Saturday, August 27, 2016

Blue Line 20 Miler!

The moment I have been dreading anticipating had finally arrived this morning: my first 20 mile training run.  I saved this moment for the Vertical Runner/NEOFit Blue Line Run, an annual tradition in Akron where about 300 runners follow a shortened version of the Akron Half or Full Marathon by running the Blue Line painted on the course.

It is literally a blue line painted throughout Akron.

It is really a wonderful event.  Vertical Runner raffles an entry to the Akron Marathon, and NEOFit mans the fluid stations on the course, and it's all free!

I was nervous about this run because the longest run I had done previous to it was 17 miles.  I thought I would feel confident after completing the Ragnar WV Trail Relay, but actually I felt worse because I was worried that I might have jacked up my foot on the trail.  Plus, I had the most exhausting week EVER: three open houses + my daughter's first football game in the marching band.  I didn't go to the game, but I waited up until she got home around midnight.  I don't think I got more than four hours of sleep on any given night this week.  All of these factors combined made for a very anxious Stephani this morning at 7:00.

Do you see me in this picture?  You shouldn't because somehow I missed the photo-opp.

I ran with Shelby and Sydney for the first ten miles.  We took it nice and slow, stopping to fuel at the first NEOFit aid station at 6.5 miles.  We kept up our predicted marathon pace for a while, and at mile 10 Sydney decided to drop back.

Honestly, I felt great up until mile 15; then I started aching, and I could feel a lot chafing in areas where you really don't want to feel anything at all.  It was hot, and the hills were starting.  Shelby could sense that I was shutting down, so she tried to distract me by talking about food, which normally works.  This time, though, I just couldn't concentrate enough to talk or even think about anything.  I needed to "go dark," which is my way of shutting down and concentrating on my breathing and my body.  I told Shelby what I was doing, and luckily she understood.  I just concentrated on making it to the mile 17 aid station, where I would allow myself to fuel and stretch.

One of my goals for the marathon is to only walk during fueling, and today I failed.  There were three short hills in miles 16, 18, and 19 where I just needed to walk a bit.  In mile 16 I needed to stretch my hamstrings, so I walked to take long strides. In miles 18 and 19 I was in a lot of pain and I needed to take some walking breaks.  None of them lasted more than a quarter mile, but there it is.

We finished twenty miles in 3:35:54.  Not bad, really.  I felt terrible when we finished--dizzy, lots of pain in my calves and my chafing areas.  Shelby and I stretched while I drank a protein shake, and then we celebrated with a selfie:

A photo posted by Stephani Itibrout (@itibrout) on

I would like to say that this run gave me a lot of confidence for the marathon, but it really hasn't.  The whole day I've been wondering how I can possibly do SIX-POINT-TWO MORE MILES than I did today.  Shelby reminded me that the weather will be much better at the end of September, and it is true that my runs are pretty much bound by the weather.  The responses to my social media posts have also shown me that others (who are much more experienced than I am) were in just as much pain, so maybe it isn't just me, and maybe this is a typical experience.  If so, I hope it bodes well for the marathon.

I have spent the day alternating between moving around and resting:

And I finished my day with a dirty martini:

I'd like to thank Vertical Runner and NEOFit for a great event.  The volunteers were so great, and the water was cold! Now I'm going to "go dark" and stop analyzing everything I do. I've got four weeks until the race, and I will continue to do my best to train for it.

Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Race Recap: Ragnar Trail Relay Appalachians WV

Jen.  She talked me into this, and because of her strength, I completed the race.
Last year in June I ran as part of an 8-person team in the Ragnar Trail Relay Appalachians WV.  There were a few problems, which you can read about here.  I knew that I had to go back and take the whammy off the race, so when the organizers moved the race to August (to avoid the monsoons) I took that as a sign. With Jen's encouragement, I formed an ultra team, the Mudtastic Muthas.

Leigh.  So strong and steady. She is tiny but fierce.

Joy.  She gutted out 29 miles with almost no training.  What a badass!

