Sunday, December 28, 2014

Run. All. The. Races.

By: Mackenzie Stallmann

A goal is defined as the object of a person's ambition or effort, an aim or desired result. At the end of 2013 I made a goal for 2014 that I wanted to run at least one race each month. To say that my goal was achieved would be an understatement. After completing 25 races in 2014, I crushed my goal!

There is something about running races that I love. The excitement of signing up and putting a set goal date on the calendar, the training plan that holds you accountable each run day, the push and drive to become the best you on race day, and the nervousness that occurs when the day finally arrives. Getting up early to travel the distance to the start line, lacing up those shoes that you have put many miles on, the comradery of other runners waiting for that anticipated "go" makes it all worth it as you cross that finish line and realize you just achieved another milestone!


What better way to kick off my goal than to sign up for a race on January 1st. The Commitment Day 5k started at 10 am.  It was a chilly morning so we stayed inside the vehicle until the last possible moment.  Either I'm really good at talking my friends into races or she is just as crazy as me, but Casey joined me to kick off the year in the best way. The race started at Soldier's Memorial as you will see that many races do.


After a night of major snow storms and freezing rain, we were waiting for a decision to be made on whether the Run For Chocolate would happen. It did, so we layered on multiple articles of clothing to run in 9 degree weather. The race was cut down from 4 miles to about a 5k but Casey, Jamie, and I still ran and earned the finish line party. They had chocolate candy along the way and a chocolate fondue bar at the finish line. Thankfully the after party was inside!

A destination race was next in line for the year. This was a race that Ashton, Casey and I had paid for almost 6 months in advance and had been planning and anticipating for so long. We were flying to Florida so that Casey and I could run the Disney Princess Half Marathon and Ashton would run the Enchanted 10k. We each chose a princess to replicate and I picked Jasmine. Tutu and all, I was ready for a magical experience! The race took us on an unbelievable journey through parks, passed Magical Kingdom, and with sightings of many Disney characters along the way. The option for pictures with all the characters were available but we just chose to save time and take selfies with them instead of waiting in line. Disney makes it easy to function at the finish line by giving you a bag for all your belongings and a box that includes all the finish line foods. The rest of our days were spend exploring the theme parks until the very last minute before we unfortunately had to board a plane back to reality.


The fourth race of the year was the Race to the Rocker. This was a point-to-point race that started in Cuba and finished at the World's Largest Rocking Chair. Four chilly miles with several of my friends. With pretty much an entirely flat course, my friend Nick and I paced each other and pushed each other to finish with a 9 min per mile average.


The Go! St. Louis organization is one that I'm very fond of, so signing up for the 5k was no question. The plan was that Ashton and I would run the Go! STL 5k on Saturday and then volunteer with my mom at the marathon/half on Sunday. By this time of the year I was already tired of wearing pants and long sleeves to race, but it was another chilly morning. It was a nice course that looped through Forest Park. Handing out medals to the finishers on Sunday was just as rewarding as crossing the finish line myself. Being able to give a medal to my cousin and to my chiropractor was pretty awesome. I love being on the other side of it all and experiencing what it takes to make race day possible.

The Color Run is a race I have done many times, but when anyone asks me to do a race I usually do not say no. Thankfully, it was not raining like it had in past times and wasn't scorching hot either. This race is essentially just a large party with a 5k added in. Sweatbands, tattoos, color powder, loud music, and dance parties make for a very colorful and fun experience.


Almost every race has a charity attached to it but this hometown race, The Ray Day 5k, held a little more meaning because the charity dealt with breast cancer. Breast cancer is very common and I've had relatives battle it. The survivor that started the race had a very touching survivor story that made it easy to want to help out by signing up. It was a 5k around Hermann and I was slightly afraid I might get lost if there were not very many people. I ended up finishing in the top 10 and 1st in my age group! I won a bottle wine and a Hungry Girl Cookbook for my age group win.

I was slightly hesitant to do the Rivertown Run 5k because I knew that I would be celebrating a friend's birthday the night before. It turned out to be a beautiful morning.  With a slightly rough ending to the course and little sleep from the night before, I still finished 3rd in my age group despite not feeling the best. It is not possible to have a race in Washington without some hills along the way.

I love a good holiday run because it usually allows me to fit in a race on a weekday. This past Memorial Day I decided to sign up on a whim for The Grape Run at Chandler Hill Vineyards. I knew absolutely nothing about this race or even actually where it was located. There was a 5k and 10k option, but reading about the hills I opted for the 5k. Man oh man were there some hills and some heat! Surprised as all get out I won 1st in my age group here as well. As anyone could guess the prize was wine! The finish line food was pretty fancy as well with a buffet of fruits, danishes, muffins, breads, champagne, and the normal water and Gatorade.


