Tuesday, April 20, 2021

#dammitjeremy

 Boy was I right about jumping into a training plan being like starting a cold engine.  But, the good news is that with a little persistence, things are beginning to fall into place. I had a tempo run this morning and wasn't terribly disappointed with my paces.  I have a love / hate relationship with speed work.  I enjoy doing it because it changes things up and makes the run go by faster - my 6.5 miles this morning was over before I knew it.  It is also the best way to track your improvements, or see where you might be overtraining.  The reason that I dislike speed work is because it is speed work.  It is hard and not fun when you are in the middle of an interval, but it always makes me feel good about the run after. There are opposite opinions on whether there is value in speed work for 100 milers, for your average runner at least. This will be the first time that I consciously add it to my training plan, so it will be interesting to see what happens. I am optimistic about it though. 

Why #dammitjeremy?  Well, basically, that is me blaming my friend, Jeremy Howard, for giving me the nudge to follow my own misguided urge to sign up for the Arkansas Traveller 100 miler that happens just 9 weeks after the Badger 100.  This will be the closest I have ever run two 100 milers, so it will be an interesting test for me and for my coach (Stringbean).  

Badger 100 is a mostly flat, rail to trail course while AT100 has about 19,000 feet of gain over the 100 miles.  My goal for Badger is to be in shape to run as much and as quickly as possible.  My goal for AT100 will be determined after I see how well I recover after Badger.  I think stacking these two races is a realistic goal, but I may have a skewed idea of what is realistic?

The good news is that I will not fail due to lack of support.  I have the famous Fawn Hernandez pacing me for Badger (she has always been famous, just now more people know it), and Roger Rholdon - the winner of the 135 mile Voodoo Ultra pacing me for AT100.  Both high quality people and tough runners who will motivate me to keep my complaints to myself and keep moving forward.  

Really looking forward to these adventures! 

Current mileage:  about 40 miles a week and climbing

Current phase of training:  Tempo and hill workouts. This training block will be about building your high end endurance fitness and ultimately fatigued resistance. Build mileage into the 50's. Incorporate higher weight strength training to build muscular strength

Happy Running! 

Edie

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Warming up a cold engine

 A body at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.  A 50 year old body that was mostly stagnate for a couple of months prior to starting a new training plan will resist any effort towards motion.  I can't say this surprises me, but man I wish it wasn't so.  

I knew that the first few weeks of training would be like starting an old car engine on a cold morning.  I was right, but as much as my muscles are protesting, I have to say that it feels really good knowing that if I stay faithful to the training before me, all of the protesting parts will fall into line and become stronger.

One week and 6 workouts in.  Thanks to the strength workouts for reminding me of muscles that I had forgotten about, and to the running to remind me that even with heavy, sore legs, I can call on past experience to push through.

20 miles and change down this week.  Ready for warmer temps - yep, I am a hot weather runner.  I like the heat - remind me of this when mid June rolls around, please.  

In the meantime, I am excited to start using my new COROS watch next week - great price and impressive battery life that should get me through my 100, as well as testing out a new liquid nutrition - Skratch. I have been using EFuel and EGels for a while with great results, but the EFuel gets too sweet after a while and I tend to stop drinking when I still need hydration.  I'll post updates on the gear as well. 

Have a great week and happy running! 

Edie

Monday, March 1, 2021

Older and wiser?

 It is hard for me to feel excited about doing something that I have already done, and done fairly well.  Like running 100 miles.  I am satisfied with what I have achieved in ultra running, so after 12 years of being very involved in the sport, it is hard for me to find a challenge that is enticing enough to cause me to commit to 5 - 6 months of rigorous training.   Until now.  See... I have run 100 miles a few times (even 130 miles once), but I have never done it as a 50 year old.  

Some insight into my decision ... I stink at guessing people's age.  When I meet someone and somehow their age is mentioned, I have one of two thoughts - "Wow!  They are holding up great!", or the more common - "Wow - I hope I don't seem as old as they do".  It's not just looks that age people - it's attitude, habits, fitness, health... so many things play into how old a person appears, that the external part of it is really minor in consideration.