Ragnar Trail Relays are a bit different than other relay races, and they are especially different from their road relays.  There are three loops: Green (3.5 miles, easy), Yellow (4.5 miles, medium difficulty), and Red (6.5 miles, also called Mother of Crack.  I kid you not.), and each team member takes turns running one of the loops until every team member has run each loop.  We signed up as a 4-member ultra team, so we had to run every loop twice.  We decided to do it by combining loops; for example, my schedule was as follows:

Leg 1: 9:30 AM.  Green + Yellow. 8 miles.

Wait for Joy, Leigh, and Jen to complete two loops each.

Leg 2: 7:30 PM.  Red + Green. 10 miles.

Wait for team members to rotate through the loops.

Leg 3: 8:00 AM. Yellow + Red. 11 miles.

Trail runners know that it takes longer to run trails, especially at night, and especially when there are lots of hills, and boy, were there hills.  So. Many. Hills. In theory we were all supposed to have trained for this, but life got in the way, and none of us felt as prepared as we could have been.  I was pretty confident after my Burning River Relay last week, but I soon learned that this was hubris.

I continued my tradition of idiocy by getting us lost on the way to the campsite.  Just like last year.  We didn't make it there until 9:30 PM, but luckily Jen and Leigh had staked out a good site for us.  They helped us pitch my GINORMOUS tent (which got us a few smirks from the people camping around us).  I don't care.  I love my tent palace.

My tent is the green one.  It looks smaller here, but believe me,  it's the Taj Majal of tents!

We drank a quick beer and then got to bed.  I had the first leg at 8:30 AM, and I wanted to be fresh for it.  At 7:30 AM the skies opened up, and the evil poured down, exactly like last year.  Freaking Ragnar.  Freaking West Virginia.  The storms delayed the race start times by a half hour, and then I managed to delay our start time by another half hour because I was required to watch the safety video before I left.  GRRRRR. (That is my bear impression.)

The first leg (Green + Yellow) was muggy but manageable.  I felt relaxed, and I was really glad that the trail wasn't trashed from the rain.  Running through riverbeds and knee-deep, sucking mud was not my idea of safety last year.  This year is gonna be GREAT, I thought.

My second leg (Red + Green) was at night, and I was really looking forward to it.  I purposely tried to schedule myself for the night run on the Red Loop because I was so horrible and freaked-out about it last year.  I even bought a new headlamp and knuckle lights.  For one glorious moment my knuckle lights lit up the trail, and then they dimmed to a faint glow so I STILL couldn't see a damn thing.  GRRRRR. Getting through the Green Loop that night took everything I had.  And then I had the melt-down.  After handing off my belt to Joy, I told Jen and Leigh (who were kind enough to see me in and send off Joy), "That's it.  I'm done.  I don't know why I thought I could do this.  I can't.  I'm not trained.  I'm not doing my last leg.  I can't.  You guys don't have to even do this anymore.  I'm sorry I brought you into this."

Ok, at least I didn't cry.  I was pretty negative, though.  Jen and Leigh just smiled and told me to stretch out, hydrate, and go to sleep.  They were kind enough to assure me that I didn't drag them there; they were crazy enough to sign up on their own. After they went to bed, I went to the bonfire and ate a smore, watched some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, cocooned myself in a hammock, and thought about my life.  Then I went back to the tent, changed, and fell into an exhausted sleep.

When Leigh woke me to tell me that Jen had left for her leg, I felt better.  I decided that if I didn't finish the race I would never forgive myself.  I reminded myself why I wanted to run this. I decided that I was going to finish and be a badass ultra runner. I ate some breakfast and let it digest, and when Jen came back in, I was waiting for her.

The last leg was hard.  And miserable. And pretty awful.  I had decided to run without music, so it took everything I had to keep the Voices at bay. I fell once, and my Garmin crapped out, but I did it.  I finished the relay.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm pleased that I finished the relay.  On a side note, look at the woman over my shoulder.  
Most disgusting photo-bomb ever.

When I left the transition tent, I walked to the nearest shady area (the Salomon's tent), and I burst into tears.  Relief? Pain? Exhaustion? Dehydration?  Yes to all of them.  Then I hosed off, changed my clothes, and ate some food.

