Labor Day Beach Run

Happy Labor Day!  This day always comes with mixed emotion–the unofficial end of summer (sniffle) and the start of new beginnings (clean slate like New Year’s!). To kick off the day I went for a run at the beach.  Labor Day 1I was visiting family in Delaware so my dad and I went down early to beat the traffic.  He walked the boardwalk while I ran the beach and here are some photos I snapped along the way.  Labor Day 2

Labor Day 3I love running early because it seems like the true adventurers are out taking on the day.  I saw four people swimming laps in the placid ocean, people playing with their dogs by the water’s edge, a yoga class, some paddleboarders and a lone kayaker who was being followed by a couple of porpoises. 

Labor Day 4

One of the paddleboarders paddled out to the kayaker to get a better look.  I always love to see how nature and man are able to coexist so peacefully and was a bit envious that I wasn’t out on the water. 

Labor Day 5Toward the end of the run, I took off my shoes and socks and stood there for about 10 minutes letting the sand take my feet deeper as the waves crashed upon my legs.  I splashed my face with the salt water, breathed a few deep breaths and thanked God for the gift of life provided today! 

Despite the stresses that life can bring us it really is a good one and getting back to the sea and its constant rhythm always reminds me of that blessing.Labor Day 6

 

   

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Who Let The Dogs Out?

One of the best ways to measure improvement in speed is to run the same race again and again and again and again.  The Pacer’s Lost Dog 5K Series helped me do exactly just that this August.  race bib Lost DogI blogged about this race last year and was very excited that I would be able to make all four races this year–every Friday at 6:30 pm in Arlington, VA. Run Washington Truck

Here are the highlights:

Week One:  Our group that ran last year was reunited!  lost dog 5K group shot 2014My friends Nicole and Omar, Nancy and Eric, and Nicole all were there and were pumped to have some good and funLost Dog 5K race 1 2014 races, play with cute puppies, and complete the evening with dinner and drinks at the Stray Cats Café. This week I decided to enjoy the race and not go for speed.

FINISH TIME: 25:48 (8:18 pace, 6th place out of 61 runners in age group, 53rd place out of 228 runners)

Lost Dog 5K 3Week Two: My parents were in town this weekend and came out to cheer us on!  It was fun to have them meet some of my run buds (and they took some great pictures).  Lost Dog 5K 19Well the stars must have been aligned that night and I ran my fastest 5K time ever (topping my best 5K from last year’s Sallyann with puppy Lost Dog 5Kseries).  Sallyann Lost Dog 5K crossing finish lineI felt strong on the run and for the first time ever in a race I won a prize!  I received the Top Finisher award for my age group (30-39 year old women).  Lost Dog 5K 24Luckily the overall female finisher (each week she won no less) was in my age group, but since prizes went one deep I got to claim the Top Finisher award. Sallyann Lost Dog 5K win It was pretty funny when my name was called because my friends and family let out a huge cheer. I felt like quite the celebrity!  Sallyann post-Lost Dog

FINISH TIME: 22:14 (7:19 pace, 2nd place out of 52 runners in age group, 16th place out of 180 runners overall)

Week Three:  Thoughts were going through my head before this race–Do I try to reclaim victory or just run?Lost Dog 5K Race 3 2014  I knew that my triathlon was on Sunday (more to come soon on that race) so part of me felt like I should reserve some speed for that morning.  But my competitive spirit got the better of me (and my friends literally pushed me to the front of the start line).  So I guess I should try to best myself.  Soon enough we were off.  Lost Dog 34For most of the race I stayed close to one woman and before the halfway point I passed her on the trail.  As we made the loop back I saw my friends and they yelled to keep up the good work. I was in third place so far for the females.  I was going fast, probably too fast for my own good, and the woman I passed earlier caught me on the last quarter-mile.  The finish line was in sight, but I didn’t have the stamina to kick it into high gear so I had to settle for fourth overall woman.  As soon as I crossed the finish and grabbed a bottle of water I had to sit down for a minute or two.  Lost Dog 5K race 3 2014 NicoleWhew I don’t think I had ever run that fast in my life!  Finisher towlI went to check my finish time and I beat my time from the week before!  New PR and despite getting passed at the end I still won my age group!  Two in a row–I couldn’t believe it!

