Little Tybee Conquest Victory Lap (WITH PRIZES)!!

There aren’t enough words to tell you how much I love race volunteers and crews. There is nothing that compares to a smiling face, a helping hand, a hug, an encouraging word, or a cold beer at the ready while your body is trying to figure out what in the world you are going to do to try and wreck it next.

They look like angels with boiled potatoes and salt tabs.

One of the most transforming days in my running life came as a volunteer.

I these two truths compel me to find opportunities (and time!) to forgo running a race and volunteer or crew instead. Kinda like the runner version of “Pay it Forward.”

I thought I had found this opportunity with the inaugural Little Tybee Conquest.

tybee2This race kinda freaked me out a bit. It is roughly 10-11ish miles (depending on the coast line) on the beach with four channel crossings. The race was limited to a small (15) number of runners due to the nature of the location. Little Tybee is an uninhabited island off the coast of Tybee Island, Georgia. To reduce the environmental impact of this beautiful little sanctuary, the decision was made to keep the race small.

I wasn’t sure about it to begin with. I can run. I am strong. I can swim. But, I can’t really swim swim. The whole idea made me nervous. Awesome time to volunteer.

Race Director extraordinaire Dan Hernandez took me up on my offer and asked me to be the volunteer coordinator. I agreed and it was the easiest job on the planet. It was a small race and Dan is so on top of everything, there was really nothing for me to do.

We met early Saturday morning and loaded up the boat. We got over to the island and set up the start. Easy peezy.

The weather had been rough so there were some runners that had called Dan the day before to let him know they weren’t going to make it.

DNS runners = orphan bibs
Orphan bib+cool people+awesome course = April wants to run

That’s the math for ya.

Me ~ I think I am going claim one of those bibs.
Dan ~ That’s an awesome idea. You should absolutely do that.

Yeah, not quite the response I was expecting.

toesI went through the reasons I couldn’t run. There were three big ones – I hadn’t eaten, I was only in flip flops, and, most importantly, I had no bandanna. I mean, I was in total non runner mode.

But there was aid station food. And I am a minimalist runner; I could just do it barefoot. And, to seal the deal, Dan had a bandanna.

I feel like I should be doing a better job than just “and this happened, and then, this, and then that.” But I guess sometimes, you just have to tell the story.

So I grabbed Emily’s bib enjoying the idea that I had her number. Emily is an amazingly gracious, talented, generous, FAST runner. She is also my friend. The idea to run was feeling more right.

ElijahInteresting thing I did not know ~ We opted to write our numbers on ourselves rather than pin bibs due to the water portions of the race. There is a current in all the channels so the bibs probably wouldn’t hold up. If you ever get the opportunity to do that – do it! I completely underestimated the total badassed feeling it can produce.

So, I ran.

I ended up running most of the race with Gregg and Brian. Turned out to be a pretty good thing too.

At the third channel crossing we are told that the kayaks, life rings, and life jackets didn’t make it to the fourth channel crossing. There was a boat drop mix up and the turn around had been moved forward, ahead of the crossing. This makes my heart sing. That last channel crossing is a beast and I was not looking forward to attempting it.

When we get to the new turn around, there is confusion. The lead runners are still going. Bren had helped plot the course and knew exactly where he was supposed to be going. Luke was right there with him. We Three Amigos shrugged and followed the leaders. “Leader determines the course,” I said, figuring there was no way we could turn around at this point if the leaders hadn’t started back yet.

Dumbass move, Groves.

channel4We get to the last channel crossing and pause. We have been told that this channel is different than the others. There is always a current and there is no wading as the drop offs are quick and substantial. There are no volunteers, no kayaks, no life vests, nada. “That is further than it looks,” I tell the fellas. Brian, who is the best swimmer I have ever seen in real life, says, “Oh it’s fine,” and starts fishing his self across. Gregg agrees. What’s a girl to do?

Let’s get real honest. That’s not really the question I was asking myself. The question I was asking myself was, “What’s a girl in FIRST to do?” What I might should have been thinking was “pride comes before the fall” but who ever thinks THAT when they need to?

I was in first place. Lara, who is far more talented and swift than I, had opted not to do the last channel under the current conditions.

This was it. You’re damned straight I jumped in that water.

About a fourth of the way across the channel I realize that the swim is exactly what I expected  – further than it looked.

And few more minutes (I guess, I have no idea how long it took) I was beginning to question my choice. The shore behind me was getting further away. The shore ahead was getting no closer. This is no bueno.

