Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I Believe Run Across Ohio 2010

            At this morning Shaun and I agreed to meet at the intersection of Bellus and
Ridge Road
in Hinckley. Three days earlier this is where I stopped, less than 20 miles from my goal of Edgewater Park. The plan was for me to crutch anywhere from 5-10 miles down the road today. I would then do the same thing the next few days till I got to Edgewater. Driving up the hills and curves of Ridge Rd into Hinckley, I will admit I thought it was dangerous and there wasn’t enough room on the road for me and a car, especially since right next to the road was a ditch or lots of snow, which may have been okay if I didn’t need a boot or crutches, but probably not. However, my determination/ stubbornness often puts safety second and I was going to do it anyway. I get out of the car to meet Shaun as the snow started to pick up and then he talks me out of it.
            This is part of the story, but lets talk about why even bother to attempt running across Ohio. First item to attend to: WHY: Why can’t you just do a bake sale? Why do people run for charity, shouldn’t people just donate just because?
            These aren’t easy questions to answer and even as I right this I will understand if you don’t agree with me. You see, at an early age I realized I had no special talents. I was never the best at anything. In school, I often found myself taking much longer than Rachel and all other classmates on assignments. I was average in sports, music, art, etc. However, I learned I may not be able to control how naturally smart I am or how naturally athletic I was or anything else, but I had full control of how hard I could work and my determination. If it took me twice as long to do homework as someone else, so be it. If I had to lose sleep from working on paintings I’ll deal with it. If I had to spend hours more training than others for a sport, that’s okay too. I’ll be honest, some days I took on too much and I was far too often exhausted but I always got good grades, got college art credit from high school, and played two years of college basketball, though I really wasn’t enjoying it anymore. To get back to the question, the two qualities I feel that make me up are my determination and my sincere want to help people. I may have no idea what religion I am, but I do believe in God and I think he purposely made me “too determined” (as my doctor said lol) for the purpose that I will go at any length to try and make a difference. I didn’t want to do a bake sale, it’s awesome when people do it, but I believe it’s important to try and tie in what you love with helping people. I think people can feed off of a person if they see their passion. Rach and I also hoped to make people see they can do things they normally wouldn’t think they could if they work hard, as well as work together with others.
            A little over a month before the run I saw a comment that referred to running for charity. The person did not agree with it and thought that people should just donate out of the goodness of their hearts. I admit it makes sense. Why should someone use running as a way to help others and why can’t people just donate? I think there are tons of reasons people run for charity. For instance, I see tons of people running marathons to help raise money for cancer research ,etc. Having two loved ones die from cancer, I think it’s a person’s way of saying “Thank you for showing me how to be strong and brave” to their loved one with cancer. Running takes physical strength, but it takes even more mental strength. I learned so much of what strength is from my own loved ones, what better way to show them how much you appreciate them by running in their honor while raising money to help defeat the illness.
            My own reason for running for charity this time around was because in the past few years I have learned how much people are truly struggling every day in our own cities. We may not see it because we don’t want to, but there are far too many people in horrible situations. It breaks my heart to see the situations people have to deal with everyday, struggles that society has brought upon them more than anything else. Sure, 50 miles for 5 days is tough, but it’s not as tough as having to choose to put food on the table or taking your kid to the doctor because he is sick. Compared to this, running is simple. Running is something that is dear to my heart, and so what better way to use it to send the message that when things get tough, keep on believing in yourself. If you’re losing hope, ask for help, there are a lot of people who care about you, even if you don’t know them. I think this helps get people to open up their hearts so they do donate. Thus- why Rach and I did this run for charity.
            Since I’m now on the subject of if your losing hope, ask for help, I think it’s best if I skip ahead to the end of the run. Mile 150+-200+ was great. I wasn’t sore at all and I felt like my body was adapting to the miles. I start of the last day and I expected to hurt the first minute and then have any pain go away as the last few days, but it didn’t. My body felt great except for my right knee (which I could get through) and one point on my right shin. I tried running through it for a few hours but it kept getting worse. It felt like something was trying to press against my shin so it would break. I started walking, it still hurt, but with the help of others I made about 30 miles before I called it a day, saying I would finish the last 20 on Sunday.
