Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dead Possum Says What? 2009 Possum Trot Race Report

It says: Girl, you are better off playing possum than racing with possum legs.


Will I ever learn?

There is always that tiny optimistic part of me that thinks it could happen. . .

Whatever, I'm playing my girl card: rational thinking is not my strong suit.

So, yeah, I had a bad race.

Hey, and here comes, you know--the silver lining; gotta have the bad races to have the GREAT races!

So, you see, it is all strategy on my part. I am racking up--of course intentionally-- all these crappy 10k's so that I will be sure to have a GREAT one pretty soon. It is all part of Nat's 10k PR Master Plan. . .

Okay, maybe there was a little self sabotage at work before Saturday's Possum Trot. My sister in law graciously had my kids over for a cousin sleepover. This meant I had an adult evening with my husband. Never ones to pass up an adult evening we enjoyed ourselves with a dinner out at a restaurant where people don't bring their kids. We even had dinner at the bar. And by dinner I mean I had a Blue Goose martini and a glass of wine. Oh and that beer I had blogging the previous blog post. Then we ate ourselves silly and that is all you get to know and probably care to know about my adult evening with my husband.

I got up at 5:30 am fairly rested and went about my race morning routine. I headed out and got to the river with 30 minutes to start time. I parked a mile away and jogged to the start area. My legs? Playing possum. Uh oh.

By this point I have pretty much figured out that based on how my legs feel in the pre race warm up I can pretty much know how I am going to race. They weren't awful--not as bad as they have felt after a 70 mile week-- but they were definitely not in race mode and definitely far from a "we're running a pr baby!" mode.

Still, that tiny part of me hoped. Yeah, that tiny stupid part. Okay, huge taking up my entire frontal lobe part. But what was I to do? I was there, I had my number, and while it was 90% humidity it was still in the 60's-- so not totally unbearable.

So I went and found my secret potty at the Nature Center. I have to admit that I was worried when I passed the long lines at the porto potties and the one in the staging area that perhaps my secret potty would be closed or maybe it was no longer there as it has been 3 years since I ran a race on this course.

But no, my secret potty is still there: clean, well stocked and best of all: no lines. And no I will not reveal the location of the secret potty on my blog but if you ask me in person I will tell you so long as you promise not to tell your friends as I don't want to have wait in a long line. Not only am I not a rational person; I am also not a patient person.

I headed down to the start and ran into a few acquaintances and lined up. I wasn't terribly happy with my line up. I wanted to be on the other side of the road (classic possum and chicken dilemma) but decided it really didn't matter (maybe it does matter.)

So we were off and I ran for a few seconds and when I went to turn on my ipod it would not come on. At first I did not panic and was just puzzled since I had just been listening to it and knew it was charged. I tried to calm myself down: One, I was freaking out because I could hear myself and everyone else breathe--which I totally hate. Two, I was freaking out because I have had my ipod for over 3 years now. I don't think I have ever even had a cell phone for that long. I destroy all electronics and fragile things (WARNING:do not lend me your stuff. I will break it. I won't mean to but I will break it.)

So I am running along the road completely upset that I am hearing breathing but more so because my ipod might be broken. I give myself a pep talk that: One, it will be okay. I have actually run several PR's in shorter races with no ipod. And two, Ryan's ipod will now be my ipod--I just need to get through this race.

Oh, but then, my ankles are feeling kinda crunchy. Dang it. I hate it when my feet and ankles hurt when I run. It isn't like it is your hip or you shitband or you quad or your hammie or you have headache--those things I can ignore. Ankles, feet and calves--I can't ignore. Best I can hope for is that it goes away.

So hit the one mile in 6:40. And then I am walking. And then I am annoyed because I am rope hanger. But I do take the opportunity to fix my ipod. Back in business I start running again. But then at the 2 mile marker--which comes in around 15 minutes and change I am walking again. Legs are just not cooperating. And of course it is bugging me that everyone and their grandma is whizzing past me.

Holy crap I hate a 10k.

I see Doug on his bike--out for his Roswell 60 mile, scanning the crowd, probably looking for a familiar face. He doesn't see me even though I could almost knock him off his bike he is so close. I don't call out and he passes me and I start running. Then I am walking again. Not really sure why. I am just kind of tired, my legs are super heavy, my ankles crunchy, weak. Pass the 5k point in 24 minutes. Wow, that is really crappy.

Irritated and rolling my eyes so hard at myself I can see my stupid non functioning frontal lobe: I give it the finger. I am so mad at myself for wimping out but I am also laughing at how terrible I am doing.

It occurs to me that this is going to be embarrassing if I keep this crap up; so I start running again. I totally suck it up. Not suck it up in that some sort of magical thing happens and I sprout new legs and am now churning out 6:30's. But I am running 7:20-7:40's. But boy does it completely suck and it is super hard to maintain. I am having to fight to hold it. To make my legs do it. Really, that pace should not feel hard for me--it usually doesn't--well at least not until after 16 or so miles. It is my super secret(well not now) marathon pace that I practice on the treadmill. 7:30's usually feel pretty good to me. Yesterday they felt like hell. It was like I was a possum who had just had my back side hit by a car and I was trying to drag my half dead carcass down the road to safety where I could crawl into the woods and die my slow, ugly and agonizing death.

Despite my death crawl I did try to remember my "run happy" attitude and yelled out to the winners as I saw them heading towards the finish. I did console myself that everyone else looked pretty miserable too. Dead possums love company.

Finally, after a small eternity it was my turn to cross the finish line: 47:32.