Ok, I decide, this was a bad idea. Probably a good time to go back. Except I am in the middle, I think maybe a little closer to where I am going than where I came from, but I can’t tell. Move forward, go back, either way my chances suck.

“I have just ruined Dan’s race,” I think to myself. I am fixing to drown, ruin any chances of this race happening again and my husband is going to be pissed. I am not even supposed to be here. I am supposed to be back at the start in my flip flops tending to that cooler of beer I brought waiting for the runners to come in. Instead I am in the middle of this water fixing to die.

I am an idiot.

I look over and Gregg is not too far ahead of me. “Gregg, I am not sure what to do. I am a little freaked out right this second.  I am not really sure how to get across this channel.”

Gregg, in a ever so calm voice says, “Just keep swimming. You are going to be fine.”

Well, that really is the only option, isn’t it?

PaceOutSo I flip over on my back and start kicking and Gregg keeps talking. I think to myself, “Just keep kicking, you will get there. Just keep going, don’t stop, no worries, you will finish.” Pace Out.

Gregg talks to me the duration of the channel and then he says, “You can stand up now.” I flip back over, super excited, and put my feet down. Gloriously the water is chin deep, I dig my toes in and run my ass outta there! On shore I say a super bad word, hug Gregg, swear he saved my life, breathe deep, and collect myself. Gregg and Brian laugh a bit and it is time to start running again.

The course is an out and back so there was still the task of going back across the channel. No problem according to the fellas. We will just start further up the beach so that current won’t wash us out. Gregg and Brian will be close at hand and, since I have demonstrated my ability to stay calm in the midst of my panic, it will be fine.

I get my nerves back about me, hit the turn around, lose them again, get them back together, and reach the channel crossing. It takes me just a minute or so to get back in that water. But I am more comfortable now. I know I can do it. I know it takes longer than I think it will. I know I will not get left behind.

We head back to the start and it is wonderful company. We get to the wooded area and it is totally transformed. It is low tide now and the roots of all these magnificent trees that have fallen over are exposed. Instead of having to run through the woods, we run through the roots. Under, over and around them, some are taller than me. I wish I could tell you what an experience it was. (Registration for the 2014 Little Tybee Conquest opens in a few days!)

The guys sprint to the finish to take 3rd and 4th place. It is fun to watch. I am spent at this point and am content to finish the race at the same pace I have run the duration. Bren has a beer at the ready and I am so thankful. And I get to take pictures with the most awesome trophy I have ever seen.

A couple of thoughts about winning this race…

First, crossing the channel is a decision conundrum, even in hindsight. It was unequivocally stupid. But, it was also empowering and worth it. I don’t really know what to do about that except to say that it goes directly into the category of choices nobody else can make for you. This is where getting comfortable in your own skin, listening to your own inner voice, and competing with no one but yourself proves itself important.

Second, that Pace Out thing is no joke. I was not the fastest person out there. Lara is. Hands down she is the better runner. I have appreciated her friendship, training advice, and spirit. She has the heart of a tiger and the tenacity to match. I don’t, I CAN’T, compete with her. But, I do compete with myself. I run my race and appreciate my body for giving me the best its got any given day (and a bit more when I need it). And this day, in this moment, it was good enough for top prize. I am honored.

Third, I seriously want to run barefoot more often. I can’t begin to tell you how fun that was.

Lastly, my runner family is the shit. When I think of the advances that I have made in my fitness level, appearance, health, and ability, NONE of it even begins to compare with the ties that bind us together. Being around these people, having them as a part of my life, is one of the most treasured gifts I have ever been given.

So, in honor of the win, we are giving stuff away!!! I have 3 amazing prizes for three lucky folks!

I can’t tell you what my time was on this race because I really don’t remember. My pace was not important. Not dying was important. Finishing was important. I also am still a bit irritated at the asshats. So we are giving away a super awesome, “What’s your Pace? DON’T CARE!” t-shirt. (As an aside, I would like to congratulate PaceOut and Georgia Game Changers for their new relationship. You can now buy PaceOut gear in that retail location!)

DFITTI typically wear my PaceOut gear when I run. It is the most comfortable, durable, run friendly tank I own. I wasn’t planning to run and my DFIT tank that I got for my birthday makes me feel like a warrior (and the husband really likes it too!) Good thing I was channeling a bit of warrior groove that day – it was helpful. So we are giving away one of those too!