            Sunday came and my shin hurt so bad it took me a half hour to walk a mile, which I admit were in tears. I thought about crutching it, wearing a boot, or biking it, all of which I was talked out of. I agree, looking back it was best, and everyone really cared for my well being.
            A few hours later, I finally found myself alone in my room. This is when I lose control of my thoughts. “You were so close!” “I wanted people to believe they can do great things, what a terrible message to get hurt twice!” “I really miss the trails and now I can’t even run” “My parents already thought I couldn’t do it and I was crazy, now I just proved them right. Now they will never support me.” And the thoughts went on.
            If you haven’t noticed I am extremely hard on myself, I over worry and over think everything. Thus, I’m truly lucky to have a b/f that understands but puts things back into perspective. I may have been 20 miles short, but last years I started walking after mile 100 from being hurt and this year I doubled that before I started walking. Additionally, after last years attempt, I went winning Mohican 100 exactly 6 months after stopping, and then won two other races, breaking two course records. Therefore, if the trend continues, I should have one heck of a time racing next year. LOL! (Give me a break, I need to stay positive).
            Most importantly, during the “I Believe” Run Across Ohio I have learned more about family, love, support, kindness then I ever have in my entire life. To start we had Jennifer and Jessica Kenny who believed in us from the start and sent us inspiration whenever we need it. My “super-friend” Chris Wagner worked till 11pm Monday night then went and picked Rach and I up to drive to Cincinnati to then crew for a whole day without sleep. Joe Shearer, who didn’t even meet Rach and I till Columbus, is an absolutely wonderful person and got Rachel and I a free hotel. We also had Joe, Mike Keller, Michael Patton, and Stephen Zeidner run with us in a very cold and snowy morning in Columbus which really helped us keep our spirits up. Steve Hawthorne, Rachel’s boyfriend I feel I owe a lot to. I honestly would have done anything to have taken Rachel’s place when she had to stop running in Columbus. As a sister, I automatically wish I could always take her pain away. I think everyone has their own battles to fight though. The reasons may be unknown at first, but I think they will one day make us stronger. Steve did what I couldn’t do. He made Rachel laugh and feel better. I can’t say thank him enough. Then there is the Colon family. Laurie is that person everyone wants to have in their life. She is the essence of kindness and support. She did everything she could to help. Her son, Rad, even walked with me for hours and talking to him made it much easier to keep going and not focus on the pain. I think he is following in his parents footsteps in being amazing. Lastly, I have to mention the Pope family. I feel like they just took Rach and me in last week and showed us how a family is supposed to support each other. Mrs. Pope was a blessing to have and I don’t know what Rachel and I would have done without her. She made us laugh when we needed it, listened to us when we needed to talk, ran with me when I wanted to stop, and most importantly she truly cared for us. I wish I could express how much that meant to me and how thankful I am to have her and her family in my life.
            The one thing I have always had trouble believing the most is that people truly care for me. It’s hard to explain all the reasons why, but in my mind I just could not accept someone actually truly cared for me. I naturally strongly care for anyone who comes into my life, but I never thought there was a good enough reason for people to care back. I think the only person I truly thought did (most of the time anyway), even though we are not as close as I would like, is Rachel. I told her before the run, she is the only person who has never put down my crazy ideas. Instead she asks how to help or how she can do them with me. Besides this, I thought my struggles were mine alone to battle. After seeing what everyone has done for me last week, I’m really starting to believe that it’s possible for people to care about me. Even after stopping with 20 miles to go, I still got enormous support. As I said before, I think everyone has their own battles they need to endure for a reason. This was my reason for a battle: realize its okay to believe that I can be cared for too.
            Coming back to today, Shaun reminded me he cared for me and so did tons of other people who will believe in me even if I don’t finish in the next few days. So I am going to finish the last 18 or 19 miles, but I’m going to wait the next 2 or 3 weeks to make sure I can run it. People care enough about me enough to not want to see me get hurt any more and I will respect that. When I finish the run, it will most likely be my last time. I loved the adventure, but my home and heart is on the trails. I will also stick to racing ultra marathons and just running on my own for some time. I liked the distance, yet my week was almost all running and I don’t want my life to become running. Running is my passion, but I owe my life to helping others since helping others has literally saved mine. Once again helping others has proved to make my life better. If I would have never have started the “I Believe” Run to help others, I probably still wouldn’t believe other could care about me.

