Misadventures with wine, weights, and running shoes.

Image Slider

Rosaryville 50k: A Bittersweet Experience

Saturday, November 29, 2014
Photo Credit: Jon M. Valentine
Rosaryville State Park is a beautiful park in Upper Marlboro, MD. Still considered a baby trail runner, when I found Rosaryville, with its rolling hills and beautiful scenery, I fell in love!

It’s a wonderful break from road running.

In November of 2013, I volunteered for the Rosaryville Veterans Day 50k at Aid station #2. I wanted to see Ultra Racing up close and personal. At the time, a 50k seemed impossible, yet as I watched runners of all backgrounds and ages test their mental and physical capabilities, I knew I would be doing it next year.

Early this summer, Theresa texted me looking for a voice of reason. Friends had suggested she do Rosaryville 50k. I simply replied “OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG.”

Seriously, it was my response. Followed by, “OMG we can do this together!”

I was already adding trails to my marathon training this year, and this added to my excitement about Rosaryville. I now had a partner in crime to join me in this leap into uncharted territory. Helping her train for her first marathon was awesome, but this would be even more special.

During training, we had great trail runs where we bounded out of the loop, high fiving each other and thinking we could do more. These were paired with ones where that humbled us due to asthma, allergies, knee, and Achilles troubles.

We discovered how very well we worked together on the trail. We were so excited for this adventure and felt as ready as we could be.

Race Day

We packed my van as if preparing for the Apocalypse and then arrived early armed with Starbucks. We hit registration, dropped our drop-bag, checked our gear, stocked our hydration packs and met up with friends.

Over 150 runners stood at attention in the frosty grass at a pavilion for the National anthem, and then with a simple- “Go” we were off.

With less than a mile of road and meadow leading to the perimeter loop, the experienced fast trail runners were off quickly to secure their position on the trail. We stayed toward the middle of the pack.

Our plan was to keep the effort even and steady for two loops; conserving energy for the last loop. No time goal, just a finish goal.

The first loop was crowded. Some passed us and we passed some where we could. It is a single track; many times there were 6-10 runners in single file, pace dictated by whoever was in front. One strider friend, Melissa, stayed with us here. We dubbed ourselves the “Three Musketeers”; all first time ultra-runners.

It was during my first lap that I took my first fall. Trying to not follow too close to Theresa, I caught my right foot on a root and went flying, literally like out of an action movie. I curled, rolled and popped right back up into a walk. I have no earthly idea how I did that, but by Theresa’s account; it was “spectacular.”

At aid station #2 we felt great. We grabbed some food, and headed back out. This is where Theresa rolled her ankle. She didn’t fall, but I knew by her gait that it was not good. We got to the aid station #1 at around 2 hours and Theresa was limping. We wrapped her ankle to try and stabilize it. She said she felt better and, although frustrated, said she was good to go. We shot some pictures and headed on our way. Less than two miles into the second loop, the pain was intensifying and that the wrap was getting tighter as her ankle was swelling more. Down hills were very rough and we walked more than we ran. Every step I knew was painful and I had visions of fireman carrying her out of the woods under protest.
Photo Credit: Denise Hyde
When we got to a clearing, there were volunteers and Theresa knew it wasn’t smart to continue. This was gut wrenching and heart breaking for us both. After a tearful hug, Melissa and I went on.

Then there were two.

Not wanting my partner in crime to wait longer than necessary, I picked up the pace a, conserving energy by powerwalking uphill. While my body felt good, my heart was broken. Melissa and I hit Aid station #2 again, and I knew my pace was too fast for Melissa. She told me she was good and to go ahead. I fueled up and set out again.

Then there was one.

Dealing with tons of emotion, I continued on. I passed by the creepy alter and placed our Halloween rubber duckies to the mix, shot pictures and moved on. I knew some friends were up ahead, so I had hoped to find them as well. I caught up to them, got a pep talk from my friend Lara, and kept moving.

Two laps down, one to go.

Photo Credit: Kit Yan
I arrived back at aid station #1 to find Theresa waiting, hobbling on a newly wrapped ankle and arms outstretched to give me a huge hug that I desperately needed. Emotions overflowed - the happiness of seeing her and Jill and the heartbreak that Theresa wasn't with me.

Jill hugged me and then helped roll out my tight hamstring/hip. I re-stocked my vest and grabbed food. I hugged my soul sister again and told her, I was now running for both of us. With an emotional departure, I took off again.

Fueled by the Rice crispy treats that Theresa made and my heart, renewed by the support, I ran that last lap in almost complete silence. Other than an occasional biker crossing my pat, and a couple of volunteers on the trail, you were left to yourself and your thoughts.
Photo Credit: Kit Yan
I saw Jill one last time at aid station #2, giving me a mental and moral boost. No appetite but I still managed a banana, chips and a coke. My hands were swollen, everything was sore, but manageable. No energy boost from crowds or signs like a road race, I had no one to push me forward but me, the beautiful sounds of the woods and the sun peeking through to light my path. It was an amazing experience. Despite the pain, I was completely at peace.

