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Best thing about speedwork? Chillin' on the bleachers afterwards

Best thing about speedwork? Crackin’ up on the bleachers after a hard workout.

Ok, that was a total bait and switch title. There is really nothing funny about speedwork. Well, except maybe waaaay after you’re done and you slap your track buddy on the back the next day and  joke about how you almost died on that last 800. “Yeah, and I’m so glad you were in lane 1 so my  wild-and-windy-loogie didn’t hit you in the face.” Yep, thems were good times. Ha ha ha.

Red, Carly and I are on our way to a PR in the Eugene Women’s Half Marathon. (And there is still time to sign up on Saturday – do it!) I usually don’t announce how confident I feel about a race (and I’m not always confident) because I might jinx it. But, I think I’m good. I think I’ll let myself have some “Hey, I just might kick ass” thoughts about Sunday. We’ve done our speedwork. We’re ready. This week we’re running short, slow, easy and reflecting on the training.

Red said to me recently that “running is something great to align your life with.” I’ve been thinking about this alot. It’s so very true.

  • Running helps me with my schedule. I plan everything around my workouts.
  • I use it to stay fit. It  helps me kick my 10 year old’s butt on the basketball court. I look pretty darn good at age 40 ahem 7 and I can maintain my guilt-free addiction to good cheese.
  • It does wonders for my confidence. Nervous about an important meeting? Scared to confront hubz about the car rolling down the driveway backwards and hitting a tree?  Worked up about a confrontation with a crazy neighbor? (Uh, these are just examples, they’ve never happened) Well, not me!  I just conjure up a tough patch in any race or even the fact that I’ve RUN marathons, ultramarathons, or up steep hills, in the dark, at 5:00am and WHAMO! Bring it, people.
  • I use it to stay centered. Being a parent is like being on one of those rides at the county fair where you strap yourself into a giant metal circle with 40 other crazies and the whole thing spins 100 miles an hour. Then, the entire ride tilts and you become a human centrifugal force experiment, hoping you don’t throw up or get thrown up on. Everything is up, down, spinning, sideways and sometimes there is barf. Running is like the opposite of that.
  • I use it to solve problems. The longer the run, the more problems get solved. I’m a type A, so I go on reeeeealllly long runs. I get more done (or is it because I have more problems? Hmmm.)
  • I use it to feel alive! I get girl time, nature time, sweat time, pain time, joy time, dirt time and me time. Running is multi-tasking-happy-place paradise.

And ok, yes, maybe I use it to find humor in life. Just today as Red, Carly and I were enjoying a slow, easy 5 mile taper-inspired run this morning, Red says, “You know, even after this race is over on Sunday, I’d like to keep doing speedwork.” We all had a good laugh.

What do YOU think is funny about speedwork or running or county fair rides?

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dieting

Training for a race is a little like dieting. Things start out really great. You’ve got lots of motivation. You’re high on the goal. You’ve got your plans laid out in front of you and you’re ready to check things off your list. You bump along the first few weeks and things don’t seem so hard. A little extra veggies, yogurt instead of ice cream, shorter runs that get you moving, but don’t kick your ass.

“This is very doable, ” you say to yourself.

Oh, but wait,  let’s add a layer….I should say that training for a race in the summer is like dieting in the summer! Twice as hard. There is so much to run and so much to eat. Your only hope is doing a lot of both and pray it all evens out.

For dieting or running in the summer, here’s what you need:

A Plan

eugene_running_clubI love a good plan. People often say I’m organized. I had a boss in the Air Force who told me once, “Wow, you really know all about management by objective!” “Of course!” I told him, “My mother taught me how to make a great list.” There’s nothing prettier than a yellow legal pad with a long list of to-do items all neatly crossed out. When it comes to my running, however, I prefer to have someone else be the list-maker and the task-master. Enter awesome coach Cathie Twomey Bellamy of Eugene Running Club. She REALLY knows me. She knows I’m a busy momma, so she adds in the “crazy” factor, she knows if she gives me a range of 6-8 miles to run that it will be 8. She knows that if she gives me a hilly day, that it will be mountains. And, like a diet, she knows I sometimes cheat. Type A that I am, it’s usually more instead of less. But she knows that too, adds that in, subtracts two, divides by 7 and spits out the perfect plan for me week after week. Right now, she’s got me on some fun weekend runs gearing up for the Eugene Women’s Half that involve 1/2 marathon pace miles. Hard. These are hard, people. But very satisfying. Knowing I can run extended miles at my goal pace builds fitness, but also confidence. It’s true, to run faster you have to run faster. At least, that’s the plan!

