Monday, April 21, 2014

SC 24 hour track race, 88 miles and a surprise I'll never forget...

SC24 - 24 hour Track Race at Wilson High School, Florence, SC - 3.15.14 @ 10:00 am - 3.16.14 @ 10:00 am (400 meter track)

At the turn of Mile 87, a pain shot up my foot and through my leg, the duct tape had come off my toe, the huge blister had burst, there was only one thing to do...

With enough time to get in another mile, the bleachers are 10 feet away, I sit down and proceed to remove my socks and shoes. Upon looking at my toe, there's no way I'd be able to get my shoes or socks back on, the next thing that happened was magical.  I handed my shoes and socks to Troy, and I took off running, barefoot. 

The track was cold under my feet, the rain and the "road like" surface really reminded me of being a kid and I just ran. "Eye of the Tiger" in my ear, a smile on my face, and The satisfaction of knowing within five weeks of the first 24 hour race at Delirium, I had another personal record, 83.07 at Delirium and 88 at the SC24.

By 10:30, I was back in the road, driving myself after I had asked Ray if he had any chips in his van. I was hungry, so chips and a Pepsi throwback it was for the ride home, Chris kept me talking on the phone until I got home. 

That 24 hour period in March on the track in Florence had proved to be another one of the best days of my life.  

The morning started, it was nice out, tank top weather for running, with such a late start, I got to sleep in my own bed and just drive to Florence the morning of the event. The Soul had been packed the night before, so all I had to do was prepare myself for what would be an emotional ride that would carry me until the sun came up on Sunday and then until 10:10.

Setting up, I'm by myself for a while. I showed up crewless, at least for the first portion, no pacer is allowed, so these 352 laps were done solo. 

Group pictures were taken, I'm among elites. The thought itself is humbling, and here is what I thought, it follows:

I walked into the bathroom, peed, there was a mirror at the sink, I looked at myself, stared. This girl. From Elgin, where's that? Who started focussing on distance in September 2013.  Was about to step on the track for the first time, ever in her life. With a group of the best runners, world record holders. Me. Pam. Me. Tears started to stream down my cheeks. Proud, overwhelmed, and thankful for the run. The only representative from South Carolina.  Me. 

I was oddly excited about running on a track, mindless running that is lit, for 24 hours, well yea! Who wouldn't love that! (Yes, I'm delusional.)  

So round and round, "what comes around, goes around" (Ratt) but yes what comes around does go around especially on a track...Zach Bitter said he was going into horse mode, and he shut his eyes and ran. 

Google him, he is the caliber of athlete I was on the track with that day. He was passing me one time (of about a thousand) and I stepped off to let him by, he told me to never step off the track, never defer, that I deserved to be on the track as much as anybody else there.  His statement made me smile.

Willy Wonka: "Round the world and home again, that's the sailor's way. Is this interesting?" 

Seems to be the way of the Ultrarunner as well...

Being crewless was different for me, I had had three members at my last 24hr event at my disposal. I showed up, set up and got ready to run. 

David Nance helped me out for the time he was there, filling my water bottle, updating twitter and Facebook for me.

The temperature had gotten hotter than I thought that day, being exposed to the sun for that amount of hours, drinking constantly, I wasn't peeing.  I stopped on a turn and asked Ray what to do. Five hours into this 24hr, I hadn't peed and wasn't sweating.  Walk a lap and drink plain water was his advice. It worked, broke the dam and peed. Small victory, huge victory!

The heat was crippling. So I walked and I walked, around and around, and I ran some but mostly walked just propelling forward. Anxiously awaiting sunset this day as with Delirium, "I just wish the sun would come up." Ask my friend Troy, he heard both sides...and we laughed about it throughout the night on both occasions. 

Troy had messaged me on Friday and asked if I needed to be crewed for the 24hr on the Track. I had told him I was going crewless, he said he would come up in the afternoon on Saturday and help me. 

I remember saying to Troy when I came around the track when he first appeared, all my stuff is the polka dots. He set up camp, canopy, cot, sleeping bag, two chairs and lots of extras that I didn't bring. I was sunburned by this point, had been served slushies trackside by someone who was nothing short of angelic, grabbed one for my friend, Christian (the tattooed kids unite) and ran while drinking slushies. Yea, this is Ultra. 

Joe Fejes offers to dip my shirt in ice water, oh my god. That was a bit of heaven in a pot...the water was in a soup pot...twice that cooled me off and soothed my sunburn. He asked if I needed something. My answer, I don't know. Then he proceeded to tell me that I had already suffered the worst, the heat of the day and that so many hours were behind me, that I could do this. I nodded. And went on. 

David Hale came around at some point not sure when, the day melts together. 

The sun goes down...track lighting, no headlamp needed. (Woohoo!!)

14 hours in, I'm struggling. I have friends on speed dial who I can call, anytime. To get encouragement, usually.  I called one friend, who pissed me off, and that's putting it nicely. And then I dialed another number, the voice on the other end said, you are incredible, what you're doing is amazing, you're going to be fine, I believe in you. Next thing I said was get some sleep but keep your phone close, I might need you again, I'm certain I will.  I was about to cry. I was about on the verge of a second wind, teetering in. I was cooled off, refueled and I was mad. 

14 hours in. I looked at my watch. I made the turn, Ray is standing infield. A big grin spreads across his face, because I'm running, running. He said, "Who lit  your ass on fire? You are girl on fire." Yes, yes I was.

By this point, head phones are in. And I have caught my second wind as Troy had promised. 

Troy yells where'd that come from? 