Everything about this race started out as a fantasy and quickly became reality thanks to some frequent flyer miles from a friend of my mothers.  My mom would travel with me and we would take an extended weekend trip to Boston!  As an avid reader of Runners World magazine, I always see so many amazing races and dream of traveling to them. This particular issue I was reading all about the Heartbreak Hill weekend. It's a race stocked with multiple distance races and even races for children and dogs.  I had read that you could do the 5k followed by the 10k, which they called the Five & Dime.  I was sold.  I did what I could in the cheapest way and next thing you know all the plans were set.  Back to back races were tiring but my spirits were so high with all the excitement that my only regret of the weekend was not doing the half marathon the next day to make it a Hat Trick as they called it. Highlights of the weekend were passing Shalane Flanagan on the 10k course, running Heartbreak Hill which is also in the Boston Marathon, and getting to see Boylston Avenue. A medal for each distance and one for doing both, I came home with three medals to hang on the wall.

The All-American 5k still stands as my fastest 5k to date. This was my third year running it and my finishing time was 24:59. That time was the exact same as the first year. I will break that time eventually on the point to point course that is known for its downhill elevation. A highlight of this finish line food is the ice cream you are given and this year it was Ted Drewes Frozen Custard!

My first Y Series run was probably the most memorable one I would run because it was the I Run 4 "Buddy Run".  I run all my races in honor of Colby but this one especially was for him. Since being paired with him on Marathon Monday in 2014, he has helped me see life in a different way. Almost all YMCA races finish on a hill and I didn't know that until this day. I received first in my age group and was able to send an extra medal to Colby as I do with all my other races. This was also my friend Josh's very first race ever. He and I were both signed up for a marathon in October and this race would actually kick off my training season.


The Fourth Of July is my favorite holiday and another chance to get in an extra race. This time I traveled to Kansas City to stay with my best friend and her husband and run the Stars N Stripes 5k. The finishers medal was about the size of my head! The course wasn't all that exciting as it just circled around a shopping complex, but it was a different experience for sure.


Honestly my main drive for signing up for the Fair 5 Miler was that my gym, Snap Fitness, was one of the main sponsors. By signing up I also received a Snap Fitness tech tee in addition to the one given from the race. Just like any other race in Washington, it was hilly. It was a foggy morning, but many of my new running friends were there to run as well. They offered fair foods after finishing which were pizza, ice cream, and beer.

KT 82 was a lottery drawing race that we had entered months before and found out we got into in February. It was a team of six, 18 legs, and a total of 82 miles. It took us about 14 hours and covered both technical trails, KATY trail, and some road running. It was one heck of an awesome and long day that I hope to do it again. My three legs got progressively easier and my average pace got faster as well. I loved the push that each leg gave me trying to do better than the one before it. They gave you almost a full meal at the finish line with two beers and wine tasting. We recieved finishers medals and finishers hats along with a t-shirt! We are in the lottery for 2015 already and keeping our fingers crossed.


Labor Day weekend I traveled to Kansas City again to run the Plaza 10k with Ashton and Nick. This race would begin the training for her first half marathon and my fifth. I was in the middle of marathon training, so two days before this race I had run 19 miles. My knees were kinda shot, so during this race I aimed to keep a comfortable pace, not pushing myself. It was a nice downhill course finishing in a shopping plaza with another large finisher medal.


This race kicked off four weeks of racing every weekend. My kind of party.  It began with the Run to Read 5k. The course was set by the Washington High School cross country team and the race started and finished at the local library.  The course went up one of the most dreaded hills in Washington. You were allowed to pick out a book after the finish. I won first in my age group. I don't recall there being too many people in my age group.

Next for Casey, Jamie and I, was the fourth annual Halloween 10k.  This year we decided to dress up as Brains, Beauty, and Brawn. The costume part of the race is always the favorite part and most years it's a last-minute decision.  It was a cold and dreary morning and misty the whole run, but the course around downtown STL is always a good one. Chocolate is always given at the finish line and this year there were full size candy bars. The pretzel roll was my favorite after-race treat. Beer is always given at this race too, but we were all too cold and wet to enjoy it. Unfortunately, we didn't win or even place in the costume contest. We will try again next year as this is a race that automatically goes on the schedule each year.

