Monday, May 21, 2018

In search of 100 miles - 3 Days at the Fair

There’s a scene toward the end of the movie, Pretty Woman, where the character named Kit asks some other hooker, “Do you have a goal? Cuz you gotta have a goal.”

I’ve had a goal that I set for myself two years ago. I wanted to run/walk 100 miles.

Sound crazy? To many this sounds like a crazy goal. I mean why run when you can drive a car. That’s what most people say. One guy I met this weekend even said, “That’s crazy. I drive my golf cart to the mailbox.”

Is it crazy? Maybe.
Is it attainable? Absolutely.
Will it hurt? Like hell!

Is it worth it? Beyond anything you can imagine.

Months ago, I signed up for a race called 3 Days at the Fair 3 Days at the Fair. You have the option of choosing pretty much any time limit you want to run; from 12 hours to 144 hours. Yes, that’s SIX days. And people do it! I went with the 72 hours or 3-day version. You read that correctly.
This weekend, with my SUV packed to the gills with food, fluids, canopy, chairs, blankets, running gear and a close friend for support I set off to attack my goal at the Sussex County Fairgrounds in Augusta, NJ.

Our home for the next 72 hours.
We arrived at the fairgrounds at about 7:30 AM on Thursday where we parked our car for the next almost 72 hours and setup our campsite. One of many at what I call tent city.

We get all unpacked and ready and at 8 AM I check in. This year’s swag was a rain jacket. I’m thinking the race director knew something we didn’t when he had ordered the gear weeks ahead of the actual event. Hmm.

Start time is 9 AM on Thursday for the 72-hour runners.
We are off!

It was a little chilly in the morning but quickly warmed up to the point of stripping down to a t-shirt. The plan for day one was to go 10 miles before taking a break. On my first day I met several people that I would run into again and again over the next three days.


One of Linda's signs.
One of those people would be Linda ( a police officer who loved to push herself) whose tent was across from us and who made these fun signs to make us laugh and keep our spirits up.

Linda and I did a lot of miles together day one. At about midnight I stopped for the day at 32 miles. That’s 15 hours in to the race.

It doesn’t seem like a lot, but remember, we have a lot more one-mile loops on pavement to go.
I started out sleeping night one in a zero-gravity chair then got cold enough to crawl into the back of the SUV and sleep where my support crew and friend, Renee was sleeping. It wasn’t comfortable, but it’s not supposed to be.

Friday morning, I woke up, greased my feet with some Squirrels Nut Butter– yes, it’s a thing and you gotta love the name. I tugged on clean socks and a pair of running shoes and got to 40 miles before 9 AM.
My goal was 40 miles in first 24 hours and I did it. Yea me! It is amazing how a few hours of sleep can refresh and repair the body.
After hitting my goal, I took a shower. The fairgrounds had real bathrooms and showers. After a quick shower where I felt almost human again, I dressed and started day two. On this day, my friend Michele showed up for her 48-hour event. I met Michele at this event last year where I did my first 48-hour run and we kept in contact.

Dead man walking ultra.
New runners show up not with just with fresh legs but with fresh humor. How a runner feels after 50 miles...a skeleton of him or herself.

My goal for my next 24 hours was to hit 75 miles. Could I do it?
At about 6 PM on day two, Renee decided that we needed real food and she left on a mission to get chicken tenders for us and Michele. I did another five miles while Renee ran the errand.

I haven’t eaten chicken tender in years and I swear this was the best - EVER! Either that or I was starving for anything that wasn’t prepackaged.
I was hitting a low point on day two where I wanted to put my feet up longer and not move. Blisters started on my feet and they only got worse. This is the one thing that is the death of my running or walking long distance. Due to a kidney issue (so the doctor thinks), my body pushes all my fluids to my feet, so they swell and then I get blisters and a heat rash. It’s not pretty and hurts like you would not believe. But, I refused to give up.

I was out on my last loops for the evening when the crew of another runner offered me a warm chocolate cookie. Can I just say that it was the best cookie – EVER! Okay, maybe not, but it was the sentiment behind the cookie, the incentive of the cookie, and the lovely gesture that made it special and rewarding.
I got to 65 miles about midnight and hit the sack…or in this case the bedroll in the back of the SUV where Renee had gone and gotten blow up mats that float in the pool to make the back of the SUV a little less hard to lay on. I wasn't picky and I was passed out in five minutes.

