Sunday, September 25, 2016

North Face Endurance Challenge 50K...I'm Pretty Sure I Won (Part 1)

Wow, I haven't written a race report in a long time. I guess that's what happens when you just start running marathon after marathon...they all begin to blend together. That is actually why I decided to sign up for my first ultra marathon. I needed a challenge. The last marathon I ran was in Austin last February. I had a hectic winter, moving out from George's, house sitting for a month, going to Tahoe a bunch to find a home, and then 2 weeks in Brazil and 2 weeks in Austin. Needless to say I didn't have time to train. I was kind of worried...I'd done over 12 marathons but I'd always trained for them. I didn't know what was going to happen since I hadn't trained for this one. But being the stubborn bastard that I am, and also not wanting to waste the money I had spent on the race entry I decided to try it.

I thought the best strategy would be to run 1 minute, walk 1 minute, and I actually finished the race surprisingly fast for not having trained at all. That's when I came to the conclusion that I needed to do something more than a marathon. I had just realized I could run (well run/walk) a marathon with no training, and I needed something to push myself, to challenge myself.

I would say probably at least 70% of my friends are crazy triathletes who after they finished doing as many Ironmans as they could (2 to 5) all decided to switch to ultra marathons. They have now all run 50 miles, 62  miles, or 100 mile races. I had never jumped on that band wagon as I had never finished a marathon and thought "hey, I feel like running more." But now I was faced with a dilemma. I am the type of person who has to have something that they are striving towards. When I started doing triathlons and marathons in 2010 I realized this joy that I had never experienced before. The joy was the ability to pour my heart and soul into something that I could completely dedicate to myself. I almost wrote that sentence as "something that I could completely dedicate myself to" but besides being worried that I am not supposed to end a sentence with a preposition, I realized the real reason I loved triathlons and marathons and physically pushing myself beyond what I ever thought possible was that I was dedicating that time to myself.

I am a people person, as anyone who is going to take the time to read this probably knows. I enjoy being around people, I feel more energized after spending an evening sharing stories with a group of close friends. I am pretty much 100% extroverted (at least that is what the tells me). But I found that even I, a quintessential ESFJ, can like alone time. Running has become the time when I get to hang out with myself. I contemplate life, worry about poor decisions I've made, contemplate the poor decisions I plan on making in the future, think about the things I am missing in my life, and pray a lot that God will help me accept the life I have been given, help me be content, but also give me the strength and fire to make positive changes in this world. I also spend A LOT of time giving myself complements, telling myself I can keep going, and reminding myself of all the times in my life when even when things got difficult, I did not give up. You can't keep your body moving forward for 9 (the amount of time it takes me to run 50K) to 16 (the amount of time it takes me to do an Ironman) hours without loving yourself and supporting yourself, and being your own cheerleader. Well maybe negative criticism works with others, but not with me. In the last 7 years since I signed up for my first Olympic distance triathlon with Team in Training, I have come to truly love myself, and I know a lot of it has to do with my running time where I tell myself all the good things about me to help me keep going.

Anyway, this post was supposed to be my race report for my first ultra marathon, which I did yesterday...but I haven't even started that! Since I know I have a short attention span, and I am sure in today's world of sound bites, and 140 character tweets hardly anyone is even going to get this far. I'm going to be nice and start a different blog post in order to tell you about how I think I won my first ultra marathon. Thank you for your patience! It is coming soon.

North Face Endurance Challenge 50K...I'm Pretty Sure I Won (Part 2)

OK. I am ready to tell you how I think I won my first ultra marathon.

So if you read Part 1  then you know that I was really looking to challenge myself when I signed up for the North Face Endurance Challenge in Park City, Utah. I moved to Tahoe last February (4 days after running the Austin marathon where I came to the realization that marathons were just not cutting it any more) and began to settle in. I love it here. The mountains are amazing, the lakes are gorgeous and people have been very welcoming. I've made some really good friends and Corina and I have discussed that people say we are "living the dream." (Corina is one of those said really good friends who has actually been the most amazing support system, sister, best friend, roommate, and sherpa...more on her awesomeness later). In many respects I have been living the dream. I have a beautiful home, one block from the beach. I live within one block of my favorite restaurant (Freshies), my favorite pub (MacDuff's), my favorite Brewery (Sidellis), a bowling alley, and Safeway. So many friends and family have come to visit me and I feel honored to be able to host them and share my home with them.

