Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Another glorious snow day

Much like the fact that I used to be a vegetarian, it's hard to believe there was ever a time when I hated the treadmill. I'm also having a hard time figuring out how the hell I ran through 10+ previous winters, exclusively outside.

Granted, running on the treadmill has come a long way. The invention of Netflix and tablets coupled with the purchase of our own treadmill so I can actually use those things makes it significantly more palatable. When we got it, I couldn't imagine a time it would actually be more appealing than running outside - I assumed it would be a last resort sort of thing, or maybe for speedwork. But now, I really look forward to my treadmill runs. Even more so since I figured out how to play all the seasons of Game of Thrones on my tablet.

And even more so when the weather is this.

About halfway through yesterday's winter storm

Polar vortex #2
Yesterday was sort of a snow day (it was a teacher workday, so students were already off, but they closed schools even for us) and today is an official snow day.
Sleeping in is obviously my number one favorite part of snow days, but a close second is having the time to actually cook a nice dinner, not throwing the fastest thing together when I walk through the door because I'm about to eat my own hand.
When I got my cast iron skillet for Christmas, my parents lent me their special cast iron cookbook.
Once I was finally able to admit to myself that the skillet could be used for things other than cornbread, I branched out. So far all the recipes have been winners. I made two last night, and they were amazing. Plus, cooking the old fashioned way (recipes from a book, not the internet!) has the added bonus of not having to constantly wipe my hands to touch my tablet or phone after it goes to sleep.


Kind of wish I'd realized this required two hours of just cooking time (aside from prep) before I began, but it was worth the wait.

As usual, not photogenic, but delicious.
Although my glorious weekend with my college girlfriends has come to an end, it has had lasting effects on my life.

I think we watched The Little Mermaid 3 times.
 That's right. Starting Friday, I will officially own my own crochet supplies.

Would you rather run in extreme cold or extreme heat? I guess extreme cold, at least you can bundle up. Thank god with the treadmill I never have to make that tough choice again.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Life dream realized

As a teacher, I had the privilege of being an education major in college, and I mean that in the most sarcastic sense possible. Sure, we got to do stupid, tedious tasks just to waste time instead of real work like the science majors. Everyone knows nothing can prepare you to teach children and you just need the degree on paper for legal reasons. But what most people don't know is that the majority of education majors are THE WORST.

Chipper, peppy, positive, eager, these people are the types of students that wash their hair for an 8am class, and do extra work on projects when extra credit isn't even an option. They don't laugh at obvious that's what she said moments - yes, I'm too old to have known Michael Scott in college, but  laughing at unintentional sexual references has been around since the dawn of time. Unless you are an education major.

Thank god I met two other girls in my cohort who actually knew sarcasm existed, snickered with me if the teacher said penis, and considered having the textbook open while watching a movie a perfectly adequate form of studying for finals.

Apparently this is the only picture of the three of us from back in the olden days of college when you had to actually use film and get pictures developed, so I'll just repost it every time we all get together.

After college, obviously my only choice was to take them with me in order to survive a career filled with former education majors. Unfortunately, I was only moderately successful. I convinced Nicole to join me in Baltimore in one AIM conversation (remember that?) when she mentioned she didn't know what the hell to do with herself after graduation. But she was only my roommate for a year, and Nikki went to join her boyfriend (now husband) in New York City as soon as we began our adult lives.

We still got together periodically though, and being in the middle, it worked out pretty well for me.

I'm the red dot, Nicole is the beach ball, and Nikki is the sort of starry night or whatever.
They would have to deal with all the horrors of Friday night travel and I would just scrub the bathtub, put some clean towels out, and drink wine while I waited for them. Quite the ideal situation.

But now Nikki has the most adorable 2 year old ever, and a gorgeous brand new house, so we needed to move the party to Queens. We finally found a time that worked, and Saturday morning Nicole and I took the train to NYC. In the past, we've driven to her (for her bachelorette party and to meet her daughter when she was first born) and it was one of the most stressful, horrible things I've ever done.

The train? Glorious, relaxing, fast, easy, and it even had wifi. A dream.