"Eye of the Tiger" that's where, replay, replay. "Roar" on repeat as well..."Happy" and "Best Day of My Life..." 

"I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion
‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar..." Katy Perry

I round the corner 12:08 am Sunday morning....52 miles in. I just couldn't quit but what happened next made my entire year.

I rounded the corner and low and behold, the person I had been on the phone with not ten minutes prior was standing there, smiling. My face told the tale.  Chris was standing there, made my whole year. 

He stayed a few hours, time is untraceable during the night, it all becomes a ball of emotion, thrown into hours. 

I took off, I ran more, fast, singing as I went. My heart was happy, full to overflowing and I was doing this, this thing I love, running... 

When I ended up pr'ing there with 88 miles at the end of the day, nonetheless barefoot, I had a sense of accomplishment. Though I didn't reach 100 miles that day, I ran for another 24 hours only five weeks after my first 24 hour race. 

I realized I found my gift. I found my driving force and I found a humbleness inside me with the realization of the caliber of people I was running with, me this girl from Elgin, me, pink sox.

A day and night, I shall never forget. Life is about the people who show up, the people who cross our paths and at the time we don't know why but there is a Master plan. 

"I howled at the moon with friends 
And then the sun came crashing in 
But all the possibilities 
No limits just epiphanies 

I'm never gonna look back...."

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Delirium 24hr...83.07 miles and the most epic day of my life so far...

A journey is best measured in friends, not in miles.
Tim Cahill

To begin with an explanation of ultra family needs to be given. Ultra family is the people and their families who attempt ultras but unlike many other race distances, there are so few individuals who dare test the limits, we are all repeat offenders who become one big old ultra family. 

When I dove head first into the ultra world last year, January 2013, I fell in love with the distance and chasing it further. That day it was the hardest thing I'd ever done, but I have zero quit in me, so I struggled across the finish line. In Harbison Forest that day, I swore I'd never do another one, by the next morning, I had changed my mind. 

There are peaks and valleys, swells,  like in classical music, emotion builds, drops, stretches, broadens, shortens and then releases but in running it never ends, for me any way. In music it ends, as the piece is running you build, each finish line brings the search for the next...never an end point...always another start, almost like the renewing of a day at sunrise.

Delirium 24 Hour Endurance Race
Start: Saturday, February 8 8am 
Finish: Sunday, February 9 8am

Hannah Gainey: Crew Chief
Team Howell: Pacers and Sherpas Extraordinaire

I embarked on a journey...a journey that would change my life, no doubt and maybe a few people who surround me were affected as only hope.

For months leading up to Delirium 24, I did no less than 100 mile weeks, mileage spent on the road, with great joy. I love running so that time on the road is cherished and definitely not a chore. Most of the miles are done alone, no music, just the symphony under my feet and the melody in my head, or voices, depends on the day.

Running is my saving grace.  Having been told about thirteen years ago that I'd never run again, as I was thrown on the oncology ward to die, I was in the grip of anorexia...a horrible, horrible disorder. I had done damage to myself through starving myself for long periods of time, stress had gotten to me. I had given up on myself. It's interesting what happened to make me fight again...I saw my chart..."failure to thrive" at 5'6" and 87lbs...those damn doctors had given up on me...what? They could not win, anorexia could not win...I had to fight, and dig deep to find that "no quit girl" who was broken and put her back together. And that is exactly what I did.  

Friday, February 7th

Packet pickup done. dinner done. Off to sleep for the next 24 hours will be...wait for it...EPIC.

Saturday, February 8th

Best Day of My Life was my alarm. 6:15 am. bathe. get dressed. Coffee. Phone call. Get the hell scared out of me, call Greg. Head over to the race site...(((hallelujah chorus))) 

Ultra Village is all a buzz...we are all about to embark on a journey, one into the unknown, one that we cannot help but return changed.  

"Lose your mind, find your soul."  Either you leave a piece of yourself on the course or you find peace within yourself throughout the course of the next 24 hours."  I did the latter and actually, I found a bit more of my soul during that 24 hours.

We all started, all of us special idiots, those distance chasers, seeking something inside us that cannot be explained except by saying an iron will, staying power and the inability to quit. Training had been going on for months actually years as what we go through either makes or breaks us so our conditions form us to who we are, who we will become. 

In a marathon, "the wall" is the dread point, in an ultra...I really don't think there is one...I haven't found it yet, though I'm not looking!

Here is my recollection of the day, it follows...most epic day of my far any way. 

The race started, 8 am sharp and you'd think an intimidation factor would be the clock counting backwards starting at 24:00 hrs., but no it is motivating, challenging and awe inspiring. 

I was like a kid at Christmas. I was so excited to begin this journey into the Unknown, the uncertainty, that the smile on my face couldn't have been slapped off. Up until this point, I had never surpassed the mile 31.5, imagine that. And yes, really! 
Honestly the first 50k was great, Greg joined me at some point and the real running began. I remember saying to him after passing the 50k mark, I've never been here before, and my grin broadened, then I said I felt great! 

Somewhere in the mix I got a huge blister on my pinky toe, due to it having rained for hours and my feet getting wet. However in my mind it was sunny and 70 degrees, nobody was raining on my parade that's mind over matter. So Greg, Other than a pacer and friend, company and distracter, encourager, he became a doctor, Laura, an assistant and Hannah, a gopher. We needed duct tape to fix the blister. He started to explain to me what he was going to do, I simply said fix it! And he did. Overcorrecting caused me another small one which we fixed too. (My only injuries from the race!!!) 