Saturday morning dawned beautiful. I got up and hit mile 74 (5 miles more than last year when I did the 48-hour event) just before 9 AM. WOOT! I was shy of my goal by one mile in 48 hours, but I was doing well.
Is it weird that I'm grinning?
The rain set in after 9 AM. Told you the race director knew something in advance. The rain jacket swag came in very handy on Saturday where the weather went from gorgeous cool in morning to drizzle to downpours to drizzle to a break in the late afternoon where there was no rain.

Here’s the funny thing – I love running in the rain. My body loves the rain. It’s cool and refreshing. On what was now my official start of day three I was moving really well in the rain. I took a break every 4 miles to change my socks and shoes out for dry ones. I was running more with the rain than without the rain. And this was after 48 hours. I felt fantastic!
Beware – what goes up, must come down.

How does one dry out shoes and socks during an ultra-running festival? Place the socks and shoes on the floor board of the car and turn the heat up full blast. I was tossing hats, mittens, even jackets down there to dry out and get them warm.
Then the rain stopped. When the rain ceased my feet got irritated again. They were not happy. I was not happy. I probably had more blisters during the rain, but my feet didn’t feel them. Maybe because my feet were wet and numb.

Because I was doing so well we were very excited and all Renee could think about was sleeping in a hotel. I wanted to get done so she could have a warm, comfortable bed. I mean how do you thank a person who blew off her anniversary weekend with her husband, drove 7 hours, and spent the last 48 hours waiting on me, supporting me, doing a lap or two with me.
I pushed myself, so she would have a bed.

Every 4 miles I was taking only 20-minute breaks instead of the 30 to 45 minutes I had planned and that was working the two previous days. I may have pushed a little too much. By late afternoon I hit another downturn. My feet were on fire. Legs felt great, body was doing awesome, but feet screamed, “STOP! STOP!”
I passed our tent and Renee instinctively knew I was not myself. Renee, being the amazing friend she is, tossed on her running shoes and a rain jacket and went in search of me on the course. She found me and did a mile with me until I hit my next break time.

By 8 PM I was mad. Mad at myself for changing the plan. Mad at myself for being mad. Mad because my feet refused to cooperate and because every step was like walking across hot coals and needles all at the same time. TORTURE.
I was no longer capable of running or walking. I was shuffling. For the last 13 miles (that’s a half marathon) I shuffled my way across the black pavement trying to just do 3 mile stretches before taking a break. Almost sixty hours into this event and all I wanted was to sit down in the middle of the road to hell and not get up. I wanted to curl up into a little ball and go to sleep. I was sleep walking anyway so why not.

As a matter of fact I did sit down in the middle of the pavement. But it was to put my socks back on that I had taken off hoping for some relief. Didn't work. As I'm sitting on the wet, cold pavement lacing my shoes up, a car coming from a wedding that took place at the event headed straight for me.

I held up my arms and three other runners who were coming saw the car and made sure they avoided me. Thanks, guys!


Flowers of encouragement.
Every lap there were people out there cheering us on. Offering words and even flowers of encouragement, of support and awe. That was great, but it could not cut into the haze of pain.
With 10 miles left I took a break, changed into what I thought would be my last shoe change and headed off.

Renee, with the help of the people next to us who were there crewing for a 24-hour runner had packed up the car. She was ready, and I was dragging.

Just when you think it can’t get worse; it can!
I wanted to sit, put my face in my hands and weep. Oh, yes, there were tears. You just couldn’t see them because of the drizzle.

Was I nuts? Why did I think I could do this? I will NEVER try this again.



Every time I passed the turn to the pallet bridge over a puddle and I had to lift my legs I cringed and wanted to yell and hit someone, anyone –most of all myself.

In my 97th mile I text Renee and said I would need another pair of shoes when I got there. I felt bad because she had everything packed, but my feet needed a fresh pair of shoes if I was going to finish this beast.

I changed and slowly (Picture a large turtle trudging uphill through wet sand - that kind of slow) started off for my last 3 miles telling Renee I would text her when I completed mile 100 so she could do the last mile with me.

I don’t know how long it took, but it felt like forever; kinda like swimming through molasses before I completed mile 100.
When I FINALLY reached mile 100, a first for me, I texted Renee and got no answer. When I reached our tent area she was unpacking the car. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Was it a mirage?
I think my mind went berserk right then and there.
I wasn't focusing on the fact that I had reached an amazing goal. I had hit 100 miles on foot. As a matter of fact every mile past mile 69 was a new adventure, a new accomplishment.
I should have been celebrating that suckfest!
Instead, I was thinking what the hell was Renee doing? She wanted a bed. I wanted sleep. Why was she unpacking? When Renee reached me, she informed me that she had called 20 hotels and there wasn’t a room anywhere near.

