Friday, August 31, 2012

Lots of Loopers!

Six names were added to the short list of crazy running-type people who have run the whole 20+ mile loop of Chicot State Park on Sunday, August 26th.  Here's the whole group:

From left: (standing) Tim and Karin Gill, Lonny Gaspard, Eric Gravish, Randy Aymond,
Me, Emma Valentine, Christina Gravish, Jason LeBlanc
(kneeling) Sandi Hernandez, Tara Greer, Kristi Mire
Three of this group had done the whole loop (20+ miles) the day before, but came out to grab a little more trail with us on Sunday - it's a sickness, folks. :)  Lonny, Randy, Emma, Jason, Colin and Sandi would all be looping for the first time.  They had all done trail runs of shorter distances in preparation, but this was the big day.  No out and backs for them, it was all or nothing.  Okay - that makes it sound a little more dramatic than it was, but it is a really big deal when folks make the whole loop for the first time.  It is NOT an easy run, and when it is hot, it is REALLY tough.  But, holding firm to looper tradition, there were no wimps or whiners in the group.  

We set out at a reasonable pace (walking the uphills from the start), knowing that it was going to be a tough day without us starting it out by making bad decisions.  Everything went as planned.  When the group would spread out a bit, we would bunch up at set points, then take off again.  We saw a huge family of hogs, but luckily they had no interest in some very smelly runners.  Everyone carried their own stuff - for me it took about 80 oz of water, and 2 gels.  For others it may have been less water and more gels - everyone is different.  But, everyone who was out there had completed long distance runs before, so they had taken the time to figure out their formula.

Even when we split up, it was easy for us to hear Emma.  Every time she saw a big mile marker, a yell could be heard throughout the forest.  It made me laugh every time.  The last mile marker on the trail is at mile 19, so it is tradition to get pictures with first time loopers there.  Some folks were ahead of me, so I missed them, but here are a few:

Yep, she yelled for this one too.  And yes, that is a
tiara on top of her hat.  This was her birthday present to herself -
her first 20 mile run EVER, and it happened to be a
very tough run.  Great job, Emma!!!

Randy at 19.  

Sandi at 19.

There were quiet spots when no one was talking when you knew there was some suffering going on, but there was no complaining, and everyone maintained a positive attitude (this is more important than you realize out there).  I have said it before folks - say what you want about other sports, but trail running only attracts the toughest and most humble people.  Those that are lacking in these qualities never last.  They may come out and crush the loop one time to say they did it, but they will never be a regular on these trails, and they will never have the discipline and smarts that these folks did to gradually work themselves up to running 20+ trail miles.  

There is no fancy equipment to buy for this.  You can't go out and spend hundreds of dollars to get the latest shoes that might be a little lighter, or made from carbon, or more aerodynamic, to help you out.  There is basic gear that everyone has that is pretty much the same stuff.  The results of your efforts are BECAUSE of your efforts.  If you run faster one loop than you did for the previous one, it can not be attributed to the gear or fancy bells and whistles.  It is because of YOU.  It is your legs that carried you forward, and your heart that kept you from quitting.  That is why it is so satisfying to me to bring people out there and watch them do something that is completely out of their comfort zone.  That is where the good stuff is, folks.

I have been glowing all week, just thinking about how proud I am of Sandi, Emma, Lonny, Randy, Colin, and Jason.  There is something very empowering about conquering something this difficult.  It makes you start to wonder what else you might be able to accomplish that you never even considered trying before.  I can't wait to see where this leads.  All good, all good.

Randy finishing.  It is so damn good to see those
cars, and know there is cold beer in your near future!!

Sandi finishing.  Sandi has brought most of her family
out with us to either run or hike the trails.
She is definitely paying it forward.

Special thanks to Lonny for the ice cold fruit at the finish.  That was such a great surprise, and much appreciated.  And special thanks to Randy for having beer iced down for when we got off of the trails.  The best tasting beers are those after a hard effort.

So if you are wondering if trail running is for you - there is only one way to find out!  Try it!!  It should be cooling off soon, and the insects should be chilling out some, so if that is what has been holding you back - EXCUSE CANCELED. :)

Have a great holiday weekend, and Happy Running!


Training Update:  Solid 50 mile week last week.  Felt strong, and no issues.  Staying on top of my stretching and cleaning up my diet.  Hurricane derailed me a bit this week, but no worries.  Got in a 13 miler today, and while it sucked, it was yet another deposit into my running account.  Cactus Rose in late October is a BIG withdrawal  so I have to build up my accounts as much as possible before then.  Hill training starting in September.  Tower of Terror runs looming!!  I'll keep you posted in case any knuckleheads out there care to jump on board.

