I ate bacon and grilled cheese and cherry licorice. The volunteers were amazing, especially considering they were standing in the damp and cold.

When we got to the halfway point, we were supposed to use our scissors to cut a page from the book there to prove that we made it that far. I just ripped the page out because although I ran with my scissors, I forgot to take them out of the plastic wrap, and I didn't want to deal with it.

And I STILL haven't taken them out of the plastic!

My page: Nietzsche
We ran back together towards the Pine Hollow aid station, but I was getting a bit fatigued. I hadn't fueled at the proper times for me, and it was wearing me down. When we got back to Pine Hollow, I knew that I had just over 3 miles left, and I felt that with another slice of bacon and some M&Ms I would get there. And then things got weird.

Nicole ran ahead of Marta and me a bit, and Tracy was behind us a bit. Marta and I were deep in conversation, and we weren't really paying attention to our surroundings. In my defense, I am constantly looking at the trail instead of around me because I don't want to fall. We saw a sign on the right of the trail pointing downhill for one of the intersections, and although it seemed counter intuitive to us since the finish was higher up, we followed the trail marking. This was a half mile from the finish line.

When we found ourselves at Kendall Lake, we knew we had screwed up, but there were more trail markings (on the right) directing us around the Lake loop.  We stopped and looked at some maps, but we were puzzled. Two marathoners and two half-marathoners approached us and told us we had taken a wrong turn and we had to double back to get on track, so we did. As we ran, we called our loved ones and  told them we loved them and we wanted to be buried together when they find our bodies covered in leaves.

We made it back to The Ledges Shelter after 16.55 miles, tired, hungry, thirsty, muddy, and a bit embarrassed.

Just a wee bit of mud
The Goddesses had been somewhat worried because we didn't come in when we should have, so we were all relieved to be reunited. I felt much better after eating a grilled cheese sandwich (prepared by the beautiful Stacy, who was volunteering) and some chili. We agreed that we had more than earned whatever treats we gave ourselves this weekend.

It was a spooky finish!
After following social media posts, I realized that many runners went the extra mile (or three!), including my friend Sydney, who ran the double marathon and decided to throw in some extra mileage when she turned off course.

Will I run this race again? Honestly, I don't know. I don't like running in cold rain.  The race itself was very nice: the woods are beautiful, and the volunteers and runners were all amazing. If you like to feel like a badass, and/or if you are a masochist, this race is for you. Consider the double marathon.

The swag is sweet, too!

I love my mug!
Next up: I laugh at the fools who will be running the Bills' Bad Ass 50K in a few weeks. I will be volunteering and reporting on their shenanigans. Will I see you there?

I hope wherever you run, you run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Relax, Max

I've been trying to cut down my mileage and relax, but I am stuck in this awful cycle of feeling guilty for doing less mileage. I did 11 miles today on the trails, and I feel like I should have done more. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME????

Last week I ran ten miles of trails, the first five with Marta, Nicole, and Jen, and then the last five with Jen. This week I ran with Marta, Kate, Renee, Carrie, and Nicole, and I finished the back seven with Nicole. This is great mileage; I feel good. Why do I feel like I'm slacking, then?

I know I need to allow my body time to relax; I'm just not used to relaxing. I'm one of those people who can't do shavasana at the end of the yoga session without wondering how much longer I have to lay there like that.  It's important, though, to counterbalance the time and energy I spend training with some other activities so I don't burn out or injure myself. I plan to chill until January, when I will need to start training again. In the meantime, it's Relax, Max, and have fun.

Today I started a Goddess run from the Boston Store to Brandywine Falls and back.

Kate, Marta, Nicole, Renee, Carrie. This is EXACTLY how I look when I am happy to run with Goddesses.

 As we ran, Marta pointed out to me where I went wrong on my infamous "I'm an adult and I can run by myself just fine" run to Brandywine.  We did a lot of talking and laughing. I love the dynamic on group runs when people pair up to chat for a while and then the pairs mix. It's so cool to talk one on one with everyone there at some time or another.