Apparently everyone was getting married the same weekend as Prince Harry and Megan Markle.

Was she kidding me? No room? Anywhere?
No way were we not getting a bed in a hotel. No way was I not getting to sleep - SOON.

As we started the last mile I was on the phone to Hilton reservation number getting us a hotel room. Brenda, the agent was fabulous. I asked her not to laugh and told her I was finishing my hundred mile run and needed a hotel room with a bed, could she please find me one. She did!
Now remember, I am in the middle of a race with nothing on me but thank goodness I do have a credit card memorized. We had to drive 50 miles, but Brenda hooked us up.
Funny thing about this phone call – it took my mind off the pain. We were in the last quarter mile when I hung up and I didn’t feel every step. Pain no longer shot through me with every shuffle.
Moral of this interlude - Do NOT mess with a runner who just spent sixty plus hours trying to reach a goal, who wants to fall to her knees where she stands and go to sleep.
At 11:07 PM on Saturday I crossed the finish line for 101 miles. That’s sixty-two hours into a 72-hour event. GOAL! Ten hours ahead of schedule!!

Mile 101!!!
Renee took the finish line photo and then we hugged. Tears rolled down both our faces as the enormity of the accomplishment set in. I did it! We did it!

Then I read a text from a friend of mine who sent me a message before I finished as he wanted to be the first person to congratulate me. More tears!
I hurt so bad but felt so amazing.

I may not be fast, but I have heart. And it’s the heart that keeps us going. There’s a quote by Dean Karnazes, “Run if you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, just never give up.” I’d say Mr. Karnazes hit the nail on the head.
I never gave up.

At no time did it ever cross my mind to quit. To take a longer break – YES. To sleep – YES. To call it quits and give up altogether – NOT AT ALL!
Could I have gone more? Maybe. I wouldn’t have wanted to that night, but the next morning, I probably could have gotten in more miles if the hotel hadn’t been so far away.

I guess we will see the next time. 😊

Are ultra runners crazy? I don’t think so. They are a community of people, friends and strangers, out to push their limits and support others in their own attempts and accomplishments.
This weekend I had the pleasure of sharing the blacktop trail with hundreds of runners who all set out with various goals; most of which were accomplished through shear guts and determination as well as support from friends and strangers.
Sometimes you’d be running by yourself, but you were never alone. Sometimes you would run or walk in groups and the camaraderie would boost you up.

It didn’t matter that you arrived not knowing a sole person. By the time you left, you were all family.
101 mile buckle and 100 mile lifetime coin.
This was demonstrated over many hours, but even more during the awards ceremony. Many cheers, hoots of joy, handshaking, and picture taking. All while wearing sandals and pajama bottoms.
Everyone was happy for everyone!
Renee and I day two.
To my friend Renee, thank you! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving up your time to spend a weekend in heat and rain, in daylight and darkness, during highs and lows. You were the reason I reached my goal ten hours ahead of schedule!

Happy Anniversary!

Tell Mike I said thank you for sharing you with me this weekend. I owe him.

To my new runner friends, I met at 3 Days at the Fair; You all are amazing, and I thank you for your time, your wisdom, your humor, and your camaraderie. That alone was worth the price of admission. Congratulations on your many achievements!

To the family and friends of all the runners; Thank you. Thank you for the warm cookie, the pep talk, the hoots and hollers, the offer of a cold beer. Without all of you, none of us would succeed.

3 Days at the Fair Race Director
and me looking oh so fabulous - right!
To the race directors; Thank you for an unbelievable opportunity to meet so many wonderful runners and new friends and for the path to a new accomplishment.
Will I do this again? Funny you should ask. The other night when I was at my lowest I said I was finished.
"One and done! NEVER again!"
The mind is a tricky thing. You know what they say. Never say never.
Two days later and I’m thinking, “Hell, yeah! I want to do it again.”
Why do I want to do this? Why do I like endurance runs?
It’s a good question that I’m not sure I have the answer to. The answer is probably different for everyone.

There’s a sense of community that comes from ultras and ultra runners that you can’t get from a 5K event or even a running group or maybe anything.
It’s the knowledge that you are pushing yourself to a new limit, to an edge of something that you have never done before and that not everyone would even attempt to do. It’s not just reaching the goal, but the ability to dig deep, very deep, to pull yourself from the pain and keep moving. You reach an awareness of your body and an inner peace in your mind.
You’re not reaching for a finish line, you’re experiencing life and all it’s challenges in every step along the way and it’s how you grow from that pain, those challenges. Embracing the suck and coming out better for it.
I’m not sure that’s an answer, but I can tell you this; My mind and body (all except my feet) are already clambering for the next adventure.