Business Update:  Well I continue to be ignored in my requests for the same monthly reports that I sent my "partners" every week while I was working at the store. I guess they think that if they ignore me long enough, I will just give up.  :)

From our friends at Claim Your Journey

Well worth a few minutes of your time.  When you watch this and love it, download the song on iTunes to help support our friends at Claim Your Journey.  
Run Louisiana!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

You never know what to expect.....

Sorry it's been so long since my last post.  Things blew up for a bit, and are just getting 
back to what I consider normal now. The last trail run was very well attended (as you can see).
18 runners, including a few first timers, joined us on the trails.  Three made the
whole loop (20 - 22 miles, depending on who you ask, and how much you suffer), and the rest
of us did out and backs for anywhere from 8 to 16 miles.

What was different about this loop?  Well - let's start by going over the expected during the run:
There were trees down.

There were lots of smiles.

There was quite a bit of sweat.
And there were lots of laughs.

What we didn't expect - the freshly killed bunny on the trail.  Definitely no pictures of that one.  I just wanted to get away before whatever killed it came back for its snack.  Besides, that would just be gross.

On the return leg of the 16 mile out and back, the group broke up a bit, and I was able to run by myself for a while.  As much as I love running with my buddies, I treasure these moments when I am sort of alone on the trail.  I say sort of because there is no one as far as I can see or hear, but I know that there are people both ahead of and behind me, which is comforting should something go wrong.  Being alone in the middle of the woods is the purest form of meditation for me.  This is always where I feel the closest to God, when I am surrounded by so much of the beauty he created.  I am always humbled by the enormity of all of it, as well as the attention put into the smallest details.

So when my phone rang about 5 miles from the exit to the trail, it startled me because I was in such a peaceful place in my mind. (Even though my ring tone is a nature sound - ducks quacking. :) No, I don't hunt, it just cracks me up every time it rings.  I stopped and took my phone out of my Camelbak and saw that it 
was my 13 year old son calling.  I had my answer to his question planned before I even answered - "Yes, Jeffrey can come over tonight."

Well, that wasn't what the call was about at all.  Instead, it was Josh telling me that I need to call my sister right away - there's an emergency.  My dad is 92, and ever since we lost my mom last year, all he has wanted was to join her, so I had a pretty good idea what I would hear when I made that call. Sure enough, my sister told me that Dad had eaten his breakfast, pushed his tray away, and stopped breathing.  The paramedics were at his house doing chest compressions at that time.

I told her to keep me posted, I hung up the phone, and I started to RUN.  I knew the odds were against me making it in time to tell him goodbye, but I had to try.  I ran for 10 minutes, all out.  During this time I jumped over two snakes, one of which I came REAL close to stepping on.  Talk about adrenaline.  With the hurdling of the second snake, I am surprised I didn't need chest compressions.

When I hit the 10 minute mark, I had a very strong feeling that there was no reason to hurry anymore.  I slowed to a walk, and called my sister back.  They had just declared Dad dead.  Of course, all of the expected emotions were there.  I was very much a daddy's girl.  My brothers and sisters were all much older than me, so I was pretty much raised as an only child.  I spent most of my childhood working with my dad and following him around.  If he stopped too suddenly, I would run right into him.  He was an amazing man, and an EXCELLENT role model.  Dad didn't talk about it, he just did it.

The note we found in his desk the day after he died.

In fact, I credit him heavily for my ultra running.  He instilled in me an adventurous spirit.  When I was afraid to try something, he would always say, "What's the worst that can happen?"  It's amazing how far those words have gotten me.

So, I stopped running and I listened.  It was so incredibly peaceful.  All I heard was the rustling of the leaves off of the side of the trail (which I walked away from quickly - better safe than sorry), and the birds.  It really was the perfect place to receive such news.  The peace I feel every time I run through the woods is the peace Dad feels all the time now.  I can't think of a better way to feel close to him than to return to the spot where I was when his soul was taken home.  Just when I thought I couldn't love Chicot more.

So, I walked and Emma caught up with me.  I told her what had happened and she was crying before I was.  We walked the rest of the way, talking about my dad and her bubbling stomach.  Then, as if I needed more comic relief, when we get off of the trail, Randy is holding ice on his face.  He was ambushed by wasps - not on the trail but afterwards when he was checking out the trail map.  I understand he put on quite the show when he was stung.  Just thinking about it makes me laugh. :)  Sorry Randy.

So, this last week was spent burying my Dad and taking care of final arrangements.  I only ran once -  Sunday for 11 miles.  But, it was a run with friends on a never run on before route.  All good.

