We’ll take a cup of kindness yet

TITLE NOTE: “Auld Lang Syne” gets overshadowed this time of year by sugary sweet cheesecake holiday tunes.  I shared my own top ten Christmas  music list last year around this time and included Ben Rector’s version of the one-day wonder.  Since then Colbie Caillat has released her own version of the old-school Scottish tune, which trumps all other previously recorded renditions.  (:

12 ks

The 12Ks of Christmas for Runwell!  I have never eaten so well while running, which is a grandiose statement, considering the usual spread of grub at ultra marathons.  December 9, about fifty of my favorite running peeps gathered at Orchard Hills Park in Chesterland, Ohio, for a festive fundraiser for Runwell.  Each runner/walker completed 12 loops of a marked one-kilometer course, stopping at the toasty warm aid station after each K for a holiday treat and beverage.

Some of my favorites were the spicy brownies, candy cane cookies, Nutter Butters dipped in chocolate and decorated to look like reindeer, and the giant hoho.  I politely declined the beer, chocolate wine, peppermint schnapps, and Irish coffee, but I more than made up for it with about six cups of punch…the red stuff with the foamy sherbet yumminess on top.

Some of us lingered at the aid station more than others, to consume more than our share of punch, smiles, laughter, and overall merriment.  I call this “fueling,” both the body and soul.

fueling

Most of us dressed in festive elf-like apparel.

elves

Some of us cajoled others into running more laps.

jay

Somebody finished her 12K LAST as a result of too much yapping between laps…

peg and me

…but some of us didn’t finish all twelve at all, due to too much “fueling.”  (:

winning

I have never met a more genuine and loving group of people in my entire life.  We raised $1,500 for Runwell, all in support the very fabulous Des and her journey towards Racing the Planet: Iceland next summer.  For more information, click on the link above or check out Des’s fundraising page.

Runwell is a non-profit foundation dedicated to inspiring individuals around the world to lead healthy, active lifestyles. It encourages anyone involved with drug or alcohol addictions, from chemical dependents to their friends and families, to get involved in sports. 

RR: Chili Bowl Classic 2012 Edition

Ridiculous.

That is all I have to say about this race.

Okay, not really.

I ran the Chili Bowl Classic 5K last year.  It was only weeks before the cough variant asthma avalanche came tumblin’ down, so the 2011 edition of the Chili Classic is very close to my 5K PW (personal worst).  In case you are too lazy to click the link and read my recap, I’ll just tell you that 2011 me ran it in 30:04 and placed 46/88 in my age group.  If you run with me now, you may already be laughing.  I am too.

This race is the kick-off to the CLE road race season and it sends you past some of the sweetest sights Browns town has to offer.  Saturday morning the weather was a perfectly sunny 40 degrees, and Kelly, Mike, and I parked at the Rock Hall and jogged a couple minutes to Tower City to meet up with over 900 of the coolest Clevelanders around.  Being the shy person I am, I wandered around before [and after] the race to reconnect with the road runners that have been in hibernation all winter long.  We also took some pictures.  Duh.

Public Service Announcement: This is how you dress for 40 and sunny in CLE. You are running, not skiing in Aspen in negative temps, so leave the parkas at home. Thank you.

My goal for the race (given to me by my running BFF Sweaty Brian) was to run a sub 23.  I wasn’t 100% convinced that I could do it, but with the magic number 7:30 imprinted on my brain, my new mantra “You are stronger than you think” playing over and over in my head, and #thelogo in my sights, I hit it hard and rocked it out.

Where's Kirsten? BTW, #thelogo is already ahead of me in pink and blue, almost out of the pic

My GarGar has been on the fritz lately, so I don’t have my splits for the race, but I do know that mile 1 was my fastest (mostly downhill), and I acutely remember my fingertips going numb around mile 2.4 (any suggestions?).  I relaxed a little and checked my breathing before turning away from the lake and was grateful for the wind at my back as I rocked it up the only real hill on the course towards the finish.  (Thank you, Regis training!)  I turned onto Prospect, saw the timing clock, and booked it to the finish line.  I swear I heard at least a dozen people screaming my name as I looked up and saw 22:40 lit up in red.  I tried to play it cool as the cutsie pie sub-16 Achilles boys greeted me at the finish, then waited for the rest of my running peeps to PR their way across the line.

Sub 23 WHAT!