FINISH TIME: 22:18 (7:11 pace, 2nd place out of 58 runners in age group, 20th place out of 175 runners overall)

Week Four: Lost Dog 33 It’s the last race!  The hottest evening of all the races and I could tell that none of us were much in the mood for running!  I still managed to creep up to the front of the start line.  Someone was snapping pictures of all the “elites” in front of me.  Lost Dog 5K 17I quote elites because this race is really more like a community run and those who win, while incredibly fast, would most likely not win a race of much larger proportion.  Maybe I’m just speaking for myself–haha—I would NOT win a race of much larger proportion!  lost Dog 5K 32Smaller races give you a chance to shine and in my mind the overall top finishers were very much elite runners. So photos were being snapped and I felt a bit like an imposter standing there in their shadows.  Lost Dog 5K 33Nonetheless, it was time to run a race!  The horn was blown and we were off!  I started off strong and was very much toward the front of the pack, but at about the halfway point I knew I wasn’t going to get a prize this week (sad face).  Too many women were passing me and a lot of them looked like they were in my age group!  So I decided it was time to just finish the race strong and enjoy this last end of summer run, sweaty and happy!

FINISH TIME: 23:25 (7:32 pace, 4th place out of 35 runners in age group, 19th place out of 144 runners overall)

Lost Dog 5K 10Lost Dog 5K 9Like I said at the beginning the only way to truly know how your speed is improving is to measure yourself over the same distance, and a race like this is a great way to see how far you’ve come and to challenge yourself week after week!  Since I ran all four races here are my overall stats:

TOTAL FINISH TIME LOST DOG 2014: 1:34:13 (10th place out of 58 runners overall)

Lost Dog 28Winning races is fun and beating your personal record is always a pretty awesome feeling (especially as we get older!).  But I’ve also realized that those feelings are only fleeting and that keeping humble is important, otherwise we are never going to enjoy the journey it took to get there.  I’ll leave my readers with these words to live by:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.

-Philippians 2:3 NIV

Lost Dog 5K 35

Photo credits for most photos on this post go to my stepdad, Frank Hoerst!

See ya’ll next year!  Maybe, just maybe, next year I’ll have a pup to pull me along!

Lost Dog 5K 20Lost dog 5K 1 Lost Dog 5K 16Lost Dog 32Lost Dog 30Lost Dog 5K 11Lost Dog 5K 27 Lost Dog 5K 28Lost Dog 5K 5

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Batter Up!

As part of the Baseball Fanatics campaign I’ve been asked to share a favorite baseball story with my readers!  While this is a little different than my typical blog adventures on running, I have had fun reminiscing about the days on the field.  And as we soon are heading into playoff season you should consider ordering some of your favorite baseball apparel on the Fanatics site–they have some pretty awesome vintage items available which brought back some memories of my favorite team, the Philadelphia Phillies–plus the site name is so close to the Philly Phanatic in name, how could you not love it! 

Batter Up!  Ask anyone in America what those two words mean and you are certain to hear baseball and America’s favorite pastime. And if you ever played the sport growing up those words have even more meaning.  From being on deck to walking over to the batter’s box, there’s only one thing going through every batter’s mind–Don’t strike out!

I played softball from third grade through my sophomore year of high school.  And even though many years have passed since those Little League days, I still remember those games like they were yesterday.  I may have grown up over the years—from Russell’s Little Foxes, to Bud’s Market, to the Tri-County Oilers, and the Woodstown Woodies, and later the AAMC Scrubs and First Baptist Bombers–but no matter what age I was playing this sport, I always wanted to catch the ball, hit the ball and get on base.  Those years on the field were a time of growing up and learning how to be a strong woman who can play well with others and prove that size and strength are not all that matter in this game. 

One particular memory I have is from my freshmen year of high school.  We were quite the rag-a-tag bunch of gals.  Many never played before and as for those that did, well we weren’t asked to play on the JV or Varsity squad.  And that was fine by me, because if I was moved up I would have never tried my hand at pitching!  All the pitchers were taken from us, so we were left with no experience for that position.  One day coach lined us up and we each had to pitch 10 balls to her.  Two of us were chosen to be the season’s pitcher based on accuracy. One of those pitchers was me. 

That season had a lot of ups and downs.  One day coach got so frustrated with us (a few girls just couldn’t get along) and left the practice telling us that we were not to leave the field until we worked out our issues!  To this day, I don’t even know what the problem actually was, but somehow we ended up gelling as a group better after that discussion. 

