Monday, November 24, 2014

Tunnel Hill 100 Race Report 11/15/2014

I was a little worried about accomplishing my goal at Tunnel Hill 100. I wanted to run a sub-15 and knew this was the best course for me to give it a shot. Normally, before a race that I want to run well, I try to get ready mentally, by having some positive self-talk. However, I was more excited about my planned break in December than racing another 100 miler. I kept trying to force positive talk in my head two weeks prior during my daily runs, but soon thoughts of laundry or errands would seep in, leaving me sort of uninspired. I had done all the training, tapered, eaten right, taken my Hammer Supplements, planned for the weather, etc. But, couldn’t get that spark built up to accomplish what I knew would be a hard goal to knock down. Well, it is what it is, my husband always says. Sometimes, you just can’t force it. So, I just went with the flow for the week and never really got worked up about the race. I planned for the weather, which was much colder than it usually is this time of year (normally low of 40, high of 60). I am not a huge fan of the cold, is what it is. The forecast was for the low to be 20 degrees and the high to be 38 degrees. I packed accordingly.
Race morning came, and I waited with my husband in the car until I was pushing my window to be able to go potty one more time. We hopped out of the car together and walked to the starting area. As we are waiting in line, I said, “Crap, I forgot to put on Chapstick...I’m going to want some later when you see me.” My husband reached into his pocket and pulled out some Chapstick. I looked at him with wonderment and said “Wow, YOU ARE THE BEST CREW EVER!” He laughed and said, “Well, just don’t ask for a Pony.” I busted out laughing...”that was really random...where did you come up with that? I suppose it would be a lot quicker if I had a pony!” 

Me, Troy Shellhamer, Mike Crowder, Mark McCaslin, and 3 others in the early miles
Being a race not far from home, it was awesome to see a bunch of friends. I had just enough time to chat a bit and say hello to everyone. I lined up at the start with my friend, Troy Shellhamer. We run together regularly and both had the same goals for the day...break 15 hours. We watched as about 20 people (some doing the 50 and some doing the 100) took off at the start...we let them go. We had both talked about how important pace would be and planned to run together for as long as we could. We started off a little faster than we wanted (in the upper 8:30’s), and kept working to slow ourselves down. We had amassed a group of about 7 runners and just chatted, enjoying the day. We remarked about the “frost roses,” which I had never heard of...bunches of icy snow that came together and looked like chunks of raw cotton (or roses I guess). It was cold, but it wasn’t totally overcast as forecast, and actually was rounding out to be a nice day. I was thrilled I picked the perfect clothes to run in. (Initially when the season changes to colder weather, I forget how to dress). We all ran together through the first out and back (26.6 miles) and then started to get separated. I handed my jacket to my husband and asked gleefully for my pony...epic crew fail (no pony provided)  :)  I suppose he did tell me not to ask for one.  Regardless, it made me smile to think about him having a pony for me. It probably sounds dorky, but I am easily entertained, especially as I get tired. Throughout the day, thoughts of Starlite (Rainbow Brite’s pony) flashed into my head and made me smile.

I was a little ahead of Troy, but I was going to stop for my first potty break around mile 30 and figured my small lead would give me enough time so that we could run together again. Perfect. I opened the port-a-can door, and there he went running by. I ran a little faster to catch up with him. We got to talk some more. It was nice to catch up on kids, life, etc. At one point, he had me laughing so hard, I actually buckled over and stopped running. At this point, it felt like a long run with friends. The second out and back section was prettier than the first. It had hills on either side of the trail with rocky formations. Every now and then, there would be bridges to cross and a river or creek meandered on either side of the trail. Just before the aid station, I got to pass through an old railroad tunnel, which was dark inside. It was cool, but made me slow a bit, as I couldn’t see where I was going, and the water that drips from the tunnel had weathered the surface inside the tunnel, making the footing feel a little uneasy. 

Troy & I
At the next aid station around mile 40, I had started to separate from Troy and had started to pass people who had gone out too fast. I was feeling good and averaging around 8:40 pace. My company was gone, so I happily turned on my ipod. It was nice to have company early on, but I am content to run alone and sing to my tunes. I remember seeing a guy at least 2-3 miles ahead of me who was looking strong. Back to the start/finish marked 50 miles. For the first time in a race, where I could drop down at 50 miles after coming back to the start, stopping early NEVER crossed my mind.  

