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Learning from a Bonk

Running is easy!  It’s the easiest sport out there….right?  I mean, all you do is move your legs and off you go.  Move the legs faster and you run faster, move them slower and your run slower.  There’s no strategy, no thought process, no planning….. you just go run…. simple as that.

Ok, ok…. don’t click on the back button.  Let me finish.  If you continue reading, I’m guessing you’re one of the following people.  Either your are…

  1. A non-runner who is looking for confirmation in what you’ve been saying all along
  2. A beginner that’s thinking…. “If this is true, I’m doing something wrong.”
  3. An experienced runner who’s saying to yourself…. “This lady is nuts!  But I’ll read on just for the entertainment.”

Well, for the non-runner… sorry, but my first paragraph couldn’t be further from the truth.  But if you’re looking for a challenge, I encourage you to give running a try.  And read on because what I’m about to blog may just help you out one day.

For the other two, you’ll just be shaking your head and saying either “Good lesson learned…. thanks for sharing!” or “Been there… Done that!!”

distancetired

I’m training for my first 25K, so I’m racking up the miles on my long run.  But with the crazy weather we see here in West Virginia in February, sometimes I have to be flexible with my training schedule.  I do my LSD runs on the weekends, mostly on Sundays.  However, this weekend I run my 14-mile LSD on Saturday afternoon as the forecast was calling for sunny skies and temps in the 60’s…. awesome weather!! Sunday was calling for rain. I wanted a spring-like run outside, so I decided…. kinda last-minute…. to do the LSD on Saturday.

So, I rode with my son to his baseball batting practice and 14.5 miles from the house, he dropped me off and I headed home.  The first few miles went well… I enjoyed hearing the birds singing, saw several squirrels scurrying up trees and deer running through the fields, and felt the sun shinning in my face and the breeze gently blowing.  Several cars blew their horns when they passed by, and I even saw some folks on motorcycles.  They always wave… they seem to adopt runners into their secret hand waving club.  😀

As normal, between mile three and four, I sipped some water and chewed on some beans, then washed them down with one more sip of water.  I was feeling good.  But around mile seven, I started feeling tired.  It wasn’t my breathing, nor was it my legs feeling heavy, but a weariness in my upper body.  I got to thinking about it and remembered that I had done a fairly tough upper body strength training workout the evening before…. one of my P90X3 workouts.  Plus I had run three miles on the treadmill.  But I had really pushed myself on the strength workout, and now I was still feeling it.  I was amazed at how much it affected my running today.  But I kept pushing through.

Then, somewhere between mile 9 and 10, I “bonked” or hit the wall.  Again, my legs weren’t really heavy and my breathing was ok, but I just wasn’t feeling well.  It took everything I had to swing my arms and I started getting sick to my stomach.  My fingers were swollen to the point that I couldn’t clinch a fist.  I just wasn’t feeling well.  For the first time ever, I almost called someone to come pick me up.   The last couple of miles I walked a lot.  I turned off my Garmin at mile 14 and completely walked the last half mile as a cool down.  And I walked very slowly.

When I finally got home, I was exhausted.  I drank some ice water while I made a protein shake.  I added frozen strawberries, a banana and some almond milk with the protein mix, and threw everything in the blender.  In just minutes, I was drinking my coction in hopes of regaining some of my strength soon.  As soon as I finished that up, I changed out my sweaty clothes for something dry, stretched out across the bed and fell asleep hard…. for three hours (and yes, without the shower).  I reiterate…. I. Was. Exhausted.

When I got up, I felt a little better, but still not 100%.  I took a nice long hot shower, put on some clean clothes and decided to do some menial housework.  That didn’t last long.  I was still tired and still not feeling very well.  So I ate something again and spent the rest of the evening watching TV and napping on the couch.  I finally went to bed at 10:30 and fell fast asleep.

I thought about it today and run the last couple of days through my mind over and over to figure out just what went wrong.  I’ve run half marathons before and ran double-digit training runs lots of times, but never had I felt this bad.  Then I remembered what I had done on Friday, the day before.  My diet on that day was not at all supportive of an 14-mile run coming the following day.  I had not met my daily required 170+ carbs, let alone carb-loaded for a long run.  Additionally, I drank a lot of coffee on Friday instead of water-bombing like I usually do the day before a long run.  So, I was not adequately fueled and hydrated in addition to being physically stressed from the upper-body strength workout and 3-mile treadmill run on Friday evening.  It’s no wonder I was so tired and weary during the last portion of my run and afterwards as well.

