I know it probably sounds ridiculous. When my boyfriend, Alex, said he'd have me pushing 150 pounds on the bench by the end of the year I laughed too. But now I'm starting to think it might be possible. I started by learning a completely new competition-style form today. With an arched back it's much easier to recruit the legs and core when pushing up the bar. You can literally drive with your whole body. The shoulders are also put in a much more natural position, which facilitates the motion and reduces the stress across the joint. Lastly, the position actually brings the chest off of the bench by about 2 inches so that you don't have to bring the bar down quite as far. Today I just worked on form. I'll start adding more weight to the bar next week.
I have to start by giving a shout out to Josh. Thank you for convincing me to give this crazy idea a try. I don't know how it will pan out, but I figure "don't knock it 'til you've tried it". I definitely believe that there is some science behind the barefoot running theory....IF you train properly and work your way up slowly. And what better time to start than 1 week after your first 100 mile race.
Day 1 I learned A LOT. Like running on pebbles hurts. Running on small rocks hurts. Stepping on acorns hurts. Generally pretty much everything I stepped on sent a shock wave through my foot and up my leg. After I started being more aware of the running surface (I don't think I looked up for the next 200 ft), I worked on gait. I shortened my stride leg so I landed over the ball of my foot with each step. The running started to feel better. Which to me seemed like a good time to stop.
Summary of Day 1: Be aware of the running surface. Take steps carefully. Take short strides. And start short. I only ran about 1/4 mile before I put on running shoes and continued to practice the my form. But it was plenty of distance to get the feel for the road under my foot.
I signed up for this race initially planning to stop after 50 miles. That would have been 23.8 miles longer than I'd ever run before. But something told me I wouldn't be happy quitting at the half-way point so when I started making up my schedule I did it with the 100 in mind. Now, how do you train for a 100 mile run? Good question. I had no idea either. I started by looking at articles online. Then tracked down other runners who had done this kind of thing before. I was left me with a training plan that had me running 50-80 miles/wk (not even close to the recommended weekly mileage, but the most I could handle with my schedule) with my longest run of 50 miles 5 weeks out from race day.
Fast forward to race day. Most people thought I was crazy trying to run a 100 as my first ultra. Most people work their way up from a marathon to a 50 mile to a 100k, so I'm told. I guess I'm just not like most people. I like to do things my own way. So I was on the starting line, ready to run 100 miles, a GU in one hand and my phone in the other (to start texting my crew and pacers to let them know where I was on the course). My audio book was playing in one ear and I was listening to people share their life stories with the other. It was a unique experience; I would be sharing the next 20-30 hours with these people as we went 'round and 'round the course.
Of course I went out too fast in the beginning. I knew better and yet I made the rookie mistake again. The first 50 miles felt like a breeze and I was over an hour faster than I had planned on (9:52 at the 50 mile mark). I would soon get that hour back plus some though. Turns out I couldn't sustain a sub-12:00 mile for another 50 miles. Shocker. It was my stomach that gave out first. Everything I took in just seemed to stay put and then it would slosh around in my belly, which sounded like a half-full water bottle. It seems that my stomach was not on board with this whole eating while running thing and I could tell that I wasn't digesting anything I took in.
As I came back around to Aid Station #1 at the end of loop 7 I desperately needed to start digesting my food. A friend at aid station suggested that I stop taking in Gatorade (the sugar has a significant osmotic effect) and just work on drinking water. Then I still needed to get in some calories and electrolytes from something else. And what would that be? 7 miles later I learned it would be Saltines. Go figure. That was not something I had ever thought about training with. But I had tried chicken noodle soup, potato soup, salted baked potato, GU, Cliff blocks, PP&J. Pretty much you name it, I'd tried it. But then I saw the Saltines sitting out on a plate at the aid station looking quite bland. Perfect, that's exactly what I was looking for. The food that pregnant women turn to when they're battling morning sickness. It was marvelous.
So by the end of loop 7 I had solved the problem of digestion. Now to the bigger problem. I had split the fabric covering of my silicone liner and I was bottoming out in my leg with every step. The harder I pounded on it, the more it hurt. It didn't help that it had rained for 60% of the day including a torrential downpour with lightening and thunder that started around mile 76. My liner and socks were soaked which increased the piston effect even more. I made a game time to decision to take off my running leg and switch to my walking leg for the final loop, the final 12.5 miles. It was a big decision since I'd never walked that far before in my walking leg. Then again I don't think I've ever walked that far in any leg. But if loop 8 was anything like loop 7, I wasn't going to be running much so I may as well be more comfortable during the walk.