Coming through the tunnel around mile 38

My husband was seamless as a crew all day. I never had to even break stride with him crewing. He had exactly what I wanted, how I wanted it, and when I wanted it. He went with the flow if I asked for something different and had it ready at the next aid station (except for my Rainbow Brite pony...hehehe). I had based the crewing schedule off of 8:50 pace, and was slightly ahead at 50 miles (averaging 8:41 pace). I was okay with being a little ahead, as it was supposed to be sunset at 4:41pm and I wanted to wait until mile 60 to pick up my headlamp. When I got to the aid station at mile 60, I stopped briefly to put my jacket back on and get my headlamp. My husband told me that “rumor had it that the guy in front of me had only run 50k as his longest run, and that I’d likely pass him”. I left the aid station, and saw him within a mile, equating to him being about 3 miles ahead. He still looked good. I thought about what my husband said and thought...he is wrong. He has 30 minutes on me with less than 40 miles to way I will catch him. Good for him, I thought...first 100 miler and he’s going to run a sub-15! That’s the cool thing about ultras...rookies have break out days all the time, which keep reinvigorating the sport. I hit the turn around and headed back. Just before I got to the aid station, I saw my friend Troy. We gave each other high fives and exchanged “good job”.

Now it was dark. I tried to make out my friends and tell them along with other runners “good job”. That’s the one thing about out and backs that makes it nice. It’s great to always see people and cheer people on. I made it back to the start finish with 26 miles to go. I was still at 8:43 or 8:44 average at this point. I was starting to get tired and started to slow a little from miles 80-90. I was making “deals with the devil” so to speak. I wanted to walk, so I would let myself walk for 10 seconds every time my Garmin beeped a mile. Also, every half hour, when it was time to take a gel, I’d walk briefly to take it. Finally, I got to the Tunnel Hill aid station at the top of the hill ( wasn’t much of a hill, but I reclassified it). I exchanged bottles with my husband and grabbed some Pringles and Coke. I got to the out and back and the two ladies at the turn-a-round cheered that I was first, saying “we were hoping it’d be the girl”. I chuckled. Then, I thought about the guy who had been ahead of me. I never realized that I had passed him. I came back to the aid station and asked my husband where the guy in the lead was. He informed me the previous leader was now 10 minutes behind me. WOW! Cool! At this point, I knew I had my sub-15, and now I was leading too. It doesn’t happen very often, so I always relish a bit when I chick all the guys. This invigorated my last 9.6 to the finish. 

I ran through the tunnel, seeing my friend Troy coming towards me. I figured he was about 5 miles back. I hollered at Troy to get his fight back and told him that the guy who had been leading was dying...he could salvage his race and maybe come up with a win.  I was looking back and cheering him one minute, and the next I was on the ground. I laughed out loud. Man, I am so clumsy. I fell on a 5’ wide limestone path. I had gotten too close to the edge, tripped on a rock and Superman’d it down. I got back up, took a moment to assess myself and started going again. I tried to figure out who was coming towards me in the dark to cheer people on. I realized my friend Cynthia was in 2nd place for the women and I told her that she was in 2nd. She was excited to see me leading. Around 98.5 miles, I saw two headlamps approaching and tried to avoid them (runner and pacer). I put my hand up to block the lights from blinding my eyes. Crash! We all three rammed into each other, bouncing off each other like pinballs. They thought I was going to give them a high-five and I couldn’t see anything which resulted in the collision. We all apologized and continued running once we realized everyone was OK. We all laughed about it later. 

I was thrilled to run the last bit in, knowing I had accomplished my sub-15 goal! Plus, an overall win, and a top ten place on the all-time couldn’t have been a better day. I had a few low spots where I let myself be talked into walking when I could have probably pressed on or just slowed a bit. But, I am not going to be hyper-critical. I took my nutrition like clockwork, ran happy, paced myself, and it all paid off...even without my pony! :)

Troy Shellhamer (men's winner), Steve Durbin (RD), me (women's winner)

I left to get out of my wet, cold clothes and came back to see my friend Troy finish and claim his 2nd 100 mile victory this year! It was bittersweet. I felt bad his race didn’t go as he had hoped. We are both competitive and wanted to beat the other, but I never dreamed I would beat him. We had always talked about a how cool it would be if we could go to a race and get a “Team TnT” (Troy-n-Traci) win. We were thrilled that it had finally come to fruition. 