But since I've moved here I've also felt lonely. I guess anyone would after spending 4 years with a person they love and then moving to a new place and trying the whole dating thing again. That could be a whole different blog...probably one I am not going to write, but the point is I needed to do something for myself. I needed to dedicate something in my life just to me. As I mentioned in Part 1, taking on physical challenges that I never thought I could ever do, training for such an event, and then accomplishing it, has become one of the best ways I know how to actively love myself. So after 4 years of telling all my ultra friends I had never finished a marathon and wanted to run more, I decided that was just the thing I needed to do in order to give myself the love that I felt was missing from my life. I knew that taking on something as challenging as a 50K starting at 7,000 feet with 5,000 feet of elevation gain was exactly what I needed to help me reaffirm the love I had found for myself. If you have never taken on a task that you felt was impossible, but put your whole heart and soul into it, and then accomplished it, then you really should. It's the best way to give yourself the confidence to know you can do anything and I think it is the best way to build up my confidence and show myself how much I love myself.

So last May I signed up for my first 50K. Training started with a bang. the first week my long run was 18 miles. The runs proceeded to get longer and longer, until I was running marathons on the weekends for my training with over 4,300 feet of climbing. Tahoe was the perfect place to train for this event since I could easily get up to 7,000 to 9,000 feet. If I haven't mentioned it before, Tahoe is gorgeous, and I felt so lucky getting to use its majestic mountains as my training grounds.
Picture from the Tahoe Rim Trail on a 22 mile run
I probably missed more than a few weekday runs, but I never missed my long runs. Besides obviously needing them to feel confident about my ability to run 50K in Park City, these runs were also the me time I had been seeking when I signed up for the race. No matter how many things were getting me down before I started the run, by the end I always came to the conclusion that things were going to be alright, because I was alright, actually I was more than alright, I was awesome because I had the strength and courage and perseverance to run 20, 22, 24, or 26 miles. If I could do that then I realized by the end of the run I could deal with any other stress in my life as well.

So after 4 months of training, it was time to drive to Utah and run my race. I actually wasn't that anxious or worried about it. I remember when I was training for Ironman our coaches always told us that the event was actually our victory lap. We had already put in all the hard work and we were ready to go out there and celebrate all that hard work by completing the race. I was really excited for the race. 

I kept checking the weather. A week before it said it was going to rain, but then a few days later it said it would rain on Friday, but not on Saturday (the day of the race). When Corina and I drove to Park City on Thursday we went through storms, high winds, rain and even hail, but by the time we got to Salt Lake City the sun was shining. That night the weather app said it was going to snow on Friday, but just be cloudy on Saturday. I was glad I had brought a lot of warm clothes, but I really wasn't that worried. 

Friday it didn't actually snow, and that night the weather said it was going to snow Saturday morning but only for 2 hours. I was still really confident that the race was going to happen. Corina and I went over the water stops where she could meet me, and what times I could possibly be there. We packed up my bag for her to bring to me. She was ready to take on the difficult and sometimes stressful job of giving up her entire day just to be my sherpa and make sure I had everything I needed. We both went to bed excited about the next day.

My alarm went off at 5:30am. I'd like to say I hopped out of bed bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but I think I actually hit snooze a couple of times, but I finally woke up and made my coffee and ate my trusty race-day breakfast: leftover spaghetti and meatballs. We both got dressed and went downstairs to walk the 1/4 mile to the start. We walked out the door and it was storming. It was raining and dark and cold. Shit...even though the weather app had said it might snow a little, I didn't think it would be raining. We went back inside, put on coats, found and umbrella and went over to the start. 

