Sunday, November 30, 2014

Camp, Qatar, and Conniving Commies - Part 1

(Don't you hate when people write race reports that are longer than the actual race itself, giving you every mundane detail of every minute leading up to the race, including every morsel of food they put into their mouths, whether or not they used their lucky purple toothbrush before the race, and what color poop they had?? Yeah, me, too. So instead of doing that, I am giving you this in two parts, to trick you into thinking the whole report is much shorter than it actually is. This part only covers Camp, so the title is misleading, but I am setting the stage for massive suspense! I know you will be dying to get Part 2 (because its not like you already know the results or anything). So you'll probably be checking the blog like 5, 6, maybe even ten times a day and my blog stats will go up and I'll be thinking "Wow, look at me: I am so popular!" You get a reading intermission and I get to feel all warm and fuzzy; Everybody wins! So, yeah...on to Part 1)

Well the soreness of pounding out 62 miles on unforgiving surfaces has faded to almost nothing but the excitement of the trip has not. Mac and I had a crazy nine day itinerary for mid-November that had us jet setting to Frankfurt and Amsterdam en route to and from Doha, Qatar. But not before spending a few days outside of the exotic locale of Rocksprings, TX.

For the third year (and Mac’s second) we went to Texas to be trail mentors at the Team Red White and Blue trail camp. They call us volunteers as we are supposedly giving our time, but that seems a mistake as we get so much in return. This is a group of amazing people with so many Veterans who have sacrificed so much to serve our country and it is an honor to get the chance to run with them. 

Being a third year mentor I was given tremendous responsibility: I was in charge of the beer stop during the two plus hour bus ride from the airport to camp (because no alcohol is sold at camp and what is running camp without beer??). Well, I start chatting it up and before you know it, we are 20 miles past our stop! OMG, I am going to have some angry service men on my hands! Seriously, who put this idiot in charge?? (I DID give the bus driver specific instructions on where to stop before we took off. “That’s my bad” he told me when I asked why we missed it). Dom Grossman saved the day by finding us a very rustic, middle of nowhere country store to stop at. It had great local flair and was 4th generation family owned. They loved the business and we loved their Texas warmth and homemade brisket and beef jerky - what a score! And of course, I totally meant to do that! ;)
Who wouldn't want to stop here?
My first two years I mentored the advanced groups but this year with 100k Worlds just a few short days after Camp, I helped out with the beginner group to save my legs a bit. What this group lacks in running experience, they make up for in energy and enthusiasm! With their attitude they will be kicking ass on the trails in no time! It was nice how eager group A was to learn, so I felt I had a lot to offer this year. The D group is so focused on running they don’t like to stop for discussions! (To be fair, many of the D groupers have enough experience that they could be leading the camp. What am I supposed to say about heat training to a guy who has already finished Badwater??).

Awesome Group A!
Yes, I am wearing a buff! That is the power of camp Eagle!
Mac enjoys the technical trails at Camp Eagle
On the final night, Team RWB honored and thanked Max King, Meghan Arbogast and me for helping at camp when it was so close to Worlds and we were presented with a Team RWB coin. Ok, I tend to be a pretty stoic person, but I was beyond touched by this and had to do a little extra blinking to manage the eye moisture! The director for Team RWB said that the entire organization was behind us, so if we got tired in the race to imagine 56,000 sets of hands pushing us from behind. Max was the top American man (and World Champ) and Meghan and I ended up 1-2 for the American women. Coincidence? I think not!

Mac and I had to leave camp Monday morning a few hours before it was officially over in order to catch our flights, but not too early to get in one last little adventure. Last year Jason Bryant arranged for a small group including my husband to go see the headwaters of the Nueces River. When I heard, I asked if I could tag along, and I was very bluntly told “No”. Let’s not say that there is trespassing involved, but just that the journey requires climbing an 8 foot fence and leaving the Camp Eagle property. For that reason the group was kept small. But Jason felt bad for excluding me last year, so this year I got the first invite and he didn’t have to do much arm twisting.
We ran up and down this. Well, Jason ran it, I tip-toed and scooted!

This little trickle coming out of the rocks becomes the Nueces River

Jason Bryant and me at the headwaters.

 After our chilly jaunt it was off to Qatar. A mere 28 hours later and we were there!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A "Smashing" Day: Thinking Beyond Traditional MUT Safety

Trail runners are used to paying attention to personal safety: checking maps, checking weather conditions, packing extra food and gear, letting others know where you are going, etc. But one area of safety we might not think about much is that of our cars.

Because I live in a fairly isolated area of town and I like to run with people, I drive to my run about 90% of the time. In fact this has been a typical morning routine for me for the past six years. (I shower at work which is downtown so this doesn't add any extra driving to my day). Every day, I grab my car key and leave everything else behind: gym bag, packed food and even my purse, which I "hide" under the seat or other bags. I've never had a problem until this past Friday.