Awesome Finisher's award made of rail road ties, buckle, and bib

Tunnel Hill is probably the fastest 100 mile trail course in the US. If you want a PR or want to finish your first 100 miler...this is the course for you. This was a first year race, but Steve Durbin is an awesome and experienced RD who along with his volunteers made the race seamless. 

I cannot thank my husband, Mike enough! He is a phenomenal crew person! I would not be as successful without him! He has saved me time in many races, playing an enormous part in my success. I would not be where I am without him. Crewing is harder than running. It was cold and sleeting, and all the while he was out there supporting me! Make sure you all thank your crew! 

Thanks to Hammer Nutrition for making my belly the most content it’s ever been. I took Race Day Boost 4 days prior to the race, gels every 30 minutes (love the new chocolate hazelnut flavor!), Race Caps Supreme and Anti-Fatigue caps every hour starting at hour 2, and Fizz for electrolytes.  Thanks Coast for the uber bright headlamps that I wore for the last 40 miles! Thanks to Drymax for the awesome new Trail lite socks. My feet looked better than ever after the race! Thanks to running skirts which I look forward to wearing in Arizona next month...the new honeycomb pattern is adorable!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

50 States sub 4 Hours: Mission Accomplished 10/12/14

50 States sub 4 Hours: Mission Accomplished 10/12/14

50 sub 4 finish at GMAA in Vermont on 10/12/14

After 3 marathons, I swore I’d never do another one. They took sooo much time to train for and I hated doing all the long runs. So, how did I end up with a marathon in every state in America? After losing 80 pounds in 2003/2004, I wanted to cross an item off my bucket list and run a marathon some day. I joined a running group in July 2004, and the leader of the group, Tom, was planning on running Rocket City Marathon in AL in December. He printed out Hal Hidgon’s  novice training plan for me and offered to train with me. I thought, “why not?!” Long story short, I ran it in December of 2004 with goals to:

1. Finish
2. Run under 4 hours
3. Qualify for Boston. 

I always set multiple goals which are often high reaching. I was thrilled to have accomplished all 3 goals, running a 3:32:59!!!  I was sooo sore afterwards.  We had a hotel with no elevator and rooms on the 2nd floor.  Man, how would I get down the stairs after my shower?  I think everyone has had that moment!  I discovered walking downstairs backwards :)

I qualified for Boston, so I went! Loving to go out fast and loving downhills, Boston was a bad set-up for me. It was also a hot year in 2005. I ran a 3:36, disappointed I that didn’t run faster than in Alabama. In 2006, I went back for Boston redemption and ran slower. My race was not what I’d hoped, and I thought, “I suck.” Three marathons and SLOWER each time (I thought I should keep getting better, not worse). I know what some of you are thinking...someone call the WhaaaaaaM-bu-lance!! Many people would kill for those times. It seems ABSOLUTELY petty looking back, but we have all had those moments where things didn’t go our way and we had a pity party for ourselves. I swore to my husband that I was done running long distance races. No more marathons!

About a year later, a girlfriend of mine had heard about the Goofy (1/2 marathon on Saturday/marathon on Sunday). I thought that sounded insane, but I LOVED DISNEY (my kids had all the animated Disney movies mostly as an excuse for me to watch them)! She sold the race well. She offered that we could just do it and have fun. There were supposed to be characters on the course...we could stop and take pictures with them and not worry about time. Four people in my running group decided to do the Goofy in 2008, plus my husband would take on his first 1/2 marathon since we were going to do it leisurely. It was a blast! I realized that I didn’t always have to beat my time. Running could be fun and should be fun. (I had so much fun, I did it four years in a row, and even got my daughter to do her first 1/2 marathon)! 

Disney Marathon 2008 Mike, Traci, and Sulley :)
I learned that sometimes I need to reassess what and why I do things in life. I started running because I liked it. I needed to make sure that I didn’t take it so seriously that I sucked all the fun out of it. The Goofy Challenge opened back up the marathon world to me. In 2008, I did 3 more marathons that were close by (KY, OH, IN)...6 states down. 

In 2009, I did another 4 marathons (FL, OH, IN, TN). 7 states down. The Goofy and Flying Monkey Marathon (TN) had such AWESOME medals!! I started on a quest for other cool marathons with FUN medals. 

