Sunday, October 2, 2011

Ridge To River Trail Run 6-4-11

The Ridge to River Trail run was probably one of my favorite runs of the year.  Set in Barboursville Park, this 10 mile race took runners through single-track trail, spongy bottomland, and rocky ridgetops.  The weather was warm but nice and sunny for this race.  Vance, Jay and I made the trip to Barboursville early that Saturday morning.  Unfortunately Daisy had to miss the race due to an injury to her paw sustained earlier in the week.  A bonus to this race was meeting up with a fellow DailyMiler and his DMing pooch.

Vance and I decided to run together so that he might actually enjoy a race.  On long races in the past, Vance has burned out early, making for a miserable final few miles.  This time, I was out to prove to him that races can be fun!  We had heard that this race, although farther, was easier than the Dirty Dog because the hills were fewer and less steep.  However, when the gun went off and we started out the main road of the park, we weren't so sure.  The first mile of the race was up an incredibly steep hill on the pavement before it ventured off onto the trail.  We overheard lots of nervous kidding going on around us, wondering if we were going to survive this race.

To our relief, the first turn onto the trail took us through miles of single track.  This is where I get confused on a trail race.  On almost every trail race I have done, this is the part where the logjam occurs. I am not a front-of-the-pack runner by any stretch of the imagination, but I get frustrated with this early part of trail races.  Inevitably, I get stuck behind a long line of walk/joggers, making it difficult to go around, and I never know the race protocol to remedy this.  Do you risk an ankle injury and go off-trail and pass?  Do you ask for them to move over for you?  My love of trail runs usually outweighs this frustration, but I'm always curious as to what I should do.

Vance and I stuck together, which was enjoyable for both of us.  He kept commenting on how nice it was to not be "blowing it out."  We had lost Jay earlier, as he zoomed up the giant hill and ran out ahead of the logjam while still on the pavement.  However, we knew he'd be running his own race and would see him at the finish line.

Post Race Party
About halfway through, Vance decided to be a little more aggressive in passing other runners.  He soon left me behind, and went on to run a great race.  However, I believe his easier start is how he was able to sustain a great pace for the rest of the run.  The course was a beautiful mix of trail types, and did end up being easier than the Dirty Dog.  Many other runners had run the Dirty Dog a few weeks prior, and made the same comments.  I personally love the terrain and challenge of the Dirty Dog, which is why it remains one of my favorite races ever.

The finish party after the race had great food and a festive atmosphere.  Each runner received a raffle ticket, and lots of prizes were given away.  All finishers received a medal, and the locale next to the lake was beautiful.  The race itself was a ton of fun, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Compression shorts
2 GUs
Trail shoes:  Mizuno Wave Trails x 2, Brooks ASR
Visors, sunglasses

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dirty Dog 15K Trail Run 2011

The start of the Dirty Dog 15K 2011
May 21, 2011 in Kanawha State Forest, just outside of Charleston, West Virginia, 200 runners and 35+ canines gathered to attempt the Dirty Dog 15K Trail Race.

Doing this race this year for us was a no-brainer.  The Dirty Dog in the Kanawha State Forest was the start of it all last year.  I signed up myself, my husband, and my brother and his girlfriend to do this race last year as a way to kick everyone out of their comfort zone and do something hard.  (Well, except for Lindsey, who pretty much runs 15Ks on a daily basis)  With minimal time to train last year, we all completed the race, and the running bug bit.  It has been quite a ride since then, and I'm thrilled that we were all still going strong and ready to the Dog again this year.  Tom Samples joined us on the race, and as usual, smoked us all to the finish.

Vance and Daisy run through Dunlop Hollow
I love trail races.  I love this race, and I love this distance.  The course is difficult, technical, and scenic.  The distance is enough to require the dedication of training.  The reason I love trail races is because it combines two of my favorite activities: running and hiking.  Running trails gives the sense of flying, as trees whiz by and arms fly out to maintain balance.  The terrain is an equalizer; it introduces an additional factor to running that does not exist on roads: courage.  It takes added courage to run fast over roots, boulders, and down muddy downhills.  The risk of falling and injury is higher than on the road, and it takes guts to keep going fast.  Guts are my best asset.  I'm not fast, and I don't have lots of time for training, but I'm not afraid to gut something out.

Jay & I run through Dunlop
Mom and Dad brought the kids to play at the park while we ran.  It was so fun seeing them cheer us on in Dunlop Hollow as we ran by.

We learned from our experience at this race last year.  We were familiar with the course this time, and knew what to expect.  Also, running with Daisy last year added time as we frequently had to confirm her whereabouts while on the trail.  Daisy benefited from training also, and has learned to stay close while running with us.  Her favorite running partner is Vance, so the plan was for her to stick with him on the race.  Jay and my plan was to get near the front of the pack (not a usual race start place for us) so that we did not get caught in the logjam that we knew would occur in the first uphill single track section which was only a mile or so into the race.  Unfortunately, we didn't get to the front in time, so we ended up getting behind the logjam.  We tried to make up time on the logging road once the single track opened up.  But, at least we have room for improvement again next year!

Dirty Doggers dogged out post race
The course varies between old logging roads and single track hiking trails.  The hills vary from long gradual uphills to straight up and down single track switch-back trails.  The terrain varies from rutted out log roads to bouldery rooty trails.  It is an incredibly challenging but satisfying and exciting course.  I think most people running it underestimate its difficulty.

The Dirty Dog 2011 saw a record attendance, attributed to its recognition in national magazines, and its social networking visibility.  Before the race, preregistrants and race day registrants lined up to check in with Tracey Todd, and milled around with their dogs in the beautiful Kanawha State Forest.  At 9:00 am, 200 runners and at least 33 canines lined up on the forest road and took off for the hills at Dan Todd's start.

Tom Samples
Runners start on the forest road, but only run for a few minutes until the trail juts off the road to the right, and heads directly up a steep single track.  Thus, the inevitable logjam that occurs here.  Faster runners and those without dogs should try to start in the front of the pack to avoid some of the slowdown.  The single track then opens up to a logging road (first aid station is along this road) that follows the ridge until a steep single track descent into Dunlop Hollow.  Runners cross the picnic areas and traverse the creeks to the second aid station.  Then comes the monster.  After crossing the forest road, the course reenters the woods and immediately ascends up a steep, long, switch-back single track.  I have yet to see someone run this portion of the race (including the dogs), but I am not hanging with the lead pack, whose times indicate that yes, they did run up that behemoth.  The single track then continues, undulating up and down, switching between logging road and single track (around aid station 3) until it finally connects again with a muddy logging road.  This is the slog.  This portion of the race is about 6 or 7 miles in, and it is a steady uphill chug for two miles.  Experienced runners in this race look longingly for the right turn that takes you down the final, fun, satisfying single-track wet, muddy descent to the finish line.  Almost the whole course is nicely shaded.    