And, you need some place to wear all this cool gear. You are in luck! DFIT training sessions are back in full swing! We are giving away a four pass pack. Yep, you can win the opportunity to get yourself beat not once but FOUR times.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

500 Street Fights…Or 50 Miles…It’s Legit

Screenshot_2013-08-13-09-02-05-1I think I have used this Vin Diesel clip from Knockaround Guys before…I will use it again. Truth is, if I could figure out how to use it in every single post, I probably would.

So a tiny bit of background explaining yet another (back to back) race recap (sorta) from the chick that rarely does them. Actually, this is going to be the last time I state that disclaimer. I think that I am buying into the idea that “race recap” means “Mile 1 I breathed, then mile 2 I ate some stuff, then mile 3 I hit a wall…” But I digress…

Kelley and I enjoying the post 50 mile run festivities

Kelley and I enjoying the post 50 mile run festivities

I belong to an awesome virtual group called the Women’s Running Community. I have just worked with them to bring a chapter, WRC – Lowcountry, here locally (if you are interested, we would love to have you!) They have another niche group called WCR – Ultra Running to cater to the crazies. The admin for that group, Corina, is an awesome sport of whom I am quickly growing fond. She asked if I would share with the group some of what goes into preparing and completing a 50 mile race (aside from the psychological review).

I am not going to bore you with the “what you already know”s. And let me be clear once again – this is what works for me. I do not live in the land of “everyone needs to.” I love minimalist running, plant based eating, heavy lift cross training. I do not taper, I don’t really know the tactics of a proper recover. I know what a training plan is…even if I don’t know quite how to use one. This works for me – sometimes. It is always a work in progress. I may do it different tomorrow. You might too.

However, one of the constants in my “training” (gosh, I really hate calling it that), is the fact that I have a very real, very full life. One husband, four kids, three pets, a career, awesome friends, a running column, this little bloggy thing…yeah, I am extracting the marrow fully out of the bone of life. So I have to watch my schedule. And, most importantly, I have to be real with myself.

Therefore…

How do I train with four kids (and all that other stuff)?

My runs are largely unsexy and unholy early. They are on a super boring, short distance repeater route in my neighborhood. This is out of necessity since most mornings I have to be finished with my run by 0630. So, even a 6 or 7 miler has to be started around 0500 or 0530. There is NO WAY I am adding travel time to that just to get to a route that is more fun to run. So, I have discovered a few apps that make the miles a bit more interesting. I have a rosary player, a zombie game, and an audiobook subscription – lifesavers all.

Even on the weekends I start super early. Typically these are my long run days. So to run 20-30 miles, I have to still start at 0500 or 0600 to get it in while the rest of the family is sleeping in and to be finished by lunch. Training for ultra distances nixes the off day after a training run. So I run long on Saturday and still need a 6-12 mile run on Sunday.

But look at that mess up there? Seriously, there is not always time for that. So I don’t make all my runs. I don’t log all the miles I am “supposed to.” I don’t always get in those back to backs. Sometimes there is a super tired husband, and a cat that has peed outside of the litter box, and a kid who is having a melt down, and a house that seriously needs a wipe down, and a yard that needs to be mowed, and grandparents I haven’t seen, and friends I haven’t lunched with, and parents who need some time, and a book that needs to be read…and I just. don’t. run.

600672_539915602739929_1109972797_nSay it with me… Just. Don’t. Run.

Then there are times where all the above is true and if I don’t get some miles in, the other crazies in my head are going to forget how bad I look in prison jumpsuit orange and cut you. In those cases, screw the rest and just. go. run.

Say it with me…Just. Go. Run.

So, how many mile DO you run a week?

Not enough I am sure. My goal as a runner is to be able to run a 50 miler whenever I want. I want to be the kind of runner who, at the drop of hat, a running buddy can call and need a training partner, a pacer, a race buddy, and I can go – regardless of some point on a training plan.

So the goal during the week is usually 50 miles. I. Never. Make. It. But that is okay. I usually come in around 30. But I know that as loose as I like to be with my “training schedule,” the cold, hard fact is that chance of injury increase when regular mileage does not support the long run. So, while I cut myself tons of slack, I do not make excuses and justify the punk out.

What do you eat on the run?