At the start they announced they were delaying the race start by half an hour. Apparently it was pouring down freezing cold rain where we were, but our course went from our current 7,000 feet up to 10,000 feet, where there were white-out conditions. They told us all to wait in this lodge to keep warm. About 15 minutes later they came in to make another announcement. They were pushing back the start another half hour, so we would be starting an hour late, and they had to change the course. We couldn't get up to 10,000 feet because all the race markers were covered in snow, so we were going to have to stay lower and just do two loops of the half marathon course. Yep...just two loops. They told us our 50K was now just a marathon (26.2 miles instead of 31 miles). 

Corina turned to me and saw the tears begin to well up in my eyes. I couldn't believe that after all my training, taking my one allowable absence from the Fire Academy, and driving all the way to Utah in one day I was only going to be able to run a marathon. Corina hugged me and told me it was for my safety...which I really didn't care about at that point. I just wanted to be able to do my victory lap, and now it was canceled. I just wanted to cry, but I realized I wasn't the only one this was happening to...everyone in the room had come to run a 50K and were only going to get to run 26.2 miles. I decided I could either have a positive attitude about it or a negative, so I told Corina I wanted to be a Positive Polly and not a Negative Nancy (sorry to all my friends names Nancy). As soon as I decided to have a positive attitude I also realized that I could still do a 50K. Just because they were only going to support a marathon, didn't mean anyone was going to tackle me when I finished, rip off my running shoes, tie me to a chair and tell me I couldn't run anymore. I decided I didn't care that the official race was going to be 26.2 miles, I was going to run 31. 

I told Corina my plan, and being the wonderful friend and awesome sherpa she is, she planned to meet me at the half, then again when I finished so she could take my medal (I wasn't going to wear it until I had done a full 50K), and then wait for me while I ran 5 more miles. 

It was 8am, and time to start. It was still raining and I found a garbage bag to use as a poncho. 

At the start in my sexy plastic bag poncho
I had two loops of the half marathon course to do and then I had to go find 5 more miles. While I ran the regular thoughts ran through my head:

Mile 1: "Wow, I'm not too slow, I'm totally keeping up with a lot of people"
Mile 2: "Ok, well you know, I am not the only one walking up this hill, there are a few others"
Mile 3: "Where is the first damn water stop?"
Mile 4: "Ah, water stop!"
Mile 4.2: "Where is the next water stop?"
Mile 6: "Uphill in the snow? That's kind of cool and beautiful"
Sunglasses were pretty useless most of the day

Mile 7.5: "Finally some downhill!"
Mile 9: "WTF? More uphill?"
Mile 10: "OK, good downhill"
Mile 10.5: "Uphill again????? Seriously?"
Mile 13: "Ok...I just have to do this one more time."
Mile 13.1: "Oh I have to run 5 more miles when this is done...ok, well it's going to suck, but you are going to do it."
Mile 14: "Just 12 more miles, oops, I mean 17 more miles...ok I can do this, I can do this"
Mile 16: "You are awesome Emily, just keep going"
Mile 17: "I thought trail running wasn't supposed to hurt, my legs are killing me!!! Ok, just 9 more miles...oops I mean 14"
Mile 18-24: "Mindlessly singing to myself -let the sunshine, let the sunshine through, the sunshine through, the sunshine through" 
Mile 24: "Yay, 2 miles to the finish!"
Mile 26.2: "The finish line! Ugh now the hard part can do it Embo, no one keeps Embo from running a 50K.
Mile 27: "This kind of sucks, but no one is going to tell me I can't run a 50K"
Mile 28: "Ok just 3 more miles, you can do 3 more miles, Emily, 3 miles is so easy, you can do this."
Mile 30: "Just one foot in front of the other, one left"
Mile 31.03: "OMG! I did it!!!! I did it!!!! I DID IT!!!!!!! Corina...I need a beer"

I had run my first ultra marathon...and I did the math and made sure I did 31.03 miles since I think technically a 50K is 31.069 miles and I wanted to make sure I did it completely. When I finished Corina came to the finish line again and gave me my medal. We tried to drink my free beer, but neither of us liked it and it was still freezing cold outside, so we went to a Mexican restaurant and ate and drank in an enveloping warmth that my chilly bones thanked me for. 

