Sunday, March 24, 2013

Megan's Race Report

(I asked Megan if she wanted to write a race report and she happily agreed. What follows is entirely her own writing - I just helped her spell quesadilla and magazine. She hasn't read my report either, so this is completely unbiased. Note the attention to what she ate; I told you she was inspired by all the junk food! She even did the signature at the end unprompted.)

On the 16th of March I ran Pacific Rim 24 hour race in Washington with my Mom. I took breaks in the car with the iPad when it rained, hailed and snowed. It was a 1 mile loop. About 3 laps in, it started to rain so we went and took a break in the car. We have a game called Ticket To Ride on our iPad me and mom both like it but she beats me all the time. It started at 9:00 on Saturday and it ended at 9:00 on Sunday. Since it is only a 1 mile loop there is no aid stations along the way. But there is a food station at the end of each lap you do. The first time I did a lap there was Gatorade, cookies and water. At lunchtime there was PB & J, still cookies, jellybeans, quesadillas  (that were very good), Gatorade and water. By that time I was at about 6 laps! Then it started a very heavy rain, it even started to hail on us. By then we were in the car happily playing the iPad while the runners who were running all 24 hours were unhappily running in the hail! My Mom has a running friend named Ken and he was at about 36 laps! He was planning to go for all 24 hours! There were a couple people who were planning to go all 24 hours but because of the weather, those people didn’t want to anymore. For dinner there was pizza and everything else they had for lunch. They only had 2 pieces of cheese pizza that I knew of and I ate both of them! For breakfast and lunch they had chocolate chip cookies but for dinner they had M&M cookies. I liked the chocolate chip ones better but I usually like M&M cookies better. By then I was probably at 16 or 17 laps! Ken was probably at 80 or 81! Now it was probably 8:00 or 8:30 and I probably had 19 or 20 laps! So I ran/walked 3 or 4 more laps. At 9:30 I had 23 laps. We went to our minivan and played 2 games of Ticket To Ride with Mom. Surprisingly I beat her both times! It was probably 9:45 or 10:00. We went to bed while it was pouring rain! My Mom felt so bad for the people running out there. I slept like a rock! If Mom hadn’t have woken me up, I would have slept until the race was over. I recall I had 23 laps. I walked for 4 more laps and then stopped. I was an ultra- marathoner just like my mother. At the end of the last lap I made her cry because I was an ultra-marathoner! I got a hoodie sweatshirt for being an ultra-marathoner! I also got my name in the ultra-runner magazine!!! It was a great experience for me.
                                                               -Megan Smith, age 8

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Creating The Next Generation Of Ultra-Runners

When Megan was a baby, several of our friends dubbed her “Mini-Mac” because she had such a strong resemblance to her father. As she has gotten older, some people now comment that we look alike, but our true similarity lies in our personalities. For better or for worse, Megan is a carbon copy of me.

At home sometimes we butt heads because of this; the unspoken counter to “Opposites attract” can be that “Likes repel.” And I admit sometimes I get frustrated because I can see all the things I don’t like about myself in her. But she also has my fierce determination, aspirations for lofty achievements, and my competitive drive, so it wasn’t really a shock when she said she wanted to run in some races. Since last November, she’s done two 5k’s (PR 33:45!) and a couple of the Bush Park summer cross country races, as well as a few school races. So as far as I could tell she was ready for a 24 hour run!

Ok, that’s a joke, but after Desert Solstice, Megan understood the concept of a 24 hour race and she seemed to be into the idea of creating your own race distance, so we signed up to run the Pacific Rim One Day event in Longview, WA together (after getting approval from the RD).

Beautiful Lake Sacajawea - just run around it as many times as possible in 24 hours!
Mac was a little freaked out by the idea. “Promise not to push her. This has to be fun for her.” Knowing how hard I can push myself, I am pretty sure he had visions of me being one of those crazed “Dance Moms” yelling at their daughters to work harder and do better. Admittedly, it is really hard for me to watch 7 and 8 year old girls play soccer because I want to yell at them so badly (particularly other people’s kids!) and I know that is frowned upon. But more than anything, I want running to be fun for Megan and so I knew there was no risk of me locking her out of the car just to make her do one more lap.