Here are some thoughts on the race itself:

Good: Kudos to Ragnar for making some changes to the race.  August was hot, but it was better than the cold rains of June.  Also, the catering company did a great job, and there was plenty of decent coffee and hot chocolate for the whole race. This time the portapotties were emptied sooner, and we never ran out of water.  These were all deal-breakers for me, and Ragnar fixed the problems.

Sign in the middle of Ragnar Village

Better: We all agreed that finishing each loop by running through the ultra-runners' tent city was the best part of each run.  The runners there cheered on every single runner at any time, day or night.  It was really uplifting.  During my last loop, a whole line of ultra runners were handing out shots just before the finish.  I didn't indulge because I didn't want to throw up on one of those kind people.  There was another tent-full of runners who were handing out beer to finishers just before the chute.  I didn't take that either, but I wish I had.  Honestly, the thought of running through the ultra-village was what kept me going each time at the end.  They were awesome!

Also, apparently there was a fabulous laser show in the pine forest on the Yellow Loop at night.  I missed that, but Joy and Leigh said it was cool.

The Pine Forest of the Yellow Loop during the day.  Imagine this at night with a laser show and a disco ball.

Best: The best part is that I met my goals, and I did it with my friends.  Thank you Jen, Joy, and Leigh for running this race with me.  Thank you for encouraging me, and thank you for putting up with my bullshit.  I promise I will never ask you to do this again.  I've scratched that itch.

We are the Mudtastic Muthas, and we ROCK!!!

Now I'm going to find something even tougher and scarier for us to do.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm thinking of something tougher and scarier to do.

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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Race Recap: Burning River 8-person 100 Mile Relay

I am writing this post with about three hours sleep.  Last night I ran Leg 7 of the Burning River Relay with the Mother Runners.  The 16.1 mile leg starts at Pine Hollow and finishes at Botzum.  There are lots of hills and stream crossings in between.  So. Many. Hills.

I met many of the Mother Runners at the pasta dinner on Friday night.  They were super-nice and supportive, but that didn't alleviate my anxiety about looking like a rookie.  The margaritas helped, though.

Mother Runners before dinner.  We look like this when we run, too.

Originally we had predicted the start time for my leg to be at 10:17 PM.  I like running at night, and I don't mind trail running at night, so I purposely chose this leg in the relay.  Well, things happen in trail races, and at midnight I was sitting in my car thinking about my life choices:

This is EXACTLY how I look at midnight when I am re-thinking my life choices.

Three of the Mother Runner teams had decided to run together, and this wasn't necessarily a comfort to me.  Could I keep up with these women?  What if I fell? What if I couldn't handle 16 trail miles?

I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself (I'm sure nobody has ever noticed this about me), and I often have to remind myself that NOBODY IS THINKING ABOUT ME AT ALL.  This often helps me to chill out and JUST DO IT.

At 1:00 AM, I was still waiting, and then the drama started: One of the three women with whom I was running Leg 7 lost her mind and punked out on the race.  Just handed me her bib and bailed.


I had to text my team captain to let her know.  I felt terrible for her team because they had to take care of it, but my other Leg 7 partner Didi and I agreed that we were glad we wouldn't be running with her for 16.1 miles since she was a piece of work.

Leg 6 runners handed off to Didi and me around 1:10, and we were off.  Didi is just a damned kid, by the way, so I had to tell her to remember that I'm an old lady and rein it in somewhat. She was a fabulous running partner--very kind and very chill.  We kept each others' spirits up, and I think we were BADASSES.  The last 1.5 miles were on the road and Towpath, and we decided to pull out all the stops.  I'm really proud to say that I was running 9:17 miles at the end.  The runner's high was incredible; I think I could have done a few more miles.

This gave me a lot of confidence for my future Akron Marathon and more importantly for next week's Ragnar Trail Relay in West Virginia.  I've been dissecting the run, trying to figure out why I felt so good, and I think I've pinpointed three reasons:

1.  Freaking BADASS and awesomely-zen running partner.

2.  Temps were just right--mid fifties with low humidity.

3.  Since Saturday morning, I had not stopped stuffing my face.  Seriously, I ate EVERYTHING: pasta, zucchini, tomatoes, avocados, cucumbers, green beans, roasted turkey. . .also ice cream. I didn't manage to really take a good nap on Saturday, so I think the food carried me through.  I ate a few cookies and a small triangle of grilled cheese, and I drank ginger ale at the two aid stations, and that fueled me better than GU. I need to remember to eat more at Ragnar; I know I didn't fuel sufficiently last year.