For three years now I have gifted myself a race entry into the Rock 'N' Roll race that takes place the weekend of my birthday. This year I decided to celebrate 26 years passed by running 26.2 miles on my 27th birthday! Months and months of running more miles than I ever could imagine came down to one morning. I had no set goals in mind but to just have fun and enjoy every step of way. The morning felt colder than expected, but sure did warm up fast and I could have dressed a little differently. When the corral I was in got to the start line I shed a few nervous tears. After a hug and some encouraging words from my mom telling me she loved me and I could do this, I was off. Everything felt good. I tried not to pay attention to my Garmin and just run by feel and keep it nice and slow to begin with. I was actually running below 10 min miles and it barely felt like I was moving. The people, cheering, and bands helped along the way. Next thing I knew, we were at the separation point of the course. I knew once I went right and everyone else went left there was no turning back! The crowds and cheer stations became fewer and farther between and my knees started hurting. At mile 17 I saw a friendly face. Stephanie, who I had only met for the first time ever two days before marathon day, was there with her husband cheering me on. She joined me for short bit asking how I was feeling. Just seeing her there and encouraging me put a little pep in my step. I was told that mile 20 - 22 were the hardest and I was determined to make it past that point. At mile 23 my pace had definitely slowed, my knees were aching fierce, and I realized I had been holding a tinkle since the start line. I decided I didn't care about finish time so I made a pit stop at an empty john. With very few people around there was no waiting in line. After that stop I knew my time might suffer but I did more running and walking intervals. The whole race my spirits were so high and my endurance felt wonderful. I never hit a wall and always carried a smile on my face. With about a half mile from the finish I caught up to Josh. I was sad to see him at first because that meant he didn't make his time goal but it was also amazing to see a friendly face. I assured him we were too close to the finish line to walk now and so we took off running together. We chatted all the way to finish line and just before crossing we saw our friends and my mom. It was the most rewarding thing to see all those people there cheering for us. As my feet crossed that finish line my hands went in the air and I yelled "yes...I did it" and tears streamed down my face. I allowed the kind volunteer to place the medal around my neck and posed for some pictures by the race photographers before handing off all my gear and going through the finish line for food. The pumpkin spiced cake Dunkin Donut that followed the race could never have tasted more delicious than after 26.2 miles.  The rest of the day was spent wearing a huge smile on my face.

With just a week having passed since my marathon, I wasn't sure I would actually be able to run the Trunk or Treat 5k at the YMCA. It was set to be a practice run of our GOTR race so I thought it would probably be a run/walk and I could muster through. I ended up running alongside Belle and we ran almost the entire thing. She did such an amazing job and pushed herself at just the right times! We were all so proud of the girls because each one of them finished with a smile on their face. We knew that on race day they were going to be ready. Belle finished with first place in her age group and because of her I finished with first in mine as well. Many of the other girls also placed. It was a wonderful evening.


After weeks of after school practices at Clearview Elementary it was time for the 3rd through 6th grade girls to put all their hard work to good use. It was very chilly morning but we all bundled up with just the right amount of clothes and headed to Soldier's Memorial. The girls were going to run the official Girls On The Run 5k that they had been waiting for and practicing. Once again all of the girls did so absolutely wonderful and we couldn't have been more proud. It was a nice course around downtown with people cheering loudly almost the entire way. Their support for those girls was so touching and the cheer stations were very encouraging. Following the race there was a very large dance party in the middle of the street, which was a perfect touch to add to the excitement.

This would be my first year participating in an official Turkey Trot and I chose the local 10k at the YMCA. I had wanted to run a turkey trot both of the years preceding, but at the time I didn't have running friends who wanted to join me and I was hesitant to do it myself. Also, I do not like the cold weather so getting out there alone was a stretch. But this year was different and there were so many people I knew who were participating! My heart jumped with excitement knowing I would get to do my first trotting on Thanksgiving Day. Another hilly course as expected, but my average pace was just at 9 minutes per mile and I was shocked. Was I actually getting faster or was it just a really good day? The finish line was on a hill which I don't particularly like but for some reason it makes me feel a little tougher having to climb that last hill to get to finish. With everyone watching, you can't help but try to push yourself a little harder to reach the top and then sigh with relieve as you cross that line. They had all the fixings of a turkey dinner afterwards and winners in their age group even won pies. I can't think of a better way to kick off another holiday.


Months before this day would arrive, my best friend Ashton had decided she wanted to run her very first half marathon. I was so extremely happy for her and I told her to pick one and I would be there right alongside her. She decided on the St. Jude Half Marathon in Memphis, Tennessee. Shortly after picking the race we decided we wanted to be St. Jude Heroes and commit to raising at least $500 for the hospital. Between the two of us, we raised over $1400 for St. Jude Children's Hospital. Although the entire week before the race I had a cold that turned into a sinus infection, I tried to keep my hopes up that when race day came I would feel 100%. Race day came and that didn't happen, but I changed my mindset and decided to just fully enjoy every minute of this race. The temperatures did not get as warm as we expected and the wind was blustery. We made the best of everything and enjoyed all of the spectators. There were more people on this course than in any other race I've done. I shed a few tears multiple times out of joy for running, excitement and proudness for my friend Ashton, and for all the children that we were helping out and the children we saw along the way. It was the most inspirational and moving race I've done.  I'd love to be able to do this race every year. The finish line was stocked with lots of goodies including pizza, Krispy Kreme donuts, soup, iced tea, beer, and the normal banana, Gatorade, and granola bars.

