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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Sunday, September 3, 2017

Race Recap: Leave No Trace Half Marathon

After running 20 miles of the Blue Line last Saturday, it seemed like a good idea to sign up for a trail half marathon. I figured I could meander on the trails of Camp Manatoc, work some other muscles, and get in some miles at an easy pace.

Camp Manatoc is a Boy Scout camp, and once a year they open their trails for this race. It's a cool opportunity, and the trails are beautiful.

I had lots of friends at this race: both Goddesses and Mother Runners.

Goddesses: Marta made me take this picture 4 times because she thought her finger was too close to her nose.
We got a picture of all of us together:

Mother Runners + Goddesses = A Very Fun Race

It was a bit chilly; the weather app said 56 degrees, but it really felt like 46 degrees. I wore a long-sleeved shirt, and part of the race I was very glad I did, and the other part I was cursing my stupidity. It's sometimes difficult to find a happy medium.

We all started out together, and it was very cramped on the trails. Eventually the herd thinned as the speed demons passed us, and we started to hit our pace.  After a few miles, I felt like speeding up a bit, so I ran ahead to where I found Renee and Carrie at the bathroom stop, and we ran together.

The trails were awesome, and the fuel stops had ginger ale, so you know I was happy.  No GU on the trails for me--pretzels and ginger ale all the way.

At mile 11, I looked at my watch and half-turned to Renee and Carrie to announce, "We are probably going to beat 3 hours!" As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I went down.  Boom.  I lay still for about 30 seconds while I decided whether I was hurt and scared or just scared. I decided that I would live, so I got up and started up again. Renee and Carrie were good enough to stay with me even though I had jinxed us.

My left elbow and my knees were feeling pretty banged up, but I didn't want to look at them because there was nothing I could do about that. We raced on and finished in 3:03.

The medal is hard-core; it weighs about a gazillion pounds.
I took a picture of my knees before I got them cleaned up at the aid station because Renee reminded me that trail-runners only have bragging rights if the wounds look bad:

Gross, right?
After the race there was a vendor village with HiHo Brewery inside the Boy Scout mess hall, but my teeth had started to chatter, and I knew that it was housecleaning day anyway, so I left the Goddesses and the Mother Runners to their beer while I returned home to scrub toilets.

I really enjoyed this race: the trails were gorgeous, the weather was perfect for running, I loved seeing so many of my friends.  This is a keeper for sure.

It is now three weeks to Akron Marathon time. I think I'm going to run at least 16 miles next weekend and then go for a proper taper.

Will I see you on the Blue Line? I hope I do. I especially hope that no matter where or how you run, you run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, August 27, 2017

20 Miles on the Blue Line

I did it! 20 Miles on the Blue Line--13 of them with Marta, Angie, and Jeanine, and the remaining 7 by myself. Without crying. Without music. I f--ing did it.

In the past two weeks I've gone back to school (officially--I actually started work two weeks before that), figured out my kids' schedules with school and marching band (hell, basically), continued my training in the best way I could, and lost a LOT of sleep.

This is EXACTLY how I look before teaching first period each day.
This getting up at 4:30 is for the birds.

Nevertheless, I persist, and slowly but surely I am starting to get back in the swing of things.

This Saturday was the big 20 miler before the Akron Marathon. It's called the Blue Line Run, and Vertical Runner and NEOFit sponsor it. About 300 runners meet at 7AM to run 20 miles of the marathon route or 12 miles of the half marathon route. It's a great event, and it's completely free.

This is a partial picture of the runners before the run. Do you see me?

Marta and I found each other right away and took a selfie while we were still alive and pretty.

The weather was perfect; it started in the 50's and by the time I finished it was about 70 degrees. It was definitely better than last year's run.

Marta and I ran with Angie and Jeanine, and I saw lots of peeps along the way. Everybody looked strong and happy.

Here we are looking strong and happy.

After 13 miles, Marta peeled off to finish on the trails, and I continued on alone because I was afraid I would lose my will to live. The run started in front of Canal Park, and the 12 mile water stop was in the starting place. From there I moved to W. Market St. and then down Merriman to look at the gorgeous houses. I was pretty much alone most of the time because I am not the swiftest distance runner, but I did run with a Kent State professor that everyone (except me) seemed to know. He was older than me, but he was kicking my ass all the way down Merriman.

On the way back to downtown Akron, I ran through a Pride parade in Highland Square and a Pokemon Go tournament around Cascade Plaza. How great is it that on a Saturday morning in late August there were three separate events going on to involve diverse interests? I am truly happy to live here.

