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

It Pays to be Kind

They are live!

If you didn’t see my kindrunner ambassador announcement last week, you can check it out now so that you are all up to speed. There is a great video over there so it is well worth and quick jump back.

Today I am pleased to announce that when you clicky clicky the kindrunner link, you no longer get the “COMING SOON” page. They are ready for YOU!

I can also tell you all the cool stuff I couldn’t tell you before about the organization.

kindrunnerI usually save the best for last, but I am going to put my favorite part of the program right up front! Send in your old running shoes and get $10 off your next pair!

Kindness Cash Rewards (KCR) Program – Keep your old shoes out of the garbage and landfills!

Upon receipt of your footwear order, place your old shoes into the KindRunner shipping box and place the pre-paid return label on the box for shipment back to us.  Upon receipt of the label, we will scan the bar code and place the KCR onto your account for future use.  Each return label (whether it contain one pair or 4 pairs of shoes) is worth $10 KCR per new shoes purchased (5 pairs purchased on that order, you can earn up to $50 KCR) or credits towards future purchase. The KCR can be used to purchase ANYTHING that kindrunner sells and will never expire.

YES!

logo-shippingBut you will spend that on shipping, right? WRONG!

Free 3 Way Shipping –

1 – Free shipping of your order to you
2- Free shipping of any returns for any reason
3 – Free shipping of your donated shoes back to us for re-purposing with Soles 4 Souls or The More Foundation Group

logo-confidentrunnerKnow for certain which shoes you want and really could not care less about the return shipping? Confident Runner Pricing waives the Free Return Shipping but offers the shoe at a below retail price. Shipping of product to you is still free, as is the return shipping of donated shoes for Kindness Cash Rewards Program.

logo-returnsNot certain what you like? kindrunner has an Easy 365 returns policy

You have 365 days to return any product, so long as it is in its original packaging and in its original condition.  If you are injured and unable to use the shoe, if your doctor wants you in a different model because of orthotics, no worries… no questions asked!

There are also great product reviews, the blog is up and running, and I hear there is a rumor of free socks for life if you get there fast enough!

And just to remind you about how wonderful the vision behind this group is, the mission

At Kindrunner we have 3 main goals:

1. Make running as fun, enjoyable, and injury and stress free as possible for all of our customers

2. Reduce the running community’s impact on the environment as much as we possibly can

3. Help people in need all around the world by repurposing used running shoes

Here is a recap on all the ways you can support and connect with kindrunner

Have a great run!!

Introducing kindrunner…and my First Ambassadorship!

There is no doubt that interwebs are full of nutty folks doing less than honorable things. Dissenters of blogger journalism and social media inter-connectivity rightly identify some of the ugly nasty that happens when folks can remain safely anonymous behind their computer screens and promote ugly from a keyboard.

However, it has been my experience that what you surround yourself expands. The past 2 years I have focused on surrounding myself with folks who are determined to be better – both for themselves and the community at large.

Expansion has happened again.

I have had the recent opportunity to connect with some super supportive runner folks over at Running Bloggers. Caroline, the membership and sponsorship coordinator of the group, mentioned an organization called “kindrunner.” With a name like that, of course I was curious.

Joe was quick to respond to my inquiry and a pleasure to speak with. It took little more than the length of two twitter posts to realize this was an organization I could support.

At Kindrunner we have 3 main goals:

1. Make running as fun, enjoyable, and injury and stress free as possible for all of our customers

2. Reduce the running community’s impact on the environment as much as we possibly can

3. Help people in need all around the world by repurposing used running shoes

As a mommy runner who didn’t discover the sport until her 30’s, it speaks to the camaraderie and support. As a mom, the importance of being a good steward and helping both naturally, locally, and globally. As an athlete who is always pushing the envelope, the availability of great new products.

I wanted to know what I could do to help.

kindrunnerearth

Kindrunner is like any other start up in that it needs you to know about it…and it needs you to understand it, love it support it, and tell your friends about it.
I can do that. I am hoping you will too!