When the three of us began emailing about activities for this weekend, I said I was fine with anything, but I threw out the idea of spending the entire weekend in our sweatpants playing, eating, and telling teacher stories. I was overjoyed when they agreed. Sure, Nikki lives 4 blocks from the train and we could have had a wild weekend out in Manhattan Sex and the City style, but why do that when we could just play in here?

No high heels or makeup required!

Tell me this girl is not the cutest.
For comparison purposes, our weekend visits used to look like this.

Arry and Swan
Nikki actually thanked us for playing with her daughter, which confused me, because it seemed like someone thanking me for eating chocolate, or sleeping, or doing anything else that was only for my own selfish enjoyment. On top of that, she helped me make a life dream a reality this weekend.
She taught us to crochet!

I made this - and it's even longer now! Next step - get my own needles and learn to make
something that isn't just a long chain.
So many things seemed like they just happened yesterday and I can usually convince myself they weren't that long ago. But when we tried to recreate a picture from the last time the four of us were together, it was pretty obvious that significant time had passed.

Like, nearly 3 years.
There's a tradition of butt kissing pictures and I learned something this weekend. It is a lot easier to coerce babies into taking funny pictures, as they don't have the vocal or motor skills to refuse.

So compliant.
Not so compliant.
The weekend was all I hoped for and more, with even more additional bonuses - Nikki drove me to Starbucks so I could continue my streak of a free drink every day in January, and I finally got to see Sharknado. Perfection.
Did you meet your college friends in the dorm, in classes, or elsewhere? How much do you get to see them these days? I'm lucky enough to have one (from the dorms) only 30 minutes away, but the rest I only see a few times a year.



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I love lots of stuff

Although I do think a lot of blog post traditions are stupid (year in review, WIAW, etc), I kind of like the "things I'm loving lately" posts. Which is why I'm doing one.

1. Jennifer Lawrence. Like, seriously, how is she so beautiful and funny and cute? Sometimes I get addicted to those compilation videos of her saying funny things in interviews.

Luckily I'm not alone in my love.

2. This stuff. It's black bean, corn, and red pepper salsa. It's good on everything. Also I love foods that naturally lend themselves to being covered in cheese and avocado.

3. I can't stop listening to this song. Every day when we line up for dismissal I start getting really excited because as soon as the kids leave I blast it on repeat until I go home. I'm pretty sure all my neighbors love that little tradition just as much as I do.

4. Cornbread. Since getting my cast iron skillet for Christmas, I'm about to change my blog name to Cornbread is my life. My goal is to try all the recipes in my cookbook. One of them has bacon grease, and it was all I hoped for and more.
5. Not wearing makeup. I think I'm pretty weird here. I feel most people have a clear preference one way or the other in their day to day life - makeup or not (at least when going to the same place, like work). I go through distinct periods of both - the "OMG I can't be seen without it" or "that's five extra minutes I could be sleeping, forget it". Right now I'm in the second phase. No picture, because although I enjoy not wasting time on it, no need to flaunt my natural beauty.

6. My magic Starbucks mug. I've probably mentioned this like 12 times by now on the blog but the good news is, it's way worse in person so you are spared that. But this thing keeps drinks hot forever. I get them on my way home from work, and even if I run, shower, and cook and eat dinner before I drink it (because I like to get super sweet drinks to have for/with dessert), it's still hot. Like 4 hours later, not even exaggerating. My friend said something about a vacuum seal, I don't know, I'm not a scientist, all I know is that I love it more than anything.

I'll admit, when I first got the mug, I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to get enough drinks to make it worthwhile, because I rarely got the fancy pants Starbucks drinks since I stopped working there and realized how much they cost. But I needn't have worried - so far a drink per day has been the easiest New Year's Resolution of my life to keep. And I'm only slightly obsessive about it.

It's only the 14th, so I'm ahead of schedule. I doubled down a couple times.
 7. The Poison Study book series. I just finished the second book, and can't wait to start the third on my next run. So glad I got Kari addicted so we can geek out together.

Add caption

8. Game of Thrones. The season 4 trailer is out, and in news that surprises no one, it looks freaking amazing.

I don't even know why I just embedded it, like any true fan hasn't already watched it 20 times. I cannot even stand how excited I am to watch.