Jay Roberts
I ran in all black, anticipating a muddy race after a rainy spring.  I wore compression shorts and a black tank, visor, and sunglasses.  My Garmin accurately reflected the mileage, although I didn't trust it during the race because of the tree cover.  Others reported their Garmins showed a much longer course than the 9.3 miles.  I started with an ipod, but quickly ditched it, preferring to run without tunes on this one.  Listening to fellow runners was very entertaining.  Jay & Vance ran in compression shorts and a technical tee, also with visors and sunglasses.  Jay ran with his Nathan running belt.  Lindsey wore standard running shorts and tank.  Daisy wore her poo-boss and collar.

Shannon Roberts
Jay and I had our usual pre-race breakfast, coffee, a bowl of Kashi GoLean cereal, and a few bites of a Clif Bar along the way.  We drank water and Gatorade in the car on the way there.  We each ate a Gu before the race, and I had one after aid station 2.  Jay ate a Gu at aid station 3 also.  (I probably should have, I ran out of gas on the uphills at the slog).  Vance had cereal, Gatorade and a prerace Gu also.

Vance McCracken & Lindsey Adkins
The Dirty Dog is extremely well-run, and a really fun atmosphere in absolutely beautiful surroundings.  Dan and Tracey Todd and the volunteers have thought of everything.  The presence of the dogs and the technical nature of the trail is enough to humble even the most elite runners.  Most folks I saw were smiling and happy, both before and after the race.  Post-race food was great: watermelon, rice krispie treats, fruit, cookies, and water, as well as other tasty treats.  Over $1000 was donated to the Humane Society and a truckload of food and supplies was collected for the shelter.  Charleston, WV is lucky to have such a great trail race so close to them, one that is of a doable distance.  I highly recommend this race, and I cannot wait to do it again next year!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Poca River Run 15K

On May 14, 2011, Vance, Jay, Tom Samples and I signed up for the Poca River Road Run 15k.  Billed as the oldest road race in WV, the course is an undulating 9.3 mile loop of asphalt running.  We scouted what we thought was the route the night before so that we knew where to go in the morning.  A friend of mine told me the "back way" from Teays Valley, so we wanted to be sure we knew we could get there.

The plan was for my parents to come to our house in the morning so that we could leave for the race while the kiddos slept in.  We laid out all our gear the night before: freshly charged Garmins, ipods, Road IDs, Gatorade, Gu, socks, shoes, clothes, and visors.  I love the process of excitedly preparing my run "kit" the night before.  I'm such a running nerd.

On race morning we got up, ate our routine race day breakfasts: Kashi GoLean with milk, coffee, and a banana for me, and a Clif Bar, coffee, and banana for Jay.  We got dressed and headed out, with Gatorade and Red Bull to sip along the way.  Vance had met us at our house so he rode with us to the race start.  Vance was suffering a sinus infection, but not being one to back out, came to gut out the race anyway.

It was a muggy and warm for the start.  We lined up along with many familiar faces that we saw during the Winter Race Series.  And off we went, a jostling mass of runners, over the Poca River bridge and onto the country road along the river.  Tom was out front, and finished first amongst us.  We three ran mid-pack, with Vance leading and Jay and I staying together for about the first five miles.  I can hang with Jay for about 4-6 miles, but that's when he continues to accelerate, and I maintain my chugging pace.  My miles are usually identical in pace.  Jay consistently runs negative splits.  Jealous.  I saw him ahead catch up with Vance and run alongside him for awhile.  Then the course took a few uphill and downhill turns and I lost sight of them.

The course was beautiful.  We saw dogs, horses, country folk, and some interesting roadkill along the way.  The downhills outnumbered the uphills, but there were plenty of both to be challenging.  As the route turned toward the river, we ran across a bridge into the tiny hamlet of Lanham.  Photographer Dan had found a great spot to photograph the runners as they came across the bridge.  There was a city-wide yardsale going on as we ran past.  The crowds perusing the wares looked up at the runners briefly, probably thought we were insane, and then quietly went back to rummaging.  I thought it was hilarious.

The last relief station at mile 6 was just past the yard sale.  A fellow runner caught up with me while I slowed to drink the water.  She had been behind me almost the whole way and was running the same pace.  We agreed to pace together the rest of the way.  She was probably a whole foot shorter than me, and her leg turnover was much faster.  I spent the next few miles analyzing running form and how leg length and height had an influence on cadence and speed.  She had the advantage on the uphills because her legs were faster, I had the advantage on the downhills because my strides were longer.  On the flats we were about the same.  It was an interesting phenomenon and it helped the last few miles go by as I observed this.  Not long after the relief station we passed Vance who was fighting a fever, cramps, and exhaustion.  He ran alongside us for awhile but had to slow down to keep his legs from cramping.  He toughed it out, though, and finished not long after I did!  Vance definitely wins the tenacity award.

A couple of tough hills challenged us in the last mile.  It definitely felt good to finish that race!  Jay and Tom had already turned in their sticks and were calmly sipping Gatorade.  Vance finished just a few minutes later.  The heat and humidity took a toll on all of us.  We spent the rest of the weekend rehydrating.

Overall the Poca River Road Race was a very fun, picturesque race, and a great way to challenge yourself at a 15K distance, which is somewhat rare in these parts.  The race is well-run, has three aid stations and a port-a-pottie (very important), as well as post-race bananas and gatorades.  The registration fee included a long-sleeve race tee and a water bottle.  Highly recommend!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Susan G. Komen 5K and a big first!

The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is the largest 5k in the state.  This year, 6500+ attended the run/walk festivities that took place in Charleston, WV.  The capitol setting is a beautiful locale, and the race route is a flat, straight out and back along Kanawha Boulevard overlooking the Kanawha River.

The sheer size of the event invites total chaos.  Many vendors and participating teams set up EZup tents at the race start, making the registration tent virtually impossible to distinguish.  The crowd milling around the capitol front steps is dense and moving in a million different directions, so quick maneuvering on site is difficult, especially amongst the small city of tents.

Jay and I had preregistered as timed runners, and registered our two kids, Alex and Caitlin as regular participants.  Since we registered a day or so too late to receive our packets in the mail, we were forced to fight the crowd to pick up our race chips and numbers.  Note to self:  Register early next year.

We had decided to participate as a family, with Caitlin in the jog stroller and Alex riding his bike.  However, I was uneasy about running alongside Alex on the bike, mainly because of the hazard and frustration he may cause to fellow runners.  In the car, on the way to the race, Jay and I discussed what we would do if he didn't ride his bike.  Alex was quietly listening, and piped up, "I want to run."  "Really?" Jay and I said in unison.  "Yep!" he said.