988674_561407983924024_781717531_nBeer and salted potatoes are my favorite. Ginger Snaps and PB&Js rank up there pretty high too. I LOVE coconut water, be careful though. Too much could, ummm, ruin your time. The upside is you will know where all the bathrooms are the next time. I try really hard to not do a bunch of artificial stuff – they wreck my tummy and I think there is something seriously weird about spending money with a “Health and Nutrition” company who thinks putting trash in their products is a good idea. But that’s just me. I stick with Hammer products mostly and drink a pretty good bit of HEED.

As a side note, I just started with a pretty regular regime of sweet potatoes. So far, the results have been just short of astonishing.

Walking vs. Running

This one is easy…whatever I feel like with only a few caveats

  • “Hell, a 15:48 pace to finish? You can walk that!” is WAY  harder than it sounds – I prefer to run and get it over with.
  • Once I start walking, it is super hard to get started again. I try not to do it too often. I envy people who can transition easily.

And, when all else fails, remember the brilliant advice of Ray Krolewicz…

“There are no low points in ultra marathons. I get sleepy sometimes and I take a nap.”

Ultra Balance

bikeI don’t really do “race recap” posts. I guess looking at the last time I actually hit the “publish” button, a case could be made that I don’t really do posts at all! I’ll address that point first (and I feel a bit meandering today, so I will try to stay concise!)

I have always been a writer. It is commonly thought that writers should write something – anything – everyday. I started blogging in 2006. The one constant in blogging is the idea of regular postings. In many cases I saw the “write something everyday” and the “regular postings” ideas collide…and by “collide,” think “train wreck.”

So early on I just got comfortable with gaps in my blog. I don’t love it because it usually means there is something happening on this side of the keyboard that has the balance in my life thrown off. But I don’t hate it either. It just is what it is. The goal is always to make adjustments and keep it out of the ditch.

Brandy

Brandy!!

Since my last post roughly 2 months(!) ago, I have run in three ultra events, wrestled with my supplementation, jacked up my food choices, and wrecked my schedule. I had a million blog post ideas go through my brain. But my center was in the stratosphere somewhere and that just doesn’t work.

Even now I struggle to stay on point and offer you a coherent discourse. (In fact, I just deleted FOUR whole paragraphs. You’re welcome.)

I bagged out of Bad Marsh. It was really unfortunate. I had a great crew in the beautiful Brandy Mai. The group of runners there were amazing and inspiring. There was cold beer in the cooler. The race hat swag was awesome. It should have been perfect. It sucked.

Parking, I thought seeing my ultra family would help my melancholy mood. It didn’t. Not even the duck.

Lap 1, “just run for a minute, you’ll feel better,” I thought. Wrong again.

Lap 2, I was looking for a reason to quit.

Lap 3, I committed the ultimate fail – I bagged on my best runner buddy ever.

548917_10151824897227125_2047025532_n

Lucky she still loves me…

Lap 4, I tried one more time. I questioned my entire existence as a runner, as a person even. Sounds a bit melodramatic, I know. But it is what it is.

I quit. Sure there was this facade of ankle pain (it really did hurt) and “living to fight another day” and all that. Truth is, I have hurt worse and have ran through pain. But that day, that race, that moment, running sucked, I sucked, life sucked, and I just plain didn’t want to be there or do that.

Worse than the DNF, I couldn’t find it in me to stay and support my ultra family. I was wiped and my soul was somewhere else. To this day I am not really sure where that is. To be honest, I have still only caught fleeting moments of it in the past 2 months. If I am being completely transparent, it has been as elusive as Peter Pan’s shadow.

But there are some solid truths…

I am a runner…
I am a warrior…
I did write this
I still mean this

And when all else fails, listen to folks smarter than you…

“For me, the larger ‘hurt’ factor during an Ultra is when my body is physically ready for a race but my mind is mentally not in it. In that case there is almost nothing you can do other than take a break, rub some dirt on your soul and hope that your mind can come around,” ~ Tim Waz, Owner/RD, Lowcountry Ultras.

Photo credit **Simple Reminders**

April’s First Ultra Marathon Brought to You by the Letter “P”

Porta potties, while not preferable, don’t really bother me. Especially when you need one.

Hovering is WAY  harder after you have run 31+ miles.

That little gem is one of the many things I learned Saturday. The Ledesma Sports Medicine Savannah Rails to Trails Ultra 2013 will forever be logged as my first Ultra Marathon.

If we are friends on Facebook, or if you have seen the recent WTOC news story by the beautifully talented Dawn Baker, you already know that I injured myself about a month ago. In fact, writing this post, I have just realized that Saturday was a day shy of a month since it happened. There was a lot of back and forth on whether I was going to do the 50k, 25k, or even be able to run at all.