We lived for away games because we rode the bus with the freshmen boys.  And after those games ended we usually ran the bases a few times to “practice” our base sliding.  In reality, we were just getting our pants dirty because we thought it would impress the boys and make them think that we had a really hard game!  Haha!  Looking back they probably didn’t even blink an eye at our antics. 

One such away game we found that we had no umpires.  We warmed up and still no one showed.  Apparently the freshmen girls game got the short straw that day.  Finally it came time either to call the game a forfeit or find someone to step in.  My stepdad took the challenge and stepped down from the bleachers.  “Ok, ladies,” he said.  “We are going to play a good game and by my rules. Everyone is going to hustle on and off the field between innings.”

I played pitcher and second base that day and I remember one of the girls didn’t want to run—well that was not going to happen under his rules!  Forty-five minutes later the game was over.  While I don’t remember whether we won or lost that day, I do remember how much fun we had!  Everyone on both sides was smiling and all the parents told my stepdad that he can come and umpire any time he wants.  He not only called the plays at home plate, but also every play in the field.  I have to think that he got this baseball know-how from his dad who was a Philadelphia Phillies pitcher back in the 1940’s. That season was a lot of fun and brings a smile to my face when I think about the hilarity of a team that we were.

The Woodstown "Woodies"--circa 1996

The Woodstown Woodies –circa 1996

Baseball is America’s pastime.  Whether you have attended a World Series game as I have (1995 Philadelphia series against Toronto–sadly Philly lost) or play in an adult league today, I believe that the sport has nothing to do with brute strength, but rather finely honed skills, thinking and communication.  Over the years it has taught me a lot about teamwork and individual dedication–skills that have come in handy in other aspects of my life as well.  So get out there–play a game, throw a ball with your kid or go to a game to cheer on your favorite team!  You never know what new memories you might make today!

 

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Cooler By A Mile

As a kid, my family and I vacationed in Avalon, New Jersey.  So many fond family memories stem from the many years we spent down the shore.  And still to this day just driving that direction brings a calmness and peace over me–it’s my true “happy place”. Avalon 2014 BeachAvalon 2014 Beach 2One memory brings me to the annual lifeguard races.   I remember as a teenager being in awe of the swimmers and thinking that I would never do a race like that!

Well, never say never.  Fast forward to earlier this year and I started getting the itch to sign up for my second triathlon. I found one in Avalon and began thinking, “hmmm, could I be brave enough to do a race like this?” With only one race under my belt I wasn’t sure, but the day that I was considering this was on a cold, snowy one.  Dreaming of warm beach days and my family believing in me prompted me to take the plunge.

So leading up to race day, I began hitting the pool and riding my used, but new-to-me road bike.  And before I knew it, race day was here!

Triathlon-start 7

Me and my mama.

June 28, 4:15 am–Race morning arrived much too early!  But surprisingly I popped right out of bed.  I had a pretty good night’s sleep.

Me and my stepdad, Frank.

Me and my stepdad, Frank.

The hour and fifteen minute drive only took us about an hour.  After grabbing my race gear it was time to set up my bike in the transition area.

Looks like I have a bodyguard.

Looks like I have a bodyguard.

Triathlon set up 3Unlike the Iron Girl race I did last September, non-racers were allowed into the transition area for this one.  So my mom and stepdad came in to watch me set everything up.  Triathlon-start 9 americaWhile much of this race was much more laid back than the Iron Girl race, looking back I wish that there was a bit more structure.  For example, there was no pre-race talk…only a quick talk over the loudspeaker 10 minutes before the race started.  I could have used a little more guidance as I later learned.

Swimmers getting ready.

Swimmers getting ready.

Please, no pictures, mom!

Please, no pictures, mom!

Triathlon-start 8

Total Cheese!

Triathlon-start 5

Getting nervous.

 

 

 

 

 

As we headed down to the beach, I learned that my wave would be the last group to go out around 7:40 am.  I thought great, no one would be passing me in the water.  Later I wished there was another group.

Pre-race, talking to a family friend, John.

Pre-race, talking to a family friend, John.

Pre-race, with family friend Frannie.

Pre-race, with family friend Frannie.

Triathlon-swim 5

Heading out into the Atlantic.

Triathlon-swim 2

And we’re off!

One last look back to dry land!

One last look back to dry land!