BonkSo what was my lesson learned….. not be flexible with my training schedule?  No, I always need to be flexible with my training schedule, especially when I have a chance to run in appropriate weather as opposed to bad weather.  But I need to watch my nutritional and water intake more closely.  What I ate and drank on Friday wasn’t enough for the workout and short run I did that evening, never mind the LSD on Saturday.  Or perhaps I should have eaten a bigger, healthier breakfast on Saturday morning (I just had an egg, bacon, cheese sandwich) to help with fueling, and definitely drank more water and eaten something salty to help retain water better.  Perhaps, I should have just been patient and ran later in the day, or maybe even wait until Sunday and run in the rain.

Whether I could reverse this bad run into a good one…. I don’t really know.  But one thing I do know is that I learned some valuable information about my body, my eating and drinking habits and my running.  That’s why I write this stuff down…. and when I blog it, maybe someone else will learn from it, too.  Or even better, can share in the learning curve by sharing their experiences, insight and advice.  Another thing I learned is that running is definitely lots of fun, but it’s not easy, and to keep from “bonking,” it does take a lot of strategy, thinking and planning.  Never let the graceful, fluid movements of a successful run fool you into thinking it’s an easy sport.

Have you experienced a similar run?

What did you learn from the experience?

Run to Read Half Marathon (Fairmont, WV)

The Run to Read Half Marathon took place at 2:00pm on a beautiful, wintry Sunday afternoon on January 5, 2014.  There was no precipitation with temps in the 40’s with no wind, so I thought it was perfect weather.  However, as the sun went down, it did start cooling off a little.  The entry fee for the race was between $25 to $40, depending on how early you registered.  The proceeds from the event went to the Literacy Volunteers of Marion County, a very worthwhile and deserving organization.

R2R Half3

The organizers were hoping for 400 participants, which they came fairly close with 268 people finishing the race.  The beginning of the race was very crowded on the narrow course, so another 100+ people would have made it very packed.  But more about this issue later.  There were runners from all over West Virginia and several other states.  The ages ranged from 13 to 69, so there was a good representation in each age category.

R2R Half4The race was held at the historic site of Prickett’s Fort.   It is a “rustic log fort and is a re-creation of the original Prickett’s Fort of 1774, which served as a refuge from Native American war parties on the western frontier of Colonial Virginia.”

The course itself is one of the unique aspects of this race, especially since it is held in West Virginia.  This course is almost completely flat.  The most gain in elevation my running app showed was 200 feet during mile 10, which for anyone who has run in this state knows that is very minimal.  This made for a pleasant flat, fast course.  A former railroad track, the course has been converted into a rail-to-trail to include bridges, a tunnel and beautiful scenic views of the river and woods.  Less than 5 miles of the course was asphalt, with the remainder being crushed limestone.  The park crew had cleared the majority of the trail of snow and ice the day before the race, so on race day there were minimal icy spots, and a little mud in a few places.  The crew did an awesome job prepping the course to make it safe for the runners. 😀

The race was well run by the director and committee.  The volunteers were friendly and always helpful and supportive.  With this many participants, I’m sure it took a lot of work to organize it so well, so the race crew definitely gets a two-thumbs-up.  The post-race event was awesome.  Since it was chip timed, awards were handed out as soon as the winners crossed the finished line, so there was no need for everyone to wait until all runners had finished.  But there was lots of great food…. including hot chili, fruit and more following the race.  There’s not much better than a bowl of hot chili on a cold winter’s day.

As for how I did… well, I didn’t set a PR which kinda bummed me out since the course was so flat and fast.  But over the Thanksgiving and R2R HalfChristmas holidays, I ate too much and didn’t stick to my training as I should have.  So I paid for it during the race.  I finished 212th overall and 5th in my age group, with a time of 02:23:11 (4 minutes slower than the half marathon I ran 5 weeks earlier).  The bling wasn’t too bad… everyone received a finisher’s medal, and instead of T-shirts we got a toboggan and gloves.  The toboggan had the Run to Read logo embroidered on it and is very well made.

I really liked this race as it allowed me to kick off the new year with a major run.  The flat, fast course was a pleasant change of venue as it was nice for once to not worry about the hills…. you could just set your pace and run.  A couple of things I feel could use some attention was in regard to the beginning of the race.  The start line was overcrowded, and I was surprised no one was knocked down.  On top of that, some of the speed walkers were in the middle of the pack, holding people up (one of my biggest race pet peeves!).  I wonder if waves of runners according to past race pace could be set up so smaller groups could start at different times.  If that’s not possible, at the very least it would be nice if the chip timing mat were at the beginning.  Racers in the back of the pack have a lot of time added before they ever get across the starting line.  Granted, it’s only a few seconds to a minute, but every second counts…. right?