Burning River Goddesses in front of Brandywine Falls. I'm taking the picture.

We dropped the group off at the Boston Store, and Nicole and I decided to test our senses of direction by running the Buckeye Trail. We missed a turn halfway through and started up again in a different place.  Then we saw him:

It's Sasquatch!  Run for your life!

As we approached, Nicole started laughing and said, "Look at that tree. It looks just like a bear."

I squinted and said, "Yeah, it looks like Sasquatch. . .wait a minute.  It IS Sasquatch!"

We have no idea what he was doing there, but it made my day.

Nicole ran me back to the Boston Store for a total of 11.25 miles, and she continued on to 15.

Overall, considering we were able to find our way around Peninsula, I'm really pleased with my running adventure today.  I really need to continue this idea of "chill" so that I can learn to love training again.

When is your season to chill? Do you ever shut it down for a while?

Regardless of how much you run, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Oh, Those Trails!

I am directionally challenged. When you are with me, don't use words like "north" or "east" to tell me where to go. Tell me to turn left at the McDonald's or drive straight for twenty minutes.

Knowing this, Marta still told me that I could run the Brandywine loop from the Boston Store. Oh, she also ran the loop once with me before she left. She has such faith in me.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I tell Marta, "Oh yeah, I got this."  Yeah.
So, I left the Boston Store, turned onto the trail to Brandywine. .  .and I made it there.  Great! Now all I needed to do was complete the loop, and THAT IS WHERE IT ALL FELL APART.  I couldn't find the turn-off to go back toward the Towpath, so I ended up running a mile-long loop back to the falls.  Then I did it again.  On the third lap, people started actively mocking me, even though I told them I MEANT to do that.

I started texting Marta (what did I think she was going to do???), I guess because it would make her laugh.  On my next lap, I turned off the trail onto an unmarked section, and I found the way back.  Whew. Now I know--lesson learned.

This week I started part of the Run with Scissors course with Tracy, Ken, and Nicole. Three miles in Tracy fell on the stairs, which were really slippery with leaves. She grabbed her wrist and said she was hurt. This reminded me of the time I broke my foot on a run; I immediately stopped and said, "I'm hurt.  I'm really hurt." I knew the difference between being scared and superficially hurt and scared and truly injured. I took off my FlipBelt and used it to prop her arm against her chest. Looks like all that Girl Scout training paid off--thanks, Mrs. Mejia! Then we walked her back to the nearest parking lot, where a fellow runner picked her and Ken up so she could go to the emergency room. Poor Tracy now has a sprained wrist.

Nicole and I powered on by running the Ledges, the Octagon, and Boston Run to get a total of ten miles. She and I had a nice long-run talk, and I managed to burn off some crazy. Thanks, Nicole!

This is EXACTLY how I look when I have just burned off some crazy. 
So, lessons learned from the trails:

1. Don't get lost. Pay attention. (Honestly, I don't know if I can follow this rule.)
2. Don't get injured. Be particularly careful around steps. (I'm already afraid of going down steps, so I will continue to be cautious.)

Are you enjoying some beautiful trails right now? Regardless of where you run, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Race Recap: Akron Marathon

"Are you ready for this?" the nice lady at gear check asked me the morning of the Akron Marathon.

"Nope," I replied.

"Huh. Honest answer," she said.

I thought I was ready. I did the work. What I didn't do was anticipate 87 degrees during the last half of the marathon. I didn't anticipate getting an email from the race directors advising people like me (slow marathoner) to drop down to the half because of the heat and humidity. I appreciate the thought, but it messed me up.

After getting the email, I headed to the expo, my mind swirling around with "Should I drop down to the half?" The expo was great; I saw so many friends while talking to Kayla and Joan at the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon booth. I of course took some hopeful pictures:

This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm trying not to freak out.

I faked it a bit better here.
After the expo, Andrew (@AndrewRunsalot) and I carb loaded with sandwiches and beer. I told him that I was considering dropping to the half, and as usual, Andrew basically told me to get my shit together and run the marathon.