Good Cheerleaders

Sarah & Jessicca post-race high!

People say that if you have a goal, you should find people around you that are supportive. Done! My RMR crew of friends are absolutely the best cheerleaders ever. We even wear skirts! (Running skirts, of course, but very cheerleader-ish). And there is no better feeling than having someone to pound out the miles with or offer high fives and sweaty hugs at the end of a race. They wait for you at the wee hours, making sure you show up, they don’t judge you when you fall off the horse. I love this photo of my friends Sarah and Jessicca after the Eugene Women’s Half in 2010. This says it all.

 

The Occasional Treat

mckenzie_tanyaI would not do well working in a cheese factory. Anyone who knows me knows I will do ANYTHING for good cheese. I used to reward myself with a hunk of stinky blue after any run over 10 miles. (Once I started running long distances, this little system quickly became a problem, so now I just treat myself once in a while.) Anyway, along with surrounding yourself with the things that will be conducive to helping you succeed, sometimes you just need a little treat. For me, that means, in the middle of training, I have to veer off course and plunge into a space or place that I really love. Yep, I’m training for a fast 1/2 marathon, but there’s no way I’m going to give up ice cream, uh, I mean trail running! Hitting the McKenzie River Trail with 4 of my favorite people, was like having a giant blob of stink cheese delivered to my door. Well, you know what I mean.

 

A Solid Goal

What’s in it for you? What’s the icing on the cake?  How will this work make you feel at the end? Setting goals can be a tough part of training. I recommend setting at least three time goals and 3 other goals. For example, I have a time that I would REALLY love to hit, I have a time that I will be happy with and I have a time that, well, might just have to do and I will try to be ok with it. Then, I have other goals like fueling well, having fun, being in the moment, grabbing all the goodies at the end, being there for friends, smiling for the camera as I cross the finish in hopes I don’t look like I’m dying.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Summer is going by too fast. We talk a lot about that here in Eugene because the winter is soooo long and we’ve learned to really appreciate the sunny, dry days. Setting yourself up with a goal in the summer is great and I’m so stoked that I picked the Eugene Women’s Half. 13.1 miles is such a perfect distance. You have to work and train for it, but you still have time to enjoy the other parts of summer; like trails, and friends and…. cheese!

How is your summer? How is training going?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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With this view at the start, how could I doubt anything? Photo by Glenn Tachiyama

With this view at the start, how could I doubt anything? Photo by Glenn Tachiyama

I ran the Peterson Ridge Rumble 40 Miler this spring and I’m finally getting around to writing about it. I know, the race was April – pause to go look it up- 14th. Yeah, it was THAT long ago. I just haven’t been able to write about it for a number of reasons.

#1 –  Time. I work full time now. My days are packed for 14-17 hour stretches. I’m trying to keep this wonderful Run Momma Run mojo alive, keep two kids and hubby happy and healthy,  train for my next running journey and everything in between.

#2 – Space. I haven’t been in the right space for writing about the race. As you’ll see from my notes below, while it was incredible in many ways – good incredible – it was also incredibly hard and emotional and it’s been difficult to put that into words.

#3 – Sadness. The Boston Marathon tragedies happened the morning after my race and, while I sat working at my computer at home that day, bags of frozen corn under my feet, the shocking news hit the Internet and I was consumed with sadness, racked with sobs for days and could not even begin to think of my own 40 miler in terms beyond a shoulder shrug. Who cares about my efforts? My sport and its people were hurting.

#4 – Change. This race changed me. In wonderful, deep ways. But it also changed the way people see me. And how I see myself. I wasn’t prepared for that. I am still processing that and trying to accept it.

