Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Life keeps me humble

I usually get a pretty strong finish line high after a big race and start feeling like I'm super special and awesome. This week has reminded me that I'm actually weak and pathetic.

Exhibit One: 30 minutes of Jillian Michaels completely kicked my ass.

I know I already said this but it continues happening, so I need to continue talking about it. I did the workout Saturday, and I could still barely move on Monday. Like.....everything hurt. In comparison, after Stone Mill, I was walking around and even sitting down Monday like nothing happened.

Exhibit Two: I don't get ID'd anymore

The broomball season is 6 games, and last night was our fifth. We finally scored our first goal, and proudly ended the game in a tie! We are now at zero wins, 3 losses, and TWO TIES. 

Of course, we went out after to celebrate.

Team Orange. We were never given a name.
I was feeling pretty cool, heading out on a Monday night at 9pm, even if I was going to just get water. Until we approached the bouncer and he said "I was going to ask for ID, but then I saw you guys." Ok. Message received, bouncer.

Exhibit Three: I've grown into a soft, wussy Marylander.

I grew up in the tundra of Rochester, NY, where people don't even blink or turn on the news to check for cancellations after getting a foot and a half of snow overnight. This post by Holly has some fun facts about how truly terrible winters are there, if you care. In Baltimore, temperatures in the low 30s and flakes is enough to shut the whole city down.

Well, now I'm right there with them. When I left work today it was 35 and raining. I had stupidly worn flats that might as well have been made of cardboard, and forgot my gloves that morning. 

I thought I was going to die.

The second I got home, I cranked the heat, threw a mug of water in the microwave for tea, and turned on the hot water in the bathtub. I tried to put my feet in, hoping to regain feeling, but they were so cold that it hurt. 

Can you see how white my toes are?

Now I'm still in flannel PJS, a robe, and a heavy blanket and shivering.

Exhibit Four: Running is still hard.

After a full week (8 days, in all honesty) off, I returned to running. Even though the temperature never left the 20s yesterday, I braved the cold to run outdoors after work. Since we had broomball (aka 40 minutes in an ice rink) anyway, I figured I might as well get cold ahead of time.

I did 5 miles, and it wasn't bad, but I never really seemed to warm up until I was almost done. This morning, I cried uncle and ran another 5 on the treadmill. Running outside in the cold is bad enough, trying to leave a warm bed to do it....well, I have the treadmill now, so it's an unnecessary evil! 5 miles felt...tiring. More than I thought it should have. But at least I'm back in action! I'm trying to psych myself up for more Jillian - so far it hasn't happened.

What's recently knocked you down a peg or two?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A weekend of young adult bliss but not in the creepy way

Last weekend, I had a glorious experience running all day Saturday through the mud and woods. While it was great, I've really enjoyed spending some time on the opposite side of the spectrum. I've had a weekend filled with young adult novel heaven, paired with pure laziness.

First up: Catching Fire. My friends and I declared ourselves too old for Thursday night midnight shows, so we went at 7pm Friday. I was counting down the hours from the time I woke up.

As I'm sure most readers already know, this movie was epic. Probably even better than the first one. I couldn't stop mentally obsessing over how amazing it was all weekend. The only things that kept me from seeing it Saturday and Sunday as well were the horrible weather, and important plans to watch other YA movies.

Let's talk fashion. It's an area I don't generally delve into on this blog, but I feel Friday night I really nailed it.

Shirt: Bake bread with Peeta, Skinny Dip with Finnick (with golden Trident)
Socks: Flames and mockingjays, made for children (probably), cut off my circulation but it was worth it
Headband: Mockingjay symbols
Hair: French braided
Bag: Big enough to sneak in a Wegmans sub, soda, and candy to the movie theater (the odds were in my favor)
Tights and shorts: Champion by Target, circa 2006

On Saturday, it was time for part 2 of my BFF Twilight sleepover. We used to be able to knock it out in one fell swoop, but that was when there were fewer movies and we could stay up past 11pm. I was concerned that when viewed within 24 hours of the amazing performances in Hunger Games, the Twilight acting/plotline would appear even more terrible than usual. I was right. Does Kristen Stewart ever have ANY expression that isn't "tortured"?

Like everything, the viewing experience was improved with girltalk, wine, and chocolate.

Seven layer Samoa bars. Basically, Samoas chopped up into small pieces and then baked into a giant Samoa.

Terrible picture, but I was really busy eating and watching vampires.
To complete the weekend, I finished Allegiant (the last of the Divergent trilogy). I'm hesitant to say this, because it seems to be at odds with internet opinion, but I didn't completely hate it. I don't want to get into a whole discussion of a book like 20% of my readers have read, but I would like that 20% to all email or tweet me so we can discuss it in detail. Particularly if you've read the Maze Runner series so we can get into parallels.

Here's some things that confused me this weekend.

1.  I got home from the movies at midnight Friday night and it was 60 degrees out. I woke up Sunday morning and it was 16 feels like 11. WTF mother nature?

2. I did 30 minutes of Jillian Michael's No More Trouble Zones Saturday. Guess which left me more sore on Sunday - that or running 50 miles last weekend? In all fairness, the fact that French braiding my hair felt like an upper body workout Friday night probably should have clued me in to my pathetic lack of arm strength.