I regularly hear people my age complain about aches and pains, and how things are getting harder to do (ALREADY!).   It kinda freaks me out.  I don't understand why some people (legit genetic health issues aside) are so willing to allow themselves to deteriorate.  It's like their odometer gets to 6 digits and they just figure it is time to sit back and watch the wheels fall off.  Crazy stuff.

So, I hired a fantastic ultra distance athlete (almost half my age)  to coach me for the Badger 100 on July 31st in Wisconsin.  Joe "Stringbean" McConaughy has done some cool stuff, but more importantly, he has a great personality, and clearly he doesn't shy away from a challenge.  

Tomorrow starts my official training program, and for those of you interested, I am hoping to chronicle it here with a short post every week or so to track my training, and highlight the new challenges that I might face now that I have a few extra miles and years on me.  

This is more of a training diary for me, but I am happy to share it with you guys.  Maybe someone will read it and think, "Well, if she can do it..." 

Until next time

Happy Running! 

Edie


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Changing Motivations....

I have been chewing on things lately.  Life things.  And, considering what a big part of my life that trail/ultra running is, I have spent a considerable amount of time thinking about the role it has in my life and how that has evolved as I have gotten older.  See, when I ran my very first ultra, I was 39 years old and heading towards divorce.  I know for a fact that one of the things that attracted me to ultra running was the long hours alone in the woods that allowed me the time to work through my changing place in life. 

Now, 9 years later, I am still a fan of ultras - 100 miles being my personal favorite distance, but things have changed.  I think when I started, I was running away from something.  I used all of those early miles alone to suffer, contemplate, celebrate.... and grow into the person I was meant to be.  It took a while. Crossing the finish line at my first 50 miler didn't lead to enlightenment, but every time I pushed in distance and time, a little piece of the puzzle was added.  Now, at 48 years old, most of the pieces are in place, and I have trail and ultra running to thank for a large part of that.

So, I am going for my 6th belt buckle at Screaming Monkey 100 miler in April.  The main difference?  I fully expect this experience to be FUN!! I am honestly looking forward to reaching the point where my brain is trying to convince my body that it is time to call it a day and go for pizza.  I have noticed a mental change lately on long runs when I get to that point.  In the past, there would be mental negotiation:  "Just run to that tree", "3 minutes then I can walk".  Now, something interesting is happening.  As soon as my brain starts its usual tricks and tries to get me to shut it down, that thought is squashed.  I am not doing it purposefully, it just happens.  So, when my brain says that I need to walk, something else swipes that thought away before it can take hold. 

The only thing that I can credit it to is experience, and the understanding that sometimes, your thoughts lie to you.  I am starting to understand why ultras, especially 100 milers are predominately the domain of those in their 40's and up.  I guess it takes getting kicked in the teeth a few times to build up  the skills you need to persevere late in an ultra. 

I may not PR my 100 miler (although I will try), but I am excited for the challenges it will bring, and I am curious as to how I will overcome them, or what I will learn from them. 

Maybe perspective is really what I have learned.  This aging thing is pretty cool, y'all.  Grateful that I get to experience it.

Find your 100 miler...whether it is a night spent camping all alone in the woods, or taking that acting class... do something that scares you, then do it again until it is no longer scary.  That is where you grow.   Worked for me.

That being said, I did just PR my 50k distance by almost an hour and a half, so who knows?  :-) 


Happy Running, Y'all!

Edie

Monday, January 29, 2018

Taper week from the RD's perspective

As race day approaches and many runners are beginning to pack their race supplies, unpack, check that they have everything, then repack them only to repeat the process over the next day, things are also heating up on the planning side.  Our week is spent shopping for aid station supplies, collecting the generators and fuel, charging batteries, stuffing race packets...  Both the runners and the race officials have an endurance event ahead of them, and the finish line is equally as sweet from both sides.  

The volunteers who have taken time off of work to drive hours to spend the weekend out in the cold (and possibly wet) weather are dealing with pre race jitters just as if they were lining up to run the event.  Each of our Red Dirt volunteers is personally invested in aiding the runners in any way possible to ensure their success. You crossing the finish line is confirmation that they did their job.  They helped to keep you moving so you could achieve something amazing, and by doing so, you are paying them back many times over.  

