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Oops... we missed a mountain.

So, I don't know if the whole story of the day was the crazy, wild wind we had or the fact that we totally missed the whole objective of the workout that we had been looking forward to/dreading the whole month.

All month, we knew that we were supposed to bike "Shadow Mountain", which, we thought, was about a 50 mile bike through the mountains. Cool enough. We had done 35ish with Cityview and were up for another challenge. Ross had tried to bike the Shadow Mountain loop last month, but was not sure of the route, so he went part the way, then doubled back. Following that ride, he drove the course, just to make sure that we would know where to go when we rode it together.

So with the ride on our schedule, we made sure to get a good nights' sleep, eat a healthy breakfast, pack up and we were off. I was actually in good spirits, ready to conquer the beast. Thinking positive.

Thankfully, it was a sunny day but, unthankfully, there was loads of wind. That's ok, I thought, it will push us up the canyon.
Here's a pict to document just how much wind we had at the start.

So, we started out and immediately the wind was dead on. OK, well, this will probably go away when we get into the canyon. Nope, it just got worse.

Ok, I'll just switch to a lower gear. So I did. And I did. And I did. Until I was in the lowest gear possible. No way. I was only 4 miles in. We hadn't even really started to climb. How was I going to make it if I was already in the lowest gear? I started to cry. Seriously. I have never cried before during a workout, but I did yesterday. Ross, my sweet husband, said that we could turn around whenever I wanted. But I just put my head down and kept going. What if this happens on Ironman day? I thought. Am I going to give up then? Um, of course not. So, we went, slowly up Deer Creek to High Grade. The wind was at our backs for no longer than 1/2 mile of the 14 mile climb and it was brutal!

As we approached the top of High Grade, Ross said he thought we should turn around. Seriously? I just gutted out probably the hardest 14 miles of the ride and he didn't want to finish it? We stopped at the top and talked to other bikers. They were all turning around and kinda laughed at us when we said we wanted to go on. That didn't help me or Ross mentally. If they didn't think it was wise to go on, could we? We weren't sure what we were getting into if we went on. Plus, you can never know with the wind around here. Would it get better? Worse? Who knows.

So after a little conversing, we decided to go on. Chance it. See what we could do.

And, low and behold, it got better. Not the wind, but the fact that we were going downhill. We hit some rollers, but nothing too bad. We went down 73 for awhile.

Continued on till... Ross said her thought we'd gone too far. What? He was supposed to be the guide. Then he said he thought we didn't go far enough. Oh no, do I believe him? I wasn't going any further without confirmation. Ross rode ahead while I whipped out the cell phone and called a few people. No one answered, so I left a text with our coach. It read, "HELP! Lost."

Then, Ross called and said, "I found the turnoff, come on down". So, I rode down to where he was and we turned onto Little Cub Creek Road and rode up. I knew that Little Cub was on the route (or so I heard), so I was happy that we were where we thought we should be. We continued up Little Cub until my cell phone rang, Steve had received my text. Since we were on a mighty steep part of Little Cub, we decided to answer, just to make sure we were in the right place.

While Steve was trying to figure out where we were via my description, he said, "So, then you've already done Shadow Mountain?". Um, apparently, we had MISSED Shadow Mountain. Completely RODE RIGHT BY IT without even knowing. It was a left hand turn and we had gone straight. Oy! We were consoled by Steve reassuring us, "well, you are still doing a really challenging ride". Great. And then he advised us that we might want to bring a map along next time. :)

So, Ross and I continued on. Although Little Cub was steep, the wind was a cross wind and was tamed by the trees, so it was better than the earlier morning. The ride was gorgeous, but with the wind whipping around us so much, I didn't really get too many pictures.
Here's about the only one I got.

Once we got up and over Little Cub, Ross knew (for certain this time) where we were, and we continued on down Turkey Creek Gulch to the backside of Deer Creek then, finally, I knew where we were.
Here we are with only a 9 mile descent to go. Yay! We are almost home!

So, all in all, it was a rather challenging day, both physically and mentally for me. We still hit our 50 miles-ish in the mountains goal, but I had to deal with the wind, not knowing my route, trusting myself, trusting my spouse (scary! j/k), communication, adjusting and not to mention the wind! wind! WIND!
This is me at the end, just to show that the wind didn't let up all day.

My Crazy Friend, Jim

So, a number of you think that I am crazy. Well, maybe in some aspects. But I think that I hang out with some other crazies who inspire and encourage me as well. One being, my crazy friend Jim.
What I like and really get behind is when someone makes a goal and puts it out there. Which is EXACTLY what Jim did. Jim researched and discovered that there were 15 marathons run in Wisconsin, so he committed himself to running all 15 within 2 years time (since some are run on the same day each year, doing them all in one year was not an option).

