Sunday, November 7, 2010

50 Miles running... did it really happen?

I journeyed to the Blues Springs 50/50 to help a friend, and have some fun running with Bad Ben.

My friend Anne was signed up for 50 miles, but she'd run really well (too well) the KC marathon, only one week after a 50k (she also ran well) and her knee was hurting. I feared her relentless, do a longer race, spirit would render her permanently injured.

So, we ( including Puccini, our 12 pound Chiueagle) got up early to "pace to pull." I would run with her and moniter her knee and pull her when necessary. Problem is, for all my selfless contributions to the racing community, it seems when I have a goal like the Rocky Racoon 100 miler, my own training, trumps all else.

After a smart, slow start, I left my friend Anne to the pacing auspices of Major Erin Miller of the US Army. Far better trained in duty and loyalty-- well...

"How fast is she running?"
"I don't know-- 11 minutes a mile? 12."
" Well , I'm not going to go slow."

Turns out the Major was better at laying down the law with a faster pace for Anne, and I was better at.. taking off.

I ran out to Danny Miller, paced him a while, and with his encouragement took off.

Still, having not planned on running 50 miles, due to the crushed gravel course instead of the single track I prefer, I was fine with running about 35.

"Sophia, you look great, what do you need?"
Bad Ben.

"Should I keep running? Is this good Rocky Training?"
"It's great for Rocky."
Ben seemed like a kid watching the underdog win the world series. He was cheering for ME I realized this race would get me into the lotto for Western States. The thought amused me.
I was high!
9 minute mile. walk fast
8:30 walk fast.
Aid Station. More cheers.

Hi ERIN and ANNE. Wow still running-- they RAN 40. I was proud of the Mud BABES.
Out and back again, again. More Ben.
Aid station. Ben again.
40 miles.
9 minute pace. Running , running, realizing, I've got lots in the tank. HIGH.
WIND, oh so much wind in the face.

I'm not really tired, just a bit bored. Get to the bridge and it's simple.
Over the bridge.

Ben ran with me until the end-- and I almost cried. So happy to have a such incredible people in my life, cheering for me.

Later, at my bank in Topeka, I mentioned the 50 miler to my friend Mark who works there.

"How do you do it?"

"It's the Nordstrom's Effect.. You hit the aid stations, and they tell you, you look great and you head back out. Later you may think (just like those shiny purple parachute pants in the 80's you bought,)why did I buy that? But unlike the 80's in a 50 miler, you are grateful.

I don't know if this can ever happen again.. but I did not bonk, or even come close. In fact, I think back on the day, and 50 miles seems short-- an etherial experience as I am running an 8:30 pace and look down at a watch that says 41 miles, knowing there is plenty of gas in the tank.

And what about Mudbabe Monday.
"What time Sophia?"
The Major. "6pm, let's just do a short 4.5. "
We felt good. The Major had ended up running a formidable amount herself-- 50k the day before.

We actually could have run longer on Monday but I was after all busy eating. Ben arrived home Monday to a counter full of a hodge podge of dishes. Every leftover, can and box in the house. He laughed and cleaned it up. Glad to be pulling for a winning team.

So, did it happen? Could 50 miles go by in 9:11 with so little pain? So little waivering? It is as if without the pain or need for major encouragement due to physical or mental trauma, I can't feel the magnitude of the race. However the race must have existed, as this time I did run as Sophia Wharton.

Running my Best

The alarm rang at 5:15 am on a Tuesday. Not your conventional alarm. There was no jangling noise, not even a nasty crack of light through a hotel window, harshly dragging me from dreams to reality. Instead, a gentle eye opening to a cool dark room and bright outlook of a day.
I guess I'll go running. I felt refreshed. If any of you have followed this blog ( I think at this day there are 24 of you) you know, I've been prone to excuses, ov0ersleeping and spotty training. But this day was different.
In Corallville, Iowa, headed to help Team Mizuno sell at the Chicago marathon, I got up and headed out for a run. Early on, I saw a critter cross the path-- it was a racoon. I decided to name it Rocky. Rocky Racoon, just like the 100 miler in February, my fiancee Bad Ben signed us up for.
Would I ever be ready?
I logged 8, made a plan for the week, and headed to Chicago.

The final piece of this week's plan was to run the Chicago marathon. It would be under my worst conditions. Two solid days of standing and selling apparel, dead legs, and no taper on a hot day. On marathon day I had 36 miles under the Wave Elixirs. Did I mention how much I hate running in heat?
10-10-10 marathon morning, I called the receptionist at the hotel. "I 'm sorry I missed the forecast, what is it for today?" She replied it would be "perfect," highs in the 80's and sunny.

Going into the race, I knew I needed to execute discipline. A fast marathon or a bonk fest could ruin my Rocky training for two weeks. I needed this race for my MIND. I needed to run my best, not my fastest.

My boss, Tim invited me along with some friends he'd mentored in training and we headed to the start line (via the VIP tent-- many thanks Tim for that!)

I watched the guys speed off, and settled in. Goodbye runners, I may see you later... 10 minute miles. 3 piddle breaks. Temperature climbing. 1/2 marathon in 2:10 (note to readers-- You won't find results under "wharton," a woman who couldn't run named Gabriellla Thomas gave me her number through a friend, but I didn't use the chip-- you'll see my photos under Thomas and 27376--her number). 2:10 x's 2.. I did not feel like running for 4:20 or more in the heat. I was annoyed with the piddle breaks.