            THANK YOU EVERYONE who has donated, helped, believed- What you have made me believe the past week makes me forever in you dept.

If you can make it, please join me in finishing the last part of the run on a Saturday in January. I will post when it will be in a couple of weeks.
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Grindstone 2010 Race Report and then some

I heard this quote a few days before Grindstone…
“We cannot learn without pain”- Aristotle
I’m usually one to keep my thoughts to myself as I’m a pretty private person. However, I had a few people ask me to write a race report and after my incredible experience at Grindstone, I actually really wanted to.  Sorry in advanced if I get carried away at times; it’s just that I feel there is so much more to running than just running (if that makes any sense to you at all).
There are a couple of reasons I chose to run Grindstone.
1)      My original plan was to run Oil Creek, and then Rachel (sister) told me she wanted to do it and I’d much rather support her than run against her.
2)      I am (was?) SLIGHTLY afraid of the dark and I felt like running in the dark really slowed down my pace at Mohican since I wasn’t comfortable with it. (GS has a 6pm start) I figured running Grindstone would make my weakness of night running somewhat of a strength
3)      It sounded really tough
When I ran Mohican, I trained myself and barely had a clue what I was doing. It seemed to work out okay, but knowing Grindstone was harder I asked for help from Ray Zahab, one of the top ultra runners in Canada, co-founder of Impossible2Possible along with Bob Cox, and an amazing person. I was lucky enough to meet him a year ago when I was selected as a youth ambassador for i2P’s Baffin Island Expedition. My training was completely different than for Mohican. I actually put less miles in but felt way better running. Between Ray’s guidance and doing weekend runs with Shaun, I knew I was improving. Shaun didn’t let me slow down and forcing myself to keep up with him run after run was great training.
This leads me to Grindstone weekend:
Thursday afternoon I started my road trip to Swoope, Virginia off with two sick people in my little car (aka Rory- yes I named my car). Rachel had a bad cold, and Shaun possibly had mono or the flu. I had 2 thoughts on this.  1) How blessed I am to have people in my life that care for me enough to come with me to crew and pace when they are sick and have their own races (both running OC) in 2 weeks. 2) Dear God, please don’t let me get sick before my race!!! 8 hours later with lots of bathroom stops and dinner at a bar & grill that happened to be having karaoke night (Shaun of course had to sing and did a great job) we were at Grindstone.
Race day: ~Run with your heart because when your legs get tired your heart will stay strong~ (my own little quote)
With the race about to start in a few minutes I hugged Shaun and Rachel, walked a few steps and turned back to Rachel, hoping she realized that it meant the world to me that she was my only family member who bothered to wish me good luck. With that I took my place at the start, nervous but almost at ease at the same time because I knew I was soon to be at home on the trails. Then with a few words from Clark Zealand, the amazing race director, and a singing of the national anthem, the race started.
The first part of the course was by far the easiest since it was by far the flattest part. Though I say this was the easy part, it was still much rockier (by far!) than anything I have ran in Ohio. I loved it though. The weather was great for running and I settled in a comfortable pace a little behind the top men and a little ahead of the rest of the runners. From my first two ultras I learned it is important for me to keep my own pace no matter what.  Unfortunately this meant I was running by myself after I reached the top of the first huge hill where all runners were required to punch a hole in their bib.  I say unfortunately not because I dislike running by myself, but because I have a gift for going the wrong way. Sometimes going the wrong way can lead to some great adventures, other times deep frustration.  After reaching the top of the hill, runners were supposed to back track a little way down the hill to enter a trail. I of course had my mind in another world while also having a great time running down hill, and passed the entrance. MY WORST FEAR as an ultra runner. Ugh.  As I continued in the wrong direction I happily waved to other runners still climbing up the hill until finally someone finally told me I was going the wrong way. About 25 minutes later, I was finally back on track. I’ll be honest, this was an intense mental test for me to stay positive. It’s frustrating knowing that early on in the race, I had already added 25 minutes onto my finishing time.  Perhaps it was for the best though as I got to run with fellow Ohioans  David Peterman and Regis Jr who helped keep me going in the right direction.