That’s truly what an ultra run is; an adventure that leads you to growth, awareness, and a peace that cannot be put into words.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Unexpected Flowers

Don't you just love flowers?

I do!

I love the colors, the shapes, the smile that crosses your lips when you see them. I love my garden and I love planting more and more flowers every year. Yes, it's kind of an obsessive-compulsive thing.

What's even better is receiving flowers from a friend. The other day I was waiting for a girlfriend so we could drive together to run the Fat Tuesday 5K. When she showed up she surprised me with not a dozen tulips, but three dozen tulips. Gorgeous!

For the record, I love tulips!! They are just such happy flowers. I love how they sleep at night and open up during the day. They look like they are smiling, which makes me smile.

The fact that these flowers were a huge surprise from a great friend made my day. And the tulips were pink. My favorite color!

Don't you just love good surprises?

The unexpected is what makes life interesting. Don't ya think?

Grateful for my friend for being a part of my life and for bringing a smile to my lips.

I hope you all have wonderful friends in your life. Hope you not only appreciate a terrific surprise but you do the surprising.

Have a terrific day and may the unexpected be positive!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Laughter is good medicine

They say laughter is the best medicine. How can you disagree?

The benefits of laughing are all-around fantastic! Laughing has a relaxing effect. In this day of stress as the norm, relaxation is something we should seek.

Laughing boosts your energy, boosts immunity, decreases muscle tension and pain, and helps prevent heart disease.

I did it!
When you are sitting around drinking your coffee with coconut oil and you watch your skinny cat hop in a box and I swear practically bounce back out again you have to laugh.

When Mayhem's chubby brother tries to crawl in the box (because his backside is to chunky to jump) and the box keeps sliding across the floor you MUST laugh. Mischief did make it into the box but I could not stop laughing. He is so dang cute and was so determined. What is it about cats and boxes?

What was funnier was watching Mischief try to turn around inside the small box. He did it!

His brother, Mayhem cracks me up. I was eating chicken for lunch the other day and of course he wants to eat some. I sit a piece on the counter for him and the entertainment ensues. Check out these photos of him getting the piece of chicken off the counter.

Oh! I spy chicken.
Come here, chicken!



Success!
Together these two brothers, Mischief and Mayhem keep me laughing and entertained on a daily basis. Look at those faces! I am blessed with these two troublemakers.
 

 
Where does your daily does of humor come from?
 
 
 
 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Morning routines

Do you have a morning routine?

From the minute your eyes pop open to the time you walk out the door for work, what do you do? Maybe you don't leave for work. Maybe you work from home. What's your routine?

Do you take solace in your routine?

I am usually woken by sunlight streaming through the windows or my two cats. The moment my feet hit the floor I make the bed. Yes, you read that right. I make the bed. My mom taught me to make the bed first and I've been doing it ever since. It's important to me because I don't like messy and I am not one of those people who can crawl back under the covers at night if the bed has not been made. Maybe that's a little OCD, but I think not.

After that I have to feed the kitties. Why? Because oh my goodness they are these cute little fur balls that yell at me if I do not immediately go downstairs and feed them. Did I mention they were cute?

Then it's finally about me. I get to get cleaned up, dressed and yes, I look forward to my one and only cup of dark roast coffee with double espresso almond milk. This is my relaxing part of the morning. I share it with the two fur balls, Mischief and Mayhem. I drink the coffee and they get morning treats good for their teeth. Lots of licking chops happen all around and purring ensues. Okay, I don't purr, but I do lick my lips.

If I work from home I try to go for a short morning walk to get some fresh air before being cooped up for the day. Then have breakfast before being enslaved by my computer. If it's a day I have to travel to the office I pack up my bag and computer and hit the road. No time for breakfast. Yeah, yeah, I know. Morning is the most important meal of the day. And I do believe that, but I'd rather skip that than be stuck in traffic.

I enjoy my routine. It's all warmth and cuddles and relaxation before the storm of stress.

How do you feel about your morning routine? Does it give you comfort?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Friends and Neighbors

Remember when you were a kid and how you had friends in the neighborhood? Remember how your parents used to hang out on the weekend with your friends' parents?

Do people do that anymore? Do you know your neighbors?