2010 was the year I started to get a little crazy in terms of race quantity.  I found that the Texas Marathon had the biggest medal in the US! It was as big as a hot plate and weighed 1 kg!! 2010 was a great year for me! I finally broke 3:30 (3:29 in January in Texas, 3:21 in September (Tupelo, MS) & November (Monkey), and 3:14 in Baton Rouge in December). I actually won a couple of marathons and started doing doubles (Saturday/Sunday marathons). I also found out about the 50 States Club, 50 States & DC Club, and the Marathon Maniacs. I joined all of them!  Along the way, someone told me about the 50 States Sub 4 club, so I joined it too!! I ran 21 marathons in 2010 (TX, FL, CAx3, AR, WA, KY, IL, OHx2, ND, MN, NCx2, MS, MO, NY, TN, LA , and DC (I know it’s not a state, but I needed it for the DC club)...19 states and DC down.

2011 got even crazier. I was pumped that I had won a couple of races and was getting faster. I never rested...I just pushed harder (not a good idea I would later find out). I ran 3:21 in September & November of 2010, 3:14 in December, 3:09 in January, 3:07 in February, and won 3 races between January and March of 2011. In April, I ended up with a partial tear of my hamstring which brought my running to a hault. I was humiliated as my hamstring literally took me out at the Gansett Marathon. I had bib #1 and finished almost DFL. I literally walked the last 7 miles and drug my leg through Boston two days later in a new PW of 5:22:48. My Physical Therapist, Lauren, miracle-worker extraordinaire, helped me work to get back sooner than expected. I actually still managed to run 24 marathons (FL, SC, AZ, GA, MD, HI, RI, MA, CA, OR, IA, SD, MT, MIx2, NV, ID, CO, OH, UT, IN, WV, TN, KY), my first 50 miler (IL), and first 100 miler (LA) run a PR of 3:01:19 in St. George, UT...36 states and DC down.

St. George 2011

Long story short...2012 brought 24 marathons (IN, AZ, LA, KY, VA, IL, NJ, ND, WI, OR, WY, AK, CO, MN, OH, PA, NH, NY, NM, KS, TN, DE, KY), 2-50k’s (KY, MS), a 50 miler (PA), a 100 miler (NC), a 12-hour (IN), and a 24-hour (NC). 2012 was by far my craziest year in terms of quantity. In 2012, I also met Keith Straw and under his pink tutu spell agreed to do the Grand Slam with him if we both got into Western States. I had no idea what I had just agreed to.  In addition, I met Connie Gardner at Tussey Mountainback 50 miler in October who informed me about the USA 24-hour team. I decided to try to qualify for the team on New Year’s Eve and managed almost 138 miles to secure a spot...46 states and DC down. 

2013 was amazing. I ran for Team USA in the Netherlands and was 4th in the world with  142.730 miles! We won gold. The Grand Slam was 6 weeks later. Little did I know that I couldn’t race ultras as frequently as marathons. I ran the WSER training runs (70 miles in 3 days) 2 weeks after the Netherlands, a marathon a week later, and a 12 hour the week after that. I started the Grand Slam in a hole, with grand expectations and was just happy to finish. I wasn’t even close to the goals I had set for the Slam, but I LEARNED A TON! I learned a ton about nutrition, mountains, and A LOT about the importance of Recovery. I puked more in 2013 then my entire families lifetime incidences combined. 2013 brought major highs and major lows. I did a 50 miler (KY), a 12- hour (IN), 9 marathons (IN, KYx3, OH, CT, RI, WI, TN), 4-100 milers (CA, VT, CO, UT), and a 24-hour (Netherlands). 2013 added only 2 new states: CT & VT and helped me get a sub 4 redemption in RI.

2014 brought 8 marathons, and 6 ultras so far :) I got a new PR in the 100 mile twice and set records (pending ratification) in 48 hours in AK! 

