Race Report : Run Woodstock 1/2 Marathon

After scaring my friends for life with the mental image of my t&a and making my first two hot-dogs of an embarrassing amount of processed food for the weekend, most of my group opted for bed as we were going out in the morning for the 1/2 marathon.

Sleeping in a tent alone was all kinds of creepy. The noises didn’t bother me too much, but the random flickers of headlamps kept waking me up. I did manage to stop thinking creatures were trying to sneak in though. Before I knew it, my alarm was going off and it was time to run 13.1. Well WALK 13.1.

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The ladies and I gathered and off we went into the wilderness. Except it wasn’t wilderness. Most of us were trying to “win” last place, but I quickly became the “winner” in that category. Luckily for my pride it was last of our group, turns out 3-4 people finished overall after me. The first 6 miles were crushed limestone, like the local Towpath. I won’t lie, I struggled a lot mentally and physically the first half of the race. My friends were just far enough ahead of me I could tell they were laughing, but I wasn’t able to keep up or hear. I tried to tell them I wanted them to stay with me, but they told me I’d be fine on my own. Unfortunately the surface was just similar enough to pavement that it wasn’t doing my leg any favors during the third consecutive weekend of moving it 13.1 miles. My heart and body hurt, but I realized just as they couldn’t expect me to keep up, I couldn’t expect them to slow down just to keep me company.

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The first mile was actual road then we turned off onto the limestone. Another few miles out before a turn around and then along the way back we entered the trail. With nearly 600 people entered into the event, it was probably a good move on the directors to adjust the course this way for force people to spread out. Along the way we crossed paths with several other distance runners as the different loops dipped in and out of each other. There were the 100 milers, 100K, 50K, marathon, half marathon and 5 miler runners. Also along the way we kept wondering why our miles felt so long, our pace only dropped about a minute per mile. Thankfully, the scenery was beautiful and the elevation was gentle. There was quite a bit of sand which was difficult to navigate and also caused a lot of blister related issues.

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An interesting thing about 13.1 miles is you are able to see what your personal strengths and weakness are and you’re able to see other people have their own ups and downs too. I really thrive on the trails, this is one reason I miss trail running so badly, I was good at it and I was on my way to getting better. I was slightly reminded of this as different members of our group slipped in and out of the lead (myself included). We all power hiked/ran together (my leg prefers trail surfaces and I was able to stretch at an aid station picnic table) and I can say this is a very runnable course. Under different circumstances this would have been an A+ game day for me.

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Nearing the end my body decided to try and shut down. Maybe not that dramatically, but it felt like it at the time. Over the duration of 4 hours and 15 minutes (yuck) we had maybe 3 aid stations despite the heat (I remembered to bring my own) and there were 0 bathrooms. You were told you could use the woods, but I didn’t see a good ducking in spot. By the end of it I was dehydrated, hungry, overheated and tired. I zombie-walked to the end. Picked up my medal and made my way to the bathroom.

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From 11:45 when I finished to 12:00 I used the bathroom, ate 1/2 a bagel and changed my shoes/socks. Then at 12:00 I joined the crowd for a 4 mile hike into town for lunch. Yep, immediately after my 13.1 miles I added another 4. What was I thinking? Ha! This is one of the reasons my group opted to walk the 1/2.

For simplicity’s sake I’ll summaries the rest of the day and then share some pictures.

The “Hike to Hell” was fun, I was able to zone out and not fear a time cut off. While in town we took pictures and waited for lunch. It started to rain so I cut back early, and wanted to do the hula-hooping anyway. Due to the rain I don’t have hooping pictures. I grabbed some lunch, worked my abs, and then met up with friends for Yoga and then tie-dying shirts. Finally it was nap time before heading out for the second natural run and spending the rest of the night by the fire with good company.

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Sunday I woke up in the back of my car (I was freezing and not prepared) and opted to skip the Sunday 5 miler. I wanted to do it because each time you did an event you were given a tiny button for your medal. If you did all 4 “extra” running events you were given a BIG button.

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It gives me something to look forward to next year I suppose. Besides I did a lot for someone still making a comeback! 23 miles in 24 hours! Yikes. No wonder my feet were swollen until Wednesday. Haha.  Sunday we all had some breakfast before heading home. It was a wonderful weekend and I can’t wait to head back next year!

Run Woodstock : The Natural Miles

I was such a happy camper (pun intended) when I was able to attend Run Woodstock this year. Last year I was told by my doctor I wasn’t allowed to attend (even as a spectator) because I would be too tempted to push it. After going this year, I know he was right!