The water stops were at miles 6.5, 12, and 17, and I was grateful for each one. Thank you to NEOFit and Vertical Runner for supplying water, Powerade, gels, and Swedish Fish!  At the mile 17 stop, I joked that I was hoping to get hit by a car so I wouldn't have to finish the run, but the fact is that I felt so much better at that stop than I had last year. I think much of it had to do with the weather, but I would like to believe that my training has paid off.  Last year I felt defeated after the Blue Line--like I would not be capable of running 6.2 more miles--but this time I was tired, but I knew I could do this. It may and probably will hurt, but I can finish.

Victory is mine! The end of the Blue Line and I am still alive.

I was pretty wrecked for the rest of the day because I had not slept much all week, so I recovered in the best way possible:

This is EXACTLY how I recover from the Blue Line!
I'm not gonna lie; there may have been some Pumking and pizza involved that day, too.

I'm pretty proud of myself. I finished this run without drama, and I feel good. I think my training has been very good so far, and now I just have to trust that I put in the miles and the hard work.

I have four weeks until the marathon, which is a little too long to taper. Next week I will run the Leave No Trace Half Marathon and the week after will be my last long run before the taper. Will we all survive the taper? Stay tuned to find out!

Will you join me at the Akron Marathon? How will you handle the extra week before taper? No matter what you do, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

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Monday, August 14, 2017

My Training Plan

When I read the posts of other running bloggers, I read about how they train. I almost NEVER share with you how I train. Why? Well, I think it's boring as hell. Sorry.

This is how I imagine people look when they read about my training schedule.

The weird thing is this: I am fascinated by others' training weeks. I think my own is far less than fascinating, so you may have noticed that I generally base my posts on my races, long runs, or something weird that happened to me.

Oh, and also food pictures. I like to post about eating.

Arguably, none of this is more interesting than reading about someone else's weekly training.

My current goal is to keep a 40+ mile week. I have decided that my weekly runs (and walks) must total at least 30 miles, so that everything on the long run is cake.  The challenge is that I must do this safely: no shin splints, pf, or ITB syndrome allowed.

So far, so good. Last week was  48 miles, and I feel that I rested my legs enough that I'm not hurt.

Monday: Yoga and stretching. I had to recover from Sunday's 16 miles.

This is EXACTLY how I look before I stretch and recover from the Sunday run.
This is EXACTLY how I feel after I stretch and recover from the Sunday run. Hey, I am who I am; you can't expect miracles here.

Tuesday: 5 miles on the hills of Sand Run.  I kept a good pace, especially considering my sinuses have been KILLING me.

Wednesday: 10 miles.  I did my "Reverse Blue Line" route, which I just decided to do this year.  It follows the old Blue Line of the Akron Marathon (which goes right by my house). I start from my house, run the 3 miles of Sand Run, and then take on a mile long ascent to the Blue Line on Portage Path. I actually love this route even more now that I'm running it in the opposite direction. It's more difficult, but it makes me feel like a badass. Plus, now I can finish at my house rather than at my car.
You can see that there is an actual Blue Line painted on the route. This is what runners in my 'hood follow when they train.

Thursday: Lifting in the morning; 2.5 mile walk in the evening. I find that I am walking for recovery more than I used to do, and it really feels good. My super-speedy, so-amazing-she-is-frightening friend and fellow-ambassador Pam actually got me started on this. She ran the Canal Corridor 100, and she paced her husband Steve at Burning River for the last 30 miles. She posted a lot of recovery walks, so I decided I must not be lame if I decide to go for a walk.

Did I just basically say that Pam taught me how to walk?

Friday: 5 miles on Sand Run again. I need to take advantage of this park being so close to my house because once school starts (this week--gulp), I won't be running this area in the dark. I'm going to miss Sand Run. Every day it looks different to me.

Saturday: 5.37 miles with the Goddesses at Tree Farm Trail. Normally I don't run on Saturdays (so those of you whom I've refused before, don't get mad!), but this started at 8:30 and it was only 2 loops, so I was able to get back home just as the family was getting their act together.

We chose the tallest person to take the selfie. He was, like, 7 feet tall.

Sunday: This was the biggie: 18 miles on the Towpath.  GAAAAAA!!!! I did 2 miles before starting with the Road Shoes crew, then we ran out to Station Road Bridge and back to Lock 29, and then I finished with 2 more.  I made pretty good time on this, even with allowing myself to walk the first .10 of each mile after 14.

So glad it's over! Now to eat ALL the food!

This is probably my last week of really high mileage; I'm dialing it back before the Blue Line practice run (my 20 miler), and I'm going back to school starting Wednesday. Between my kids' crazy schedules and my own weird schedule, I won't be doing a 10 miler in the middle of the week. Plus, now I must complete all miles before 5:30 AM. I can do this; I did it training for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, and I can do it for the Akron Marathon.