Training

Training and signing up for my first 40 miler (an odd distance) was a consolation prize. I really wanted to run a 50. I figured that, mentally, I wanted to make the jump from 50K to 50M, but the race I was hoping to run filled up before I could register. My crazy schedule pointed me to the 40, so I hit submit.

My longest run was a 30 miler. It turned out to be the second worst run of my life so far. I was getting over a deep chest cold, running on shoes that were giving me fits and I was just flat out exhausted. It was a cold day, just below 30 degrees at the start and, despite the cold, I ended up sweat-chaffing in places you don’t want to know about. As I sat in the ice bath afterwards, skin literally burning in places, my legs and feet throbbing, my head aching, I experienced a mild panic attack and the questions started coming… What was I doing to myself? Are the people right who say running long distance is crazy? Is my husband who looks at me with a combination of pity, frustration, worry and WTF  right? Had I crossed a line? Was I wrong to want to run and keep running? If  hurting myself and pushing myself was wrong – wrong for my body, wrong for my family,  the wrong way to spend my time, the wrong way to live, was it the wrong thing to love?

This was a huge blow to my sense of self.  While the questions felt overwhelming, I knew the answers could only be found by  running farther.

But the 40 Miler Was Weeks Away

I had to sit with these questions for almost a month. I thought about it while recovering from that damned cold, the chaffing and the lousy 30 mile training run. Tapering is challenging enough. It’s more challenging when you think that maybe what you’re tapering for is the worst thing for you.

Crossing the Line

As you might have guessed, this post is not about the finish line. The finish line in any race is just a scribble on the road or a smudge the dirt. It’s the months of hills and speed and ache and exhaustion and niggles and pains and fun and frolic and pure running that make up the story about crossing that little line in the sand. Of course it’s an achievement. It’s wonderful to be done. But sometimes the most climactic part of the journey has nothing to do with what everyone agrees is “the end”.

As I spent the next few weeks in taper, knowing that something might be wrong with me to want to go out and pump my legs for hours on end just to come home beaten and silly, bruised and high, limping and singing, I had something else happen that made me question my passion.

I went to a birthday party of a new friend’s 4 year old. Grown ups gathered downstairs with beer, chips and chit chat while the kids played dress up and games upstairs. I was talking with women I hadn’t met before, getting the run down on their schools, plans for the summer, recipes, gardening tips…the usual meet and greet things when I suddenly felt very relaxed and happy. I had finished my longest run. I could chill until the 40. I could eat and sit and put my feet up and yes I’ll have another beer, thank you. It was nice to talk with people who didn’t know me. I didn’t have to talk about running. About my burning questions.

And then my friend outed me.

Without warning he walked across the kitchen and in a booming voice proclaimed, “…AND LAURA IS GOING TO RUN A 40 MILE RACE NEXT WEEK!”

I winced. I was in the middle of struggling with the sanity of what I do for hours on end and now 10 people were looking at me like I was nuts. It was confirmed. I had indeed crossed the line. The rest of the afternoon was spent trying to fend off questions like, “how much do you eat?” and “how many days a week do you run?” and “who watches the kids?” Suddenly I didn’t fit in. It made me sad.

A Week Later I Ran 40 Miles

And, as starting lines have a way of doing, my doubts about my abilities or my love of running were washed away like the scuttle of dirt that flies from your shoes during those first eager steps of any race.

I smiled for miles on end. Literally. And when I would catch myself smiling, I would smile bigger. I felt fantastic. 10 miles was a nice warm up. 20 was a fantastic half-way point. It smelled like my childhood: sage, juniper, dry dirt and cold, crisp air. The aid station oranges and potatoes were better than any delicacy anywhere. My fueling was perfectly timed and executed. Even my face plant in the thick dirt at mile 18 was entertaining.

And then I got off course.