Beer + Tough Love

The next morning I wasn't feeling too confident, which brings us back to the gear check. I couldn't find any of the people I had planned to take pictures with, and I was feeling agitated. In retrospect, my best races are when I start off feeling slightly agitated. I did find some great friends, and we chatted and took selfies:

Jess (@tamburarunner) needed some gels, so I came to the rescue!

Heather and Laura are running buddies, and Fred and I graduated from high school together!
 I then found Debi, and I decided to try to keep up with her and Shay and Sherrie:

Debi is pretending she's happy that I'm following her.

Corral time. Shit is about to get real

I always get emotional at the start of the race, but I was able to reel it in this time. I decided that I would do what I could, and if I had to walk the second half of the marathon, so be it.

With this new attitude, when Debi suggested we hit up the Swenson's milkshake mile, I was all for it. Blueberry milkshake shots---yum! Normally this isn't something that I would do, but I was already deciding that I had nothing to lose at this point.

I ran with the ladies for about eight miles, and then I decided to run a bit ahead because I'm pretty sure that I was annoying Debi, and eighteen more miles of me on a runner's high is a difficult thing to bear.

Things didn't start getting difficult until about mile fifteen. I noticed that I would try to calculate how many miles and how much time I had left, which was distressing rather than distracting, so I would make myself blank out and I would keep thinking, "Just get through this mile."

The city and local residents set up sprinklers to cool us off, and I ran through every sprinkler and walked every water stop. One cup went down my throat, and one cup went over my head. At mile eighteen I started wondering if The Kabyle Chef, Punkin, and Butterbean would show up at our designated meeting point, which was about a mile away from the house. When I arrived at mile 19. . . there they were! I burst into tears because I couldn't believe they were there. Five years of running, and this was the first time my family showed up on the course to see me.  The Chef told me that Butterbean had gotten up super early to soak a towel in a cooler filled with ice water, and let me tell you, that towel was the best thing ever. I wiped my neck and face, squeezed some water over my head, high-fived my family and thanked them, and then took off before I could decide to just run home.

When I got to Merriman Rd., I heard police shouting, so I looked behind me where they were pointing, and there was a truck on the course trying to weave around runners! Luckily, rather than being someone who intended to harm us, it seemed to be an older person who was really unsure of himself. He was certainly wondering why there were so many half-naked runners around his truck and why the police officers were forcing him to the side of the road.

I powered through the miles to route 18, the homestretch. At one point I looked behind me, and I saw the 4:55 pacer. I yelled, "No WAY!!!!  Tell me you are ahead of schedule!" Luckily, she was ahead by several minutes because everyone had dropped from her group and she just wanted to finish. She encouraged me by telling me that I was going to hit my time (something that I still didn't believe at that point).  

I turned down Main Street for the ACTUAL homestretch. I was looking forward to a crowd of people from whom I could draw energy, and I found. . . crickets.  Nobody. Now, I know I am a slow marathoner, but there were plenty of people behind me, and last year Main Street was packed when I came in around the same time.  It must have been the heat, but boy, did I feel defeated. 

When I reached Canal Stadium, I saw that the race directors had replaced the blanket they used to use to cover the turf with a runnable surface, and that gave me the energy to sprint (or something close to it). I wish I could have seen the jumbotron, because as I ran in, I heard the announcer say, "YES! This isn't her first rodeo!" I hope that was about me.

The finishers' party was pretty much deserted when I got in. Again, I blame the heat because last year it was packed at around the same time. The band was amazing, by the way. I got some food and beer and then I sat in the shade of the beer tent and stretched.

So, how did I do?

PR, Baby!!!!

This is EXACTLY how I look when I PR by about 90 seconds!

The Akron Marathon is a great race. I enjoy the hills, and I love the fact that Firestone Park is back on the course. The crowd support is still better than in most races, although I think maybe the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon had the crowd beat this year, even in the rain.

