Friday, August 31, 2012

Rewind: Howl at the Moon

I had a few things that I had been intending to blog about.  I had a big detour and change of plans when my father in law passed away a few weeks ago.  Since then, things had been a little topsy turvy and then you add in the emotional upheaval of it all and my blogging just got a little out of whack.  So I wanted to go back and talk about/mention a few things.

Howl at the Moon

Every year that I have raced Howl I feel like I learn something new that I then apply to the next year to make my run more successful.  I'm not a huge hat person, but I knew that some proper cover was needed for this day.  The last 2 years were at least partly cloudy.  This year the sun was bright and strong all day long.

Finding a good hat is hard to find.  Partly why I'm not a hat person.  They irritate my forehead and make it all itchy.  Honestly I've never tried to find a hat that would suit me.  In my mind I'm just not a hat person, I've never wore one to run in, so why even consider it.  In this push come to shove situation I turned to my favorite running store Go Outside and Play.  I love Nick, Tracy & Matt because they really know their stuff when it comes to running shoes, gear & apparel.  (No they didn't pay me to say that....I really do love 'em!) 

Being a last minute gal I strolled into the store when Connie & I were on our way out of town for the race.  I was stopped dead in my tracks when Nick told me they didn't have any hats in stock (note: I said they really know their stuff, not have everything imaginable in stock or for sale).  My stomach about hit the ground.  What am I going to do?!?!??!!?  My whole race strategy was based on a hat!  Yes, that sounds silly, but I kid you not, I give big credit to that hat for my sucessful race that day!

Before I had a full out panic attack there in the store Nick quickly remembered that last week a Merrel rep had been to the store and left some freebie giveaway stuff.  One of those items: A HAT!!!!  I was pretty skeptical when he handed me a black hat.  I didn't mean to question him, but aren't you suppose to wear white, not black to keep cool.  Doesn't black make you hot?  Nick reassurred me that it would be a great hat & do the job.  I trust Nick with me life (no pressure man in case it ever comes to that) so I trusted him about the hat.

Know idea ever!!!!  I LOVED the hat!  It was wonderful and perfect.  And the fact that it was free made it all the more better!  Here we are posing with our hats later that evening:

Here is Connie & I at the start of the race.  I didn't wear the hat the whole day.  The morning air was quite cool so I didn't feel it was needed.  I started off my with usual Bondi Band.  I wore several Bondi Bands through out the day.  Once I added the hat it fit over it perfectly.  You couldn't see all my cute sayings on my band, but it did the job of absorbing sweat & keeping it out of my eyes.

Some other notable things about my race is the food that I ate.  The day before my race I was having a conversation with a friend about running.  She asked a common question of what do I do to fuel up?  How do I eat through out the day?  I certainly can't go 8 hours with no food, right?  I assured her no I can not go without food....can't even do that on days when I don't' run.  I love me some food!!!!  She found it very amusing that I literally run and eat at the same time.  Now, not all runners do this, but I do.  Since I was taking this race very seriously I was not stopping long enough to eat.  It was all grab and literally eat on the run.  My friend found the idea to be completely hilarious.  Eating while running......hahahahahahahahaha!

During Howl every time I ate something I would think of my friend and our conversation.  I decided to keep track of all the food I ate on the run.

1.  Bacon - seriously!  I. love. bacon!!!!  I came around the corner and could smell it.  I figured it was someone camping out fixing themselves some breakfast.  As I approached the fuel tent they had someone there frying the bacon & setting it out for us.  I was jumping up and down screaming with excitment!  I stopped long enough to grab some, profusely thank the volunteers and kept running.  It was all gone by time I came around again.  Must of been a big hit!

2.  banana, ok I had to be responsible and eat some "healthy" stuff.

3. apple, ditto.

4. pb & j, this was an extra yummy sandwich because I brought my own stuff from home.  I had extra crunchy peanut butter & my own homemade strawberry rhubarb jam.  Becky (Muscatine Running Friend) was a great support person who helped out when she could and made my sandwich while I was out on a loop.  I remember eating this after I had run my marathon & I was ready for something a little more heavy.

5. Twizzlers, one of my favorite junk food pleasures.

6. pizza, another jumping up and down with excitement because I love it so much moment.  Yes, I. love. pizza!!!!  By this point I had burned well over 3,000 and would end up burning oh, roughly 4,500 calories during the 8 hours.  I really could care less about all the bad notions behind pizza.  I really wish I could have gotten a picture of me running while eating pizza.  I sure would make a great poster child!!

Here I am after the race.  I hope you can "see" how great & awesome I felt after running 45.77 miles.  Next year, my goal is to hit 50 miles!!!!
I had another great run in with my "twin" Carmin Peterson.  We actually found ourselves earlier in the race.  We passed the start/finish line at the same time.  When you do that you connect with your scorer.  Make eye contact, yell out to them, etc.  Basically make sure they see you so that your lap gets counted.  This is VERY important!  Anyway, I heard my name yelled out twice.  That is when I saw that Carmin was just in front of me a little bit.  From then on when we saw each other we made sure to give a shout out.  She was such a great encouragement to me!  Next year I hope to connect with her sooner.  I have a feeling we'd have a great time sitting and talking.  So far we've only really been able to chat during the award ceremony and there is so much going on it's hard to really carry on.  So next year Carmin (she told me she found my blog, so I hope she's reading) it's you & me (oh and I suppose your boyfriend too, he can be part of the Carmen/Carmin party : ))

I can't wait to see her next year!!!!

I received 3 awards this year.  The purple award is the "I reached my goal".  When you sign up for the race you have to set a goal then if you reach it you are awarded the medal, which always doubles as a bottle opener and this year when you took off the lanyard it was a key chain.  The little paw print medal was awarded to all those that run over 35 miles.  It was to honor Scott Hathway, the person who the race is in honor of.  He would have turned 35 years old this year so that set the bench mark for getting this award.  The paw print trophy on the left is what I was given for being 5th female overall.