At mile 29 I crested the second of two hills, proud that I ran all the way up given the distance I had just come and the fact that snow was now pelting me in the face. I drafted behind a group of 10 or so runners that had passed me from the regular start time. We all had our heads down because of the wind and snow and all of us missed our trail marker at the top of the hill. We headed off course and down a steep road for over a mile. At the bottom we gathered and realized that none of us had seen a course marker for some time. Not wanting to go back up and not sure if we were truly off course, we all kept going. Looking behind me I saw 8 to 10 more runners coming down the hill behind us. Surely, not all of us were lost. Or were we?

I had run 30 miles. The runners I was with, having started at the regular start time, were faster than I was. It was snowing. I wasn’t sure where I was. I had to pee badly. Running alone was fine. Running lost alone was not fine. Mostly, I didn’t want to over shoot or under shoot the total mileage.  I took stock: I had just filled my pack with water. I had enough Gu in my bag to choke a horse. I still had on my extra light jacket. I would be ok if I had to be lost for a while longer.

Then I hooked up with a guy who helped me get the map out of my pack. I have to admit, being the one in the group with a map cleverly folded in a waterproof zip lock did wonders for my confidence in that moment. From the map and the general distance and direction we were heading, we surmised that we were running parallel to the course. I took a quick pee and ran with him for a couple miles. In my worry about not wanting to be lost alone, I was determined to keep up. Looking at my splits later, I saw I had run 8:30 min/miles to stick with him. Doing tempo miles after running a 50K tells you something about yourself.

After a while we saw a shiny object through the trees. It was a beautiful blue tarp! A tarp covering supplies at the mile 35 aid station! We ran into the woods, drawn to the tarp like an ultra runner to a salty potato, had our fill of food and water and carried on.

The last five miles were peaceful. I was back on track. I was going to finish. I was going to run the entire way. I was going to cross the line.

A Tearful Finish

I had told myself when I realized I was off course that I couldn’t afford to have a freak out. There was no time for that even though I just wanted to sit down and cry. There would be plenty of time for that later.  As soon as I crossed the finish line, I told myself I could let it go. And that’s what I did.  I cried. I wandered around the finisher’s area. I got wonderful hugs from friends. I had a shower, cried some more, ate a burrito, I sat in the sun. Then I drove home alone.

I did it. I ran 40 miles. I ran longer than I had ever run before.

Were My Questions Answered?

I listen to news of the Boston tragedies over the next week. I rested, I limped around. I told a few close friends about my race, about getting off course, about the beauty, about how it felt pointless to talk about my adventure given the suffering that was happening in Massachusetts.

And I still wasn’t sure if I was sane. I didn’t want to see the look in someone’s eyes when I told them I had just run 40 miles. The look most people gave me was not a reflection of how I felt. For the first time, I felt like an alien.

Until I told Chris.

Chris is the mother of a friend of mine, Polly. She’s a very active grandma and I often see her taking Polly’s kids to school. Chris and I were sitting at  school three weeks after the race watching first graders sing thank you songs to volunteers. She leaned over between songs and asked how my race went. Knowing she loves to run and has always been active all of her life,  I was ready to tell her how amazing it was. I looked over and her face was a shining light with a beaming smile, eager to hear about an epiphany or devour a story about the trail. I told her it was an incredible experience. She sighed and shook her head in the knowing that comes only from experiencing exactly the same thing. There was absolutely no hint of “you’re crazy” in her eyes. There was no judgement. There was only the deep appreciation of someone who “gets” how much I learned about myself out there on my journey.

When I saw the excitement in Chris’ eyes, I knew I had the answer to my looming questions.  Some might say I was trying to find acceptance of myself from someone else, but I see it differently. Chris held up a mirror to me. She wisely and freely gave me a view into myself. She shone the light on why I love running. She helped me to see that place within myself that is all mine. That secret, beautiful place I can go on every run. I just have to cross that line of doubt within myself and I’m home free.

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You don't really need matching shirts to run in the rain at 6:00am, but it helps.

Red and I don’t really need matching shirts to run in the rain at 6:00am, but it helps.

Or is it all you need is what you got? Either way. I got it!

Training for a half marathon or any race or even pulling yourself out of bed for a run comes from something deep inside of you. That’s what I love about running. “It gives you exactly what you put into it”, Red said to me yesterday. The best thing about it is that YOU get to take credit for it.  YOU got out of bed. YOU laced up. YOU put one foot in front of the other. YOU did it.