Anyway, this was a wonderful experience, and if the Mother Runners invite me back, I intend to choose Leg 7 again. . .unless I decide to try for a 4-person relay.  What????

Thank you to all the volunteers in this race; you are the soul of the race, and I was so grateful for your cheerfulness (and ginger ale) in the wee hours of the morning.  Thank you to the Mother Runners for including me in this empowering experience.  Thank you Didi, for sticking with me.

To conclude, Peeps, I suggest you take my friend Shia LaBeouf's advice.  You may be surprised at what you can achieve.  Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Going Long

This week my long run was supposed to be 14 miles.  I was worried because I've already done 16, and there was no buffer zone in my training between that 16 and the 20 miler I have planned in three weeks.  This is because I'm running leg 7 of the Burning River relay (16.1 trail miles) this weekend and 3 sets of 10 trail miles for the Ragnar Trail Appalachians race the following week.

It was Shelby's week to plan, and she had the brilliant idea to run the back half of the Akron Marathon, since I have never run that part of the course. She told me that she added in a tiny bit so we could hit 14 miles, and I was really grateful. . .

Until we hit 14 miles. . .

And we were a LONG way from our cars.


This is EXACTLY how I look when I realize we are far away from our cars.
Needless to say, I got my buffer zone. . . right in the ass.  We ran 17 miles when I was really only mentally prepared for 14 or so.  One part of me is pleased as punch because A) I ran more than 16 miles, as I originally wanted to do, and B) I was able to pull it out when I wasn't at my prime mentally.  Shelby is a big help with that; she is really good at shrugging her shoulders and sucking it up, and that is what we did.

Had I realized earlier on that we were going to run 17 miles, I would have fueled differently, and that would have made a big difference in my attitude, but guess what?  I DID IT ANYWAY.

This is EXACTLY how Shelby and I look after 17 miles in extremely hot, muggy weather.
We even still like each other here!
I gotta give a shout-out to BondiBand.  I wear their headbands for every run because I sweat like a pig (even though pigs don't sweat) even in the coldest weather.  This run would have been intolerable without a BondiBand to keep the sweat from my eyes.  If you want to order your own BondiBand products (think compression-wear, too), check out their website and use my code (TroubleRun) to get a 10% discount.

Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Baptized in Blood

I had my first real fall on a trail.  Oh, sure, I've tripped plenty of times, but the reality is that I'm so scared of falling that I don't take chances on the trail.  This time I don't know what the heck happened.  Shelby, Sydney, and I were about 3 miles in on a super-hot, humid 10 miler starting on the Wetmore Loop.  Everything seemed to be fine, and then it was not.  I felt myself trip, and I could tell that I wasn't going to be able to right myself this time.  So weird--I felt as if I were falling in slow motion, slow enough to talk myself through it: Ok, you're going down.  Don't brace with your hands. Don't face plant. Roll when you hit the ground.  

As you can see, I learned how to fall from the best. I did manage to roll rather than skid, and I avoided face contact, so I think I came out pretty well.  I bruised my shoulder, elbow, and one finger, and I have gouges on my shoulder and knee.

This is EXACTLY how I looked when I fell.

I didn't take pictures because. . .gross.  Also, as far as badges of honor go, this wasn't that big of a deal, thank goodness.

So now, I am officially a trail runner, baptized in blood.

This was a fallback week, with nine miles of trail running, but next week the mileage goes up again.  Will I make it?  Will Shelby have to pull me by my hair?  Will I remain a ray of sunshine?  Stay tuned to find out. Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

16 Miles!

Well, the mileage is ramping up.  Last Sunday Shelby and I ran 16 miles--the farthest I've ever run!  You know what?  It wasn't too terrible.  In fact, our last mile was our fastest, and overall we finished 48 seconds sooner than last week's 15 miler.  Damn, we're good!