Time to drop the hammer. So I cruised through the land of the living dead, to a 4:07 finish. Seeing the folks with 3:30 pace team, on their backs. Maybe we finished the same time, but I ENJOYED my whole race. Even more so, that at the end, with bored crowds (bored with wathcing Zombie land) standing smoldering in the sun, I was able to WHOOP it UP!!

"Hey, cheer for ME," I called out, and a wave of cheers erupted from the crowds lining the streets of Chicago!
"GO Me GO"

I was running my best, finishing running strong with a 9 minute negative split. In no way, my fastest, but accomplishing the goal. Defy ego early, and enjoy success in the end.

I was ready to run the next day, and did.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Free State Trail Run

Drive into the parking lot at the Free State Trail runs and on first glance it looks like a Memorial Day picnic. But make no mistake, this event is run by professionals. Since you never know about the weather, the Trail Nerds make sure they take care of any other variables. Seasoned and informed volunteers, clearly marked course, good food and the kind of attention from the race directors that can only come from one thing. A goal of excellence. The Free State Trail 40 mile, 100k and marathon at Clinton State Park in Lawrence was no ad-hoc event.

Again, we had weather challenges. A full day of rain 2 days before the race, and threatening skys and a storm during the race. The course conditions were very muddy. It brought out the best in some and the Whiner in others.

The crazy mud seemed to put last year’s 40 mile winner David Wakefield at ease. He went out just to have fun and cruised in for the winning 40 mile time this year with a 20 minute negative split. An excellent race.

Then came the whiners….

Trail Nerds jokingly say “whiners will be buried in shallow unmarked graves.” Since I didn’t bring my shovel, the whiners had to settle for a verbal shove.
“ I have a friend who’s little boy is only 5, his name is Braden, and he’s dying. Would you please go out and run 20 more miles for him.”

The week before Free State Ben and I race directed a charity race for a 5 year old named Braden Hofen. He’s fighting neuroblastoma, a battle his father compares to an endurance race, and may not be with us much longer. We were exhausted again, and I for one was not putting up with any whiners. Braden Hofen laughs and smiles through adversity, you people can get out and run another 20 muddy miles.

There were several I shovelled out for another loop (with the help of Braden) , but my favorite whiner was Tim Smith, from Iowa. Here’s a snippet of Tim’s humorous (if redundant) post to the ultra list of the mud covered course and race: “mud, hill, rocks, roots, roots, rocks, mud, hill. SMELL OF BURGERS AND BRATS MMMMMMMMMMMM, COERCED BY PONY-TAIL GIRL INTO DOING ANOTHER LAP.”
The lap I sent Tim out onto, ultimately earned him a 100k buckle. In his blog he writes that Braden helped him through the last excruciating lap. An excellent effort from Mr. Smith, near the end of a day filled with excellence. How do we know? We got no suggestions, and few complaints.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Eternal Running Buddy

"Hey Ben doesn't Mizuno make something better than that?"

I am a rep for Mizuno in the running division and have made sure Ben is fully equipped. But he hadn't quite planned on the cool temps for the Berryman marathon and was cold. He dug deep into his past to come up with the above look, I dug deep for a quip to the owner of one of my running accounts.

"It's the new Cabrakan tunic for men, Willie!"

Yup, that's my fiancee sporting a Hefty bag with a twist. I think it's pretty sexy. Add the snazzy gortex fedora-- I can hardly stand it! Don't you just LOVE how the bottle holder cinches the bag at the waist to complete the look? Errol Flynn does come to mind.

All the stops were out for the Berryman marathon. It was our year anniversary of tapering and we just weren't going to miss the race.

"Sophia, we can't do Berryman, we have the Psycho 5k this weekend."

"Are you KIDDING me? Casey has his RV reserved, and just sent us both pictures of his muddy training legs. Give me an hour, I'll have it set up." Done. 1 hour, 55 minutes. Ha. The race would take longer.

The Race:

Crack, bang, boom.

"Ben, would you call off a race for all this thunder and lightning?"

It was 3 am, and I was quite awake-- on an air mattress that had deflated. But warm and dry in the RV.

"I wouldn't start it, but it will taper off-- "

Was I the chief mudbabe looking for an excuse not to run?... sigh... maybe. A year long taper doesn't happen without giving in to a few excuses.

This was the day that excuses DIED. Rain conquered with a spirit drenched in happiness.

26.2 miles. 2 pairs of Mizunos and one altered hefty bag.

2 people in love.

In love with running on trails, and in love with each other.

We set out and quickly got in step with each other, played with the mud, entertained soggy aid station personel and enjoyed life, shared energy and embraced having an eternal running buddy.

And that's what it's about. Everyone is more energized when they unlock the secret. The secret is finding that special someone who shares your passion, and is willing to trot alongside you through thick and thin.

Tough patch? No problem, Ben... let me baste it with a little mud.

Think you can't handle the garbage life throws you?

Here's a hefty bag, Sophia.

"Mud you Sophy Trophy."

"Mud you too Bentor."

Our pet names and mud language.

I pulled Ben up a hill-- he'd repay me in some energy return on the last painful miles.

I indulged in running too fast at mile 21, and it just wrecked my quads. I couldn't run downhill.. but the uphills were just fine.

That's right-- I was begging for more uphills the final 5 miles (and they came in 600 foot climbs).
And that's the way life goes sometimes, you don't realize that the uphill battle is the fun one.

You think you want a race day without rain, and then it keeps your feet cool. It washes the mud off your shoes, and keeps horseflys and horse riders off the race course.

Pray for the tough times my friends. For in those lie all of life's joys and happiness.

Muddy Hugs,