In preparation, I started Dance with Dragons again. I read about half of it over the summer, but then stopped due to a combination of a section that dragged and apprehension over my emotional state when there was no more to read. Since I can barely remember anything that happened in the previous book, even though I did finish it, I'm starting over at the beginning and highlighting and taking notes this time. I'm not even kidding. Or embarrassed.

9. 100 miler training. It's early days. Really, really early and the mileage is still low. But so far, it feels good to be training again. Last week I hit 50 miles and this week I'll be slightly higher (6 yesterday and 8 today, so far).

I guess I love a lot of things, so for balance, here's two I don't love.

1. My new 2014 Sunday tradition of laying awake all night, till like 3am. That's not really fun. And it happened even after taking Tylenol with Codeine (for my root canal), so ...yeah. Makes it really hard to get up at 5am to run. In fact, I haven't.
2. This. It's my two most hated foods in one disgusting bottle. The thought of it hurts.

What's your stance on makeup?

What's one thing you are loving lately?

Also, let's weigh in on the GOT trailer - the guy in the alleyway getting rushed from both sides - one of Dany's many allies? That's the consensus so far, but I'm not sure.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Dorothy, we're not in our 20s anymore

Today is a very exciting day. The season 4 Game of Thrones trailer airs at 8:58pm.

I hate this scene, but this made me laugh.
I, for one, can't wait to spend two minutes watching, desperately try to remember what each cryptic scene refers to from the end of book 3, and then cry because April 6 is still nearly 3 months away.

This weekend has been kind of busy. Like, I didn't even get to fool around on the internet or play Words With Friends at all on Saturday.

Friday night we had big plans to finally watch Silver Linings Playbook, because like the rest of America, we are obsessed with J. Law.

By the time we were both home from work and had been chatting for awhile, it was 8:30. I immediately looked up the run time on IMDB and saw it was over 2 hours and freaked out because that meant we wouldn't finish until after 10:30pm. At that point, it's a race against the clock to see if I'll stay awake to see the whole movie, and my track record isn't good.

I demanded we start right away, and I'm pleased to report I made it (and of course went to bed directly after the last scene). Dorothy, I don't think we're in our 20s anymore.

Saturday was my first real long run of 100 miler training. Last weekend, I did 24 miles (maybe) at PHUNT, but getting up on your own to run requires a lot more motivation than going to a race. Also,  walked a lot at PHUNT, which is fine because I plan to walk a lot in the race.

I was meeting Lily at 7:15 to run ten miles along the harbor before my running store shift at 9:40. I had big plans to get up at 5am and run 7 miles on my own first, but as you may imagine, that didn't happen after my wild Friday night.

Instead, I split my run, doing ten in the morning, and the last 7 after my shift ended at 4pm. I wimped out for the second part and ran it on the treadmill. I was really over the cold rain and especially the 100% humidity.

 Last weekend, I ran for 5.5 hours in deep snow and single digit temps, and was fine. Yesterday, I ran for an hour and a half while it was raining and 40 degrees and was shaking and couldn't feel my fingers for like 30 minutes. The human body is a mystery.

Splitting your long run is not ideal, but sometimes it needs to be done. Next week will be another one of those times. So....yeah.

After that, I had to rush to shower to hurry over to my BFF Carolyn's for game night. I don't want to brag or anything, but it would have been hard for them to start without me. I'm kind of a big deal -  I've developed a bit of a reputation for bringing epic desserts. In fact, at the last two parties Carolyn has hosted, I've had someone come up to me right away to tell me they heard that if I brought a dessert, they had to try it because it would blow their mind. Truth.

I'm happy to oblige. This time, I brought red velvet dip.

It's supposed to be like a cheeseball, but red velvet.

Rave reviews, as always.
Carolyn set a strict rule that we couldn't start with Cards Against Humanity, and I thought that was genius. Obviously, I love that game, but once it starts people get super into it and no other games get into the mix, and there are other fun games.

If you want things to get super competitive right away, play anything girls vs. boys. That's how we started Taboo. I'm sorry to report the women were not victorious here.

Then an old classic came out.

I haven't played this game since I was like, 11, but it was shockingly really, really fun. It made me regret not following my instincts and bringing Twister.