Shrug. I know plenty of people who would be happy with that time. And at one time I was one of those people. So I don't want to diminish anyone else's achievements but that time is a huge step back from where my 10k time has been for the past 2 years. I would rather see myself stuck in the 44's rather than see myself already fading back to where I was several years ago.

Well, I am not going to let it get me down. I just have lots of work to do. I hope this is just a case of my body not being fully recovered from the marathon. I do tend to lose some speed but I feel like I have lost both speed and endurance. I'll give it a bit more time before I completely freak out. For now I will run how my body allows and make nice again with the swim and the bike.

Today I enjoyed a very nice bike--44 miles in Roswell with my good friends Steph and Jamie. Oddly and telling enough the roads were littered today with possum, squirrel, and turtle carnage. (oh and I almost destroyed my cell phone but apparently the electronic God must be smiling or having a joke on me this weekend because it was miraculously spared.)

I know, there I go again reading metaphor where there is probably none, but things are just kinda stinking lately-- and I am not just talking about the road kill.

Trying to stay positive though so I will end with: tomorrow is another day and there will be other races.

Again, thanks for putting up with my belly aching.

PS. Sorry there are no pictures. Camera is lost and I don't have a new one.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Rope Hanger

This is my little rope hanger:
He has that perma-grin the whole time he is rope hanging, half drowning, half karate-man swimming his way across the pool--vertically not horizontally--you know, like how most people swim.
That, by the way, is his back stroke. He thinks he is AWESOME at backstroke. His freestyle looks the same except he goes forward.

That kid?

Pain in my ass that he is has the BEST attitude about swim practice.

This year is his first year on swim team. And while he struggles every single practice he doesn't complain, he doesn't get down that I (and everyone else) constantly yells at him TO GET OFF THE ROPE. He just smiles and makes his way anyway he can down the pool.

And let me tell you. The past few weeks have been the practices of tough-love-suck-it-up-get-your-butt-in-the-pool-buttercup.

I went through this last year with Carmella so she knows better but at least half of the kids are crying, shivering, complaining with their "I can't's" and "I won't's" and whining and belly aching their way through practice. I am not just talking about the 5-6 year olds. I've even seen a few 8 years lose their marbles at practice. You should have seen it when the coach said they had to swim for 5 minutes straight. Carnage everywhere.

But Beau.

He has a smile on his blue freezing face the whole time; swimming past all his little friends who are crying and begging their mommies to let them get out. The positive attitude though does not make up for the rope hanging. It is a problem and has become a habit for him. I even think he is doing it on purpose--not out of necessity. I constantly walk along the pool and scream "Put your face down and swim!" He just smiles up at me.

So I tried a different tactic and told him that he would NOT be able to swim in a meet if he couldn't swim to the end of the pool without touching the rope. Even still, at practice everyday, he was a rope hanger. Nevertheless the coach put him in one event.

So he got to swim: 25yd Freestyle.

And he did not touch the rope once. But urgency was not his. He even swam slower than he did at the time trials a week ago.
Because he had his face up the whole time looking around and smiling at everyone looking at him and yelling at him to swim!!!
He LOVED it.
Guess he wanted to prolong his moment and make it all his. Then he got to the shallow end and realized that he could actually stand up (since he was swimming vertically down the pool). So he stopped. Stood up. Raised his shoulders in a motion that said "what?". Then looked around at everyone; flashed his perma-grin and then put his face down and swam the last 8ft to the wall the correct way. The pool deck roared with laughter.

So he got third-- out of 3 swimmers. And when he got his ribbon he said "Oh, yay! I really like white!"

Cannot knock this kid down, I tell you.

I should also share that when I gave his team jammers he put them on and then asked me; "Mommy, do these make me look fat?"
Before I could answer I saw he had that wicked little smile. Such a joker.

I swear I feel like he is always mocking me.

Because it occurred to me Wednesday, while out for a 10 mile run and I was completely sucking tail that I am rope hanger. But worse, I am a whiner and complainer. Sure I can laugh at myself when it is all said and done and over but I HATE that I can't have that perma-grin; that positive, laugh at myself in the moment attitude. I am, the worst kind of rope hanger.

I really, really appreciate all the comments on my Twisted Ankle post and I am so glad I was able to make people laugh but I absolutely hate myself for my little melt down and not remaining positive. I hate that I didn't suck it up. I HATE that I was a rope hanger.

So Wednesday, when I found myself walking in the final mile of my 10 mile run I yelled at myself to "get off the rope and suck it up!" I did finish running and then further punished myself in the afternoon with a 3,500 yd swim--no stopping and no rope hanging I am happy to report. (Just a lot of boredom.)

I also went that afternoon and signed up for the Possum Trot 10k.

I am absolutely in no sort of shape to race a 10k but I am forcing myself to get off the rope and push through it. The way I see it: I have no residual pain from the marathon--aside from a little right ankle stiffness but I've had way worse. And my feet are pretty much healed up from walking all over the French Quarter in inappropriate shoes and my liver, well, it is what it is. It has been through worse. I am tired but I've been tired before. . . So I am racing tomorrow! At least in spirit. I may not be fast but I'll be out there putting one foot in front of the other as quickly as I can manage.

However, I should mention--that little Beau, I think he is mocking me again. All day today he kept saying,"Look Mommy! A dead possum!" Pointing out recent road kill. Then he reminisced, when we drove by the patch of sidewalk that we walked down a few weeks ago that had a dead rotting possum on it for awhile saying: "Oh, it is gone. I think all the maggots finally got it Mommy, " he told me.