Since about January, we have been running short distances with Alex, who is six years old, but we had never run 5K distance with him.  He has attended most of our triathlons and running races over the past year, and knew that running was a big part of my husband's and my extracurricular activities.  Until the day of the Susan G. Komen race, he had not been interested in running a race.  We were so excited at his interest, that we gladly forewent our personal pace goals and decided to run as a family.

After navigating the crowd and getting registered, we jammed ourselves into the packed Boulevard to await the runners' start.  Alex was ready.  His game face was on!  The gun went off, and there we went, running jauntily down the street together.  Alex ran hard, at about a 9:30 pace for the first mile, even though I tried to slow him down a bit to conserve his energy for the rest of the race.  Soon after the first mile marker, Alex said he needed to walk, which I could tell he was disappointed in admitting.  I had told him before we started that we would run as far as we could together, and then whenever he was ready to walk, just say so, no big deal.  But, of course, like we all do, he got swept up in the crowd, and wanted to keep up with the pack of runners around him.  Luckily, an aid station was in the perfect location for a stop.  We grabbed Gatorades and a banana for Caitlin, and walked the next couple hundred yards, sipping "energy juice."

Roberts family racers
And, he was off again!  Alex continued his run/walk strategy, walking and drinking Gatorade in between energetic and fast spurts of running.  All the while, we ran alongside him and Caitlin cheered him on from her stroller.  A train zoomed by across the river, and he got a second wind, inspired by the train.  We spent the rest of the race designating goals in the distance of things to run to, such as light poles, stoplights, people to pass, etc..  This kept Alex moving and motivated, and he was absolutely determined to finish this race.  I was amazed at his resolve and strength.

As we neared the finish, I coached him on how to finish strong and fast, and told him that once we started our final sprint, he couldn't stop, he had to run it out.  Apparently a fellow runner, a woman who looked to be in her fifties, overheard my little pep talk, and when it was time to sprint to the finish, she called out, voice wavering with emotion, "You run your little heart out buddy!"  And we were off again.  Jay and me with huge smiles, and Alex with his serious game face on, ran to the finish line while the crowd let up a loud cheer to see such a little guy finishing strong.  He finished in just under 40 minutes.

Proud Alex post race
I was so proud of him!  I picked him up in a big bear hug, and Jay squeezed him hard.  He was proud of himself, too.  I was happy for all of us.  Our family had completed the race, and Alex got bit by the running and racing bug.  Yippeee!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hunting Island Adventure Biathlon, Beaufort SC 5-12-11

Hunting Island Lagoon
Our family has owned property on Fripp Island, SC for several years now.  We have spent our time there enjoying the natural beauty of the Lowcountry.  The ocean, the salt creeks, the marsh and jungles are a landscape of beauty in stark contrast to our home in the mountains of West Virginia.  Last year we gained a new appreciation for the WV highlands when we participated in triathlons and trail races.  This year, we decided to attempt a Biathlon in our vacationland home of South Carolina and enjoy its splendor up close and personal.  We couldn't have chosen a better race.  The Hunting Island Adventure Biathlon was one of the most fun races we've ever done.

The beautiful trail through the jungle of Hunting Island
Several years ago, for my birthday, I got a kayak from Higher Ground in Beaufort when they were located near the marine store.  I loved their store, and the help I received in choosing my boat and accessories was above and beyond any customer service I've experienced.  Ever since, I have sported a Higher Ground sticker on my vehicle, and I have tried to visit their store while in town.  I also am a fan on Facebook, and on their email list, which is how I found out about the Hunting Island Biathlon.    

The Biathlon's distance was a 5 mile paddle and a 4.5 mile trail run.  The run section of the race scared no one.  However, the 5 mile paddle was a bit daunting.  For one, the race is in March, so we were unable to train by actually paddling since chunks of ice were floating in our rivers here in WV for the months prior to the race.  But, I have a kayak and have some experience paddling.  Plus, our swimming training should help our upper body strength to help us be strong enough to paddle the distance.  Vance and Lindsey had kayaking race experience in the Capital City Classic Triathlon.

The race offered a unique setup of relay options, which made for lots more fun for the participants.  Entrants could register as a single/solo, or as a relay team or a tandem team.  Relay teams required one person paddle and one person run.  Tandem teams, however, required two people to paddle together on a tandem kayak, and then run the trail race together and cross the finish line together.  Technically, the last of the tandem runners would register the finish time for the team.  Because our paddling experience was spotty, and because the opportunity to race on a tandem team sounded like so much fun, both Jay and I, as well as Vance and Lindsey registered as mixed tandem teams.  Most importantly, however, the race t-shirt is awesome.  I loved it so much I wore it during the race!  It was perfect!

Vance's 6'7" frame barely fits 
We rented our kayaks, paddling vests, and paddles from The Kayak Farm in Beaufort, and it seemed as though many participants did so.  The Kayak Farm delivered the boats to the race site, and actually had them lined up and ready to launch.  This was a huge convenience!  Vance had a bit of trouble finding a boat that fit his 6' 7" frame, but he was smart in informing the Kayak Farm of his body size on the phone when renting the boats. Another advantage to renting was the ability to ditch our paddles and vests at transition, knowing that they would be collected by the Kayak Farm.  Otherwise, participants had to have someone waiting to grab the gear for them as they transitioned from paddle to run.

Because it was a trail race, we decided to wear our trail shoes, although we saw many participants wearing Vibrams, Keens, and Teva sandals.  If they were wearing sandals, they had to slip on their running shoes at transition to hit the trail.  However, I saw more Vibrams than ever, and they really would have been the perfect footwear for this race if you were used to running in them.  We wore quick-drying shorts, no-show socks, and performance wicking tees.  This was a must, since we got soaked during the paddle portion of the race.  I was most thankful for the visor and sunglasses I wore, not only to stave off the glare but also to keep the splashes out of my face.  We also wore bike gloves, which was a smart move, since our hands were fatigued by the end of the race, and the padded gloves saved our palms.  

The well-marked road into the park
Hunting Island State Park is a beautiful nature preserve, with natural beaches and extensive jungles.  A lighthouse and its village stands on the island that can be toured and climbed.  One of the state's most beautiful campgrounds is on the park property.  The lagoon we were to paddle through was also the setting for the movie Forrest Gump's Vietnam scene where actor Tom Hanks pulls his fellow soldiers to safety out of the jungle.  

Participants in the Biathlon drove into the main entrance and, after paying the park's $5.00 user fee, were directed through a stunning canopy of palms, live oaks, and pine.  Vehicles were parked near the beach, and a short walk brought participants to the race start/finish line and launch site.  Vance, Lindsey and Marshall, not to be outdone in total fitness mileage, rode beach cruiser bikes from adjacent Fripp Island 5 1/2 miles to the race start.  We brought our kids, and Lindsey's parents most graciously offered to watch them while we raced.  It was a beautiful venue in which to play with kids, they spent the race time on the beach with Lindsey's mom Jackie while the race supporter, Marshall, watched and coached our transitions.  He also took some great pictures in the process!  One challenge of the race venue was the frenzied swarms of noseeums that met visitors with a riot of bites.  Everyone was swatting the air, and standing still invited a brutal onslaught.  Fortunately, the wind picked up later in the day and the bugs abated.  Thankfully we brought serious bug spray!  We doused ourselves and our visors.  I also soaked two bandanas in bug spray and tied them around the kids' necks. This effectively kept the bugs out of their faces.  