When you go through the aid stations at Red Dirt Ultra this weekend, take a minute to look at the incredible people who are giving up their time and comfort because they love nothing more than to watch you succeed.  No matter how long it takes for you to finish, just finishing is a win in their eyes.

Our sport is special, like the people on both sides of the aid station table.  Remember how lucky you are to be out on a beautiful trail doing what you love this weekend.  See you guys Saturday.

Happy Running! 

Edie

Friday, December 8, 2017

It surprised me too

When I entered into this training season, my "A" race was the Pinhoti 100 in Alabama. Not long after signing up for Pinhoti, another opportunity presented itself, the Great Mississippi Levee Run.  This run predates any organized races that popped up later on the same route.  The GMLR is a fatass run, meaning that it is not an organized race.  There is no support along the route except for what you provide, no roads are closed, no cheering crowds, just a loose group run from point "A" to point "B".  In this case, point "A" was the levee next to the USS Kidd in Baton Rouge, and point "B" was Audubon Park in New Orleans, or the southern end of the levee.

Because of the nature of this run, being 127 miles along the levee, non stop, and unsupported, it was an invitation only event, giving the organizers the ability to limit the run to people who had a good chance of finishing.  There are no guarantees with this distance, regardless of how well you are trained, but it never hurts to stack the odds in your favor.

So, with 20 or so people originally interested, 10 folks ended up starting the run (4 men & 6 women).  Here's the group photo with a bonus runner who joined us for the first 40 miles.   

It was a beautiful day to start what was dubbed "Bad Decision 2017".
We started at 1:00 p.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving and headed south.  Well, in a southerly direction.  Here is the path the levee takes between BR and NO, hence the longer distance than driving between the cities.

And to me, it felt like it was going straight the whole time.  Perspective.
Early on, a group of us decided to try to stay together, especially to get us through the night time hours, for safety reasons.  Also, that way our crews could stay together which would make it safer for them and give them some much welcomed company.  While we were getting to know each other on the levee, our crews had plenty of quality time to get to know each other as well.

So, we ran.  We ran through the first afternoon and through the night mostly together.  Once the sun rose on Saturday, our little group broke up a bit, although we weren't ever far apart.  We ran past a casino, refineries, beautiful antebellum homes, a former leper colony, and some less desirable areas.  We had the company of stray dogs, and occasionally someone riding dirt bikes or walking on top of the levee for exercise.  We also had to dodge the structures being built for the annual bonfires along the levee (click the picture for the story - it is a great tradition), and we got lots of strange looks from the men working on them.
Having to go off to the side of the levee was cool for the first few of these, but after 70-80 miles (?) that I had run, the constant stopping was tough.
A new experience for me in this run was running into a second night.  For 100 milers, I am used to running though one night and finishing the next morning.  If you haven't done it, it seems impossible to stay awake that long, but your body and brain adapt and it is really not as big of a deal as you would think.  But, the second night was interesting.  Right about nightfall, I was treated to a surprise visit from Wally & Nikki.  Their huge smiles and positive energy were so welcome!  I only regret that I didn't get the full benefit of the costumes:

When you are doing something slightly ridiculous, you can count on fellow ultrarunners to support you wholeheartedly.  Rhea getting a hug on top of the levee by a very enthusiastic T-Rex.  
I also got a visit from Candy (Lynette's wife and my friend) and Kelly (long time running buddy).  Kelly dropped Candy off with us so she would be able to drive us home afterwards, saving two very sleep deprived people from having to make any decisions.  It was amazing to see these beautiful faces, even if just for a minute.  After this, Kelly went back home and Candy joined the crew.

I crossed the 100 mile mark of the run in the afternoon/early evening hours of the second day.  When Lynette and Candy told me this (more on those amazing women later), it was really a cool feeling.  Once you have done a few 100 milers, it is hard to top that distance unless you sign up for Badwater (no desire) or a 200 miler (jury is still out on that).  So, once it soaked in that I was now in new territory, I got a great boost of energy and was able to really RUN - for about 5 miles.  Then little things that were hurting before became amplified.  I don't think they hurt any more, but I think the fatigue of seeing a second sunset on a run was making me less capable of dealing with the discomfort.  