I am trying really hard to NOT read metaphors into things my 5 year old says but as a one time lit major it is hard. I have tendency to seek out metaphor in the smallest of moments and most insignificant of conversations. Not only am I a rope hanger; I'm a metaphor reacher.

One last thing. I would be remiss if I did not mention this on my blog--plus it is yet another example how my kids are a way better human beings than I can ever hope to be:

Carmella has a kicky new do:

She chopped 12 inches off her hair to donate to locks of love.

I'm still working on me being a better person everyday but hey, at least my kids seem to be a on solid track (even if there is the occasional rope hanging).

Mantra for tomorrow: Get off the rope and run happy!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Nat's Divine Comedy Marathon: The 2009 Twisted Ankle Race Report

Saturday I ran my 10th marathon. My first trail marathon. Wait, my first trail race ever.
The Twisted Ankle Marathon and it was 10 times harder than all my other marathons put together.

I have long said one of my favorite things about the marathon is the epic-ness of it. However, I found out on Saturday--as I ran for hours through gnarly trail and over twisted root and up billy goat hills and down gravely fire roads that I really had no idea what epic really meant until then. But rest assured that now when I speak of the "epic-ness" of a marathon, I do know that of which I speak.

Because this race?
This marathon is no joke.
Those other 9 marathons-- I realized after I surpassed the point in time in which I had finished all those other marathons and still had several miles to go that those other 9 marathons that I've run?
Yeah, they were a joke.

For those unfamiliar with the race here is the elevation map:

I have to say I completely underestimated that little chart. I've looked at it about 100 times since I signed up in March and I think I forgot to really look at it in it's entirety. I was so focused on that humongous hill in the first 5 miles that I didn't really think much about the rest of the course. In fact, if you want to know exactly what I thought--what I have been reassuring myself with for the past few weeks was this: If I can just make it over that big hill with out dying (without my calves locking up) the rest will be easy.
That is what I thought.

I don't know why I thought that because I can see now (and I sure felt) that climb at miles 9-10 is pretty steep --and let me tell you, even worse than that was that climb at 19-20. But even more challenging than all of that was the steep downhill from 22-25. Wow. That was a HUGE shocker. I really really thought that part as going to be easy. I even looked forward to it the whole race thinking I was going to get to run down that big hill. It was going to be SO MUCH FUN! I had my airplane arms all ready and imagined myself whizzing down yelling Weeeee!!!!! My dream of a downhill at the end of a marathon finally being realized.


What the hell is wrong with me?

Why would I think that?

The saying " You can't fix stupid" keeps popping in my head but seriously, send stupid out on that course and they will be fixed for sure.

What is bad about this elevation chart is that it doesn't show the roots, mud, rocks and switchbacks. You know, when I look at it I just see lines and in my mind I just imagined smooth dirt trails with finely crushed gravel. I know--dumb, but like I said that dumb got fixed on Saturday.

Since this was my first trail marathon, first race on a trail, and since I have seen some really great marathons recently I went in-- with what I thought was at least--relatively low expectations and goals ( I always set 3 goals and a super secret goal but there was no super secret goal for this race):

1. To not die (and by not die I also meant not break anything or injury myself so I couldn't keep training.)
2. To finish
3. Finish in under 5 hours.

Before I signed up I emailed Becky Finger, the race director, and asked her what I could expect as a finishing time. She said most people add about 45 minutes onto their road times. I figured she was probably low balling that since I am sure she wants people to sign up for her race so I added an hour onto my slowest marathon. Which is 4:08 (so I had an extra 8 minutes but I just couldn't fathom actually committing to running over 5 hours. That's just crazy.)

Most of my anxiety for this race revolved around that 5 hour window. When it comes to goals there are no guarantees. I certainly know I can run 26 miles on the road but I honestly didn't know if I could run for 5 hours or run 26 miles in the woods. I have only run over 4 hours twice in my life: The Atlanta Marathon, my first marathon in November 2005 that I finished in 4:08 and the training run I did at the end of Oct 2005 that was 25.5 miles and took me almost 4 and half hours. Even though that was 4 years ago I still recall the mental agony of those last miles. I remember just wanting to be done; being over it and not only sick of running but sick of being with myself. So I was worried. 5 hours is a long time for anyone to have to put up with me--even me.

I appreciate if you have read this far so I am going to cut to the chase and spare you the suspense if you came here just looking to see how I did and don't want to wade through my epic discourse to find out:
  1. I did not die (but I did think for certain I was going to)
  2. I did finish
  3. I finished in under 5 hours (but barely) 4:58:50
  4. I was 24th over all (Not sure how many ran the full. The race sold out at 175 but I know people dropped out and I am sure some didn't even show up.)
  5. I was 5th woman and 2nd in my age group.
  6. I completely had my ass kicked.

Onto the epic discourse:

Friday I dropped the kids at my in-law's around 6. I came home, got everything in order, made dinner and was in bed around 9. Ryan stayed up and packed the car with stuff to entertain himself with while his crazy wife went and ran in the woods for half the day--fishing pole, mountain bike, estimates, laptop etc. He then slept in one of the kid's rooms because he "didn't want to get blamed for anything."

I got up at 5 am on Saturday and had my regular race breakfast of water, coffee, whole wheat bagel with cream cheese and salt and small bowl of Uncle Sam's cereal. Then I packed a cooler with lots of beer, made some turkey sandwiches and threw in some snacks. I showered and dressed and then woke Ryan and finished putting stuff in the car while he got ready. We realized last minute that we would have to take Lola since we would be gone too long to humanely leave her in her crate all day. I hoped it was okay to bring dogs to the race. And I will admit, I did wish it was cooler day because I thought about how awesome it would be to have her run the race with me. I could take her pinch collar off and she would totally drag me up all those hills. But as it was, it was 6:30 am, already 70 degrees and about 85% humidity. Don't think my snow dog would appreciate a 26 mile run in those conditions and it would be I who would be dragging her dead weight.