While last weekend's race did leave with a bit of a runner's high and wanting to run ALL THE MILES, I can't say I haven't enjoyed this fat drunk week off. Who wouldn't enjoy a week where every single morning includes an extra hour + of sleep? I did run a mile before the movie Friday, and play 3 quarters (27 minutes) of broomball Thursday. Just saying.

Did you see Catching Fire/read Allegiant and if so can we discuss it? If not....just tell me about the last chocolate you ate. Actually just do yourself a favor and introduce yourself to those things.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Finally, everyone is safely in their 30s

I'll probably end up doing another 50 mile race, just because this week got busy so I didn't have much time to write a detailed account of my pre-race activities and immense suffering post race. Monday, I had to attend a meeting on running apparel (ok, that was actually awesome), Wednesday is my grad class (really, really not awesome) and Thursday I have reading night AND broomball. 

Clearly, Tuesday night was the only time I had available to do my important preparation for this weekend.

Pretty sure I'll never make it through the reaping without ugly-crying.
My coworker seemed really disappointed when she asked what I was going to eat the day before my big race and I was just like "uh, you know...the usual...basically the same stuff I would eat on any given day". But when you really love to eat carbs, it's really not necessary to "carb load". Alternately, you could say that I am carb-loading every day.

Pre-race, I had a meal many questioned, but I felt confident about. Pad Thai. It served me well.

It was actually an important dinner. My final BFF joined the rest of us in this glorious new decade (30s). I can finally officially declare that everyone in their 20s is dead to me now.

FYI, I enjoyed the crap out of the frosting on the top left for dessert.
I've already been here for 5 months, so finally I can stop cursing her out of jealousy. It's crazy though, because it feels like yesterday that I was pitying her for having months to wait while confidently handing over my legit over-21 ID. 

I did abstain from alcohol, but that was mainly because I had a 40 minute drive after dinner. Had I known I was going to drink during the race, I probably would have had some wine to relax at the hotel!

The night after the race, I really couldn't sleep because my legs were throbbing and no position seemed comfortable. Sunday morning, just walking to the bathroom took forever and seemed to require nearly the same level of effort as running the entire race itself.

However, once I left the hotel, I got an amazing bagel and made an important discovery: I was just a few miles from the newest Wegmans in Maryland. Clearly I went, and even better, they were doing all sorts of cheese samples. It was pretty close to heaven.

Walking all around Wegmans seemed to help. When I got home, I did some cooking to prepare for the week, and then walked two miles on the treadmill and foam rolled. I think resisting all my natural urges to spend the day glued to the couch really helped, because I slept great Sunday night and was walking completely normally Monday (even up and down stairs). I could barely even tell I ran a race at all!

The only issue is that my left ankle is being weird. It's really....tight...or something. It's not painful, but I feel the tightness when I try to flex my foot or curl my toes (but not when I put weight on it).

The trouble spot is under my thumb in case any doctors are reading.
It's not that big a deal, because I had originally planned to take a full week off running after the race (broomball excluded), no matter what. I didn't stick to that the last two years and I don't feel it was beneficial (and I'm positive it led to bronchitis in 2011). It probably isn't strictly necessary, but the worst case scenario is that I get some extra sleep and have time to watch The Hunger Games plus all the Catching Fire previews.

The weird part is that this is my left ankle. I rolled my right ankle twice during the race, really badly. I know I have the world's lowest pain tolerance but I was biting my hand and seriously struggling both times. Of course, that ankle has felt fine since the race. 

Internet friends, please diagnose me. Ashley has already declared tendonitis, and the definition she sent me sounds pretty accurate. I'm RICE-ing as much as possible! 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Stone Mile 50, 2013 retribution edition

I'm pleased to report that I did not die in the woods when the Stone Mill 50 became a surprise Stone Mill 77 or something like that. The race ended up being about 51.5 miles (by our estimate) and I successfully crossed the finish line after just 11 hours and 35 minutes. That's nearly a 3 hour course PR! If more races could cut down the distance by 5 miles year to year, I'd be PRing all over the place.

Friday night, I arrived at the fabulous and extremely classy Hilton to join Kara around 9:30pm. We were pretty much in full race panic mode and frantically debated outfits, counted Gu packets, and discussed bathroom logistics that are normally completely taboo at slumber parties. A Full House marathon in the background kept us sane - if we started to get too anxious, we just paused for an Uncle Jesse eye candy break. 

I was shocked to see my name and a race logo on my bib and a timing chip. Stone Mill had really fancied things up since 2011!

I think we settled down and went to bed between 10:30 and 11. Although I was pretty nervous about the race, I took some melatonin and slept great. 

Being a ten minute drive from the race start meant we got to sleep in until 4:30 am (last time I had to wake up at 3:20!). That's still pretty early and I was groggy and questioning my life choices, as always. I stumbled to the bathroom to brush my teeth, and found my mouth unexpectedly filled with nasty fake bubblegum flavor that was disgustingly sickly sweet. Apparently I had grabbed the wrong toothpaste.

Hazards of waking up with a #motherrunner.
After that I was wide awake. We headed over to the high school where the race begins. About halfway there, Kara realized she'd left her carefully packed drop bag at the hotel. The race began at 6am, and it was already 5:30, so that meant she was pretty much screwed, since her headlamp was in there.

