Sunday, August 2, 2015

12 Mile Boost

It's no secret that I am battling a lack of running mojo lately.  I smile, I show up, I do the run, I do the strength training, but I'm just not feeling confident.

Neither one of these seems to work lately.


It's also no secret that some of this lack of confidence probably stems from dealing with my father's death in June, something with which I really haven't come to terms.  (Read my post about it here.)

I suspect that I went through a slump like this at the same time last year, but I haven't read those posts yet because I choose to wallow for a bit.

This is EXACTLY how I look when I choose to wallow for a bit.
Now, there are some very positive things that have happened to me just recently.  First, I came up with a plan for my dreaded tempo run.  I have decided that I am going to run Sand Run Parkway the difficult way (downhill first half, uphill on the way home), and I'm going to better my time each time I run it.  Also, I'm going to focus on an even pace rather than racing the downhill part and suffering the uphill part.  I did this on Thursday, and while my overall time may have been slower, my splits were even, and I felt great.

The second positive thing that happened is that I won't have to deal with two very toxic people who really took up too much of my psychic energy for the past few years.  Those people are gone, and I wish them well.  I will be going back to work this year with a sense of hope that I had been lacking for quite a while.

Yet I am still anxious and worried about the Akron Half Marathon.

Last Wednesday at the track, Mandy invited me to do the long run on Sunday with her--twelve miles--with the condition that we keep it around 10:30 a mile.  Normally this would be no problem for me, but the heat and humidity have really messed with my runs (and my head) lately, and I immediately starting doubting I could keep up for twelve miles.  See, it's this kind of mental crap that I'm talking about; self-doubt sucks.  Anyway, I said I would go with her, and today I did.

What a boost!  Our overall pace was faster than 10:30, with one mile at 9:45, and NEGATIVE SPLITS!!!  I am normally not a negative split runner, but I am really happy with this run.  Not gonna lie, Peeps, I suffered in the last two miles, but who doesn't suffer in the last two miles?  Mandy, that's who, but she's just a damned kid.  This old lady finished a minute behind her, and I'm just happy that my time was so good, especially since we ran in the same heat and humidity that has been bothering me all along.


This is EXACTLY how I look when I run negative splits in a 12-miler.  This is also my first experience with a selfie-stick, which Mandy says is the best 8-buck investment she ever made.

I can do this.  I just need to shut down the stupid head games.

Coming up: the Burn Rubber 10k in Akron.  Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Running Boston

This week I took it relatively easy, considering I did no speed work, no tempo run, and only ran 18 miles total.  That doesn't mean it felt easy, though, because I spent the week walking an average of 8 miles a day in Boston.  Yep, it was family vacation week.

I had not been to Boston since I was ten, and frankly, I remember next-to-nothing about the city at that time because our family mainly visited cousins while we were there.  I did some research, and I came up with a great list of activities: Plimoth Plantation, whale watching, Salem, the Freedom Trail, lots of clam chowdah, Italian food, and walking.




This is one of the many reasons for lots of walking: Mike's Pastry in the North End.  Holy Cannoli!
We always finished our evening stroll with coffee from Caffe Vittoria

Most of my plans involved activities I knew my family would enjoy, but there was one thing I did purely for myself: I ran through Boston Commons to the finish line of the Boston Marathon. 


 The Swan Boats in Boston Commons



Mecca
 It was my pilgrimage, and even though fellow Cleveland Marathon Ambassador Andrew (@Andrewrunsalot) told me not to step on the finish line until I run it, I did it anyway.


This is EXACTLY how I look after running across the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  Of course, this was after running two miles, not 26.2.



I reminded that young punk Andrew that I am a 45-year-old realist, and I know that my chances of qualifying for Boston are pretty slim, considering I haven't yet run my first marathon.  He told me if I keep running regardless, I'll be able to age into the qualifying time by the time I'm eighty. On one hand, that's a pretty smart strategy; on the other hand, Andrew is still a punk.