What is your favorite game (other than cards against humanity, everyone loves that)? Mine is this really fun team trivia game called Know it or Blow it, but no one ever wants to play it with me. I'm going to host my own game night and demand everyone play it.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

I've come full circle

While I officially renounced my vegetarianism in late 2012, after a 16 year stint, 2013 was truly the year of the meat for me. In fact, that will be the official title for here on out.

While it's one thing to just start eating meat, the real challenge for me (aside from varying things and not just eating bacon 3 meals a day) was cooking. Since I gave meat up at age 13 (I don't know how my parents put up with me either), I really never cooked it until last year.

Cooking meat for me was (and is) always slightly terrifying. Just getting the technique right to make it taste good was a new skill. But the really scary part was the threat involved. If you undercook vegetables, they are just gross. If you undercook beef, you will get Botulism and die a horrible death.

Here's my other issue. I don't really want to think about the journey from roaming beast to Alyssa's dinner plate. I do not like to be reminded that I am eating body parts. Examples of words I prefer not to hear about my meal: thigh, bone, and most especially, skin. I do not want to eat "ribs" (and I haven't, yet). I want to eat a burger, in a burger shape, and never discuss the cow that nobly gave his life.

 I would like to be as disconnected from my food as humanly possible, ideally avoiding it in raw form altogether. Eric is really good about browning beef, shredding chicken, or doing whatever meat preparation is required for a recipe. (I mean, let's face it, it's the least he can do considering how much his life has improved this year.) But the problem is, he has a job, and other responsibilities, and isn't able to be at my beck and call for chef duties.

I wanted to begin to get over my aversion, and started 2014 off strong. We got a special meatloaf pan for Christmas, so I decided to bite the bullet. I purposely planned to make it while Eric was at a basketball game (he coaches 8th grade boys).

My family has been raving about the Pioneer Woman meatloaf, and they really didn't need to twist my arm. First of all, it's Pioneer Woman. Second of all, it's wrapped in bacon.


Full disclosure: I was sort of dreading the part where I had to mix up all the meat and other ingredients with my hands. Like all day long. But when the time came, I rolled up my sleeves, closed my eyes, focused on my podcast, and it wasn't even that bad.

While the meatloaf cooked, I did my weekly powerwalk. 4.5 miles in an hour.

I did have a bit of a dilemma. Meatloaf is traditionally served with ketchup (and of course PW fancies up her ketchup in her recipe), and believe me when I say I would rather get another root canal than eat something covered in ketchup. It's public enemy number one for me. So I made the PW sauce recipe but subbed tomato sauce.

I didn't realize that our special meatloaf pan takes twice as long to cook the meatloaf. So I did almost die of hunger when it took until 8pm for it to reach 160 degrees, aka the non-botulism temperature.

In the meantime, I used my cast iron skillet to make a side dish - caramelized Brussels sprouts.

Eric walked in right as the meatloaf was done, and we were both basically rendered speechless at dinner, because that's how good the meatloaf was. SO worth the wait.

I think it's safe to say that making bacon wrapped meatloaf is the antithesis of vegetarianism. Now I look back on those days like I look back at ex-boyfriends:  I can't believe I ever went there. Such a mistake. Such dark times. Actually, vegetarianism is way worse than any former relationship I've had. Don't try it, seriously.

You might think tonight sounds perfect, but believe it or not, last night was just as good. I had a happy hour date with all my favorite running store coworkers, and I was looking forward to it all week.

The best part about a running store date? It's perfectly acceptable to meet before, run, and show up in sweaty running clothes. I actually forgot this, and woke up at 5am to run on the treadmill before work. Luckily, I immediately realized how insane that was, sent out an email, and went back to sleep.

I met my friends Katrina and Alex at 6:30 to run. They're faster than me, so they pushed me to do 8 miles at an 8:43 pace. Even with the temperature in the teens, it flew by.

After the run, I went to get my free Starbucks drink of the day before meeting up with everyone. I know it's sacrilegious, but when it's this cold, I'd rather have a nice hot chocolate or coffee than wine. While I was crossing the street, I completely wiped out on black ice, right at an intersection with a ton of cars waiting to go through the light. It was one of those falls where you don't even know what happened until you are on the ground.