I was glad to be a part of my hometown race, and I intend to run this baby again.  

Ohio Weather, can you please make a note that I would prefer about thirty degrees cooler next year? Thanks.

Wherever you run this week, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Race Recap: Race with Grace

I was dreading this moment; I would have to race the damned 5k as opposed to just jogging it out. I tried everything I could think of to get out of it: I looked for new runners, I tried to get my husband and/or kids to run with me, I told myself that I really shouldn't exert myself during the taper for the Akron Marathon.  None of it worked. I knew that I would have to actually try to run fast, something I haven't really done for a while.

To make matters worse, I am tapering, and instead of making me nervous and jumpy, it is making me eat everything in sight. Sigh.

Every year Medina High School assembles a team to run the Medina Race with Grace, a race to benefit the Mary Grace Foundation, which supports those battling all forms of cancer. Click here for more information about the Mary Grace Foundation and how you can contribute. Our team is named Team Brenda and Mary, to support the mothers of two of our teachers.  This year we had a total of 62 people contribute to the team, although not everyone who contributed actually participated in the race.
Team Brenda and Mary

I came early and ran the course as a warmup. Then I took pictures with the team and chatted for a while. This is where I think I could have done things differently.  I should have timed my warmup better so that I didn't have about 40 minutes of waiting to start. I think I would have performed better if I had transitioned better.

As we took off, I told myself that I would be doing this as a tempo run, and half-marathon pace was what I was shooting for.  I hit the first mile at 8:44, which was right on target for a tempo run. At the halfway point, I could feel the humidity, and I was uncomfortable, but I could tell that I wasn't pushing myself to reach a 5k pace. I kept chanting, "In in in out out," so that I could focus on my breathing.

Mile 2 came at 8:46, still HM pace. I felt really hot and humid. The nice thing about this race is that the course is relatively flat. Sure, there are a few inclines, but the downhills absolutely cancel them out.  I was glad at this point that I had run the course ahead of time because I knew that the last mile was a lot of slight downhill.  I also reminded myself that in most previous races, at this point, I would be telling myself that I had 11 more miles to go at that pace. Then I thanked The Universe that I had one more mile to go.

Mile 3 motivated me. I did it in 8:26, so I felt like my old self again. The last part of the race wound around the hospital, and I tried to gauge where I would kick. I was pretty much done when I saw the finish line, but I did manage to speed it up somewhat.

My official time was 26:31, 16 seconds longer than my PR. I'm not gonna lie; I did not run this race the way I should have to get a PR. I feel like I could have cut at least a minute off my time if the weather were less humid and if I had done a better-timed warmup. All in all, though, I'm not unhappy with this time.

I ate a chili-cheese dog, courtesy of Dan's Dogs of Medina, after I cooled down a bit. It was fabulous. I talked with some fellow teammates, and then I walked back to my car with Laura, a friend and teammate. When Laura left, I finished out the mile for  a cooldown and an even number, and then I went home to shower and sleep.

I ran 6th out of 42 in my age group (Who knew there are so many women alive at my age????), and 145/322 among women.  I'll take that. Even if I had PR'd in this race, I still would have been 6th, so I'm fine with my efforts and the results of those efforts. I'm also happy with the fact that I eked out 4 more miles when I could have just punked out today.

On a last note, I didn't post any pictures from last week, so here is proof that I ran 16 miles with my friends (and yes, I do have friends):

The Mother Runners see me through.
This is the big week, Peeps. The Akron Marathon is on Saturday. I waited up for the Kabyle Chef to come home from work on Friday, and I told him that I expect that he and the kids will be at mile 20ish to cheer me on. I've made my peace with my training; I've done all that I can do. I'm taking the day off work Friday to get my packet at the expo and get my head together, and then Saturday is the moment. Will I run away from trouble? Will I succumb to the Voices in my head that tell me I should give up?  Stay tuned to find out.

I hope that if you run Akron, you will find me and say hello (or share a post-race beer with me). Even if you aren't racing this week, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

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