Since it was so late, we had to park half a mile away, and predicted that was really going to suck after the race. We were right. The good news was by the time we used the (heated!) bathroom, it was 5:56 and we didn't have any time to freak out, fake a pulled hamstring and and spend the day in the hotel hot tub. We walked up to the start and checked in at about 5:59. With no formal command, the race just began when everyone moved through the start line.

If I had seen this crazy eye picture before the race, I'm pretty sure I would have DNS'd.
As you can see in the picture, the race begins in complete darkness. According to an email we received, lights wouldn't be necessary due to the nearly full moon, but I did not find that to be the case. The last time I ran this race, it was my first 50 and I had packed everything I could ever possibly want 3 days ahead of time, made color coded google documents, and was really on the ball.

This time, it hadn't even occurred to me to pack a light, and if Perry hadn't mentioned it in a Friday morning email, I wouldn't have brought them at all. Which is surprising, considering I am still mentally scarred from the horror of running for 3 hours in the dark last time. 

The race starts around the school, then goes down the steepest hill I have ever run (seriously, this is not 50 miler distortion, it's insane, and the race finishes by going right back up it). Since it's 6am, everything is coated with a nice slippery layer of dew. After the hill, it's single track trail, and instead of wet grass, it's wet leaves, which cover pointy roots and jutting rocks. Did I mention it was pitch black, which quickly turned into that grey twilight that is possibly even more difficult to see in?

I had thrown my knuckle lights and headlamp in my suitcase at the last minute, but I hadn't bothered to check the batteries. I gave my headlamp to Kara, but it seems she considered going from her expensive Petzl to my $9 Walmart headlamp a bit of a downgrade, and was dissatisfied with the quality. My batteries were nearly dead, so we were pretty close to running blind.

Things quickly got even more fun. Apparently, we were starting on an out and back (I guess I could have checked the course map a little more diligently). Through a swamp. So while we were navigating thick, slick mud, runners started returning on the single track trail (aka super narrow path), blinding us with their working lights and fresh batteries. 

Annoying as it was this out and back allowed the race to skip the waist high stream crossing at mile 47, and allowed the course to be actually 51 miles, so I wasn't too mad. I knew from before that the race sort of sucked before there was daylight. I was expending 99% of my mental energy on trying not to fall and slice my skull open on rocks, and trying really hard to hold out for sunrise. The other 1% of my energy was panicking about having no lights at the end of the race, when it was also be pitch black, and I'd be tired and delusional.

 As predicted, once the sun came out, my spirits were high, and I started to enjoy the race. While I have bad mouthed Stone Mill for the extra distance, it's really a well organized race and the volunteers are just absolutely phenomenal. For the most part, the trails are really runnable and easy to follow. It's no frills - you pay your $35, show up, run, go home - no medal or tshirt.

I don't need to pay for fancy signs!
Mile 1-20ish were good times all around. I didn't bother to wear my Garmin, thinking it didn't have a long enough battery life. Turns out, everyone else's lasted until the finish, but I didn't regret my decision. I love trail running because you can just zone out and not obsess over numbers, and get all zen with the trees or whatever. I wore a regular wrist watch, and every time I looked it, I was pleasantly surprised with how long we had been running.
I was even still able to smile for the photographer!
Don't worry, he still caught one of my usual horrible form and DERP? face
Somewhere in there we met up with our friends Perry and Crystal, and the four of us chatted and were having a grand old time. Around 2 hours in, it was time for a bathroom break, but there was really no tree cover in the woods. So we opted for the obvious second choice.

Stone Mill is a hardcore, trail ultra. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Kara was really concerned they wouldn't want muddy, non paying randoms using their bathrooms, but I assured her that during my 6 years as a partner (fancy Starbucks terminology for "employee"), we let anyone and everyone (including much dirtier people) use the bathroom. Additionally, I'm quite sure I've spent more than enough money there to warrant unlimited bathroom use for life.

To keep it classy, I used the men's room to save time. If we had to take turns, our finish could have been like 11:38 instead of 11:35, and you can see how disastrous that would have been.

We were really concerned about mile 20, since that was a low point for both of us when we ran JFK. We agreed to treat ourselves to some Christmas music from Pandora as a pick me up then, but we never needed it. Mile 25 is the "Penny Loch" aid station (you know when they have names, they are going to be extra special and not just have pretzels, like some of the smaller ones). There were a ton of delicious looking homemade treats (including pizza?!). 

I know I had a lot of good stuff there (turned out to be too much, oops, but it was the last time I made that mistake), but what stood out was this unbelievably delicious homemade coconut macaroon. I said before that what sucked me back into this race was the food - so many volunteers take the time to bake special treats, and they are truly talented.

Do you see that grill? They were making fresh hot grilled cheeses! (I did not partake out of fear of GI distress).

After that, you get about 3 miles on the C&O canal (a flat, crushed rock path). It can be boring (it got a little monotonous during JFK, where you are on it for 27 miles!), but it's a really nice change from the rolling hills, having to constantly stare at your feet, and being on your guard to avoid falling. Just like in 2011, I thought I'd love this portion, but I actually hated it and couldn't wait to get back on the trails. I think I got to reliant on my walk breaks on the hills!

Conventional running wisdom promotes negative splits (running the second half faster than the first), but I've come to learn that for me, in an ultra, that's just not the way to go. There's basically no chance that I'm going to great and ready to push the pace at mile 40, so I need to run strong where I can, and that's generally the beginning. Our friend seemed surprised that we didn't have specific pace goals, but ultras have such varied terrain and they are just SO LONG that it's impossible (for me) to plan paces ahead of time. I think we've gotten pretty good at running by feel - pushing it when we feel good, and dialing it back when we need to, and other than forgetting to change my batteries, I think I ran this race to the best of my abilities.