While we ate I told Corina about the race and how I talked with people on the course and no one besides me sounded too disappointed that the 50K was changed to a marathon. I had told quite a few people I was going to run the extra 5 at the end, and they were all like "good for you, I'm going to drink a beer at the finish line." Corina told me she had spoken with a lot of people who had been signed up for the 50K when they finished their marathon (yes, I am sure probably 95-99% of the 50Kers finished the marathon before I did), and she said no one said they had done the extra 5 miles to complete the 50K. So since Corina and I didn't meet anyone who ran more than the marathon, and even though all those people probably beat me at the marathon, I was the only one who did a 50K. Since I was the only one, I won it, right? Well if you disagree with that, I don't really care. I did this for me, and loved it, and am super happy to have won! 

They let me go back through the finish once I had finished the 50K and take a picture with my medal

Yeah baby! 

Thank you Corina for all your help and love and support! I am so blessed to have you in my life! 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!

I just wanted to thank all of my friends and family who supported me as I trained for and ran two marathons in three weeks! With your help I raised $1703 for the Diabetes Hands Foundation.

Your love and support continues to amaze me and inspire me. I could not achieve any of my goals without your love.

I've made a short video to show you my experience!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Running My Little Legs Off

First of all, I want everyone to know I am NOT crazy! I didn't mean to sign up for 2 marathons in 3 weeks. After the Boston bombings in April I felt like I really wanted to run a marathon to show all those who would want us to hide in fear that they cannot stop our love of running, cannot stop our desire to come together, cannot stop our need to make this world a better place. So I signed up for the Budapest Marathon with the intention of running it in support of a cause.

A month later I got an email saying: Congratulations, you have been accepted to the NYC Marathon! (and your credit card has already been charged!) Well I wasn't going to pay for a race and not do I ended up with a training schedule that had me running the Budapest Marathon as my last long run for the NYC Marathon.

I was a little nervous about doing two 26.2 mile races so close to each other, but my friend Zara did two marathons last year in one week, so I figured I could do 2 in three weeks! (Of course she did not look very happy during the second one...but she did it and that's what's important!)

So I began my 84 days of training. I began to track my progress on instagram using the hashtag #84daystonycmarathon (which I realize now might have been confusing because people thought each time I used it I still had 84 days left until the NYC Marathon...but it was really describing the number of days I was taking to train for the race).

This was day 19: 4 mile run and core

So day 63 of my training finally arrived, which was October 13, or the day I had to run the Budapest Marathon. We had arrived in Budapest 4 days earlier and I had unfortunately come down with a bad cold. I was coughing and sneezing. I felt weak and I was being pretty crabby. I was also really worried about the race. The Budapest Marathon only allows you five and a half hours to complete the race. I had create a pace band for where I needed to be at each 5K and I was pretty confident about being able to complete it on time. But then I got sick and I read the race brochure and it turns out they had 6 different cutoff times and these times were actually faster than they should have been if you divided the five and a half hours evenly. After some crying and feeling sorry for myself and considering just running the 30K (about 18 miles), I decided I would just suck it up and do the best I could. I was going to run as fast as my little legs would take me!

A big motivator for helping me commit to the full 42.2K (26.2 miles for those of my metrically challenged friends) was that I had been fundraising for the Diabetes Hands Foundation by telling all my friends and family I was running 2 marathons in 3 weeks. So many people were supporting me because I had taken on that challenge, so I had to do it. I at least had to try my hardest. The night before George also decided to help me out by running the whole thing with me to pace me to make sure I made all the cutoffs. (See, I'm not the crazy one...I'm not the one who decides to run a marathon the night before and then does it like it was nothing!)

So with George's help, and all the support of my friends and family at home I ran the marathon and finished with 14 minutes to spare!

Day 63 of training! I was all smiles once we were done!
I had run my little legs off and the next two weeks I couldn't believe I had to run another marathon on November 3! The weekend after the marathon I was supposed to run 14 miles (according to my training schedule) but I could basically only manage 4 miles a day for the following 2 weeks! I have to say I was getting a little nervous.

