UPCOMING EVENTS for 2016: Puerto Rico Marathon (March), Virginia/Pennsylvania Marathon Double (April), Cedro Peak Ultra 45k (April), Quicksilver 50k (May) NUT 50k (June) Lake Tahoe Trail 50K (July), Cloudsplitter 55K (October)

It's never too late to be what you might have been. --George Eliot

Athena is the Goddess of wisdom and war. In 2005, I declared war on my own bad tendencies: sloth, being fat, compacency, and being too old for adventure. This is the story of how I went from being someone who never stood when she could sit, to being an ultrarunner, marathoner, and triathlete. Along the way I've cried, laughed, fallen, gotten up, lost, won, hallucinated, been dehydrated, DNF'ed, and been DFL.
I also swear. Alot.
"You're never too old to be what you might have been" --George Eliot

Monday, October 28, 2013

TMI, and a race report

Dear Diary,

Right now, at this moment, go to where your training plan is posted. On a post-it note, write the following:

  • Dear self: the day after your marathon, you may wake up as much as 7 pounds heavier than before you started the marathon. You'll be puffy and bloated. DO NOT PANIC. This is NOT from that wood-fired pizza you ate the night after the race. The fourth day after the marathon, you'll start pissing like a racehorse and by the end of that day, things will be normal. So will your weight.

It never fails, no matter now many marathons I've run (Fifty-one, but who's counting?) I'm despondent, especially after this last go-round where I was at 166.4 on race day. I've achieved an eight pound loss. I've given myself to WeightWatchers the way other people give themselves over to Jesus...and I woke up the next day at 174 lbs.

Shit.

I tried googling this, and all I got was message forums, subject: "I'm up two pounds! What's wrong?" Complaints from tiny bird people for whom one or two pounds is a freaking tragedy and results in their size 2 jeans being a bit snug, instead of the difference between my waking and retiring weight on any given day.

Anyway. So, the Marine Corps marathon was my third marathon in fifteen days, and my eleventh for the year. I wish I could tell you that after the handsome young marine put the medal around my neck and shook my hand that I immediately went out and made the world a better place, but I can't. That would be a lie, and lying is wrong, even more wrong than a stocky, exhausted woman sitting in a tub of tepid water eating food with her fingers.

That's quite a picture I've painted, isn't it?

Such a hot-water post-race endeavor, by the way, inevitably leads one to discover that:

1) I should have used more body glide because, I'm chafed there, there, and there.

2) I somehow sustained several long scratches, mysteriously, on this urban road marathon.

Yes, it looks like that to me, too.

I seeded myself behind the 5:30 pace group, and the pacer was a talker. She introduced herself to us. And then started asking people to put their hand up in response to how many marathons people had done, and she went higher how about more than twenty? More than thirty? All hands went down except mine until she said more than fifty? The small crowd of 5:30 hopefuls turned to look at me and I explained that this was 51, to which people oohed and awed and clapped and I SWEAR it was the closest thing ever that I've had to being a celebrity. Then the pacer mentioned that she had done 106, and there was polite applause but nobody seemed as surprised by the thin, petite, youngish, energetic woman who had done 106 marathons as they were by the stocky, middle-aged woman who had done 51.

There was a cool display before the race where jumpers parachuted in, some with large American flag. Then a howitzer blew, and the race started.

I've never run with a pace group. She was a great pace leader. It was fun. At each half mile we would all throw our hands up WHOOOOO! And walk one minute. By the half marathon mark, though, I knew. I could no longer keep that pace and I dropped back, but just a bit. I finished behind them in 5:38:59. Ish.

What you need to know:

  • At packet pickup, if you bring a bag, you'll be in a long line to get in to get your shirt. Use pockets instead. Then you get to walk right in. Also, no drinks.
  • You will start near the Pentagon, pass the White House, Washington monument, Smithsonian, Arlington Cementery, and Capital. Somehow--and this is unbelievable--I missed passing the capital. I had no idea that it was there, and it DOMINATES the view heading north on that part of the map that looks like a penis. I was just too busy dodging people.
  • While this marathon holds great promise for running a PR, it's unlikely. There's just too many people and too many turns.
  • You may also pass a long line of pictures of fallen Marines from OIF/OEF that shows a picture, name, and age. It was the single most sobering moment in the marathon..
  • There is a cutoff at mile 20 of 4:40. I'm not sure if that's gun time or chip time.
  • After making the cutoff, everyone that I could see just stopped running and started walking. I passed a shitton of people.
  • Several long rollers in the first fifteen miles. Practice long up hills and downhills.
  • Right before the finish line there is a sharp uphill that's the final 1/10 of a mile. Save something for this. (Gaa)
  • The local support is fantastic. The marines on the course are 100% encouraging.
  • If you tire quickly of American Patriotism, this is not your race.
  • If you don't like crowds it's definitely not your race. It's easily the most crowded one I've done. By the end of the day, I was more than a little cranky from dodging and weaving.
  • There were lots of potties, more so than any other race other than the Air Force race.
  • After you finish, your family is NOT allowed in the finishing area. However, there is a family link-up area that is a bit of a walk from the finishing area, and you can meet there.