Gold-Medal-225x300Overall, it was a good race and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It’s definitely one that I will plan on doing again next year.  Additionally, this is the first race of a three-part race series, so this year I hope to run the 10k and 5k (or possibly changed to a 1 1600 meter, I’ve heard) to get in the whole series and earn the series T-shirt.  If you’re looking for a flat, fast long distance race in West Virginia with some history, beautiful scenery and competition, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed in the Run to Read Half Marathon in Fairmont, West Virginia.  For this race, I’ve given a gold medal.

For an additional review, visit Sandy Runs.  Her blog tells about her stories as a Marathon Maniac, Half Fanatic and 50 State Marathon Club member.  It was a pleasure having her visit West Virginia and she gives an excellent review of the race.

If you were at this race, feel free to add to the review.  What did you like the most about the Run to Read Half Marathon?  What did you like the least?

A correction from the RD, Jim Woolfitt: Just to set the record straight: MCPARC (Marion County Parks and Recreation Commission) gets the credit for clearing snow off the trail & the parking lots. The parking lots are not under MCPARC’s jurisdiction but the park superintendent is not complaining. MCPARC also helps with the water stops providing manpower, tables, chairs & water coolers.

Running in a Thousand Different Directions, But Still Running

There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day!!
There’s not enough of me to get everything done!!
I’m running in a thousand different directions!!

Do you ever say any of these?  If you’re half as busy as I am, you’re saying these to yourself constantly.  With a full-time job that typically runs well over a 40-hour week, a part-time job as an adjunct professor, being the pastor’s wife and music leader at a small country church, having a son who is a senior in high school and in every sport possible, a house to clean, laundry to wash and fold, taking dogs to the vet, and on and on and on… not to mention the shortening hours of sunlight… it’s been a struggle lately to get my running in.  Since I have a half marathon in just six weeks and a second one in January, I don’t want to slack on my mileage.  But how to squeeze it all in has recently left me a little concerned.

Last year this time, I didn’t have this problem.  But then I realized that last year this time, I was a true beginner runner.  I was training for my first 5k, and the furthest I might run at any given time was three miles tops.  Plus, I was only running two, three…maybe four days a week.  Now, I’m running 4 to 5 days a week and putting in 25 to 30 miles.  My one long run now takes more time than an entire week of runs a year ago.  So that explains why I’m facing this new conflict.  As a result, I have to reevaluate my schedule and make some sacrifices to get everything done that I need/want to get done.

So… here are some of my resolutions…

busy calendar

  1. First and foremost, write down my schedule at least weekly.  Don’t try to keep it in my head… write it down and post it where I’ll see it every day.  I keep a hard copy on my fridge and an electronic copy on iCalendars that shows up on my iPhone and computer.
  2. I have to remember that there are others involved and take them into consideration when setting up my schedule.  Directly… my husband and my son (because, you know… I kinda live with them).  More indirectly is my sailor-daughter, my teacher-daughter and her husband, my other family/friends, my church, my jobs, the community committees for which I volunteer… even my dogs are part of the equation.  I can’t totally ignore these folks, and if I consider their plans when setting up mine, then I’ll be a little more prepared to plan around events and activities.
  3. Instead of going into work early as I usually do, on some days I’m going to start doing some early morning running.  I don’t really like that since its pitch dark… living in the country, I’m more afraid of wild animals than I am creepers.  However, the time will be changing soon and it will get brighter earlier.  I gave it a try this morning 6:00am with an easy 3-mile run, and carried my 38 Special.  I felt much safer and confident running alone, which is the only alternative I have when running early morning.  However, if I’m going to run this time of day, I do need to run at 5:15-5:30am… I was late for work this morning. 😦
  4. My commute to work is 25-30 minutes, which is a huge waste of sunlight during shorter days. So, on days that I can’t/don’t get an early morning run in due to weather or whatnot, I’ll plan on coming into work early as normal.  I’ll bring my running gear with me, quit a little earlier and run right after work while it’s still daylight.
  5. I reserve long runs for the weekend since I’m now in the double digits and it takes me at least two hours to finish.   I have primarily used Sunday for the long run, with Saturday being secondary if/when necessary (Saturday is my house cleaning/laundry/errand running day… oh yea, and my sleep-in day).  However, I think I’m going to change that up since racing season is slowing down and I’m not running many 5k’s or 10k’s on Saturday mornings.  I’ll sacrifice the sleeping in and get up early to knock out the long run on Saturday mornings BEFORE I do the housework, laundry and errands.  Perhaps working around the house after the long run will keep me loose, and help alleviate some of the stiffness and soreness.