Mile 50, I looked at Greg and squealed 10 hours and some change. And here comes 100k soon after but before that I said Greg, I just ran double marathons. I grinned from ear to ear, said all those hundred mile + weeks have paid off.

It got dark. Flashlights in hand, the motion makes me nauseas. So I walked, the mud was horrendous. Just keep moving forward. Greg is still walking, Laura and he trade off. 

I switched to warmer clothes as the night got cold. 6hr finishers were off the course, 12 hr finishers were too, now the only few that remain is the ones of us who want to see what we are made of.

Lights remind me of fireflies, Blairwitch Project like, The Walking Dead... Anything creepy, that's it when you're on the trail, all through the night. 

Fog drops at some point, it's cold. 5 shirts, two pairs of gloves, a beanie, a jacket with the hood up, wool socks. 18hrs and 24mins in to the 24 hrs, 71 miles under my belt, I was falling asleep on my feet. I came off the loop, Laura was with me, Hannah and Greg were standing by the fire pit. Greg asked if I need a break. I said yes. My mind was clear, I had had no stomach issues, had still been peeing, and was in no pain, I just was sleepy. No clue why! 

I went down for a nap. 2:24 am. I got into my car that Hannah had warmed and I went to sleep. As I was trying to settle in, Hannah and I had a pivotal conversation.  

I digress for a moment...

When I decided to sign up for the 24, she was as excited as I. At the mention her face would light up like a Christmas tree. Somethings as have been shared have been going on in our  so have her the option out of going. Her response was that she had been waiting on this race as long as I had and she was definitely going.

During our conversation in the car, she said mom, you should do a 12 hour and race it. Next year that's what you should do. Then listen to what my baby girl said next...ready for this...she said she wants to sign up for the 6 hour in 2015 at delirium. I told her I'd do it with her. She asked if I thought she could do it, I said you can do anything you set your mind to. I was overjoyed. Honestly that was worth every bit of those 24 hours at Delirium 2014.

After sleeping for about two hours, Hannah asked me if I was ready. She said here's some orange juice, accompanied by a very stern drink it. 
She asked you ready to walk mom? I said I can't quit Hannah. You're not quitting mom.  I'll go with you. We grabbed the flashlight, she got her rain boots and she walked for four laps with me. Every lap getting me oranges, eat it she'd say, it helped you earlier.  

We talked about the dog, about the barefoot runners, about what will make the next 24 better for her, there's a list by the way and at the finish she wanted to know when my next one was.

We walked and talked. Her fourth lap, she said mom the sun is coming up, I'm going to pack up camp while you finish up. You'll be ok right? I had two more laps to go and with the sun rising I knew I'd be ok. Sunrises restore life, a new day.

That little girl, was my saving grace. She was my rock when I needed her to be. And she was beside me during the toughest part of the race, the dark hours of 2:30 to 6:30.  As I've told her many times, I couldn't do it without her.

I need to interject, I never stopped smiling. Even falling asleep on my feet, I was still happy and enjoying myself and never regretted having signed up for the 24hr distance.

I had three final laps as Hannah went to pack, team Howell assisted with the packing up and as I passed heading out on my third  and final lap, I didn't stop.  As I made the turn to head into the finish, I see Greg  coming in from  the finish and I was still smiling.  The clock was down to 00:00:00, I looked at Greg and said I've got enough left to run it in, he smiled and said Hannah and Laura are at the finish. And I crossed that finish line, got hugged by my sweet girl who was smiling, my best girlfriend Laura, Duct tape Extraordinaire Greg, after Tim put my medal around my neck. Hugs all around. 

And guess what...I was still smiling. 49 logged laps...83.07 miles in 24 hours with a two hour nap. 

Then I smelled pancakes...made to order. Best pancakes of my life...

Hannah put her arm around me and said that the car was warm for me and camp was packed up. I said, gosh I smell. She said come on, I'll run you a bath. 

Then she asked if I hurt. I answered no, I'm just sleepy. She smiled. 

Best day of my life so far...
I have never experienced so much joy, ever. Runners infinity and beyond on that best described as euphoria. 

The human body is an amazing machine, the mind, powerful. Never backing down, will for sure insure your doing anything your mind is set to do. 

Thanks to my crew for assisting me in reaching a goal that I had set. To all the supporters I had, especially the one who stayed up all night with me. Thanks to all the volunteers who were at the race and to Tim Waz who is a great race director.



Sunday, January 12, 2014

Tybee Island, The Hunger Games, another 50k and a peace only a fellow runner would understand...

What a weekend, it began with my youngest daughter, Hannah finishing up her last day of high school which I might add she graduated half year early.  

Friday morning we packed everything to be ready to go on a weekender that would consist of a race for me and then some time, just the two of us, getting some relaxation.

When I got off work, I picked her up, and we were Tybee Island bound. Neither of us had been to Tybee so our trip was going to be nothing short of fun, and an adventure.    

The drive down to Savannah first, I had to pick up my packet at Fleet Feet, was rainy, sometimes downpours. But it was beautiful, Savannah that is, Hannah loves the Spanish moss and the old trees as do I. Her face lit up as we drove. 

Such a pretty place, Savannah and then Tybee, Hannah and I also liked Beaufort when we were there a few weeks ago for Mad Marsh.  We decided we could surely live in the area.

We got onto Tybee, had spotted the Fort Pulaski National monument, where the race began and ended and checked into our hotel. Such nice people there as well, we had been upgraded to an oceanfront room, even though rainy and foggy, can't really go wrong with an ocean front room. 