The race was extremely well-run, with volunteers at every turn ready to help and direct.  Everyone seemed to know what they were doing, and was much appreciated.  A prerace meeting informed racers on all the rules and transition instructions.  Rescue boats were ready and waiting to help any kayakers in distress.  After the meeting, we settled the kids and climbed into our boat.  We were a little late getting into the water so we had to paddle all the way to the back of the pack to get turned around just in time for the race start.  Vance and Lindsey confidently lined up near the front and were poised and ready to dominate.  The race start sounded, and we were off.  A flailing frenzy of paddlers ensued, and many collisions and cussing were heard around us as we picked through the crowd.  Because I was so scared of turning over in the shark-infested lagoon (hint of sarcasm and drama), we were probably a little less aggressive than we probably needed to be to overtake other, slower boats.  The view from our boat of all the other colorful kayaks and paddlers was breathtaking and exciting.

The first 1/3 of the paddle was in the lagoon, where marsh grasses and trees blocked the wind and waves, making for nice flat water.  However, my paddling technique was less than smooth, so water was splashed and slapped by my paddles until I got the rhythm down.  I banged my thumbs on the boat, as well as my paddle shaft.  Jay, on the other hand, was cool as a cucumber, expertly working the rudder pedals and steering us through the lagoon.  The wide variety of paddling expertise made for a fun challenge, seeing some cut through the water like they had a motor, and others clumsily zig zagging through the lagoon, unable to steer effectively.  Cussing all the way.  It was hilarious.  

The second 1/3 of the paddle trip was into the Fripp Inlet, the water separating Hunting Island and Fripp Island.  This portion was unprotected by trees, and the wind and tide had a significant effect on our paddling efficiency.  We navigated under the fishing pier (which, by the way, according to a fishing guide, is the best place in SC to catch large sharks), and under the Fripp Island bridge.  Several spectators looked over the bridge, cheering us on.  We also saw Lindsey and Vance paddling strong going in the other direction after their turnaround.  They looked serious but also like they were having a great time.  We paddled out to a buoy, around it, and back towards the lagoon.  The halfway point was a giant relief.  By then, my arms and core were screaming, and surprisingly to me, my legs were too.  In order to gain the upper body power to pull the paddle through the water, you have to hold tension inside the kayak with your legs on stationary foot pedals.  This isometric contraction had to be held for the entire length of the paddle portion of the race.  I could see and feel the muscles in my thighs twitching and shaking.  I wondered what effect that would have on my running.  Just before reentering the lagoon, we saw a single kayak turn over, dumping its paddler.  I couldn't look.  Falling in was my greatest fear.  He swam to the edge and got back in safely, with the rescue boat standing ready nearby.  

The last 1/3 of the paddle portion returned us to the flat lagoon, and the paddling seemed easier.  An hour and some minutes after race start, Vance and Lindsey beached their boat and took off on the run.  We saw them running the trail as we got close to the transition area.  Volunteers waited for us to pull in, and they helped by stabilizing the boat as we got out.  I looked up and saw Marshall there, cheering us on and taking pictures.  Bless him, it was so nice to see his face and hear his support as we took off.  Jay unfortunately had to wade to get out, soaking his shoes and socks.  He also lost his timex watch during transition.  This would have ruined my day.  Jay took it in stride.  Literally.  After a few seconds of fumbling around with our gear, we started off the run.

Vance and Lindsey's finish
Talk about sea legs!  Wow, the entire upper legs, including hip flexors and glutes were totally numb.  And wet from sitting in the puddle of water splashy paddling created in the seat of the kayak.  Jay and I both marveled at how our legs were like jello, much worse than any bike to run transition we've ever done.  Also, our hands were fatigued from paddling for so long, so being able to reach for chapstick and Gu was a challenge.  I dropped my bike gloves twice as I pulled them off.  Finally, all our gadgets stowed, we could settle into our run.

Jay & Shannon's finish
The trail started out as a wide flat trail, went over a footbridge and a gravel road and then onto a single track mountain bike path.  We could run side by side during the first portion, but then were single file on the narrow part.  The trail undulated up and down over the ancient dunes covered in forest.  The jungle was absolutely beautiful, and the trail was spongy and sandy.  Volunteers were stationed at every turn so that there was no question which way to go.  The final descent brought us back out to the main road for one final sprint to the finish line.  Wow, what a fun race!

Vance and Lindsey walked away with first place in the Mixed Tandem relay category!  They received a very nice gift bag with lots of goodies from Higher Ground.  To celebrate, they rode another 6 miles back to Fripp Island on their beach cruisers.  Big congratulations!

Race support: The Adkinses
Overall, the race was one of the most fun things we've ever completed.  The scenery was spectacular, the weather was absolutely perfect, and the race was extremely well run.  Everyone seemed to be having a great time.  We couldn't have done it without the generous and gracious Marshall and Jackie Adkins.  They not only watched our kidlets for us during the race, but they fixed us an outstanding spaghetti dinner the night before.  Many thanks to them for their help!         

The Roberts Family Post Race

Monday, March 7, 2011

Running solves almost everything

Solve: verb. to find an answer to, explanation for, or means of effectively dealing with (a problem or mystery) ORIGIN: Late Middle English (in the sense loosen, dissolve, untie) from Latin solvere "loosen, unfasten."

Something I have discovered over the last year is that running solves many of life's problems, which sounds oddly familiar to a quote by Homer Simpson about beer.  But, like alcohol, running gets in the blood, but instead of clouding the mind, running clears the mind, offering opportunities to think and dream in a positive way like few other activities can.  Running will loosen you, you may become unfastened in the process, but the refastened you will be leaner, fitter and healthier.

I have done yoga for a long time.  Yoga offers a beautiful way to clear one's mind.  Focusing on poses, pushing my edge and yogic breathing allows any tension to melt away.  I cannot live without yoga, just as I now cannot live with out running.

Running is different.  Since I don't have to focus on form like I do in yoga, my mind wanders, drifts, and comes back to me with new ideas and fresh perspectives.  Even though I usually listen to music while running, the music helps me get out of the gate and set a tempo.  Then I lapse into a groove, where my thoughts take over and the music just provides the rhythm to which my feet hit the ground.  The noise of life dissolves.  My body goes into autopilot and my mind begins to explore corners and closets inside it that I would never otherwise have the quiet time to uncover.  I spend running time unraveling issues and finding solutions to problems.  If my legs start slowing down, I go back to listening to the music to pick up the pace.  I come back from my runs refreshed and excited about new ideas and answers.