Kara and I each took a picture of the woods at completely different parts of the race. I think it's safe to say that these give you a pretty good view of almost the entire course.

We stared at leaves for nearly 12 hours.
Sometimes we got breaks. To climb over rocks. Under overpasses. This was somewhere in the high 40 miles, so you can imagine how fun that was.

This was my actual view. I can't complain.
Somewhere in the 20s (I think?) we got to see the actual Stone Mill. 

So impressive, RIGHT?

Perry had pointed out that miles 30-40 were really the challenge of a 50 mile race, and as soon as he said it, I knew he was right. At mile 30, you're exhausted because you've run really, really far, and you still have a long ass way to go. Plus, there's that feeling of "would it really be so bad to quit now? I could still say I've ran 30 miles, and that's really nothing to sneeze at". By mile 40, you usually experience that mental turnaround from "eh, if I quit it wouldn't be so bad" to "I've come this far, I'm crossing that finish line if it kills me!", and you get the mental boost of having only single digits left.

So far, I'd managed to avoid that complete and utter depths of despair, I can't do this, I hate everything and everyone feeling that had plagued me in the early 20 miles of Stone Mill 2011. I knew if I could get through the 30s without them, I'd be golden. 

I did, and I was. I'd like to attribute this to working really hard lately on my positive attitude (I've been writing my 30 days of thankful items in my notebook every night and everything!). But that would be a lie. Here's the real secret behind my success.

Yup. This happened.
Drinking and running. I recommend it.
They had Jim Beam last time, and I didn't have any, and I have always wondered about what could have been. I skipped the liquor at mile 25, on account of things like being scared of throwing months of training into the crapper, imminent death or dismemberment as a result of drunk trail running, GI distress, wasting precious running time boozing it up, etc, etc. 

But at mile 29, with those Debbie Downer 30-40 miles looming, it was make or break time. I went for it, and luckily Perry joined me so I didn't have to drink alone. I mixed it with coke, if you were wondering. 

Kara informed that if I became drunk and lazy she'd drop me like a bad habit, so the next few miles were pretty much like when you have too much at happy hour and then a coworker you barely know shows up and in your head you're all like "just sound sober. Did that sound sober? Is that what a sober person would say?". I assured her that I only poured like a teaspoon in my coke. I'm pretty sure that was true, but after running for the entire morning and part of the afternoon, I could certainly feel that teaspoon.

I stand by my choice though, because from what I could tell, of the two of us, the one who had imbibed was in much better spirits.

I honestly wasn't that concerned about time, since I was pretty much assured of a PR. I was, however, extremely concerned about minimizing the time spent running in the dark as much as humanly possible. Although I didn't seem to have any memories whatsoever of the race course, I quite vividly remembered the terror of the woods at night. Aside from the drinking, I felt good about our time at aid stations, we were grabbing food and walking off pretty quickly, as per our plan. I couldn't stop comparing the various miles and times to my previous experience, and since the current one was coming out favorably in every way possible, that was really a pick me up.

For example, we reached mile 25 exactly at 5 hours in. I know before we were at something like mile 23 at the six and a half hour point, because I remember thinking "well we're effing screwed here". I was constantly calculating how many more hours of daylight we had and praying we could finish before the sun set.

There was a big aid station at mile 43. Other runners really saved our lives here. Crystal had an extra headlamp in her bag (they were ahead of us at this point, but she'd given Kara permission to take it). I was so panicked about my batteries that I would have stopped at a gas station and bought them if I had brought money with me. Crystal had 3 batteries in her bag, which I took, and an aid station volunteer gave me a fourth from his own personal headlamp! A second volunteer held all my crap and helped me switch out the batteries, and I felt like a HUGE weight had been lifted. I can't say enough how amazing everyone at this race was.

I still had high hopes of finishing in the light. The volunteers told us there was another aid station in 5 miles, and then 2 more miles until the finish. We had over an hour and a half to cover only 7 miles! 

They did it again though. After 5 miles, we reached an aid station....only to be told we were at mile 47. At, this point I could barely put together a cohesive sentence or state my own name, but I'd had quite awhile in the woods to crunch the numbers, and I was pretty positive that 43 + 5 = mile 48, not 47.

Here you can kind of tell our intellectual level in the later miles. 

This triggered intense, frightening flashbacks of the never-ending race of 2011, and I started interrogating the volunteers.

"How many more miles?"
"Just 3 and some change"
"ARE YOU SURE IT'S 3?? And what does "some change" mean?"
"It will feel like a long 3!"
"I don't care what it feels like....BUT IS IT REALLY 3? OR IS IT 6??"

They swore it was really 3 but I didn't believe anything anymore and it was nearly sunset. 

If you have never run in the woods, in the dark, all I can say is that it's a truly special experience. Even though we didn't achieve my goal of finishing in daylight, I was kind of glad Kara got to find out just how much pure hell it is. When I thought we had maybe 2 miles left, I made sure to point out "now imagine finding out you have 8 MORE MILES". Our new lights really helped out, but it's still really disheartening and scary to have no idea where you are, how many more miles there are to go, and to run for miles without seeing one single other human being. It's one thing to be at the end of a race and know you just have to push through for x more miles or minutes, but it's quite another to have run 48 miles and have NO CLUE when the hell this thing is ending. We were near a road, and the trail kept turning toward it, and we'd be like "finally!" and then the trail would wind again and we would be headed away.