I hear a lot about training burnout, but the novelty hasn't worn off for me yet.  I'm doing my best to stick to the plan and take care of myself while still doing interesting things to shake it up a little.  Like what?  I'm glad you asked.  Here are some of the ways I am preparing myself for the Akron Marathon:

1.  Track work

Wednesday Night Hell. . .er-- I mean Fun!
Wednesday is track night, and the members of TORN have been meeting to do a little speedwork in 90-degree weather.  Why?  Because we are awesome that way.

2.  Recovery-Wear

I love my compression socks!  I wear them after speed workouts and long runs.

3.  Protein

I like chocolate.

I've upped my protein, particularly after workouts.  Muscle Milk isn't the most delicious shake on Earth, but it was on sale at BJs, and it has only 130 calories per carton.  Sometimes I eat plain Greek yogurt sprinkled with Grape Nuts, but frankly, I look forward to this shake.

4.  Friends--Old and New

I still run with my TORN peeps, but I decided to branch out, and I recently joined the Canal Rats.  They meet around 5:30ish AM, which suits my schedule. The only problem is that they are MUCH FASTER than I am; however, for two weeks in a row, there has been a kind soul who waits for me at the turnaround point and runs back with me.  Today that kind soul pushed me to an 8:39 mile in the last mile, and I am grateful for it.  I have decided to label my Canal Rats days the tempo run.

Thankfully, not this kind of Canal Rat.  Yuck.
5.  New Challenges

Of course the marathon is new, but I'm also running two new races in August: The Burning River Relay (Leg 7, 15.6 miles in the dark!) and the Ragnar Trail Appalachians ultra relay (3 loops of 10 miles each in 24 hours).  Trail running is a different animal than road running, and I'm looking forward to these weekends to see what I can do.

If I say it enough, I should start believing it.
6.  Rest

I am doing my best to get to bed at a reasonable hour.  Since it is summer, I also get to incorporate my favorite form of recovery: naps! God, I love naps.

All in all, I still have about eight weeks to go before the Akron Marathon, but I feel that I have a lot of exciting stuff to do in the meantime.  Let's hope I can keep a positive attitude.

Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Product Review: SLS3 Compression Socks

Last Sunday I ran 15 miles on the Towpath--the longest distance I've ever run at one time.  I was very nervous about the distance, but it was a great run.  The weather was beautiful, and the company was even more beautiful:

I love my running Peeps!  
Although I like running by myself, I am so glad that Mandy, Shelby, and Jen came out with me.  They were able to keep the crazy away, and because we kept the pace slow, I didn't get into the silent, ugly period I usually have in the last two miles.  Thank you, Peeps!  You are MAH-velous.

After that run, I made sure to do lots of stretching in the parking lot and at home, and I drank a protein shake to help with recovery.  After a long shower, I pulled on a pair of compression socks and did Legs-up-the-Wall pose--my favorite form of recovery (that doesn't involve beer or ice cream).

I am new to compression-wear.  I own one other pair of compression socks and one pair of compression sleeves because now I am hooked!  I love the SLS3 Compression Socks.  I am a women's size 10, so I ordered the S/M and they fit perfectly--just the right amount of compression.  I am wearing them right now after my run, and my legs feel so good!

Butterflies make me happy. So do naps.

Not only that, the socks are super-cute.  I chose the black with purplish butterflies, and I really like them.  If I had to leave the house right now, I'd have no problem wearing these in public.  It's really hot here lately, but the socks don't feel too warm; on the contrary, the compression makes me feel much better after a sweaty run (and a shower).  I'm training for my first marathon, so I am putting a lot more miles on these legs than I ever have before, and I think the SLS3 Compression Socks really help with recovery.

Do you want to try compression wear?  You could check out the SLS3 webpage, OR you can go to Amazon and order them there for half price!!!

I haven't run in compression socks, but I did a trail run in calf sleeves.  I'm curious, Peeps.  How do you wear your compression wear--as recovery or during the run?  And why?

Next week the mileage goes up to 16, which is better than the 18 I had written down.  Shelby and Mandy, who have more experience than I do with marathon training, told me that 18 was too much of a jump in one week, so I will be smart and listen to them.  I admit that 16 miles make me less nervous than 18.

Until then, run happy, Peeps!

SLS3 sent me these compression socks for review; all opinions are my own.  

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