Plants First, Fish Next

The original intent of this journal was to chronicle the trials and tribulations of the struggling twenty-something, as I searched for love and happiness in the small city-burb of ManchVegas, NH. Now, I'm thirty-something, I've found love in many forms, happiness in even more, and now the struggle is just... well... life. And finding time to do the million and one things I want to do- including writing.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival- 25k

We woke up early.  My Runner and GB were running the 50k, which started two hours before the 25k. I sat outside with them while they got ready, somewhat awake and alert.  Puma was running the 25k, but heading up with the boys to take pictures and fill her time at the festival before the start.  We'd convinced Mr. Strong to join us for the 25k, so now four of us (Mrs. too) would be crossing the start at 10am to run 15.6 miles today.

In the car on the way, I realized I had forgotten my team shirt hanging on the clothes line.  Between being tired, nervous, and emotionally strained, I started crying.  I didn't feel like I could ask to go back for it (even though it was offered) but I didn't want to not represent the team.  In the end, it was one of many little moments that my mind made into big huge deals over the weekend.

The weather was getting warmer, and the air was hazy from the fires in Canada.  We had run out of sunscreen.  Normally I carry several tubes with me, but my car had broken on Thursday before the trip, and in the commotion I had forgotten to transfer everything I needed.  With my ghost-like skin, I need sunscreen on a daily basis or I'm likely to turn into a lobster, then shed the entire layer of skin, and remain pale as a ghost.  One more thing to worry about, ::plop:: on my plate.

I arrived at the farm with Mr. and Mrs. Strong, and we met up with Puma.  Three newbies and a veteran, we bumbled about trying to figure out what we'd need, where things should be put, where were the aid stations, etc.  As start time approached, my nerves (oddly) settled.  We snapped a few pre-race photos, stashed the camera, and the four of us lined up.  Mrs. Strong was pretty adamant about running together, though I know she's a much stronger runner than I am.  I told her we'd see, and though I'd appreciate the company I didn't want to hold her up.  My main goal was to finish- who knew how long that would take?
Mr. and Mrs. Strong, Puma, and myself

A cowbell sounded the start, and we were off, moving at a trot.  The first path is much more narrow than the corral, resulting in everyone crossing the start quickly then slowing as we all try not to bump into each other.  Puma pulled ahead of us as Mr. and Mrs. Strong and I stayed together.  We kept it an easy pace, chatting with each other.

Like yesterday, the course was beautiful.  It was nice to see more of the farm.  Aid stations were incredibly well stocked with not only water and food but ibuprofen, sodium tablets, and :: hallelujah:: sunscreen.  By the time we were really out, all my nerves had calmed.  I was feeling good, the Strongs were running at about my pace, and we were having a great time.

As we reached the 5k mark, handily noted for us by a sandwich board on the course, I realized I was feeling much better today than yesterday.  I attributed part of that to the company, and part of it to the "warm up" of running yesterday.  I realized I still had a long way to go; I didn't want to put the cart before the horse.

We caught up with Puma at some point before 10k, ran with her a bit, and eventually passed, though she stayed pretty close behind us for the rest of the run.  My Runner and GB were on the same course as us, doing 2 loops to make the 50k, and we finally crossed paths at the "Yurt" aid station, which the course hits three times.  They were looking great well into their second loop, and it was awesome to get the chance to pass along well wishes.

The Strongs and I stuck together the whole run.  There had been the usual "you don't have to wait for me" and "run your own race" mutterings, I think we were all happiest for the company.  We spoke of many things (fools and kings), including upcoming hikes, family (good and bad), the run itself, potential future outings, trips to Portsmouth, and Coffee Talk with Linda Richmand.  For some reason, this classic Mike Myers character captivated Mr. Strong and myself- we passed probably 5 miles with impersonations.

Our spirits were definitely high.  Our bodies, however, had other ideas.  Mrs. Strong had been suffering from shin splints as a result of her 10k jaunt the day before.  Mr. Strong's knees were starting to have issues around the 15k mark, and ibuprofen wasn't keeping up with it.  I was just plain tired, and my feet felt like they were mincemeat.  We ran the last third of the race much slower than the first third, though despite her shin splints Mrs. Strong lived up to her name and was ready to kick ass and take names.  Mr. Strong urged us on.  We would run forward, waiting for him at aid stations or walking through a nice shady area.  I can't say I minded the pace.  I suppose we could have kept running, leaving Mr. Strong on his own, Mrs. Strong leaving me in the dust, but we had spent the last 3 hours together talking, working through our highs and lows, enjoying the day, activity, and company.  Why would I run away from that?  For a 10 minute earlier finish time?  Whatever.  Any finish got me a cowbell- I'd rather we crossed together as a symbol of our journy.

And that we did.  3:43:10 for all of us.  Three way hug, cowbells received, Mrs. Strong sat Mr. Strong down to rest his knees and brought him some restorative brew from Smutty Nose.  I had seen Puma in the field before we finished, so I knew she wasn't far behind.  I waited at the finish line, and sure enough there she comes, 3:49:47, looking strong.