Right now that’s all I can think of to help me find more time to get the mileage in that I want to run.  Running at lunch time really isn’t an option as I only get 30 minutes plus I usually work through it anyway (if you haven’t guessed by now, I’m a workaholic).  The early morning runs will allow me to get a run in on the days that I teach in the evening as well as make it to church and my son’s sporting events that take up the other evenings.   And maybe Sunday’s can be used as a true “day of rest” as it’s supposed to be… with maybe just a little bit of yoga to stretch out and relax from the week of running.   And BTW… I hate… no LOATH the treadmill.  It is reserved for days that there is no way possible I can get outside to run.  I’ll do everything I can to run outside first.  The treadmill is absolutely, positively The. Last. Option.  So I don’t even include that on my schedule.

I know I’m not the only one who struggles with scheduling problem.  I can’t even fathom how those of you with young children manage to have the energy left to run let alone find the time to run.  But I would love to hear your secrets to getting everything done when you’re running in a thousand different directions, and still find time to lace up the running shoes and get in some miles.  Please feel free to share with a comment here…. I or another reader just might incorporate your idea into our running schedule.

To help you smile, here’s a little funny I found for setting schedules.  I don’t know about you, but this is a definite motivation for me to keep running in my schedule no matter what I have to do.  🙂

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Getting Runner’s High from an Awesome LSD

Just the title alone should give me lots of hits on this post. Unfortunately, if you’re a drug addict, you’ll be very disappointed when you find out that LSD in this instance is runner’s lingo for “Long, Slow Distance.”  But yesterday, I enjoyed a natural high from one of the best LSD’s I’ve had since I started running a year ago.  Everything clicked … my pace, my breathing, my timing, the weather, the temperature … everything … perfect!!

I started running in August 2012 with a C25K program.  I ran/walked my first 5k a couple of months later at a surprisingly 10:19 min/mile pace.  Since then, I’ve had better races, and I’ve had worse.  My PR pace so far for a 5k is 08:52 min/mile.  Knowing this, I set the following race pace goals:

  • 10k pace of 09:30 min/mile
  • Half Marathon pace of 10:00 min/mile
  • Full Marathon pace of 11:00 min/mile

So far, I’ve not hit the 10k or HM race paces, but I’m optimistic for a 10k I’m scheduled to run in early November and a HM I’m doing in late-November.  Why so optimistic?  Because of the LSD I ran yesterday.  It’s amazing what a good training run will do for your outlook on future races.

photo 3I typically run LSDs on Sundays when I don’t have a lot going on.   If not Sundays, then usually Saturdays.  But this weekend, I didn’t get a chance to get my LSD in at all.  So I attempted the near impossible … running an LSD on Monday evening after work.  Monday’s at work are always the worst for me … cRazY busy and typically very stressful.  Yesterday was no different.  Additionally, with the daylight hours getting shorter, I know I wouldn’t get much rest between work and the 12 miles I had scheduled.  But I left work determined I would lace up shortly after I got home and hit the road no later than 5:30pm.photo 1

 

 

 

 

 

And so I did … and I had one of the best LSDs I’ve ever had.  It was awesome. As I mentioned earlier, the weather totally cooperated.  It was sunny and bright, but cool.  The temperature when I got home around 7:30ish was at 59 degrees.  I felt as if I could have run for ever.

As I started out on the LSD, I could tell I was clipping along at a fairly good pace.  For the first three miles, I held a pace between 09:41-09:45 min/mile.  The voice with my Runtastic app kept giving me the total time ran and the pace for that mile, and I was astonished at how well I was doing.  During the first three miles, I thought to myself, “I’ll keep this up for the first few miles then slow down.  You know you’re gonna hit that wall if you keep this pace up.”  I chewed up some Gu Chomps at 3.5 miles, washed it down with water and felt a little extra energy, so I kept up the pace.  At mile five, and still maintaining a little under a 10:00 min/mile pace, I decided to push myself to get to 6 miles in under 60 minutes …. which I accomplished!!  Even though I feared I would soon slam into the proverbial runners wall, I threw caution to the wind and decided to try to finish out the second half of the training so that I would end up with an average of 10:00 min/mile pace … RACE PACE!!  My splits weren’t totally negative, but I did end up running faster from miles 7 through to 11.  It was a good practice to push through being tired and sore.  I had planned to run 12 miles, but my iPhone died on me at 11.5 miles.  So, I walked the last half mile as a cool down stretch.