So how does running solve most of life's problems?  I've listened to my friends complain, over and over about their lives:  Too fat, too tired, too sick, too depressed, too negative, hate my job, hate my spouse, hate my body, kids driving me crazy, etc. etc..  Maybe it's too easy for me to say, "Just start running." But, most of the time, that's what I want to say.  No other exercise (except maybe biking) offers the sense of pride and accomplishment that running does.  I can measure miles, pace, calories, altitude, and inches/pounds lost.  Does it get any better than that?  I could tell my friends that not only can they impress themselves regularly,  they get a chance to think, and to get away from the life that's wearing them out.  Minds will clear, and problem-solving will take place.  Suddenly we feel better about ourselves as we tone up, lose weight, and get tougher.  We have things to celebrate (race days, PRs, distance achievements, etc.)

Running has changed my life in such a positive way, solving many of my "problems."  Running affects how and what I eat (I see food as fuel, so I eat healthier), how I schedule my days (I'm more efficient), I impress myself with my toughness, and best of all, my husband and I are teaching our children a healthy lifestyle.  I feel good about my body not because of how it looks (although running has definitely helped it look better) but because of how far it will take me.  I am thankful for my physical and mental strength.  I think twice about loading up on chili cheese fries because of how it will make my next run feel. (Blah).  

No question the hardest part of running is getting started.  The pain, soreness, stiffness all make us question whether or not running is for us.  But, I promise, if you can get past the first month, you will never look back.  Problems solved.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

2010-2011 Winter Series Races

Over the winter we signed up for the Tallman Track Group's Winter Series.  The races were a 5K, 8K, and a 10K, each about a month apart, starting in December and going through February.  Whoever participated in all three events received a hooded sweatshirt after the 10K.

The races helped us stay in running shape over the winter months, when the last thing we wanted to do was leave our warm homes for the windy, cold roads.  The events took place in flat Kanawha City, and each race continued along the same route, only going a bit farther each time.  The races were cold, but we were well-prepared, having done our Half Marathon in 20 degree weather, and most of our training runs out in the cold.

Everlasting running mutt Daisy ran the races with us and became an instant star when she donned a tutu for one race, and her Poo Boss high-visibility jacket for the 10K.

Signing up for the Winter Series was probably the best thing we did for maintaining our fitness levels.  We will definitely look for it again next year!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2010 in review - Part V The Half Mary

Post-race photo in the Marshall University Stadium
Since the Dirty Dog race the May prior, Jay and I were hooked on stretch goals.  This new addiction got us signed up for our first Triathlon, and we had now registered for the Marshall University Half Marathon in Huntington, WV.  The race was November 17, and it was a nice flat course around campus and along the river in the city of Huntington.  Perfect timing and a perfect course for our first half.

We trained using Runner's Magazine 10-week beginner's training plan.  This plan required that we run every other day, and do aerobic intervals during our runs.  The intervals were designed to make your normal pace feel "comfortable" so that you can keep it up over the 13.1 miles.  Long runs were scheduled for the weekends, and mileage was stepped up each week.  This training plan worked well for us.  We plotted our runs and workouts on the calendar each week and purposely set aside the time to get it done.  We ran every other day, so one of us was pretty much running every evening.  One time we had Grandmom and Poppy watch the kids so we could do our 10 mile training run together.  We felt ready for our first half marathon.

Race day weather was the exact opposite of the 10-10-10 10K.  It was extremely cold.  The Weather Channel had been calling for this freezing weather for about a week and a half, so I had time to research our clothing options for the cold morning.  Unfortunately, we have very few outdoor retailers in our area, so most of my research had to be done online.  This was a challenge, since clothes can't be tried on and can't be felt for weight or thickness.  I finally decided to go with what I knew: my favorite fleece of all time, the Patagonia R series.  This is not technically a running fleece, but is made for strenuous outdoor cold weather activities, such as skiing, hiking, or snowshoeing.  My mom purchased me a Patagonia R jacket in Montana about 8 years ago, and I still wear it on a regular basis.  The deciding factor was the grid fleece technology that Patagonia uses to allow heat to escape, but keeps just enough heated air on the body to keep you feeling warm.  Hence the R, "regulator."  It really is magical.  So I ordered us some fleeces from MooseJaw, and they arrived just in time for a test run a few days from the race.  We also purchased Under Armour gloves and wicking fleece headbands for the race.  We were geared up at last.

On the evening prior to the race, our family of four attended the spaghetti dinner and picked up our race packets.  We received a really nice technical long-sleeved tee and our shoe chips.  Before leaving Huntington, we drove the course so that we knew what we'd be in for the next day.  As promised, the route was completely flat, save for a few underpasses.  Easy peasy compared to the route we had been running.

Finally, race day had arrived.  I set my phone to wake me up at 4:30am.  We had laid out our clothing the night before, so we quickly dressed and set about getting our race day breakfast: coffee, Kashi cereal, and a Clif bar and Red Bull to eat on the way.  I wore a technical tee-shirt, my Patagonia R1 fleece, a pair of Mizuno knee tights, Wigwam marathon socks, and my trusty Asics Gel-Nimbus 12s.  Accessories were my UA fleece headband, Nike running visor, Ray bans technical sunglasses, and my Nathan gel pack, filled with chapstick, Gu, and a snot rag.  Jay's run kit consisted of a pair of UA tights, Nike shorts, a wicking running tee, and his R1 fleece.  I think his accessories were identical, although Jay also likes to carry his cell phone, a $20 bill, and his ID with him.  He also is in charge of the vehicle key.  I cannot be trusted with such things.

Grandmom and Poppy showed up to watch the kiddos at promptly 6:00 am while we loaded up and headed for the race location.  They were to get the kids up later and make their way to the course to cheer for us as we ran by.

The only mishap of this event preparation was Jay's unfortunate placement of his nipple tape.  Yes nipple.  Tape.  He had experienced chafed nipples in the past, and wanted to avoid the "nipples of fire" problem of distance running.  We had heard horror stories of those with two rivulets of blood running down their shirts as they crossed the finish line.  I think the tape he purchased adhered with Super Glue.  He decided against the tape as we were getting our shoes on in the car in the parking lot of the event.  Unfortunately, this tape removal had the same effect of waxing the nipple hair.  Yes nipple.  Hair.  He squirmed and cussed as he pulled off the tape.  I, on the other hand, laughed hysterically, causing many fellow runners to stop and look at our vehicle to see what was going on.  This sight played back to me in my mind several times during our race and was met with more laughter from me.  He didn't think it was funny.  Personally, I think men should just suck it up and wear a sports bra.  Problem solved.