My last race of the year would be a new one for me. It was a 12k and I had never done one of those before. This race was the first weekend of a series of races that occur every other weekend as part of The Frostbite Series. Casey, Tyler, Danielle, and I drove down that morning a tad early to pick up our bibs. Danielle was going to do the 3k and the rest of us, the 12k. The course consisted of two loops around Forest Park with lots of hills that needed to be conquered twice and came out to be about 7.6 miles. I started out super fast for me and worried about the rest of the miles but was able to hold a decent pace and finish in 1:09. It was another chilly morning which seems to be a reoccurring situation here but we rewarded ourselves for a job well done with Strange Donuts afterwards.

As the year draws to a close, I pause for a minute or two and reflect on the year that has passed with a huge smile of accomplishment. There is only so much time I can enjoy the completion of this year's goals before the clock strikes midnight and it becomes 2015. I can't help but ask myself:
What are my goals for 2015? Will I meet or exceed them as I did this year?

Further, I ask you: Did you meet your 2014 goals? Do you have goals for 2015?

Mackenzie Stallmann is a DRC member and avid racer in Washington, Mo.  
This is her collection of bibs and medals from 2014.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

All I want for Christmas

With Christmas right around the corner, we thought it was time again to reach out to our DRCers and ask what you want for Christmas! Thank you for sending in your responses, there are some great ideas in here, and some funny ideas-- enjoy!

Well there you have it, what DRC wants for Christmas!  Keep your fingers crossed that Santa will bring you your wish, whether it be a new "snot rag", a trip to Hawaii, or new running shoes. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A year in the balance

A year in the balance  
By: Meghan McCarrick

We live our lives out of balance.  

You will take that statement one of 2 ways.  

I tend to think that balance is mediocre and monotonous, but also calm and rewarding even in the case of struggle for it.  People from different cultures, of different sexes, with different belief systems, they all fall somewhere along the balance quest spectrum.  Give me routine!  No, give me adventure!

Goal setting can really turn balance on its ear.  Clear headiness.  Panic.

This year, I had running goals.  I assumed that they would keep me on track.  I am impatient.  As I set goals, they became too small. 

Running is ME dependent.  Balanced or not, running is physically AND mentally challenging where so many other facets of life are not.  I am healthy “enough” and driven “enough” and available “enough”.  But, I also found that I am balanced OR imbalanced enough.  

February 2014 rolled around and I realized I was keeping a modest but above average weekly mileage count.  A few 30 mile weeks in ass cold Missouri winter weather had strengthened my character enough to decide it was time to look at setting a 2014 goal. I set my sights on a 50 mile week.  I made this plan known to those close to me on a Sunday.  On a Tuesday, I heard from a childhood friend that he was eyeing hundreds in 2014.  I didn’t even know what that meant.  In all honesty, I still don’t and possibly never will.  I was out for a short run and turned it into 11 miles.  By that Saturday, I only needed 6 more to have my 50 mile week.  That was in March.  

I basked in the glory of finishing that goal, kind of, and then realized I was screwed for the rest of the year because I had rushed it.  I chose an admirable 1000 mile year.  I was already on pace for it but couldn’t account for illness or injury or “other”.  1000 miles came and went this past summer.  Actually, it went with a bang.  In that short amount of time, I had found my running group and they joined me to run those last countable.  But, then, that too was done.

I ran my longest mileage day of around 32 miles.  I was joined once again by my favorite running companions.  That day was marked by a quick, “ok, well, we did that” afterward.

I decided that 1500 was a number I could hit before the new year.  That number also came and went and I didn’t even acknowledge it this time.  I ran my first “official unofficial” race in the last 12 years (I ran a 5k once in my early 20’s), mid November.  That run was difficult at a 50k distance with a hard course here in Missouri, but I still managed it well.  I ran my first “official official” 50 mile race in early December, also difficult, also fine.  

Then, when I looked for that same grasp and desire and deep seated mouth-on-the-reins feel, it just wasn’t there any more.  Where was my balance?  Or imbalance?  

I am 23 miles from an 1800 total for the year.  I feel fairly positive that will happen.  But it isn’t really a goal. I am scared to think what I might feel to just be done…done for real.  So, instead of running today, I typed this, with 20 miles scheduled for tomorrow.

I can’t believe what I have accomplished, but I also don’t feel like it amounts to much.  I know what I felt in the last moments of completing those goals but there was not a sense of finish, more of a “what’s next?”.  And now, I don’t know.  What do goals afford you in the end?  
A nice dinner?  A new pair of jeans?  Bragging rights for the week?

What do we do when we overcome an intangible?  Goal, meet balance…on ear.

This is not meant to be depressing, just an account, harnessed by some questions I have been contemplating going into next year.  My spectrum might appear inherently negative with disillusionment on one end and breaking my life on the other, but it really isn’t; I know there is a sweet spot in there.  I already have some goals for 2015.  And, I already have some fears about the balance.  