Luckily last Friday my legs finally started to feel better. I ran 7 miles on Friday and 7.5 miles on Saturday. My back was a little tight and I could tell my body was probably a little mad at me for pushing it so hard so soon after it had just seen  me through an entire marathon...but again I couldn't give up. I still haven't reached my goal of raising $1500 for the Diabetes Hands Foundation, and even if I had, everyone donated to me because I had committed to running these two races, not one of them, so I have to keep going.

I fly to New York on Thursday. I'll check in at the expo on Friday, eat lots of pasta on Saturday and then get up Sunday morning, take the subway to the ferry to Staten Island and at 10:55 am start another 26.2 mile run. I'm excited and I'm nervous, but mostly I am determined, determined to do this no matter how much it hurts because it's so important to me to help raise diabetes awareness and help create a world where no one with diabetes ever feels alone.

If you haven't donated yet and want to help support an amazing foundation please make a donation today!

(Or just click on the widget above).

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Five Things I Learned at the Vineman Aquabike

Five Things I Learned at the Vineman Aquabike:

1. An Aquabike is no joke. Just because you aren't running a marathon at the end of the race, doesn't mean you should slack off all season long. Knowing that all I had to do was swim 2.4 miles and then bike 112 miles kind of led me to slack off a lot in the last 10 months. Don't get me wrong, I still worked out. I biked with my friends on Tuesdays, and ran on Wednesdays, and I did all the long bike rides and runs with the team on the weekends, but I hardly ever looked at the schedule, and just kind of did whatever I wanted. Bad idea! By mile 90 I began to feel weak and nauseous. I felt I needed more calories but I didn't want to consume anything. By mile 95 (the last water stop) I was in tears. The volunteers were very concerned and encouraging, and promised I would be able to make it up Chalk Hill. I did make it up, but spent the last hour of the ride in tears.

I don't know if you can tell...but under the glasses I was still crying after I finished. 
2. Sometimes you just need a hug. When I was done, I was still crying. I think it was just so hard and I had been so scared I wasn't going to be able to finish that I was super emotional and I needed to release it all. After crossing the finish line I walked down the shoot and saw Dennis, our team manager, who saw I was crying and just hugged me for several minutes. It helped me realize I was done and that I never had to do anything like this again if I don't want to.

3. It's so important to have a cause. At mile 95 when I was sitting at the last water stop dreading going up Chalk Hill, I thought about how my body just wanted it to all be over. But my mind knew that I had signed up for this event to raise money for cancer research and so many people had believed in me and donated to me and I couldn't give up until I crossed that finish line. They believed in me, so I had to believe in myself. I don't know if I could have finished on my own, but I made myself finish for all those who had supported me and believed in me.

4. 10 years of summer swim team do eventually pay off. As you can tell, this wasn't the easiest race for me, and I hadn't trained the way I should have. But thank goodness for all those summer mornings I had to wake up and swim for an hour and half before it had warmed up. Two weeks before Vineman I realized I hadn't been swimming much, so I better try to practice a little. I spent 3 days a week (for two weeks) swimming in the pool and in open water. After that I was able to swim 2.4 miles in 1 hour and 11 minutes! There is no way that I would have been able to slack off so much and still swim that fast if it hadn't been engrained in me as a kid. Lucky me! Now I just need to make sure I do all the biking and running training that I need to do before my next race.

I was really happy with this part of the race. Maybe I should just join a masters swim team.

5. Endurance events are NOT and individual sport. Yes, they say it's an individual sporting event. But there is no way I could have ever done this without the support of my friends and family and boyfriend. Even though I wasn't in the best shape, I was obviously in good enough shape to finish the race, and I owe that to Jasmine and George. Both of whom wouldn't let me give up on my hardest training rides this year. I would have cut all of my century rides short this year if it hadn't been for Jasmine slowing down to stay with me to make sure I didn't cheat and go home early. And George wouldn't let me sit and wait for him at the gas station during our 65 mile ride that had more than 5,500 feet of climbing. I wanted to give up all those times, but George and Jasmine wouldn't let me...because of them on race day when I wanted to give up, I knew that I could keep going. They were with me in spirit telling me to suck it up and finish.
Mile 10 of our first century of the season: Primavera. Look at my fake smile. I already wanted to give up, but they wouldn't let me! Thank you both so much!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Louie Tri