So, 15 marathons in two years-- that's a big commitment. Well, come to find out that there are actually 23 marathons in Wisconsin. Oy! Did my buddy Jim step down? Heck, no. He just had to do a little more organization and scheduling-- and run his last 3 marathons on a third year. Crazy, crazy man.

But one I love. So, in support of Jim, I wanted to run (at least) one of the marathons with him. He sent me his schedule and the one that looked really appealing was Dances with Dirt, a trail marathon in Baraboo. Jim had it scheduled for July 10, 2010, which I knew I couldn't do since I have already committed to the Door County Half Ironman the week following. Bummer. So I tried to convince Jim to do DWD in 2011. No go. Jim had already promised his family a nice vacay in the Dells (by Baraboo) this year. Totally understand. I figured I would figure something out for 2011 when I was setting my race goals next year.

Fast forward to this week. I got an unexpected email from my friend, Laura, inviting me to her wedding July 8th in Chicago.
Laura and hubby-to-be, Doug. Does this shock any of you that we are friends?

Now, I have known Laura since I was 12. She was my summer camp counselor and it started off as a big sister-little sister type relationship and has grown into so much more over the years. So, missing her wedding = not an option.

That being said, Baraboo is only 3.5 hours away from Chicago. Wedding is Thursday night, race is Saturday morning. Hmmm...?

So, first I have to get the approval of two men: Ross and my coach.

Ross is in favor of it, if it is what I want to do. (He is such a loving and supportive husband.)

Now, the coach, a little tougher cookie to sell. While he is not in total favor of me doing a trail marathon one weekend and a half IM the following weekend, with the circumstances being what they are, he will support it as long as I am ok with not pr'ing at my half IM. The goal will shift from racing fast to "seeing how well I can do a half IM the weekend after a trail marathon". In the long run, it will make me a stronger athlete, at least mentally.

With the circumstances being what they are, I am totally ok with that. I would willingly sacrifice a pr to be along on my friend's journey. Will I remember my finishing time for my half IM years from now? Probably not. Will I remember the run with Jim? Of course. Decision done.

Can't wait for July 10th!

To follow Jim on his journey, you can log onto his blog: 26pt2obsession He has already completed 3 of his 23 marathons(!) and continues to be an inspiration to me and others!

3 Mile Swim

So when I was done with my 50-miler, I had a sneaking suspicion that my mileage would go up in other areas... and I was right. Ross and I had a challenging week which included a ride up to Cityview on Wednesday
The actual view of the city is off in the distance, behind the
mountains we are standing in front of.


And a 3 mile swim today. Yikes! I am not sure I have ever swam that far. Ok, I KNOW I have never swam that far, and certainly not without stopping. Masters swim (which I do 2x/week), I believe, is usually 3200-4000 yds, but that is with stopping, rest, kicking, pulling, etc. This would be 4950 non-stop.

So, how did I prepare? I tried not to think about it. I think that sometimes the distance and the numbers psych us out and the more I think about a daunting task, the more daunting it becomes. Tried to treat it like another day in the pool.

Except, today I brought the camera.Here's Ross--ready to swim

Now, if there is one thing I am not good at, it is counting. And I had to do 105 laps. Ugh. I came prepared with my Garmin 310 (the waterproof one!) and set it up so that all I had on my screen was the lap counter and the time. Every time I completed a lap, I would just hit a button and it would count for me. It was perfect.

I started off strong, but if there is one thing I know about myself is that I am consistent, so I quickly settled into my "happy pace". I tried not to think about the task ahead of me. Instead I tried to think about anything: Hunter's birthday, what we were having for dinner, when would Kate Gosselin get kicked off of Dancing With The Stars?, my outfit for the upcoming Warrior Dash, anything.

I hit the mile mark-- 35 laps. That's good, I thought, 1/3 of the way there.

Now, the laps were just ticking away. 43. Only 10 more till the halfway point. 48. 52.5--HALFWAY!

Something strange happens to me when I reach halfway. I get very excited. Very excited to be "almost" done, that is. Mentally, I am always better in the second half of an event and this was no different. I say to myself, "If I have done this once, there's no reason I can't do it again."

The laps were now flying by, maybe not physically, but mentally. I started counting by 10's. Saying to myself "only 500 till I hit 70" or "80". Only 500. Did I really think that? Well, considering I had already swum about 3000, 500 seemed not so much anymore.