After becoming a little more sure of my ability to actually follow the orange coarse markers, it was time to pick up my pace.  Thankfully, my new running friend Jordan sped up with me and we ran together till around mile 40. I think one of my favorite parts about ultras is the people I get to meet and I truly appreciated Jordan’s company.
During this time I began to realize I was running in the dark and I was really enjoying it. I read a race report from last year and it said “the dark is aware of us, just as much as we are of it”. I’m not sure why, but I found comfort in this. I fell into a rhythm of side stepping and jumping over rocks. Then I twisted my ankle….and then I did it again. Luckily, the abuse I did to it running on rocks up and down hills seemed to numb the pain quite nicely.
Towards the end of the first half of the course there is a stretch of about 7 miles between aid stations. It just so happens that 90% of this was up hill. Not a hill with an easy incline, but rocky with a very respectable incline. I was quite thankful it was dark at this point because I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to see how much more I had to go in front of me. However, I know hills are one of my strengths and I managed to keep a good hiking pace up this hill and actually thoroughly enjoyed it. The best part however, was the view at the top. The cool air brought a cloudless sky with the brightest view of stars I had ever seen. Out of respect for nature and being allowed to be part of it on that day, I had to stop and look to appreciate the moment at hand.
After reaching the half way point I was allowed a pacer. Rachel, who hates the cold (being 4 am on top of a mountain the air was quite cold), was already sick, and got a nasty cut the last time she ran at night with me courageously agreed to pace me the next 17 miles. At this point I would like to mention that  5 hours before the race started Rachel told me she saw two bears while hiking—Thanks Rach! That’s exactly what I wanted to hear before my race! Haha.
Towards the end of the 17 miles I ran with Rachel, I started feeling really sick. Previously, I started having a hard time eating and drinking. I was forcing as much down as I could but apparently it wasn’t enough and I got dehydrated. I know this is gross but to help you understand better I’ll add that my pee looked like iced tea for about the last 35-40 miles. (Not cool! Sorry for my  grossness lol)
With 35 miles to go Rachel and Shaun switched crewing and pacing duties so Shaun could run with me the rest of the way. Together we tried to get me rehydrated, but nothing was working. DEHYDRATION and not enough calories! I was so frustrated. I felt like it was a rookie mistake and I was not happy with myself. I thought I was getting enough in the first half of the race but when reflecting back I realized this may not have been the case, especially when I got sick of eating around mile 45. Still, I am used to having steady energy throughout long distances. Sure I got dehydrated before but a few S-caps, sports drinks  and/or food and I’d be back to normal within 15 minutes. Worse, with dehydration comes muscles tightening and my quads that I needed for not only up hills but for the rocky down hills were becoming increasingly painful.
 With not being able to balance my electrolytes my body swelled, my fingers looking like sausages, and I was beginning to get really dizzy. Shaun ended up catching me from falling a few times and reminded me to breath. However , after pushing myself feeling sick and exhausted for 20 miles my body was reaching it breaking point and I passed out going up a hill. Laying on the ground I remember Shaun telling me to open up my eyes and look at him but it was too much effort. After laying there for a few minutes I gained the strength to open my eyes and managed to sit up. Out of frustration of pushing myself so long already and knowing I had so far to go, I couldn’t help but shed a few tears.
Now, I normally wouldn’t do this, but I’d like to share with you a little bit of what was going through my head at this time. As I was coming to on the ground,  I couldn’t help but remember a few years back laying on my bathroom or bedroom floor crying because I hated my life and my inability to change it. I suffered from social anxiety and internal conflicts between positive and negative (as a result from things that had happened earlier in my life). For instance, I wanted to believe hard work paid off,  I could control where my life was headed, and that my family loved me, but no matter how much I tried to stay positive, negative thoughts always won. I felt like my mind was being torn in two causing me terrible social anxiety and depression. I blamed myself for all my problems and therefore did a lot of abuse to myself in a variety of ways. (Sorry for stopping here but some things I’m not ready to talk about)  During these times of crying on the floor, I’d physically get up, but mentally and emotionally, I never really got up.
It was at this point of the race I remembered all of this  and everything I’ve been through to turn my life around from starting a volunteer group (Students Making a Difference), going on an i2P expedition, quitting basketball to pursue ultra running, and talking to audiences about volunteering and social issues despite having social anxiety. I knew laying on the trail that I had to get up, not only physically, but mentally as well.