As the race approached there was one thing that particularly excited Megan.

“Mom, do I get to litter when I am at the race?” Apparently, the scene she has witnessed at aid stations with runners coming in and just dropping their trash on the ground, was quite appealing to Megan. That’s right, Megan’s most rebellious desire is to litter! (We didn’t)

We decided 10 miles was a good goal, though Mac thought she could do 15. Better to go beyond our expectations than to fall short. But Megan had other ideas: “Mom, you know I might be able to do 30 miles.” I explained that we would need to rest and sleep, too, but she informed me it’d be ok for her to stay up past her bedtime this one time. Uh oh - I created an 8 year old mileage monster!

Starting out nice and slow
The other incentive for Megan to keep going was all the junk food. My kids get milk or water to drink and dessert is often a banana with sprinkles. So the aid station was like forbidden fruit, only race day it wasn’t forbidden. Cookies, gatorade, jelly beans - oh my, a LOT of jelly beans, cupcakes and pizza for dinner! What’s not to like about this ultra running! She had downed three cookies in the first four miles. I think she’s got the fueling part down!

Running for cookies! (photo: Bart Brewer)
The truth was that my job was not to push her but to hold her back and keep her in touch with reality! After 3 miles she was still telling me she could do 30. After 5, she told the timers that she could do 30. When they told her she could get a sweatshirt for 31 miles she wasn’t that impressed, but when she heard you could get you name in a magazine for that, I found out my daughter is a little fame whore! Her eyes lit up and she decided we could do 31. All the while I kept saying, "maybe just 10", or "13 is a half marathon - that’s a good distance." I want my little girl to dream big, but let’s not get crazy!

Ready to run a few more
Megan shows off her age. The real #8 kindly gave Megan his bib at the end of the race.

I have no doubt of Megan’s fierce determination and strong focus, but she has one downfall. Despite being a native Oregonian, that girl doesn’t like to be out in the rain! While she took the first rest, I ran three miles to burn off a little of my energy. Just as I finished up, the clouds opened up and for another hour we hung out in the car, playing Ticket to Ride on the iPad. Three times we had very extended breaks because of the weather, and while I did a few more laps on my own, mostly I just hung out with Megan, because a lot of the time, I wasn’t so excited to be out there myself!
Waiting out a rain break
But all of it was wonderful, even the sitting in the car. With the hustle and bustle lifestyle of today, it is truly a gift to have a whole day just to spend with Megan. And while out together, we got along famously, because really we are two peas in a pod. Mostly, we were just silly and laughing together. I said there were no alligators in Washington and then we found a sign for an alligator tree to prove me wrong. We debated whether one should cheer with “wahoo’s” or “woohoo’s” based on the motivational signs (Wahoo only in “WA”??). We noted that blue herons aren’t really blue, green herons aren’t really green, but blackbirds really are black. And since we looped Lake Sacajawea each mile, I tried to give a history lesson. But really the only thing that I could remember about Sacajawea was that I voted against the eventual winner for the obverse of the Sacajawea dollar coin because I didn’t want to glorify teenage pregnancy (the coin shows her holding her infant son; she was 16, although she was married. Yes, times were different then, but still, do we need to see more 16 year olds with babies??). So my lesson boiled down to “Sacajawea was like Pocahontas, but for Lewis and Clark.” We made jokes about the term “pale-faces” (used in a Pocahontas cartoon that we have).  And when we found a solar system plaque with directions to Uranus, we laughed even harder.

Two peas in a pod
Quite pretty in the sun. Too bad we only got about ten minutes of it.
Acting Silly
There are alligators in Washington!

Just what everyone needs - Directions to Uranus! Oh, come on, you know it's funny!

Finally, I think fatigue started creeping in and her right leg got a little sore. At mile 21, when we were talking about stopping for the night, she got all philosophical on me and told me it wasn’t really a one day event, because it took place over two days and they should’ve run midnight to midnight if they wanted to call it a one day. At this point, I could tell she was ready to stop but she had it in her head to get to 24 miles before going to bed. Finally, we stopped for the night at about 9:30 with 23 miles, and Megan making me promise to wake her up early to get in 8 more laps.