Ledesma Sports Medicine Rails to Trail Ultra MarathonI ran completed the whole thing. It took an exhaustive 6 hours, 22 minutes, 34 seconds.

“Hell, a 15:48 pace to finish? You can walk that!” is WAY  harder than it sounds.

Six and a half hours on your feet, in the heat (temps hit a record high of 75), averaging a 11:45 pace will take your brain (and your heart) to a bunch of places.

That time sucked. I should have been able to do it a full hour faster. More if I had not been injured. I missed out in a couple of key areas. Please notice I did not say “failed.” Nothing about Saturday was a failure.

But if we don’t learn to make better, we are wasting life’s experiences  So, in addition to learning a bit more about peeing in porta potties and pace, I also came to some conclusions concerning procrastination, preparation, perspective, and perseverance.

Procrastination

Making a firm decision about Saturday before Saturday was something I absolutely did not want to do. So, I didn’t. I was at the starting line answering the “whatcha going to do” question with “I dunno yet.” I was even heralded by another runner during the first 25k that my method of freeing my mind to whatever possibility happened was enlightened and so smart.

And maybe it was. Maybe there was some hidden genius to relaxing and simply committing to showing up. Maybe the method of deciding on all or some at the half way point was part of my success. But even if that is so, the decision was made poorly.

You see, there is a big difference between deciding not to decide and putting off making a decision. I employed the latter. Procrastination is never the answer. My focus was on my injury. It was on whether I would punk out, hurt myself again, garner yet more creatively worded “I told you so”s. All of those things cause doubt and anxiety. What you focus on expands. Doubt and anxiety expanded. I froze.

While it appeared that I had decided not to decide, I had actually refused to make any decision at all. When you don’t decide, you can’t have a goal. When you don’t have a goal, you cannot prepare. When you aren’t prepared, things take a whole lot longer to finish, if you finish at all.

Please read that last paragraph again. It is the most important thing outside of the porta potty gem in this whole piece.

541759_327005787407954_1729755546_nPreparation

Before my first marathon, I was prepared. Seriously prepared. The day before was spent eating, drinking, breathing, living the runner lifestyle. I had my clothes ready, my fuel strategy planned, the cooler pack, the departure time scheduled – everything. I was in bed at a decent hour and woke alive and excited when my alarm went off the first time.

My first Ultra, not so much. I tried not to think about it most of the day. I worked late. I went to bed late. When the alarm went off, I hit the snooze – a lot. I wasn’t sure what clothes to wear. *Note – shorter runs, this doesn’t matter so much. When you are running long distances, it is a game changer. I didn’t know where all my gear was. I didn’t check the weather. I hadn’t packed a cooler nor had I planned the fuel for the day. I ended up grabbing a thing of peanuts and a half eaten box of cereal and leaving the house an hour late. Yeah, that works.

Because I procrastinated about the decision, I never moved into the place in my brain where that voice says, “Okay, we have a goal. Let’s get after it!”

Ledesma Sports Medicine Rails to Trail Ultra MarathonPerspective

What I should have questioned was my perspective. What is the focus? In truth, regardless of the situation, focus always seems to narrow itself down to “make it better.”

Being a wife, mother, professional, citizen, friend, family member, runner – whatever – the decision is a win if it makes whatever situation we are dealing with better.

Because I came at Saturday from the perspective of fear, defeat, doubt, and negative commitment, I refused to make a decision, I could not get prepared.

Had I remembered that fear, defeat, doubt, and negative commitment are all a product of perspective, I would have been able to come at it differently.

Saturday was an amazing reminder that the goal every day is to appreciate and learn from who I was yesterday, be the best I can possibly be today, and set myself on the path to be awesome again tomorrow. There is the perspective. That should be the focus.

The process should have been

  1. I am deciding today to focus on learning, excelling, and preparing
  2. I am prepared to either run 31 miles or encourage those who do. If it is a stellar day, I will be able to do both.

Perseverance

But, it wasn’t. I was mentally wonked out, physically under trained, and totally unprepared. I started anyway. I finished anyway. Because that’s what we do.

I wish it had been easier. I could have made it easier. I take responsibility for the wrong decisions and appreciate the lessons I have learned from them.

But, at the end of the day, I, you, we, still have heart. And that trumps it all.