Every year Team in Training’s Iron Team organizes an Olympic distance triathlon in honor of Louie Bonpua. Louie is one of our team’s honorees, who lost his fight with Leukemia in 2002, but not before he had completed Ironman Canada with Team in Training. This year, in his honor,we went down to Monterey to do Louie’s first tri: Pacific Grove. The day was overcast and cold, the water looked menacing and was full of kelp. I really didn’t want to get in the water. But I thought, so many people suffering from cancer would do anything to be able to have this opportunity. So I jumped in the freezing cold water and swam for 30 minutes.

When I first got in, I was freezing! I couldn't breathe. I'd try to put my face in the water to swim, and it would take my breathe away. I kind of freaked out, and turned on to my back and did back stroke for a while. I thought 'this is what is must feel like if you don't know how to swim'. It was so scary!  But luckily I warmed up after a bit and by the second and third lap around the buoys I was feeling good. 

Once we got out of the water we had to do four out and backs on a road that ran along the coast. I don't really like doing the same thing over and over again, but it was a beautiful ride and I kept getting to see all of my teammates.

Once I was done with the ride, it was off to the run. Of course I had to stop by the potty...because I know there are people out there who will pee on themselves during a triathlon to save time, and although I once considered this idea, I have come to the conclusion that I am not one of those people.

The run was three out and backs. My back was sore, and I kept thinking, is that where my kidneys are? Are my kidneys ok? I really wanted to walk, but it was only a 10K, that's just 6.2 miles and I knew I could run 6.2 miles without I did. Well...if you can call jogging at 12 miles an hour running.

At the end my friend Nic caught up to me for a photo finish!

It was a great day. I remember when I first started training with Team in Training 3 years ago, and I spent 3 months training for my first Olympic distance triathlon. Now the same distance is just a fun training day. It makes me thankful for my health, and my friends, and Team in Training. It also reminds me how powerful every single one of us can be if we just choose to stick with something.

And the best part (besides raising money and awareness for cancer research, which is really the best part) was that we got to have an incredible seafood meal when it was all over!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Where Does Motivation Go?

Iron Team started about 2 months ago, and after wanting to run the Honolulu marathon, and then the Paris marathon, I finally decided I would fundraise for Ironman California 70.3 with Iron Team (a half Ironman which will take place in Oceanside, CA on March 30).

So I transfered my fundraising money, and signed up, and then, well, then I didn't do much. I'd workout once in a while. I'd go to the team workouts once every couple of weeks. I was busy with Thanksgiving and Christmas, busy with work, and not feeling that great and really not feeling motivated.

In fact I thought that I had lost my motivation. But where would it have gone? Was it hiding in the pizza boxes filing up my recycling bin? Or maybe it was lurking around in the early mornings that I had started to sleep through as much as possible.

Maybe I had just used up all the motivation I had. Since training for my first Olympic distance triathlon with Team in Training in 2010, I'd done 6 century rides, 5 Half Ironmans, 2 marathons, 2 Ironmans and fundraised over $16,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  I thought that maybe everyone just has a finite amount of motivation, and once you use it up, it's gone.

Was my motivation all used up? Was it hiding somewhere? Could I ever find it or get it back?  I sat for a while and thought about it. If my motivation was lost, where would it have gone? Where could I find it? What did I use to do?

And it came to me: my motivation could be anywhere. At times I've been motivated to go and see my friends and workout with them, at other times, I am just on a mission to follow the training schedule, I just do whatever it says to do. Other times I've been motivated because I know that people have donated money to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society because I asked them to believe in me. Motivation doesn't come from one thing. It comes from my desire to help others, my desire to help myself, my desire to have fun. I was looking for something I thought I had lost, but I realized I still have all those things. My friends and family still believe in me, I still want to be healthy and happy, and I still have that training schedule I can get out and start following. It's all right here with me. Now I just have to get out there and do it!

Where do you find your motivation?