Friday morning, I drove to a local gym at 5:30 am to meet a friend for a run. I left my car in the parking lot, right under the light pole and in plain sight of the front desk. When I returned at 6:50, gym employees were standing by my car. "Someone just busted your window," they informed me. At first glance, everything seemed ok: Gym bag on the seat on top of a pile of work papers, clothes hanging on the door, food bag in the foot well, plus a bag to take to the Goodwill. But when I looked under the bags, my purse was gone.
Hey! There's glass on my Ultrarunner Magazine!
In total, the cash, purse, wallet, and a gift card had an estimated value of about $250; the window cost $100 to replace; and a new driver's license was $26.50. Not a small loss but not the end of the world. The thieves got a $35 tank of gas before I could get my credit card cancelled, but there was no major spending spree or ATM withdrawal. I would blow this off as one big nuisance, except that wasn't the end of the story.

At 7:20am, someone rang our doorbell forcefully and repeatedly. My kids - with naive optimism and excitement to see what was going on - ran to the entry hall. A man in a hoodie was peering in the window and took off running as soon as he saw the kids. My husband - deciding it would be more couth to answer the door with a shirt on - lagged behind and arrived at the door just in time to see two men speeding off in a silver Honda Element with an Oregon "O" on the back. He couldn't see the plates. Fortunately, these guys were looking for an empty house and were not interested in a tussle, but still this chilled me to the core: this little break-in wasn't just a nuisance, it potentially put my entire family in jeopardy!
At least they didn't take the squash from my back seat!
Anyway, I know bad people do bad shit, and I should not beat myself up as the victim, but at the same time, I know I have been pretty unconcerned about break-ins and a bit too cavalier about my car when I go for a run. The Salem Police department notes that auto break-ins are usually at their highest in October through December, both because of increased darkness and because of the proximity of the holidays (as the officer told me: thieves want to have nice holidays, too). Salem has actually been having a string of break-ins at different gyms around the city. Unlike people going to the super market, people going to the gym often leave their purse or wallet behind. I know of several people who have had break-ins at trail heads and the same logic applies: people going for hikes don't take their lap tops and purses with them.

So here are a few common sense reminders of things to do to lessen your chance of a break-in.

-Lock your doors. This seems like a "duh" kind of thing, but of the 1.85 million auto outbreak-ins each year, it is estimated that 25% of them occur in unlocked cars. It can take less than 60 seconds to rummage your whole car, so even if you are just going in for coffee or dropping off a library book, lock the doors. Close up the windows and sunroof, too.

-Set the alarm. If you have a car alarm, set it. The alarm draws attention to your car and may scare off potential thieves.

-Don't leave anything visible in your car.  Even if your possessions are "not valuable", if a thief sees a lot of stuff they are more likely to break in, hoping they will find something of value stashed amongst everything.  Not to mention your "not valuable" stuff can actually cost a lot to replace. A few years ago, I had a clothing bag stolen from a race. At first, I didn't think it was that big of a deal because it was just clothes, but when I thought about the cost of the shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen, sweats, shirt, capris, and backpack, it was easily over $200 dollars worth of stuff.

Keeping things out of sight may be tougher for trail runners since many drive SUV's and hatchbacks without a concealed trunk area. Consider getting a cover for the back area or at least get a large opaque container (like a storage bin).

- Keep loose change out of sight. When I was going to medical school at Temple University in North Philadelphia, we were warned that cars had been broken into just to steal a few coins off of the console. If people are desperate enough, even a buck or two can seem like a score.

- Don't use the console, under the seat, or glove compartment as hiding places. The police officer told me thieves know that women commonly put their purse under their seats to "hide" them, but from certain angles parts of the purse may still be visible. I suspect I did a poor hiding job Friday morning and that perhaps the strap was sticking out. Parking in well lit areas is a good idea, but in my case, it probably made it easier to see into my car. The console and unlocked glove compartments are also commonly searched. Use the trunk instead.

- If you don't need it, leave it at home. Wallets, purses and backpacks often end up being a bit of a storage locker. My purse contained memberships cards, a gift card I had no immediate plans for, a USB drive, laser pointer and a few other things that I didn't need on a daily basis. I know at least two people who have had lap tops taken from their cars while they were running. I know this gets tough, because busy people are often on the go and want everything they need with them at all times. If you are just going to the gym or for a run, put your driver's license, a credit card and maybe a few bucks in pouch or small baggie and leave everything else at home. If you do have to take stuff with you, again make sure it is locked in your trunk.

- Stow before you go. Don't wait till you get to your destination to hide your stuff or put in the trunk, do it before you leave your house so no one sees you stashing your valuables.

-In the gym is safer than your car. If you are headed to the gym, take all your valuables with you. Even in an unlocked locker, they are safer in the gym than in your car. Better yet, get a lock!

Getting back from a run to find your car window smashed in will completely ruin any runner's high you had going on. Take a couple extra minutes to diminish your chances of a break-in, because canceling credit cards, visiting the DMV, repairing your car and changing all the locks on your house is a really shitty way to spend your day.
Enjoying my Friday afternoon at the Salem DMV - ugh!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

"Super" Day at Autumn Leaves

Another year, another mess of loops at Autumn Leaves. This year was bittersweet since I was originally planning to run at Les Templiers in France on the last weekend of October. Autumn Leaves is in nearby Champoeg State park with a great “low-key” feel, wonderful race directors, and a fast course, but there is no denying that it is NOT France! But I’d come to terms with not going to France a while ago and since I was free, well, why not pick up finish #5 at Autumn Leaves?? Plus, I had a Supergirl costume just dying to be put to use!