I'm pretty sure I can keep talking about Howl, but I'll let it at that.  I'm always willing to talk it up if you know/see me in person and want to hear about it.  Who doesn't want to hear/talk about running?!?!?  Wait....some of you don't need to answer that ; )

Thursday, August 30, 2012

TTT: Back on Schedule, Looking My Age (?) & XC

1. I finally did it. At least for today. I'm going to be optimistic and just declare I am back on a schedule. I FINALLY got to bed at 9:30 last night. Was shooting for 9, but I'm still happy with 9:30. I was asleep in no time, but was interrupted by a nose bleeding child. Ugh! It was a doozy and we had a hard time getting it to stop. I had visions of an er visit and a long late night. Maybe those were just hallucinations from my tiredness, but neither of it happened. We got the nose to stop bleeding and I quickly fell back asleep. I got up at 4 a.m. with my alarm & set out on a 4 mile run before my pilates class. I had given up my early-early morning runs for the summer. Not because I didn't run, I just had the flexibility to push them back until 6 or 7 a.m. Now....I just need to stay on track with a good schedule.

 2. I pulled up to the high school yesterday in my van. I pick up a group of xc (cross country) kids and take them out to Lake Storey for practice. As I roll up to the xc kids, another high school kid yells out to me...."Hey Angel, what are you? a taxi?" Uhhhhhh, he thinks I am my soon to be 17 year old daughter. I was tempted to not correct him. To just wave and chuckle. Then he started to walk toward the van himself. The other kids heard him too and were starting to murmur amongst themselves. Since he walked all the way up to the van (probably because he thought he was going to talk to who he presumed to be Angel) I yelled out & corrected him. "Sorry! I'm not Angel! But basically yes....I am a taxi!" Ha-ha....ha-ha....ha-ha. No I'm actually not flattered that people think I'm a high school teenager. I mean I worked hard all these years to achieve my wife/mom status, don't be making me some "kid" again. Actually, I just keep amused about the whole situation. It's not the first time it's happened. It's probably not the last.

3. I have 2 kids running xc this fall. One in high school, one in jr. high. Not all of my kids are runners like me. Some are not runners at all. (I'm guessing they were switched at birth or something....ha-ha) Each has their own special talents & interest. I enjoy them no matter what. Of course, xc has an extra special spot in my heart since I ran it all through high school as well. We are not new to the jr. high aspect of the sport. The same child that runs in high school is the one who started it all when she herself was in jr. high. However, I think - at least early season races, are indicating that our son will advance into the bigger meets of the season that require him to qualify based on time & team standing. He's basically one of the top boys on the squad. So far he has easily ran his 2 miles in 15 minutes. He just had a light bulb moment when he told me he realized he can run much harder & faster in a race. Well.....duh! I knew that, but was letting his running be just that, his! Yes, I'm super competitive and I really get into races by screaming and yelling like a maniac cheering on my kids & the team.  But I'm not interested in being a bossy mom who thinks she knows better than the coach or her kid (ok to be fair, I probably do know more, but I'm cool with that.  I'll let the coach lead and let my kid learn the right way).  Now my high school daughter is the exact opposite runner, but man does she make me proud.  She sticks with it!  When she races, she may not be the fastest, but she is such a solid runner it makes my heart swell just to see her out there.  I can't wait for the rest of the season to see what unfolds for each of my xc kids.

My Jr. High boy (third on back)

My High School girl, finishing strong

She just "loves" it when I take her picture!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Happy & Grateful Eager Beaver Race Recap

It's been a roller coaster of a day. That has become a norm for me the last few weeks.  With that means what I was going to blog about has changed a gazillion times. maybe I'm exaggerating.  It's only been a million!! : )

I pulled up this picture first thing thing morning.  I needed it.  Big time.  It should maybe read:  I'm a huge emotional mess and flip between pure exhaustion, functioning out of necessity and outright bawling & crying.  No matter what I choose to be HAPPY & GRATEFUL no matter how it turns out.

Yep, that's my story & I'm sticking with it!  At least for now.  I know....I know....this too shall pass.  Each day gets a little better.  Although I will always keep this time of my life tucked away in my heart in some way, for the most part it will fade and it will soon not consume my thoughts, time & emotions.  One day at at time, right?!?!? : )

Over the weekend I traveled home to Muscatine to visit my family.  Jim has been out in California taking care of his dad's business.  When he is gone, I don't like to stay here.  The timing was nice since we don't have any free weekends until the beginning of November.  So this was one last hurrah before things get absolutely busy crazy.

Some of the Muscatine Running Friends were going on a migration from Muscatine to Wilton so I joined in on the fun.  6 of us started out at 0'dark thirty (5 a.m.) and hit the country roads on our migration.  About 2.5 hours and 14.5 miles later we arrived at our destination.  We had a lot of fun.  We kept breaking up into different groups then meeting back up at certain points.

Once we got to Wilton some of us ran the Eager Beaver 5k.  I was unsure if I wanted to race this one or not.  I was on the short end of sleep and y'all know my stress & emotions have been through the roof.  I registered anyway and promised myself I would "take it easy".  I learned from last months migration that I run way slower after a long run.  I took off easy at the gun and ran a 8:02 first mile.  (Yes, that is "easy" for me).  Then I felt a surge and started to feel really good.  I ran a 6:30 second mile then a 7:30 third mile.  That put me with a finish time of 22:03.  Wow, way better than I expected!  Believe it or not I didn't even place in my age group.  Yeah....all the 30 year olds were rockin' it that morning.

Here I am with some other Muscatine Running Friends who were at the race, but didn't do the migration.

Overall it was a great race morning for me.  Now....time to keep working on the happy & gratefulness.  Hubby comes home tonight and life as I know it continues on!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sentimental Thoughts & the Watermelon Stampede

Last Wednesday before I got the call about my father in law I had been on the radio.  Upon the insistence of my oldest son I called in for a daily game show called "He said, She said".  I told him that I "never" get through for these radio contests.  To amuse him I called and the phone just rang and rang and rang.  I was about to hang up myself when they answered.  My day was already looking very bright, cheery & good to begin with then I actually won the contest as well.  (I had squared off against a male contestant and answered more questions right).  My prize was the latest CD release from Matt Redman's 10,000 Reasons.