We got about 5 miles down the road and I realized I forgot my purse. Ryan said he was just glad it wasn't him that "f-d up." The way he talks sometimes you'd think I beat him ( I do.)

So 6:45 we were finally on the way and I was anxious about being late. Mapquest said it as an hour 40 minute drive. I needed to get my packet by 8:30.

Here I am as we drive up 75 to Summerville, Georgia.
I am happy because I see blue sky and it is not raining.

As it was we got to the park around 8 am and that was even after stopping to pee at a gas station outside the park.
As we turned in the park Ryan pointed up to the mountain ridge and commented that was probably where I would be running. I told him to shush; it was all going to be a surprise and he was not to ruin it for me. Even still I stared out the car window at the ridge covered in clouds and hoped that those were not rain clouds. Here is picture of the ridge I took out the car window leaving after the race:
I'll admit. It doesn't look all that hard from my car window. But trust me. There are evil sticks and roots and rocks and mud behind those pretty green trees.

Ryan dropped me at the packet pick up and I ran down the hill to get my number. I saw Doug (Steph's husband) and when I asked for my small shirt he looked at me and said "Are you sure?" I think he was calling me fat but it does fit. I am just a small chubby person.

By the way, it was Doug's idea to sign up for this race. I should, in the future, think more carefully when the Bachman's ask if I want to do stuff with them: Hey Nat! Wanna do a half ironman (even though you've only ever done a sprint?) Sure! How hard can it be?
Hey Nat! Wanna run a trail marathon? Okay!

I think in the 5k swim at the end of June I might have to pull Steph under and drown her since I seem to have problems with good sense and can't seem to say no. It all sounds like so much fun when I am drinking the Bachman home brew. . .

Ryan and I went and parked the car. I pinned my number on and stuffed my pockets with the 8 bazillion things I brought: 4 gu's, packet of endurolytes, pocket knife, toilet paper, throw away camera. Ryan had suggested the night before I might want to use his camel back. I have never used one but it did sound like a better idea than having to carry a bottle. Though my plan was not to fall I realized it might happen and I might want both my hands to prevent a face plant. I had jogged around the driveway before getting in the car to test it out and seemed fine.

Such as it was it proved to NOT be such a great idea after all.

This is only one (and the worst) of the abrasions I got from said camel back. 2 days post race and it is the only thing that still really hurts (I am pain wimp.)
I will say it did not bother me during the race but I also did not really use the camel back as I found it hard to drink from so I definitely would have been better off without it.

I also got this nice abrasion from my throw away camera. That one did hurt a lot by the end but it one of many hurts so what did it matter.

And a blister on my toe. Ryan did not want me to post this picture. My feet embarass him. But I personally am pretty thankful for my feet even if they are ugly. They have taken me many awesome places.
Even though I got a blister (my first from a race) the shoes were really great and I am so glad I wore trail shoes rather than my Trance's.

After I was all suited up we walked over to the start area (also finish. We get to run over that bridge for the finish). I peed 3 times in the 30 minutes before the race and then --because it was so hot/humid I did not need to use the restroom again until after 5pm. I was, just a little dehydrated.

Before the race I met and chatted with lots of nice runners. One guy in particular--with a handle bar mustache I had actually met the day before at the gas station by my house. I at first I couldn't place him and then it dawned on me he was the guy who had asked me if I was in the Atlanta Track club and if I ran for the competitive team (definitely do not. Not fast enough). So it was funny to run into him.

Then we gathered for a brief pre race meeting. Becky gave some directions--which of course I wasn't really paying attention but I did hear something about if you are not at the 14 mile point by 4 something hours to please come down off the ridge. Dear Lord, I thought, 4 hours for 14 miles. What the hell have I gotten myself into? Then she said something about lots of mud and everyone around me cheered. I personally didn't see this as good news--as I did not really want to get dirty--and wasn't sure if this was sarcastic joy or they were seriously happy about the prospect of mud. I think they were serious.

And then Becky said go and I hit my watch and we were off and running.

Number 18 is a guy named Ty. Super nice guy! I caught him around 5-6 miles. He tried to make me go the wrong way (just kidding Ty). We leap-frogged and chatted from about 5-12 miles. I tried to push my Gu and endurolytes on him when he said he was cramping after we ran up the hill at mile 9/10. He wouldn't take them. I was like the Cigar girl of this race offering up all the stuff I carried: Gu? Salt tab? Water? Probably should have taken more of stuff rather than tried to give it all away.

I had been advised by a reader of my training log at Beginner Triathlete "to try to get to the front of the pack before the big hill since because of the rain and mud it would be trashed after the front of the pack went over it."

Sounded like a plan to me. I figured since the first mile or 2 was on road I could go out at the pace I have started out at for my last 3 marathons and manage okay. Now whether or not I was running my 7:20-8 min pace I have no idea since it was 30-50 degrees warmer than my last 3 marathons and infinitely more humid. But it felt like I was running 7:30's. Could have been 10's though. I seriously don't know. There are no mile markers and I don't wear a Garmin anymore.