Gu'd up and geared up, we made our way to the starting line (after several pit stops, of course).  It was a beautiful foggy and cold morning.  Our car temperature gauge said 12 degrees when we left the house, but it had warmed up to a balmy 19 degrees by race time.  Walking through the parking lot, many folks were going through their preparation routines.  Some were sprinting around, some stretching, and some had a full-blown tailgate party going on, complete with loud music and party atmosphere.  I was getting caught up in the excitement, and I loved it.  Why race?  This is why.  Getting pumped for something is an addictive natural adrenaline high.  Lindsey and her dad, Marshall, were also in our midst, with Marshall running the full marathon, and Lindsey running the half.  They had been training together for this race.  Of course, they would beat the pants off of us, and had probably spent about 5% of the time we did in their gear preparations.  Clad in shorts and a sweatshirt, Lindsey would tough out the cold temperatures and smoke us all.  Vance was on the bike, running support for us, ready to take anything we needed to discard along the way.  Our team was set.

The starting line was crowded.  It was our biggest race to date and we were very excited.  As in every starting line, lots of nervous jokes were being made, and people were jumping up and down to keep warm.  The gun went off and we were off, jostling about in the crowd, being swept into a 7:15 mile pace (fast for us) for the first mile.  After that, the crowd thinned out, and we settled into a steady 9:30-10:00 mile pace and went about clicking away the miles.  The race rules banned ipods (not everyone adhered to that one!) so Jay and I ran music free.  Running without music is refreshing, especially during a race where lots of crowd noise and conversations surround you.  It somehow makes the miles go by faster.  For a solo run, however, I always run with an ipod to keep me motivated.

Lindsey zooms past the cheering section & team photog
Some of the things that surprised me about the race crowd: many many people took bathroom breaks.  Pretty much anywhere.  I personally was relieved that I didn't have to relieve myself during the race.  Also, lots of people walked, and two women ran-walked, alternating running with walking every 100 yards or so.  It was irritating to pass them, then they would pass us, then we would pass them, etc. etc..  We finally just stepped up the pace and sped past, putting them safely behind us.  Also, lots of people met each other while running.  Someone would run up beside someone else, and they'd introduce themselves and talk about their running career.  This banter was very interesting to eavesdrop on.  Jay and I were convinced that one man and woman were going to hook up for a date after the race.  We felt like we were listening in on two people drinking at a bar, not running a marathon!  But, I'm pretty sure I would definitely rather meet someone while running than drinking any get a much better look at the raw product.

Aside from some very cold body parts that will remain unnamed (ask Jay for details), Jay and I felt pretty good in our race day outfits.  The visor kept the sun out of our eyes, and the rest of us were perfectly regulated...not too hot, not too cold.  It was so cold out that we had frost on our shoulders from the releasing heat.  A little over the halfway point, we saw Marshall heading towards us on the full marathon route.  The halfers and fullers ran the same route for the first 7 miles or so, and then the fullers turned back and ran a portion of the route in the opposite direction to connect to a longer loop.  He looked strong, fast, and in good spirits.  We were impressed.

Waving to our biggest fans
Soon after the Marshall sighting, we went through and underpass and on our ascent, I caught a glimpse of a pink-clad toddler tooling around, looking much like Ralphie on A Christmas Story.  Sure enough, it was our cheering section, with 19 month old Caitlin out front, waving.  Six year old Alex and Grandmom and Poppy cheered and took pictures as we ran by, waving back.  Apparently Lindsey had zoomed by (much) earlier and they got some shots of her dust.

Handing back our footballs
The longest-seeming part of the race came next miles 9 through 11, with a pass back through our starting route.  We took a turn and headed through campus, where a volunteer was handing out flowers for the runners to carry through campus and place at the Memorial Fountain, which memorializes the 1970 plane crash which claimed the lives of most of the Marshall Football team and its staff.  Soon after our jaunt through campus, we came to the last leg, past the stadium parking lot, where we saw our cheering section again, and into the stadium itself.  It was an exciting finish to the race, and runners were handed a football to carry as they ran down the field and crossed the finish line.  As you can imagine, lots of Heisman poses were struck along the way.  Race officials asked us not to spike the balls, taking some of the fun out of it.
The approach to the finish line

We crossed the finish line and felt great, and relieved, to be finished with the furthest run of our lives, the Half Marathon.  We were half marathoners!  And the best part was that we did it together.  We met up with Lindsey, who won her age group with a time of 1:40 and ran a blistering 7:39 pace, and Vance and Grandmom.  Unfortunately our finish line photos weren't great, since we crossed at the same time as another odd-looking couple, but we did get a great shot of the four of us post-race.  Our time was 2:12 and a 10:08 pace.  Jay graciously slowed at the finish, allowing me to cross first by a few seconds.  

Yay! Our first half complete!
Vance and Lindsey headed out to cheer on Marshall, and we took the kids and headed home for an afternoon of rest.  My recovery/reward meal was a hot chocolate from McDonald's and a sausage McGriddle.  Yum!  

Sunday, February 13, 2011

2010 in review - Part IV 10-10-10 10K

Our next race challenge was to be a half marathon.  We registered for the Marshall University Half Marathon in Huntington and began training and doing more long runs.  Jay and I signed up for the "Run of a Lifetime" 10K on 10-10-10.  This race fell perfectly on our training schedule for our upcoming half.  Vance and Lindsey offered to watch the kidlets while we ran this race, which also happened to be right down the road from our house, and along our regular running route.  We had been running 7, 8, 9 miles on a regular basis leading up to the run.  However, our only 10K experience was at the end of the Scenic Mountain Triathlon.  So, needless to say, we took this race pretty lightly.  It even started at 2pm on a Sunday, so piece of cake right?  Well, not really.

Scenic Mountain Triathlon co-competitor Tom Samples and friend Bryan Watts joined us for the run.  In Bryan's case, it was the farthest he had ever run!

This race fell on an unusually hot day for October.  We had been running in consistently 60 degree weather, so we were not prepared for the 88 degree day that race day turned out to be!  Not only was it super hot, but very dry.  The route also turned out to be much tougher than we expected.  We were met with no shade and hill upon hill upon hill.  The route took us into several extremely hilly neighborhoods.  It was demoralizing.

However, we finished the race in the middle of the pack; it seemed as if everyone had underestimated the challenge of this race.  Our times were comparable to our Scenic Mountain Triathlon times, and that was the third leg of a triathlon!!  Oh well, at least our performance left the door open for future PRs!