I got two morning runs in this week, and I walked my butt off for the rest of the week.  I had to, not just because I wanted to see the sights but because I ate ALL THE FOOD.  We stayed in the North End, and I definitely took advantage of the delicious Italian cuisine there.  One night we stood in line for Giacomo's, which takes no reservations, accepts cash-only, and has a line down the street every night from opening (at 4:30) to closing.
This is EXACTLY how I look when I'm standing in line at Giacomo's.

Burrata with fresh tomatoes

Lobster and shrimp with housemade fusilli in Giacomo sauce

Lobster, clams, mussels with linguini in pesto sauce

It was soooo worth it, Peeps.






We ended our week in Boston by finishing the Freedom Trail.  We walked all over Charlestown, seeing the USS Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument.  My son decided that it would be "fun" to climb the monument.
294 freaking steps up.  294 freaking steps down
 Now, I have run the steps at the McKinley Monument in Canton, OH, a few times, and I've never been as sore as I feel from those damned steps at Bunker Hill.  Even two days later I'm having trouble descending the basement stairs to do laundry.  Luckily, I have two kids, so I've decided that THEY are going to do the laundry, and I am going to do "legs-up-the-wall" pose in the bedroom while reading a book.  Here is an instructional video if you'd like to try this yourself:







All of those steps made us hungry, so we finished our week in Boston by eating pizza at Quattro.
This is EXACTLY how I look when I need more wine because my legs ache.


Today I ignored the pain and I ran my traditional "old-blue-line" route of 10 miles and some change.  This is a loop that starts in Sand Run Park and continues through West Akron along the former route of the Akron Marathon.  I like it because of the change of scenery: Metroparks, beautiful residential neighborhoods, two country clubs, Stan Hywet Hall.  I also like the fact that my last mile is completely downhill.  This is possibly the only route I can run where I can guarantee negative splits.  

Well, Peeps, it is good to be back.  I'm going to get my head back in the game with my speed work and my race preparations.  Meanwhile, there is laundry and grocery shopping to do and children to nag.

Run happy this week, Peeps!

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

I Overanalyze Everything


Ever since I wrote last week's post, I've been obsessing about speedwork and more specifically, my attempts at a tempo run.

I've had three different people offer me advice, and I think it all comes down to the same thing: I've got to get my head straight.

We all know that running is mental, and there is no greater proof of that than watching me drive myself and everyone around me crazy by talking about running.  

On Wednesday, I did 3 x 800 at the track (plus a warm up and cool down), and I was able to keep my 800s between 4:00 and 4:20.  I was happy with that.  I think next time at the track I will shoot for 4 x 800, and I will try to decrease my recovery time.

Thursday was a gorgeous day, a day made to go running.  Despite the pretty day, I was feeling upset because my daughter wanted to cut off her beautiful, curly hair.  Now, I know, it's her hair--if this is my biggest problem with her, I'm lucky--hair grows back--yadda yadda yadda.  I know these things. 
Still think I shouldn't be upset?

 As we were making an appointment for the salon for that afternoon, I got a lump in my throat, and I felt tears coming.  This isn't like me at all, so I figured out that my need for a breakdown after my father's death was manifesting AT THAT MOMENT.  The perfect solution would have been to go on a run/cry, especially on a day made for runs, but I didn't do it because I'm an idiot.  Or I'm afraid to let my guard down.  Or because I told the kids we were going hiking.  Whatever.  I didn't do it.

I sucked it up and hiked the Mingo Trail (3+ miles of glorious, primitive trail) in Sand Run Park with the kids.  It was a great experience for all of us as the kids didn't complain ONCE about how far we had to walk.  I did have one interesting exchange with the eight-year-old, though:

8YO:  Will there be donuts at the end?
Me:  No.
8YO:  No.  There will only be water and sadness.
No donuts for you.
Water and Sadness
On Friday, I decided, to hell with it, I'd run how I felt: no patterns, no plans.  Looking at my splits, I think it's interesting how consistent they are, and how the run is divided in half.  There is a reason for the discrepancy between the two halves: Miles 1-3 were downhill, and Miles 4-6 were uphill.  If consistency of pace is what I'm shooting for, I will take this run as a win.
Mile 1 (half mile warmup): 9:36 
Mile 2: 8:53 
Mile 3: 9:02 
Mile 4: 10:36 
Mile 5: 10:35 
Mile 6: 10:37 
Mile 7: Cooldown: 11:35 

It rained all over me, but I felt great when I was done.