My last fall happened within a mile exiting the loop. Ttrying to avoid a family with small kids, I hit a root jammed my toe and face planted. I got up, brushed myself off and kept going. The pain in my foot was pretty intense, but eased off after a while. I came out of the loop to the last remains of aid station #1, grabbed a Gatorade and trudged up the road.

Less than a mile to go.
Photo Credit: Jon M. Valentine
I crested the top of the hill and I could see far in the distance, my soul sister get up and hobble towards the finish line. When I crossed the finish line, she came over, placed the medal around my neck and hugged me telling me how proud she was of me. It was an extremely emotional moment, happiness, pride and bitter sweet sadness all rolled up in a tearful hug from my soul sister, team mate, and one of my dearest friends.

Will I do this again? I am sure of it. Not sure when, but definitely something about this type of race that makes it a unique and amazing experience worthy of a repeat.

Love, Cindy

Crash & Burn – the 50k That Wasn’t

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Now that the heartache has begun to pass, it is time to post.

I love trails.

It is that simple. They are my happy place. They take me back to pleasant parts of my childhood where I would wander off into the woods for hours. I’d run blissfully through the trees, build weird forts, and enjoy nature. 

Yes, trail running is a perfect match for me.

Last year, the prospect of a 50k seemed ridiculous but once I had decided to run a marathon, a 50k didn't seem like a far stretch.

Truth be told – once I had given myself over to the idea, 50k became my primary goal. The marathon was nothing more than a training run between me and it. I didn't share my 50k goals with many. In fact, the only person that was aware that 50k was my main focus was Cindy and that was because of the miles she put in with me.

With the marathon behind me, I cannot begin to express just how excited I was about actually running the Rosaryville Veteran’s Day 50k held here, in Maryland. Hell, I even had shirts made (Thank you, Jenny and Ryan) to commemorate the event at a 10k the day following the 50k.
Photo Credit: Jenny Seth of ARS

I also had stickers made – thank you, Kevin – and had an awesome Ultra Runner shirt, which I refused to wear until it is earned.
Photo Credit: Kevin from Kevin Runs Ultras
Race day came and I was overjoyed. I had rice crispy treats and my drop bag at the ready. My hydration vest was filled and my Garmin was charged. Naturally, we shot a ton of pre-race photos.

Before I knew it, I was standing at the starting line and with a very anticlimactic, “OK Go,” we were off – me in the lead, Cindy behind me, and our friend, Melissa, rounding out the three musketeers.
I was mentally IN THE GAME – I HAD THIS! I was in my zone. We were laughing and enjoying the cool day. The miles were buzzing by.
Photo Credit: Jon M. Valentine
Then shortly before completing our first lap, I rolled my ankle.

It wasn't one of those rolls where you stop for a second and realize your fine…it was one of those rolls that are accompanied by a pop and cause you to walk a bit to assess the situation. It hurt but I thought I could still get through.

I was wrong. Once I reached a section of downhill I knew it wasn't looking good for me. Apparently the look on my face said it all.

At the aid station we wrapped it in hopes that the support from the ace bandage would allow me to continue forward.

No such luck.

Twelve miles in and I was done.
Smiling through the heartache.
Photo Credit: Kit Yan  

I can only equate it as being like going through a really bad break up. My heart was crushed. I was sad and angry and disappointed and frustrated.

I spent the weekend sulking.

OK…maybe a little longer than that. To be frank, I was ready to throw in the towel and clear the 2015 calendar of absolutely anything running related and I must admit that the thought still crosses my mind.

Despite that, I am getting back out there again. My race calendar starts early into the new year so my mileage needs to get back up and I need to rebuild ankle strength. There is a great deal of work ahead. 

Now I have to ask, have you ever gotten injured during a race? What did you do to bounce back?

Love, The Broken Hearted Blogger - Theresa

Femme Fitale Fit Club

The Gift of Running: MCM Race Recap

Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Sitting in the hotel room on the night before the race, I had a potpourri of emotions about my 7th marathon. 

I trained consistently for more than a year; through snow, ice, spring allergies, rain storms and summer heat.  I cross trained, kept my diet in check, and was close to being in the best shape of my life. Despite that, I sustained a muscle injury in my leg during a seemingly uneventful short run close to four weeks before the race. This resulted in a trip to PT and some considerable pull back in activity. Throw tapering into the mix and now I was questioning everything.  Fortunately for me, I had the overwhelming support of my friends and excitement for my training partner’s first marathon to help distract me.

The only thing left to do was to give my best effort on race day.