It's always a little windy downtown, but I'm attributing the awesome hair to my awesome pace.

After warming up with a bowl of [vegan, for me] chili, catching up with some cutsie pie long lost friends (lots of cutsie pies lately), and ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the winning times, we froze our way back to the Rock Hall for some more pics (shocking!) before heading back east.  (Sorry for all the parenthetical asides in that sentence.  Here is a jumping pic to make it up to you.)

Gotta love sunny CLE in February

And, of course, the required open-mouth chili-shoveling pic…

Nom nom

Pros:  sunshine, Blue LS race t-shirt (with a different logo…huge plus!), being recognized as the Dirty Love tutu girls, vegan chili, free parking at the Rock Hall (thanks Kel!), Caribou coffee, lots of familiar faces, stashing our gear with a CIG bud, and – of course – a PR!

Cons: None? (:

STATS: 22:40 (7:19/mile); 170/918 overall; 8/109 in my age group (eighth!)

RR: Dirty Love 10K

The Dirty Trail Series continued this weekend with the Dirty Love, a 10K trail race through my very own North Chagrin Reservation.  This was my first official race as a 31 year-old, but since the series doesn’t discriminate by age (my division is <40) it really didn’t matter!  This race was so close to home and at our usual weekend stomping grounds, so the entire CIG (our self-titled running clan) was on hand to run, direct traffic, take pictures as you fell at the finish [not me!], wear annoyingly festive race outfits [totally me], and scream like banshees throughout the race [duh].

CIG (sans BMO)...we work out

Believe it or not, I actually drove myself to this race.  Zoom Zoom.  I got there with plenty of time to find the CIG crowd, shmooze it up with the Saucony rep, and take oodles of pictures with my twinny sister in our amazing Valentine’s Day slash Dirty Love ensembles.  (Thank God for the little girl’s department of Target!) 

Prepare to be chicked...by chics in pink tutus.

There was actually snow on the ground Sunday morning when my 224 dirty BFFs and I toed the imaginary starting line, headed across a field, hopped over a frozen creek, and slammed right into a 225 person traffic jam going up the first hill.  The CIG boys were long gone, and I stuck with my tutu twin for the first mile or so on the trails.  Even after we separated we kept each other company – screaming out LMFAO lyrics as we wound our way along the six-mile single track course and entertaining the cross country skiers we passed, who called us fairies as we each ran by.

Once I got through traffic I passed a lot of runners, picking them off one by one and rocketing by road runners on the hills in a pink blur.  I think I shocked a few dudes who didn’t take me seriously and should’ve been paying more attention to my dirty Sauconys than my pink glitter t-shirt and knee-high fashion socks.  I ran GarGar-free, breathed easy the whole race, and didn’t let anyone pass me.  A lot of the course was familiar (but backwards!), and I was disappointed to see that the snow had covered up most of the usual muddiness of our weekend course.  Mud makes me smile, but snow isn’t too bad either.

As I headed down towards the finish, I heard the CIG peeps yelling my name and sprinted towards them with a smile.  Too late I noticed a man with a fancy camera, so I politely asked for a redo and crossed the finish line again, this time with a big ol’ smile on my face and a spring in my step…literally.  Picture success.

Fabulously fake finishing photo

The CIG waited for our last three members to roll in, held a photo shoot, and headed inside to warm up by the fire, mingle, snuggle Molly the dog [me again], and give props to the Saucony rep…who just happened to win the race.  Beast.  As always we topped off CIG Sunday with a Starbucks run (where, btw, Doug refused to walk in the door with me because of my amazing outfit.  And lots of “Oh, I hate when someone has the same outfit on as me” jokes were told…repeatedly).

We are doing yoga...not ballet.

Why yes I am still looking badass in a tutu. That's how I roll.

My next two races are on the road – the Chili Classic 5K this weekend and the St. Malachi 5M on March 10, but the next race in the Dirty Trail Series is the Dirty Dash – a 10K on March 24 at the CVNP in Peninsula (why yes I did run a 50K there!  Thanks for asking!).  I haven’t registered…yet…

PROS: North Chagrin, race mug, stellar snacks, roaring fires, SNOW, CIG support

CONS: I really wanted a shirt that said Dirty Love.  Sad face.

STATS: Official time: 1:06:34; 11/67 in my division (women 0-39); 91/225 overall

Did you miss out on the Dirty Snowflake?  Click here to read my recap!