This is when I called in reinforcements.  See, while it sounds like I was participating in this great feat of endurance, there was also a second storyline taking place that was equally impressive and challenging.  Quick background:  when my friend, Lynette, and I were having coffee one day, I mentioned this run and how I would have to arrange a crew and without hesitation, Lynette said "I'll crew you".  Knowing she would have to take valuable time away from her family, she did not hesitate to offer her help and immediately, I knew that Lynette would be the perfect crew person.  Lynette is a fantastic mom to two incredible young adults, and I knew that is what I would need out there.

There were a whole lot of views like this.
So, when I was running,  Lynette was leapfrogging me to meet with me every 5 - 10 miles to refill water bottles, provide nutrition, tape blistered feet, etc.  The only reason I was able to do this thing is because Lynette selflessly came out and spent the whole weekend tending to my needs.  She got about as much sleep as I did, and little did she know that she would be called into action at mile 105ish.

Luckily, Lynette plans for everything (seriously, you should have seen the things she packed :-) ), because she also planned for just in case I would need company to finish the run.  Well, let's be honest, once we crossed over mile 105 or so, things started to flare up and we were relegated to a power hike, which turned into a power stroll, then into a "oh just get me to that damn park" walk.  

So, Lynette, who came into this thinking she might walk/run a few miles with me, ended up walking almost a marathon that night.  By this time, Jason and I were keeping the same pace ("ouch,ouch,ouch"), so we were the three amigos hobbling along the levee.  

Lynette, Jason and I. Notice who looks fresh and full of energy?  Yeah, not me or Jason.
With Lynette's mad power walking skills, we got to the end of the levee and onto the roads of New Orleans to make our way to Audubon Park to find a sign to take our picture in front of as proof of finish. 

Excuse the language but I left my filter somewhere near mile 86:
https://www.facebook.com/edie.couvillon/videos/vb.1643973338/10213221591368046/?type=3

The best part of this race?  We found a sign, took our picture, one showing the time on our phone as proof and then we got into Candy's car and she brought two sleepy people safely home.  In the end, 6 of the 10 who started, finished.  5 women and 1 man. (Girlpower!)

Too tired to be excited about what I had done.  Notice the flip flops?  I wore those for the last mile and a half.  My feet were not going to tolerate one more minute inside shoes.

It has been almost two weeks now, and it has taken almost this long to absorb this experience.  I am left with so many take aways. First, friendship.  True, whatever you need, willing to sacrifice my comfort, friendship.  This is what Lynette and Candy did for me.  Lynette was always positive and determined, and never once allowed me to feel sorry for myself.  Candy was a godsend, coming to rescue two delirious girls and getting us home safely.  Also, new friendship - from the long night time hours on the first night spent with Mandy and Jason ("a random porta potty on top of the levee WITH a handwashing station?  Clearly this is a trap!"), and the time spent visiting with Letha, Jerry, Jenny, Casey, Jim along the way.

Without a doubt, this was my favorite ultra experience ever (including the hallucinations).  Being a Louisiana native, running along that incredible river and watching the constant commerce taking place was amazing.  There were so many times that I was overwhelmed with a love for my state and a gratefulness for what I was allowed to participate in.  Just wow.  We ran (mostly) from near our old state capital all the way to New Orleans on the levee.  I don't think any ultra experience can ever top it.

The reason this was possible.  From the incredible man who has done this multiple times, and organized this great event, to my crew who went above and beyond anything I could have asked for.  (L to R: Jerry Sullivan, Candy Domengeaux,  Me, Lynette Domengeaux) 

Yes, it is on a belt, and yes I am wearing it.  :-) 



My 48th year on this planet is starting out pretty darn good.

Happy Running, Y'all!

Edie

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Pinhoti 100 (or is that 52?) Race Recap

The Louisiana crew including Will Sprouse, but missing David.  Sam (far right) and David would prove to be the only two from our group to cross the finish line this year.