The official launch date is June 1st. But don’t wait! Here is what you can do today (and it really isn’t anything different than you do now anyway).

kindrunner

  1. Check out kindrunner.com. Sign up for the newsletter. Ask a question if you have one. Get a teeny bit excited.
  2. Follow kindrunner on twitter. Maybe hook them up with a #FF or RT for good measure.
  3. YouTube tickle your fancy? Of course they are there.
  4. And of course a kindrunner facebook like would be awesome. Maybe even share the page while you are there.
  5. Coolio Instagram pics are starting to come in too!’

And that’s really it…until June 1st…

OH!! And don’t forget to start pulling out those old running shoes…you are gonna really like what happens next!

Merrell Christmas to All and to All a Good Trail Run

Christmas came a little early this year to this runner. Not that couldn’t have waited until Christmas. I totally could have. Unfortunately, my training couldn’t.

Thanksgiving morning I had the opportunity to meet up with some run buddies at Rails to Trails for a pre-turkey binge run. This was my first time running the trail in my beloved Vibram Bikilas. The small gravel and dirt portions were fine. The rocky sections – not so much. I had to start considering whether or not these were, in fact, the only shoe I would ever need.

Understand that barefoot and minimalist running changed a lot about who I am as a runner and a person. It was the catalyst into a more natural approach to life in general. It solved my knee and hip issues and shaved my time. Actual barefoot running is one of the most fun things I have done in a long time. Talk about feeling 8 years old again! Couple that with the fact that the last time I ran in “regular” shoes, I got shin splints (a condition I am still dealing with).

2012-07-23 06.52.57I am not interested in “real” shoes.

However, I am not unreasonable. I am not interested in rock bruises either.

Then came the run out at Savage Island. This is a beautiful run…but it is rocky in sections. The choice was clear. If I was going to run a 50k in January on rough terrain, I needed new shoes now.

So where in Richmond Hill does a runner go for new shoes? Georgia Game Changers of course! Sandra and I went through a couple of options and I narrowed it down to two. Awesomely enough, Sandra has a BOX OF ROCKS in the store so that I could get a real idea of the differences. The best method I found of choosing between the two was to wear each of them at the same time time.

Merrell Mix MastersI preferred the other shoe as it was thinner and closer in feel to my Bikilas. However, the whole reason I needed new shoes was protection from rough terrain. And the Merrell Mix Masters in that Island Green was an awesome looking shoe!

After logging a few runs in them I can tell you this – I bought a great shoe.

In all honesty, I do not like then as much as my Vibrams. However, I never expected to. While they only outweigh the Bikilas by less than 5 ounces, they feel heavy and clunky on my feet. This feeling has decreased a bit over time. InjinjiI have also found that wearing the Injinji socks gives a little normalcy to my feet even when I am not in the Vibrams.

However, the benefits clearly overcome this as they perform beautifully for the purpose for which I bought them.

They have a slight 4mm drop from heel to toe. This is small enough so that I don’t feel my stride or strike affected a whole lot by the change. The first mile or so takes a bit more concentration, but it settles in quickly.

I can feel the ground without feeling the ground. The sole is thick enough to protect the balls of my feet from the rougher surfaces. However, it is still thin enough that I can feel the ground and make stride corrections naturally.

My time still tracks with my Bikilas. I don’t have to slow down or get nervous while crossing the tougher terrain.

Look out Ledesma Rails to Trails 50k. I am geared up now 🙂

Other notes

  • shoe costs around $100 and comes in a variety of colors (none as awesome as the Island Green though)
  • I usually wear a size 9. I bought a 10. It feels big for about the first mile and then settles in fine. My foot feels able to spread, stretch, and expand. And…I haven’t lost a toenail yet!
  • I have tried different varieties of Injinji socks. Midweight has been my go to in the Bikilas but the thinner ones work fine in the Merrells
  • When in doubt, ask Sandra
  • The Ledesma Rails to Trails run offers 5k and 25k options as well so click on over and sign up. You can do a 5k. If you just ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half, you can do a 25k. If you did the full, the 50k is only a few more miles. Let’s go!
  • I have received no compensation for any of the products listed in this article (but I am totally open to the idea 😉 )