The water didn’t look too rough–a few days later I was grateful the swim was not on the fourth of July when the waves were much bigger due to Hurricane Arthur making its way along the coast. But even so, it was still the ocean.  I started towards the far left of my wave (the race went from left to right with the current) because it appeared that people were getting pulled and having to back track to get around the first flag.  Well the funny thing is that I was the only one who didn’t seem to be moving left to right.  It was like the current just stopped and at one point I asked one of the lifeguards who was in a lifeboat near me, “Am I even moving?” He said, “Yep, you’re moving!!”  It sure didn’t feel like it to me!  Near the very beginning of the race after I got past the breakers I started to get really nervous and my breathing felt rushed.  I knew that I had to calm myself down, so I flipped over to my back.  I tried to swim some freestyle strokes, but couldn’t get into a rhythm.  As more and more swimmers began getting smaller and smaller ahead of me, I was getting annoyed and frustrated at myself–I could do this in a pool, no problem.  Finally after what seemed like a lifetime I made it past the third and final flag.  Coming in ought to be a piece of cake, but even that was hard!  I heard one of the female guards who was treading water near me say to another, “Keep an eye on her.” Part of me wanted to laugh and part of me wanted to cry!  Avalon beach patrol made sure I didn't drown!As I made it in, I saw two girls who came out of the water just ahead of me.  And my parents cheering me on.  I can’t imagine what I must have looked like at that point, but I began pulling off my goggles, swimcap, and wetsuit.  I plopped to the ground and had my stepdad yank the suite off of me.

Triathlon-swim 9

Running down the beach. Frank is waiting for me to get the suit off.

Now to get to T1–a quarter of a mile up the beach–I was finally there.  A girl was yelling “way to go” and stuck her hand out for a high-five.  I was thinking, well she’s excited and I gave her a half-hearted high-five.  Of course I was so stressed in the water that I couldn’t even think of peeing (sorry if that is too much information here) so I ran into a port-a-potty (barefoot and all…gross!).  Clearly I was wiped and didn’t care.

Now for putting on my bike gear and I was finally out of T1–two girls (probably the two from earlier) were right ahead of me which helped make the awful feeling of being last in my age group a little better.

Triathlon-fans Randy, Kat, Frank

The bike ride was a four-mile loop to the end of the island three times.  It was flat with a breeze at my back for one direction.  As I completed the first lap, to my right was my cheering squad–my mom, step-dad, brother, sister-in-law, best friend and her husband. For the first time since the race started I felt a smile return to my face.  It was time to forget the swim and enjoy what was ahead.

I'm not the cool-looking gal up front!  Yellow helmet.

I’m not the cool-looking gal up front! Yellow helmet.

But my comedy of errors was still to come…as I was about to transition out of T2, I only then realized that my bike helmet was still on.  There goes another 20 seconds!  I ran back to toss the helmet down and then finally I was off to the final stretch.

Running is usually my strong suit...but I didn't follow directions too well that day.

Coming out of the water and heading up to T1.

The sand was not as packed as I had hoped for and the gully in the middle did not help the cause.  People kept crossing through the water to get to the more hard packed sand. Approaching the turn-around I asked a girl whether that was the correct spot (because earlier I saw a sign for the kids’ race).  She said yes that it was, and within less than 5 minutes I was already headed back towards the finish line which didn’t feel right.  Did they shorten the race, because at this rate I must have set a new record for the 5K?  I didn’t know what to do so I ran through the finisher chute.  Soon I was giving up my race timer, handed a cold towel and a water.  I saw my parents and they were shocked to see me so soon.  I cried out, “I think I cheated!” and a few tears began to form in my eyes.  What had happened?  Soon I saw my sister-in-law and she told me that I had to run past the finish line and then back out again the way I came before circling back to the finish line.  I threw my water bottle down, but she said, “come on, we’ll do it together.”

Here I come (again)!

Here I come (again)! Running is usually my strong suit…but I didn’t follow directions too well that day.

So off I went again to finish the race with my sister-in-law encouraging me.  About 30 minutes later I crossed the finish line a second time, this time with no timer chip.

Feeling a bit silly I went to the timing tent where the race officials sat (including one from USAT). I told them what happened and they took my information down and said they would see about adjusting accordingly using my split times (not sure how since I gave up the timing chip).