We had a mattress in the back of the minivan and slept pretty well. They were luxury conditions compared to what the runners faced, because it just dumped rain and even sleet and hail all night long. A miserable night to be up running for sure. But we were snug nestled together in our sleeping bags.

We were back at it at 6:30 the next day and that was the only crack in Megan’s resolve. It was dark and cold and she wasn’t quite awake. A quarter mile in she wanted to go back to the car and just go home. I told her we could but we would finish that lap. 15 minutes later we were back at the aid station and Megan was noshing on another cookie and sipping Coke. A little sugar and she started to perk up, plus the first hint of day was appearing. We decided to walk one more. By the end of that, Megan wanted a short break, which was good timing, because the clouds opened up once again with more freezing rain. We spent an over an hour waiting that one out. Then with an hour left, we got out and walked our final two laps and I had tears welling in my eyes as she finished: 27 total for Megan and 35 for me. So proud of my little ultramarathoner! Megan just laughed that I was crying.
27 miles finished!!

Some people might think it a little “Tiger Mom” of me to enter a second grader in a 24 hour event, but I really do think this was a positive experience and I am glad we went. Megan said she had fun and she is very proud of her accomplishment. I think RD Fred “Wildman” Willet must have been a little impressed, too, because when I went to get the sweatshirt typically reserved for runners doing more than 50k, he handed me one for  Megan, too. (And I thought the Men’s size small was big on me!).
Yeah, she should grow into that soon. Megan said,"Mom, why didn't they have women's sizes? They knew women were coming to the race." Got that RD's?? Even an 8 yo knows you need women's shirts!

I want Megan to grow up believing that anything is possible for her and that she can do anything she sets her mind to. And while we did not get to 30 miles this time, I think the bad weather is to blame for that. I am still so impressed with what she did do. I have no doubt that she is capable of 30 miles and so much more. I hope she knows that, too.

I also hope this is inspiring to other people. If a little girl who only runs 3 miles twice a week can cover 27 miles in 24 hours, so can just about anybody. Don’t set limits in your mind or tell yourself you can’t. Set the bar high and find out what you are really capable of!

And for me, it was incredibly special. I got more than just a day with my daughter. At eight years old, I now feel like I know exactly who she is. And she is amazing.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Nueces 50 Mile

The past three winters I have made an annual excursion to Texas for the Bandera 100k. This year, I still got a winter break in the lone star state, but not at Bandera. Instead, I headed off to the 50 mile National Trail championships at Nueces. This would be better named the off road championships, because some places did not resemble a trail at all! Nueces has all the rocks of Bandera and then some! 

Yeah, that's the trail
Technical trail is not my forte,  but that doesn’t keep me from enjoying it and I like the opportunity to do something different. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. Why else would I keep going back??

The course was three loops of 16.7 miles. I finished up the first loop as third female and Olga wildly gesticulated as she told me Melanie looked terrible and was in the bathroom and that I would totally take her. 

Nueces River at daybreak
Well, Olga miscalculated the restorative power of the Port-a-potty, because when Melanie jumped out, she was looking fresh and upbeat. I stayed close for the next loop and a half, but my legs aren’t used to all that stepping and jarring and I just faded a bit too much in the end while Melanie stayed strong. But then neither of us were anywhere near the winner, Michelle Yates, who went out fast and just kept getting faster.

(photo: David Hanenburg, Endurance Buzz)
My favorite part of the course - stepping stones across the Nueces
Finishing up (ph: David Hanenburg, Endurance Buzz)
Overall, I was pleased with my effort for the day. I do wish I had been a bit more consistent with the splits - 2:24; 2:33; and 2:42 - but hey, at least my “rate of slowing” was consistent at 9 minutes slower per loop. Haha.