Well….

I would be lying if I said I didn’t work hard at having optimal conditions for training and running. (Well, as optimal as a full-time-working-mother-of-two-momma is gonna get) As you know, Red and I are training for the Eugene Women’s Half Marathon which is pretty darn optimal as far as races go. Hundreds of women runners, cool swag and goodies at the end. Uh, yeah, that’s part of the optimal plan for sure!

Here’s some other things you might need…

Who doesn't LOVE a beautiful place to run. I'm lucky to be in Eugene and enjoy Pre's trail.

A beautiful place to run! I’m lucky to be in Eugene and enjoy Pre’s trail.

 

trail_running_gear

Shoes! Uh, and some other stuff. Retain therapy goes along with the uplifting mental effects of running.

cheese

This is a little known fact about taking up running. You’re gonna need cheese. And lots of it. The good stuff.

peanut_butter

And peanut butter, of course. This one is not a secret.

cat_beer

You also have to rest when your body says rest. Training is hard work. Resting is part of training. (And I’m not just saying that because I think this picture of a cat is hysterical)

baldy

You will also need the support of good friends. Like those who will sing operettas at the top of mountains you’ve just ran up.

fall_creek_camera

And those who will take a picture of you taking a picture of them as you get ready for a race because we all know the real reason we run is for killer status updates on Facebook.

photo[138]

And, if  those friends aren’t enough, you might have to start your own running group full of friends who will lure you out of bed so you can pretend to surf in front of them at 6:00am. It was 6:00am. Who knows why I was doing that.

tennis_ball

Ok, pause the silliness for a REAL training tip. You might need a good tennis ball to sit on when the speedwork gets the best of your bum. Ahhh, hurts so good.

photo[121]

Or, a nice col bag of frozen corn for your tootsies when you’re at work. (Yes, your boss will look at you strangely. Just go with it. You’re an athlete.)

runner_momma_signs

Most of all, it’s great to have the support of people who love you.

I’m sure Red and I will be calling on all of these pieces of our training plan as we get closer to the Eugene Women’s Half. Like today might be peanut butter day! Tell us, what keeps you moving?

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Here's our RMR gal Carly rockin' her favorite orange Mizunos in yesterday's race!

Here’s our RMR gal, Carly, rockin’ her favorite orange Mizunos in yesterday’s race!

This giveaway and short-to-the-point post is sneaking up on you like summer sneaks up on Eugene. Yep, most of us here say that summer officially starts when the gun goes off at the Butte to Butte. And what an awesome day it was for our 4th of July 10K! Sunny, a bit breezy and so so many Run Momma Runners out there! Nice job, ladies. Cheering for runners is second only to racing and, dare I say, just as fun?!

Oh, right, let’s get to the point! MIZUNO GIVEAWAY TIME!

As you know, training has started in earnest (read: I’m now trying to run faster on these ol’ momma legs) for The Eugene Women’s Half Marathon. As with the start to any endeavor, one needs new bling! To keep us all motivated to train and run and eat well and sleep better and not go crazy with trying to figure out camping and picnics and kids staying up late and work and summer insanity…..AHHHHH, let’s start with giving away a pair of Mizuno Running Shoes every week this month! Bam! As you may also know, Mizuno is our exclusive footwear partner so we get to gift you with these awesome shoes.

Carly, an RMR regular, Mizuno lover and woman on a mission to PR in the Eugene Women’s Half nailed the Butte to Butte yesterday. So proud of you!

Ok, Ok, the giveaway…

Please comment below with your answer to the following question and we’ll pick a winner Tuesday, July 9th. You can comment here or on our FB page giveaway post.

I LOVE a good half marathon race and it’s the fastest growing distance, especially for women. Why do you like the 1/2 marathon distance or why would  you want to run one?

Craig was WAY out in front when I took this photo here at mile4i 4ish. He's so fast I almost missed him. Zooom!

Oh, and here’s somebody else who wears Miuznos…our very own local, Mizuno athlete and WINNER of yesterday’s race, Craig Leon. He probably won’t be running the Eugene Women’s Half, so maybe I have a shot, right? right? Oh, c’mon, humor me!