As I strolled back to my family and friends, they all gave me hugs and said how proud they were of me.  Who really cares after all if my times were terrible (at least in my own mind).  I did something that as a kid I never dreamed about doing–swimming a race in the ocean.  I’m pretty competitive with myself and being at the end of the pack was not the best confidence booster.  But you know what, we all have to start somewhere in order to grow from our experiences and become better.  I realized that it’s not always about being the fastest.  The fact that I went through that finish line–not once, but twice–when many would have just given up and quit at that point, told me a lot about my perseverance and character. I felt that I had cheated and not finished the race the right way.Triathlon-post race

Me and my best bud, Amber.

Me and my best bud, Amber.

Afterwards we went to Uncle Bill’s Pancake House.  My best friend asked me if I saw her give me the high-five.  Incredulously, I said, “that was you!” and laughed.  She and her husband said “yeah, we didn’t think you knew it was us!” Haha!  I was so drained at that point.

Me, best buddy Amber and her hubby Kevin.  So fun to see them!

Me, best buddy Amber and her hubby Kevin. So fun to see them!

Coffee (and pancakes) at Uncle Bill's Pancake House never tasted sooo good!

Coffee (and pancakes) at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House never tasted sooo good!

And of course with my family you gotta have a thick skin so I knew I had to just laugh about the race rather than let any teasing get me down.  At the end of the day I know it’s out of love.

I was so appreciative of everyone who came to cheer me on.  Although not the best race I’ve ever had, it was one at which I needed a fan base all the more.  Thank you!  I love you all!

Family!

Family!

Vacation could now begin at my “happy place”…a week in Avalon where it’s always “Cooler by a Mile.” And it sure was a relaxing one!Avalon 2014 Beach 3

Beach dining, Sal, Randy, Kat at Quahog's2

Family dinner out.

Avalon 2014 Beach

                                      **In the end, the race officials did not give me an overall finish or 5K time since my timing chip was removed early, but I completed the entire race (23:23 for 1/4 mile of swimming–I probably swam more in the long run–and 50:19 for 12 miles on the bike); I estimate I would have finished in the low 2-hour mark had everything gone according to plan. I look forward to besting this one!

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St. Michael’s Running Festival

This past May I ran a half-marathon in St. Michael’s, Maryland.  Earlier in the year when the days were cold and short, a friend suggested that a few of us sign up for the St. Michael’s Running Festival and make a girls’ weekend out of the race. A few months later, spring weather had arrived, bags were packed and five of us were off to the races! St. Michael's Race 3

My parents had been to the quaint Chesapeake town of St. Michael’s in the fall so I was really looking forward to visiting. That Friday evening after race packet pick-up–all set up in what appeared to be the storage garage of a nearby church–it was time to chow down with a pasta dinner.

St. Michael's Race 1The next morning we loaded our two cars and drove back into town for the race.  The neat thing about the festival was that there was a race for everyone–two of the girls would run the 5K, one the 10K, and two the half-marathon.  St. Michael's Race 4St. Michael's Race 2

Racers seemed excited and the music was blasting.  After the National Anthem we were ready for go-time.  My friend Emily started her 10K and a few minutes later Lily and I were off for the half-marathon.  St. Michael's Race 5The race began near a school, wound its way down Main Street and the picture-perfect town.  As we left town, the road turned into more of a highway until we hung a right into a golf-course neighborhood.  During this part of the race I saw a few glimpses of the water and a few miles later I was back on the main drag.  This part of the race was rather boring in my opinion. This out and back portion of the race had very few fans; hence, I needed to find other ways to keep me preoccupied. I began fixating on people’s t-shirts.  One guy was wearing a Baltimore Running Festival shirt with a crab on the back.  I passed him at one point, then he passed me, and then I passed him again.  During races, especially longer ones, I always have two or three people that I play a game of chase with.  It helps to gauge how I’m doing and gives me some extra juice when I start getting tired.  Plus, yeah I get a little competitive.

St. Michael's Race 14As I crossed the 10K mark, I knew I was running a strong race.  Finally a few miles ahead I saw the turn-around, only about 5 miles to go!  I saw the leaders go by and the pack ahead of me was in sight.  The beauty of a race under 2,000 people is that you really see how you stack up against the others.

As we approached town again a spectator yelled to me, “Wow, way to go!  Two half-marathons in two weeks!”  Well, not quite.  I was an imposter wearing the race shirt from the Nike Women’s Half that took place the week prior.  I ran last year, but not this year.  A friend gave me the shirt because it was too small.  That comment did put some extra spring in my step though!  St. Michael's Race 10

Soon the race took a right down a neighborhood side street.  A water stop was waiting and then there was about a mile left to go down a trail.  Crowds were gathered along the homestretch with a quarter mile to go!  I saw Christy and Andrea, who ran the 5K, and Emily cheering me on from the side of the trail, which brought a smile to my face.  And then before I knew it I was finished the race!