On the other side of my shoulder in the picture is the girl who ended up coming in second. I tailed her for the first 9 or so miles before she (and 3rd place girl) dropped me. I had to remind myself many times to NOT be competitive today or I would be very sorry. It was hard to keep that in check at first but then later the ass kicking I recieved put me easily in my place.
As is usual I was very confused about the course and just sort of running along, not fully paying attention. But I think this is right before we head into the woods to the big evil hill. I remember this point at the end too because I was pretty mad that this was NOT the lake with bridge. I knew once I saw the bridge I would be done and I was so mad that this lake did not have the bridge.

Right after I took this picture I decide I better take an endorolyte. I hadn't been running long but already I was completely soaked with sweat. Several times during the race I would think it was raining only to realize it was the copious amounts of sweat coming off my hat and not rain drops. It was so disgusting.

Starting up the big hill. Everyone ahead of me was walking. So I started walking, remembering what someone else (I can't remember who) had told me to do: to run as the terrain allows.

Getting steeper. And I am laughing--to myself--because I am listening to The Pogues marching song. Seemed really fitting.

Then I come up on a Flamingo. It makes me laugh because I remembered the Saturday before at the baby shower we had for Fishstick(it was a luau) and the kids had went on a flamingo killing spree. I am betting a lot of people in the race wanted to go a flamingo killing spree at that point--if they had the energy. It also made me think of Aunt Boo who calls them "pink ducks." I don't know. Aunt Boo just makes me laugh. And if you are walking up the steepest hill that is giving you flashbacks of the switchbacks your dad made you hike up at 9 years old with a 25lb pack and can still laugh-- I think it is a good sign. My run happy attitude was still intact!

And even better the hill was over!

I took the above picture, grabbed some Gatorade at the top and toasted a fellow marathoner who had a WTF just happened look on his face and then after a moment I took off happily down the hill. I was a little disappointed how short the downhill was considering how freaking long the uphill had just been. Whatever.

I turned on the gravel road that while you can't see it in this picture had tons of the Georgia red clay. I was not happy about the red clay as I did not want to have it all over me. But it wasn't issue.
I read that other people didn't like this section and I will admit that it is a bit boring but I found I could run my regular marathon pace here and that made me happy.I passed quite a few people in this section. I was coming up on 50 minutes so I went ahead and had my first Gu (Berry Roctane. Thanks Steph!) I came up on a aid station. I was kind of surprised because I thought I had heard Becky say the aid stations were 4-8 miles apart and already this was the 3rd one and I figured I had to be around 6-7 miles. I stopped and chatted with the firemen and had some water (there was no Gatorade).

I stopped at every aid station and probably wasted too much time but I as trying to force myself to take it easy. In the beginning the stopping and dilly dallying at the aid stations was by design but by the end it was out of necessity and hope that maybe those people manning the aid stations would see that clearly I was only seconds from death and put me out of misery.

At the fireman aid station we were suppose to turn off down the hill but I saw Ty run ahead down the gravel road so I followed. The firemen called us back and we got going the correct way. We were now on a technical trail that was predominately downhill.

It was so fabulous and I blazed down it. Totally out of control. I passed a blow up monkey and bobbed at it--again laughing because I had had the same blow up monkey's at the luau. Hello Dollar Store!

I was almost to the bottom when people started coming back up the trail towards me and I realized that I was going to have run back up this fabulous downhill. I was not happy. So when I got to the aid station at the bottom I lingered longer than I should have; trying to put off the inevitable. I also figured out that I was 3rd place girl. Just as I realized this 4th place girl popped out of the woods. Hmmm, guess I better go.

I ran for a bit and then I could feel my calves fatiguing. I figured I better walk since I still had a long way to go. Didn't think it as such a good sign that my calves felt at mile 10ish how they usually feel at mile 25 of a marathon. Did not bode well. So I walked.

4th place girl (who ended up being 3rd) caught up to me and we walked together a bit and chatted. After bit she said "well I'm sure I'll see you again." I told her not likely and I wished her luck and she ran on.

I did the walk/run shuffle. I realized at this point that I was completely under-trained for this type of course. While I knew it would be hard and I had mentally prepared myself for it I had assumed that physically I would manage just fine. I pretty much decided then that I would run all flat and down hill sections and walk any uphills as soon as felt my calves tightening up. It was hard to let placement go but really, there was nothing I could do about it. Every time someone passed me --for the rest of the day-- I had to mentally remind myself that I was NOT competitive. I tried hard to stay positive and cheer and encourage people on as I had my ass handed to me.

After I made it up the technical trail I was back on the gravel road and at the fireman aid station again. I chatted with them and then ran on. I saw Ty again here--he was having some cramping and I comiserated with him but then felt better so I ran on.

The course then turns back on the ridge and you head out the way you came towards the other end of the ridge. I was by myself for this. I had another Gu and was kind of freaked out to be so alone. Finially I saw people come back towards me. I realized it was the half marathoners and I had some uncertainity that maybe I had missed a turn. I guessed I was around 15 miles but really could have been 14. I just kept running, not entirely confident, periodically looking behind me for someone and there was never anyone there.

Finally I came up on an aid station and they told me it was 14 miles and that made me sad because it had seemed like forever and then they told me 18 miles was the next one. This really didn't sound right but I was in no poistion to argue with them.

So I ran on more and I came to another gravel road. I was starting to feel pretty tired but was feeling better about things since I had started to see some marathoners again going back out so I knew I was going the right way. Most people looked to be starting to struggle so that also made me feel better that it wasn't just me.

Right before the 18 mile aid station--where there was promises of watermelon--I came up on a guy who was walking. I slowed down and walked with him, offering him a Gu, a salt tab, some water. He took the tab. I decided I should maybe try to have another Gu. I managed half. He was on the walk the up hills/run the downhills and flats plan too so I hung with him. But boy his run the flats part pace was faster than mine was so it was a challenge to keep up with him.