Today I ran with Shelby, and it was HOT and HUMID.  Shelby is training for a marathon, and she needed 14 miles.  I foolishly thought, "Huh. I can do 14 miles," but luckily I only told Shelby that I would run what I could with her. 
This is EXACTLY how I look when I foolishly think, "Huh.  I can do 14 miles in incredible heat and humidity."
I lasted just over 10 miles at a turtle-like pace before I called it quits.  Poor Shelby had to finish up by herself, but she was kind enough to give me a bottle of ice-cold chocolate milk before she left.  I love that woman.

This week I intend to focus on myself.  My near-crying-jag in a hair salon this week tells me that I need to take care of myself.  I'm not quite sure how I'm going to do that, but if I figure it out, you will be the first to know.

Until then, run happy, Peeps!

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Speedwork

Here is the deal:

I have 53 seconds to cut off my Akron Half Marathon PR, and it's time to do the hard stuff.


ARGH!! Those 53 seconds have to go!

You may or may not know that Akron is my big PR race of the year.  It was the reason why I started running in the first place.  I wrote all last summer about my desire to run a sub-2 hour half marathon, and I came SO CLOSE.  This year I will nail that sucker.

Time to get serious, Peeps.

On Wednesday I started up my track workouts.  I wasn't looking forward to this, but I know that a concerted effort at speed work really pays off during the race.  Unfortunately, my coach isn't offering a training program this year, so I have to figure out something that works.  Right now I'm just winging it.  I started with ladder drills: 400, 800, 1200, 800, 400.  I warmed up for about 1.5 miles, gossiping with my peeps, and then I got to work.  

One of my biggest problems is going out too fast in a race, and it shows in my speed work.  I was shooting for an 8:20 pace, but I started at 8:00 or less.  Not good.  I made sure to slow down, and that helped.  I am extremely proud that my last 400 was faster than my first 400, with a pace of 8:08.  


What makes me happiest, though, is that my daughter came with me to the track, and she did her own workout.  For a few years now I have been asking her to run with me, and she has turned me down almost every time.  At one point she told me, "You are going to have to deal with the fact that I will not be your runner.  Work on Ben."  

When I casually asked her if she wanted to come to the track with me, I expected a withering, "No, Mom," but she actually said, "Sure.  That sounds like fun."  And it was.


This is EXACTLY how we look when we are finished with speed work.


Then Friday was my first attempt at a tempo run.  First, I got all pinked up:


On Fridays we wear pink.

Then I set out for my run on Sand Run at 2:00 pm, which was stupid on so many levels.

Mile 1:  Warmup 10:11 Mile 2: 9:03 
Mile 3: 9:11 
Mile 4: 9:57--This is where I fell apart. It was all uphill, though.  
Mile 5: Cooldown 11:18

Lessons learned: 1. Tempo runs need to be on flat paths.  Sand Run is a a three mile path full of hills.  As you can see from my times, Miles 2 and 3 were downhill.  2. Miles 2 and 3 were too fast and they were not steady (Did I mention they were downhill?).  I tried to control my pace, but there were some points that I was running at 8:15 or less.  Not cool.   3. Tempo runs should never be at 2:00 in the afternoon in the summer.  I was so. freaking. hot.

Can I call this a win in speed work since it was extremely hilly?


I did call it a win, and I rewarded my daughter and myself with a trip to Stan Hywet Hall to see the Ohio Shakespeare Festival's production of Much Ado about Nothing.  