St. Michael's Race 9After I grabbed some water I joined them to cheer on Lily as she finished her first half.  After a massage, we meandered to the post-race party where an Army band was playing music.  We checked out our finisher stats on the board and I set a new PR at 1:44:18:0, with a pace of 7:58, 10th in my age group and 84th out of 1,260 runners overall.  I felt great–my speed is improving (even had negative splits–i.e. I ran faster during the second half than the first) and it was a wonderful day to race! St. Michael's Race 7

Lunch was next on the agenda.  On the menu–crab cake eggs benedict and coffee.  Yum!  St. Michael's Race 12St. Michael's Race 6Then we meandered through the historic town and visited the cute shops.  I plan to return to St. Michael’s again as it was a great weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city!

St. Michael's Race 8

 

St. Michael's Race 11

Post-race relaxing outside the Inn at Perry Cabin (yes, this is where they filmed the movie Wedding Crashers)

 

  St. Michael's Race 13 St. Michael's Race 15 St. Michael's Race 16

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Taking On The Sea

I’ve been a bit MIA from the blog-o-sphere lately due to a crazy time at work.  I have many things to report on…a May half-marathon (another personal best), a yummy energy bar recipe, my bike buying experience, and much more. But I’m focused on my next race…my second sprint triathlon!  This one is tomorrow, at the Jersey shore and I’ll be taking on the ocean.  I honestly haven’t had much time to think about the race.  But as someone recently told me, “trust your training.”

So trust is what I’ll do and I’m banking on the salt to make me more buoyant.  I’m trading chlorine for salt water!  Here goes nothing.  More to come…

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Rock The Ridge 2014

Last year, readers met my friend Sarah who completed her first 50-mile endurance challenge at Rock The Ridge in New York.  Well she recently was at it again, completing the race a second time!  I know that I’m inspired after reading about her experience.  May it encourage you to reach for your goals!  Congratulations Sarah!

Guest Blogger: Sarah Topping

On May 3, 2014 I got to run my favorite race once again. Since I didn’t do too well last year and didn’t get to see any of the Hudson Valley while I was there, I decided to take the week after the race off and spend it getting to know a little more of the area. I drove to High Falls on Thursday, May 1st. It was great having my car this time as I was able to pack everything I could possibly need for the race (and after). I was lucky enough to stay at Clove Cottages again. The Blue Cottage was all ready for me when I finally arrived, including a hammock, since they remembered how much I loved that the year before!

I was asked to participate in a video telling the story of Rock The Ridge and I actually agreed to do it. I met with the folks on Friday morning. It was really strange talking about my path to Rock The Ridge and my experiences last year. I left the interview feeling like a complete idiot. That was when I started wondering how much I had really improved over the year. Before the interview I was not nervous about the race. After, well, I started to wonder just how smart I really am. But since I knew that after everything that happened last year I still made the time cut off and finished the race, I had no worries about finishing this year. So I wrote off the nerves as just normal pre-race jitters and continued on with my plans.

One of the things I learned from last year was that I don’t eat well when I run, so on Friday I made raspberry mint rice cakes to take with me. I packed up all the food I was taking (rice cakes, roasted peanuts, coffee caramels made for me by a dear friend, and freeze-dried strawberries), took stock of my blister kits, and picked the clothes I would wear. Then I packed up my drop bag. YES! I had a drop bag this year and in it were two bean and cheese burritos!!! I also packed a fleece shirt, headlamp, extra socks, more rice cakes, strawberries, peanuts, and string cheese, and another pair of shoes just in case I felt like changing them for the last leg. And ibuprofen. Forget the nerves, I was ready.

Friday evening I went to packet pick up and the pre-race dinner, just like I did last year. This year Lisa Smith-Batchen was giving a talk before the dinner and I made sure to be there for that. I was introduced to her before her talk and it was like meeting royalty! What really struck me was being a novice runner talking with someone of her caliber and having her be truly interested in me. I can run in races with 30,000 runners and speak with maybe two of them. At the much smaller Rock The Ridge, I meet so many more. I think that’s one of the main reasons I love ultras. I decided then to join the group Lisa was leading to a projected 15-hour finish.