Simply because, we live our lives out of balance.

My 2014 running goal was a 50 mile week.  This is seconds after the completion of a 50 + mile day.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Group Run

By Meghan McCarrick

Originally Posted in Terrain Magazine

I mean, really, who gets to have this much fun as an adult? 

Sure, everybody likes a solo run. Hit play, tune out the surroundings, wave to fellow runners…if you feel like it. Or blow past them quickly enough that you don’t even have to acknowledge anyone else is out there with you at all. Just me and my mountain or dirt road or four-lane highway. Solo run, I got love for ya. But, there’s a need for that running camaraderie, that pack mentality. To be able to hit a rock wrong and warn the person behind you instead of feeling like an idiot when you look around to check that no one saw.

Group run. Just saying it invokes the anticipation and thrill of stretching your legs, feeling out your leader, playing your roll within the tribe. Stretching it out in the beginning, talking about the latest conquests, hitting those first (often uncomfortable) steps as a unit, warming it up, pulling out the stops, helping each other along the way, racing to the end, and finally a finish of delirious contentment. Runners know how to tap into that childlike bewilderment and that untethered push, where we don't feel pain or limitation or obligation.

Group run. Your chance to feel whole.

When I think, “Let me sing to you the song of my people,” I hear grunts, run steps, slipping gravel, rustling leaves. I schedule these runs for myself as much as anyone else. Some runs are on challenging singletrack trails, some on winding dirt-packed forest floor, a few along rail-to-trail and once a month, through town. I cherish the opportunity to have access to invite “my people.”

Turnout is typically between eight and 16, and the consensus is always that “this was the best time ever.” It doesn’t matter if we have a fall along the way or gear failure or sore muscles or a run-in with a wild beast. Always, the sense of tribe is the end result. Your filter is removed when you push yourself physically, and what you’re left with is honesty. “This is as fast as I go.” “This is as far as I go.” “I’m going to throw up.” The people I run with probably have better insight as to who I am and what I can take at the core than members of my own family.

A group run is a thing of stress and worry for me a few days or hours beforehand. Not only do I feel jacked up by the whole process, I simultaneously feel tired and anxious and kind of like I’d rather do something else. Weird stuff. Within the first few seconds of hopping into the car, I decompress and feel that everything is right with the world. I leave the stresses of home behind and realize THOSE were the weights that made me think the run was a problem. I sometimes have to crack a window just to keep sweat at bay. I crank up the stereo and think over whatever gear I might need to pull out of my ever-ready run bag, a fixture in the trunk, when I arrive. As I drive closer, the music is turned down, and I find supreme focus.

My dedication to these runs never ACTUALLY waivers, but it’s very much just a piece of a clustered life. When I schedule, prepare and even struggle getting my shoulders through the teeny-tiny openings of a sports bra (you know what I’m talking about), these are all just more “means to my ends.” The kids’ voices never stop, the need to have everything prepared for myself AND for abandoning the household, those are all weights that I get the opportunity to run out from under for that hour or two.

Group run. Where you shed the preconceived notion of individual and find your place amongst a mass. I think a lot of people race for this very reason. That united feeling of fatigue and exhilaration is unlike anything you can experience otherwise. So, group run. Go find your people. On a whim, albeit a strong one, I found my people at a trailhead in a strange place just before dark. I wasn’t sure if I’d even be able to keep up. It has changed my adult life. I never had this kind of fun at a bar or home watching TV or even vacationing. Group runs give me “self recharge” and primal recognition to my part in the whole.

Channel the inner ninja.  Stealth runs, in the dark, in the woods, dependent on your group, there's nothing like it.

If you don’t run, start. If you do run, group run. At least once a month.

Meghan McCarrick lives in Washington, Mo., eats copious amounts of kale and runs 30 to 50 miles a week, usually with her dog, Magpie.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Seriously?! A race report for the Blue Springs 50/50

By Andy Smola

I want to start by saying the people I spoke/interacted with were all very nice. Anything read in this report is not a personal attack on anyone. There were a lot of problems with this race that could be easily remedied and some ethical questions that should probably be addressed. The biggest question is why these things have continued to occur since the race has been around for multiple years.
I had a feeling things weren't going to go well from the beginning. Maybe I'm a little odd in the way I do things, but I'm generally conscientious of other people's inconvenience. So when the check-in was located in a corner booth at Fazoli's, my radar was already on high alert. Who would create such a bogged down process. At a Fazoli's. In a corner booth. Someone unorganized, that's who. It didn't help that the t-shirt was cotton and was not race or distance specific. Since this would be my first attempt at "real" ultramarathoning, I had a higher expectation. However, despite my initial thoughts (and after getting reassuring messages from Meghan), I decided it wasn't a big deal. Not only was it only $35, I wasn't doing the event for a t-shirt, just my own curiosity and a stepping stone to further future distances. 