We got to the aid station and I had a watermelon which almost instantly I regretted. I had two cups of water and we ran on. My tummy started to rebel and I was not having a good moment. Then I rolled my right ankle. It took my breath away and made me feel like was going to throw up when I already felt like I was going to throw up.

Around this point the girl who was in 5th came up on us. She asked what mile we were at and we guessed 19 maybe 20. I had a sad moment and reminded myself that there was nothing I could do about it and watched as she surged ahead.

After walking for a few minutes my ankle felt better and I tried to run. My calf started to spasm. Not wanting to stop I turned around backwards and walked up the hill that way. Jack tried it too. I guess it didn't help him as it did me because he turned back around.

While walking backwards I saw Doug coming up the hill. We waved to each other. I was both happy and unhappy to see him. Happy because I had reached the point of the race that I suddenly needed someone to hold my hand and tell me it was going to be okay. I was unhappy because I knew Doug was neither going to hold my hand nor tell me it was going to be okay--it just isn't his style-- and even worse, I knew that he was going to beat me. So I had a negative moment. I feel bad about it.

Right before we reached the top of the hill and turned back on the ridge trail I think someone must have pulled me into the woods and beaten the shit out of me because suddenly every part of my body was cramping up with charlie horses and I was severely uncoordinated. I swear it was like someone had drugged me. It went off like a switch. I guess that is what is known has hitting the wall and I have to say I have never experienced anything like it and hope to never again.

I don't remember reaching the top of the hill and turning on the trail but I remember being on the trail and Doug passing me and saying "Nat, get ready for the longest 10k of your life." I mumbled something about problems and he said he had problems too. Such tough love!!!

I don't know what happened to Jack but I didn't see him again till after the race was over.

I tried to pull myself together and decided maybe I should take a second endurolyte. I did that and I finished off my third Gu. I think it was just too late at this point. I tried hard to stay with Doug; run when he ran, walked when he walked but my legs were being very uncooperative. I was having charlie horses in both calves and my groin almost simultaneously and I kept rolling my right ankle. I was even having cramping in my face.

We came up on an aid station and I stopped. Doug didn't and I watched him fade into the woods out of my sight.

I downed 2 cups of Gatorade and hoped for the best. I still had another Gu (I had had 3) but my stomach was saying NO WAY. When the ladies at the aid stations offered me a peanutbutter sandwiches I almost vomited. Nope. No food for me.

I "ran" on.

After awhile I was alone again--no one in front of me and no one behind me. I was sooo sad and then I tripped over a rock, almost fell, rolled my ankle for what must have been the 5th time and had the stupid charlie horse cramps all over my body.

I completely lost my shit.

I ripped my headphones out of my ears and started crying.

Totally ridiculous.

I standing in the middle of trail blubbering and cussing about how I had run all this way and I was going to break my ankle and not be able to wear my cute high heels and I wouldn't be able to dance at Donald and Annie's wedding next weekend and I would have to hobble around the French Quarter on crutches and in comfortable shoes. I was so mad!

Then I had the suck up buttercup conversation and told myself I had no choice but to run on: eventually it will all be over, I told myself. Eventually . . .

I put my headphones back in my ears, turned on my ipod and I looked at my watch. It past the 4 hour mark. You will be done by 5 hours I told myself and I started "running" again.

Now I really didn't know that I would be done by the 5 hour mark since I had no idea where I was on the trail nor how much further I had to go. I was just trying to be positive. I told myself I could look at my watch every ten minutes. I figured every 10 minutes I would have covered almost a mile. That would be progress, I figured. Forward progression! Go!

My watch said 4:16 when I started running. After about 3 charlie horses, a stumble and an ankle twist I figured it had been about 10 minutes so I checked my watch: 4:18.

And there was Jimmy Buffet singing in my ear: With all of our running and all of our cunning/If we couldn't laugh we would all go insane . . . I took a picture so I could see later if I really looked as crazy as I felt:


As I stumbled along the trail I wondered what Time was up to. I wondered whyhe hated me and what did I ever do to him that he would slow down everything for me-- just to prolong my agony. Didn't know I was that special.

So I kept going, angry at the mean trail, stupid time and dumb electrolyte imbalance and finally I reached the aid station before the turn off down the hill that (eventually) led to the finish. The people at the aid station had a camera and took my picture. They were all cheery. I couldn't understand why they seemed so happy when clearly I was dying right before they eyes.

I asked them how far and they said 4 miles. I checked my watch: 4 hours and 23 minutes. I didn't think I could I run 4 miles in 37 minutes at that point. I figured it was going to take me an hour and I tried to keep my shit together since there were people this time around who would witness my temper tantrum. I think I asked them if they would carry me down and I think they just laughed at me and told me I "could do it."

So I started down the hill. The Pogues "Hell's Ditch" was playing on my ipod and I thought how appropriate . I was hot as hell, felt like I had died and the hill was steep and technical and with switchbacks. Hell's Ditch for sure, I figured. Pretty sure Dante somehow got on a boat, saw that hill and went back to Italy and penned The Divine Comedy.

Holy crap it was so hard to run down that hill. My lower legs felt so weak and I was having a really hard time navigating it. I decided at that moment that my body was not meant to do painful things for more than 4 hours without having an epidural.

About half way down I came to a bald spot on the trial that was slicked with mud. I started slipping and grabbed for a tree I was passing and it swung me around. Another runner came upon me at that point and I commented to him that I didn't know how I was going to get down. I watched him navigate down the mudslick but he was on the other sided of the trail. I think I just ended up going down off the trail and holding onto trees.