photo 2

Will I run all my LSD’s at this pace?? … No!!   Can I technically call yesterday’s run an LSD?? … Probably not.  But it was a good training run.  It was good physically as well as mentally.  Now I know I can run a 10:00 min/mile pace for my HM … I have no doubts.  I didn’t feel I was at 100% during last evenings run, so maybe I can even do better during an actual race.  Sub-2 hour Half Marathon???   Additionally, I can push through being tired and sore.  I know one pack of Gu Chomps will get me through 12 miles.  I know I’ll not wear my Brooks Pure Connect2 minimalist shoes on a long run ever again, and be sure my iPhone is charged to 100% before starting out on a run!!  I think I know that eating chocolate cake for lunch gives me extra energy for a long run.  But I may need to test that one again.  🙂

Even today, I still feel the high of yesterday’s run.  I want to get out there this evening and enjoy this beautiful autumn day with another run along the river.  But I can’t do it … I need a rest day from running.  I will spend a little time with Christine Felstead doing her “Yoga for Runners: Intermediate Program” to stretch out and recuperate.   This is one of those successful training runs that I’ll flag and pull out when I have a bad run or race.  This one will help build confidence and endurance.    This run was AWESOME!!

What was your last runner’s high run like?  What made that run so awesome?

New River Gorge-ous Trail Run (Minden, WV)

A couple of weeks ago (August 24, 2013) I hit a milestone in my life…I completed my very first half marathon.  That’s right… 13.1 miles.  My time was horrible and I didn’t do a very good job, but I finished.  Actually, around mile six I came to the realization that I had bitten off more than I could chew.  Tears started to well up in my eyes as I admitted to myself this race was too hard for a beginner runner.  However, I got a grip and decided that, even if I had to walk some I would finish this race.  I didn’t walk some… I walked A LOT!!  It took me 02:49:08 to complete the 13.1 miles, but I made it across the finished line.  I accomplished the main goal… finishing the race.  I didn’t hit my second goal of a sub-02:30:00 finish, but I did learn some valuable lessons along the way,  So many so that I will save that for another post.  Today, I just want to share my thoughts and experience during this amazing race.New_River_Gorge-ous_Logo

The half marathon was held at ACE Adventure Resort in Minden, West Virginia.  Before I tell you about the race, I’ll share a little insight on the location.  ACE Resort is only about 90 minutes from where I live, but I had never stayed in that part of West Virginia before.  They’re located on/near the New River and Gauley River.  According to the Friends of the New River, it is the oldest river in the USA and the second-oldest in the world.  ACE has capitalized on Mother Nature to provide their customers one of the most beautiful and exciting experiences in the state.  They offer a variety of activities such as swimming, fishing, white water rafting and kayaking, zip lining, horseback riding, rock climbing and rappelling, mountain biking, paintball and more.  They offer several options for overnight lodging from primitive camp sites to luxurious log-style cabins with hot tubs.  We chose to pull our camper and hook it up at one of their few RV spots.  ACE also provides some excellent food at their pub and restaurant.  The resort is a little pricey, but there’s no lack of things to do if you go there for a long weekend or even a week.  You’ll stay busy and have a blast the whole time.

Well… now about the race, specifically.  This race is held by ACE annually with this being their 12th anniversary.  They offered a half marathon, a 7.8-mile run and a 5-mile walk.  The course was a trail with over 12 miles of the HM in the woods.  Three separate times during the HM we ran on gravel roads, but those times were short and sweet.  The path through the woods offered participants a definite challenge and absolute beautiful scenery.

newrivershoesThe challenging part was much more than I anticipated.  I knew a trail run would be difficult, but I honestly underestimated the race. Not only was this my first half, but it was also my first trail race, too.  I know… I’m a glutton for punishment, or maybe a little bit crazy.  There were a lot of hills… some extremely steep.  This is a no-brainer since it’s in WV.  We ran over and through several stream beds, over fallen logs and even squeezed through saplings to stay on course.  At times, the course was too small for runners to pass, but eventually it would widen out enough.  It had rained during the days and night preceding the race, so there were a lot of mud holes to get around.  I finally gave up and just ran through them.  It was fun!!  Sometimes the path would be very slippery due to the wet grass and/or leaves on the ground.   Runners had to be carefully to keep their feet under them.     It may be a little hard to tell in the picture, but my shoes were proof that I had just run a trail run.

