Wednesday, April 28, 2010


I normally don't write a post about a single workout but this one was fantastic! I did a bunch of 2000's this morning and I LOVED them!! Who knew that 5 laps around the track could be so fun?? Was it because each one got faster, and I felt stronger as the miles added up? Could it have been the beautiful full moon, and then the sunrise?

Luisa and I and the pups have loved getting back on the track. She has been doing portions of my workouts with me, and I am so very grateful. We have been running on the track together since 2000. It all started in late October 2000. How fortunate I am to have such a wonderful friend who, for years, has been willing to meet me even if for only part of my workouts and long runs. We have been through so many cycles in our lives, and these runs have been just sacred. We have laughed, cried, smelled like a bar, come off of completely sleepless night's, but we have never regretted a day of showing up!

Maybe that is what I loved about it. When you look at a run or workout on a piece of paper sometimes you think "can I do this" or "how can I do this?" The weekly mileage is big and I love it, but faster workouts long workouts can be scary when you think you might be tired from the load (work, life, and running) the day before. But, then, the full moon is shining, the weather is perfect, the company is the best...and before you know it: you nail the workout, you enjoy the company, and there is not a regret in the world! Oh, and it's barely 7AM!!

Next up, after work...another run in the heat, yippee, and then the Farmer's Market with Erin!
(By the way, this pic was taken of my Ladera training partners, hehe...they cheer from the bluebonnets)

Love it!

Monday, April 19, 2010

One Step Closer

(More pics to come tomorrow!)
This weekend Paul and I headed to Southern California for the Leone Divide 50. It was a treat to have him with me because it was going to be a real chance for him to get to spend time with some of my California friends. Kelly and Leslie were meeting us in Palmdale before the race.

We arrived early on Friday, after a most memorable plane flight…more to come on that in a few days, and decided to head to the race start for a little run. On the drive there we saw the incredible fields of California Poppies. What a sight. Once we got to the race start we ran the first 15 minutes of the course up and then cruised back down. I was already getting excited for a downhill finish…I love me some downhill running 

We headed back to the hotel, ate, and then spent some time catching up (and Paul meeting) Kelly and Leslie. The plan was for Paul to drive us to the start and then crew for us at the two spots he could see us. For me the plan was for me to grab my Camelback at aid station #3 and wear it until #9 when I gave it back to him. (Post race John and Lisa laughed saying that the only problem with the race was that the aid stations needed names) I wanted to practice having extra water for Western States.

Saturday morning was crisp, but with promise of getting nice and warm. Paul took my jackets at the last moment, and at 6AM off we went! My instructions were to take it easy and smooth thru about mile 30, remember that this was a training run, and, most importantly, look up and around and NOT get off course! So, straight up the first climb I cruised. It was not about “racing,” but about patience. I had to let everyone around me that I “thought” I should be running with go, and do my thing…patience.

The rewards of this tactic would pay dividends throughout the day. #1: the view!! From the first climb we got to see the sky explode and the sun come up. It was spectacular. I soaked it all in, and hoped that Paul was witnessing a similar view. At Lake Sonoma I loved it all, but never quite felt in my rhythm. I knew it was my first trip to California and in the mountains, but I just never felt smooth. From the get go it was a different story on Saturday. I was smooth going up, and had great turnover on the downhill. My downhill legs are back and happy happy. On the first descent I found the pattern that would continue for the remainder of the day…there were about 6 of us that would trade places: they would get me on the uphill and I would catch them on the downhill. Run your strengths, right?

The trail was fantastic. Keira, the race director, made changes to the course, which I heard were more difficult, but the course was incredible. Not only that, but the course was marked like crazy AND the people working the aid stations were unbelievable. Absolutely first class all the way! The uphills were long and the descents felt longer. I was in heaven. Before I could blink I was coming up on aid station #3, about mile 16ish, and knew Paul would be there ready to go.

Paul and I completely agree that no one can touch the crewing ability of David, Jamie’s husband, but on Saturday Paul definitely showed off that he had been taking notes from the pro  He had my bottle filled with ice and fuel and my pack ready. I was in and out in about 10 seconds.

There was only one problem…the minute I took off up the climb my zip was gone; WTF?? As I climbed everyone I was running near was all of a sudden running away and I couldn’t keep up. It was as though the pack had 500 pounds in it. I was miserable. Crap! I was planning on carrying this thing until mile 42. This was going to be my extra water for the longer stretches to the turn around. All I could think about was dropping, leaving it in a tree, throwing it off the ledge. Uggg!!