The race runs through Virginia and DC. I'm counting it for Virginia.

These are all borrowed pictures.

The end.

How did I miss this? ADHD, that's how.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

His and Hers.

 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

An unashamed commercial for my home town, and a race report.

Dear Diary,

I imagine at times that one of the reasons I'm not a better athlete is my lack of focus. I tend to get bogged down in little things, like trying to get one particular song to repeat on my player, taking pictures of how beautiful the sky is, and the beginning chafing on my left arm.

I ran the Duke City marathon, here in my town, for the first time ever. The first half of the marathon was pure punishment. My feet, legs, and lower back have now formed a union and have invited me for negotiations on what will happen next weekend. Shh. They don't know about the marine corps marathon yet. Anyway, my legs were tired. Might be related to the 55k I did in sand the week before. Or not.

I made the following statistical observations about cyclists on the bisque trail. Yes, I ran an ANOVA. Don't bother me with details.

  • Statistically, cyclists are duchier if they're male. Women tend to give wide passing space and even slow down a bit. Some even say "hi". Males tend to squeeze on by you, causing a breeze, determined to share your half of the trail. Why, how dare you suggest that they give you space as they pass! It's not like they demand space when they're being passed by...oh, wait.
  • the more spandex, the more of a duchebag you are. Of course, there are outliers.
  • Statistically, if you aren't wearing a helmet, you're friendlier. Still! put on a helmet, please!
Not my picture: Central Avenue, formerly Route 66.

I focused on my white whale, to keep my mind off how tired my legs where, and the odd feeling that someone had their hand wrapped around my rib cage, to keep my lungs from expanding.

White whale number 1: this was the runner with the teal shirt whose family showed up, swapped out her bottles, and gave her new supplies at mile 14. I decided I must catch her. She bolted down the trail and out of sight, sooooo....

White whale number 2: she had on a shiny skirt. She also made all manner of grunts and loud exclamations when she ran, giving her two reasons for me to try to chase her down. I worked on that for miles 18 to about 22, but she was rock steady. It wasn't easy. But then, lo and behold, at mile 23 as I finally struggled past her, there not too far ahead of me was teal shirt. At about mile 24ish. Sweet Baboo met me to accompany me. He doesn't pace, he follows. He'd been worried about me since seeing me on the trail, where I was "way back" in the pack. It wasn't easy, but I passed teal shirt around mile 25, passed a few more people, and blazed into a 6:23 finish that may possibly be the slowest road marathon I've ever run.

Not my picture. Cottonwoods against the fall Albuquerque sky.

It be hooves me to explain why I even bothered. This course was nice, though not the most imaginative one. It winds briefly through downtown and the Country Club neighborhood, before heading up onto the Bosque trail through the blaze of golden cottonwood trees with a Torquoise sky overhead.

Before I'd even reached the half marathon turnaround, the front runner came hammering down the path, a tall, skinny white kid. A quarter mile later the second runner came down. I wanted to say, oh, bless your heart--you're never gonna catch him, so must relax and have a good time on the trail.

I have run this trail in training, as it is the only flat run available here, about a hundred times, alone, I pairs, in groups. I suppose that might be the reason I have never done this marathon--I was so over this trail.

The Bosque trail is a nicely paved, two-narrow-lane trail that cuts through the city from north to south, avoiding all intersections by use of passunders. We are to be envied for it. It is well-maintained, has its own patrol, and on most of on each side there is city-owned "open space" where nobody can build. For much of it, on one side of the path is an equally sized gravel path. It's part of the riparian environment surrounding the Rio Grande River that cuts through the center of Albuquerque. It is heavy with cottonwood trees, and from my house up in the foothills, in the fall it looks like a steak of fire running through the valley.

The path itself is connects with a large number of other paths in the city, and one can literally run very long runs without dealing with traffic. From north to south it is something like 30 miles long, through the middle of the city. It connects with another bike path that runs through the city, slightly to the east, called the North Diversion channel. There are more paths traveling from east to west.

The Bosque bike path as it heads north, under Montano road.