RR: Dirty Snowflake Prediction Run

My love of trail running is now being fueled by the Dirty Trail Series, a series of sixteen races in northeast Ohio with names so dirty I can’t wait to display them proudly on my race bling, names like Dirty Dash, Dirty Love, Dirty Secret, Dirty Dozen, and the Dirty Dirty. This weekend was the first race in the series, the Dirty Snowflake, a 4.? mile prediction run at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. That’s the same venue as Regis, which allows me to shamefully post a recently discovered picture of me running my first ultra marathon.

50K…NBD

I have absolutely no idea who took this pic or when, but we were running with Mike but not Kelly, so it had to be taken between miles 13 and 18. Notice the bright red cheeks, frosty hat, and lack of gloves. I swear I’m not crazy; my hands are always on fire when I run. I got some strange looks at the Dirty Snowflake this weekend, too, due to my lack of winter apparel. One mile in I was still feeling good, and the rest of the pack was shedding layers like nobody’s business. So :P

Brian, Marcus, Mike, and I (Kelly was under the weather) drove to Boston together and tried to strategize about prediction times along the way. We had never run the exact course before, so we were picking times blindly. The elevation change was minimal (for the CVNP), so I figured I could hold a sub 10 minute mile on the trails. When we checked in at the Ledges shelter, I wrote down 38:13 as my predicted time and spent a little time schmoozing it up with the Saucony rep…and his Ford Flex.

Saucony Stalker on wheels

He was demo-ing the new Saucony Xodus 3′s (they’re purple!!), and Mike and I scored some bumper stickers and Saucony hats for being so darn cool rocking the Saucony brand and sporting the Xodus 2′s. You could actually try out a pair of the 3′s during the race, which I thought was an impressive offer from the stalker brand. We joke about the Saucony Stalkers (I don’t even remember how it all started), but not only did the guy remember my name, but he and his Flex also “accidentally” crossed our path as we were headed back to the car after an additional 8 miles on the trails. ***shiver***

When the race started BMO and Marcus jumped ahead and were never to be seen again. They both finished in rockstar fashion with times in the low to mid 30s. Mike was still having some hip/back/mystery pain, so we stuck together for all 4 muddy miles. The race was a cluster at the start, although passing people was fairly easy even on the skinny trails. But the MUD! This girl likes running on squishy ground and getting all mudded up, but with the number of people on the trails, mud flew everywhere – even on my face!

Heading to the trail!

It is totally acceptable to stop for photo opps when winning the race is not dependent on time

The race was dirty…but the weather was delightful

No Garmins were allowed. Surprisingly, running without knowing my pace didn’t bother me at all; I didn’t look down at my empty wrist once. However, I didn’t appreciate the lack of mile markers on the course. I like to know how far I’ve gone and what is left ahead so I know when to take it easy or push a little bit. The end of the race snuck up on me, and before I knew it I was running across the finish line – with no clock, which was pretty much torture. They didn’t release your time and the results until everyone was in, so we headed inside by the fire to warm up and get some grub…and avoid the stalker stares of the Saucony dude while I myself creeped on a lady wearing a $200 Lululemon running coat.

Finish!

Hanging with Molly the running dog after the race; I would like to steal her

I wasn’t expecting to win this race, but I wasn’t expecting to be so far off. The winning runner was less than FIVE SECONDS off of her predicted time. I’m not even sure how that is possible, unless that woman runs that same trail every day of the week. #notbitteratall

We topped off our trip to the CVNP with another eight miles and a trip to Starbucks before heading back east. The next race in the series is a 10K at my very own stomping ground, North Chagrin Reservation, on February 12. Who’s ready for some Dirty Love?

PROS: CVNP, perfect weather and scenery, 150 of my closest running buds (and Molly!), sweet arm sleeve swag, good food, fire, creative race format, Saucony love

CONS: less than 5 seconds off is just dumb

STATS: Official time: 41:54; Minutes over predicted time: 3:41.9; 31/68 (prediction results); 65/148 (overall)

RR: Run for Regis 50K

Things you may have overheard me saying recently:

  • I’m going to skip jump roping today.  I ran a 50K yesterday.  No, not 15.  FIFTY.
  • Cupcake?  I’ll have two.  I ran an ultra yesterday.
  • Did you know that 50K is 31 miles?
  • I know this vest is bright.  It’s my race swag…from the ultra I ran on Sunday.
  • Why yes, that is longer than a marathon.  That’s why it’s called an ultramarathon.
  • I can totally have another piece of baklawa.  Didn’t you hear?  I ran an ultra this weekend.
  • What do you mean you don’t have a 50K magnet for my car?  I can’t wear this vest every day…

I’m really not conceited, and I promise you I’m not trying to brag.  I’m just so damned excited I could pee rainbows.  I mean seriously – I ran for seven hours and forty two minutes.  That’s pretty flipping cool.  And insane.