I went through the next aid station, and continued to gut it out. I never caught any of the people that had gotten away, but I plugged away. During this time I decided that I would leave my pack at the next aid station and then pick it up on the way back. Fortunately, my savior was waiting just outside the next aid station! I saw Brian, and when he asked what I needed I said, “take this freaking pack!!” He grabbed it and then took my bottle and my powder and refilled it. He asked if I needed anything from it, and I told him that I needed my extra fuel. Of course, now I didn’t have any place to put it. Without thinking, I grabbed it and shoved it down my chest…perfect fit!! He told me that I had 6.5 miles of great single track and then a downhill to the turn around.

I was FREE!! He saved me, and I was sooo ever thankful! It took me about two minutes to get back in my groove and feel great! By time I got to the downhill I had made time back up, and was catching everyone who had gotten away. There are few words to the difference I felt. I got to the turn around, and turned to go up. New race; legs fresh; time to move!

Reward #2: I got to climb up from the turn around with Kelly!! It’s not like we chatted the whole way up, but we worked together keeping pace and moving up. The climb was so much quicker with her company. I am just so very grateful for knowing her, getting to race with her, and being continually inspired by her. After the race someone commented on the fact that she had been ill a week or two ago, and I said, “the worse Kelly feels leading up to a race, the stronger she races.” She is truly that tough! Reward #3: her telling me to look off the ledge to see the fields of California Poppies. What a sight!!

I told Kelly of my plan “to go” at the top of the climb. We turned onto the single track, and off I went! I felt fantastic. I was so very pleased. It seemed that the further into the race I got, the stronger I felt. So, I pushed…why not? A big treat on this section was seeing the people heading out as we headed back. They were so very kind. They would move off the trail, so unnecessary, and we would cheer for each other. My only real slowdown came when I saw Chris in his Hawaiian shirt! How fun to see him racing!! Before I knew it I was back at the aid station Brian had been, and I was in party mode this time around! I love coming into aid stations happy, appreciative, and full of life…the least I can do for what they are doing! As I was getting reloaded Sue came over to me and told me that 2nd place was 2 or 3 minutes away and if I felt good to go get her. Well, I felt GREAT, so to chase I went. I ran the next section as fast as I could, went through the aid station, and then charged downhill toward aid station #9, Paul, and mile 42. I thought for sure I would see her. I caught all the guys that had passed me earlier when I had my camelback moments, but she was nowhere in sight…what the heck?

I came thru mile 42, all smiles, and to a funny moment during Paul’s quick pit stop for me, “Mer – where is your camelback?” My response: “yeah, me and the camelback…not friends. But, I feel great!” Paul ran through the aid station with me, and charged forward to the final climb. It was such a lift to have him there!! Happily, the climb was not that bad. It was a little steep in beginning, but then was gradual enough that I was able to push it up. I realized that unless the girl in front of me was slowing, I wasn’t going to catch her. But, I also had to remind myself that my goal of the day was not get 2nd but to have another successful training run, and that I was accomplishing with each step. I got to the final aid station, and asked what the time was. My Garmin had died and I had forgotten to get my other watch from Paul. They said it was 1:50. I don’t know what that meant to me, but my goal had been to run about 8:30, so I had 40 minutes to cover the last 4 miles…about 1 mile climb and then 3 miles down to the finish. I crossed the finish line in 8:23; not a bad close for 50 miles. I finished and felt like I could have kept running forever; what a great feeling!!

Paul was at the finish and greeted me with a huge hug and kiss. Keira was at the finish to congratulate each finisher with hug and cooold water; I loved the dry ice! At the finish, as well, was Renee who finished in 2nd. I told her that I was trying my darndest to catch her, and she said that she heard I was running strong and ran as hard as she could. Her friends paid me the most wonderful compliment at the finish telling me that I was the happiest runner with the biggest smile on the course the whole race! I LOVE receiving that compliment. There are no words to share my appreciation for my life; the gifts of a great day; this incredible journey I am taking to Western States; all the people that I have that love and support me everyday; just every part of my life/health/everything… the best way to show it is with happiness and a huge smile on my face!

California, once again, didn’t disappoint, and my gratitude towards all of my blessings continues to bring rewards I never thought truly possible!

Side bar: I can’t end this without sending every piece of my happiness to my friends and their incredible successes in Boston! How we get to lift and push each other to be and do more than we ever thought possible!! Ahh, to dream and to accomplish!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Late Nights and Bluebonnets

Who knew training/volunteering/weekends could be so much fun??

It was yet another beautiful weekend in Austin! We have just been blessed with the most wonderful spring which means that the wildflowers are exploding!

The timing was just perfect for me to get to volunteer at Hells Hills. Some people enjoy being at an aid station, but my favorite is to help with course set-up. Last year, Henry and I spent about 9 hours setting up in the worst storm I have ever been out in...unfortunately to have the race cancelled the next day. This year we laughed that there might be "storms" on Friday during set-up.