Rewind to a few days earlier, Jim & I were in the van and heard the title song on the radio.  We are familiar with this song, we hear it all the time.  As we often do in the van, or home or wherever, we belted the song out and let the song move & speak to us.  When the song finished Jim told me "you know, we should buy that song".  Actually, I told him, we already own the song.  I bought the single a few weeks earlier off of iTunes.  Now, we own the whole CD that has many other great songs on it.

The song and those events seem to have nothing to do with the death of my father in law.  They seem like such a small details, but I'm sure God had them worked into our lives knowing what was about to happen when our lives got turned upside down a few hours later.  Haha, if anything, it gave me a good post title for today : )

Anyway....I was planning on running the Watermelon Stampede on Saturday.  This race has been going on for 35 years in my hometown of Muscatine, IA.  All you have to say is Muscatine and I am there in a heart beat, if my life allows it.  I may have moved away 18 years ago, but I am very loyal and tied to this place.  The race offers a 5k & 10k option.  I have always raced the 5k option.  I have actually never raced a 10k....ever.  The last few years have brought on the longer distances for me and this has changed my whole 5k outlook.  Not to mention this race is always the week after Howl at the Moon & I'm usually still recovering from running an ultra.  Basically this 5k has always been slower and not as fun.

I decided to wait a few days after Howl to even see how I was going to feel.  No sense even running if I was having a tough recovery from Howl.  Once I realized that I could run, I decided to run the 10k race.  My 1st 10k ever.  I need that extra distance to really get going in a race.  I distinctly remember last year I really struggled in the 5k.  I remember at mile 2.5 I was finally warmed up & raring to go.  By then the race was practically done and yet I was just getting started.

Of course with the events of my father in law & my grandma too (Didn't post about that on here, but did on facebook.  In a nutshell she was rushed to hospital for an emergency procedure on her heart & lungs.  She's old and fragile, it would not completely shock me if something happened & she passed too). I was still wondering if I was really going to race.  I weighed the pros and cons back & forth many, many times.  I don't think it was until I got in the car on Saturday morning that I was like "YES, I'M DOING THIS!"

The drive over was a little tough.  I battled over thoughts if I should really be racing.  I know my father in law would not want us to stop living our lives.  But I feel I should be in some complete state of mourning.  Not frolicking around at a race & having a great time like nothing is going on.  I feel like a liar or faker when I post about being in shock, about having emotional break downs (yep, I've had a few) yet carrying on with regular life.  I guess it goes to show that what you may see on the outside is no indication of what is going on the inside with someone.  Almost all of my real, close friends know immediately that something is wrong with me.  I may smile, I may laugh, but my usual shine is lacking.  People who don't really know me may think I'm being snobby or witchy or not so friendly.  Anyway (sorry, got off on a tangent), the ride over was rough & emotional. Almost anytime I am alone I really struggle.  It gives me too much time to think, to reminisce, to ponder, to wonder. 

I was even deeply taken in by the sun rising.  I stopped along the way to snap these shots.

Of course I'm a sentimental emotional fool any given day of my life.  With these recent events I'm stopping even more to just take in a moment.  One thing I have said frequently the last few days is "I thought we had time".  We had not seen my father in law in 6 years.  He never met (baby) Carmen in person.  It was not extremely unusual for us to go years in between visits.  In my 18 years with Jim we visited with his dad 5 times.  He came to Illinois 3 times to visit us here and we took 2 trips out to California to see him.  These past 6 years was the longest span of time we had gone without seeing him.  Of course....we thought we had time.  I was recently thinking about flying Jim's dad out here for Angel's graduation in a couple of years.  His oldest grandchild....of course he'd want to come for that.  We thought we had plenty of time to do so much & now our chance is forever gone.

Ok....ok....bear with me, I keep going off of little sentimental trails.  Work with me here.

I got to the race with all my tears in check and race day excitement took over.  Really, for the most part, nobody knew what I was going through anyway.  The few that did welcomed me with hugs and being an emotional touchy feely person I appreciated that.

I was milling around waiting for the beginning of the race when I noticed a Team Tough Chik running singlet walk past me.  I paused for a second thinking if I knew of anyone in this area that I knew to be a TTC member.  In the mean time I chased this person down and gave her a holler.  Turns out that this team mate doesn't even live in this area at all.  She was just traveling through and came up on this race in her quest to run races in all 50 states.  TTC has become a wonderful group of women that offer great running/racing support and getting to meet them in person is always an extra added bonus.  It was great to meet you Erica!  I'm so glad our paths crossed.

Right before the race started the director, the infamous & wonderful Del Wagner (pictured below), stood atop his usual pre race perch to give instructions about the race.

He also gave a speech about honoring & remembering those that we have lost this past year.  I seriously thought I was going to lose it at that moment.  Del, as far as I know, has never given that speech before & I don't think he knows about my personal loss currently going on right now.  He had us pause for a moment of silence.  I closed my eyes, felt the gentle breeze coming off the Mississippi River, took some deep  breaths (to keep from crying) and just thought of Jim's dad.  He would be proud of me & I know he would be supportive of me being there for this race.

Once we got past that moment the race was off with a bang.  I wasn't sure what to expect since it was my first 10k.  I could do the basic math of if I normally run a 5k in 21-22 minutes then I should be able to run a 10k in 42-44 minutes.  I was also trying to take into account my slowing down of pace lately and recovering from 45.77 miles the week before.  I tried to run the race with a easy beginning, a solid middle and a fast finish.  I think I accomplished that.  Although I'm not good a pushing myself too terribly much.  I'm sure, actually I know, I can go faster and harder with my pace, but often don't out of fear of losing control and failing.  I'm sure another post is needed to analyze & break down my pace issues & performances.