My first reaction was "DID SOMETHING HAPPEN TO MY MAGIC MUG??". Luckily, it was ok. It didn't even occur to me to check on my previous most prized possession, my iphone, until like 5 minutes later.

Finally, I would like to note that I didn't get home until 11pm. On a school night.

What food is your public enemy number one?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Happy polar vortex!

Well, I don't know about everyone else, but I have thoroughly enjoyed my polar vortex day.

I got back on the wagon, and for the first time in a long time, I was up before dawn to run. On the treadmill. I'm not a fool.

I began my run at 5am, but since a neighboring school district had closed due to cold, I checked twitter and Facebook every so often. About 2 miles in to my run, I discovered we had a two hour delay.

You have no idea how close I was to getting right off and back in bed and finishing the run later. I could have gone back to sleep, too. And if you are disgusted that I would get back in to bed sweaty, judge away, see if I care, you don't have to live with me.

I stayed on the treadmill, because the thought of wasting two sets of workout clothes annoyed me, which doesn't really make sense, but it's how my mind works.

It actually worked out great. I was showered and ready for the day by 7am, and got the enjoy the entire Today show report on the polar vortex. I thought Eric was with me, but despite being up and showered, he fell right back asleep.

The two hour delay was pretty helpful. When I woke up, at 4:45am, it was 4 degrees, feels like -16. When we headed to work around 9:30, it was 2 degrees feels like -16.

Yeah, I know Chicago was so cold that they had the fuel in the planes freeze and it was too cold for even the polar bears and in comparison that's nothing. But according to a local meteologist it was colder in some parts of Maryland than the South Pole, and we are all soft little wussies down here that are used to considering 30 degrees really cold.

Eric drove me to school because my car was in the shop due to yesterday's debacle. At first, the repair shop called and quoted me $138, and I swear that heaven opened up and I could hear angels singing.

Then he called me back, and started to go into a long explanation of further problems they had found. I silently debated if it would be ruder to just tune him out and hold my breath until he got to the new total, or interrupt and tell him that he was welcome to switch into Swahili at any moment and my understanding would not be affected. I went with option #1, and then told him I would have my husband call him.

New total: $570

They called me again at work today while I was on my way to pick up my class. I begged the music teacher to watch them for a few extra minutes and while I returned their call, I was starting to identify with this guy.

Particularly, you know, at that one part.
 Now something further was wrong, which I didn't have time to listen to and couldn't really hear over the instruments and wouldn't have understood anyway.
New total: $690

At this point, I said something along the lines of "are you guys done calling me now?".  I really wanted to just request that they put down the keys and back away from the civic.

So now I'm $700 poorer, but it's important not to dwell on negatives, and money is so overrated anyway.

Positives: I've already ran 15 miles this week, or as I like to think of it on a bad weather week, 3 episodes of Buffy.

I'm continuing to nail my New Year's resolutions. I got not one, but TWO Starbucks drinks in my magical mug today. An Americano, and then the brand new caramel flan latte that came out today (sadly, didn't love it). Both decaf, I'm not insane, I just REALLY love coffee, and hot beverages, especially when it's below zero. It's going to be terrible when this month ends.

I remember when I used to get nonfat milk and no whipped cream. Those were such
sad times.

How was your polar vortex? I know it's an unpopular opinion, but I really like hearing the temperatures/weather from all the different parts of the country! I also really like saying "polar vortex". Between that, and getting to use my other favorite phrase "haters make me famous", it's been a pretty good week, vocab-wise.

Monday, January 6, 2014

My evil plan

So today. Today was special. To date, I've never heard the words "Monday morning was fun" leave anyone's lips. But my Monday morning was even less fun than most.

I left for work at 7am today. I'm only 3 miles away, and after the first mile, I stopped at a light at a pretty big intersection. That was when my car decided to stall. It also refused to start again.

Based on the angry comments I've had yelled at me when riding my bike to work, I quickly put on my flashers, knowing this could escalate quickly.

I called AAA, who assured me that mine was considered a "priority case" and they would have a tow truck out immediately. I also requested a substitute. I had plenty of time before the bell rang, but better safe than sorry.

My usual response in a situation like this is to collapse into an utter mental breakdown, but thank god for blog friends. Victoria reminded me that it was much better to be stuck today, when the temperature was in the 40s, than tomorrow, when the polar vortex hits and it's supposed to be -20!