I stopped and took a picture at the bottom. I took a picture because I was worried that if there was more spots like that on the trail I might not make it and I wanted people to know exactly where I died.

I don't know --the thinking made perfect sense at the time.

I also took a picture of the waterfall. Yeah it was pretty but the beauty didn't really make me any happier at that second but I figured I might appreciate it later.

I started back down the trail running and a guy --okay, I am not 100% certain this actually happened because it was almost like it mocking hallucination--came running past me with airplane arms and said" I thought the downhill was going to be a lot more fun." I really was in disbelief because I had planned to have airplane arms but I just couldn't pull off airplane arms at that point like I had hoped. And that downhill was definitely not fun like I had mistakenly thought it would be.

The trail was starting to flatten out and was easier for me to manage so I could run a little less painfully since I wasn't trying so hard to hold back.

Finally I was at the bottom and I thought I was going to go right--as I knew that was the general direction of the lake with the bridge that would mean I was done. But these kids pointed me left down the road and I was pretty mad about that. I cussed a bit and then realized that they were children and I generally make an effort to not cuss at children, I mean, at least children that aren't mine own. I did have the sense to apologize to them.

I ran a bit down the road and a kid in a silver wig point up a hill. I told him my husband would pay money if he would carry me up the hill. Then as I started up the hill I saw how long it was and I cried out "all the way up?" And another kid just laughed and pointed right. Thankfully the hill was cut off midway.

I was so annoyed but I am trying my best to hurry because I knew that darn lake with the bridge was close and the sooner I got there the sooner I would be done. I was so joyous to know that it was all ALMOST OVER!!!!

Finally I came to a lake and I got so excited. I even took a picture.

Then I realized that this was not lake with the bridge. Oh my GOD! It is never going to end! I thought.

Then I came up to a man standing on a dam and realized where I was and this was the damn I had crossed earlier. I asked him how far and he said you have about a half mile to the shed. Confused, I looked across the lake to the shed and thought why the fuck is he telling me how far it is to that shed? I briefly wondered if something was suppose to happen at the shed that I had forgotten about.

Again, I asked, clarifying that I wanted to know how far to the FINISH. He said "you have a little over a mile."

More cussing from me.

My watch said: 4:50xx. I was pretty discouraged at that second because I had come to understand that no matter how far someone told I had to go it was really much much further than what they said. I figured that "a little more than a mile" was probably code for: 3 miles to go.

As soon as my feet hit asphalt I started running as hard as I could manage. But then, I wasn't fulling paying attention and I went the wrong way. A guy saw me going the wrong way before I got too far and pointed me in the correct direction. Of course it was up ANOTHER HILL! More cussing and a little bit of walking.

Dreams by the Cranberries was playing. I told myself to suck it up and I started running again.

I think at this point I am running through the campground--past people in campsites. People that it seems do not notice there is a race going on. I started to think that maybe I was invisible. That maybe I had died back there in the woods and was now a ghost because not a single one of those people in the campground acknowledged me. I think I even asked some kids if they could see me and while they looked at me like I was a lunatic they did nod; so I felt a teeny bit better to know that I was not dead or invisible.

I knew I had to be close to the finish and just as Lazy Eye by Silversun Pick-ups came on (my favorite song to do treadmill intervals to) I see a lake in the clearing ahead and KNOW this is the one with bridge. Yess!!!!!

So happy am I! A guy points me towards the bridge and run straight for it not realizing there was about a 3ft drop to the pavement until I was in the air. Thank goodness my ankles help up!
I ripped my headphones from my ears and bolted across the bridge and through the grass towards the clock.
I see that it says 4:58 and I hear everyone yelling Right! Right! (as I was about to go down the left side) And I make a sharp last second turn into the correct chute.

I am so thankful and mad and insanely happy to be done.

And after I had a coke, rinsed my hair, changed my clothes and had a beer all was right in my world. I am just happy and so very pleased with myself.

Wow, I know that was super long. Thanks so much reading!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Virgin Bride

Oh, wait. I mean Twisted Ankle Marathon Virgin Bride.
Sorry if there was any initial confusion upon reading the blog title. I am not trying to be one of those "born-again" virgins (like that is even possible.)

Drum roll please . . . Here is my outfit for tomorrow.

As you will see I have my something blue covered--skirt is INDIGO (definitely NOT purple--worst color ever) and my top is aqua (a well known shade of blue) and my socks have blue on the toes.

My something new is my also my top and my socks. The theme of the outfit tomorrow is pockets. I needed pockets otherwise I would resigned to the hideous fanny pack. And clearly, as you can see in the picture I need a lot of pockets if I want to carry all that crap.

My something old is my Run Happy hat, the skirt, my ipod and my knife--I am not going in the North Georgia woods without a weapon. I have seen Deliverance (cue Dueling Banjos)

My something borrowed is the water bottle--yes Dad that is yours and no I did not ask but I "borrowed" it a month ago and since you haven't missed it yet I am sure it is okay. I did tell Mom I was taking it. I am sure she forgot though.

Also borrowed are the trail shoes. They are Lala's.

Yes, yes I know. Not a great idea. And no I haven't done a long run in them but I ran 2.25 miles today and they felt fine--the same;maybe better than my Trance's. I actually almost bought this particular trail shoe but instead I got the Brooks Cascadia because they were out of the Mizuno's in my size. I KNOW I don't like running in my Cascadia's so they are definitely no good. I could always stick with my Brook's Trance but the weather tomorrow is suppose to suck and it is probably going to be super muddy so I think I might really need a trail shoe. I did like how firm and cushioned the heel felt today so I think they will be good. The way I see it; after 26+ miles my feet aren't going to feel good anyway. So I think it is more important I have a shoe with some good traction.