Finally, though, we could hear the finish line cheers getting louder, and the lights kept getting closer, and we exited the woods on the road near the school. They have one last cruel little joke, and put you back in the woods when you can see the school, just so you can go through the woods and up that horrific hill to the finish.

I'll definitely be framing these.
We took some gorgeous pictures, then got the hell out of dodge. And by that I mean baby stepped like old ladies toward the car while talking nonsense because we could no longer do anything remotely close to thinking.

That was long ass recap for a long ass race, and I still feel like I left stuff out (the 900 stream crossings, for one). More importantly, I still haven't had a thin mint brownie. (Kara's hypothesis was that they weren't appealing since 90% of our diet yesterday was candy, cookies, and soda). You'll all just have to wait in suspense for tales of our fantastic post race celebration.

Edited to add: I had a bite of bacon at one of the aid stations!

Edited again (I'm tired) - if this wasn't enough information for you and you're dying to know more, check out Kara's recap!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Random stories that prove I'm old

I am a little concerned about Saturday. This week, I got hit again with my greatest fear - the dreaded middle of the night calf cramp. I reread my old post about them. I wrote it after ten whole years cramp free, and hoped I'd go another ten. That was only last year, so is this what I'm destined to endure in my 30s? I've been chugging water and eating bananas liberally, so I see no reason why my body subjected me to this.

I'm leaving for my race directly after work tomorrow. Around the time I was falling asleep Wednesday night, it occurred to me that meant I needed to get my ducks in a row and be completely prepared before I go to sleep Thursday.

As always, I prioritized. I came home from work and immediately got to work on this masterpiece.

I better be enjoying these Saturday night

I forced myself to part with some so Eric could enjoy them too.
Then I packed. By packed I mean threw everything I've ever owned in my suitcase. Except various running outfits. I am fully committed to shorts and there's no going back.
I'm sure I've already posted enough on race nerves, so here's some random stuff on my mind. It's Thursday, after all.
Saturday night, in Richmond, my besties and I were celebrating our final round of 30th birthdays (we have 2 in June and 2 in the fall). We were rocking out at the club with all the young kids (we kept meeting people born in 1991 - what the heck?!). Some current song came on with the line "here we are now, entertain us". I became consumed with rage and rounded up my friends and demanded we all leave immediately because none of these damn young whippersnappers around us would even know what that line was referencing. (They obviously were in complete agreement).
I heard the song on the radio the other day and thanks to Shazam, I know now what it is, and it's not even terrible. I sure hope you had permission from the Cobains, JT.

I love my husband, but he's a psychopath. I can only wake him up by shaking his foot and even then, I have to immediately move out of range because he always assumes the zombie apocalypse is finally upon us and it's time to KILL ALL THE THINGS. I was in a hurry to get to work this morning and forgot. I paid for it, but at least autocorrect made it funny. 

It was supposed to say "just".

I decided it was time, and I've been so happy that I made the plunge.

There's less than a month between Thanksgiv-nnukah and Christmas this year, and that's just not enough time for me to soak in all the wonderful music.
The forecast for Saturday is making me really happy. I don't think I could ask for better 50 miler weather.

This. How can you not love this? How can someone so sad look so cute?
That's actually how I feel about snow, too.
When do you start listening to Christmas music?
What habit does your significant other have that makes you positive they have one or two screws lose?



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

50 miler goals: 3rd time's the charm

I was doing so good, getting back on track with morning runs. Then today, I slept right through my alarm, which is unheard of for me. It was ok though, because I woke up too late to run, but earlier than I needed to for work. So I got to roll back over and enjoy the that magic extra gift of sleep that is usually only experienced on snow days.

Courtesy of anonymous stepfather
 I had planned to take my rest day tomorrow, not today, so naturally I'm panicking and if everything goes to hell during my race, I'll blame this.

Some people have asked if I'm ready for my race. It's my third 50 miler, and my second time running this particular race. I don't really know if I'm ready or not, other than the fact that I still have to bake my thin mint brownies tomorrow.

I'm not really thrilled with my training. I don't feel like it was terrible, but it could have been better. I got stressed quite a bit during this training cycle, over things that are really no big deal in the grand scheme of life. Usually I deal with stress by running, so it's not a problem, so I'm not sure why this fall I went with the alternate plan of eating M&Ms on the couch.

The race route is on trails for 47 of the 50 miles, so I also wish I'd gotten in more trail runs. They take more time, but I could have swung it.

What's done is done, and I did keep my mileage over 50 most weeks, and get in three 26+ mile long runs (two on trails!). So there's that.

Since Kara said I couldn't have my own hotel room key just in case I DNF'd, I might as well lay out my race goals.

1. Finish in under 12 hours.

My last time at Stone Mill was 14 hours, 26 minutes. This race should be about 5 miles shorter, and both of our 26 mile trail runs took around 5.5 hours so....12 seems like a nice round number to shoot for. Math be hard.

11 hours would really be awesome, because that would mean finishing in day light.