I concluded that I should be able to finish easily within in 45 minute range.  45 is just what I saw on the clock when I came over the horizon & was about 200 yards from the finish.  I pushed it in and finished with a 45:46 time.  Not bad for a slowing down, would rather prefer a much longer distance gal.  I was the 4th female overall and placed 1st in my age group.  Not too shabby for my 1st 10k.  I guess I can even say that is a 10k PR for me : )

It was a great race & it's always wonderful to be surrounded by my Muscatine Running Friends (some of them pictured below)

After the race was done & I visited with my parents for awhile I went & saw my Grandma in the hospital.  My Grandma is one amazing woman!  I remember posting about her last fall here when my cousin died.  She has lived a long, wonderful, yet filled with grief life.  In the things we have learned this past week I didn't want to pass up a chance to visit her, hug her & tell her how much I love her.  Life is too short & we never have enough time!!!!

Thursday, August 16, 2012


I've been skipping along with life.  On a pretty big high from my 45.77 mile performance at Howl at the Moon.  Mentally I had everything all planned out for my blog posts this week as I continue to tell you about Howl.  It's a very busy week as well.  The kids started school today.  I have a regional training coming up in a month for the Y....LOTS to do to prep for that.  I start my new position at CSC next week.  Lots going on to keep me on my toes and moving forward.  I could handle it....I felt like I can handle anything after 45.77 miles.  Until the phone rang......

It was my husband's Aunt June.  I love Aunt June!  Always happy to see & hear from her.  I didn't even think twice when I answered the phone.  Come to think about it I'm not sure why I answered the phone at all.  Caller id said Illinois Caller and I noticed it had an 847 area code.  I'm one of "those people" who very rarely answers the phone unless I recognize the number and know exactly who it is.  Who knows what compelled me to answer in a heart beat.  I was just super excited to hear Aunt June on the other end of the line.

She let me know right away that she was not calling for a good reason.  I uttered the dreaded "".  Even then I still didn't quite expect to hear what she said next.  Papa Jim (as he has always affectionately been called by us/our kids) had passed away.  Papa Jim is my husband Jim's dad and he is gone.  My Jim wasn't even home at the time.  I had to then turn around and make the same call to my husband and tell him the news.  There is a lot of details that I just am not ready to divulge right now.  To be brief, Papa Jim was only 62 years old & died suddenly of a heart attack.

Papa Jim lived in California, always has since I married Jim.  For many years he visited out here or us out there frequently.  In more recent years we had not seen/personally visited with him, but we talked often on the phone.  Often meaning, 4-6 times a year.  I know we just talked to him on Father's Day.

When I married into this family I heard many, many stories of this man.  Most of them were not good.  Ok, I don't think any of them were good.  At least not from the other side of the family.  To be fair, what I know to be true really is bad.  As a young adult, Papa Jim was ruled by alcohol and made a lot of bad, stupid decisions.  It really is horrible what he did & put people through.

People change though.  Not always, but in this case he did.  I'm sure too little, too late for some people.  For the most part my husband Jim grew up without his father present.  Later in life, as an adult, Jim connected back up with his dad and their relationship was restored.  By time I married Jim and met my father-in-law (and that whole other side of the family) I was met by a great man who always treated me with love and respect.  He was also an excellent grandpa who loved to play with his grand kids.  He was the get on the floor and play with the kids grandpa.  If he wasn't here and was on the phone he always asked to talk to each grand kid to see how they were doing.

No man is perfect, but I personally can't complain about what I was given as a father-in-law.  I was honored to call him Dad.

So suddenly my/our lives are turned upside down.  My husband Jim is the next of kin and everything defaults to him to take care of business.  This is un-charted territory for us.  We've never been through this before.  Now, in addition to, the busy craziness of our lives we have this to deal with.  It's pretty fair to say I'm heart broken.  I'm an emotional crybaby guess who has been bawling off and on....yep, ME!

I will try my best to carry on with life considering the circumstances.  Yesterday after we got the news I packed up the kids and headed to the pool.  It was the last day of summer break.  Before I even got the phone call I had told the kids we were going to the pool.  My friends could tell something was off with me.  I talked about it some, filling in details with them.  Then it felt good to talk about other things.  It felt good to be distracted by the hot sun & splashing of the pool.  I ran this morning.  Which, by the way, it's hard to bawl and cry WHILE running.  It sure makes one run faster though.  I had to teach my yogalates class this morning too.  Tears are easy to hide while doing certain stretches/poses.  I took advantage of that.  I felt pretty cried out by time I had to get the kids off to school and spend the morning working at the Y on training stuff.  Then I had a horrible afternoon crying non stop.  It ebbs and flows.  I do what I can and carry on.  We'll see where it goes from here....

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Taking It Easy

I'm not sure if this will shock you or not, but I'm already back to running.  Remember, I'm streaking.  I'm trying to go from Memorial Day to Labor Day without missing a day.  After that, we'll see.  On a rest day I "only" run 1 mile.  I have plenty of those days.  More than I want.  My life is pretty crazy though and despite how it appears running does not run my life.  It is not #1.  It's up there in high priority. When push comes to shove (for a lot of different reasons) I know I can at least take 10 minutes or less to run a mile.  15, if you want to count time to prep and/or be done.  My life is crazy, but not so crazy that I can't afford that time.

Sunday, about 15 hours after finishing Howl at the Moon, I ran 1 mile.  It hurt.  (no, duh....really!)  It took so much mental and physical effort.  It took more than 10 minutes.  I'm a firm believer that to recover I need to keep moving to stop those muscles from being so sore & tight & to help flush out that built up lactic acid.  Monday, I ran 4 miles.  The start/beginning was again uncomfortable and it took a lot of effort.  After a mile or 2 I began to feel much better.  By the end I felt "normal" clipping along at a good pace.  Aside from my quads being tight & sore (which I have been doing a lot of stretching to help that) the only thing that really hurts & reminds me that I just ran 45 miles in 8 hours is my big toe.  That only really bothers me when I put enclosed shoes on ie my running shoes.  My big toe is pretty bruised.  It looks dirty, but it's a deep black/purple bruised.  The toe nail is completely dead, I'm just waiting  for it to fall off.  I might help it along & rip it off myself.