For the advanced, experienced trail runner, I’m sure this course would be an enjoyable run, and it would still offer a challenge.  Not as much as it did for me, but it’s not a course sneeze at.  I questioned why the race started so late (10:30am), but realized during the run that had it start at the typical 7:30-8:00am race time, you wouldn’t be able to see the trail due to fog making for a more dangerous course.  Fortunately the trees kept it cool.

As for the beautiful scenery, it doesn’t get much better than this.  Past races were held in October when the leaves have turned color and temperatures are typically cooler.  This year, I couldn’t see very far through some parts of the woods, but it was still beautiful.  The race started at 10:30am, so as the sun was moving up into the sky with its rays shining through the leaves.  Probably my favorite part of the course was when the trail cut through a laurel patch.  It was just before the Laurel patch that I got my first scare of the race… as I came through the woods I could hear people screaming.  I knew the trail was tough, but I started getting a little worried about what was ahead.  Did they fall in the river?  Were they being chased by bear?  Should I turn around and run for my life?  I kept going only to find a group of people flying through the trees on zip lines.  They were going through the woods a lot faster than me.  🙂

We came very close to the New River, but due to the heavy foliage, I could see it… only hear it.  At one point I did run close to a beautiful water fall.  This was the only time I paused to take a picture… if you look hard you’ll see the falls through the trees.  It was breathtaking!  It was somewhere around mile 10 or 11, so by this point I would have loved to just go down the hill and stand in the falls to cool off.newriverwaterfall

I did have a couple of complaints, albeit trivial really.  The price for the race was only $30, which I’m finding is fairly cheap for a HM, even here in WV.  But we didn’t get the traditional T-shirt or finishers medal.  That was kind of a let down for me since it was my first HM, otherwise I really wouldn’t have cared.  I would have loved to hang that finishers medal with the other race bling I’ve earned this year.  And their logo was so beautiful, it would have looked awesome on a T-shirt and metal.  Those who did place overall received cash awards, which is always nice, but the ones who finished in their age groups received what looked like a cheap dog tag-style medal.  The runners did receive this commemorative mug and free camping on a primitive spot.  In the mug was some food goodies and three coupons for the lake, zip lining and white water rafting.  If you run in races JUST for the bling and T-shirt, you definitely would have been disappointed.  But if you were out to get a good workout and experience on an awesome trail run, you would walk away very pleased. newrivermug

The only other complaint is their lack of aid stations.  There were only three places to get water during the HM, and only two for those who ran in the 7.8 mile race.  Fortunately, I had my fuelbelt to keep my hydrated.  I’ve seen HM where they offer up to seven water stations, and 10k’s with up to three opportunities to get a drink.  Considering the time of day and the possibility of high temperatures and humidity, more water stations would have been nice.

I really struggled with this race, but again I’m a newbie.  I probably shouldn’t have chosen this particular race as my first one, but I did and I persevered.  I may have walked up most of the hills, stumbled over some river rocks, got my shoes quite muddy and scratched my legs up from all the brush… but I made it.  As for my outlook on future half marathons… it’s all uphill from here!!  😀

Freedom Run: Book Review

FreedomRun_CoverBFreedom Run is the story of the amazing journey of Jamie Summerlin, a Burnsville, WV native.  He accomplished something that very few people can say they have done . . . he ran across America, a total of 3,452 miles, in 100 days.

There are other people who have completed this brave achievement, but they are definitely few and far between.  There have been a variety of individuals . . . men and women, young and old, white-collar and blue-collar, educated and non-educated, and the differences go on.  Some completed the task in just a few weeks, some took months.  Some have walked; some have run. Some had a crew help them out along the way; some went completely solo depending only on themselves and the kindness of strangers.

There are a variety of routes with some consisting of more and some fewer miles.  Some have traveled east to west; some west to east.  Some have stayed in the southern states, while others have traveled along the colder routes up north.

Regardless of the differences, there are two things every transcontinental traverser has in common . . . their purpose and their passion.  Everyone was compelled to raise money and/or awareness for some worthy cause through their accomplishment.  Whether it was for clean water in Africa, improved childhood health and fitness, cancer research, or a myriad of other worthwhile causes, the intention was always the same . . . build awareness, compassion and empathy for the cause, and increase willingness and selflessness so that people will donate time, energy and money to the cause.