The crowd was fun, the t-shirt was cool, and the kids had a great time at the city park fair that was going on at the same time.  Would we do it again?  Absolutely!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

2010 in Review Part III The Triathlon Relay

The swim start in beautiful Stonewall Jackson lake
The triathlon bug had bitten, and bit hard.  We signed up for our next triathlon, the Stonewall Jackson Triathlon at beautiful Stonewall Jackson resort in Lewis County, West Virginia.  Vance recovered from his strained diaphragm just in time to tear his calf muscle.  Frustrated but unwilling to give up, we entered the race as a relay team, "Team Lima Green."  Relaying a triathlon proved to be extremely fun, and I don't think any of us regretted the decision.  Vance was to swim 1000m, Jay bike 26 miles, and I was to run 4 miles as anchor.

We made it a getaway weekend, and camped at Summersville Lake on Friday night before the race.  We knew the cool waters of the lake would be a great post-race relaxation spot.  Grandmom and Poppy prepared a lasagna dinner for us in their camper oven and we carbo loaded around the picnic table under the stars.

Team Lima Green prepares to race
After a predawn scurry and preparation, we were on the road to Stonewall Jackson.  This place should have been easy to find.  Several of us had been there before.  But, somehow, the logistics coordinator (me) printed the bike route directions rather than the resort directions and we ended up driving about 20 miles out of our way to get there.  I am an early bird.  I like to get somewhere in plenty of time to case the joint, use the bathroom, and scope everything out, with time to iron out any wrinkles that may arise.  Well, this arrival was not so well planned.  We were pretty much lost, and without cell signal, we were at the mercy of the clock to get there in time for the team check-in deadline.  Our GPSs just laughed at us.  My nerves were shot, and if I would have had a heart rate monitor on, it would have been smoking.  But, miraculously, we found the resort and pulled into the foggy parking lot.  The good news was, we got a last-minute tour of the bike route!  We made it within minutes of the registration shutting down.  Shew!

Vance gets ready to swim
The next step was to figure out how to do our chip transitions, and to get Vance down to the water's edge for the start.  We had several mishaps along the way, Vance wore the wrong swim cap, Jay wore the runner's number (not intended for bikers), and we went through several pairs of broken sunglasses.  Luckily, the race start was delayed by several minutes due to fog on the water of the lake, obstructing the view of race officials and swimmers.

Jay returns from the bike leg
Finally, the race was on!  Vance completed a strong swim, and had to sprint up a hill to the transition area to where Jay was waiting to take off on the bike.  After seeing the route, I was not disappointed to only be running in this triathlon.  His bike route was an extremely hilly 26 miles, with constant ups and downs.  Whereas the Scenic Mountain triathlon was one long uphill, this was up and down the whole way.  He definitely had the most difficult relay leg, which took about an hour and a half before he returned to the transition area.  I spent the hour and a half trying not to jump out of my skin, and going to the bathroom way too many times.  I had a minor panic attack when I thought we had lost the runner's number, but I remembered that Jay had pinned it to his shirt.  Since before dawn, my body and mind were winding tighter and tighter, ready to run.  As anchor, I was terrified of losing a position on the run and couldn't wait to get going!  Finally I saw Jay returning on his bike.  He rode in, and I pinned the number on while he attached the chip to my ankle.

T2 Jay to Shannon
I ran out of there like a scared rabbit.  And, of course, in my panic, I forgot to sync my Garmin so I had no idea how fast I was going.   I also had no idea what to expect on the route.  Oh well, as long as I wasn't passed by someone with an "R" by their number I'd be okay.  (R for relay).  Problem was, I couldn't see who had Rs on their numbers and who didn't, unless they were ahead of me.  Hm.  So I ran scared, hoping to not hear footsteps behind me.  The route was all downhill on the first 2 miles, which meant it was going to be uphill all the way back.  Nice.  Amazingly, I passed a few folks, and no one passed me.  But later I saw in the results that a relay runner was only seconds behind me, and I didn't even know it.  Shew!

The big finish
Team Lima Green finish line photo
Team Lima Green came in fourth overall in the relays that day.  We had a great time, and spent a well-deserved lazy afternoon on the boat at Summersville afterwards.

Summersville Lake

Friday, January 21, 2011

2010 in Review Part II The Triathlon

Beautiful Summit Lake
We had so much fun doing the Dirty Dog we decided our next race would be another big challenge: The Scenic Mountain Triathlon.  As a former high school swimmer and track team member, signing up for my first triathlon seemed logical, doing it, however, proved to be quite an exercise in mental and physical toughness.

We embarked on a triple threat training regime, which was a refreshing change from all the pavement pounding we'd been doing.  We scheduled time in the pool to swim the tri's 1/2 mile distance.  Summer was heating up, and the pool felt great.  Our first open-water swim attempt in Summersville Lake was not so hot, however, reminding us how difficult and mentally challenging open-water swims can be.  My dad, convinced we would slip beneath the surface never to be seen again, tooled closely next to us in the pontoon boat, lifeguarding us and filling our lungs with marine motor exhaust.

We also invested in road bikes, after an exhaustive analysis as to whether or not we could do the race on our mountain bikes.  The bike portion, 17 miles of uphill mountain climbing (hence the name Scenic MOUNTAIN Triathlon), was daunting, so we decided to go for it.  I'm so glad we did!  I got a beautiful Trek, and Jay got a Gary Fisher.  Vance borrowed a Fuji and we set out on some group rides.  Vance's girlfriend Lindsey showed us all up, riding her 25 year-old 10 speed, and beating the pants off us gear geeks.  The hardest part of a triathlon for me is the bike ride.  I have a long way to go to overcome my terror of riding in traffic and to build up my biking muscles.  Transitioning from a mountain bike to a road bike is not easy.  Road bikes are fast and jumpy, and are very delicate, requiring you to constantly scan the road for debris and pot holes.  It's like the difference between riding a farm pack horse and a sleek thoroughbred.

Speaking of bikes, we are lucky to know our friend Tom who is a former professional biker.  It was his cousin's Fuji that Vance was able to borrow for the triathlon.  Tom was very helpful in riding with us and giving us some sage advice that we desperately needed.  He also crashed the Scenic Mountain Triathlon with us, and despite a much quieter training regimen and only a Mountain Dew for hydration, he still whupped us all.  His athletic dominance is humbling and inspiring at the same time.

The run part was relatively easy to train for.  We had just completed a 15K trail run, so the 10K run was not all that intimidating.  We continued to rotate through the three sports, gaining confidence and impressing ourselves every day.  Lindsey and Vance did several of their own "homemade" triathlons.  The biggest challenge for Jay and me was (and still is) finding the time to train while working full time and raising two small children.  We have to work together, usually with me heading out the door as soon as he's home from work.  He is ready to go when I get back.  Mutual support is essential in making this work for our family.