Hannah picked the place for dinner, a little dive around the corner from the hotel. We ate and went back to the room, curled up in bed and watched TV until we fell asleep.

Alarms set, race gear ready...checking the weather...not looking good. It's only rain though, builds character. 

Race Day:

It started later than when I'm used to, so sleeping til almost six was kind of a small luxury.  The first alarm went off "purple rain" was blaring on the radio, the second one, "lost yourself" yep, yep, going to be a great day regardless the weather. Opened the shutters and threw back the sash...kidding, opened the sliding glass door and what appeared? Rain and fog...and wind...oh joy. 

Hannah opted out after I gave her the option, so she relaxed while I ran my race. I knew I'd be fine to drive back after any way. Couldn't much blame her!

I drove to the race venue,  parked walked to the start line. Saw a bunch of people from other ultras (other special kinda of idiots) and just chit chatted for a bit.

Pre-race meeting, National Anthem and we were off. 50k distance on a foggy day, temperatures hovering around 65 and humidity out the wazoo with a strong wind that only got worse but that wind is the very thing that kept the rain away. 

I have six laps to complete. My best 50k time at the start of Rails to Trails was 5:53:13. I wanted in under six hours for this one, I figured out what I had to do each lap under in order to reach that goal. Game plan set. And remember a slow jog is faster than a walk and you don't need to walk the last lap, that's psychological, actually it's the last mile according to Ray but, I meant business today. 

I love the course, especially the bridge part because I love a hill and running on the road. After three laps, I was at 2:43. And I felt good, really good. No falling apart, no bonking. I am growing my super power of thinking. Sugar is my friend. Gummy bears, coke and full strength Gatorade, my race fuel. 

The next three laps were pretty much the same, didn't walk any of it either on the course, just while passing through the aid stations.  Support was fantastic. Support on the roads was fantastic.

Somewhere between miles the cannon on the fort fired as I passed by it, first after I was scared enough to jump all over, I began laughing. No what my first thought was? Another one has died! (The Hunger Games) don't get all upset, it's in a book! Later when I mentioned it to Hannah, she asked me did my first thought go to someone dying, I said yes it was! She said though it would have been. She laughed!

I had a great race, and imagine that I had decided that if at the third loop, if the rain started I may not complete the race. Once I got past the third loop, there was no way I was going to stop. The wind kept picking up. Over the bridge, was becoming more challenging every time and I love a walking. None. Don't even think about it. Slow jog, no walking. Push, go, over halfway. And I did. I felt good.

I felt strong the whole way. Not something I'd experienced at the 50k distance, caught my rhythm at mile 22, I've learned that after about 18 miles I double my sugar intake, no water, just Gatorade or some electrolyte drink, nothing void of calories. 

It was a good day. Though foggy, humid, gloomy, the sun was shining on me. I was running, I was filled with peace while in motion. Stillness in motion, my mind was calm, still, and for close to six hours I was able to escape, to go to my special place in the quiet of my mind while exerting energy, propelling forward.

The melodious sound of my feet pounding the pavement while my breathing is in rhythm, the sound of birds, the water, fellow runners smiling, and the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. It doesn't get much better than this...or maybe it does. 

I finished this race with a 9 minute pr, 5:44:38. Felt strong and smiling. 

I finished up the weekend with a two mile jog Saturday, 3 mile beach run Sunday before breakfast. 

Hannah and I spent so quality time together. Eating, getting tattooed and just talking. 

We finished off our Sunday spending part of the day with my mom and then ice skating with my cousins. What a fun weekend!


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Another 50k, Spiderwoman, Fraggle Rock, Sugar galore and a 10 year old little girl...,

Well another one is in the books, no tears as of yet. No mourning the run finish. A conversation was had on trail yesterday, I don't even remember with whom, however, a guy who I'd been running with a while said something to the effect that he couldn't wait to finish. I quickly said, I hate the finish. He looked at me like I was in some state of delirium. I explained that I enjoy all the hard miles so much during the training process, I get sad when the finish comes. 

Thankfully this time as I finished yesterday's race, I have other goals, near by and in clear view. Certainly helps my emotional state, well the day is still young so we shall see if I continue without the full on sob of mourning the run.

Yesterday's race was much different. So much has been going on in my life, I started the race alone, finished alone, nothing negative but just a thought. As I was running I was having such a great time, felt free, like a ten year old little girl running through the woods. I braided my hair that morning, so I really did feel like a kid.

 I giggled many times during the day as once I was running by some pine trees with droopy needles, immediately thought of the characters off Fraggle Rock. 

I laughed too as I was getting food from the aid stations. I remembered Ray telling me do not waste space in your stomach with liquid void of calories. So the food and beverage of choice, coke, gummy bears, and Gatorade (with sugar.) I kept my wits about me, brain needs sugar to think and the muscles need glycogen to function. One word: sugar. I may have "ability to think" as a super power. :)

At about mile 22 I caught my second wind. Started going around a few people. A guy way walking, moved over on the trail and said "girl, I guess you caught your second wind." I had. 

I ran, kicked Spiderwoman and Spiderwoman II in the butt, fell twice as it had rained so the trail was slick, laughed a lot, met some really cool people and had several hours of stress relief. 

My phone died somewhere around mile 10, which made me angry at first but then I was relieved because I couldn't be bothered. 

How in the world could putting my body through 31 miles be relaxing? Running is the only time that I am able to focus on the present, live in the moment, that's why. 