2. This isn't my first time at the rodeo, so don't act like it.

In my first 50 miler, I was terrified of becoming dehydrated, underfueled, and going out too fast. I too things really cautiously in the beginning. Nothing wrong with that, but I'm no newbie anymore, so I don't need to be stuffing my face, drowning my pack, and stopping to pee every hour. I also don't need to take it super easy on the pace in the first half. I'm not saying that I need to start like a bat out of hell, but I want to push myself a bit (once the sun comes out, anyway!).

3. The aid stations are not all you can eat buffets, happy hours, or break times.

I wasted so much time at the aid stations in my first few ultras. One of the main reasons I signed up for Stone Mill again was that it was probably in my top three races for food quality. It's easy to take my sweet ass time just perusing my options, and then trying every treat on the table. I plan to focus on grabbing something quickly, and eating as I walk away. Unless I need to fill my pack, no stopping.

4. Use emotions to my benefit.

No crying. I have a 100% success record on this so far, and I'd like to keep it that way. I have an excellent track record for fueling myself with anger to get through low points in ultras, and I've been storing up fury since before I even signed up for this race.

5. Finally be able to celebrate after the race.

The first time I ran Stone Mill, we had big hopes of a celebratory dinner after crossing the finish line, but with those extra five miles, we ran right through dinner time.
After my second 50 mile race, I nearly fell asleep in the shower and just went directly to bed after, unable to stomach the thought of dinner (much less wine and dessert).
I'm hoping the third time is the charm. Kara and I are staying only about 2 miles away from the race, so I am entertaining visions of wine in the hot tub, a delicious dinner (TBD), stuffing my face with thin mint brownies in bed, and then actually getting a good night's sleep (not laying awake because my legs hurt).

We need topics to discuss on our glorious day in the woods! We've already covered the usual - college stories, ex boyfriends, etc.

What completely non-productive, detrimental means do you use to deal with stress? Nothing healthy, please. I need to feel better about myself.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I moonlight as a bank robber

My first girls weekend this month was a roaring success. I'll take that to mean that this coming girls weekend/50 mile race will follow suit.

I didn't think things could get better than having a full 24 hours with my besties, but somehow they did. I got this delivery in my classroom Friday morning.

Why, yes, I did just post a hilarious article mocking people who post annoying braggy flower shots from their husbands.
 In the words of one of my students, "that's how you KNOW you got a good man!". 

Two miracles have recently occurred in my life. On Friday, I turned off my alarm and pretended I'd be dying to do run after work (what else is new). After work, I was exhausted and just wanted to start mainlining wine (again, what else is new). I somehow managed to convince myself that I could do the run Sunday, and went to the liquor store. Yet instead of popping the cork the second I walked in my door, I put on running clothes. Granted, all I had to do was an easy 6 miler, but still, it's really tough to put that ahead of wine.

Monday, 5am hit and I was headed down the same path. I got up to use the bathroom, then got back under the covers and snuggled up with my body pillow. But some weird surge of energy or motivation or being tired of having my days filled with self loathing because I was too lazy to get up hit and I knocked out another easy 6 miler! I'll be checking my mailbox for gold stars starting tomorrow morning!

I'm not sure what's up with me 6 miles. I did another one this morning. I just plotted out what mileage I wanted for the week, and they kept cropping up. I'm not trying to channel the devil or anything.

Saturday morning, I woke up around 5:30 to run and had a major WTF moment when I saw that the temperature was 31, feels like 26. I'd been running in shorts and a t-shirt all week, and now I needed to be acclimated to the dead of winter at a moment's notice. Luckily, Lily came over to join me, so the ten miles actually went by pretty quick. Running Sunday wasn't exactly in the cards, so I ended up running a total of 45 miles in my final week before the Stone Mill 50.

Then it was time to head down to Richmond. As can be expected, 4 girls brought a totally reasonable amount of luggage for one night.

We unloaded and got right down to business. 

Don't worry, it's just cider.
 I really wish I could blog all about this weekend, for posterity, but unfortunately the parts I could share aren't at all interesting and the parts that are interesting aren't fit for public consumption. We did get yelled at for taking pictures in front of a bank. Is it our fault the bank put all these statues right in front of their doors?

They were clearly on to our plan. Meet in front of a bank, pretend to be silly tourists taking immature pictures, go home, pull up said pictures on our iPhones, nearly go blind studying them for bank weaknesses, come back later, attack the weaknesses we identified, make off with tons of cash, and on our next night out there won't be a single article of clothing from Ross Dress for Less in sight. Pretty sure I just wrote the next sequel to Oceans 11 (aren't they up to like 17 by now?). You're welcome, movie director whose name I am too lazy to google.

Next time, we'll be wearing Gucci and posing in the Four Seasons (that's fancy, right?).
I'd like to announce that my girl scout cookies are in. Thin Mints, Samoas, and Tagalongs. 

Ate 4 Boxes Of Thin Mints
I can relate to this cat.
I'm thinking of incorporating them in to my post-race dessert somehow. So far, here are my top two contenders. I'm going to need everyone to vote on which one I should bake for Saturday. Full disclosure - I'll probably make the second choice the following weekend for our Twilight marathon, part 2. 

Girl Scout Cookie Tagalong Cake Bars
Tagalong cake bars

Thin mint brownies

What's the dumbest thing you've gotten in trouble for?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Girls Weekends

I wanted to mention in my post today for the zillionth time about how I don't agree with the "I'm married to my best friend" crap that goes on. Coincidentally, I saw this blog post on my Facebook feed and it pretty much summed up my feelings perfectly.