Having started two hours before us, I knew My Runner and GB wouldn't be much father behind us.  I ran (yes, literally, after running 15.6 miles) to the car to get the camera for post-race pictures, meeting up with the rest of our camping group in the process.  I was hoping to meet up with my runner in the grove before the finish and run in with him.  I handed the camera to Puma and walked into the shady grove, scrutinizing every runner in a whit shirt, white visor, and dark shorts.

As I waited, an older runner walked into the grove having a hard time.  Suddenly he stopped, grabbing his thigh- he was cramping up.  I walked over to him and offered my assistance- salt tabs? ibuprofen? water? food?  I shifted to crew mode in .02 seconds.  He was so close to the finish... or so I thought.  He was running the 50 MILE!  He had one more loop to complete!  This guy had to be in his 60's, maybe older. Even though he was struggling I was thoroughly impressed by this man.  He politely declined my offers, thanked me for my assistance, and explained he'd been cramping since finishing his first loop.  We walked together as we chatted, and when we emerged from the grove he felt well enough to run a little.  I wish I had gotten his name or race number so I could follow up with his results.

The boys came in shortly after that.  As they crossed the road into the grove I fell in step with them and started talking with my runner, ready to run in with him.  GB had other ideas, challenging My Runner to a sprint to the finish.  I knew I didn't have that power, so I walked behind them, glad I gave Puma the camera to catch their finish.

We grabbed beers, chatting with some other runners from the area, and basked in the sunshine.  With all my nerves and emotional ups and downs, I didn't even stop to think that this was the longest distance I had run to date.  I was happy with my finish time, and had a great time running with the Strongs.  My ankle felt great, and I was excited to start a training schedule and get back out there with My Runner.

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Friday, June 04, 2010

Pineland Farms Trail Running Festival- 5k

Saturday promised to be a beautiful, if warm, day.  Five of us piled into Puma's car to head to Pineland Farms for the Saturday events: 10k, 5k Canicross, 5k, and Barefoot 5k.  We'd have representation in all but the Canicross, a 5k run with your doggie.  Puma, having just come off a 5 day through hike, would be taking the day off and enjoying the festival.
Me, Mrs. Strong, My Runner, and GB (photo by Puma- thx!)

And festival it was!  Tents with food, beer, free-bees, and music were spread out in the grove on campus.  Farmland, mostly hay fields, rolled out around us, inter-spaced with shady wooded areas.  There were dogs a-plenty, some ready to race, some just kickin' around.  Start and finish for all races were in this grove.

Mrs. Strong was participating in the 10k, starting an hour before the other events, and we got her registered and in line just in time.  Thank goodness the race started late!  Since the Muddy Moose where she ran 14 miles for the first time, Mrs. Strong has been running with her neighbor and, while rushed to get started, seemed very confident in her abilities.
Mrs. Strong, putting her sneakers on at the starting line

Shortly after the 10k, the Canicross event started.  I think they wanted all the poochies off the course when the other 5k events begin.  It was fun to see all the different kind of dogs that were running.  From huge labs to tiny terriers, just about every type of dog was represented.  Personalities of the dogs matched the owners, as the elite runners moved to the front, and their competitive dogs barked, jumped, and pranced.
Canicross start.  That little pup almost got hisself CHOMPED.

The 5k start was next.  I'm the only one participating in this, with My Runner and GB both participating in the Barefoot 5k, starting 10 minutes after mine.  This is the first run I've done in 6 weeks.  Other than one hockey game and a couple of workout videos, I haven't moved since April 24th, the day I tore my left ankle to shreds.  My goal was to finish uninjured and see if I would be able to participate in tomorrow's 25k.

My Runner sees me to the starting line.  I'm nervous, but ready to get out there.  I feel good, despite the MASSIVE hangover I woke up with.  My ankle is in check, and as long as I don't space out, I should be able to run these trails without falling.

I am SO. OUT. OF. SHAPE.  I walked about 30% of the race.  Running alone isn't my favorite, but not many folks were into chatting.  Still, the scenery was pretty, and I was focused on scanning the trail for potential hazards.  The elite runners in the barefoot start passing me just before mile 2, and as the course folds back in on itself I see My Runner and GB.

Waving and smiling, all I could think was, "don't let them catch you."  That motivated me.  That and trying not to get my picture taken while I was walking (fail, see below)
See that ripped dude behind me?  Yeah, he's running.  Not this girl.

Still, they were a bit behind, and I was getting winded.  I "ultra walked" the hills to conserve and catch my breath.  Then I'd walk the flats.... that was an ego blow.  Chatting with another 5ker who was not used to hills helped pass the time, but as more and more Barefooters passed me, and as I got closer to the finish line, I kicked it in gear (not high gear- don't have that one right now... just not neutral).  Finished the race in 34:38.

Mrs. Strong had come in shortly after I started at 1:05:28- an excellent time.  The Barefooters came in 26:09/10, yes, less than 2 minutes behind me.  Was happy to catch this bit of action:

In my good days, an 11 minute mile would have made me sad.  Saturday, I was happy to have finished feeling good, and even happier that Smuttynose had sponsored the race, offering unlimited free beer to runners.  I still wasn't sure participating in the 25k was a good idea, but it was at least still an option.

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