Life is so full of what ifs, planning ahead (I'm a schedule junky) and so much grown up issues (thumbs down) that when I can escape to the trail or road for a chunk of time, I can be free, concentrate on nothing but the run and have some natural Xanax. 

Running is my drug of choice, adrenaline, sweet adrenaline, the thrill of the challenge, and showing others that with work anything can be done.

No, running is not for everyone, though would be a shame not to give it a go, but find your own calm. Your natural Xanax.

I find so much peace in the physical, the motion, the taxing of the body, the release. There is great comfort and stillness in motion. 

There are days when I know that if I don't get to run, I will lose my mind, so I find a way to run, whether at night or super early in the morning. Running is my passion, distance, I love, pushing the distance, my goal and chasing the distance...a lifestyle. 

Harbison 50k was the beginning of my quest for ultra glory (joke btw) it was an attempt that I completed. It's the 5k in the ultra world, so of course my quest is to go further (but I'm sure that is evident) how far, I don't know yet. But one thing I can promise myself, I will make sure to have fun, that's the most important thing. 

Life is good. What a way to kick off the New Year, doing what I love best, running. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Three-peat November, gummy bears and loaf bread...13.1, 26.2, 50k...

The joys of running, hundred mile weeks, a gummy bear sandwich, anyone....and a three-peat all in the month of November in 2013.

It goes without saying that running is my most favorite thing to do in the history of ever. Four and a half years ago, on my 36th birthday when I decided that I wanted to add "run a marathon" to my bucket list, little did I know how running would impact my life, aid in my own self discovery, broaden my horizons, help me overcome and deal with many things in my life and become a vital part of my being.  To anyone thinking if starting running, be warned, running will change your life. 

The month of November has always been a favorite month of mine, besides Halloween, Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday of mine. November is always a month filled with races, and extra distance can be gotten in as temperatures are quite nice, another benefit, the beautiful scenery. 

I digress just a tad back to a Friday in November, just a random one I decided to take off work, so I could get in  some extra miles.  So I started out my front door, my usual route, water bottles dropped like Easter eggs along my way, and off I go. Half mile in I notice, a guy running on the opposite side of the road. He asked if he could run with me. I asked him if he was Ray. I responded yes as we had met at the Harbison 50K in January, my first attempt at an ultra, which I completed.  I replied sure. Then he asked how far I was going. I said that I didn't know, I just go on feel, if I feel good? I keep going, feel bad, I loop back home. He said ok and we took off. 23 1/2 miles later, he dropped me at my house and then went on to run back to his house.   Honestly, thought that'd be the only time I'd have the company of Ray while running. 

If you don't know who Ray Krolewicz is, google the name and find out why it was perfect timing, but isn't that just life? Here's a quote from a Kung Fu movie: "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." And so he did. 

So began a fast friendship, coaching advice and guidance toward the pr streak of November and as I was reminded, the month isn't over yet.  

Governors Cup 11/09/13

Couple days before the race, I decided to sign up. Talked to Ray and said I want a pr, asked him would he pace me. He said he'd bandit in a run with me. And so he did. The race was pretty uneventful, felt easy, and I did pr ~ 1:48:15 on a really tough, hilly course. I came in 40th overall, 4th in my age group, all after having run 100 miles during the week where most people taper. 

During the race I commented to Ray that I had just pr'd across the board on the way to a half marathon. I was thrilled. 

The week following, I felt so good, my running continued to get stronger, not being sore and just the love to run, I saw my next carrot. I wanted to go do Charlotte Thunder Road  Marathon. I ran it by Ray as I didn't want to do something stupid before the 50k that was planned for November 23, Mad Marsh. He said if you want to do it, sign up and do it. Well, imagine my dismay when I clicked on register now on the website and "registration closed" popped up. I was crushed. 

Then, I get an email from Ray, he told me what to say in an email to the race director, requesting late registration. I emailed the race director on Wednesday evening. 

I had my fingers crossed, wished on everything I knew I could wish in and sat on the edge of my seat. Thursday morning, went for my run, got home checked my email. I had a response. I was in!!!! 

I booked a hotel, called my friend and Super Sherpa, Laura Howell and asked if she wanted to road trip on Friday after work. She was willing to come along for the ride. 

Charlotte Thunder Road Marathon 11.16.2013 

This would be my third time running the marathon in Charlotte, I ran the half once. I knew the course, knew when to push and I knew it rolled. Hills! Hills! My breakfast daily and my favorite, favorite type course of all time. 

This race to was pretty uneventful (meaning I ran, no stomach issues, never walked a step) the support is fantastic, highly recommended for anyone who has never done it.  Charlotte peeps stop their cars and cheer runners on, they don't try to plow runners over...imagine that.

Finish time; 4:00:39 after another 100 mile week. I finished in the top 1/3 of the race overall, 13th out of 60 in my age group and 70th out of 286 females. 

Recovery run the Sunday after, I felt like I was flying. No soreness and I was so jacked on adrenaline....and looking so forward to the 50k the next weekend. 

Mad Marsh 50k
Beaufort, SC

I had decided I want to hunt down another pr. I'm racing against myself and trying to improve me, not worried about anyone's times. 

I have my Crew chief with me, my seventeen year old daughter, Hannah. We check into our hotel after driving down.  Drive over to packet pick up, map out how far to the race course we are and decide on dinner.  I'm going over our game plan. I have everything mixed up, packed in a cooler and waiting for the next morning.

Ray had said he may come down, may not be at the start but hopefully would be there before the finish. 

Hannah and I had dinner. She said she really wanted to go back to the hotel and just relax and watch movies. Perfect evening for me, and ended up for her.  We were both asleep by 8. 