Saturday's Pinhoti 100 started as most trail races do, inconspicuously. 
Everyone lined up at an invisible starting line, counted down from 10, then someone said "Go", and we were off - for about a minute until the crowd of runners all hit a bottleneck trying to cram onto a single track trail, where we found ourselves at a complete stop.  There was a bit of grumbling but for the most part everyone just laughed about it until we were finally able to all squeeze in and start our race.



When watching the extended weather forecast in advance of the race, the high temperatures went from 50's to 60's and finally settling into the upper 70's, with the overnight low being 58 degrees.  Much warmer than is ideal for a race of this distance, and considering the accompanying high humidity, it made for a steamy day.  By the time I reached the first aid station about 6 miles in, I was already drenched with sweat and I would stay that way for the entire race. 
 
Foot care at the first aid station - feet were already soaked by two ankle deep water crossings.

In the race description, the first 40 miles are described as "rolling hills" with the larger climbs being on the second half of the race.  Well, sorta.  The first 40 miles actually has more than half of the elevation gain of the entire course.  That would have been good information to know going into the event. For my friends familiar with Eagle Rock loop in Arkansas, the "rolling hills" in the first 40 miles are similar to the climbs on that trail.  Some of the climbs are long and steep - on one of the first climbs, there were a few runners, myself included, who had to stop half way up to catch our breath and wrap our brains around the rest of the climb.  Rolling hills.  This was also the section where I saw incredibly fit people having their hands pushing down on their knees to help them in the climb.  Rolling hills.  The most common quote heard on that sections was some variation of "Rolling hills my ass". 
First 40 looks pretty tame, doesn't it?

BUT - this was an incredibly beautiful section as well.  The climbs were rewarded by views of hillsides covered by vivid fall colors.  One view, in particular, was right after you rounded a corner on a climb and it completely took the little breath I had away.  It was stunning and it looked like the hillside was on fire with color.  When another runner rounded the corner behind me, he let out a loud "Woop" when he saw it, and all I could do was smile.  

Not my picture, but this is Mt. Cheaha.  The colors are much more vibrant in person.

As I mentioned before, the temperature was a real issue during the race.  With the temps and humidity, the race staff was not quite as prepared as they could have been for how much fluid the runners would require.  There were a few aid stations that ran out of different types of drinks (Coke, Ginger Ale - both important during ultras for settling sour stomachs), and by the time the later runners went through, some were out of water as well.  I suspect this might have been partially responsible for some of the carnage that I saw at the aid stations and along the trail - runners vomiting, full body cramps, etc.  Over the 10 year history of this race, this is the second hot year, and I think it caught the organizers by surprise.

Despite the lack of fluids at some of the aid stations, the volunteers for this race were incredible.  The BUTS (Birmingham Ultra Trail Society, or something like that) group at mile 27 were the all out winners in my book.  You could hear their aid station before you saw it - or should I say, you could hear very loud Jimmy Hendrix music filling the woods well before you could see the aid station.  It was so welcome, as their aid station came right in the hottest part of the day.   Just before their aid station was a gorgeous waterfall.  I stopped with a couple of other runners for a second to enjoy the view, then started the climb up to the aid station.  This climb was made immensely more pleasant after crossing runners who were leaving the aid station with popsicles in their hands. As hot as we were, this was a much needed boost.

Leaving the BUTS aid station, I knew I only had a half marathon to run before I could pick up my first pacer, Kelly.  Usually during a 100, I don't pick up a pacer until 60 miles or so, and I was a little concerned that I wouldn't be ready for company that soon.  On this day though, I was counting down the aid stations until I would get to have someone to keep me company. On this day, the plan was to get Kelly from mile 40 - 65 and Fawn from 65 to the finish.  The other runners that I was meeting were fighting their own demons with the tough conditions, so someone with a fresh attitude would be very welcome.
So happy to have company for the night time portion of the race! 