Then, my emergency flashers died. Kari told me to see if my emergency kit (which I had, thanks to my caring husband), had giant orange triangles, which it did! Breakdown #2 avoided.

This post had no pictures, so I took this one.

It was a good thing I got the substitute, because the tow truck didn't arrive until 8:30 am, so I never would have made it on time. And before I get attacked with comments from disgruntled AAA workers, I'll say that all the phone operators and tow truck driver were just lovely, and I applaud all their hard work towing people like me (even though I pay for their services).

Based on the amount of honking, it seemed the public was on to my evil plan. In truth, there was nothing wrong with my car. I woke up that morning and thought to myself "how can I wreak the maximum amount of havoc and ruin as many people's days as possible?". Sure, I could do something at work, but then I'd be limited to only the staff. That's when I came up with the genius idea to stop my car in the middle of an intersection during rush hour!

Well, it seems I've reached an important blog milestone, and written a post that has enraged the masses, or at least a few people. I considered writing an entire post responding to the various anonymous criticisms that cropped up. The thing is, I'm really not sure what I could say at this point that wouldn't be reiterating what I've already said multiple times. Most of the (non-anonymous) commenters seemed to understand the post, so I don't want to bore them rehashing the same old thing.

I did apologize to the medic. I think my frustration at the situation led me to attack him personally in my post, and that wasn't fair (I also appreciated him commenting with his name).

While I am flattered by so many "anonymouses" who have utter faith in both my running and orienteering skills, I'm not quite sure what their end game was, so I'm dropping it. But, if that's not sufficient, Kara and I have discussed it at length and her response post perfectly says everything I am feeling.

Two final thoughts:
Bitches be bitchin
Haters make me famous

What was your worst car/driving debacle? I wish I could say this was my worst, but it wasn't. It might be the first time I haven't cried during one though.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

PHUNT 50k recap

First things first. I'm sure we'll all be relieved to hear my dental work on Friday went smoothly. It was just as much fun as you would imagine intense dental work from 10:45 to 2:00 (with a short break in the middle to drive from the root canal specialist to my regular dentist) to be.

I said that all this dental work would be an extra challenge, since I would be skipping lunch and maybe dinner and therefore would be underfueled. I meant it more as a joke, and the Novocaine wore off in time for pizza and wings anyway. But I started to get legit concerned on Friday. After I slept off the worst of the anesthesia, I tried to take a sip of water and it ended up all over the kitchen floor. So now I was like 17 hours out from an ultra, hadn't had water all day, and literally couldn't drink.

I woke up at 6:30 on race morning to find Kara already wearing all her running gear, including her hat, in our guest room. I had known she was really concerned about the cold, but I hadn't realized it went that far.

We fueled up with peanut butter toast and coffee (me) and coke (her) and began our pre-race warmup - finding Eric's car under sheets and sheets of ice. (My car was being a little bitch about the single digit temps, and being a teacher with no dental needs, he hadn't used his car yesterday, and Kara's car was filled with carseats.)

It doesn't look like much, but it took the two of us 15 minutes to scrape off the insane about of ice. We finished up just as my friend Matt arrived, and the three of us drove about an hour north to the race site.

Last year, I remembered having to wait in a cold line for quite awhile for a porto-potty before the race. The temperature for the race site was 0 degrees when I woke up, so we stopped at a Shell station to use a nice, warm indoor bathroom when we got close.

The email from the RD gave us directions to a "tea barn". We had no clue what that meant, there was no specific address, and "tea barn" wasn't coming up with any results in my GPS. The email said it was near an inn. We asked the gas station attendant where the inn was. In a bored, and somewhat creepy voice, he told us he'd never heard of it.

The tea barn

When we got back in the car and discovered the inn and tea barn were directly across the street, and you could actually see them out the window of the Shell, we started to suspect the creepy old man was actually trying to help us by tricking us into skipping the race.

Spoiler alert: in retrospect, he was right.