I remember playing Frisbee across the street with all our neighbors, friends, and parents. The memories of cookouts with neighbors and friends is vivid in my mind. I recall playing at each others houses and my mom getting together for coffee with other moms in the neighborhood.

What about you?

I am happy to say I know my neighbors and they are friends. Maybe I don't know all my neighbors, but definitely some. We do hang out together. In the summer we hang out at the fire pit. In the spring we talk about what flowers we are going to plant and ooo, aahh over the results. In the winter I can send a text that says, "Steak Thursday night?" and get a response back from, "I'll do the sides."

Recently one of my neighbors moved to Georgia where his family lives. While I am ecstatic for him and his family, I am sad by my loss of the friend and neighbor that I can call up and say, "Chicken wings?" or "A movie?" Sometimes I could even convince Mike to take a long walk with me. Even though he has moved miles and miles away, we still stay in contact. We are friends.

Oh my gosh! The day I bought my house I was introduced to my neighbor and now friend, Donna. The first thing she said to me was, "This is the view you will see all summer." Then she proceeded to bend over and show me her backside. Because she spends a lot of time in her yard and gardens.

I knew at that moment we would be friends! And I am grateful to have them in my life.

Are your neighbors friends?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Is there such a thing as a work family?

Yesterday was a Monday. Honestly, who likes a Monday? Seriously.

The day starts by getting up before 4 AM just so I can be in my car and on the road to work before the crack of dawn so I can beat the horrific traffic. The bonus is that when I get to work there are very few people there so I can actually get some work done before the wave of noise and lower productivity sets in.

The engineers who work for me, however, are the delight of my day. These guys are wicked smart, creative, and funny. They are the reason that work is fun and the reason I put up with the ridiculous bureaucracy in the organization.

What I love about these people is that while we are working our tails off to deliver good software we laugh. Someone will share a Dilbert cartoon or a web link from some other software coding disaster. Or we share personal stories like how they met their girlfriend/wife or the latest family vacation. One guy who works with me longer than anyone shares recipes, talks about his beer making, his golf struggles.

When someone calls out due to a cold or this nasty flu we cover for each other. Everyone steps in to make sure nothing gets forgotten and the sickie doesn't come back with a full plate to sift through, but can come back and hit the ground running.

It's all terrific and it's what makes us a work family. Yes. That is the perfect description. We are a family who comes together for 8 to 10 hours a day and then goes home to our home life.

I am grateful for these wonderful and talented people for making my work family so diverse, interesting, fun, and extremely productive. Because yes, they do amazing work and make me smile.

Do you have a work family?

Monday, February 5, 2018

Ruck for fun?

What is a ruck? A ruck is loosely defined as getting your gear from point A to point B in a backpack and on foot. Walk or run in my case does not matter. As long as you are hoofing it and making forward progress.

I'm training for a 26.2 mile ruck that occurs in April. During this ruck I have to carry gear that weighs 15 plus pounds. That does not include the water you might drink because obviously by the time you get to the end then your pack will be lighter. My pack ONLY has to weigh 15 pounds because I am a civilian, while the military, both active and Veterans will carry three times that weight.

Last weekend I did 3.5 miles with 5 pounds in a backpack. It was great. I felt terrific. So today, in my all-knowing stupidity decided to go with 8 pounds in a ruck for a 3.1 mile run with a friend.

Being winter we dressed in layers. Thank goodness! A mile in I was ready to strip off everything. Okay, not naked everything, but definitely the outer layer. Once we hit the aid station I whipped off the pack, stripped off my vest, hat, and mittens and tossed them into the rucksack then strapped it back on and away we went. SLOWLY.

Now the pack weighed just shy of 10 pounds. Have you ever lost 10 pounds and then put it back on? You know 10 pounds is basically an entire clothing size and the weight is probably distributed. Now imagine wearing that on your back while trying and not really succeeding at running. Instead of slowly jogging, which is just nuts, we (my friend Lisa and I) used the pole method.

What's the pole method you ask?

We sprinted from one light pole to the next then walked to the next pole. We kept this up until the end. I was probably faster doing that than trying to jog very slowly with 10 pounds of gearing bouncing on my back. We did it! We made it to the finish.

What did I learn from this? That I am ever grateful for Lisa for being supportive in my test run and that I was clearly not ready for 10 or even 8 pounds in my backpack. More training is needed.

Even more important. I am grateful to the men and women who serve in our military and carry 45 to 50 pounds on their backs going from point A to point B while on foot. You have not only my deepest gratitude for your service, but HUGE respect. Thank you!

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