The evening before the race we had all our gear set out; ready to go. We fueled and hydrated to the best of our ability and after setting ALL THE ALARMS we settled down for some much needed rest.

Race day:

Pre-race rituals done and not like every big race, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I was excited and nervous; practically bouncing off the walls - Theresa was ready to sedate me. 
We had a ten min walk and a five min subway ride ahead of us, so we got ready and headed out at 6-6:15 am. Lessons learned: although we allotted 2 hours before race time, it was NOT NEARLY ENOUGH.  We got stuck in the Spot a Pot line from hell leaving us there for AN HOUR.  This resulted in a panicked jog/power walk to the security check point and bag drop off. 

A quick hug goodbye and we each went our separate ways to make our way to our corrals. I weaved in an out of runners and spectators along the edge of the road and hopped the fence around the 3:45 pacer with less than two min before go time. I was not happy and not where I wanted to be. My hope was to stay with Mark, the 3:45 pacer for most of the race.
As the race started, two streams of runners merged after the start and began the three mile climb straight up hill.

Being a person small in stature, it was challenging to see and stay with the pacer from the beginning. I was elbowed and blocked from following closely. Not wanting to expend energy fighting this mob trying to catch the pacer, I settled in with the crowd hoping to make up some time as it thinned out.

Yeah, that didn't happen for quite a while.

There was a mix of fighting the clock with not pushing too hard too quickly - I have been burned that way before. The cheering of the crowds and friends shouting out names did make for a great start. 

At the 10K mark, I was already 5 min off my time. I knew I could not make up that time to hit my initial goal.  I let it go and settled into maintaining my current pace to see what I could do. This part of the race was beautiful, winding roads and scenic picturesque streams and fall colors. I did my best to enjoy the experience and wondered how my partner in crime was doing.

Mid way point, Miles 11 to 15: 

My legs were already starting to feel heavy and I found it hard to maintain my pace.  Despite taking nutrition at proven intervals, it seemed like it wasn’t enough. Mile 15 was a very emotional mile as it had picture after picture of fallen heroes.  As a military wife, this held even more meaning to know how fortunate I was.  At the end of this mile, I found an old friend and fellow Army Wife cheering the runners along as a flag bearer.  I practically tackled her with a bear hug and thanked her for being there.  Seeing a familiar face lifted my spirits incredibly to keep going.

The Struggle:

The cramping in my legs began around mile 15, and I found that I had to adjust from running to short bouts of walking for 5-10 seconds to keep my legs from seizing up. Crowded and chaotic water stops didn’t’ help either. Relentless forward progress in the best way I could was my theme.  My next focus was now looking for the emotional support of my friend, Jill and Strider Family who I knew was ahead. Each mile closer meant I was ever closer to my friends.  When I found Jill, I give her a grateful hug and then headed back out into the crowd.  

"Three more miles till the striders," was what I was thinking from mile 19 through 22. It meant everything at that point and helped push me over that bridge. The sun beating down and that ridiculous wind made everything that much harder. 

When I saw them, I reached out with my arms wide and gave our coach Rachel the biggest hug I could possibly give.  I grabbed a coke, hugged my friend Cindy, waved at my strider family, and took off.  This was an out and back part of the run, and it gave me a perspective of where I was in the race. I was way behind the 3:45 pacer and the 4:00 pacer was breathing down my neck. 

My new goal: don’t let 4:00 catch me.

The finish:

I pushed, as much as my legs would allow, determined not to stop till the end. It was under a bridge where I got bumped or stepped on or both and the end result was my left leg going into a full-fledged Charlie horse. I’m sure I created a few new choice words as I hobbled along until my muscles let go a little. 

The urgency in my mind was real - beat an imaginary adversary: my 4 hour cut off. 

As I rounded the corner, I could see the final climb. I tried to step it out only to have my legs seize and rebel. I wish I knew his name, but the kindest runner gently held onto my left elbow and said, “okay let’s get going” as he helped me get my footing again. To my right, another runner, Nancy, told me she’d been following me for miles and that I kept her going. 

This was her first marathon. 

We, complete strangers, bonded by this experience, took each other’s hand and pulled one another up the hill.  I crested the finish line with seconds to spare. 

Fifty feet from the finish line, I tucked myself by the railing to wait for Theresa.  I had just seen the text that she was injured and my heart was broken. Shifting side to side, I tried to keep my legs from stiffening up as I waited for what seemed like eternity. When I caught glimpse of her cross that finish line I ran up and hugged her and got her moving ahead. 

We did it. 

From begging to end there were six months of training, hard work, and commitment. At that moment, everything was perfect.  No pain, just pride for us both, an outpouring of emotion that comes with such a great accomplishment.  Moments like this are why I will continue to run for as long as I can.  What a gift. 