Race Day/The Start
I woke up at 3am to eat and planned to go back to sleep. Yeah right. I was up watching comedy on Netflix. Aziz Ansari cracks me up and always chills me out before a race. I headed to the race start and got my gear together. I was ready in plenty of time. At about 10 minutes to start time, the Race Director, Lou, walks around asking for people's names so he can see who is starting at the early (optional) start time. 
"Make sure I get your name if you're starting at 6. You have about two minutes," Lou announces. 4 or 5 people come running up (those people are at every race I've ever been to) to make sure they are checked off. As we are standing there, Lou looks at his watch and says, "Uh oh, it's after 6. Go." For a split second we all look around confused, but then realize that's the "start." Off into the darkness we head. At the first intersection I get to, I'm lost. I look at the people behind me and they say, "we thought you knew where you were going." With no clear markings near or on the road, we begin looking around until someone points to the other side of the road. Off into the darkness we head again.
My plan was to keep myself at a 9 minute pace for most of the race. I had lofty ideas of an 8 hour finish, but figured a reasonable estimate would be a sub-9 hour. A 10 minute pace would be 8 hours 20 minutes. I thought that would give me a lot of cushion as I ventured out into the 19 unknown miles. 
There was a warning on the FAQ section of the BS 50/50 website (last updated in 2011) that said if you started at 6am, the first few aid stations would not be set up. I wouldn't see the first one until mile 8 (every "4" miles), but they only had a couple of bottles of water the guy had brought with him. I had my vest on so I wasn't concerned. I stopped anyway to fill up my smaller water bottles that were filled with dry Perpetuem. 
As I headed out, a group of three were right in front of me so I stayed with them. They were holding pretty steadily between 9 and 9:30 pace, so I ran with them. Two guys running the 50 miler and one gal running 50k. This is where I met Russell. 