This is EXACTLY how I look when I am watching Shakespeare.  My friend Shelly is on the  left.

It was fabulous, Peeps; I highly recommend you see this comedy or Henry V, which starts July 30.

Today I ran three loops of the Boston Run Trail in Peninsula for a total of 9-something miles.  I thought I did pretty well.  I got through the third loop by telling myself I could walk any hill I liked, and I walked most of them.  Don't judge; I didn't walk any of them in the first two loops.

Anyway, this is my new committment to speed work.  I'm going to go to the track every Wednesday, and I'm going to fit in a tempo run each week.  

Akron won't know what hit it when I cross that finish line.

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Running with Grief

For the first time since I started this blog, I have skipped a post.  There is a very good reason for this.

My last post was a recap of the Ragnar Trail Event in West Virginia.  I had written about the challenges of that race.  What I didn't tell you was that the night I arrived (during the storm), I received several voice messages and texts from my family regarding my father, and I was worried about his health the whole time.

My father had two heart attacks and a quadruple bypass six years ago.  He was in the Cleveland Clinic for months, and if it had not been for the wonderful staff there, he would have died.  Last year my father's health started failing again, and I rushed to Florida just in time to get him psyched up to get an LVAD, which is a machine that regulates blood flow for the heart.  Again, he almost died because his organs had already started shutting down, but the surgical staff at the Cleveland Clinic in Weston performed a miracle and brought him back.

My father with my son


The LVAD is a temporary fix, and only patients who are on the list for a heart transplant get one.  My family was thrilled that my father would qualify for a transplant, but we knew the risks such a surgery would entail.

My father on his wedding day


When the storm started in West Virginia, I saw that my father had called me, but I couldn't access his voice mail because of poor reception.  When I finally found a "pocket of reception," I learned that my father had gone to the hospital because a heart had become available.  My last message from my father was him telling me that he was excited and that I should not fly to Florida for the surgery.

Fly to Florida?  I was surrounded by mountains and forests in Appalachia.

I kept my phone on all weekend, and anytime I could get reception (sometimes in the middle of a trail), I would look at my messages or listen to voice mails.  I was frantic.

Imagine running the Red Loop at 3:00 AM when you are frantic.

Anyway, I finally got the call from my brother the following Thursday, telling me to come to my father.  I got on the first plane I could book, and my brother rushed me to my father at one in the morning so he would know that I was there.

The next day we unhooked my father from all the machines that were keeping him alive.  Before we did, I told him that I loved him, and that he was a great father.  I hope he heard me.



I spent the next few days helping my father's wife make all the arrangements for his funeral.  I organized, I phoned, I wrote his obituary and the eulogy for the minister. . .and I did run.  I wanted so badly to run and cry, but the weather was so hot and humid that I felt more annoyed and irritated than anything, and I couldn't express my grief and sadness.

Running is so cathartic, and yet I have not felt any relief.

I returned to Ohio at 3:00 AM yesterday, and I am still organizing, cleaning, taking care of others.  At some point I will have to take care of myself. I will have to FEEL.

Tomorrow I will run, and I hope some sort of healing can begin.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Race Recap: WV RAGNAR Trail Race

I've only been home for less than a day, and my head is still spinning.  Jenn has informed me that I'm suffering from this:




For the past few weeks, I have been consumed with preparing for my first trail race, the Ragnar Trail Appalachians Relay in West Virginia.  I've been so excited because this is different from everything I've ever done as a runner.  Usually I am a road runner, so I had to buy a set of trail shoes and change my whole attitude about running to participate in this race.  Plus, it involved camping.

Erin picked me up on Thursday afternoon, and we drove to Bruceton Mills, WV.  It was supposed to take us 3.5 hours, but we had some slight deviations along the way.  First, every road trip I've ever been on has involved a Starbucks Frappucino, and since we had limited phone service, it was difficult to find a Starbucks on the way.  We perservered and found one, though.