This morning I "rested" again and only ran 1 mile.  I feel fine, I could do more, but even I know that I need to be taking it easy.  For me, this IS taking it easy.

I think I am constantly fueled by the thought and the question, how much can I push myself.  How much can I do?  No, running 45 miles is not enough.  I am capable of doing more, I just know it.  Honestly, if it wasn't for the 8 hour cut off I would have kept running.  Yeah, I felt that awesome! 

Anyway, I'm back in the game.  Not sure I really ever left.  For now, I'm keeping it easy.

Monday, August 13, 2012

How NOT to camp & other adventures from Howl at the Moon

Just in case you were wondering....I am the last person you want to ask about camping.  I am so not your gal!  For the most part I have enjoyed what few camping experiences (all 3 of them) that I have had. 

The 1st one was many moons ago and the only bad thing about that was the frogs would not SHUT UP and let me sleep.  I ended up sleeping in the van that night, it was much more peaceful. 

The last 2 times were at Howl at the Moon this year and last.  Last year wasn't too bad, but mostly thanks to the great people from Muscatine Running Friends who helped me out.  Aside from them being great people (they really are!) I think they took pity on me because I was otherwise alone.  My husband was out of the country, I had just traveled 3 hours ALONE to get there....what's not to pity.

This year however, my husband was not gone (although he didn't come with me to the race) and I did not come alone to this race.   I had suckered motivated my friend Connie into doing this race as well.  She's a newbie to ultra running (she's pretty good too).  So when we got to the park Connie & I decided we would be good, mature, strong, independent women and set up our camp site all by ourselves.  Even though we shot each other a look that said "I have no idea what to do!" 

Let me back up a little and explain that Connie was in charge of getting a tent.  She ended up getting 2.  One from a co-worker that was told that 2 adult women would be sharing the tent.  Said co-worker loaned us this "great" tent that practically sets itself up, it's so easy.  (HA!)  Connie was extra prepared though and brought along a second tent for us, just in case....not sure of what, but just in case.  That tent was brand new & had never been out of the box.  I was in charge of getting an air mattress.  I made sure that my friend knew that it would be used by 2 adult women & she assured me that it would be big enough (and boy was it ever!).  So 2 tents, 1 mattress....we should be good to go!

Despite our doubts of we don't know what we're doing we still ventured forward in setting up camp.  Remember the tent that practically sets itself up......yeah, this is what Connie & I managed to get done with it.

Uh...Houston....we have a problem.   Ahhh, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.....

I dragged myself over to Tony (a Muscatine Running Friend) and asked him for some help.  He is such a great guy!  Not just for helping me out (last year he was helpful in getting my tent up & even added oil to my car when I needed it), but Tony & I ran from Muscatine to West Liberty last month an 17 mile adventure that started at 4:30 a.m. down a dark country road.  He's good company to have along!  Anyway, Tony was happy to help out and helped us get both tents up & functional.

In the mean time Becky & Steve (more Muscatine Running Friends) heard of our need of help and also decided to help out.  This was their contribution to the situation:

They were more than willing to watch us have fun and offer constructive criticism from their chairs.  I'm teasing....and so were they.  When I snapped the picture the were mid supper and besides it was Steve's birthday!  They did get up & help later on : )

While the finishing touches on the tents were being done I went to air in the mattresses.  I had to walk over to the barn to get electricity.  It was better than having to blow up the mattress myself.  As the mattress was blowing up and getting bigger....and bigger....and bigger, I was!  now that is a big mattress.  It was not only a double but it was double thick as well.  As I carried the mattress from the barn toward the tents I was having some serious doubts about how this was going to work.  Turns out the mattress was as big as the tent itself.  Or almost as big.  All 5 of us stood around scratching our heads and saying things like "well???? what do we do now????"  We decided to attempt to put the mattress in the smaller tent, we were very skeptical that it would even fit, but we reasoned that if we could get it in there then that tent would be the sleeping one only.  The other tent used for changing, etc.  So we TRIED....

Can you tell this is not going to end well?  We at least had a great time trying to get it in!  We did manage to get it most of the way in (had to let some air out), it was just sticking a few inches out the door so I had the great idea that maybe if I crawled in there I could get it better positioned.  Everyone was more than happy to let me try out my "great" idea. 
It turned into some sort of bounce house nightmare with me in there.  I got in ok, but then got stuck and rolled around like a fish out of water.  Laughing hysterically did not help the matter at all, at least not in a practical sense. I do recommend such action to help just enjoy the pure craziness of it all.  Once I finally got out this was our finished product:

Yeah, we ended up not sleeping in that tent or on that mattress.

Connie & I ventured into town to get some supper and find a Wal Mart.  We needed some last minute supplies and with our lack of sleeping options we knew we had to get something to sleep on in the other tent.  Neither one of us was familiar with the town so finding WM was an adventure of it's own.  We didn't technically get lost, but we did end up asking some town folk standing on a corner for directions.

By time we got back to camp it was dark and time for bed.  The sky was beautifully lit up with so many stars.  I wish we had time to just lay out & enjoy the night air.  It was getting late though.  We were having quite the time getting around in the dark.  Even with my headlamp on I was tripping over things...cords & wires from the tent.  I was trying to be quiet, but would fall, let out a sound then laugh hysterically.  Connie would call out to check on me then join in laughter when she saw me on the ground.  I finally crawl into the tent all ready for bed.  Getting anything else done that night was a threat to my personal safety.  Connie took off to get ready for bed and I jokingly warn her to be careful out there.  She laughed, we were both still giggling so much from it all and took off.  Just as I laid down I hear a thunk sound and some more laughter....Connie had tripped on a tent wire a few feet away.  It's amazing we're still alive!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Howl at the Moon Race Recap

For the most part I have been camped out on the sofa since 5 a.m.  I got up to watch the men's marathon.  I was all excited last week about the women's marathon and even more excited about the men's.  I will not lie, it hurt really bad to get out of bed this morning.  I guess that is to be expected after my race yesterday.  It happens every year.  I think my 80+ y ear old Grandma moves better than I do after I've run this race. 