 

 

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Getting off LSD

logo_ewhI’m used to LSD, you know, Long Slow Distance. I’ve never been a super speedy runner and I think that’s why I latched on to ultra running.  But, after a long grueling race and the blisters heal, I LOVE short, fast runs. There is something that just clicks when I can  zone out, get a groove on and tick away miles on a long stretch of pavement. And the road is the best place to pick up the pace. Of course, we all know it’s twice as much fun with friends. So, when I found myself facing a summer without a race registration, I knew THIS was the time to do it;  the summer to get faster, mix it up and try for a half marathon PR. The race I picked…The Eugene Women’s Half! No sooner had a made this little secret goal for myself, than the lovely Tate Kelley from the EWH asked me  if she could follow my training.  Saweeet, I said. Let’s do this thing.

Goal number two: who can I rope into doing this with me cuz, you know, the more fun with friends thing. Enter my buddy, Red.

laura_pacerRed!

Red is awesome. And not because her real name is also Laura. Which, of course, is why we call her Red, to avoid confusion. Oh, and the HAIR! In a word, gorgeous. I love following her down a trail, her thick, red curls flying. I always feel like I’m in a movie running with her. My brain says I was to stop, but I know I can’t because the movie director  will yell and me and say, “Get your ass in gear! Red, the Hair Princess is ahead of you!”

Ok, back to the PR. I’m not quite ready to tell you my time goal yet. Or should I say OUR time goal because Red and I are in this together. But, I am willing to let you in our training, so here we go!

Speedwork, Day 1

speedwork_track

I love post-speedwork yoga. It’s so relaxing. Plus, this position makes us look thinner.

It’s all about training specificity, which is a fancy way of saying, “if you want to run fast, you have to run fast.” Complicated, I know. Actually it is pretty complicated, especially for a distance runner who is used to pointing her feet in one direction and running for 5 hours. Speedwork is all about numbers and Xs and jog recoveries and laps and the watch and almost barfing. Almost.

Mimosas & My Amazing Uterus

When you set a new goal in your life, grab a friend. No, really, grab them. Then tell them they are coming with you.

When you set a new goal in your life, grab a friend. No, really, grab them. Then tell them they are coming with you.

Our first serious track workout wasn’t too bad, really. We survived to do it the next week. Know why? Because there’s Mimosas at the end of of this race, ladies! Hellooo! And loads of other fun stuff AND it’s an all-women’s event! The energy you feel running alongside hundreds of other women runners is like being in a room full of sweaty brilliance where everyone understands IT ALL. Like how crazy it is trying to get out of the house to run when you have a sick kid up all night, or juggling crazy work schedule and training or getting miles in on dark mornings before everyone else gets up then make it back home to pack lunches. Oh, and let’s not forget that not that long ago, women weren’t even allowed to run in a race of this distance. The miles tick by and the years tick by and still, no ones uterus has fallen out. Let’s continue to amaze them, shall we?

Join us in the fun and follow our journey. More soon….

Love,

Laura & Red

 

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Epic. That’s my word for race day.

Cathie is an amazing coach. She is my running rock!

I keep telling people I had an epic day at the McKenzie River Trail Run 50K and they squint at me cautiously and ask,

“Seriously?”

“YES!” I say. I knew it would be though. I could feel it. Like my last race, the Ridgeline Ramble 20K, I knew it would be an “on” day. A day that I felt strong. A day that I came to the starting line with nothing naggling, nothing injured, no questions, no uncertainty, no doubts. I credit my coach for that feeling.

This race was for Cathie.

Getting to the starting line healthy, strong and well-trained is all her fault. I don’t lack motivation. I’m weird that way. I await her training spreadsheets each week like I’m waiting for Santa. When she pushes me, I’m stoked! When she makes me take it easy, well, I’m a bit less stoked, but I know she’s always right.

That “epic” feeling also includes being surrounded by glorious pre-race gifts from my runner besties!