At this race, you can pick up a pacer at mile 40, at the top of Bald Rock (or Mt. Cheaha, the highest point in Alabama).  According to the elevation profile of the course, this appeared to be the steepest climb of the race.  After some of the climbs that we had already done to get to this point, the climb up Bald Rock was not anything new.  Yes, there were rocky sections as you approached the top, and yes it was steep, but at that point it was just more of the same.  Knowing that I would get to see my crew at the top was all the motivation I needed to get to the top of the mountain.  Randy, Kelly, Fawn and Justin had given up their weekend to come out to Pinhoti to support me and the other Louisiana runners there, and words can not express how grateful I am for each of them.

This was a critical aid station for a few reasons - it was the last one I would see during the daylight - so it was time to don my headlamp.  It was also near the halfway point so it was time to do a little housekeeping - change out of my soaked shirt to put on a fresh one (which would also be soaked with sweat within a few miles, but still worth it), put on dry socks (my feet had been soaked from water crossings within the first 5 miles of the race, and would be soaked again from water crossings soon after changing, but again, still worth it), reapply lube to any place that might have friction to avoid chafing (TOTALLY worth it!), visit the restroom (the only one on the trail other than the start line (except for the woods - natures restroom), and take in some much needed calories to get me through a night of running.  Thankfully, this aid station was very well stocked, so I took advantage of it by enjoying some chicken noodle soup, some coke and grabbing a couple of cookies for the road, or trail as it was.

So, Randy helped get me ready and restocked and Kelly and I took off towards Blue Hell - the infamous descent down Mt Cheaha.  Evidently this section is well known for not being well marked and it being easy to get off trail and lost, because numerous people warned us about it, so we were going to be extra attentive in looking for the course markings. 
To give you an idea of what Blue Hell looks like in the daytime.  Not sure if he is running or in the process of falling.
Kelly and I get into the line of runners heading down Blue Hell.  Since it is such a steep descent, I wasn't comfortable having runners right behind me, so I told Kelly to pull aside and let them pass us so we could take our time.  Once everyone passed, we started our descent behind an older gentleman named Ed.  Ed was also taking his time on this tough section because he didn't want to "fall and crack my skull open" - I had to agree with him there.  At this point, my legs were feeling the fatigue and I didn't completely trust them so I went down a good portion of Blue Hell by scooting on my butt.  We hiked, tiptoed, scooted down Blue Hell behind Ed until he mentioned that it had been a while since he had seen a flag.  At this point we all realized that we were so focused on avoiding grave bodily injury that we had also lost sight of the course markings.  Insert foul language here.  

We all agreed that one way or another we had to get down, so we decided to continue our descent and look for flags around the bottom.  Bad idea.  When we got to the bottom, we looked and found nothing.  Kelly climbed the hill to the right to look over it for flags, nothing.  Ed yelled "Hello" ... nothing.  This is when Ed decided to climb back up and try to find where we lost the flags, and Kelly called Fawn (for some crazy reason, we had coverage) and had her text us the coordinates to the next aid station.  Worst case scenario, we could hike through the woods in the direction of the aid station and hopefully stumble upon the trail.

After a few slips on the steep climb, giving us all a scare, Ed saw a headlight approaching and yelled at the runner, getting him to stop.  He yelled back down to us that he found someone, so we started climbing in that direction.  It looked something like this:

Clearly not me, but this is some other dude climbing up Blue Hell. He got this treat in the daytime.
This was a big mental hit for me.  I started the race conservatively as planned, and slowly gained time to put myself right at my 26 hour pace that I was aiming for.  This little detour caused me to start thinking too much:  How much time had we spent down there?  How much energy had I wasted worrying about whether we would find our way out any time soon?  What toll would the extra effort take out of me?

We made it to the top, all along the climb begging the other runner and Ed not to leave us there.  Of course they wouldn't  have, but it seemed important at the time to emphasize the point.

Once we were off of Mt Cheaha, and on a jeep road section, we were able to laugh at what had just happened, and head to the next aid station where Randy was waiting.  When I got there, Randy told me that I had 30 minutes to get out of that aid station to stay ahead of the cut off.  I never take more than 5 minutes in an aid station except for major maintenance, and then no more than 10 - 15 minutes, so that wasn't going to be a problem, but it made that concern that was in the back of my mind come into full focus.  Now, I was no longer pushing forward to get back to my 26 hour pace, I felt like I was being chased by the clock, and I didn't like it.