The Mistake
Russell and I started talking. As it turns out, that would not be a very good idea for either of us. We learned a lot about each other as the miles ticked by. We had become separated from the others and were blazing a path to superstar glory. At the turn around and the aid station that followed, there was no check in or anyone to make sure no one cut the course. 
As I headed back to the start/finish line, I ate my peanut butter and honey sandwich. Russell and I began discussing our pace. We were holding an 8:30 most of the way back. We kept trying to tell each to slow down, but in the end we got lost in conversation.
After a quick stop at mile 22, we headed out only to realize the mistake we made. Our previously effortless pace was now much more difficult. By mile 25, Russell said he needed to walk. We did, but then I headed out. I was determine to hold the pace. I made my way to the next turn around. Here I found an unmanned "aid station." A water jug. No one taking names or checking numbers. I filled up my water bottle and headed out. I met Russell a 100 yards from the turn around. He was doing well. We were both tired. At mile 27, the first wave of cramps began to hit. Hamstrings. I was forced to walk and stretch, but I kept moving. Once they let up, I would start running again, determined to hold at least a 9 minute pace. 
Instead of slowing down as I seized up, I kept my pace to make up for my walking. I was back at the 50k start/finish line. Personal 50k records of 4:47 are not good when you have 19 more miles. Despite my bib having "50 miler" on it, the photographer stopped me at the line and ask to take a "finisher" picture. I looked at him and said, "I still have 19 to go." I change my shoes and started out again. 
The Unknown
I was struggling. I was hurting. I was walking. After a half mile, an older man and his pacer passed me. I mumbled to myself, "there's going to be a lot more that pass me at the rate I'm going." I waited a bit and started running myself. I was really in bad shape. The intercostal muscles of my ribs were very angry and screamed in pain when I tried to take a deep breath. As if that was not enough, my back hurt from my vest. Not from bouncing or rubbing, but from just being there. Any jostling was difficult to tolerate. My hamstrings continued with their threats of cramping. I was in a bad place.
As I started my walk/run method, I noticed the man and his pacer were walking in front of me. I passed him. I walked. He passed me. He walked. As we went back and forth, I realized I would not be able to stay in front of him if I ran based on how I felt. I needed to start doing so mechanically. I started walking for 1/20 of a mile and running for a 1/10 of a mile. I don't know how long I kept that up, at some point I looked back and there was no trace of the man and his pacer.
At mile 39, I arrived at the first manned aid station. I walked in and the volunteers were laying on the picnic table seats talking about husbands and relationships. They asked if I needed anything, but didn't make any attempt to get up. I asked for a water refill and one of them stood. I took off my pack and made several attempts to open the bladder, as the attendant stood and watched with a full pitcher of water. I was hot, dehydrated and miserable. It was difficult to focus on the clasp, but I finally opened it. She filled the bladder and I hurried to get it back on in fear I would be caught by my pursuer. Before I donned my vest, the two ladies were back to discussing domesticated life in the burbs. 
My run/walk method continued, but became more walk than run. About 20 steps is all I could muster before I stopped to catch my breath. I tried to eat too. But everything I tried was tasteless, spitting out chocolate powerbar. I might as well be eating dirt. The perpetuem was like drinking warm strawberry-banana flavored vomit. The only thing satisfying was water. Unfortunately, it was becoming more difficult to find. All the unmanned aid stations were empty or near empty jugs of water. 
By mile 40, I was looking around every corner for the turn around. It all look so familiar. "It's around this bend, I know it," I said to myself. But as I looked around every tree, I became more deeply disappointed. Nothing but dry dusty trail.
Finally, I made it to the turn around (again, unmanned with no one to make sure you didn't cut the course). A small family was walking by it as I made it there. I felt a little weird passing them, only to turn around and follow them. So I started running. I WAS in a race after all. All I managed was the standard 20 steps before resuming the walk portion.
At about a half mile from the turn around I spotted my pursuer. Running. He's a full mile behind me, but I was sure it wouldn't be long before he would catch me. I tried to increase my walk/run intervals but could not bear it. I even began thinking it was all in my head. That I had plenty of energy and I just hadn't been trying hard enough because I got so used to walking. I started running and looked down. My watch showed an 8:30 pace. It seemed easier. I thought I might just pull this thing off. I thought I just got my second wind. 
10 seconds later I was stopped, bent over trying to release the cramps in my legs and gasping for air. 
Guess not.
Another half mile passed and I found Russell. He had sat down on a concrete barrier. I stopped to talk to him. He was cramping, walking and miserable, but still going. He said he gave up running and is just going to walk the rest of the way. I told him I would see him at the finish and to keep going. I needed to keep going too, sure the man and his pacer would catch me at any moment.
I made it back to the aid station and refilled my water again. They asked me if I wanted food. All they had were some doughnuts and bananas. I sat down and ate a banana. They asked me how close the others were. I said I didn't know, got up and headed out again.
It continued to get hotter. My spongy cooling rag became dry and stiff. I tried to soak it in water at the last unmanned aid station, but there was no water. I continued on, frequently looking behind me to see the man who would most certainly catch me. At one point I walked backwards for quite a while to see if I could catch a glimpse of him. He never appeared. 
At some point in the last 4 miles I broke down emotionally. I was miserable. I couldn't see going any further. The longer I walked, the longer it would take. I tried to run but still didn't make it more than 20 steps. I felt hopeless. 
And then I laughed out loud.
I was crying, but no tears welled up in my eyes. I had the horrible "cry face," but none of the water works. I was so dehydrated that no tears would fall. How ridiculous! It was then that it occurred to me: I was almost done. That I had come this far. That this, too, would eventually end. I pulled myself together, walking faster and, while it was still only 20 step, continued to run.
The Finish
I was within a quarter mile and I could see the finishing area. I looked over my shoulder again, sure that the man would pleasantly say hello as he jogged by. No man. No pacer. No hello.
As I closed in on the last 1/10 of a mile, I told myself I was going to run it in. It was downhill, I told myself. It was the finish and no respectable finisher would be caught walking to the finish, I told myself.
I walked. I didn't even try to run.
I came to my glorious moment. My pains and breakthroughs all coalescing in the final finishing moment. The cheers and bells would be deafening, even if it were only coming from two people. The moment captured in time with a photo that I would look at and say to all those who would listen, "that was when I finished my 50 mile run."
"What distance did you run?" was what I heard. "50 miles," I replied. 
"How far are the others behind you?"
"I don't know."
That was it. No picture. No grand finish.
I sat on the curb. Exhausted, but happy that it was over. The sun baking my skin. No shade. I just sat there. Then I heard, "let me get a picture of you." Lou pulled out a little, and ancient, digital camera that may have been an instamatic (still haven't seen that picture).
The other man asked if I needed anything. "Water," I said. He brought over a Dixie cup and poured me some water. I drink it. He asked if I wanted some Gatorade. "Sure,"I replied. He walks to his van and pulls out a gallon jug filled with red fluid. He pours me the Gatorade. I realize it's warm once I hold it in my hand, but I don't care. I drink it. 
It's not warm. It's hot.
It settles down into my stomach. Hot, sugary fruit punch. As the seconds tick by, my mouth floods with saliva. I'm going to hurl. I realize I cannot get up and do not want spew all over my shoes, body or on anything close to me, because I will have to sit next to it for a while.
"Can you get me a bag?  I'm gonna puke." I say out loud.
A lady returns with a trash bag and I realize it may be that I just need to get blood back to my head. I lay back on the hot grass taking deep breaths. The sensation passes and I sit back up. 
Lou is standing in front of me with cardboard box. At this point I think that I am the first person from the 50 miler that has come in. He says, "here's a prize in this box, you can take your pick," and sets the box on the plastic bin next to me. Solar powered dancing flowers and one Frankenstein. 
Of course I take the Frankenstein.
I take off my shoes and socks, cramping the whole time. I start grabbing my gear and walk stiffly to my car. I begin wondering how I'm going to drive if I keep cramping so bad, but continue to gather my things. I sit in the car with the air blasting and my calf muscles threatening to cramp. It's 91 degrees and I'm staring at Frankenstein.
I'll never run this far again, I tell myself.
I made it back to my friend's home, took a shower and ate some sugary food. Nothing tasted good, so I didn't have more than a bite. I laid down on his couch and tried to nap, but I was violently awoken by leg cramps. "I'll never do this again," I repeatedly muttered. 