The latest in early-morning-run-fasion – the AmyPottery Coffee Mug. Fits in coffee cup spot in your car, easy to carry, keeps it hot and it’s a piece of art. Thank you T-buns!

My beloved Michelle set me up with my favorite FOOD – Rice Crispy Treats – Trader Joe RMR style! Cathie & I celebrated with more of same post-race.

With great support from my buddies, how could I NOT have a great day? Plus, I was about to hook up with an amazing person and swap food, share life stories, pee in the woods together and encourage each other over lava, roots and rocks for 31 miles. That’s her in yellow, below.

(From left to right) Ilisa, my “security blanket” as we called each other during the race, Shelley, a random guy, Todd and Julia – hanging out before the race. I love how Julia is holding the Glide (or is it deodorant?) like it’s a can of beer.

Glide applied, snacks packed, shirts piled on the drop bag tarps and last minute pees taken BEHIND the porta potty (because the line was too long in FRONT of the porta potty), and we were headed to the start.

But wait, I forgot to tell you the Garmin story.

Ah, tin foil. Kinda like gray tape for technology.

Once upon a time, I had a Garmin 205. It lasted a blissful 4 years before its face fell off one day mid-run. So, for my long training run along the McKenzie river trail several weeks beforehand, I borrowed one. I clicked start, or so I thought, but the timer never started. I didn’t fuel on time and kind went coo coo. So coo coo that I accidentally left the borrowed watch at the water’s edge of Carmen Reservoir when I took a post-run ice bath. Ugh! I drove up the next day to look for it. Gone. I didn’t have enough time to buy a new one for various reasons, so I borrowed another watch from the same gal I borrowed the first one from [insert amazing story of trust and friendship here]. This time, on race day, it never turned on at all!

Seriously?

Did I really need one of those woo-woo life lessons about time being imaginary or relative to nothing or that it’s all in my head? Two minutes before the start, that Obie Wan Kenobi voice came on in my head….”Trust the force….” Wait, no, no, that was Ilisa’s voice saying, “It’s ok, you’ve got this. You don’t need the Garmin. Just trust. You know what to do. We’ll stick together.”

I let panic grip me for only a few seconds, then a few seconds more when she added, “I don’t have a watch either. In fact, I don’t want to know what time it is.”

Seriously?

Fortunately, the best thing about starting lines is….you just gotta start running! There’s no turning back. All the excruciating details of training fall away into the simplicity of one foot in front of the other. There is nothing you can do about anything. Hmmm, maybe I did need a lesson.

The gun went off. I ran. I smelled the forest. I tried to “feel” it.   I made it to race day. I made it back to running long distances from being injured for so long last year. Making it to the start felt like I had won. I was instantly transported to heaven and stayed there for 31 freaking awesome miles.

Seriously!

We started out slowly. Ilisa and I fell in toward the rearish of mid-pack. The single track line of runners seemed long and too slow as we climbed up toward Sahalie falls. But, I kept telling myself this was a good thing. No sense in screwing up a perfectly good race day with starting out too fast. Been there, run that.

After the climb, which was really the only climb on the course, it was all fun as we approached the first aid station at 5.7 miles, Santiam Wagon Road. High fives, a slice of watermelon, an imaginary “check” in the air, a  jog around the orange cone and we were headed to our next restaurant in the dirt, Carmen Reservoir at mile 11.2. It was delicious, of course. The volunteer support at this race is fantastic as was the spread; chips, cookies, quesadillas, boiled potatoes with salt, Bugles and loads of watermelon and cantaloupe – my favorites –  were plentiful! I learned from my first 50K, Siskiyou Outback, that fruit is a perfect blend of easy-to-digest water and sugar to supplement my Gu. Potatoes are also a hit. Gotta love a mid-race salt lick!

Kick your heals up, lift your knees up, heck, just stay up!

Treats in tow, the next 6 miles were challenging, technical and can be summed up in two words: Lava Rocks. How do you handle a trail full of sharp objects? A trail section where mountain bikers CARRY their bikes? Use the RiverDance technique. Still, it’s hard not to fall. Ilisa took a few epic tumbles. After the first one, which sent her careening into a giant log, she got up, looked herself over and said, “Well, nothing’s impaled. Let’s go.” She had me at impaled! I love this woman! [insert another story of  friendship, grown over 31 miles of single track]

After that section, it was all downhill from there.