This year I was actually able to sleep before the race. I was so excited to get started that I was one of the first runners to get to the start. I double checked all my gear, checked my bags, had some coffee and great conversations with other runners, and watched the sun rise.

Then we were off. I started out running on Lenape Lane and kept up the running until it started climbing. That’s when I kind of merged into Lisa’s pace group. I managed to keep up with them until we were just about to Spring Farm when my brilliant blister regimen started to go south on me. I stopped, redressed my foot, and started out again. Once I got to Spring Farm I realized that my tried and true blister treatments were not working for me any longer. And who happens by on her way out of the aid station? Yup. Lisa. She stopped, helped me fix up my foot (with a moleskin donation from another runner going by), then went on her way. What an awesome thing to do! I decided that I was going to slow things down and not push my feet to the point of the open sores I had last year. I knew I was kissing goodbye my goal finish time, but I figured I could push harder at the end if I didn’t hobble myself in the beginning.

near mile 30

Approaching Mile 30

I topped off my water supply (by the way, Nathan makes a hydration vest (the Intensity) that fits a big girl like me. All hail Nathan!), had a snack, and started back up Cedar Drive. Then starts the climb to Skytop. The final push to the tower is a set of stone steps. REALLY? That was just plain mean. =) Almost everyone I came across was really interested in what I was doing. I actually had a great time talking with hikers and bikers and taking photos for people. Who knows. Maybe some of them will try the race next year!

mile 30

Mile 30!

Next came what I think is my least favorite portion of the race – Forest Drive and Old Minnewaska Road down to Rhododendron Bridge. Not sure why I don’t like it, but I don’t. I got to the water stop at Rhododendron Bridge at the same time the third place finisher was there. Last year I was there when the fifth place finisher was there. I’m getting better!!!! That’s when I started up Overcliff Road, one of my most favorite portions of the race. I turned a corner and came across a couple of women who were out running. They stopped and cheered me on. Then one of them exclaimed that she remembered me from last year and she gave me a big old hug! What a pick-me-up! I’m sure I was moving a little faster after that.

Near Castle Point

Near Castle Point

My feet were holding up pretty well, I was happily taking in the sounds of the trees in the breeze, and next thing I knew I was at the Lyons Road aid station. Talk about a cheering section. Man, the volunteers there were fantastic! I rooted through my drop bag, added another pair of socks to the two pair I was already wearing, swapped out my empty snack baggies for full ones, grabbed a cup of chicken broth (yay, chicken broth!!!), and headed on my way to Awosting Falls. Comparing how I felt this year to how I felt last year I realized just how much more fit I am. I felt great. And that’s when the steepest climb started. I huffed and puffed, but made it up the hill feeling tons better than last year. I’m still shocked about that. At this point I was between miles 25 and 30. I swear. The longer I run, the less I am able to gauge how far I have run. I swear I should have come upon the 30 mile marker much earlier than I did. I felt like I’d run the distance. But maybe I was just excited to get to Castle Point, another of my favorite spots. I gave myself a 10-minute break once I got there. Ate, drank, and stared out at the beautiful Hudson Valley.

Lake Awosting

Lake Awosting

The weather was pretty much perfect as far as I am concerned. A little chilly to start, then warm throughout the day with some great breezes. This year it was mostly cloudy which suits me just fine. That held until I was just past Lake Awosting when it started pouring. I had no rain gear with me, so I got soaked to the skin. I was cold, but the rainbow that followed made it all worthwhile.

A glimmer of a rainbow, post-rain

A glimmer of a rainbow, post-rain

 

 

 

 

The rest of my jaunt back to Lake Minnewaska and then to Lyons Road was really uneventful. At this point on the trail I was by myself just plugging along and enjoying the run. This time through Lyons Road I decided to try the bean and cheese burrito I dreamed about last year. You know what? It was TASTY! Since I was certain to finish after dark I grabbed my headlamp and put my fleece on for the rest of the race. I was not going to freeze like I did last year. Grabbed another cup of broth and set out on the final leg of RTR #2. I couldn’t stop smiling as I went along.

Evening is creeping in...

Evening is creeping in…

This year I had people around me for the majority of the race. It was great to get to know some of the other runners. The trip to Trapps Bridge and Undercliff Road was just plain fun. And this year it was light the entire time I was on Undercliff! Of course, because of the rain there were only a few climbers to watch, but I enjoyed the chance to see them. It didn’t get dark until I was well on my way to done with Oakwood Drive. The headlamp goes on, I’m chatting away with the women in front of me, and all is right with the world.