Throughout Jamie’s book, his purpose and passion was the corporate premise that kept reoccurring in every memory he pondered; every personal contact he recalled; every tangible as well as proverbial valley and mountaintop he encountered; every challenge, defeat and triumph he endured; every snake; every watermelon; every naked . . . . uh . . . well, I don’t want to give away too much . . . but I think you get my gist.

The Wounded Warriors Project (WWP) was Jamie’s charitable organization of choice.  Although he and his wife are former US Marines, he still considers past and present military personnel as heroes.  There’s never any doubt as to what motivates him to run an average of nearly 35 miles per day, for 3,452 total miles, over 16 million steps, across 16 states and the District of Columbia in just 100 days with a grand finally of 100 miles in less than 24 hours on the last day.  I suppose his continuous, unrelenting passion burns so fiercely because he’s been there, done that and has the T-shirt.  He knows just how important it is to military personnel for family, friends and every other American citizen to show their support.

summerlinAs a runner, I’m amazed at how someone who had just started running three years prior could accomplish such a feat.  When I first heard about Jamie and his Freedom Run, I presumed he had been running all of his life.  His body’s natural ability to sustain such rigorous, long-distance running makes it obvious this was his divine calling.

But what is so truly inspiring is his persistent, unyielding, exuberant desire to see any and all military personnel . . . marine, soldier or sailor . . . put in the spotlight and appreciated for their sacrifices.  When I met him personally this summer, he asked me to thank my daughter who is currently a sailor serving in the Navy, and he hugged and thanked ME for my sacrifice and continued support as a Military Mom.  It still brings tears to my eyes.

The book is a wonderful read, and written so that any running as well as non-running person could understand the story.  It’s very personal as he includes his wife, kids, parents and in-laws.  A runner will definitely appreciate the whimsical narratives he shares about chaffing, shin splints, alternating running shoes and other running-related challenges.  You will also find yourself cheering him on as he faces adversities, and basking in his moments of  victory.

Although he completed his coast-to-coast run in July 2012, and the book was published in April 2013, he’s still busy with endurance and ultra marathons across the country, and building awareness for military personnel.  Jamie continues to work with WWP, but he’s also partnered with friends to start his own non-profit organizations to assist military personnel.  Check out the projects he is currently involved with in Morgantown, WV at Camo to Cap, Operation Welcome Home and Veterans on Call.  Of course you can keep up with him on Facebook and Twitter as well.

While you’re on Jamie’s website, order the book and read it.  I’m sure you will definitely enjoy it, and you will grow a deeper appreciation of the military personnel that give the ultimate sacrifice for your freedom.  You will also gain a unique perspective of the passion folks like Jamie have and the extent to which they will go to share their purpose with the world.

19 August 2013 … After reading my review, Jamie sent me a message to confirm what he’s up to now and his continued mission … “What a wonderful review. Just an FYI, my full support is now focused on Operation Welcome Home, and no longer fund-raise for the wounded warrior project. My motto, as well as Operation Welcome Home’s, is that I don’t care when you served, where you served, or what branch you served in. You served. And you’ll get the honor and respect you deserve. I refuse to lump veterans into groups. And I move forward to make sure they feel as one…a family.”  Thank you, Jamie for all you do, your passion for your purpose, and your dedication!  Always DREAM BIG!!  🙂

Running on Twisting, Turning WV County Roads

oil creek road This picture sure doesn’t do the scene justice.  This twisting, turning country road is currently my favorite LSD course.  It starts at my front door, and 13 miles later I’m at a stop sign at beautiful, peaceful Stonewall Jackson Lake.  The route entails one mile of a one-lane tar-and-chip road that twists out of the hollar from my house to a bridge that spans the small Oil Creek.  It then intersects and continues with 12 miles of Oil Creek Road with its gentle curves and rolling hills.

I just love this particular part of the road for its snake-like qualities, as it seems to be slithering through the shady woods alongside of Oil Creek (over the bank on the right side).   It’s one of those parts of a road that you see as curvy and windy, but if there’s nothing coming towards you in the opposite lane, you can actually drive straight.  I’m not sure why the road is even engineered to be so curvy except to just make it a more interesting and lovely route.  Perhaps it’s because us West Virginia hollar-dwellers aren’t used to straight roads . . . if the curves were to be removed, someone would inevitably drive over the bank and into the creek.