And walk I did. For what seemed like forever. Every mile I felt so close, yet still sooo far from the finish line. I knew every hill, rock, stump, turn and tree on the course. I could predict when we'd come upon the next mile marker. My pacer and I climbed up the hill to the water station just before mile marker 9. My pacer was munching on a cinnamon bun and washing it down with water as the sky started to lighten, reminding me that I had missed my goal of 24 hours. I started doing the math, again. I did the math at every mile marker, hoping that maybe I had made a mistake and I didn't have as far to go as I thought I did. But apparently I'm not that bad at math. (12.5 X 7) + 9 = 50 + 25 + 12.5 + 9 = 75 + 21.5 = 96.5. Yes, that was my mental math. It took about a 1/4 mile for me to work it out at that point, which was a 1/4 mile closer to the finish line. I was desperate for a distraction and some more energy. I wanted so badly to just run it in, but my legs would no cooperate. So I walked it in instead, leaning on 2 friends for the last mile as my residual limb swelled up and left ankle gave out. I left every ounce of energy on the trail that day (+1 day)
"One may go a long way after one is tired." - French Proverb
Like Shannon said recently, the journey to becoming a 100 mile ultra finisher is quite a selfish pursuit. That being said, I would like to begin by thanking all of the people (and animals) who made it possible for me to get from the starting line to the finish line of the 2012 Umstead 100. A lot of time elapsed between the two despite the fact they were separated by about 20 feet in reality. The irony of a loop course. But I can honestly say that I probably would not have made it around that loop 8 times had it not been for the amazing crew and pacers who carried me (not literally, though the thought did occur to me) along the way.
So a HUGE thank you to my pacers who saw the best and worst of me out there:
Alex: You are my rock and I am grateful for your advice even if I don't listen. I always know afterwards that I should have. Yes, I know, I should have slowed down and stuck to my loop goals. I will next time! I am so glad that we got to spend a loop out there together, pounding out the miles when I still felt well. You got me through a lot of training and injuries that otherwise might have taken me out of the 100 for good. You believed in me. You always believe in me. Thank you for that!
Rachel: I know you still think I'm crazy, but I appreciated all of your stories (even if I thought Alex had told them to me the loop before and tried repeating them to you). And don't worry, my stomach was sloshing way more than your water bottle. And thanks for trying to take the attention off of me when I was bringing up gas in the woods.
Josh: Your jokes were pretty terrible, but I was laughing on the inside and appreciated every single one (because it meant that I didn't have to contribute to the conversation). I was also introduced to all kinds of new Umstead species, which was a real treat considering I had not been aware of them the first 6 times around. Hmmm...suspicious... yes, I think so. But it got me through a very long 12.5 miles, which means a lot.
Kari: I'm sorry if you didn't know what you were in for when you mentioned to Alysia that you'd be willing to pace me for a loop. Hopefully I didn't ruin the experience for you and you'll consider pacing someone else again in the future. It was a long lap, with lots of stops, but you guys only "almost" lost me a couple of times, which isn't a bad percentage. Especially since I think you almost wandered off the trail and started "seeing" things (like dry land during a torrential downpour) before me. I knew from the start I was in good hands!!!
Alysia: The good news is you didn't have to decide whether or not I could keep going nor did you have to call me out on hallucinations. I think the Kelly you had to put up with for 12.5 miles was way worse and I am grateful that you put up with me through the fatigue, the irritability, the silence when you could have just left me in the woods. That was the hardest 12.5 miles I've ever done and I don't think I could have kept putting one foot in front of the other (which was all I could do by the end) if it hadn't been for you! And thanks for the ride home. I think I was conscious for all of 10% of it. Good thing I didn't have to drive myself home.
Chris, Melody, and Callie: Thank you so much for chasing me around the trail. The spaghetti and sausage was delicious at mile 33 even if I had to "drink" it from a solo cup because the fork was in the car. Chris ran with me for a little bit (which I appreciate given your hip) and Melody made friends with another runner after Callie had an emergency poop. It made miles 33-34 fly by, which is a very welcome experience!