Cyclists, runners, and people commuting by bike and foot use these paths to go all over the city, with minimal crossing of intersections and occasional travel through residential neighborhoods. It's one of the things that makes Albuquerque so great.

If I'm gushing, it's because I've never lived in a place so awesome. The mountains are to the east, so you always know what direction you're heading. In the winter, there is snow on the mountain, and skiing. I do not ski, but I like the idea of living in a desert with a river, where I can bike, run, and hike in the mountains with minimal travel.

The weather is great here, too, since the altitude in Albuqueque ranges from 5200 feet in the valley to around 6000 feet up in the foothills, near where I live. On the day of the marathon it was in the forties in the morning and never got higher than low to mid sixties--perfect for a slow run. Of course, that's an advantage for athletic training, too. We have groups of Kenyan runners that live here and practice running in our foothills. Traffic? Very manageable. Population? Around 600,000, I think. And don't forget that Breaking Bad was filmed here. New Mexican food? Sloppy-looking and extremely spicy and tasty. (Most New Mexicans roll their eyes at what other places call "spicy.")

Not my picture. Mountains, foothills, city, and river valley. FYI: I local saying is, "when the mountain's pink, it's time to drink."

The population of Albuquerque by and large, is a mixture of Latino Hispanics, White Hispanics, Pueblo and Navajo Native Americans, some African Americans, and oh, some White Euro-Americans too. There's some various Asian neighborhoods and associated restaurants. I don't think a lot of discrimination occurrs these days because nobody really knows what anyone "is." I've met blue-eyed Isleta Indians, and Latinos who speak with a Spanish accents but don't speak any Spanish. After a while, everyone just is. Living their life, doing their thing. I love that about Albuquerque. I take it for granted, and I'm startled when I travel outside of New Mexico and people assume from my white face that they can share very prejudiced thoughts with me. I'm not used to hearing it.

Yes, there is some crime here. There is also goodness. A city that just celebrated its 300 year anniversary has had time to settled into its identity.

So, it's with no small amount of embarrassment that I haven't run the Duke City marathon before. But when Sweet Baboo told me it was their thirtieth running, and I realized it was my fiftieth marathon, I just had to, you know?

So I did. It was my way of honoring my home. When Sweet Baboo brought me here in 2000 I wasn't impressed. Now, I wouldn't live anywhere but kitschy, quirky, Querque.

Giant "pots" representing various pueblo traditions line the inside median of east I40.




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Saturday, October 19, 2013

I am not so spiritual, but I do burn off demons when I run. A race report.

Dear Diary,

Himself the clydeologist is a deep thinker. He plans carefully and fully experiences what he does. I am not so much so. I gut things out. I push through, terrified, often marginally aware of my surroundings until I'm finished. Occasionally I look up and around and take in brief glimpses of beauty, before putting my head back down and slogging up the hill, down the valley, through the river, or into the finish. What I lack in good decision-making, I make up for in persistence. And bravery.

I think it's mistaken that I don't enjoy ultra running, because I always look so pained and I have a tendency to bitch a little. When I run, my mind is busy with the worries and aggravations of my week. As I run along, as the race wears on, the worries burn away. I purge. At the end I am tired, exhausted, and grimly accomplished. If I were a more spiritual person, I might say that the demons of modern life that build up inside of me are burned away, leaving me clean and ready to face new challenge.

And so it is this context that I present a race report for the Canyon de Chelly ultra. Here are six things you need to know about this 55k run.

First, it is gorgeous. I have never been to the CdC before, and although I've seen some pictures, nothing captures the grandeur of the place. If you are a slow runner you may get quite distracted and behind looking around in awe, grateful for this experience, and taking pictures, which will slow you down. That's okay. It's better to have this rare experience than try to put on your personal best. The RD, when telling us about his inspiration for puttin onn this race, was tearful talking about it, and he's run here before. This is an area where outsiders are forbidden unless accompanied by an approved Navajo guide, so it is an honor and privilege to be able to experience it. You don't want to waste that.

The race starts off with a bonfire and Navajo prayer. So after that, they count to three and yell GO, and you yell out your intentions to the gods as you head out.

Sunrise.

Second, it is sandy. The mouth of the canyon, where the race begins and ends, is where any and all waters work their way out. It is soft, deep sand covered on this day with fine mud, and to call it slippery would not do it justice. The first three to four miles were in this environment as you run into the canyon and make the first two or three stream crossings.

Eventually, you are alone, or I was. At the pre-race meeting one of the racers asked Shaun, the RD, about what happens if you have to, you know, GO. He shrugged, hey man, it's ultra running. I was relieved. I'm willing to forgo peeing for a long time if I'm told that this is sacred ground. I have that much respect. I was grateful for the green light.