But we were still filled with delusions and bravado.
Arrival at the tea barn. So happy. So unaware of what was to come.
We got our bibs and excitedly met Carl, the race director. He was really nice and enthusiastic, and greeted me by name immediately. We also met up with one of my running friends, Karl, and his friend Carrie, who is also doing the C&O canal 100 miler! I've been emailing with her, so it was cool to meet her in person.
 The tea barn was filled with heaters and coffee and warm, clean bathrooms with no wait. Even though the overarching theme was "what the hell is wrong with us?" (that was generally how you heard people greeting each other), this was clearly going to be a great day! In fact, the temperature had risen to 3 degrees!


Matt is a faster runner, so I gave him the car key to change into dry clothes while he waited for us to finish. Remember this little factoid, it comes into play later in the story.

Our fellow crazies at the start
The field was open for 200 runners, but we estimated only about 100 were dumb enough to actually show up, given the weather. After a quick safety briefing, it was 9am, and the race began.
When we heard how much snow there was, Kara immediately got us two pairs of Yak Trax (they go on the bottom of your shoes to give you extra traction). Generally, impulse purchases have a negative connotation. Also, you aren't supposed to try anything new on race day, but obviously if we had followed any logic or conventional wisdom, we wouldn't even have been there in the first place. Matt wiped out on the ice half a mile into the race, and we felt validated that it had been money well spent. The rest of the day continued to drive that point home.
About a mile in, we hit the trails. The night before, as we had started to get more and more nervous, I felt that the greatest problem would be the cold. I was pleasantly surprised when my hands and feet regained feeling not even two miles in, and I was nice and toasty.
Unfortunately, the reason for that was that running in snow is really, really hard. It's like running in sand. Fluffy, ankle deep, shifting, uneven snow added a whole new challenge to trails that were already pretty hilly and tough.
The blurriness of the picture demonstrates how it looked while I constantly teared up from the cold.
You know what else was fun in 3 degree weather? Stream crossings. My foot went in the icy water once when I couldn't quite manage to stay on the slippery rocks, and my instant reaction was "I WILL LOSE THESE TOES".
A common way of measuring effort is the "talk test" - whether you can hold a conversation while running. For non-elite runners like me, ultra marathons should always be run at conversational pace to ensure you conserve enough energy to complete the distance. Kara and I always talk the entire time throughout our races. Yesterday though, we were completely silent. The pace may have been slow, but the amount of effort was somewhere around 5k level. We were way too winded and exhausted to talk, right from the beginning. A good sign, for sure.
Crossing this field was certainly interesting.
The ONE smart decision I made was putting my hydration pack inside my jacket. It may have made me look like an insane humpback weirdo, but everyone else's froze. The first aid station (about 7  miles in) was filled with people frantically trying to de-ice their hoses so they could use their pack to drink, not just as an ice pack strapped to their back.
At some point after that (I didn't look at my Garmin much, and it was way off from everyone else's anyway), we took a turn on what we thought was the course. A couple guys behind us told us that turn was the wrong way - it was a shortcut, and would take 20 minutes off the course. I was confused about what was "wrong" with that. We weren't even at double digits yet, and I was already feeling less than confident about my ability to finish.
We took their advice though, and kept going, only to have a whole bunch of other runners (including Matt, who we knew was ahead of us) fly past us going the opposite way, telling us we were going the wrong way. But the guys behind us kept insisting we were right, and everyone was totally confused. Not long after that, we came upon the mile 15 manned aid station - at mile 11.
People were leaving that aid station going back the way we came, and people were leaving going in the other direction, and both ways had the pink ribbons that marked the race course. We asked the aid station volunteers which way to go, and they were all like "oh, you can go either way, it doesn't matter".
Call me crazy, but I didn't feel that made sense, and no amount of "explanation" from other runners was helping. We went back the way we came, and I secretly hoped it would just bring us back to the start, and we could call it a day after 22 miles. Except apparently we were still on the course, even though it was a loop, and not an out and back.
We ran for awhile longer, and the pink ribbons started getting fewer and further between. We came to a three way intersection with no ribbons, and no one seemed to know where to go. Then, a guy appeared from the trail behind us - his name was Hunt, the race was named after him, and he had marked the course! It seemed like a gift from God! He told us where to go, and despite the conspicuous continuous absence of pink ribbons, we now felt much more confident that at least we were on our way to the finish.