4:00 comes pretty early. I was relaxed, showered, woke her up and we left. 

It was dark at the start, I had never run in the dark, not on a trail with a flash light. I sat her chair up, made sure she was ok, knew what to do for me and then I hear, hello Pam. It was Ray. He said I'll join you on the last few loops. Introduced him to Hannah, they both photographed the day. 

6:30 start time.

Seven 4.5 mile loops, trail, flat, and hot and humid. Beaufort has no mercy, even in November, Charlotte the week before was 47 degrees and overcast, pretty close to no humidity.  And the governors cup, 30 something, also great running conditions.

So needless to say, it was hot. The loops seemed to fly by, so fast I being so excited about running, feeling like an animal uncaged getting to run, took off. Third loop in, I had only taken in one gel, stupid rookie mistake, due to conditions, hadn't stayed hydrated enough. 

Then Ray stepped in and said he was taking over. I told him I was hungry. He said eat. I had a couple potatoes, no effect. Next loop, and here's where the gummy bear sandwich comes into play. When I came through this time, I couldn't find Hannah, she was there, had not moved, but my brain was gone, lack of what?!?!? Sugar. For whatever reason I can to tolerate peanut butter, makes me throw up, I was on the hunt for just bread, or a plain bagel. Ray found a piece of loaf bread, best thing I ever, just plain old bread. I ate it like it was steak, then some gummy bears. Oh sweet Jesus, who'd ever thought gummy bears and white bread would be race food of choice! On the next loop, which was 23+ I felt better than I had the earlier loops, every loop I was getting stronger at the end. I was given a time limit I had to down these fluids. I was doing it. I had started having chills, no nausea though, so fluids were increased more. 

Then the race turned into a game. Landmarks were being set, people were in front of me, Ray running beside me, singing, talking and challenging me. He said start collecting pink socks. He'd say 5 people ahead, reel em in. On my last loop, I moved up twelve places in the race. I was heading into a pr. Ray would say, there's your next group, close in. Close in and pass. And I did. From miles 23 to 31.5 I felt better than I had during the first half of the race.  And I did just that, I pr'd 

I was so happy, grateful my daughter had been my crew chief, thankful for my end of race pacing from Ray and that he took over nutrition, for me. 

So there was the three-peat. 

Hannah said she had fun, that time went by fast. Ray had given her his camera to use and she photographed mid race set of photos. She has a good eye. 

I drove back home, she slept, she had to work Saturday evening. I wasn't sore, not stiff, just sleepy. 

I went to bed early, so when she came in from work, she came in my room, rubbed my back and asked if I was sick and if I was in pain. I responded that I was just sleepy and that I was fine. She was taking care of her mom.

So now comes Sunday morning...and the waterworks begin. I sat on the side of my bed. Face in my hands, elbows on my knees and sobbed uncontrollably. I knew what this was and had already planned races in the future, but they seemed so far away. I just cried. Post pardum race depression.  I have experienced this before.

My recovery run helped subside it. And again, I'm not sore. There's something magical about 100 mile weeks. But even more magical is the runners high, that feeling of being able to fly...adrenaline, sweet drug of choice. 

Running has changed me forever, makes me a better person. 

This year has been a roller coaster of a ride for me, so what do I do? Lace up my shoes of course and run off the bad and run toward the good. Smile, cry, laugh, and talk it out. 

The good has definitely outweighed the bad, I have my mom, our relationship is stronger than ever. I wouldn't change that for the world.

Life is good, November has been good to me, the road my best friend and finding out just what I'm made of, priceless. And there's still so much to discover about me, after all running is personal to me...

Gummy bear sandwich anyone?

Monday, January 7, 2013

A 50K, someone to prove wrong and a pinky promise that couldn't bemade...

It started out a morning, a cold morning, the moon shining bright. The crisp air was a tad bit too crisp, it was a warm (insert sarcasm) 22 degrees at start time. The sun rose quickly over the park as about 100 people or so were waiting to embark on a journey a lot of us had never conquered, and believe me, it was something to conquer.

Dan, the race coordinator, asked for a show of hands who was running an ultra for the first time, many hands went up, including mine. Surprisingly I was not nervous, I was excited. Excited to begin a new challenge, a new adventure, and to prove someone wrong, my father. In an older post I wrote about our conversation at Christmas where he asked me if I quit during a particular race. My response, (I controlled myself really well because in all honesty I wanted to crawl across the table and punch him) was that I don't quit.

And though, dear god, I wanted to quit so many times during that race, because I was tired, there was no way in hell I would. I had to prove him wrong and I did.

Saturday morning, my mother in law and Nik accompanied me to the race. It was cold as I mentioned before, a bonfire was blazing as we parked and walked to the finish line. The warmth it put off was much appreciated. Familiar faces started to appear, William Schmitz, Greg Howell or Coach G as I refer to him, and Jim Morris. William and Greg were racing, Jim volunteering. My best friend Lori was meeting me at the midway point to run with me through the last half. She and her husband, Greg showed up a couple hours after the start, thank god.

The National Anthem was played by Dan's son, and Slash style rendition on an electric guitar. Though non-traditional, a lump still formed in my throat. The sun was beginning to rise, the darkness to brighten and the cold was lingering. It was almost start time. There was a 10 hour cut off. It was the beginning of a very long, but fantastic day, one that will not be forgotten soon.