Race weekend was finally upon us.  We decided to spend the weekend at our family's camp, near the race site.  We arrived on Saturday with time to hit the spaghetti dinner and drive the race route.  The spaghetti dinner was somewhat intimidating, filled with extremely fit people sporting 26.2 tattoos, Oakleys and ripped calves.  My dad observed, a little too loudly, that he saw Lance Armstrong.  But that intimidation was nothing compared to the bike route.  We drove the route from beautiful Summit Lake to the Cranberry Visitor's center.  It was literally 16.9 miles of undulating uphill, with a gigantic Kennison (3763 ft) mountain climb at the end.  Steep hairpin turns spiraled towards the heavens, seemingly forever.  We finally crested the summit in our vehicle and coasted the remaining .1 of the ride towards the Visitors Center.  At the Center, we got out and looked back up the mountain in terrified silence.  Back at the camp, I announced that my goal was to finish, and to not have to get off and walk my bike up that mountain.  We spent hours preparing our transition gear, going over every detail.  We slept fitfully that night, with kids in our bed, and every creak, bodily noise and breath of our cabinmates (my mom and dad, brother Vance, and Lindsey) magnified by the cathedral ceilings.  I watched the window for the blackness to turn to gray morning.  We all got up and milled around, getting breakfast.  Dad proclaimed, "Well guys, just think, this is the best you're gonna feel all day." Lindsey replied, "I think crossing that finish line will feel pretty good." Exactly!  Race jitters had long set in, so we gathered our gear and headed to the race site.

Team Lima Green ready to race
On the way to the lake, our conversation was light and funny.  Joking about dry heaving as a warm-up and questioning our common sense in signing up for a MOUNTAIN triathlon seemed to ease the nerves.  I could barely sit still, though, excited for the day's events.  The folks running the event were extremely nice and helpful, and calmed us as we set up our swim to bike transition area.  Soon we were gathering at the lake side, waiting for the race director's instructions.  We planned to wear matching lime green (jokingly dubbed lima green by our son) so we could spot each other throughout the race.  Coincidentally, the race sponsors were handing out free lime green t-shirts to participants, staff and fans.  So much for being easily spotted!  Our support team arrived, kids in tow, and wished us luck as we headed toward the starting line.

Swim start in Summit Lake

And we were off!  The swim was a jumbled mess of kicking feet and body parts.  My swim was a combination of all-out sprint freestyle and breaststroke, which allowed me to get a look at my surroundings and pick my way through the mass of bodies.  Of our group, I was the first out of the water, followed by Vance, who declared as he ran by me that he had swallowed a bunch of water.  I didn't think much of his statement then, except that he wouldn't have to worry about hydrating later, but I would soon find out that this was a major setback for him.  Tom, Lindsey and Jay came quickly behind, and the terrifying bike ride was underway.  I pumped my bike along the baby hills leading up to Kennison mountain with a calm steady pace.  Knowing that the giant was waiting for me, I saved some energy to climb the beast.  I finally came to the base of the mountain and trudged up, pumping my legs and counting my cranks to distract myself from what was one of the hardest things I've ever done.  When my counting reached into the 700s, I could finally see the top of the mountain.  I crossed it with relief that it was over, and that I didn't have to get off and push.  I coasted to the Visitor's Center and gave my bike to the handler, got a shot of water, threw on my run pack, and took off.  I waved to my family, and was so relieved to have the bike ride over, the run would be a breeze.  I soon caught up with Vance, who was walking.  His diaphragm was strained from aspirating water, and was having trouble getting a full breath.  He was in agony, but he did not let that stop him from finishing.  A few miles later, I finally crossed the finish line, third in our group of four, with Lindsey finishing first, followed by Jay then me, and then an exhausted and hurting Vance.  Tom finished well ahead of everyone, and calmly watched the rest of us finish from his spot on the picnic blanket.
Lindsey's bike to run transition

Tom's big finish
The girls ended up with some hardware, with Lindsey winning her age group and I placed third in my age group.  We munched on the outstanding post-race food.  The wonderful people of Richwood put on a full spread, with hot dogs, hamburgers, beans, potato salad and all the fixins.  Food never tasted so good.  I drank a full test Mountain Dew to celebrate.

We survived!
Doing this race was an absolute blast.  Lindsey was right about the feeling of crossing the finish line and knowing that you did it.  Aside from Vance and his diaphragm injury, it was amazing to me how quickly all the pain and hurt went away the moment the race was over and you could just sit in awe of your body for bringing you the distance.  I am so proud of everyone for doing it.  I cannot wait to do it again.

Lindsey wins 1st place!

Third in my age group!  

2010 in review - Part I The Dog

I'm starting with a record of how 2010 went, with race reports.  I am rededicating myself to this blog, driven by a passion of mine, to fight obesity in our community.  More posts to come!

May: The Dirty Dog 15K Kanawha State Forest, Charleston WV

In late March, about the time I began running again after a 5 year hiatus, I got the wild idea to train for a 15K trail race.  I figured it would be a good way to push myself way past my comfort level and force me to get out there!  Friends of mine organized this race, so I felt comfortable attempting this while amongst folks who would be looking out for me.  I convinced my brother and husband to do it with me, and suddenly we were a united racing team, motivated by each other to push our limits and train hard.  None of us had ever run farther than about 4 miles at a time, ever.  In addition to our training team, girlfriend Lindsey is an avid runner, and she was a wonderful resource in helping us get ready for our race.
Before the race
On race day, after an embarrassing and unfortunate wipeout in the parking lot by Jay, our adrenaline ran high and we were excited to get started.  Daisy, our everlasting running mutt, was ready to go too, as one of the many canine participants.  The gun went off and we were moving...running our first big distance race!  There were some newbie complications.  I forgot to sync my GPS watch, and somehow simultaneously dropped my pod and sunglasses in the first 100 yards of the race.  Daisy was spooked by the crowd and immediately pulled off to the side, forcing us to wait for the crowd to pass, then quietly coax her to run with us.  Once we got through our initial setbacks, the majority of the run went beautifully.  I felt fast, whizzing through the trees and flying down the hills.  I time-travelled back to my childhood, growing up on a farm, running through the woods like a wild animal.  I immediately fell in love with trail running.

Husband Jay Finishes First!
Other complications arose when Daisy decided to excitedly swim in the creek, Vance twisted his ankle, and the bottoms of my feet were on fire at about 7 miles in.  However, we made our final decent to the finish line, smiling, proud and happy.  We busted out of the woods and sprinted through the field to the finish.  Husband led the pack, followed by me, and Vance and Lindsey chased me down at the finish for some hilarious finish line pics!  Daisy spooked again and stayed in the woods, forcing us to run back into the woods and bring her across.  We were sore, scraped, bruised, sweaty, and tired, but we were hooked.

Me cheesing, while unknowingly
being chased down by Vance & Lindsey
The race itself was well-run, and well staffed with relief stations scattered throughout.  Post race food was especially yummy, with watermelon, homemade cookies, and other goodies.  Race organizers collected items for donation to the Humane Society.  I can't wait to do this race again in 2011 and would recommend it to anyone!

Our proud Dirty Dog crew post-race