Love, Cindy

I Ran a Marathon…and I Didn’t Die

Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Saturday, October 26th, 2014, twenty some thousand marathon hopefuls assembled near the pentagon to run the 39th Marine Corps Marathon.

I, along with my partner in crime, Cindy, was among them.

In the days leading up to the marathon, we had devised a plan – a plan that we failed to follow. My painstaking interrogation of veteran MCM runners was only useful if we followed the plan. Not following the plan = fail. Oh well, live and learn.

The plan, if you are so inclined to know, was as follows:
  1. Arrive early. Not a little early, but a lot early. This requires staying at a hotel close to the race the night before and being at the Metro station right when (if not before) they open at 5am. Ideally, we’d be at the pentagon before 5:30am which would allow PLENTY of time to drop our bag and use the bathroom. 
  2. Drop a bag containing a snack, portable phone charger, a jacket, and Ribeye – my stuffed bison and the GBC Mascot.
  3. Use the bathroom – this should not require any explanation.
  4. Be at a pace group that is 20-30 minutes faster than what we run. Considering the size of the event, I had been forewarned of bottlenecking that occurs beyond the start. It was explained to me that you should get in a faster pace group, run your pace and allow them to pass you, and that eventually your pace group will catch you and you just need to cruise with them.
What actually happened was:
  1. We were over confident about the location of the hotel in reference to the race and we hit the Metro at 6:15, boarded a train that was PACKED FULL of other runners – I’m talking sardine packed - and we arrived at 6:30ish. 
  2. Once at the pentagon, we hopped in the bathroom line first and unfortunately that meant an hour long wait – no really – AN HOUR! If you didn't have to go when you got in line, you most certainly did when you got to the front of the line. I think it was at the 45 minute point that those in line started shouting “motivational statements”. “Finish Fast.” “Squish it Out!” and “Hey, up in front…pay attention.” 
  3. Cindy and I ran to the baggage drop, giving each other a quick hug before all but throwing our bags at the attendants. 
  4. We disappeared into crowds to get to somewhere relatively close to our desired pace group. Cindy managed to navigated through the crowd that lined the side of the corral, somehow making it to her actual pacers and climbed over the side. I took the direct approach and went right into the corral, parting it like the Red Sea with a series of “Pardon Mes” and “Excuse Mes.” I landed somewhere between 4:30 and 4:45. 
I was not happy. Cindy was not happy either.

We missed all the pomp and circumstance, barely saw the fly over and paratroopers, and before I could take a breath, the race started.

That is not to say that I crossed the start line at that point – no – I began the very slow shuffle in that direction. Once over the starting line, the bottlenecking that I was warned about was way worse than I could have ever imagined. It was impossible to settle into any kind of a pace out the gate. There were just way too many people.

There were moments that I had become hopeful that things were thinning out and that I could start to settle into a rhythm, but it was not happening. As soon as I’d get comfortable, the road would narrow and everyone would crowd into the center causing us to run a good minute or so slower.

Despite not being able to maintain my happy pace, the first half seemed to just fly by. There was a great deal of scenery and crowd support.

Then it all went downhill and not in the sense of elevation.

I got mowed over at a water stop.

The scenario went like this:

I ran into a water stop on the left. The person in front of me slowed from a full run to all but a total standstill. I slowed down as a result. The woman behind me did NO SUCH THING. She stepped on my left heel, causing me to completely lose my shoe and throwing me off balance. Had it not been for the soldier working the stop, I’d have hit the ground but he caught me by the arm and pulled me upright. Another runner snagged my shoe and handed it to me. I then got asked if I wanted to see the medical tent, to which I said, “NO.”

I just wanted to finish.

The second half of the race was not pretty. The temperature went up and the winds started. I had to walk off muscle spasms in my leg from time to time because I’d pulled something thanks to the water stop mishap. Despite that, I kept going. Much like the title of a book I have, it was “Relentless Forward Progress.” Nowhere in that title does it say “Pretty” or “Painless.”

All that mattered was “Progress.”

I pushed forward, grateful for the running buddies that cheered me on along the course and for the Annapolis Striders water stop, around mile 23 - an oasis of morale support complete with photos, soda, and hugs.

Photos courtesy of Bad A** Coach, Rachel Ratel
In the final stretch, I ran into a fellow strider and running buddy, Kelly. We both commiserated with each other through a single look and then agreed that we need to get this S**T done and that we'd do it together.

The last mile seemed to go on forever but I was thrilled to turn the corner to find the uphill climb I'd been waiting for - the Iwo that led to the finish line and my Soul Sister, Cindy standing just on the other side of it.

So there you have it, marathon number one in the books. Only minor injuries and some sun/wind burn to speak of but I didn't die. The really ridiculous thing is, I am looking forward to doing it again.

Love, Theresa
Finish Time: 04:57:06