I finished my 50th state in Maine (May) completing the 50 States Club and 50 States and DC club!! It’s been a fantastic year so far! My family came out to celebrate my 50th state in Maine. It was nice to have everyone there! My husband, Mike has been my biggest supporter and has tirelessly been to the majority of my marathons and spent gazillions of hours crewing. My daughter, Mackenzie even ran 1/2 of the race with me, which was a wonderful mother’s day present. My son Logan, ran briefly with me as he and my husband hopped along the course to cheer and crew. My parents were there to cheer, take pictures and help me celebrate! One of my friends, who I met marathoning, Jennifer, came to run the whole marathon with me. The RD gave me bib #50 and was super welcoming. I was interviewed by the race announcer at the end of the race, and given a momento to remember the event!  
I finished my 50th sub 4 state in VT (October) Vermont. I had to repeat VT for the 50 sub 4 club, because I couldn’t run the VT 100 in under 4 hours :)  50<4 was a weekend with friends who I have met marathoning. Kino, Steven, Jeff, Ken, and myself. It was nice to have an extra day and a half to see Vermont. We toured Vermont at a beautiful time of year when the leaves were changing.  We did some sight-seeing, wine tasting, maple syrup scouting, and ate a lot of great food! The marathon course and weather were beautiful! Ken and Steven drove around the course crewing and banging cowbells with drumsticks. They were an awesome support and photographic crew! It was a laid back and hilarious weekend and a phenomenal way to end my 50 state journey. 

50 States Quilt :)
This has sort of turned into an autobiography which I always thought were boring to read, so I was thinking what could make this tolerable? :) TRIVIA

Best Marathon Medals:
Surf City-wooden surf boards
Boston, Big Sur B2B, Newport (from left)
North Country, ET, Grand Island Trail, Missoula (from Right)
Flying Monkey-laser wood with monkeys
Wineglass & Newport OR for blown glass
Tupelo-skull & cross bones
Airforce-quality & cool
Flying Pig-love the double sided medal and pig butt
Texas- ENORMOUS, presented in a satin-lined box
Minneapolis-stained glass wedge
Backside Trail Marathon-real horseshoe

Airforce, Monumental, Flying Monkey, Texas, Goofy (3), Surf City
Airforce, Erie, New Hampshire, Wineglass, Day of the Dead, Pilgrim Pacer, Monkey, Rehobooth, Otter Creek, Carmel, Backside Trail Marathon

"the shrine" as my hubby calls it. My marathon medals are along the
ceiling in the basement in chronological order.
Best Swag:                                      
Flying Monkey
Baton Rouge
Backside Trail
Western States 100 miler

Fastest Courses
St. George
Newport OR
B&A Trail

Most Scenic
Big Sur
Maine Coast
Newport, RI
Yakima River Canyon
St. George

Best Big Marathons
New York 
Marine Corps. 

Most Fun: 
Grandfather Mountain-stay for free admission to the Highland Games afterwards! 
Marine Corps-great sights and everyone is dressed up for Halloween
Disney-stopped to take pictures with characters and ride Rockin’ Rollar Coaster

Coolest Awards
Charleston (framed photos)
Lost Dutchman (framed prints)
Flying Monkey (crochet monkeys)
St. George (red rock awards)
Tallahassee (pottery plates)
Destin Beach Ultras (shell from AC-130)
Newport, OR (hand carved gray heron)

Best Value
Baton Rouge

Best Post-Race Spread: 
B&A Trail
Flying Monkey
Fargo (cookie dough & chocolate milk)
North Country
Favorite Shirts
Destin Beach Ultras
B&A Trail
Flying Monkey
Six Days in the Dome
Kettle Morraine
Planet Adventure Winter Trail Marathon

Most importantly, I want to thank my family for all their support in this journey. Visiting all 50 states was a super cool way to see the USA, but also took a lot of time. My husband, Mike has been phenomenal! He has driven all over with me to go somewhere, get up uber early, and drive around a course cheering in often crappy conditions. He has crewed me in the rain, sleet, wind, stayed up for 48 hours straight, put up with my sometime grumpy, ultra persona, massaged me, talked me off the ledge when I was nervous before racing, and countless of other supportive tasks. Thanks to my kids who think I am crazy, but support my running dreams. Thanks to my parents who worry about me damaging my body, but knowing that running is my passion and supporting me anyway. 

Thanks to my local friends who keep me company on all those long runs, let me bounce crazy ideas off of, give me their advice, and help me with my training plans! Thanks for your help with crewing, pacing, know who you are :)

Thanks to all the friends I have gained along the way!! It is amazing how many people I have connected with through races over the years. I have gained many good friends and connections! I appreciate all of your support!

Thanks to the Running Skirt girls who started sponsoring me in 2011 after I won the Hawaii marathon! Thanks to Dry-Max who picked me up in 2013 prior to the 24 Hour WC. Thanks to Hammer Nutrition and Coast Headlamps who have picked me up in 2014!!  

I couldn’t have been as successful without everyone!!