I have so much to tell you and, of course, a lot of pictures to post.  That will have to wait though.  I just am not feeling up to sitting at the desk and getting them unloaded.  I thought I would just give you my written recap of the race since I am sitting here.  Then through out the week I can give you shorter updates, fill in the small, funny, crazy details about my race and post pictures.

Howl at the Moon is such an awesome race for so many reasons!  I strongly urge any runner to try out this race.  It's just you + 8 hours.  The sky is the limit.  I guarantee that you will be a winner no matter what, because that is all you are really competing against.  This is my 3rd year doing this race and I have felt like a champion every single time. 

Never in my life did I think I would be an ultra runner.  I'm not even sure what compelled me to try this race out to begin with.  Part of it was that I knew that my hometown running group Muscatine Running Friends was going.  Then for whatever reason I started to have this big ? mark that began to hoover of my head and I began to think, wonder, dream about what I am capable of doing.  I had no previous reasoning to think I could do this type of running.  I had only attempted to run longer distance less than a year before and had only completed one half marathon.  Otherwise my running career, which started when I was 10 or so, really only consisted of 5k or smaller races.  Another big aspect (which is hard to tackle & probably needs a post of it's own) is that I know what it's like to have ability & talent to do something yet lack the self esteem to go after those dreams.  I have settled for less than what I am capable of doing and in recent years with big turn abouts in my life I decided no more.  I'm going all out & I'm going to do it even if I fail or it's a total bust.  I WILL try and in this case it has paid of because I feel like I have succeeded!

Sorry to get off the main path there for a minute.  Those details are deep & personal to me and are pieces of the puzzle that make my running so meaningful and powerful to my personal life.  I know not everyone runs (or walks, or bikes, or whatever your thing is) for the same reasons.  Maybe your story is similar to mine, maybe not.  Maybe you need to change your story.  You might have that big ? hoovering over your head about what you could do.  Trust me...GO FOR IT!  At least try!!

Ok, I think I'm super sentimental right now.  A mix of constant Olympic glory that I have been watching and my own personal glory & triumphs have me on one great high!  Back to the race though....

Howl at the Moon is the largest timed ultra in the United States.  Registration opens in late April and is limited to 350 (?) participants.  I know it's limited, I"m not sure what the cut off # is, but based on yesterdays results there was 330ish some that competed this year.  I know that you can't fiddle fart around because the race fills up in just a few weeks and then you are out of luck.  It is hard for me to commit to a race so far in advance, but I do it anyway.  It would take extreme & great circumstances for me to not actually race.  I'm that way with any race, doesn't matter if I sign up the week before or months before.  You can camp out the night before the race (which I advise) or come in the day of the race.  My 1st year I stayed in a hotel.  Not that that is a bad thing, but after camping out the last 2 years I like being there right on sight.  I like getting set up the night before.  Even though I'm not a tent camping type person at all I really enjoy the adventure.  Oh, my do I have some funny stuff to tell you about my camping adventure this year.  You have to wait for pictures though.  It was hilarious!!!!

With your registration you get a Howl at the Moon bag (that can vary from an insulated tote to your basic bag, it changes each year) and your choice of shirt.  They offer both a short & long sleeve option.  You can get either or both.  This year, for the first time, they offered a tech shirt.  I don't have anything against cotton, but I have SO MANY I just don't need another one.  Now tech shirts.....can you have too many of those?  Haha....that is one of those "you know you're a runner when" things.  Anyway, having run a lot of races, some of them "big" ones I think you get a great deal for price.  The most basic registration fee is $45 and signs you up for the race with no shirt.  For it being the largest timed ultra you might expect big dollar sign up fees, but I think you get such a great deal.  The race directors seem (in my opinion) so real, so down to earth and see no need for big dollars to put on a great race.

Howl offers a few options when it comes to divisions for "competition".  There is the open male & female for those 40 & younger.  Then there is a master division for those 40-50 and a grand master division for those 50+.  They also offer a walkers division (them walkers can really put out some miles!!) It is possible that no matter how you finished against everyone else to still come away with a medal.  When you sign up you have to put down a goal (in miles) for your race.  When they have their award ceremony the first thing they recognize is "did you reach your goal?".  If you did, you get a medal.  If you're a smart alec all you have to do it put down 1 mile for your goal & wha-la you win!  They don't actually check what you put down vs. what you accomplished that day.  In fact my 1st year I put my goal down as 40 miles, but only ran 32.  Being honest, I almost didn't go get my medal.  My friend Angela gave me the "you are being ridiculous" look.  It was my first ultra race ever and I put out 32 miles.....of course I reach a goal, a big one and I deserved a medal.  They also have other medals & awards to give out.  They recognize the overall top 5 men & women, taken those people out of the age divisions then recognize the top 10 (?) distances in each division.  Their awards are wicked sweet.  Nice, big, shiny and usually multi functional as they double as a bottle opener.

The race is set up as a 3.29 loop.  Each division is assigned a counter so each time you pass by the start/finish line you make eye contact & holler out to your scorer and they keep track of how many laps you have run.  When there is 30 minutes left they open up a .25 mile out/.25 mile back loop that you can run as much as you want.  Each time you complete a loop they give you a straw and you turn those straws into your scorer to add to your final score.  This year I completed 13 loops & 6 out & back laps.  That gave me a grand total of 45.77 miles!!    That earned my 5th female overall!!!!