Also, pictured is a camera because who doesn't document their deflowering? And toilet paper--because girlfriend? Doesn't use leaves. Of course I am crossing every part of me and hoping such thing isn't an issue (it isn't usually) but every good Girl Scout is always prepared.

Lastly, even though I am certainly not happy about the forecast:
Hourly Forecast
6 am


Feels Like
9 am


Feels Like
12 pm


Feels Like
3 pm


Feels Like
6 pm


Feels Like
9 pm


Feels Like
Day Night

I have heard--at least that is what they like to tell the Brides who plan outdoor garden weddings without a rain contingency plan-- that is good luck if it rains on your wedding day.

Sweet Jesus let's hope so!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Twisted Ankle Rewards

This is a bit of a treatise on my ankles. But there will be shoe porn for your patience . . .

I hate to say I have weak ankles--because you always hear girls claiming that (or weak knees as to why they can't run or do something) And, in general, I hate to lay claim to any sort of weakness: but I have to think that maybe I really do have weak ankles.

When I was on the gymnastic team in high school I was constantly twisting, rolling and spraining my ankles. I think part of this was because-- unlike the other girls on my team-- I had no gymnastic training.

I know you are thinking why would one go out for the gymnastic team if they had no prior gymnastic training but my friend said "Hey Nat! Let's try out for the gymnastics team!" I told her "Absolutely not!" Explaining that I didn't know how "to do" gymnastics; that I had never had lessons. She countered with "but you can do flips and splits! You can totally do gymnastics!"

Always the hard sell I tried out.

Definitely B team bound. I spent those two years on the team with taped ankles and shins (apparently front flips give you shin splints). And even though I was far from the best on the team I did do okay and did really enjoy it.

Hmmm, not so unlike running. . .

The first 2 years after I started running I struggled alternately with shin splints and bruised ankles from rolling them so much when I ran. One time I even had to get a ride home cause a guy saw me fall from rolling my ankle and insisted I not try to run home. That time was a really bad one: my foot turned black and blue along the outside. I just taped it up and kept running since it didn't really hurt so long as I kept my ankle straight.

And I am sure it didn't help that the jobs I had back then were either spent as a waitress or in a bookstore. Jobs that required me to be on my feet constantly for 8-some days 15 hours (stupid doubles). In fact, recently when Steph was detailing her symptoms from plantar fasicitis--it all sounded so familiar--and I realized that I had also had that for years (but not anymore). I do prefer to think it was more from wearing high heels to work instead of from running. Running is great for you! Wearing high heels for 8 hours is not (though it does make your legs look pretty and again, you get to be tall.)

I am certain, without having confirmation from a doctor, that my ongoing calf problems are all probably related to those early weaknesses. But whatever, you work with what you have and I work, er, run through the weakness. (I keep thinking if I ignore them they aren't really real.) The way I see it is: if it isn't one thing it is something else hindering me. Might as well suck it up.

At any rate, needless to say, the Twisted Marathon has me shaking a bit in my running shoes and for more than just poor ankles. But I am optimistic in that--so far--during the past 2 years I've been doing some trail running I have not rolled my ankles. In fact, last time I sprained my ankle it was from wearing high heels and tripping on the stairs. However running through the sprain certainly didn't do me any favors. . . But that was 5 years ago. I am sure it is better.

I have to think--with all that trail running, yoga and just running my ankles ARE stronger. And my reward--assuming I survive the twists, turns and hills of the Twisted Ankle course on Saturday is getting to wear my new shoes.

I purchased these shoes over the past 2 months but haven't worn them yet (well except one pair) because I haven't wanted to injury myself before any of my recent marathons while wearing them. But I think --again assuming I don't actually break an ankle (obviously I can preserve through little old sprains and twists)--getting to finally wear my new shoes will be the most perfect reward ever! In fact, when I am in those sad dark places of the marathon where doubt, quitting, and just plain wanting to be shot for ever thinking running 26.2 miles is a good idea I will think about all my new shoes and how cute they will look with my outfits. ( you should imagine clapping after you read that sentence). mmmmm, shoes. . .

And, yes, of course I have pictures. Bring on the shoe porn! And yes, I put them on a cake plate because I think they are that delicious.

You should also know that the price range for these were only $18.00-$34.00 because I either bought them on Ebay (new not used) or found them on super duper clearance and my size was the last pair. Price includes shipping! But they aren't expensive shoes anyway. I would never pay $600.00 for a pair of shoes even if I could afford to--considering how destructive I am.

Sam and Libby's that I have worn once but only for a few hours. They are really comfortable.

These are just so cute I am dying to wear them! I have had them the longest--since the beginning of March at least.

I bought these to go with a dress I am wearing to wedding next weekend but have found that they actually go with a lot of dresses and will look cute with jeans too. But I am being good and waiting.
And these. These are the newest. I bought them off eBay a few weeks ago. I got them super cheap and they were originally sold in the Victoria Secret catalog for over $100. I couldn't even find the pink one for sale on the Internet anywhere though I did find brown and red in case you are interested but still for a lot more than I paid.

Quite honestly I haven't worn these yet because they really are just an ankle accident waiting to happen. Carmella calls them my "dangerous shoes". Ryan laughs and doesn't believe me that I am actually going to wear them. But I am! And I can't wait! Ta da!!!