As the race began that morning, I could not possibly fathom the events of the day. It was a distance I had never been, and the tale tell wall of mile 20, the taboo of races, will I hit, will I not, stayed in the back of my mind. Then the reality hit that I had about 11-12 miles more to go past that...until I reached that point I couldn't even begin to know what I was up against. Would I be able to run after a certain point, would I be able to walk, would I have to walk to finish, god forbid.

I get my good game smack on the butt from Nik, a kiss and good luck. I get my good game text from Laura. At this point a swell of pride and zap of adrenaline and I headed into the woods, a point of no return until I cross the finish line. No turning back for this girl, I am no quitter.

I had agreed to take my cell phone with me on this run, in order to let Nik know that I was doing ok and the progress through the course. Poor guy, it is torture for him to wait, he is always a bundle of nerves. His mom came with us today, she gave up her whole Saturday as well to wait on me to make a dream of mine come true.

Being new to me, the ultra distance, I was not at all aware of what I was heading into...the abyss. The sun was shining, the course well marked, my feet were ice blocks, my hands were frozen, but I was smiling. Let the adventure begin.

Aid stations were set up roughly every four miles or so, those would be a child's delight! Aid stations in Ultras are so completely different than water stops in other races. Similarly compared to Ironman style set ups, except that there is candy galore, cubed baked potatoes, pb and j sandwiches, soups, chili, cookies, fruit, bowls of salt, salt caps, and ibuprofen, like a dream.

I had on my camelbak, the water was freezing in the tube, if that gives any indication of how cold it was. I had packed my camelbak with some nutrition as I had no idea what my time was going to be like to get to the next stop. Thankfully so, I needed it. The potatoes rolled in salt were my saving grace along with the oranges and bananas. At one stop I had a pb and j, bad decision, I started to burp it up. That subsided soon enough, then stomach issue began and feeling crampy. That's when I started eating potatoes and salt. The stomach issue subsided, as well as the pending feeling of cramps. All I'm going to say is thank god for baby wipes, and that I was insistent upon taking them along in my pack.

The course out into the forest was beautiful. This particular course was a double loop, so I knew what to expect having been out here before but, not for two loops. The first half though it was slow was the relaxing part. I felt pretty good, I was about 5 miles in before I could feel my feet. My hands never warmed up. I didn't fall, climbed over trees that were down in the path, jumped across streams, sludge pits is more like it, and felt alive. My ankles and knees started to hurt and ironically it hurt worse to walk than to run.

Calling Nik every time I got to an aid station, was comforting for the both of us. Seeing a familiar face at the one aid station was comforting and at one point he, Jim, handed me a paper towel to wipe my runny nose. He sympathized with me when I said to him that this whole thing sucks, it's harder than the half-ironman that I did. When I got back to the 16 miles start of the second loop, Nik, Greg Tucker and Lori were waiting on me. Lori had agreed to do the second loop with me, I was so happy to see her. I had been running by myself for a great deal of the race, talk about mentally taxing, dead silence. Self doubt had been creeping in at that point but I could not quit dammit, my father could not be right. I had to finish, run, walk or crawl, I had to finish.

As we start back into the woods, the second time, I was so happy to have company, someone to talk to, someone so that I wasn't alone. We joked about feeling like we were the lone survivors of the apocalypse. Running from Zombies, in those woods, not place to go except around the trails, back and forth and over rocks and proving to myself that I can go further than a marathon distance.

When we got back to the same aid staton where I had just picked Lori up from, we both ate. We were at mile 20, the dreaded mile 20 in a marathon, the wall. In a marathon I'm always thinking to myself "yahoo, I made it to 20 and screw you wall I'm not hitting you today!" However in an ultra, there's more than a 10k left, like in the marathon, there's almost two 10k, a little shy of another half marathon. Unimaginable or so I thought, and admittedly I wanted to quit. I feet hurt, my tendons hurt, my knees sounded like rice crispy treats, I was cold, I was tired, but I was not, I repeat, not tired of running. I was just exhausted.

Lori and I got back to the dreaded Spider Woman trails 1&2, to me those are the toughest ones out there and I had to do them twice. Most of it was walked but I don't care in the least, technically it is hard. Seriously I'm going to set up a field trip so people can see what all of us spent our Saturday running on, it makes Sesquicentennial Park look like you're running on the sidewalk.

I remember telling Lori once when we were maybe 27 miles or so in, that I'm doing it, I have passed the marathon distance. I realized it was possible for me. We got to an aid station, 3 and 1/2 more miles. A guy on the course who had nothing to do with the race was a total ass. He spoke and said boy you still have a long way to go. He was on his bike and had I the energy at that point, I would have pushed him off the cliff. There's always got to be that one asshat. Moving on, I called Nik to let him know I had 3 and 1/2 miles left. He was surprised with how good I sounded and it wasn't an act. I was really ok, excited to be finishing soon and impressed that I could still run. I also told him that if he had to leave to go that I understood. Saturday night, there were fights at the Township. Many of the guys from our gym were fighting and he was cornering them so he had to go to the pre-fight meetings and such so there was a good chance he wouldn't see me finish. I knew he was leaving at 3:30. I tried my best to make it in that time. Needless to say, he didn't see me finish.

We round the corner, one uphill, two more lefts and then the finish line. The second left came and in the distance I could see two people standing there, it was Jim and Laura. I had four friends run me in that day. I asked Laura how much further, she said through those trees, there's the clearing and the finish. So I ran, Lori ran, Laura and Jim ran. I could see it, there it was plain as day, the finish, or should I say the "FiN" and a long line spray painted on the ground. I see it, the open field, no more trees, no more, trails to stay on, the end. A smile started to creep onto my lips, a full toothy grin that I somehow mustered up.