Kelly and I scooted out of there in plenty of time and headed to the next aid station which was just shy of 7 miles away.  The Hubbard Creek aid station folks are famous for their hospitality and making their aid station a little too comfortable for the runners.  They consist of mainly Boy Scout parents.  Years ago, the RD was looking for volunteers to work his aid stations, so he enlisted the help of the scouts.  The Scoutmaster requested the most remote aid station possible to turn this into a camping experience as well as a community service project for the boys.  Well, fast forward a few years and the scouts have all aged out of the program, but the parents have so much fun volunteering to help out the runners, they have continued the tradition and added a few friends to the mix along the way.  And they had a pizza oven and full bar.  Seriously.

The section heading into Hubbard Creek is a tricky one for footing - narrow, technical trail with a big drop off to reward any missteps.  I knew we were losing time here because my legs were heavy and my footsteps were clumsy - and this combination on this particular section of the trail was making me nervous about serious injury.  At one point, I planted my foot on a smooth rock on the trail and slipped, grabbing on to the hillside by the roots sticking out of it, all the while making up new curse words and creating new ways to use old ones. Once I got my legs back under me, I looked up at Kelly and said something profoundly poetic like, "F this race and F this trail, I'm done".  And with that, the decision was made.  Well, mostly.  Kelly spent the next few miles trying to talk me into continuing, even though we knew at the next aid station we would now only be 10 minutes ahead of the cutoff.  

This is where I have to give big props to Kelly.  She did a solid job as a pacer.  She kept up the conversation, made me laugh, and kept us moving forward at a good pace.  It really was great to have her out there, and it was also good that she knows me well enough to know when to respect the decision I have made.  Kelly is a solid friend to have.  (And she LOVES the word moist. Next time you are around her, be sure to work it into the conversation.)

By the time we pulled into the aid station, I was comfortable with my decision to drop.  With only a 10 minute lead on the cutoff and the largest climb ahead of me, I figured timing out (missing the cutoff) of this race was inevitable at some point, so I may as well live to fight another day.  I declined the volunteers offer of Fireball, but took them up on the grilled cheese sandwiches and waited for Randy to come pick us up. Not the way I envisioned my race ending, but better than this guy:

A runner at Hubbard Creek who had been vomiting for the previous 6 hours, and the aid station nurse, Jaycee, keeping watch over him.

I leave you with a few things that experience has taught me that may or may not resonate with you:
  • Someone asked if I was upset about all that wasted training... There is no such thing as wasted training.  I am not training for one race, but for life.  I want to be fit and healthy enough to jump into any cool adventure that might come along. Every mile run and parking tower climbed brought me to a better understanding of my mind and body, and deepened the relationships with the people I shared them with.  No such thing as wasted training.
  • Someone asked if I would regret dropping...No.  I don't spend much time looking backwards.  Everything that happens in life happens for a reason, and that reason may not be something I am ever privy to.  It could be that through my handling defeat graciously, someone else is encouraged to take a risk of their own... who knows, but no, I don't do regret.
  • I am not defined by one thing that I do.  It is just one thing that I do.  I don't call myself an ultrarunner because it is such a small part of who I am.  Because my identity is not closely tied to this one thing, it is easier for me to make objective decisions during a race.  I entered this race fully expecting to come home with a buckle - to the extent that I was a little aggravated that I had forgotten my belt at home.  Had I packed my belt like I intended, when I returned home yesterday I would have just unpacked it and put it back on the shelf for future use. 
It was just a bad day on a tough course.  The race had a 45% drop rate, and had half of the sub 24 hour finishers as previous years.  Tough day for many well trained athletes, but for the ones who pushed through and were able to finish ... how amazing!!  We spent time at the finish line on Sunday waiting for friends to come through and cheering for other runners, and every one of them has my complete respect.  Ours is a beautiful sport and every finish line is a testament to the human spirit.  The fact that the finish line is not guaranteed is what makes it so glorious when you reach it.  

On to the next adventure.  Happy Running, Y'all!

Edie