After what seemed like ages, Hunt asked us if we knew how far it was to the aid station. We were pretty confused, since he was leading the way and had led us to believe he was very familiar with the course.
It was at this point that I started to suspect I was never going to make it home alive.
The idea of being lost in the woods is always terrifying. The idea of being lost in the woods in single digit temperatures in soaking wet clothes is a whole new level of fear. Even though I was in no way trained for this race, I knew I could complete the distance, albeit slowly. But I hadn't learned any Hunger Games type survival skills, and it was beginning to look like things might come down to that.
We reached the mile 23.5 aid station and it was the most beautiful sight I'd ever seen. The cutoff for this aid station was 2:30. It was about 2:15, and at this point we had serious doubts about our ability to finish the race before the final cutoff, and more importantly, the sunset, at 5pm. We were only getting slower, and the last 8 miles were rumored to be significantly harder than the rest of the terrain. All joking aside, being in the woods after dark was a really serious safety risk.
We told the volunteer all this, and she cheerfully informed us that it was perfect timing, the medic had just arrived! She told us we could enjoy some cookies around the bonfire while she informed him he would be giving us a ride back. I can't even describe the complete and utter joy and relief I felt.
The joy was short lived. The medic snidely told us that we weren't really injured, and he was only taking people with real problems. He got in his EMPTY van and drove away with no one.
The volunteer very kindly tried to explain how to use the roads for a short cut (3 miles!) back. We tried to follow the complicated directions through our desolation and fear, but after she explained 3 times we just gave up and started running in the direction she pointed, woefully accepting that we would never make it.
We got to the road, and I saw a PT cruiser full of male trail runners pull over. I did the only logical thing. I ran to it as fast as I could, pounded on the driver's window, and demanded they give us a ride.
At first, the driver told us that they didn't have room, but then told his passengers to make room for the "pretty ladies". We crammed in, and he told us he would take us to the next water stop, which was closer to the tea barn than our current location. We agreed, but both silently vowed that we were not getting out of this PT cruiser until it was in front of the tea barn.
So excited to be in a car filled with total strangers!

He did take us back to the tea barn, and also turned out to be my neighbor, and advised me to stop bobbing my head so much while running. Um, ok.
While this was a delightful turn of events, our misery did not end there. Matt still had the car key. I called him, and found out he was still at least 5 miles away. So we were stuck in our soaking, freezing clothes and shoes until he returned.
We went back in the tea barn and were told to record our names, and the distance we thought we had run, and the time we thought we had ran it in. We estimated 24 miles in 5:15.
The good news was that the tea barn had heaters, food, bathrooms, and hot coffee. 

Waiting for Matt around the "fire" in the tea barn.

We met a really nice couple named Alan and Dina, and Alan became my new hero when he lent me a towel and a pair of dry socks. I also met two other blog readers - Catherine and Alvin (both are probably spelled wrong and I am so sorry!). If there's one thing that can cheer a girl up while she's shivering and miserable, it's feeling like a celebrity for a hot (but actually cold) second.
I would like to take a moment to note that my complaints refer to Mother Nature and all the nasty snow she dumped on us, and my own lack of preparation, not the race itself. It was great, and we met a lot of really nice, cool people. They even gave us shot glasses!

This guy agreed to show off his ice beard on Kara's blog, so I took that to mean mine as well.
Things weren't all bad. Our husbands, smart enough to stay nice and warm at home, got a lot of amusement out of our predicament.

Whenever someone would come in after finishing, everyone would ask "did you get lost?". And invariably, they wouldn't answer yes or no, but how many times they got lost. Some people ended up with like 33 miles, and others with 28. Some people had given up, like us, and found rides or alternate routes back. As some girl in the bathroom put it "well we should all feel proud. We all went out in the woods and ran some distance!"
When Matt finished, I skipped the usual niceties of "well done!" or "how do you feel?" and just attacked him, demanded the keys. Dry clothes never felt so good.
The unexpected takeaway from mstory is this: If something seems like a bad idea on paper, everyone you know including your mother warns you against it, and deep in your heart, you know it's a bad idea, it's probably a bad idea. You may end up getting a ride in a random PT cruiser to a barn and putting on a stranger's socks to avoid frostbite.
For a version of this story with fewer words and more gifs, check out Kara's recap!