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Run Woodstock is a 3 day festival of Peace, Music & Running! It isn’t a FULL 3 days and honestly there is SO MUCH to do, it could easily spill over into Sunday afternoon, but I’m sure the race directors need time for clean up. Today’s post will focus on my arrival and the two “natural” runs. Tomorrow we’ll chat about the other events.

The camp grounds open at noon on Friday, and I intended to arrive around 300 in the afternoon. Then I realized I didn’t want to get up too early and opted to sleep in a little. If I was going the whole weekend without sleep I needed to start off on the best possible note. I say this because I was camping in the “rowdy” corner. My section of camp grounds is where every single event passes by on the way to the finish. 100% of the weekend there were people running past and others sitting around cheering. I loved this idea and knew what I was getting into, but wanted to be prepared.

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The 100 mile and 100K runners started at 400 PM. I arrived closer to 430, meaning I missed Mark and Dan take off on their adventures. I later found other friends who were doing those distances too. Many campers were already there and I found my site and raised my tent. Is that how you say it? Now I’ve only assembled this tent 1 other time, in April of 2012 and it was in my living room. Luckily my “neighbors” took pity on me and offered to help. This made it a lot quicker of a process.

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Wandering over to registration I found several members of the Cleveland/Akron tribe and chatted for a while. They were actually about a stone’s throw away, I just couldn’t see them due to a camper and picnic table between us. The sites are tiiiight though! They take a standard lot and split it into about 3 other “lots” for the weekend. I could fit my car and my tent on my site (front to back NOT side by side). Personally, I’m glad they do this, because it allows for so many more people to be able to stay. Some groups used one of the lots to park cars and put all their tents on another site as layout favored this arrangement here and there.

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After picking up my shirt and race bib I continued to unpack and eventually found myself sitting by a fire chatting with my friends and waiting for the first “fun” event…a relaxing 5K. I broke out the festive skirt I made that morning, to make sure it was comfortable enough for the main event the next day. It was a tad long and very thick, but it was super cute (I received sooooo many compliments) and it was comfortable.

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BTW, this 5K has a very special option. About 2 miles into the run there is a split in the road, you may go left or right. One way leads you along the trail and back to the camp grounds. The other way leads you deeper into the woods and you are allowed to run “natural” for a mile. Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like, you strip down to socks and shoes and run free into the night. Oh and you’re allowed a headlamp.

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At first I was super nervous about the idea, and especially about not knowing anyone, since my friend refused to get naked. Then I decided it was probably better NOT to know anyone. I came to the clearing and looked around and it was a lot of naked people. Interestingly enough, it felt weird to be the only person wearing clothes. There is a “bar” set up where they served wine, beer and water, a blanket for placing all your clothes and then a loop mile to run your heart out. While it wasn’t weird to be naked, I was worried people might say something or give me a dirty look. Everyone was VERY nice though! No one said anything negative about anyone else. We were all just naked and sweaty and happy. A kind man and two other ladies grouped off with me and we went for a run. Yes, “the girls” were not very well behaved on this “run” so I needed to hold them down every once in a while or slow my pace.

It was difficult to take it all in (don’t be dirty). Being naked, the night running, being so “in tune” with nature. I tried to practice being mindful and present, but I think there were too many things fighting for my attention. Parts of it still feel surreal.

Once back at the bar people milled about and chatted. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do another loop since I had many many MANY more miles the next day. So I picked up my “button” and walked back with a nice couple. Oh, there were different buttons (like scout badges) you could collect over the weekend for doing different events. You’ll understand better with tomorrow’s post.

The rest of the night was spent sitting by the fire cooking hot-dogs or other fire friendly foods and talking with friends.

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Saturday there was once again a nighttime fun run. There was the option for a 5K with a “natural” detour, or a standard 10K. Part of me wanted to go for the 10K and miles, but part of me knew I may never get a chance to run naked again and might as well live it up!

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On Saturday I actually decided to run, where as Friday I walked the first portion with my friend. It was so freeing to run through the woods, just me and my thoughts, at a slow but wonderful pace. The daytime rain had cooled things down and I was in my happy place. It was hard to believe I’d already put over 17 miles on my legs.

I knew two of my friends were in Saturday’s group, but I expected them to be well ahead of me and out of sight, out of mind. A woman I met along the way entered the clearing with me and told me it was her first time in 3 years of attending to do the “naked” portion. Saturday’s group was MUCH larger and MUCH more under the influence of alcohol. HA! The guy who lead my Friday night group saw me and gave me a high-five for coming back. I tossed my clothes onto the pile and stood around chatting.