Next, when we arrived at Big Bear Lake, we should have just followed the signs to Big Bear Lake Camping Ground, but instead we listened to Siri, who told us to turn onto a series of back roads that eventually became a single-track dirt road.  It was scary.  When the road seemed to lead deep into the forest, Erin had had enough, and she backtracked to the main road, turned right. . .where we saw (500 feet away) the entrance to Ragnar Village.  sigh.

We dropped off our gear at our Tent and then we had to shuttle back to the Village.  The line was huge, so the women next to us got the bright idea to hitchhike with incoming racers, so we got into the back of a nice woman's van, and she drove us back to the campsite.
Erin and I are in the back of a van.  Down by the river.
Our canopy set up in Tent City
We set up our tents and canopies together--two 8-person relay teams and one 4-person ultra team.  The sun came out for a tiny bit, so we took some pictures.

The only time the sun came out and it was in my eyes.
Erin and I pose with our team mascot: Sasquatch.  Our team was The Squatch Hunters.


That night a fierce storm rocked Tent City.  Tents and canopies were knocked down, smashed, and blown away.  Jenn and I braced the walls of our tent during the worst of it, and Steve and Mike actually stood outside in the storm, holding onto the METAL poles of the canopies.  Heroes.


The race started on Friday morning.  It was exciting to watch the teams start; Jenn was our first runner, and she ran the Green Loop--3.5 miles of trail.  When she got back, the next runner (Renee) did the Yellow Loop (4.6 miles), and when she got back, Mandy ran the Red Loop (6.7 miles).  The pattern continued through all eight runners of our team until we all ran each loop.  I was Runner 7, so I had a lot of down time at first.  My first run was on the Green Loop at 4:00 pm.  Of course, as soon as I started, the heavens opened up all over me, so I ran in a sloppy earth soup mixed with roots and rocks.

Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures of the trails, partly because of the rain and partly because my phone was blowing up every time I got a pocket of cell-phone reception, and I needed to conserve the battery.  I have awesome running friends, though, and they have graciously allowed me to use their pictures.


First round relays line up in the shoot.
Transition tent photo.  I am in orange, waiting for Brittney to pass the bib.
Trail among the ferns.  Gorgeous.  Flat and easy, right?

This is not a riverbed to admire.  This is the trail.  You run in the river.

Now add mud and running in the dark to the picture.  Can you tell what is just mud and what is an ankle-breaking rock?  Yeah, me neither.
My second run was the Red Loop, also known as Mother of Crack, and I ran it starting at 3:00 in the morning.  I was really excited to run this loop, as it is the most challenging, but I was very nervous, too, because I was going to run it in the pitch-dark.  I received lots of pep talks from runners who had gone before me, some from my team, some from Ragnar Village, and I was worried.  Not gonna lie, Peeps, this trail was not just challenging; it was downright dangerous when you factor in the torrential downpours we experienced.  The Red Loop was the most technical trail I have ever run; it was amazing and terrifying all in one.  I would like to run this trail on a dry day in the morning, but it was not meant to be.  Let's see what I can remember:

The first two miles were extremely scary and technical.  I remember climbing up and down boulders. Luckily some runners helped me through some of it (before they took off ahead of me).  I remember mud going up to my knees.  The middle miles were in The Swamp, and I liked those better.  I remember actual stretches of running, not just walking or climbing, and I remember winding around big, flowery bushes and running over bridges.  The last miles sucked hard.  There was a two mile stretch that was completely uphill.  I didn't think it was possible.  The mud made climbing difficult, and there were a few times that I thought I would lose a shoe.  It took me 2:40 to run those 6.7 miles, if run is the word you can use.

When I came back to hand off to Erin, Jenn was there, and she asked me if I was ok, which leads me to believe that I looked as traumatized as I felt.  Even better, when I went to spray off my legs with the hose, I saw that there was no water.  Anywhere.  None.  The village had run out of water.  I had started to shiver (either from shock or cold or both), so my only choice was to warm up at the bonfire, which of course hardened the mud on my legs.  sigh.