I'm not anti-love. In fact, I just worked together with my beloved husband to tie our broomball game Monday night. That's right, tie. Aka an improvement from our last game, which was a total loss. (In case you were wondering, in both games our team scored a grand total of zero.)

But right now, I have two epic girls weekends coming up, and I'm pretty excited about it.

To give you a little history lesson you didn't ask for, in 2005 I moved to Baltimore from upstate NY with these two crazy kids to change the world as first year teachers.

Our house got robbed our first week, and the good times didn't end there as we navigated the bright, scary world as first year grownups in a new big city together. I yanked my high school BFF Casi into the mix the following year and we never looked back.

Nicole (in the wedding dress in the bottom picture) now lives in North Carolina, while the rest of us are still in Baltimore, so we decided to meet in Richmond, which is in the middle-ish. We're splitting a room at the fancy Crowne Plaza (4 girls, 1 room, $28 per person!). 

It's going to follow a pretty typical girls weekend format, eating, walking around the city, taking advantage of the hotel hot tub, gossiping, pillow fights, all the usual elements. If we're really lucky, our friends Olivia, Jessica, and Maggie will be joining us for a night out on the town. 

Do you know how hard it is to prepare for a night out at age 30? I used to have all sorts of appropriate going out clothes, but now I'm really down to one or two suitable outfits, and I have to either vary them according to different groups of friends, or just do my hair differently and hope no one remembers. The important thing is, it's new to Richmond. 

The next weekend varies a just little bit from the patented girls weekend formula. Kara and I will be meeting at the also super fancy Gaithersburg, MD Hilton, courtesy of her rarely-seen-on-the-blog husband and his important job/travel points. If I can't be successful in life myself, at least I can take advantage of all my friends who are, right?

From there, it's still pretty similar - eating, drinking, hot tub, etc, the main difference is that on Saturday we'll be running 50 miles through the woods. NBD. 

We've been emailing quite a bit about it, and it's become clear that we have pretty different priorities and outlooks on this race. 

I'm all "I called the hotel, they have a hot tub! Think of how relaxing that will be before the race! And there's free wifi, we can relax in bed and blog our recaps on Sunday! They don't have fridge though, so how are we going to chill the wine?"

She's all "look at the weather report! We can't get in the hot tub before the race, because DEHYDRATION! What are you packing in your drop bags?" and so on.

I might be screwed.

What's your favorite girls activity that you just can't enjoy with the opposite sex (let's keep it clean)? I'm going to have to say gossip. Guys just can't be ruthless like we can. Pedicures are a close second though.

PS oh yeah running - 6 miles this morning - good times!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

I love what others hate

Sunday's 16 miler was my last long run before the Stone Mill 50 miler, which means it's time to taper. I'm going to put the same care and consideration into that that I have applied to my training plan all along. Aka I'll just wing it. That approach hasn't really worked for me, and I don't plan to do it again, but I could definitely squeeze a whole other post out on that topic so we'll move on for now.

Tapering is supposed to be a period of reduced mileage leading up to the race to allow your legs to rest up. I think most training plans use some sort of scientific formula to figure it out. I ran 55 miles last week, and when Kara asked me on gchat how many I was aiming for this week, I threw out "uh, 45-50?" and that seemed good. I'm no mathematical genius, but I can choose a random number that is less than another number.

My long run this week will be ten miles, which is coincidentally the same number of miles I ran today! I crunched some numbers, and figured out that meant I need to run 35 miles Mon-Fri, with a possible addition of 5 on Sunday. That will be entirely based on my Saturday night activities.

Monday: 7 miles (9:12 pace)
Tuesday: 6.5 miles (we won't speak of the pace)
Wednesday am: 2 miles outdoors, 3 miles treadmill (make of that what you will, let's just say things didn't go according to plan)
Wednesday pm: the best thing that could ever happen to an adult happened - my grad class was canceled. It was 65 degrees out. Obviously that meant I needed to squeeze in another 5 miles.

As if that wasn't enough to make my day, I also got to FaceTime with my sister and my nephew, and meet my BFF Carolyn for dinner at Panera.

We also got to go on a field trip today to an art gallery. I would have taken pictures, but I was really busy marveling at the fact that the docents actually made it really interesting for a bunch of 9 year olds, and that said children were mature enough to be in a museum with art that included the unclothed human form without hysterically laughing (like, let's face it, most adults I know). Use your imagination and picture a bunch of paintings, and that's pretty much what it looked like.

My day wasn't perfect, however. First of all, the bus driver took us to the wrong art museum and we missed like half an hour of our tour. It was cool though, at least he was blasting Rihanna's S&M during the ride.

Then I made a terrible mistake at Panera. I was eyeing the M&M cookies in line, but figured I'd get one later. By the time we were done.....dun dun dun.....there was only oatmeal raisin left. It gets worse.

They were also out of pumpkin spice lattes.

I decided to hope against hope that the Target next door still had some discounted Halloween candy.

As soon as I walked in, I berated myself. "It's been an entire week since Halloween, there's no way they'll have anything left! This is a fool's mission!"

But I persisted, and went all the way to the back of the store. And thank goodness I did, because I had underestimated my ability to love a food that everyone else on earth thinks is gross. I scored a giant bag of these babies, 70% off.