I never really felt physically better even after getting up, but I knew I’d finish no matter what. I was still incredibly frustrated knowing that I could run much better than I was if I could just feel a little better and if I had been smarter earlier in the race. I know I am sometimes too hard on myself. I’m 22, my first ultra was only in June and this time last year I was still playing college basketball. I realize that being so new to the sport, I’m going to make mistakes, but it still sucks... a lot! =P
My quads cramped up so bad from dehydration I felt like my quads would explode every time I tried to run. My hamstrings felt okay though so I power walked as fast as I could when I could not force myself to run. Poor Shaun who had been sick for a week started looking bad himself, but amazingly still managed to keep pushing me, though I couldn’t help but feel a little bad I was the reason he was out there when he should have been resting.
With 5 miles to go I had a couple guys pass me. I admit it was slightly disheartening so late in the race, but I was so happy for them, especially Jordan who I had run with earlier in the race. 3 miles to go I forced myself to run the rest of the way. 2 miles to go I decided the cuts I had on me weren’t enough to be a contender for the best blood award and so I tripped on an extra rocky section. It pretty much looked like I put a whole in my skin, right above my knee cap. Thick blood instantly poured down my leg and made my already bloody shoes much bloodier. I left a good amount of blood on the last part of that trail.

When I heard about the best blood award I thought it was the coolest award ever (for lack of better words). However, it is not one of the awards you really want to aim at getting. Before the race I had told both Rachel and Shaun about the award. Shaun told me don’t even think about it. Rachel thought it was awesome. Both told me to try not to fall despite my clumsiness, and both had a good feeling I would get it. After winning the award I was pretty stoked, however, I unfortunately do not think I am as bad ass or hardcore as I wish I was….I am just hopelessly clumsy.
So after a last fall, I ran through the finish line with blood pouring down my leg in 23 hours and 5 minutes, still winning women’s first place despite my 25 minute detour and feeling like crap for 40 miles. I knew I could have done better if I could have avoided getting sick, but my only goal for Grindstone was to make sure that I crossed the finish line not being able to run another 10 feet. Goal accomplished and I had won my third ultra, and got my second course record in VA.
I set a goal like the one I did because I actually don’t love the competitive side of ultra running. (Shocker, I know) For some people it’s great, and yeah I think it’s okay, but I just like to be competitive with myself if anything. For me it’s about having that choice to be negative or positive, and finding the strength to stay positive while appreciating the beauty of the situation and one’s own mind. I know I have won the only 3 ultras I have ever entered, but if someone beat me and their best is better than mine, I think that’s awesome.
(BTW exactly 6 months before finishing Mohican 100 I was put on crutches from severe nerve damage from running, and exactly 1 year before finishing Grindstone was the only other time I have ever passed out in my life- I was sick running as well, but that time I never got up to finish the short 5k- weird, huh?)
One of my favorite moments of the weekend was Sunday morning when Jordan told me part of the reason he had such a good finishing time was because of running with me. I’ll take that over winning any day.  Through the volunteer group Rachel and I founded I have learned that sometimes hard work paying off is just inspiring others, not necessarily getting the outcome intended. I never want to forget that lesson.
Congrats to fellow Ohioans David Huss (PRed in VA!), David Peterman, and Regis Shivers as well as all the other Grindstone runners!
One of the best parts of this sport by far is the people I have gotten to meet. I have met incredible people and am continuously humbled by learning about other people’s achievements and efforts in both running and life. I am in complete amazement by the support I have gotten and all the people that believe in me.  Some people in my family don’t necessarily agree with me doing these crazy runs nor care to understand why I do it, so to have so many people support me honestly means the world to me.
I’m not sure what race I will do next. I’d love to race more but unfortunately paying for college comes first. Hopefully Rachel and I will do a fun charity run across Ohio to raise money for the United Way in December. Everyone is invited to join! I graduate in December, and I’d really like to focus more on my volunteer group a little more before I have to leave it behind. Volunteering has led me to ultra running, both are my passions, and so I need to balance it out a little more. With that said, however, I know I’m going to be running more than ever. J

“The only limitations we face are the ones we place upon ourselves”- Ray Zahab                                             

(Special thanks to my crew and pacers Rachel and Shaun and the best running coach ever Ray Zahab)