And, once again this season, I find myself knocked off of my schedule a bit.  I am really not too torn up about it.  I will pick up where I left off as if last week never happened.  I never try to make up mileage.  If it is missed, it is deleted.   Move forward, don't look back.  

I started this blog to bring you along with me on my training journey, so that you could see that I am just a regular person who happens to run long races.  I get derailed, and I have to improvise.  Nothing in my life is set in stone, I just do my best to roll with the punches.  I really think my ability to adapt is a HUGE part of the reason that I am able to complete ultra distance races.  

I am adding a few more pics from the trail run on the 12th.  My next blog post will include an update on the business part, as well as a review of next Sunday's loop - a bunch of folks will be making the whole loop for the first time!! Can't wait to share it with them (and Dad!).

Have a great week, and Happy Running!!

Renee's first trail run!!  So happy she joined us!

Ahhh - the bridges!!

Running into the sunrise.

Colin learned that long legs are not an asset on the trails.

Smiles and more smiles!!

No, Keith, we are not making fun of your backpack.

Lonny leading the way.

Shane - a trail veteran now, and he just signed up for his
first trail race!!  Yay Shane!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Surprise sources of protein, Tina Turner, and herbal awards

Ahhhh - recovery weeks!  It is good to be lazy and have no guilt attached!!  After the 50k last weekend, I had a few aches and pains that I wanted to rehab before this weekends trail run, so I decided to take the entire week off to allow my body to heal completely. And, to be completely honest, it's HOT!  And after Big Butts, I needed a mental as well as physical break from running in the heat.  I was able to spend the week looking forward to the Q50 Full Moon Trail Race in Mandeville that I would be running with friends.

I have been looking forward to running a Q50 race for quite some time now, I just haven't found one to fit into my schedule.  I was also eager to meet the Q50 RD, Cesar Torres, in person.  We had spoken on the phone a few times, and communicated via email, and I was always impressed by his passion for the sport, as well as his warm personality.

This particular race was a team event.  You had to run the 5 miles with a partner.  You had to stay together the entire time, and finish within an arms distance of each other.  It would also be run at night - hence the "Full Moon" part.  The race start was at 8:45 p.m. -  usually when I am finally settling down for the evening, not when I am turning on my headlamp and applying bug spray.  I have run through the night before during my 100 milers, but that is usually after running 60 or more miles, so it is a nice, steady pace.  This would be a  fairly short race, so we would be running as fast as possible in the dark, on trails. I love new experiences like this!!
85 teams lined up for the race.
The one thing that was familiar about this race was the company.  Many of my closest buddies came out for this one, making it even better.
Bobbi and Brad finishing

Eric and Christina

Kody and Denise

Liz and Maria

Randy and me 
Being a trail race, and a night time one to boot, there were some interesting characters.

Mr Incredible is Lafayette's own Jonathan Kastner.
The very happy guy on the right is the RD, Cesar Torres.
All in all this was a GREAT race.  We all got a little free protein to help us with the run along the lines of the bugs we swallowed along the way.  (Lots of bugs at night - bugs are attracted to light - we were all wearing headlamps, therefore inviting the bugs to fly right in front of our faces.  Good thing I had water with me to help wash them down :).

Two things that stand out in my mind about this race (more than all of the other things, that is) - first, getting high fives from Cesar before the race.  He cranked up "Simply the Best" by Tina Turner and promised if he didn't high five every runner before the song was over, we would all get our money back.  He had ALOT of energy, so he made it with plenty of time to spare.  Also, the "bling" was a rosemary plant rather than a medal that would collect dust.  So, last weekend I got a huge coffee mug for my 50k, and this weekend I got a plant.  THAT is why I love these races!!

Cesar doing his thing before the race.
Truly a great guy.
So, my easy week is over, and it is time to get serious about this running thing again.  Looking at my schedule today, I see that this week I have 4 runs - 6 miles, 12 miles, 6 miles, and 16 miles for a total of 40.  The 16 miler will be on the trails, but all the others will be on the roads.  I flipped through my schedule until the end of the year, and here is my weekly mileage through December to give you an idea what I am looking forward to:  40,40,51,51,39,50,50,39,64,64,36,62,0 (recovery from CR), 25, 62, 6 (recovery from Warda),  33,48,33,64,64.  That gets me through December, then January is my highest mileage month of the year.

Well, I have procrastinated as long as possible.  I didn't run this morning, so I have a 6 miler to do.  Waiting an extra hour or so will not drop the temps that much, so it is time to fill my handheld, choose a playlist and hit the asphalt. The faster I run, the less of a chance of my shoes melting, right??

Run Happy!

Oh yeah, eventually I will get around to my pacer post.  Remember, this is an endurance sport, so you will just have to work on your patience :).