Arizona and New Mexico have a rainy season referred to as the. Monsoons in late summer to early fall. This year's monsoons were unusually heavy. Which leads me to my next point.

Third, there are many water crossings. Not some. Many. I counted thirty five on the way out, Dreadpirate counted thirty-nine. I defer to the engineer. But what that means is that since it's an out-and-back, there are between seventy and seventy-eight crossings total. The water ranges from just over the top of your foot to perhaps your lower calf in some spots, but you won't be able to jump them. Wear shoes that shed water. If you have feet that can't tolerate this, then this isn't your race. Each crossing involves descending into a small ravine and then climbing back out again, often on very slippery mud. I wore Altra trail shoes, which shed the water nicely.

Other than the crossings, the trail is dry after the first 3 to 4 miles, but will still have some patches of soft, deep sand here and there. I learned to run off the side, where the sand looked deep and soft, but in fact was solidified and settled by the recent rains, and allowed for firm footing. We were told about this by one of the race organizers. Most "faster" people ignored this and ran in tire tracks, which had broken throughout the crust and churned up the sand so it was soft, and deep. Too bad for them. I pride myself on taking time to make things as easy as possible.

What can I say. It's a gift.
Sunrise.

Fourth, it is an out and back. Some people don't like those, but I promise you, the canyon is very different inbound than it is outbound. There's no repetition, no redundancy. You're barely aware that you've been here, or there, before. It's 34 miles of never-ending beauty.

At mile eight, I came upon the eleven mile aid station. They explained that the truck couldn't get back up out of the next water crossing to get to the 11th mile. I looked into the small refine and saw the deep ruts made by four-wheel-drive truck as it tried to extricate itself. I thought, fleetingly, if the truck can't make it out...how can I? But I managed okay.

Fifth, to get to the turnaround, you will climb. You will climb up a rock trail on the edge of a cliff that rises a thousand feet over a little over a mile. On the way up, I started feeling queasy. I chalked it up to unusual exertion. When I was about ath the top, I heard some yelling and whooping from people at the top,

but...it wasn't coming from where I thought the top was.

I looked around, and then straight up, and way, way up the cliff. I saw people, very small and far away, far above what I thought was the top. Oh, areyoufuckingkiddingme, I muttered. And continued onward. Eventually, I reached the top and sat down to rest and admire the view. It took me nearly five hours to get seventeen miles.

I drank some Ensure Clear, did not refill my water pack for reasons I do not understand, whooped loudly into the canyon, and headed back in. The steep, rocky decent was not rewarding.

Lastly, the trip back was not easy. Not at all. My Achilles started barking. My left ankle was a little whiney. I wound up power hiking. I became increasingly queasy, which I decided first was because of the ensure, and later from lack of water.

I ran out if water before I got to the mile 23 aid station, which was actually around mile 26. But, the cool water crossings felt good on my Achilles and ankle. On the way back, I saw an important site that I realized I had missed outbound.

Not my picture. But I saw this, and it was totally worth ever painful step.

I started looking around more, really taking in the canyon. About mile 27, I came around a bend and happened on a small group of deer. I did not get a picture.

Around mile thirty, I heard a loud snap, and turned to be face-to-face with a huge and somewhat disgruntled, or so I imagined, bull. He was about five feet away, starring at me, a cow slightly behind him. As I do not know bull-diversion tactics I quietly slunk away, hoping he didn't take my bright pink shirt as a challenge.

Sixth, and I'm not lying about this: the last two miles are possibly the hardest. Remember I said that the first few miles were deep! soft, wet sand? Much of that is packed down by jeeps and trucks running in and out of the canyon, but increasingly the sand is soft and deep and slippery.
Not my picture, but shows the scale of the surroundings.
As I rounded the corner I could see the finish line, about 1/2 mile ahead. Maybe less. The announcer boomed my name, and there was an outbreak of applause. Then, as I slipped slowly in the mud and sand, oh, so slowly, the clapping petered out and there was some silence. After a few minutes the announcer announced my name again. Another applause, which dwindled. This was repeated until I finally crossed the finish line, just past the ten hour mark, at mile 34+. The RD hung a Torquoise choker around my neck. I had some Indian fry bread and vegetable stew.
Not my picture, but shows the scale of the surroundings.
You will see a point at which it appears that I leapt up 600 feet around mile 27. That was an anomaly caused by my Garmin pinging off the canyon walls.
Not my picture, but shows the scale of the surroundings.

This is an awesome run. It plays to your weaknesses and rewards you with an experience that is one-of-kind.