My last loop was the Yellow Loop, and I was scheduled for 3:00 pm, but there was a forecast of another terrible storm, so Ragnar allowed teams to double up their last loops to make the race end sooner, so the run happened at 11:00 am.  This was great news for me because it meant I got to run with Leigh, with whom I used to run until she moved to Maryland.  Leigh and I really enjoyed this run.  It had a little bit of everything: rocks, hills, water, and a gorgeous pine tree forest.  We had a great time running and chatting, and we finished it in 1:23.

Leigh and I warm up at the bonfire pre-Loop.  Look at the bearded dude behind us warming his bra!


The Squatch Hunters met us at the finish, and we collected our medals.  Renee had to leave early, so they took a picture with her while Leigh and I were running:
The Squatch Hunters are happy to be done.
I've had some time to process this experience, and I still don't know what to make of it.  The Squatch Hunters were laughing at what they thought they'd read in this post, and I'm not gonna lie; during the Red Loop and just after it, I had a very definite opinion about this race and the way it is organized, but time (and wine) mellows everything, and I do know that I tend to develop "race amnesia," so I've changed my opinions a little bit.  Here is the breakdown:

The Good:  There was a charging station at Ragnar Village, and that was a big help. The trails were gorgeous.  I loved seeing my friends.  I had  new experiences with trail racing.  I took some risks.  I learned how badass I can be.  Plus, I ate some delicious smores, with quality chocolate, supplied by Salomon.

The Bad:  I hated never feeling warm or dry.  Of course, nobody can control the weather, and the fact that I didn't pack enough (or any) hoodies is my fault entirely.  My overall mood probably would have been much different if I had just worn heavier clothing while waiting to run. Plus, I needed rainboots for the mud.

The catering company was definitely not a plus. Their primary duty was to keep us supplied with coffee, and they failed miserably.  It took me six attempts in two days to get coffee, and when I did get it, it was disgusting.  C'mon, people.  How hard is it to make coffee?

Many people didn't like the pasta dinner that came with the registration, but I didn't think it was so terrible.  Some people had stomach aches the next day, but who knows if any of that was because of the dinner?

The Ugly:  This is where I really had to reign in my temper and think about being fair.  The Ragnar events are expensive commercial races (My ticket cost 160 bucks), and because of this, I noticed that Ragnar attracts people who like themed races (think Warrior Dash, Color Run, etc.).  Many of the people I met and ran with were trail runners, and I enjoyed being around them.  It sounds cliche, but trail runners are good people. They are extremely considerate of the racing environment, trails, and people.  When there is no coffee or water, the trail runners shrug their shoulders and crawl into their sleeping bags to wait it out. They are true badasses.  I am not a trail runner, but I am trying to become one, or at least run like one.

Some of the people I met were NOT trail runners, and some were not runners at all.  These people were rude and inconsiderate.  They were the people who took showers after each loop or for more than half an hour.  They meticulously scrubbed every inch of their bodies and rinsed out their clothing while there was a long line to spray down at the hoses.  They took and consumed and used, and when there was no more, they complained.

I don't want to be one of those people; however, when the water ran out, I lost my temper.  The water tanks were in clear sight of the village, and I feel that organizers should have had a better idea of how much water they needed.  I'm not asking for much; I just want to spray off the trail-gunk before a nap.    I realize that the "Commercial Racers" abused the system with the water consumption, but a part of me thinks that race directors should be able to control this.

One way might be to make all runners aware that there is a limited amount of water, and considering how many times I was told that this was a cupless race, I know there were plenty of opportunities to educate people about water consumption.  If Ragnar chose not to do this, they had to be prepared for the consequences by keeping a close eye on the tanks and refilling them promptly.  They didn't do this, and it caused a lot of trouble.