Like Bandera, Joe and Joyce Prusaitis do an amazing job of orchestrating four simultaneous distances. And the courses are so well marked, it is like running a dot-to-dot! I am planning to head back to Texas in 2014, but I am thinking next year it'll be Rocky Raccoon. Despite the name, I hear those trails are fairly smooth. All those rocks around San Antonio are great fun, but I think I am ready for a break! And thank you, La Sportiva, Garmin and Honey Stinger for your support.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Whirlwind Six Weeks

We’ve been living life constantly on the go and somehow six weeks has gone by in the flash of an eye!

February started out with a fun local double for me: The Roaring Run half marathon on Saturday and then the Zena Road Run on Sunday.

Feeling like I couldn’t comfortably run above 8:30 pace after Desert Solstice 100 miler, I took a few weeks to get a little speed back in my legs. I was feeling good when I lined up, but when a lithe woman in a tight fuchsia shimmel, boy shorts and black arm sleeves confidently walked right up to the front of the starting pack, my competitive juices sky-rocketed! I, on the other hand, had on plaid Lulu shorts, a highlighter yellow La Sportiva jersey and my striped arm sleeves. Don’t judge this book by its cover! I probably had no business running with this woman because when I Google-stalked her after the race I found out she was second at the Portland Marathon two years ago. I tailed her for 5 miles at 6:08 pace saying things to myself like “You SO have her” and “She is right where you want her,” despite us being 15 seconds faster than what I thought would be my “Really Good Day” pace. I accidentally got a step ahead of her on the hill at mile 5 and rather than tuck back in, I decided I needed to “break” her and surged for two miles. She fell back but was never “broken.” As I started to pay for my foolishness, she closed the gap. I caught up to my friend Joel with about a mile and a half to go and he kept egging me on by telling me every 45 seconds she was 200 meters back. Long story short, I had really bad pacing but hung on for the win with a huge PR (almost 4 minutes) of 1:21:15.
Having fun in some short races

The next day was the Zena Road Run, probably the hilliest road race around. The feature distance is the 15k, plus there is a 6 mile. But I could only handle the baby distance 3 miler and man, did that hurt! 19:04 for third overall, first female, but most notably 10 seconds per mile slower than the prior day’s half marathon pace. I did say this was a hilly course, right? I am sure that pace had nothing to do with being tired!

The following week was a call week. Call week is not that bad because I rarely get called in. But I have to work five days a week (yes, I know this is standard for the rest of America). And I have to go in early a couple times. And I have to stay late one or two nights. And I have to be around all weekend. The only thing that allows me to successfully juggle Mom, Physician and Runner is a tightly set routine. Call screws up that routine and everything comes crashing down for a week. Mileage takes a big hit during call week and and everything else seems to spiral out of control. Add to that a Monster Truck Rally to celebrate the birthday of one cute six year old, and it is amazing we get our pants on right some days. Oh wait scratch that, we sent our daughter to school with her pants on inside out one day. Yeah, call week is like that. But usually right before the chaos completely consumes us, call week ends and we get back to our happy little schedule.
Liam turns six!
Only this time, we didn’t get to get back on schedule. I can’t complain too much, though, because the family was off to Maui for eight days because I had a work related conference. It was a big sacrifice, but I’ve got to get in that Continuing Medical Education to stay licenced. Bummer that they always hold these things in tropical locations!
Having a horrible time in Hawaii

I was just back three days and then off to Texas and that was the end of the month. Whew!

We haven't slowed down any for March, either: first the weekend in Texas for the Nueces 50 mile National trail Championships, and then an extended weekend at Disneyland (in lieu of a spring break trip to Disneyland. Disneyland is way more educational than school, right?). This week, I am back on call (writing this as I sit around waiting for a brain surgeon to get me a specimen. Geez, why do they have to operate so slowly?? I mean, its just another organ, right?) and just treading water.

"Pam Smith, you just took third at the 50 Mile National Championships; what are you going to do now?"
"I am going to Disneyland!"

And this weekend Megan and I are off on a ultra-Mother-Daughter adventure. Hopefully, lots of good stories to come from that next week! I love keeping busy and having a full life, but I could use some down time! Maybe next year!