For a deeper, more thoughtful race report, chcpeck out Sweet Baboo's race report.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

My fiftieth marathon commeth.

Dear Diary,

I have, I shit you not, forgotten to post this three weeks in a row. Thus I present:Friday fifteen.

15. This past weekend went with Sweet Baboo to Canyon de Chelly, to stand at the mouth of the Canyon, and shout my intentions to the gods. Then, run/walk/hike 17 miles out and back for the Canyon de Chelly Ultra. More on that later. Spoiler alert: over seventy-five stream crossings.

14. In sharp contrast, I'm doing the Marine Corps marathon at the end of the month. We were planning to see lots of monuments, and are taking Mama Baboo because she's never gone to DC. I really wanted to visit the Smithsonian, but now don't know if they'll even be open. It was almost canceled due to the shutdown, but now it's back on. Boo yah!

13. I realized that the Canyon de Chelly run was my 49th marathon or longer distance run. This weekend is the Duke City marathon, here in Albuquerque. Now, it befogged me to mention also, that.

  • This is the Duke City's 30th year.
  • I have never run the Duke City marathon.
  • The logo is really cool.

Ergo. As quirky Querque my beloved adopted hometown, I must, must, must make this my fiftieth marathon or longer distance.

Ahaeet?

Canyon de Chelly

12. Now, Dreadpirate has argued strenuously against this. She worries and mothers me so. I must admit that off all females I am fondest of her and consider her to be the most acceptable. And yes, that's three marathons in a row. But as I explained to her, it's three slow runs, with aid. I'll be okay. Yoga, stretching, gentle weight lifting in between.

11. My plan for this Sunday is to run four minutes, walk 1 minute. Drink at every aid station.

10. In September, I did a crazy half road marathon that descended 4000 feet over the course. I paid the price. I did some damage. My lower legs have only now stopped hurting.

9. The Olympic weigh training is starting to pay off. I'm getting this whole Michelle Obama upper arm thing going. the old-fashioned way. It also involves a lot of weighted squats and lunges, and I'm noticing that climbing is a lot easier.

8. On WeightWatchers, I'm down about a pound or so a week. I'll take it. It's the first steady weight loss I've seen in about a year. I'm pretty horrified at old fat. I've never had "cellulite" before. Ew.

My adopted home town, at night.

7. This has been a tough few months at work. It's been unrelenting, an average of ten to twelve kids on the unit. In an eight hour day, this allows me about 45 to 50 minutes to spend on each kid each day. During those 45 to 50 minutes, the following must be accomplished:

  • Talk to the kid, i.e., "therapy"
  • Talk to the kid's parents, JPO, social worker, attorney...
  • Argue with the insurance company
  • Find services, and make follow-up appointments
  • Talk to the doctors and nurses about the kids progress
  • Chart my activities for the day in the kid's chart
  • Have a family meeting once during their stay.
  • Conduct one group therapy for an hour each day
  • Write a four-page psychosocial assessment for each kid once during their stay.
  • Attend weekly meetings, trainings,
  • Occasionally, and sadly, make a call to protective services
Northeast Albuqerque in winter.

6. So, as one might gather, I've been a little stressed. I have also had some very high maintenance parents demanding more than their share of attention. I've had to fight to get help. I've been putting in an hour of overtime, at least, per day. I'm grateful that I'm not on salary any more.

5. Also, when I take a paid vacation day, they're stopped sending anyone to cover for me. Nothing gets done.

4. So, given that I'm a morning person, but mornings are increasingly dark (and increasingly colder) and given that I am exhausted by the end if the day, I decided to start doing mid-day runs. I did a practice one last week, and it was was AWESOMMMMEEE!!! I was instantly de-stressed. I simply stopped working about noon, and clocked out for nearly 90 minutes. That was time for a relaxed 2 miler, including the de-funkifying after and then lunch..

It was glorious. The freedom I felt was enormous. There is something highly symbolic about running away from work in the middle of the day. I ran out a little over a mile and then back, while the wind was gusting and rain started blowing. I changed back into my clothes and, without clocking back in, mosied down to the cafeteria and bought a panini. I clocked back in about 1:30, and worked another five hours.

3. I am still standing at my desk at least half day. I'm moving forward with a more permanent and ergonomic solution to making this work for me. I've started collecting pretty flats.

2. I bought two pairs of Altras. I'm planning to write a review soon.

1. In the midst of the Canyon de Chelly run I came down with a stomach bug. The evening after the race I basically liquefied all my insides. The next day I barely ate and slept twelve hours. The next two days I ate very little. I was queasy and tired and miserable. I lost 2 more pounds.

Best. Diet. Ever.

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