Then comes the dreaded loop on Forest Drive (this is where I barfed last year). I wound around a corner, up an incline, and am greeted by none other than Marc & Heidi, the two volunteers who were there last year! I think I may have squealed with delight. They were just as sweet as they were last year, and even made a joke about thinking twice about bringing coffee this year! It was so great to see them again, but I had a loop to traverse. Which was really much more pleasant than it was last year. Once I got back to Marc & Heidi, I gave them a very heartfelt thank you for being so wonderful to me last year. As I was walking off, the two women in front of me asked me about last year. Turns out one of them had read my blog post about it! They’d had no idea until then that that poor sap in 2013 was me. We laughed quite a bit about that.

The last few miles were actually kind of boring this year. It was dark. I knew I would finish. I felt good. It was vastly different from last year.

This year I ran across the finish line. 16:17:53. I did it.  And I wasn’t hurt!!!! [sound of screeching tires]

Finished the race!

Finished the race!

I wasn’t hurt then.

I drove back to the cottage. Talked with a friend. Had a snack. Went to sleep. And woke up a couple hours later with a pain in my right calf like someone ran a flaming knife up the side. It was swollen, hard as a rock, and I couldn’t put any weight on my foot. Every position hurt, so I couldn’t get comfortable enough to sleep more than a couple minutes at a time. And that’s how I spent the night.

Sunday morning Noah brought scones to my door again. He asked how I was doing and I had to admit I wasn’t doing too well. A couple hours later Noah and Michelle came and checked on me. They were going to Poughkeepsie to run an errand and went out of their way to drop me off at the urgent care clinic. The doctor at the clinic poked my leg a minute and told me it might be a blood clot and sent me to the ER.

UGH.

At this point I had traversed 50 miles, slept less than two hours, been up another 12 hours, had not showered, was hungry, thirsty, and in pain. And I got to go to the ER.

Seven hours of hospital joy and I was discharged with a diagnosis of Rhabdomyolysis and a peroneal strain. So here I was at midnight, floundering on crutches, exhausted beyond measure, and waiting for a cab to drive me back to High Falls.

This is where the fun begins. The cab pulls up and there’s already a guy in the back. Okay. I get a double fare. Sure. All I want to do is get away from the hospital so in I go. The fare and the driver start asking how I got hurt. I thought for sure there would be an accident when they both started screeching “fifty miles? FIFTY?.” All I could do was laugh. Yeah. Fifty miles. They start talking about all the places in the area that are fifty miles away and are more and more astonished that I would have done that on foot on purpose. That’s when I see that we have left the roadway I know and are somewhere. I don’t know where. After a quick shopping trip at a gas station we weave our way into some residential area and drop off the other fare. Then we get back to a roadway I know and I can relax a bit. Meanwhile, the driver is talking a mile a minute, and everything is punctuated with “no, really!” I am so punchy it’s giving me giggle fits every time. He starts telling me how I should move to the area. No, really! It’s not a bad commute to NYC. No, really! There’s every type of food you could want in New Paltz. No, really!

I’m giving him directions to the cottage and tell him to make a left turn. He tells me that’s not the right way. I say…no, really! So he turns. He got me back to the cottage, offered to help me out of the car, and waited until I got inside before he left.

So here I was, in New York for the week and I couldn’t do anything but lay around with my foot up. I had to cancel my rock climbing class. I didn’t get to go to the bakery at the CIA. I didn’t get to see Hyde Park. I didn’t get to go to the Saugerties Lighthouse. I didn’t get to go to Bear Mountain. I didn’t get to see West Point. I didn’t get to walk across the Walkway Over The Hudson. I didn’t get to do anything that I had planned.

But I did get my first ever visit to an urgent care clinic. My first ER visit. My first ride in a wheelchair. My first ride on a stretcher. My first IV. And my first crutches. So I guess it wasn’t all bad.

Next year I will drink more than I did this year but less than I did in 2013. I will keep my eating plan. I will tweak my blister plan once again. I will wear a zip-up fleece instead of a pull-over so I won’t overheat if it’s not that cold. And I will once again have bean and cheese burritos in my drop bag.

Because I will be back next year and I will run better. No, really!

earned it

 

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