Another reason for including the curves may be the sheer fun of driving your car (or truck, or jeep, or 4-wheeler, or side-by-side) at a racy speed while staying in the proper lane.  I remember as a kid sitting in the back seat of the car with a brother on each side of me, and my Dad taking these roads at an elevated mph.  I can almost hear the squeals and giggles of my brothers and me as we slammed back and forth with the movement of the car on the windy road, squashing each other into the car door.  Looking back on it now, I cringe at the thought of my Dad’s seemingly reckless driving and, what’s worse, us kids in the back seat with no seatbelts on . . . heck, I don’t think the car even HAD seatbelts.  But we sure had fun.  I remember Dad and Mom glancing over their shoulders and grinning from ear to ear as they watched us kids enjoying the game of the windy road.  I miss those days!!  I miss being a kid!!  I miss my Dad!!

I will be running this route again over the weekend as I continue to prepare for my half marathon.  When I come to this section of road, I’ll definitely be thinking of my Dad and the fun times I had with him, Mom and my brothers.  No matter how tired my legs get, how much my lungs burn, or how hot and humid it may be, I’ll still smile as this twisting, turning West Virginia country road brings back some of my fondest childhood memories.   🙂

Long Run Mistakes

On Sundays, I try to get my long run in for the week.  A long, slow distance run seems to do wonders for my endurance, and I can tell when I haven’t done one for a while.  I had missed my long run over the past couple of weeks with a 6-miler being the longest distance I had completed.  Really I didn’t feel that it qualified as a “long run”.  So yesterday, I was bound and determined to get my long run in for the week.

I’ve worked my way up to a 10-miler according to my training program.  Last weekend was an easy week, so I had only run about 16-18 miles, and the week prior to that I had run my first 10K on a Saturday, so I wasn’t up to the 8-miler that was on my schedule.  This week I had put in two 4-mile days and ran 5 miles during the Relay for Life event in our county on Friday night.  (I’ll write a post about that later.)

So to complete a 10 mile LSD would set a weekly mileage PR for me . . . 23 miles total.  I was excited at the thought of getting in the LSD, but hitting the new PR made it even more exciting.  And even better than that, I realized that with the increasing distance, I can start  running to neighboring towns instead of 2-3 laps around the town in which I lived.  I could literally run to the next town . . . how cool and awesome is that?!?!

So, it was a typical Sunday . . . Church in the a.m., then we ate lunch out.  That was probably my first mistake as I felt I ate a heavy lunch.  I had a Western Omelet, toast and grits.  But the biggest mistake was the two cups of coffee in lieu of water that I drank.  That would come back to haunt me later in the evening.

We then went to visit some elderly friends and members of our church so my husband could lose a couple of games of chess.  He showed great sportsmanship and handled the Checkmate with dignity. 

After that, it was home for a short Sunday afternoon nap.  All this time, no hydrating . . . big, huge . . . HUGE mistake!!

At 6:30pm, I take off for my LSD with my fuelbelt filled up with G2 and a couple of packets of Gu in the pack. But it wasn’t long until I felt the fatigue and dehydration taking over.  My fingers were beginning to swell and my legs felt like weights were tied to my ankles.  The route I chose was fairly easy, just a curvy road along the river with only a couple of hills to deal with.  It was a little overcast, so the sun wasn’t beating down on me all the time, and the trees shadowed the road when it did pop out.  So the physical demands of the run wasn’t that bad.

The two mistakes I noticed were:

  1. I didn’t hydrate like I should have.   I had less than 16 ounces of water all day.  Several cups of coffee, but not much water.  And I’m sure the caffeine didn’t help either. 
  2. Even though my body was telling me between miles two and three that I needed replenished, I ignored it and waited until mile four for a drink of G2 and mile five until I ripped open a Gu.

Lessons learned . . . hydrate, hydrate, HYDRATE!!!  Get 8+ cups of water down at least 2 hours prior to running time, especially on LSD days.  And secondly, listen to my body.  Who knows my body better than itself??  Not my brain, that’s for sure, especially when it’s on a runner’s high.  Even if it seems too early, if I need a drink or restore depleted glycogen, do it!!  Oh, and did I mention hydrate?!?!?

Fortunately, I finished the 10 miles.  It ended up taking me 01:54:40 at an 11:27 min/mile pace, which was actually in the range I was aiming.  With all the walk breaks I ended up taking, I was surprised to keep it under two hours.  The best thing about the run was that it was an absolute beautiful route and I had the pleasure of seeing a lot of wildlife.  I’ll have to make another post on that another day.  :0\