Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Pursuit of Happiness: my experience at the Thomas Jefferson 100k

 I knew for 2014, I needed a different game plan. While I was intent on leaving an extremely disappointing year in the rear view, I knew I needed to glean from all the lessons I learned and not replicate mistakes I had made in order for this year to be better, in everyway. 

First, before any type of training commenced, I did some  deep soul searching regarding WHO I am/ who I am not--what I am about, WHY I feel compelled to do what I do, and also what is important to me/ what's not important. Then I compiled a list of goals for the year. I wanted clear concise written goals for me to set out and obtain. 

    THEN I trained differently. I started implementing morning runs. That was a challenge for me because I hadn't really taken the time for morning runs really ever. but it was a necessity due to my super tight schedule. I would get up at 5- be out the door in 10 min- run for an hour,  with my headlamp in the cold and darkness- shower, get kids up and ready for school, work, run again, take kids with me to the YMCA for kids gym while I did a 6pm yoga class.  I learned to love it. I trained diligently. When it snowed, I ran in snow shoes, 

and rode my surly pugsly to cross train.
 I REALLY started hitting the weight room. No more light weight, high reps- going through the motions.  I consciously really started focusing on what I was doing, and what the purpose of each session was for. 

 i ran with faster people during my long runs to get myself out of the slogs.  I did bonk runs. I was tired, I ate tons and went to bed early almost every evening. Very geeky, dorky, obsessive behavior. However,  I knew it was a necessary for me to do all this to get back on track, I found a lot of enjoyment in structure, having a plan, sticking to my plan and seeing it through to completion. But even with all that I did, I knew I didn't really have adequate time to properly prepare for a 100k- 50k sure- but I knew by the end I would be relying upon my experience to get to me to the finish/ and also fighting  my demons because I hadn't ran  AND FINISHED over 100k since hellgate 2012

 I was drawn to TJ100k for a multitude of reasons. I was a political science major and have my minor in history. One of my favorite classes from my senior yr at UVA-w in 2000 was Jefferson and Ataturk by Dr. Garrett Sheldon.  Most Jeffersonian ideology resonates with me on a pretty deep level. I have this profound love of Charlottesville. I love it's trails, running communities, I have many friends who live there,   I usually visit 3-4 times a year and always enjoy myself. oh and I love dave matthews:)  So the idea of a weekend running 100k of  practically 100% single track trail, spending time amongst good friends seemed like a no brainer. 

   I arrived at Tandem friends school friday afternoon, the race headquarters. ( AJW is the head of school there)   I found a bustling campus with soccer and lax matches going on, it was so fun to watch!! i picked up my race packet, and I've ran 30 ultras or so the past 5 yrs-- and Ive never been so spoiled!!! Very nice. 

  I then went to pre race pasta dinner sponsored by whole foods.  Food was delicious! I got to catch up with Brian Pickett from Kingsport and some other tn ultra runners. 

Then we had pre race meeting. Andy really set the tone I feel for the entire event/weekend here -- of course he and sophie went over logistics and timing, but what sticks out in my mind was Andy pointing out "pursue happiness" was written on the front of our patagonia race shirts. Reminded me WHY I run these things and work so hard at self improvement, not just in my running, but all areas of my life. It's FUN and MAKES ME HAPPY. 
AJW really emphasized they were there for us --whatever we needed-- pacers, pep talks, massages ( haha) He just wanted us to finish and enjoy the event. 

  I felt much less nervous driving back to the hotel. I knew no matter what went down the next morning, I was amongst friends and in a safe place. I also knew I'd be suffering- and they would NOT let me drop-- which is exactly why I came to TJ100k with no crew. I needed  so desperately not to drop. get the DNF monkey off my back. 

 i went back to my hotel, and tried to sleep quite frankly had some strange and vivid realizations about certain things in my life. ( yes my brain didn't want to shut down) instead of worrying about the race I found myself thinking about everything under the sun. Sleep eventually found me, but 2:30 am arrived much too soon. I got up, dressed- I had decided to run in Salomon Mantra 2's for this race. Gathered my gear, and drove to walnut creek park. I checked in. i was happy to see Sniper:) Then because this is a loop course 7 x 9 mile loops, I set up a little area with my bottles of Gu roctane and extra race vest. 

The race began at 5am so we wore headlamps. I stupidly didn't check the batteries since hellgate. ( really!! like dumbest mistake ever) My head lamp didn't die but it was VERY VERY dim for loop 1. i felt it slowed me down, but that's probably a good thing.  I felt GREAT loving the 40F temps and cool breezes. The course was very well marked and easy to follow. I found myself just running it ALL. I completed the first loop in 1:42. 

some  random super nice guy lent me his headlamp for my second loop since it was still dark and replaced my MYO with fresh batteries while I was out on the loop ( THANK YOU!!) ,  I have to say BOTH Aidstations were out of this world amazing to me! every time I would come in, they would cheer and tell him how great I was moving and fill my bottle offer me food etc. CATs ( charlottesville area trail runners) manned both aid stations and did a tremendous job. My second loop was 1:42. I was feeling good, strong and not too worked. but the sun was up and I knew it would get warm- here are some pictures of me running, and pictures from the race course that morning at sunrise ( courtesy of sophie) 