Seriously!

The course has a net downhill and for the most part, you can really feel that groove on the last section of the course. But first, we had to fuel up at Trailbridge Aid Station at mile 16.7 and run up and over what I would call a “saddle” on the side of a pretty steep bank (the only section of the course I hadn’t run) until we hit Deer Creek Aid Station. More salt, more fruit, more random jokes, more friendly faces to help us fill our packs and get us down the road. From there to the next aid at Buck Bridge was a short 3.1 miles. Perfect! As the miles stretched longer, it was so encouraging to see more smiles and FOOD in that short time span. I was so high and excited at mile 25, I couldn’t help but scream, “Let’s go run a 10K!!!!”

Seriously? (I know, right? I’m a total nerd.)

The last section was woodsy, windy, pretty and with my security-blanket-perfect-pacer, Ilisa in front of me, I felt the best kind of tired and soreness creep in on the next 5 miles. You know the kind that says, “Hey, you’re working pretty hard, but nothing is going to kill you and because you’re on a caffeine/sugar/distance/race high right now, you’re quite the rockstar!” Love that voice.

But the last mile was reaaaallllly long. Remember the Garmin story? Sure, I had asked several runners as we cruised along that morning what mile we were on, and the last aid was only 5 miles behind us, but time does a brain fuck with, especially when you’re at the maximum distance your body has trained for and the trail offers you nothing but curvy, bumpy single track next to a rushing river you can’t drink from or cool off in. Back. Forth. Left. Right. Are we there YET?! Random cheering guy says, “A mile to go!” Back. Forth. Left. Right. Are we there YET?! Another random cheering guy says, “A mile to go!”

Seriously?

Leah and I – hot mess mommas!

Yes, SERIOUSLY! Ilisa and I finally spy the shoot up a short, steep embankment and give it all we got. We crossed the finish joined at the hip. Sweaty hugs, laughter, glassy eyes looking for familiar faces, stumbles toward the porta-poty, lots of OMGs follow.

Ilisa headed home with her son. I stood for a while cheering finishers and was so excited to spy Leah coming through looking strong! We decided lunch was in order and, after retrieving her van from the starting line up the road, had our fill of burrito-rice-chip yumminess and counted our remaining toenails.

I drove home alone, filled with the euphoric feelings of a day spent thrashing my body doing something I absolutely love. At home, my awesome husband was grilling up a steak for dinner (an upgrade from my usual post-race hamburger splurge) and chillin’ the beer.

After my mega-chaffing experience on my last big training run, I decided to run in a bra and my fantastic Mizuno skirt. Less to wear, less to rub. Worked like a charm.

It was such an epic day, it took me a while to get in the shower. I just didn’t want to wash off anything that represented my accomplishment, my journey. Plus there was the cold beer and that comes first.

Good as a 1st 50K?

People have asked me if this would be a good first 50K. Some folks have told me it was perfect for a first, some not. Having only done one other before that was classified as mountain running, starting at 6,500 feet elevation with thousands of feet in elevation change, the McKenzie River Trail required less hill training and seemed easier in that respect. However, it’s extremely technical. You really can’t take your eyes off the trail for even a second unless you’ve got endo-thrill-issues. If you’re lucky enough to live close to the trail and lucky enough to get into the lottery, I recommend doing some training runs there where you can take your time and see the gorgeous waterfalls and soak up what feels like a magical fairy forest.

SWAG?

They did it up right. Being a big fan of race medals (probably because I sell those snazzy marathon medal display racks), I was admittedly a little bummed that we wouldn’t be getting one. BUT, what we did get was saweet and totally useful.

Bottle of red wine with cool MRTR 50K design, sweet fleece hat that I wear all the time and a groovy travel blanket. Awesome for the family – waterproof on one side, snuggly on the other.

Thanks for letting me share my loooong race report with you. Congratulations to you if you made it this far. It truly was the Best. Race. Day. Ever.

Seriously.

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