I had done it, I had proved him wrong, I finished, I finished it all. Before even getting my medal, I took my phone off my arm and called Nik. I said I'm done. I had finished at 3:31. I missed him by a minute.

I looked at William, Greg, Laura, Lori and Jim and said if I ever say I'm doing another ultra, please remind me of today, 1/5/13. I used a very bad expletive and said (insert really bad f word here) Ultras!

That was the hardest thing I've ever done to date. I hurt, a lot. My knees and ankles hurt. I was thirsty. I was exhausted but I was elated. I was greeted by the most welcoming, supportive group of people I know. I was adrenalin charged. I was thinking how disappointed I would have been had I given at the half way point. I would have been crushed.

I remember Lori telling me that several people did in fact quit at the half way point, she had witnessed it while she was waiting on me at the second loop. That day, Lori took my hand to help me over a log as I groaned. She said to me, " you know I love you, I would never do this for anyone else." As I type this, I'm tearing up because I know exactly what she meant. She put herself out there for me, risked hurting herself, as it is dangerous out there, to help me achieve my dream of running an ultra. She wouldn't even cross the finish line, she stepped off and stood by her husband as I finished. Greg said now there's your best friend, to come out here and do this with you. I agree whole heatedly.

On that day, Saturday, January 5, 2013, through those woods and every pain I had, I felt more alive and at peace than I had for months. Every time I venture out to do something new, to reach the new goal, chasing the next high, I learn more about myself than I knew before. The journey truly is the reward.

That night I went to the fight. I managed to shower and eat and even dry my hair and put on makeup. I was going to support the husband who always supports me. Thankfully our friends, Mark and Bre, were going to the fight and offered me a ride. All our fighters won. It was a great Saturday for both of us.

Sunday when Nik and I were standing in the kitchen, he asked me to pinky promise, no more ultras. I laughed, he said seriously pinky promise. Those are serious and cannot be broken. So, I would not pinky promise. He laughs and said, "I knew it, you adrenaline junky." He then said at least no craziness for a while.

We had a celebratory meal at Arizona Steakhouse on Sunday evening. During the meal we talked about how our Saturday had gone. During the conversation, I said I needed those toasty hands glove inserts for when I do it next year.

Less than twenty-four hours after the ultra, I knew I would be revisiting it again. It was another incredible moment in my life.

I had the greatest people in the world to share it with. When I showed up at the fight, congratulations from all our other friends were offered up. One guy came over to say he thought Nik had made a typo on his Facebook status about my 50k. He apologized and said that is insane.

I agree, it is insane. I am thankful my body held up, she's pretty amazing but what got me through that day was grit, heart and support of those around me.

I found the following quote on the Internet and it is so true. I learned what I was made of and what I am not...a quitter.

I made Nik promise me that if I ever told him I wanted to quit a race, to make me finish unless I was physically injured, like something broken and not just my spirit. He swore to me he will. Man, I love that guy.

"Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense.

The ultra runners know this instinctively. And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being -- a call that asks who they are ..."
- David Blaikie

Just one more thing...dream big, set sights high...anything is possible, you just have to want it and be willing to put in the time and effort.

Saturday, December 29, 2012


Just one day after the year in review, an amendment needs to be made. There has been a bit of a disappointment that has come my way, via telephone and though I was just about on Cloud 9 with how things are progressing in my life, (insert screeching tires here), I believe I see a pattern starting to develop.

I digress. As many of you who have read this blog over the years, relationships with my family have not always been the greatest and I'm sure that by posting this blog, I will be stepping on some toes. Solution for that is maybe they shouldn't read my blog.

I was in therapy and when I discussed some issues with my therapist she said , it's your abuse, how you remember it, how things happened to you and nobody else. That being said this is my side of the story, take it or leave it and it is not up for discussion. I'm willing to bet that I have at least one person who can vouch for me too, so the disclaimer has been interjected.

As i expressed before in the previous blog, I have been working on my relationship with my daddy. I also made mention of his animal farm, better described as a hoard. The reason we had stopped communication the last time was every time I went to visit he wanted me to bring a truck load of hay to him which he was supposed to reimburse me for but that never happened. Goff Feed and Seed is located up the street from my house so at first it was not a big deal as I would go visit and drop the load except for the problem of not being reimbursed for the purchase of the hay.

I said all that to say this, today I was running with my friend Jeremy. Anybody who knows me knew where I was so when my phone kept ringing I stopped to check it. It was Daddy. He didn't leave a message so after I finished my run, thawed from the cold and started making my way to do some errands I needed to do, I called him back. First time, no answer so I thought maybe he was just seeing if we were coming for a visit. I keep my phone on vibrate most of the time, so when he called back, I didn't hear it go off. So I returned his call again, phone tag at its finest.

When I finally got him on the phone, he told me that he was looking for the number to Goff Feed and Seed, that he had misplaced it, but that he had found it. Any way the next statement was that hay is $7.50 a bale and that he would have to save up to get enough money to buy what he needed for his animals. Red flag went up. He didn't ask me to pick it up for him yet, but I'm sure it's coming. I refuse this time. I will not be used, it doesn't make me happy.

I have come to the sad conclusion that relationships come with a price. What I don't understand is that I guess I expect too much from people. I didn't think we would be going down this same road again and I can promise you there is a way off this road.

Why can't people just be a part of my life, to be just that, a part of my life, not to want monetary things from me. All I want is a small portion of his time, some interest in what's going on in my life. I was a daddy's girl growing up. I am truly at a loss.