Are you training for the Akron Marathon? Will I see you at the Blue Line Run? How about the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon--did you sign up to run with me?

Whether you're training or not, I hope you run happy, Peeps!

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Monday, August 7, 2017

Ode to the Goddesses

 Burning River is a 100-mile race basically in my backyard. It is a big deal. I've volunteered for it the first two years I was aware of it, and I have run the 8-person relay for it in the last two years. Last week's post is about my experience on Leg 5 of the 8-person relay for the Mother Runners.

This week I want to write about my training. I firmly believe that when I commit to a race, I need to be completely prepared for that race. This means that after running the Cleveland Marathon I decided to stay at the 16 mile long run until Burning River so that I didn't lose any fitness along the way. It just seemed silly to start over only to increase again.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I have to start over again with training. Haha! Just kidding. That is Sisyphus. My  shoulders don't look that good.

I also trained for the race by running with the Burning River Goddesses. They are a group that trains together for Burning River, but I have found that they are more than a training group.  Bear with some sentimentality for a minute (Oh--just shut the hell up. I'm never emotional. Just deal with my feelings for once).

Here is a tissue to deal with my issue.

When my regular training partner dropped me like a hot rock (is that even a saying?), the Goddesses picked me up. Jenn and I have run together when I've done trails; we also ran Ragnar together two years in a row. She told me I had to run with the Goddesses, and she promised that they would help me train for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, even though they don't like non-trail routes.
Jenn after our Ragnar Ultra in WV

 I was really feeling low, and they stepped in and pretended that there is nothing wrong with me (even though deep down I feel like there is). They saw me through my 20-miler before the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, and let me tell you, I was SCARED TO DEATH about running that alone. They were supportive and accepting and amazing.

My joke with the Goddesses is that each run is a venture into something vaguely illegal. I've decided that I'm going to train my kids to bail me out of jail if the need arises on a Goddess run. No, I'm not going to elaborate on this.

My runs with the Goddesses have taken place on just about every trail in Merriman Valley and just about every hour of the day or night. We have run on flat surfaces like the Towpath and death-hills like Candy-Ass Mountain.  We have run at 7 am and at midnight. The Goddesses are everywhere at every time.  They are incredible.

One day Jenn posted about these super-cool hoodies on the Goddess web page. I wanted a hoodie, but I didn't want to infringe on the group, so I asked if I could buy one even though I wasn't running Burning River with the group. The positive responses were overwhelming; some Goddesses informed me that I was already a Goddess, and I gratefully bought a Goddess hoodie.

The night before the race, I met with the Mother Runners for the pasta dinner. Marta from the BR Goddesses had texted me and said she would be there for a drink after the packet pick up. I found her in the bar, and she was so kind and encouraging. She even gave me a magnet and a body marker (which was the gift for all Goddesses at their dinner). I was touched. It's difficult for me to feel like I belong anywhere, and Marta has definitely made the effort to include me every step of the way. At that point I knew that I wasn't running with a Goddess bib, but I was running with a Goddess spirit, and it gave me strength and confidence.

Marta and I ran the Medina Half Marathon together.

We also drank beer together.

What does it matter how outsiders treat you when you know you are a Goddess?

This is my ode to you, Goddesses.  You are strong and amazing, and the added bonus is that you are kind. Thank you, and here's to many more trails and many more beers.

Reminder: The early prices for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon race series will go away in a few days. Register now!

Who makes you realize that you are a badass?  I hope you have a group like the Goddesses, and more importantly, I hope you make someone else feel that way. As always, I hope you Run Happy, Peeps!

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Monday, July 31, 2017

Race Recap: Burning River 8 Person Relay

Burning River is a 100 mile race largely on trails. You can run the whole thing (if you are crazy), the front half or the back half (if you are half-crazy), or in a 4-person or 8-person relay. This year I ran Leg 5 of the 8-person relay with the Mother Runners.

I met the Mother Runners for drinks and dinner at the Sheraton on Friday evening after packet pickup. We had a great time together despite the lousy food. Paying 26 bucks for lukewarm pasta and peanut butter cookies is not my idea of a great food experience. For sure next time I will be spending that money elsewhere.

Remember my friend Joy? She ran Leg 7 this year.

The Mother Runners
The Mother Runners had a lot of teams this year, and it got very confusing as we neared race day. The initial goal was for Teams 3, 4, and 5 to run together the whole way; this was why I signed up to run with the Mother Runners. Anyone can run a trail race solo. Joy and I both did it when we ran the Ragnar West Virginia Ultra Trail Relay. I wanted to enjoy myself for this race, and I wanted to run 16.2 miles with my sisters. It took some finagling because some people weren't on board with the Mother Runners' goals, but Leg 5 managed to stick together.