Based on how I felt (pretty much awesome the whole day) it occurred to me that I would in face finish toward the top of the field.  It was just a hunch/feeling.  It can be tricky though because you don't know who is on what lap.  Someone might go flying by you looking good & strong, but for all you know they just spent the last hour resting in their camp area.  I still had a good feeling about how I was doing.  Even I hadn't placed so high I knew that for me this was a personal best kind of race.  Personal achievement & performance really is more important and the big picture.  So no matter what I was a winner.

In previous years my running was still pretty good.  I think my first year was just first year.  My first time to ever push myself to these new limits.  I remember walking or pathetically shuffling along, hitting the wall and even becoming dazed, confused and just about lost it all together.  Someone came along and helped me out though, making sure I didn't pass out, got me back to camp to cool down and rest.  Last year my body responded much better to the running.  My biggest culprit was still the heat.  I hit that wall again (but handled it much better), but still walked/shuffled a lap or two at my lowest point.  I remember it being so hard and taking every once of what I had to put one foot in front of the other.  This year....I had NONE of that.  I never hit the wall.  I never walked.  I never pathetically in a daze shuffled along.  I ran the whole entire time and I felt great!  Now, mind you, it took effort, it hurt & I had to push to make it all happen.  It seemed like it was a direct result of all my training that I put in.  I realize though that my training could/should be much more structured.  I've never followed any kind of plan at all.  It shouldn't be that just run.  What else do you need?

Overall, this years Howl at the Moon has been the best race of my life.  I'm looking forward to next year to see if I can push myself even further.  If you think 45 miles sounds insane, know that it is completely possible to go even further.  The overall female ran 52 miles.  I would love to do that!!!!

Friday, August 10, 2012

5 (but really 4ish) Things Friday

1.  Yeah....I pretty much ignored you guys this week.  I thought about you.  Lovingly paused at the computer a time or two and thought "I should blog".  Things are starting to really pick up for me though.  School is just around the corner (next week!!) and so starts the beginning of band (which I am vp of and massively involved in), cross country (high school and jr. high), football, volleyball tryouts & Gadets (dance squad for the h.s.).  I also start my new fitness position at CSC in a few weeks and have a big regional training for the Y in less than a month.  ACK!  Mix all that in with a lot of late night Olympic tv viewing, but still early morning wake up times and that little sleep easily leads to poor eating habits.  Yeah......things are starting to spiral down hill.  It's like the last tail spin of summer.  I'm looking forward to TOMORROW (!!!!) and then next week look to be starting anew.   You might be looking at more blogging gaps as I set out to get things back on track.  Don't worry...I'm not going anywhere.  You can't get rid of me THAT easily!

2.  TOMORROW!  Yeah!!!!  This is it!  It's here!  My long (ok, it seems long since I registered back in April) Howl at the Moon.  I am SO EXCITED for this!  8 hours of (mostly) non stop running.  My goal:  40 miles (at minimum, more is even better).  This is my 3rd year doing this race.  In previous years I accomplished 34 & 36 miles.  40 is totally doable.  Especially since (unlike the past 2 years) I am having my best training/running summer on record.  My plan of attack:  RUUUUUN!  Ok, well duh!  This course is a 3.26 mile loop.  Each loop I stop by my tent and fuel up, even if it's just a swig of water, Gatorade, Gu....whatev.  I will not sit to "rest".  I can/will sit to go to the bathroom and change shoes.  That's it.  If I am tired and honestly need a reprieve then I may rest, quite possibly while icing down, in the shade while standing.  I will not sit unless it's physically impossible for me to stand or until the 8 hours is over.  I know once I sit then it's just downhill from there.  You know how Dory says "Just keep swimming", well Carmen will be chanting "Just keep running, just keep running, running, running, running......"

3.  I miss my baby girl.  I call all by kids baby girl or baby boy.  They are always my baby in my heart, no matter how big they are.  I've been fine all week.  Not giving too much thought to her being gone.  I've been plenty distracted.  On facebook they post daily updates on how they are doing, etc., but I've had no direct contact with her.  Today they posted some video and pictures.  I will not lie it took one simple look to bring tears to my eyes.  I miss her!

4.  Hmmmmmm.......I started out with this being a 5TF post.  But my mind has wandered and I'm thinking about all I need to do to get out the door for Howl at the Moon.  I could post about the weather.  I could tell you about my virtual track meet with Run With Jess, but I don't have pictures uploaded.  I should mention that my knee hurts.  I guess I could make that #5, but I'm too distracted to really expand upon that, so I'll just casually mention it.  I could tell you the gazillion things I need to get done, but honestly will only get a million things done.  Time is ticking!  And I leave today for Howl.  And I'm SUPER excited!  If it weren't for the house being completely quiet right now I'd be jumping up and down screaming....I CAN'T WAIT FOR TOMORROW!  BRING IT ON!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Lakeland Bi-Tri Classic Race Recap

Last Saturday I raced the Lakeland Bi-Tri Classic in Canton, IL.  I had not raced an outdoor triathlon in 10 years.  I also didn't train too much or specifically for this race.  Running is my most favorite thing to do and I tend to do it a lot so swimming & biking tend to take a back seat.  Really, the purpose of this race (for me) was to just get back into tri racing and see where I was.  I'd like to start doing a few a year, but don't expect it to take over or take away from my running.

Having no real goals or expectations (except to finish) was actually nice.  Typically I am very competitive.  I don't think I speak too much of it, but inwardly I am.  I'd be lying if I said I focused strictly on myself before, during and after the race.  It nudged in there a little, but I kept reminding myself that this was just a starting point.  I'm sure I can improve on all 3 areas, but I just had to keep telling myself it is what it is.  I think I did a good job at being ok with it!

Here I am before the race, setting up my transition area.  My bike is "old" and I was aware of that, but hey it's functional and rode really well.  Not in a gazillion years will we be able to afford another road bike so I'm just happy with what I have.  If you know me in real life and how we live anyway, this is so typical of me.  It's paid for and gets the job done....who cares about how it looks.