Another "Ugly" may be because of the circumstances.  I am not sure it was responsible of Ragnar to allow us to run the Red Loop in the dark.  I didn't hear of any serious injuries, thank God, but the whole time I was out there, I kept thinking "What if?"  There were many opportunities to seriously hurt myself, even though I was super careful, and I wonder about the people who were going into this situation without any knowledge of trail-running.

When I came home, I told my husband that I would never run another Ragnar event.  I probably won't, but a tiny part of me wishes I could run it again to "get it right."  This time I would take warm clothes and stock up on better food.  I still think that if the temperature had been at least ten degrees warmer, I would have loved it (even with the rain).

It was wonderful to try something different, and I liked seeing so many great trail runners.  They are inspirational badasses.  Oh, and the medal is pretty badass, too:

It can open cans!  It can open beer bottles!  It can turn bolts!  It can cut down small trees!
I want to thank Jenn Pierce for putting together this experience.  Her smiling face and cheerful attitude reminded us all that the best part about the race was being together.

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Gonna Do a Ragnar Trail Race!

Yes, Peeps, it is true.  I, an avowed trail-hater, am going to do a Ragnar Trail Event.  Before I tell you about it, let me remind you of why I have said I don't like trails:  Click here to revisit that post.  Go ahead.  I'll wait.

Back so soon?  Ok, so months ago, Jenn, who is a trail runner, put a call out for a team of eight to run a Ragnar Trail relay in the Appalachians.  The only thing I knew about Ragnar is that usually it involves a bunch of people sleeping in a van, and I was curious about how that would work in the Appalachian Mountains, so I looked it up on this link.  Then I laughed myself silly, had a glass of wine, and forgot about it.

With the winter weather being so terrible, the road conditions were not really safe, so I started joining Jenn and Renee (and other trail runners) for Sunday long, slow runs.  These were slow.  Really slow.  But they kicked my ass all the same.  No, seriously, my glutes were getting a great workout from all the hills we had to climb.  Plus, the views were gorgeous; in my previous posts I've compared the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to Narnia.

The bridge to Narnia

We look darned happy in Narnia





















Most of these runs consisted of a lot of walking, which my previous posts have explained that I am NOT ok with, but I could tell that they were sharpening my focus and strengthening my legs and my core.  Jenn and Renee patiently and repeatedly explained to me that EVERYONE walks the hills, and that I should use that time to look at the scenery and enjoy it.

It has taken me four years, but I can now say that I've grown to like trail running.  I don't think it has anything to do with trails, either.  The change had to come from me.  Being ok with walking a hill on a trail actually meant that I had to be ok with myself, and that is a daily battle for me.  Trails allow me to be less. . . intense, less driven.  This may only be because I've never raced a trail before, and that may change, but for now I can admit that I can appreciate trail running.  But I'm still deathly afraid of ticks.

Back to the race.  Several weeks after Jenn initially posted about the Ragnar Trail Relay, she re-posted, saying a team member had dropped.  This time I thought about it and checked my calendar.  Then I held my breath, made the sign of the Cross, and told her I would do it.  THEN I had a glass of wine.

Look at this, Peeps.  This is what I will be doing!




We have two regular teams and one ultra team, and we will all be camping together from Thursday night to Sunday morning.  I haven't been camping for years, but I think this will be fun.  The two things that sealed the deal were all-you-can-eat-smores and access to showers.  I can do anything for three days if I know I can take a shower.  In anticipation of the race, I bought and baptized my first pair of trail shoes:

Love my Sauconies!
I don't really know what I'm doing, Peeps; this is all completely new to me.  The only thing I know is that I will be running three trail loops: the Green loop (easiest, 3.5 miles), the Yellow loop (a little more difficult, 4.6 miles), and the Red loop (most technical, 6.7 miles).  Based on Jenn's spreadsheet of times, I think I'll be doing the most difficult loop at one in the morning.  Gulp.

Check my post next week.  Will a bear eat me?  Will I freak out during a thunderstorm?  Will there be enough beer and smores?  Send me some love and luck, Peeps.  I will need it.

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