Kate and Ryan: Thanks for lugging my survivor leg around the course. You guys seemed to be everywhere, which was very welcome given the otherwise monotonous course and continuous rain. Plus, your costumes rocked. And your signs were cool. Not to seem selfish, but the dry clothes at mile 80 might be the most memorable moment for me. I still have your clothes and will get them back to you soon. :)
Monique: The cliff shot block thing-a-ma-jigs rocked my world. I think that's all I ate from mile 50-70 much to my surprise considering I didn't even know what they were when you offered them to me for the first time. I also can imagine that sharing a room the night before the race was not what you had planned on and I appreciate how accommodating you were. I must've rolled over about 100 times during the night and finally gave up on sleeping at 3:45am, which I'm sure woke you up too. Sorry and thank you!
Iris: We could not have finished a race like this without wonderful volunteers like you. Thanks for putting up with our "pickiness" as we came through the aid station. I can't imagine what it was like from your end, but I am very thankful from my end. And all of your help at our little camp spot was awesome. Between you, Josh, Monique and Anthony, I always felt so taken care of during the race. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and clearly hadn't prepared for what a 100 mile race entails. I couldn't have been luckier to have you guys on my side, a last minute crew that made my finish possible.
Anthony: I felt like I was home every time I came down the trail towards AS#1 and saw you standing along the sidelines. I know you probably would have loved to have been out there racing too, but your support for Shannon and for me was incredible. Thanks for blogging about me; I know my friends and family appreciated the updates.
Shannon: I am so happy we met in the woods that one day 4 weeks ago. Yes, our meeting was really that sketchy and it couldn't have worked out better! Thank you for opening up your home to me before the race and sharing your crew team with me at the race site. It was great to see your face just about every loop (except the last 2 when I think you were home in bed while I still pounded out a few more miles!) and to cheer each other on. It was one hell of an experience and I'm so glad we could experience it together.
My days continue to have too few hours in them. I keep wondering when I will either (a) take on fewer things to do OR (b) figure out how to subsist on fewer hours of sleep. I have determined my limit on caffeine intake already so unfortunately increasing coffee intake is no longer an option. I usually reach my limit at about 10am, which means I have a whole lot of hours to make it through on fumes. I have to admit that hiding the acidic effects of 3 shots of espresso in 12 oz of milk really seems to help, but at $3.55 a drink, the new limiting factor is money. And as a student I don't have much of that either. I guess that pretty much sums it up pretty well. As a medical student, triathlete, Survivor contestant, personal trainer, girlfriend, owner of 4 rescued animals (ie: zookeeper pretty much), and perpetual neat-freak (I struggle constantly to clean up after for large fury animals, I am short on time and money. Can't wait until I have a job with some free time and some extra cash. Isn't that how it's supposed to work?
Today marked the 1 month anniversary of my return from Survivor and it's good to be home. I had a great 2 weeks off before starting school during which time I took things really easy! The biggest shock was just how much strength and endurance I lost out there. Sometimes it feels like I've lost everything that I've worked on since I was 13 years old. That's probably not true, but when you're used to going out for an hour run and now 15 minutes feels like a lifetime out on the road, it's obvious that I have a lot of work to do.
So I'm trying to get my gears in motion to train for the Pinehurst Triathlon in October. I actually found it more difficult than usual to get motivated to start training for the first time ever. Usually I can't wait to get back out there on the trails. But I'm starting at square 1 again so it took a little extra motivation this time around. Each day i'm getting stronger though, which makes it easier and easier to keep going. I like to think of it as successive motivation! And it seems to be working.
So yesterday I raced in my first triathlon of the season at the Centennial Campus at NC State. It was my first ever time trial swim start in open water, which definitely had its pros and cons. Standing in your wetsuit for 15 min on a concrete hill waiting for your turn to start - not so good. But not getting pummeled and kicked throughout the swim was pretty nice.
I started off with a pretty slow swim, even for me, but was able to make up so time on the bike. The backstretch of the 10.5 mile loop was a bit windy, but the rest of the ride seemed pretty fast and I was pulling back into the transition zone before I knew it. My legs were sore on the bike - I could feel the lactic acid building up - but they were quickly refreshed on the run and I was able to kick in a decent pace even after a long, hard training week.