And the real crazy thing, once I hit 90 laps, I felt like I was home. 15 laps, a mere 750 yds to go. And instead of slowing down, I went to it.

3 miles. 105 laps. I was done! And instead of peetering out at the end, I was full of energy. Until it was over. Then I was tired. Ross was, too (pictured below).
So, we opted for some recovery in the hot tub.If I didn't have a long run in the morning, this would deserve a drink (or twelve).

Croom Fools 50 Mile Run

What some people don't understand is that each race is so much more than the actual event. It's the training, the camaraderie you develop with others throughout, the learning, sometimes the travel, the testing of your limits, the preparation, the support of others, and many other factors. And then, what makes the event is how everything culminates and works together to make an experience.

For me, my fifty miler was an awesome experience.

It started in November, when I called my mom and asked her if she would want to support me during the race and she said "sure". I was super-excited to share my experience with her. Not many in my family know what racing is like, and certainly not the life of ultra-running.

Now, mom was probably thinking she would drop me off somewhere in the woods to go running and come back at the end of the day, but I had bigger plans for her (ie, I needed her support more than that). First, she helped me prepare for the race.

Here she is boiling me potatoes to take on my run with me.
Moms are awesome.


Next, we traveled over to Brooksville, for packet pick-up. It was a nice, laid-back atmosphere.

I got to see some of the area we would be running through and it got me more excited for the run. The relaxed atmosphere and the genuineness of the race director helped ease my nerves as well.

We went to the hotel, got everything organized and hit the hay pretty early. With a 6 am start, that meant that we would be up at 4:30 am (2:30 am MST-- which my body was still on, ugh!)

The race itself was 4 loops. One 5-mile loop followed by 3 identical 15-mile loops. All the loops came back to the start/finish area where mom (and all my stuff) would be. That made things a lot easier.

With a 6 am start, we were beginning the race in the dark.

Here we are.

It was actually really cool to run through the forest before sunrise. I had a headlamp and I mostly just followed the people in front of me, but there were some times when I was alone on the trail. At those times, I had to navigate the course that was marked by glow sticks. It was fun to look for and run towards the glow sticks and made me feel like I was at summer camp on some crazy scavenger hunt.

My failed attempt at capturing the "lighted" course on film.

The other real cool thing about this hour was the sky. If you stopped and looked up (which, yes, I did), you could see the moon through a real cool foggy haze. As the sun came up, the scenery only got more beautiful.

Sunrise in the forest.

At mile 5, I found myself back to the start where mom was waiting. I traded her my headlamp for my visor, grabbed some G2 and hand bottle and I was off on my first 15-mile loop.

The second loop for me was all about checking out the terrain and seeing what I would be running through for the rest of the day. And, it was all quite beautiful.
I finished the second loop feeling good. Mom was ready for me, refilled my waterpack and sent me on my way.

The third loop, I was ready to slow down, but just kept plugging along at my happy pace which wasn't any slower. I hit the 25 mile mark and was excited to be halfway. I was on my way to completing the third loop. I kept plugging along. I was super-charged to hit the 30-mile mark/aid-station. I thought that was all I needed to get me to the end of the third lap, but somewhere right after that aid station, my nutrition went south... and so did my energy. Mile 31-34 were probably the low point of my run, but I knew I needed to pull out of it.

I completed the third loop in need of more repair than the first two loops. Did a quick wardrobe change, including washing my feet, re-applying moleskin and new socks (ahhh!). Warned my mom that the final loop might take 4 hours and I was off.

Amazingly, I felt good! I rambled through the forest, surprised at my new found energy. I took in the scenery, it was probably the prettiest part of the loop, but unfortunately, I didn't capture much of it on my camera because the ground was so filled with roots, I didn't trust myself to run and take pictures or video.

I got to the first aid station and took in some food, cola and refilled my water pack. (By this time, it was quite hot and humid, so I was refilling my waterpack at every aid station-- and sometimes depleting it between the aid stations. That's 70 ozs/3-5 miles. Unfortunately, I sweat A LOT.)

Again, shortly after that aid station, I lost some energy. And the run/walking started. I got really frustrated with myself because I felt like I could run, but my body just wouldn't let me. I did some self-talking and came to the conclusion that, since I was still running at a pretty good pace, I thought it might net a faster time if I ran/walked than running at a slower pace.

At this point, too, a woman (Becki) happened upon me that seemed to be in the same state I was in. I asked her what her goal was and that is how the friendship started. We continued on together, chatting, running and walking when we needed to (the uphills). At one point, she was out of water and I gave it to her. At another point, my stomach was really irritated and she handed me some Pepto. Somewhere between miles 42-45, we were chatting so much, we lost the trail and kept running (oops- what's another 1/2 mile when you are running 50?) Anyways, we really became quite a team, motivating each other to run and supporting one another emotionally, physically, everything. It was something totally unexpected and it was awesome.