By Monday, I was better, not 100%, but emotionally I was in a much better place. I was willing to entertain the "possibility" of another Ultra. By Tuesday, moving better and by Wednesday I was running again, shocked at the difference only three days had made.
Race Summary/Recommendation
There are obvious problems with this race. At the top of my concerns are the ethical issues of not having checklists of names to make sure no one cuts the course. Not that anyone would do such a thing, but who would know if someone did? For all I know, the person who actually got 1st place never made it to the 50 mile turn around.
The aid stations were a joke. The volunteers were not helpful. And the overall support for the 50 milers was nonexistent. No medals or buckles. No race specific t-shirts. Other distances might have had a better experience, but the 50 miler sucked! It seems like it was an afterthought. My recommendation would be for them to drop the 50 mile distance. The 5 people that registered seemed more like a pain in the ass to the RD and volunteers. 
I would not recommend this race to anyone.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

DRC Expressions of Gratitude

I am thankful for the run, it takes me to the places where I find myself. - Meg McCarrick

Running took on a new meaning for me this year. On March 7, my dad suffered a massive heart attack. (Ironically, I was on a run at the time; my husband had to track me down on my usual route.)  Eight months, four hospitalizations, a bout of congestive heart failure, a triple bypass and a defibrillator implantation later, Dad is on the mend, but considerably weaker than before.  On every run since then, I have taken time to be thankful for my good health and the ability to run, because I am so fortunate to have that physical ability when so many others don't.  - Jill Berron

I am grateful for the knowledge running has given me; two years ago, I didn't know when something felt "off" or wrong, but now with the strength I've gained, I know how my body should function and feel. It's awesome! - Rae Hedlund

2014 was the worst year of my life.

Everything I thought I was and thought I had, turned upside down when my marriage unexpectedly ended. Running gave me a way to meet some basic needs. A place to be. Time to think. Positive results. And enough exertion to be able to sleep at night. But within a few months, running gave me more than that. It led me to other runners… many in Daily Run Club, and a few more in other groups. Other runners who provided social interaction, and a friendly ear or word of advice. Other runners who lifted me and pointed me down the right path – figuratively and literally. Other runners who made me understand that I was in control of more than I thought I was… and at the same time, far less alone.2014 was the worst year of my life - briefly. But no more. Someday, I may even see 2014 as the best year of my life. And for the sport I love - and my running friends I love even more - I give thanks. - Frank Evans

I am thankful for so many things that running has given me:
1. Running has allowed me to accomplish so many things I never thought my body could endure 
2. Running has taken me on multiple adventures too see new states.
3. Running has brought wonderful people into my life who have become close friends...almost family! - Mackenzie Stallmann

I am thankful for running because it makes me feel so good about myself. Pushing myself to the limit & achieving goals are such an amazing feeling. 
Running makes me a better wife, mom & friend! - Jillian Van Leer

As I pondered on all of the things I am thankful for in regards to running (group runs, crunching leaves on fall days, the finish line of a race, etc) , what I realized is what I am really thankful for is running. I know it sounds so cliché, but I love that I can chose to go out and run. That I am healthy and can do what many people can't or don't do.  I am thankful that I can run !! - Shelly Weber

I am thankful for my running friends who will wake up at 3am
 just so I can run and get my miles in and I don't have to run alone! - Ximena Kriete

I have been running consistently for ~6 years and I learn something new about myself and running every year. Running is my escape. My escape from anger, sadness, worries, stress and life in general. For most of those 6 years, I was a solo runner- my dog has been my running partner for 3 of those 6- but since joining DRC I have made so many running friends and I am extremely grateful to this group for bringing them into my life. I also am thankful for those same friends for challenging me to run faster, harder and on different terrain. - Andrea Brueggemann

I am thankful that running gave me another way to work out, but mostly that it is an activity that my 13 year-old daughter, and now my 11 year-old son, have joined me in. We have fun at events together! Also for DRC for motivating me now that I'm not training for a race. - Bob Sander

I'm thankful that I am able to run with my son and that he loves to go for runs! And I'm also thankful for my running friends who push me to do distances I never thought I'd be able to do! - Tegan Schmidt