I ended up placing 8th overall for women and 2nd in my age group with a time of 1:18:36
I had a good long run yesterday through the Duke Forest! I actually found a road called Hard Climb Hill Rd which I got to after running down one steep hill and up another one. I mean seriously. I was really hoping for a nice flat run so that I could keep up a good pace for 10 miles. So much for that. From now on I'm sticking with courses I know!
Last weekend I raced in my first even Bataan Memorial Death March. This is definitely one of for the book - an event like none I've ever done before. It was an incredible experience and journey that took me through the deserts of the White Sands Missile Range, past white-snow capped mountains along packed sandy roads. It turned out to be a very long day beginning at 3:30am when we left the hotel to head to the White Sands Missile Range. Just an hour later we were on the base trying to keep warm in the car (it was only 45 degrees) and to get pumped up for the ridiculous day ahead. At 6:50am my team (Ranger Up) and I loaded our packs on our backs (mostly filled with 5-10 pound bags of rice and beans (totaling 35 pounds for each of us). The race gun went off at 7:00am and we were off.
By Mile 3 it was already warming up considerably so we stopped to shed a layer. I was flooded with relief when I dropped my back on the ground and didn't look forward to putting it back on! We then resumed our hike; the rest of my team walking while I ran a little in front because I was wearing my running leg and it was difficult to walk on it. By Mile 4 we pulled out our first flask of Wild Turkey Whiskey and passed it around. We were all in good spirits, laughing and joking as the people nearby looked on in shock as we swigged down shots from the flask. It was also quickly passed outside of our circle to other competitors who dared to cross the line from ridiculous to stupid with us!
Our jovial disposition then began to shift as the grade of the hill grew steeper around Mile 6. We began the long journey up the 6 mile hill that would take us up to the halfway point! The terrain grew tricky at this point too, constantly playing with your head. You could see the top of the hill just ahead (or at least you thought you could), but then when you got to the top, the road would turn ever so slightly and continue up at an even steeper grade. You felt as if the tumbleweed along the sides of the road were laughing at you each time your bubble was burst at the "top" of each hill. I couldn't wait for the halfway point.
The halfway point finally came. Volunteers were grilling burgers and hotdogs for a price although I stuck to the usual orange Gatorade, strawberry banana Powergels, and banana slices that were being offered for free at every aid station. At this point one, Nick was beginning to cramp, mostly his hamstrings, and his pace was slowing as he struggled with the uphill. So we took a nice break at Mile 14 to allow him some time to recover. It was hard to get moving again after that break, but luckily the next 5 miles were a gradual downhill that allowed us to pick up the pace a little and make up some of that lost time at Mile 14. I felt really good and would continue to run off ahead because it was much easier and less wear and tear on my body than walking. Every 2 miles (at the aid stations) I would wait for the rest of the Ranger Up guys to catch up. We'd regroup and then take off again after addressing everyone's needs (huger, thirst, alleviating the many aches and pains like blisters, sand in shoes, etc).
Our next slow down came around Mile 19 when John felt a pop in his foot and experienced significant pain. He slowed his pace, hoping to find a more comfortable way to walk, but continued moving forward. We then hit the 2 mile long sand pit at Mile 20 which slowed us all down significantly. You feet would sink a few inches with every step and since it was also uphill, your feet would also slide backwards considerably with the weight of the ruck on your back. It was a lot like walking on the soft sand near the water at the beach, except worse. And there was no water nearby for mental alleviation. At least the end of the sand pit brought us to Mile 22 and just 4 miles from the finish line!
I continued waiting for the RU guys at every aid station until we made it to the Mile 24 marker. I could feel my stump slowly swelling under the trauma of running with a pack and knew that I might not have long before I'd need to take it off and let the swelling go down. So I told my team I'd seem them at the finish line and took off for the final 2.2 miles of the race after a quick swing of rum. I picked up a comfortable pace (about a 13 min/mile) that would be easy to maintain for a few miles and just kept moving. As I rounded the 25 mile marker I began to feel the toll of the race. But a nice little buzz kicked in from the rum I'd had earlier and I started to pick up my legs a little higher! With a mile to go I caught up with the only other person running so I settled in next to him and we started to talk our way to the finish line. With a 1/2 mile to go I kicked it in and we finished the race at a 10 min/mile pace! It was awesome. It was awesome to be done. To put down my ruck. To meet all of the inspiring people on the course and survivors from the actual Bataan Death March.
If you ever have the chance, I'd recommend adding this race to your Bucket List.