 Loop 3 was okay. Loop 4 a little tougher, I started getting really hot, and sweating ALOT I was still first female, but knew I was going to have to dial back my efforts. I thought of OD and how awful that was-- my hands were swelling, tummy swelling, and all I could think about was how I wanted to jump in the lake. I thought to myself " no race is worth this torment, I'm done. I'm quitting ultras forever, I'm terrible at this. I suck."  I came into aidstation 1- out of it and sad the way my race was going-- I was still leading but felt AWFUL-  the CATS were amazing.. they dumped water over my head, they gave me ice to put in my sports bra to bring down my core temperature-- I decided to go to water only in my bottle. Annie said she would pace me the last two loops just get through loop 5

 so off i went, determined to just get back there in 2hrs- my feet were great, no blisters or hot spots- they didn't hurt at all- I just felt tired, I also was aware I was trashing my quads with all the downhills I was trying to bomb. My heart rate was high-- oops it's survival mode time--  THEN  I thought about post OD, sophie sent me a blog by jimmy dean freeman about a 100 that was hot and had a high DNF rate- maybe angles crest- but what I thought about was him saying essentially was dial back your effort-- take racing off the table-- make finishing your goal if you don't want to quit, DONT.  So There on loop 5 I decided even if my "race" was going down the crapper because I don't run very well in heat-  I am FINE and i don't have to quit- so I'm not. i had tons of time to finish. That was a freeing thing. because I knew Stephanie was steady and right behind me. 
 I finally got back to start loop 6 with Annie. Stephanie caught us here and passed  and went on to run consistently and finish strong for the overall female win. I ungallantly death marched most of loop 6. I was a train wreck, but annie little by little pieced me back together. Encouraging me to eat and gel ( hey I forgot about that on loop 5- oops) By loop 7- the sun was going down and felt so much better, So we ran everything we could. I wasn't pushing hard--  was having fun getting to know annie, and really just had finishing in mind- that is until the  last 2 miles I saw Carter right behind me- it was silly but I kicked it into gear and ran my hiney off to the finish. How did I go from feeling so slow to feeling so energized?? motivation, perception-- most of ultra running is SO MENTAL, it scares me. 
BUT I FINISHED-- That meant SO much to me. I was so tired and fatigued during that run, but it felt so tremendous to overcome that and all the little issues that got thrown my way. AJW and craig Thornley were there at the finish  line,  i got hugs and a 2 dollar bill ( nice!!) I have to say no way I would of finished without the help of the CATS at the aid stations and annie stanley pacing me.  I would like to think I could of made it without a pacer, maybe I could of but I know how simply she cheered me up, she got my thoughts and energy going in a different direction. We focused on the positive:) 
 Idealistically I wanted to watch the other finishers and hang out at the finish line. so I laid out my folding chair, changed clothes and then decided I needed to drive to where there was cell service to let my family know how I ran. I drove and drove- by the time I got service I was 5 miles from my hotel, so i just went back, showered and crashed out.  yes I left my chair because I was so out of it-- sorry guys!!!

 Got up the next morning hobbled to my car, back to tandem for Awards breakfast top 3 men and women where awarded a Jefferson cup engraved with TJ100k, also I got a cool MHW expedition duffle. 

The weekend was so fun and amazing. The people -racers, organizers, volunteers, sponsors- ALL made it special. AJW really created such an amazing experience-- it wasn't just an event- it was an experience. He spoke of how this race was a personal reflection of a part of who he is, and why he loves ultrarunning. I know for me, personally, this is why I feel such connection and deep level of friendship with all of these folks-- it's a collective of people who set goals, work diligently to obtain them: commitment, community, steadfastness. All these things I learn to practice during my races, I, in turn, hope to implement into my everyday life. I'm so appreciative and thankful for my journey. It isn't always easy, full of twists, turns, ups and downs, but I'm  still here ON THE COURSE and STILL MOVING FORWARD. 
 I definitely want to thank AJW for putting on such a wonderful race. I will be back!! So honored to get to apart of the first one! 
Post race reflections here 3 days later: this course is DECEPTIVELY much harder than it seems. It really wears you down, where there isn't any fire road to make up time, and it's all single track-- you burn ALOT of calories. I really don't feel I ate enough. Also I didn't have enough depth in my training ( although I trained hard-- I really didn't have enough TIME to train WELL to RACE a 100k-- was it good enough to cover the distance- YES.. but I was by no means strong or comfortable at the end- I was in survival mode- BUT silver lining for that is running this and recovering from it- is going to make me SO fit! yay!! 
 Also where it's early spring in central VA, it's a dice roll of what the weather and conditions will be like. I was dying in the 70F heat that afternoon.. the very next day, c-ville had 4 inches of snow. So that adds to the fun of it. Being flexible planning for anything and everything and just rolling with it. 
Thank you so much to Salomon running! my Mantras worked amazingly beautiful for me this weekend! no blisters, no bruised toe nails ( and this was a technical course in places lots of rocks and roots) 
Thanks so much to GU Energy labs! I ate about 18 gels- salted carmel GU and Gu roctane. :) love being apart of the gu crew:) 


Pegaroo said...

Enjoyed reading this, Jenny. You are an inspiration. Congrats on a great race!

Rachel Kelley said...

Nice report, and way to get back to it after a rough 2013! Sounds like a really fun race, I'll have to remember it for next year!

Michael Pflieger said...

Way to man up when things started to unravel. I agree this was a first class event.