We got all the way to mile 48.5/49 and came across Brian, one of Becki's friends who had come to cheer her on at the end. Brian had walked down the trail to find her and found "us". He was cool, full of encouragement and ready to do the last stint with us. When we got up to the finish (FINALLY) Becki and I crossed together. And WE WERE DONE!

50 Miles (+ some) took us 9 hours and 59 minutes. We ended up being 1st in age group (tie) and 5th woman overall (tie).

And here is my video of the day. ENJOY!
video
** Sorry for the pixelation, I will try to fix that. (If you see this message gone, it means it has been fixed.) Also, in the video, when I was recounting my loops, I only the 3 15-mile loops.

The last time I ran 50 miles...

...it was a lot different. Completely different.

Me, Ross and two of our friends (Todd and Dave) ran the Fall 50 as a relay team. If you have never done a relay, it is totally fun and totally worth it. So fun, in fact. And really inspiring.

This race, we ran alongside a number of runners who were doing the 50 miles themselves. It gave me a little exposure to the life of the solo 50-miler... without having to do the whole distance myself. And, I will admit, it is probably where my desire to do a 50-miler started.

I also like to think that I gave some encouragement to the solo runners on the run.
Whenever I passed a soloist on the road, I would tell them how great I thought they were and that they were the real reason we were out there. (That and the party at the end, but I wouldn't say that to the runner.)

If you are thinking about it, I would HIGHLY encourage it. There is nothing like doing a distance with friends, encouraging one another along, making friends along the way, supporting not only your team, but other teams and runners as well. The day flies by, and amazingly, THE DISTANCE flies by. As cliche as it sounds, you'll create memories to last a lifetime.

So, now I am on the flip side. The solo runner. Psyching myself up to run 50 miles. And it's gonna be awesome. My mom will be my support team. Hopefully I will meet others on the way to offer encouragement to and reap encouragement from. But everything else will be different. And I am looking forward to it.

Here is a video of what it is like to run 50 with friends. After tomorrow, I will have a totally new perspective on what it is like to run 50. Guaranteed.
video

P.S. Registration for the Fall 50 just opened. I would register if I were you! Fun race, fun times. You know me, all about the *extras* in a race and this one does not disappoint: super-bling, car paint, glow sticks, a dj who loves old school 80's rap music and... endless (good) beer.

Anxious. Excited. Ready. Scared.

Here I sit at DIA, waiting to board my flight to Florida.

Once there, I plan to hang with my mom and get ready for Saturday, a 50 mile race (I prefer to call it a run since I won't be going fast) through the "Croom" in the Withlacoochee State Forest.

So, how do I feel?

Anxious.
Am I ready? I am not sure. I think so. But how do you really know? You can prepare as much as you want to and... well, let's not think about that.

Excited.
I know it sounds weird, but I am actually really excited for various reasons.
~ It will be the furthest I have ever run and, at this point, plan to run.
~ To see what my body will do. How it will respond to the distance. How I will feel.
~ Running in a new place, on new trails, with some beautiful new scenery. I will say, the best part of this whole IM training adventure so far has been putting myself in new situations and running some of the most gorgeous places.
~ My mom. I can't wait to have her on this journey with me. She will be my support person and I will need her more than ever. I am excited for her to see a part of my world that not many of my friends or family get to see first hand. This will kinda be like her dry run for September.

Ready.
~ Logistically--I have packed just about everything I think I could need and plan to have it all at the race course (thanks, mom!).
~ Nutritionally--I have tested (at shorter distances) my nutrition plan and I can't wait to implement it. I plan to have my potatoes boiled, my Cliff bars cut up, my salt packets ready (all things I have learned in training).
~ Mentally--I think I am there. I know what I have to do and I am ready to do it.
~ Physically--I had one injury that was a bit of setback, but it seems to be gone. This week I made sure to get adjusted and a massage, just so there was nothing physically holding me back.I I have stuck to my training and my nutrition. I feel fresh, and full of energy.

Scared.
How can I not be? It's 50 MILES! And I, I have a severe fear of failure. Not that not completing the entire 50 miles would be a failure, but I guess it is a fear of falling short of what I set out to do. But (here is where the mentally ready part of the equation comes into play), I choose to use that fear to my advantage. I think my fear will help fuel me and make me not want to give up.

So, that's where I am. 36 hours out from my big run.
Anxious. Excited. Ready. Scared.