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An older man looked at me and told me I looked familiar. He then proceeded to tell me about a nudist colony he was headed to and other random information. I was very uncomfortable. I walked around talking to others and could constantly see him behind me over my shoulder. Weird. I’m sure he didn’t mean any harm, but still.

I ran a loop with the woman I met before and she loved every minute of it. I think it was still very surreal to me, so being able to experience this second night through new eyes was a gift in itself. I also learned some very interesting things about the female body as it ages.

After the run I joked with some friends who were amazed at how comfortable I seemed, maybe I was taking “Blissed In- Happy in My Skin” too literally, huh Bex? We walked back to camp when the bar closed. We didn’t have to go home, but we did have to get dressed and leave the woods.

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No one could believe I ran naked or that I did it sober. It was a very good experience for me. I realized no one has a “perfect” body, but we all have bodies we can do amazing things with out on the trails. I know I don’t look the way I want to look right now, but I need to work on not letting that stop me from living my life, just as Kim so wonderfully wrote about in her blog.

I looked good last year, but injury meant I couldn’t attend, who knows what next year will bring. I chose to live in the moment and took a risk. Friends told me I would never regret it and I certainly do not! I plan to do it again in 2014, maybe I’ll run some extra loops! Who knows, maybe I’ll see you there?

Race Report : Moebius-Green Monster Trail 50K

This past Saturday I spent my second year at the third annual Moebius-Green Monster trail 50K. Those of you around for the long haul will remember the 2012 version of this race as the last REAL race I’ve done. I 2012 I was too damn prideful and insisted on finishing despite pain in my leg. Somehow I decided everyone would judge me and I would be an outcast if I dropped. Whatever. I ruined my hamstring, ITB and piriformis that day and I have regretted it deeply ever since. SIGH. So I went back in 2013, but not to redeem myself, not to finish what I started, I went back to spend time on the trails with my friends.

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Knowing I wasn’t “racing” lifted a HUGE weight from my shoulders. I woke up on time, left on time, and arrived on time. No joke. I chatted with a few friends and gathered my new shirt and number. The cool thing about the shirts? The RD bases the color off the previous winner’s color. How fun, right?

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We took off on time at 700 AM and I quickly fell behind the pack. Immediately I was freaking out and second guessing my decision. A few deep breaths later I was jogging along the trail enjoying my Saturday morning. Even if I was alone, I could still have fun and it was a loop course so I would soon see people. Plus Gale was meeting up with me in a little while! I kept a pace between 15-18 minutes for the first 5 miles of the loop. Including the half mile “detour” I took when I missed a flag. Oops. The last mile I was texting Gale for an ETA and didn’t keep up pace too well.

She said she was on her way so after completing about 6.7 miles, I plopped down and waited. To my surprise LOTS of other runners called it “quits” after 1 loop. All smiles they were waiting for friends and helping with the aid station.

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Gale arrived and we took off on another loop of simply walking and hiding mystery animals along the trail. It was so nice to spend trail time with her and not a group where it feels like we’re always being separated from each other. It meant a lot to me to tell her how much she means to me and how scared I was when she thought she had her stroke. Of course it wasn’t all seriousness! There were M&Ms and fart jokes and plans for geo-caching!

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We walked the second loop (6.2 miles) in about 2.5 hours. We didn’t care at all. I called it “quits” after that and stayed around the aid station cheering on other runners. When all was said and done Gale and I took off to find 2 more geo-caches and then I help to tear down the main aid station. Mostly because I think the RD is a fun guy and I wish we were closer in age so we could be real friends. Haha. Yes, I know I’m a dork for writing that…deal with it.

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I know some of you probably wish there was more to the story than what you just read. I’m glad there isn’t though. A few weeks ago I could barely walk one loop without terrible pain. This weekend I completed 13 miles without much difficulty and an easy recovery. I remembered what it meant to be out on the trails with the people you love. I went home feeling accomplished and looking forward to the coming weeks. Things I haven’t experienced in nearly a year. Sometimes events are about more than the numbers on the page at the end of the day.

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A big congrats to everyone who started Saturday no matter what distance your race ended with, you were awesome! Love my trail running pals and looking forward to so many more miles with you all, even those who weren’t there and we run together in spirit!

Have a safe and happy week everyone. I have a minor sunburn to tend to and packing for my trip to Virginia Beach!