I originally got the Supergirl attire back in 2011, when I had the crazy idea of going after the Guinness World Record for female marathon in a superhero costume, which at the time was 3:08. I had a friend (not a runner) who had recently gotten into going after life goals and after a motivating email from him, I made a rash purchase on the Target website. It was only $12.88 with free shipping, so it wasn't a huge investment. It came in a package labeled "Secret Wishes: Costumes for Playful Adults." Well, running in a costume makes me a "playful adult", right?? Hahaha! But after reading all the requirements from Guinness, I was kind of apathetic about the whole thing and never really pursued it. Then Camille Herron slammed the door on the whole idea with her 2:48 Spidergirl run a few years ago - that's out of my superhero league! So other than a brief appearance at the first Superhero 5k with my son Liam, Supergirl has been stuck in her plastic packaging.
This is exactly how I look in this costume when I am not running.

Last year, I was eager to test my fitness at AL and ran the 50 miler all out to a 6:11 finish. This year, my goals were quite different and I really wanted to focus on holding back and staying comfortable all day to put in a good training effort for the 100k Worlds on Nov. 21. And of course, I needed to keep my costume contest streak alive, too!
Supergirl and the Autumn Leaves
We started in pitch black and pouring rain and I did a good job running super easy. I ran a couple of the early miles with Liz who was trying her first 50k after doing a few marathons - your typical story - until Liz told me she was 17 and had done her first marathon at age 14. I laughed and told her I was old enough to be her mom. “Oh, no,” she tells me, “my parents are still older than you!” Haha- I like that young people are getting into the sport, but they sure do make me feel old! But with age comes wisdom and I knew Liz was working too hard for so early so I was happy for her when she said she was going to back off.

My idea was to start slow and cut down the pace for every 6.25 mile lap. Things went right on plan until the end of loop 2 when the RD’s and timer told me I was “first master, second woman.” So the pace for lap three got a little more aggressive than planned. ;) My friend Josh coyly asked me after the race what my place had to do with pace for a “training run.” Haha - well, I do have a race bib on after all!

The ladies at the turn around let me know I was 8 minutes back and that she “looks like she is only 15.” Great, another teenager!

On the return I was bummed to see Joe Uhan, who had been battling with Josh for the men’s lead, and he just wasn’t feeling good. But it was nice to have his company through the woods back to the start/finish, where he planned to drop. To prove to me how bad he felt, he told me that just running along with me his heart rate was 160. I looked down and mine read 169! Um, maybe I should back off a bit!

At the start/finish both the RD and the timer assured me they had made a mistake; the other woman was a 50 mile early starter! Since I was already running around my 100km PR pace, I decided to just hold that for the final two loops to the finish. The beauty of starting slow is that you get to pass a lot of people at the end! I finished in a personal worst (and slower than both 50k splits during my two 50 mile runs here) in 4:05, but it was good enough for first female/third overall. And most importantly: costume contest victory!! :)
Flying to the finish!
Lap 1: 55:21 (8:53)
Lap 2: 50:18 (8:06)
Lap 3: 46:13 (7:27)
Lap 4: 46:28 (7:29)
Lap 5: 46:42 (7:32)

I don't think I fulfilled any of my husband's "Secret Wishes" last weekend, but after feeling so crappy for so many weeks through the summer and after AC, it was great to cruise around 50k feeling fantastic. Whatever overtraining/overfatigue I had going on seems to be behind me. Though I am happy that running feels "playful" again, this wasn't exactly a confidence boost. As noted, the time was slower than 50 mile pace the last two years. I got 30k of good 100k pace training, but I can't say it felt entirely easy and I certainly couldn't have kept it up for another 70k on that day, so I still have a lot of uncertainty about my fitness. 

I tried to "cram" a bit this week with 99.25 miles in six days (because I am staying under 100 mpw for the time being - ha!) including a good tempo run and a hill session. I finished up the week sweeping at the Silver Falls 50k and marathon. Sweeping may be the most playful of all running activities. My day went like this: Stand around eating candy and chatting (Mac was running the 50k so we had to get there fairly early. Being the day after Halloween, there was a lot of candy and let's just say I wasn't adhering to low carb breakfasting on this morning). After the marathon start (30 minutes after the 50k start) we ran at a good clip to the second AS. Then we stood around and ate a bunch. Then we ran at a good clip till we caught the last marathoner. Then we walked. When the marathon and 50k course split, we took off sprinting because now we were way behind the last 50k'er. Then we caught her and walked. Chill and chat at the aid station, stuff your face, run hard till you recatch the last runner, walk, repeat. Kind of a funny way to run and not exactly the best road 100k training, but it was fun to get some time on the trails again and it was good to help out Run Wild Adventures, a company that has been very successful bringing trail races to the Salem area (yes, Salem!).

Less than three weeks till Worlds. Until then, I'll be doing few last ditch speed workouts and a lot of "Wishful" thinking!