This is EXACTLY how we look when we are NOT running BR. Candice, me, Kristin.
 We showed up at the Ledges in Peninsula, which would be our ending point, and then I drove us to the beginning point, Boston Mills Ski Resort, where we prepped for our leg.

I look confused, right?
After a bit of waiting, the runners from Leg 4 came in, and we took some pictures together:

This is EXACTLY how we look when we are fresh and ready, not tired and stinky.

 The atmosphere at Boston Mills was a big party with lots of people, noise, music, and food.  It really got me pumped up for the run. When Leg 4 came in, we had just a few minutes to change the batteries on the group Go-Pro and make sure we had everything and then BOOM!  We were off at 5:30 pm.

The first stretch of the run was Towpath--nice and flat. Then we turned onto the Bridle Trail for a while. The first aid station came really soon--too soon for me--at 3.5 miles, which was just after Brandywine Falls. Of course, we had to get pictures at the Falls:

Kristin is in charge of the Go Pro.

 We didn't waste too much time at the first aid station because we were just getting warmed up, so we took off in a timely fashion after cramming some chips and peanut M&Ms in our mouths. I LOVE the fuel in trail race aid stations. Nobody eats gels here; it's all peanut butter and jelly, candy, pop, chips.  So much awesome.

We had some long uphills on the trails, and there was a looooonnnngggg, sunny, gravelly hill right by the expressway. After slogging up that hill, I asked Kristin to film my signature move: I threw my fists in the air and yelled, "Yes! I made this hill my bitch!"  I don't know why other people don't see how funny this is.

Our next stop was at Pine Lane, which came after miles of uphill trails. We stuffed our pie-holes there  with junk food, wiped our faces and necks with iced towels (thank you, Volunteers, for being geniuses!), and refilled our water bottles.  That was our last aid station until the end of the leg.

Let me pause a moment and thank all volunteers in the Burning River race. You were all amazing. I felt a little awkward asking for food and water considering I wasn't running 100 or even 50 miles, but you never made me feel like I was unworthy. You commented on our shirts and told us how fabulous we are. Races can't work without volunteers, and you guys are the best.

Ok, I'm done being sentimental now. We left Pine Lane and hit the trails for a while. We passed quite a few 100 milers, and they all seemed to be in great shape. One of those 100 milers was Ron Ross, who is a school board member at the district where I teach, and this year he ran his 10th 100-miler. Amazing! He wasn't even grouchy when we saw him; in fact, none of them were ever grouchy when we passed. We were able to joke with some of the runners because we kept crossing each other, and I even discussed the Ragnar WV Trail with a nice man whom I threatened to smack on the butt as I passed.

One thing I really love about Leg 5 is that there were at least three long stretches of flat road or path that allowed me to stretch my legs: there was the Towpath, a road, and the Bike and Hike. Candice and I took turns going full steam and then walking until everyone was together again. I consider this interval fat-burning work.

About 2.5 miles away from the finish, we turned back into the woods, and this was the point where we needed our headlamps. Once we were in the woods it got dark pretty quickly. I tripped once, but I managed to regain my footing without hitting the ground. Luckily, none of us had a spill, and we made it to the Ledges safely and happily where a huge party awaited us. We took pictures and handed off to Leg 6:

We are a little delirious right now.
And voila! 4 hours, 5 minutes, 20 seconds later it was all over for us.

Candice took me back to my car, and I got home at the same time as my husband, who saw I was whipped and made me a quesadilla while I showered off the bugs and sweat. And then I crawled into bed, exhausted but too excited to sleep deeply.

I got up at 5:30 AM to get to the finish line with the other Mother Runners.

Joy looks like a rock star after her leg. I had time to shower and comb my hair and I still look like a hot mess.

We ate breakfast at the Sheraton (which was better than the pasta dinner) and then waited for our last Mothers to come in. During that time I saw my friend and fellow Cleveland Ambassador Pam (@HopRunner) bring in her superstar husband Steve, who completed his first 100 miler. I can't believe he was coherent and smiling when he came in!

This weekend was definitely a whirlwind, but I so enjoyed it. The philosophy behind the Mother Runners is that women empower women. We stick together and we raise each other up, and that is what I experienced at this race. Special thanks goes to Kristin, who made me a Mother Runner and stuck with me. Thank you to Candice for jumping in when we needed you and not bailing on us when things got funky. Thank you, Mother Runners, for the fun and for the inspiration. You are all amazing.

By the way, I'm thinking of forming a 4-person relay next year. Who's in? Anyone? Well, regardless of your racing or running plans, I hope you Run Happy, Peeps!

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