Friday, April 17, 2015

Suffering & Happy

By Rae Hedlund

When you see people simultaneously suffering and happy, you begin to wonder what you’re missing out on. At least, that’s how it was for me. When I first began running, I thought the marathon  was the ultimate race, a distance that seemed out of my reach; unattainable, but a worthy aspiration.

Then I began hearing about races much longer than that. I read Born to Run and realized the world of running was much more vast than I had imagined. Again, it all seemed unattainable. When I joined DRC, I was about to begin training for my first marathon, which was exciting and nerve-wracking! As I began meeting other DRCers, it was amazing to see how confident they they were in my abilities! It was reassuring in a way. During this training, I tried to figure out what kind of “fuel” worked for me: Gu, Honey Stingers, Nuun, etc. I thought I had it down, though those things bothered my stomach at times.

Well, as I’ve previously written, my marathon happened. If you want to read about it, check it out here. About a month after this, I accompanied Meghan to her first 50-mile. It was a distance I knew she could run and I was excited to see her crush it! Watching her and all the others run that distance made me wonder what it was like: they looked exhausted when they were done, but nearly all of them were smiling! What?!

Let me pause here to say, I began my running journey when Maverick was six weeks old. My goal was to run a half-marathon before he turned one, which I completed. Since the next distance (the marathon) started with a two, I figured I should run one of those before he turned two! So this crazy goal perpetuated into this year, the year my son turns three. This is why I signed up for Ozark Foothills.

By this time in my running journey, I had met some incredible distance runners, many of whom willingly shared their advice and wisdom with me. From these people, I learned how to take uphills and downhills, that it’s okay to walk/hike, that eating real food was okay, and even found a drink that I loved! A little bit of everything. It took some time to figure out what foods my stomach liked, but it was worth the trial and error process!

As my race drew near, DRC had the pleasure of going to the Skunk Run. Stacey and I ran together for 27 miles, my longest run at that time; her encouragement and advice along the way helped me feel more confident in my ability to complete my 50k. Then, about two weeks before my race, our house was hit with a second round of a stomach bug! That whole week, I struggled through sickness, worrying about missing that week of running before my taper. Panic ensued. Friends talked me back down. I got back into running and found that the forced rest had made my legs feel awesome! Okay. Another boost of confidence: I was as ready as I could be!

The morning of the race arrived and I was grateful to ride there with Shelly and Molly. The first loop went much better than I expected, even with a small “detour” of about a half-mile. I was able to see friends along the route (at the aid stations mainly), and coming in from the first loop was exciting! With help from Meghan, Andy, and a few (awesome) others, I was back out on the trail as quickly as possible. Let’s just say the second loop was much slower than the first, but I really enjoyed (most) of it; I never doubted that I would finish. The aid stations kept me going with oranges, fig bars, and Coke (which I never drink but craved that day!).

Yeah that's a smile during the race! It helped that I knew the photographer, so seeing him was a treat as I ran! Credit: Denzil Jennings

That second loop was a struggle. There were points where my legs felt like they weren’t moving. The climbs were rough, the downhills more challenging than I was used to, and I was just plain tired. But I kept going. I kept going because I was, weirdly, having a great time. I was driven, determined to get to the finish line in the best time my body could manage. And I did!

After the finish, this was my "Meghan, I swear I can do this myself!" face.
My “burst” of energy for the home stretch was probably much more of a limp, and I’m pretty sure I fell into Meghan’s arms (sorry for the sweatiness, Meg!). Meghan helped take off my pack, Andy got me a chair and helped me get my shoes off and got me a beer, and Stacey kept snapping pictures. It was amazing having friends there at the end, it really felt like I was celebrating the accomplishment! In the end, I know I suffered and was deep down in that suffering. But I was happy, so incredibly floored at what I had done. I’m still floating on air a bit and can’t wait to see what comes next.

My "sprint" to the finish!

"I think I'm losing a toe nail!"

One of my favorite pictures. Meghan said, "You did it!"

Getting to cheer on other runners as they finished was so awesome!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Race (Review) to the Rocker

By Jill Berron

I had been hearing fellow DRC members talk about what a great run Race to the Rocker was, so I was really excited to sign up for it this year. It’s a unique race, a point-to-point course with easy, rolling hills that runs down Old Route 66 (they close the highway for the race) from downtown Cuba to the World’s Largest Rocker in Fanning. The timing was perfect—it fell right in the middle of my half marathon training, so I knew I would be prepared for the distance and it would be a great opportunity to scale back my long run mileage for an “easier” weekend. I had several goals for the day. My overall goal was to stay under 40 minutes (10:00 pace). My next goal was 38:30 (9:30 pace) and my ultimate never-gonna-happen goal was 36:00 (9:00 pace).

The morning was absolutely gorgeous, although a bit cool before the race began. I got to Cuba early so I would have plenty of time to find parking and relax. I picked up my race packet and got assigned bib # 911. The lady who gave it to me thought that would be a good omen (spoiler:  it turned out to be!). After meeting up with fellow DRCers and taking a few pictures, we made our way to the starting line. We lined up at the front of the second group (non-competitive runners), which turned out to be a mistake.

As the race got started, there was a lot of traffic to fight through: kids who sprinted the first few hundred yards, then stopped, groups running three or four wide across the highway, walkers, etc. I spent the first half mile weaving in and out of traffic trying to find an open space where I could get into a comfortable pace. Finally, I caught up to Tracie and got into my groove. I checked my time at the first mile marker: 10:06.  OK, but not great. I was going to have to kick it up a little to meet my goal.  

Around 1.5 miles, I was starting to get loose and feel good. I finished mile 2 in 9:11, which is fast for me! I didn’t want to burn out, so I just started picking out runners ahead of me and trying to gradually catch up with them. There were spectators along the route, both people who had parked along the road to watch and people who were sitting in their driveways watching. They were awesome cheerleaders!  

When I hit the third mile marker, I couldn’t believe it: I had run an 8:54 mile! I think I ran a sub-9 mile one time in middle school almost 20 years ago. I was feeling fantastic, so I picked up the pace a little bit.  There was a lady in her driveway cheering people on, telling us we were almost there. She said the finish line was just around the corner and when I hit the ¼ mile sign, I gave it everything I had. I crossed the finish line in 36:44, and my last mile was 8:33, my fastest ever! I was so pumped! It was such an amazing feeling!  

I joined Mackenzie and her mom at the finish line and we cheered on the rest of the DRC members as the crossed. DRC had a stellar day: I think almost all (if not all) of our members who raced that day PR’d or tied their PR.
Here is Amy Crow’s experience from the day: My Race to the Rocker experience this year was great! Not only did I have my fastest overall pace ever, but I beat last year's time by over five minutes. I was thrilled with my results. I know it's because of those Union hills! I never ran hills before I started running with the DRC, but now I'm convinced hills are the key to gaining strength and speed (at least in my case).
I can’t wait until next year!

Want to get to know Jill better? Check out her Runfie Questions!
What brought you to DRC? I saw a friend posting to DRC on Facebook (before the group was public) and I needed some motivation and accountability. I was really just getting started and wanted a place to ask questions and learn a little bit.
How long have you been a runner? After a few failed attempts to start, I've been running consistently for about 2 1/2 years.
What is your favorite running quote? I have two favorite running quotes! "It's very hard to understand in the beginning that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants to quit." -George Sheehan

"If you run, you are a runner. It doesn't matter how fast or how far. It doesn't matter if today is your first day or if you've been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run." -John Bingham