Knowing that set-up means lots of hiking, I decided to get my run in before. Bruce, Tausha, and I met for 9 miles at 6AM, and then Pete and I headed to Smithville. We kind of laughed at the fact that Pete was helping with course set up since he is fmously known for getting lost in the woods. So, it was only right that about 1/2 mile into our set-up that we hit a gate and realized that we were on the wrong trail; awesome. We decided to hop in my truck and drive to the far end of the course and set up from there. I am all for the off-road fun, but before we knew it we were headed down a "trail" that was in NO way a road. I am just thankful that my truck didn't get stuck and came through in one piece. In the end the back end of the course got marked with arrows and wrong way signs, and I put glowsticks at the aid stations for my later use.

My plan was to head back to Austin for a few hours, have dinner with Paul, and then head back out to start putting up glowsticks at 10ish pm. I figured there was no better way for a night run: private property and Joe and Henry were asleep at the base knowing where I was headed. If I didn't return they could easily come find me.

So, I load up my pack with 50 glowsticks and tell Henry that if my truck isn't back when he gets up at 3:15, to worry... Right away I get into a great rhythm listening to the night: owls, frogs, cows. The sky was clear and it was nice and warm. I am easily able to run between each hanging, so I am thinking, "no biggie...3hours max for the 13 miles I am going to work." Well, not so much. I quickly hit the first aid station, and all of a sudden I have 50 more glowsticks to "run" with. I crack the glowsticks and load more than enough in my bra for easy access. I found a hidden talent, running with 30 glowsticks in the bra, good times! I get to Off the Lip trail, and I realize that either there are no flags or I am on the wrong trail. I start a bit of a back and forth until I realize that I am on the right trail, but there aren't many flags. My plan becomes to drop or hang a glowstick every 1/4 mile for assurance for the runners. I good with the plan and continue forward. Then I hit Longhorn Loop, and the problem persists. I run back and forth to confirm my location, and then continue on with my dropping of glowsticks for confidence. All of a sudden I realize that I am covering tons of extra mileage and this is going to take longer than planned...oh well.

Then the comedy happens; I get to the field and realize that all of the signs have been removed. The challenge with the field is that unless you know it well there is no way of knowing where the heck the trail continues. It is 2 in the morning, and I am completely at a loss as to where to go. With no other choice, I run every corner of the field for the next 20 minutes until I am SURE of where the trail leads, and then I set up a line of glowsticks so that the runners know exactly where to go. Obviously, 3 hours and 13 miles is completely a lost hope.

I continue on the outer portion of the loop, typically my favorite section to run, and am just ready to be done. I find myself running harder and harder between stops. I am very pleased with my lights and my energy give the about 3:15 - 4:38 and 20 miles later - I finish. I send Henry a text and head back down to the start/finish. When I arrive back it is just Henry, Joe and I awake and runners about to arrive. Joe shows me where to have people park and before I know it I am standing by the park entrance with my light and chatting it up with arriving friends. The 50-miler started at 5AM, 50K at 6AM and it is right around 6 that I realize just how long I have been awake: over 24 hours, 36 miles, and 2 hours of driving...small talk was getting a little low on my list. I head to my truck and sleep for about 30 minutes of gold!

I wake up in time to change clothes and help at the start/finish aid station. I didn't do much beyond helping friends as they came through but I had a blast being out there. It was so fun to see so many friends race and help them in and out of the aid station!

What a fun, fun time! It is so much fun to give back to the local trail community, and even more fun to support my friends. After Pete got 2nd in the 25K, we headed back home!

When I finally reached the house, I took about an hour nap but didn't want to sleep too long because I didn't want to throw my sleep off too much. Paul and I spent the rest of the afternoon together and then prepped for Easter Vigil. I will totally admit to having to rally for Easter Vigil at 8pm. And, let's be honest, when we walked into the dark church I knew I was doomed...candlelight was not going to help me stay awake. Paul and I had a big laugh when the priest announced that "Easter Vigil is typically an all night prayer service." Thankfully the music was lively and quite passionate. We still called mercy early. Paul is normally a MAJOR trooper at church and can endure it all. I am thrilled that he was ok to leave when the Phantom of the Opera music (not quite but that's what it felt like) started and we still had two more readings to get through. We got home and I slept so hard.

I then woke up early Sunday morning to run from the house to meet Paul downtown. It was so much fun to venture 14.5 miles toward him. I loved doing that for my last run of the weekend. We had a wonderful Easter Sunday, topped by an incredible feast (see my other blog for pics and details).

I am LOVING the adventures of training! It seems that each run; each encounter with friends; and the balance of work and life is just getting more and more enjoyable! I can't wait to see what's next!!