It hurts that they are individually wrapped. I am sorry, Earth.
After enjoying one or two or seven little bags, it's time to wrap up this post and crawl into bed with this.
I waited so long!

I heard mixed reviews, but once again, I love what others hate (Game of Thrones book 4, taper, peeps) and I've enjoyed it so far.

Side note - would anyone be interested in petitioning authors to only use made up names in awesome books? You know, in the manner of Game of Thrones and Hunger Games? I get pretty into these characters and it messes with my head. My coworker has the same name as one of the Divergent bad guys (no spoilers!). On the rare occasions I use this person's first name (it's elementary school, everyone is Mr. or Ms.), it throws me for a loop and I have to remind myself that this person is normal and I like them and they will not attack me. I've yet to encounter this problem with any real life Joffreys or Catos.

Anyone else struggle with the line between real life and fiction, or am I just a freak?

What was your last terrible mistake in life?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

If I'm forced to work, at least it's with awesome people

I've been excited about Halloween for two weeks now. Not because I bothered to get it together and create a costume, but because it was my work BFF Kristin's birthday and I found the perfect gift for her.
That is a smile of pure joy.

Some background - she's the world's biggest Twilight fan (if you thought I was a major fan, you have no idea) and I am terrible at finding gifts for people. I was especially excited because she's such a great friend, I would most likely have been carted off to the looney bin by now if she wasn't across the hall from me!
Eric and I totally wanted to go out. Then we got home from work and were like.....OR we could just catch up on sitcoms right here on the couch. We used to go all out and put a lot of time and effort into costumes and have so much fun. Then we got old.
The fact that it was Thursday just screamed "post a TBT on instagram and stay home!"
We don't get trick or treaters, so I celebrated by refreshing my Facebook feed repeatedly and enjoying all the cute costumes that my FB friends put their kids in. Thanks, Facebook friends.

This weekend was quite the wild and crazy one in my world. I got home past 1am not one, but two nights in a row. It's seriously a mystery to me how that used to be my life in my early 20s.

Friday night, we went hung out with 3 of my fellow teacher friends and their respective men for a couples game night. We brought Cards Against Humanity and I think the group ended up playing it for two and a half hours. We went through almost the entire deck. If you have never played it, I recommend either coming over or buying it immediately.

Also, if you are reading CAH, I'd like a kickback, because my friends are all buying it.
Saturday night, I closed at the running store, then went out with 3 of my coworkers/friends and we ended up hanging out until after midnight.

I think it's time to give up my dream of being independently wealthy. I already screwed the pooch by marrying for love (well, love and incredible good looks) and I don't play the lottery, so I'm pretty much resigned to having a job throughout my adult life. But considering I spent both nights of my weekend hanging out with coworkers turned friends, and both nights resulted in laughing so hard that  cried and my stomach hurt, I guess being forced to work could be worse.

On that cheesy note, I decided to do that "30 Days of Thankful" thing. I mean, I've been squeezing my stress ball, and it's helping and everything, but why not take things to the next level? Once I decided to participate, a really embarrassing though process ensued.

"Ok, I want to do 30 days of Thankful, and focus on the positive things in my life and all that, but I don't want to post it on Facebook, because I really don't want to be one of those people, and who even reads those anyway? So.....what now?" And I was actually temporarily stalled for a minute until it occurred to me that I could just take it back to old school style and record it....for myself. Not on any social media. A novel idea, right? I mean, do any of us even remember a time when we could have thoughts and not share them in a public forum?

I took it an extra step back and decided not to even do it electronically. I'm doing it diary style, circa 1996.

An old gift from my BFF Nicole
The front of this little book was filled with directions. Before I had a smart phone, this + googlemaps was my GPS.

Shockingly, it was quite freeing to write something that was for my eyes only, and not have to worry if it was PC or going to offend anyone or even grammatically correct. I am thinking of starting a secret diary in addition to this blog.

I made my first attempt to do this weekend's long run Friday afternoon. It didn't take. I actually didn't end up completing it until Sunday afternoon.

Friday, I ran about a mile and then was like "nope" and turned around and went home and ate M&Ms instead. So inspirational. Such a model of healthy living.

Saturday, I tried to trick myself. I had to work at 3, so went down early (at noon) so I'd be trapped into doing my long run whether I wanted to or not.

It was really another "nope". My headphones crapped out at mile 3. I don't always run with headphones, in fact, I usually don't use them on even half my runs (I forced myself to give it up while training for the JFK 50, where they are strictly verboten). But I really wanted to finish listening to Insurgent, and even though my dead headphones left me not listening to it whether I ran or not, I was really opting toward not. I didn't totally give up on the run, but I didn't make it the intended 16 miles.

Since I had an extra hour after that before work, I ate samples from Harris Teeter and played on my phone. I'm a true role model for time management!
Sunday, I enjoyed the hell out of my extra hour of sleep (sorry I'm not sorry, parents), relaxed over coffee with Eric, and headed out for my 16 miler around 1pm. The extra hour of sleep must have been what I needed, because I had a fantastic run at a 9:22 pace, which I hate to admit is fast for me these days. That brought me to 55 miles of running this week. I'll take it.
Had any "DERRRR I'm super dependent on technology/social media moments lately?
Are you good at finding gifts for people? If you are, please help me.