 I was amused by my timing chip.  Back in the day when I did do a few tri s there was no such thing.  At least not in midwest small town places where I live.  Actually even in running I can remember a day where chip timing was unheard of.  Anyway, I felt a little like a criminal with this device strapped onto my ankle. (Not that I know anything about how that feels anyway).

My family took off to eat breakfast so they missed the start of my race.  There was 4 swim waves, going from fastest to slowest.  I had no clue where I would rank in swimming so I purposely chose the slowest wave.  I should have got right out in front of the pack once they started our wave, but again being hesitant (and purposely no competitive) kept me back.  This made it tough to really get moving in the water.  I am way too nice to just plow over people.  (Yes, that happens).  Once I got to the front of the pack I had no problem with my swim.  I even caught up to the back of the wave in front of me.

Here I am coming out of the lake & heading to the transition area:

Biking is my least favorite of the 3 sports.  I do tend to throw some biking into my regular workout, but riding a stationary exercise bike is much different than a real bike, outside on a real road.  Somethings a machine can not mimic.  I did get out a ride my bike some this summer in preparation for this race, but not nearly enough needed to truly train.  Even then, the bike went much faster and better than expected.

I felt pretty good during my run.  I was afraid to go out too hard and then die before the end.  I kept it fairly conservative.  (Note: I forgot to put my skirt on.  It's the first time I have ran w/out a skirt in a year.  It felt weird!)

 The Numbers:  ahhhh, yes....this is where I get a little competitive and/or compare myself against others.  I still stand firm in my self confidence of myself.  I did fine, really not to bad for just seeing where I was.  I certainly put some effort into this race, but didn't go all out in any one area.  For those like to crunch numbers here is the break down of my race:

Swim (500 yards)
ranked 66/142 overall men & women


Bike (12 miles)
44:56.10 (avg. 16 mph)


Run (3.1 miles)
24:27.35 (8:09 pace)

Finish time

I only had the option of seeing my rank with the overall male & female field.  I could not do a women only analysis.  I could see my age group.  There was 8 ladies in the 35-39 age group, I was 6th so I didn't get an award.  It was the most competitive group.  I checked and if I had been in almost any other age group I would have placed.  That is ok, though, I really felt like I did great at this seeing how it goes race.  Sure I could have done better.  Yes, I can make plenty of improvements.  Overall, I am very happy with my performance!

The race itself was very nice & organized.  Lots of good signage.  You knew where you were going, what the course was.  Lots of support along the way.  There was a lot more than 142 people there.  They also offer a duathlon, team options, Clydesdale & Athena categories and a kids bi/triathlon.  I plan to do this race again next year!! 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

3 Things Thursday: Miles, Mexico & Olympic action

1.  July Recap:  I ran a total of 130 miles!!!!  That is 25ish more miles than last month.  I ran every single day (currently on day 65 of streak).  I took 11 "rest days" in which I only ran 1 mile.  This does not count any biking, swimming, weightlifting or pilates that I completed as well.  130 miles marks an all time monthly high in miles for me.  My previous record was set in July '10 with 101 miles.  I started to track my running & miles in August '09.  Even though I've been running since I was like 10, I know that my running prior to these last few years in nothing compared to what I do now.  I also switched my focus from nothing but 5ks to, half & full marathons & ultra running/racing.  Not to mention that since becoming an adult (as in 18 & married) I am in new territory where this is the longest I have gone without being pregnant or giving birth.  I have "older" kids & all this makes a big difference in my running changes & moving forward in what I want to accomplish.  This is just the beginning!!!!!

2.  My oldest daughter leaves for Mexico in 2 days.  Last year she also went on this trip, along with my husband and I distinctly remember being a big ole mess over it.  Mostly because it was the 1st time I had had either one of them travel in such fashion.  This time it's just my Angel (that's really her name, not in reference to what a perfect angelic child she is....haha!  come now, she IS a teenager) who is going to Mexico.  I didn't seem to bother me much at all that she is traveling internationally, this time without either of her parents.  I don't know if it's my busy crazy schedule that keeps me from thinking about it or if I'm getting better at loosening the strings a little more.  I thought I was all honkey dorey, until the last week and I find something pulling at my heart about letting her go and getting all teary eyed and emotional about it.  Oh, I know she's such a big girl and she will be just fine, as will I, but she's still my baby.  That will never change.  I love her so much and hold her dear no matter how old she is or what she is doing in life!!  Ok...enough of this mushy talk, I'm getting myself all worked up!

3.  I've been watching A TON of tv!  Very unlike me, I'm actually not much of a tv fan at all.  Me?  Sit down, sit still long enough to watch something?  Ha!  I rarely ever "just watch" tv.  I usually fold laundry or work on something while watching a show or in this case the Olympics.  Yep, I'm an Olympic junkie.  Thank good for dvr.  Even though I'm days behind and I've already heard who has won what I will still go through and watch my favorites.  I love gymnastics & swimming, I was surprised how much I enjoyed and got sucked into the diving and the best is yet to come with running!  Yes, I plan to get up at 5 a.m. on Sunday to watch the women's marathon.  Yes, I know my tv will be dvr'ing it.  It's one of the few things you can watch live and I don't want to miss a minute of it.  I DO NOT want to flip on the computer or tv later in the day & hear/see a spoiler about who wins and how it happened.  I'm excited for the 3 women representing the USA (Go Kara, Desi & Shalane!!!!) and no matter what they are gold in my heart.  Even though she's not from the US, it does break my heart to see Paula Radcliff pull out.  I understand and deeply respect why she is.  She's so awesome & great, it's a shame to not see her run.  It's killing me even more to have to wait a whole week to see the men's marathon.  I have said all along that my dear Ryan Hall will sweep the gold!  I would love, love, love to see both the men & the women take all the medals in both races.  Ugh....I CAN'T WAIT!  Until then I have more Olympic catching up to do and I have my own Olympic race(s) to compete in since I am participating in Run with Jess' Virtual Olympics.  There will be no shortage of Olympic action in my life at this time!!!!