The run started at 7:15 (when you have nine hours to run, you need all the daylight you can get), so my race day chauffeur picked me up stupid early so we could rendezvous at my sister’s and be on the road by 5:45.  I had of course stayed up too late the night before watching the Miss America pageant and violently searching for my misplaced running gloves and jacket (I must be only person on Earth that can lose an article of clothing that’s so bright it burns your retinas).  Somehow I still managed to shove a PB&J English muffin down my throat, along with my now routine “please let me breathe ” round of meds…all containing the word “air.”  In my backpack was everything I could never possibly need, from extra socks, cashews, deodorant, and Body Glide to Knuckle Lights, a dozen Gus, extra shirts, and a hairbrush.

We got to the Ledges shelter at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park with plenty of time to check in, test the air, and layer up as much as possible.  I ended up wearing my super warm Sugoi SubZero tights, one of my trusty Nike Pro LS Half Zips (with thumbs, of course!), an Old Navy fleece pullover, and my Saucony Vizipro jacket.  I topped it off with Smartwool socks, gloves, a hat, and my recently acquired baklava ninja mask balaclava.  It was freakin’ FREEZING when we started.  And still pretty dark!

There are three distances available to Regis runners – a half, full, and ultra marathon, and the course consists of two loops of 5 and 8 miles each.  Even though you select a distance when you register, you are allowed to change your mind as you run – going longer or stopping early without consequences.  Everyone that finishes at least eight miles gets the super sweet race swag: this year a yellow embroidered Brooks Nightlife Essential Run Vest ($60!).  I may or may not have worn that vest to work today.

We started as a group of five – Brian, Kali, Mike, Kelly, and me.  The pack thinned out very quickly, and the miles zoomed by as we completed one of each loop as a group.  The aid stations were stocked with PB&Js, Ramen, pretzels, cookies, candy, water, pop, HEED, Hammer gels, and super friendly and supportive volunteers.  I stuck with water, Gu, and PB&J and took advantage of the (2!) available indoor, heated bathrooms.  Each time we finished a loop, we returned to the Ledges Shelter to get our bibs marked and grab some fuel, before heading out again to the cheers of race volunteers.  Kelly finished the half, and then there were four.

Heading out for our first of five loops! Shouting "See you in 20 minutes" no doubt

Loving Kelly's socks!

Lots of time for photos in 8 hours!

It was a slippery winter wonderland

Still smiling after 18!

It only snowed a tiny bit during the race, but Saturday’s snowfall blanketed the ground and hung heavy on the trees.  I was happy for the snow, because running in the mud is a lot harder on the ankles and wetter on the feet than running on the white stuff.  That being said, after several loops on the trails – and the steps – the packed snow was more like ice, and keeping traction was nearly impossible at times.  I saw a lot of people fall, and my steady pace always slacked on the icy downhills (where no-fear BMO took the opportunity to pass me every time).  We took turns leading until Mike’s testosterone exploded around mile 19 and he blazed away from the group (taking the camera with him…and finishing twenty minutes ahead of us!).  And then there were three.

LOTS of stairs

STILL smiling...and shivering!

Kali pushed hard to finish her 26.2, and BMO and I headed back out to finish the last 5 mile loop.  And then there were two.

Checking in after 26! (which was really 27!)

It was during the last loop that I spent a lot of time in my head.  I ran ahead of Brian for a couple miles, wanting to soak up the reality of the race.  I thought back to the Cleveland Marathon and truly realized for the first time that I am not the same person – physically or mentally – that barely finished those 26.2 miles on May 15.  Although my body hurt at mile 29 of Regis, it wasn’t the crippling oh-my-God-I’m-not-going-to-make-it pain from mile 24 of Cleveland, but more of a heaviness in my legs.  Ultra me is infinitely stronger and more confident than marathon me.  And happier.  And more stubborn determined, if that is possible.  And a hell of a lot more badass. As an added bonus, despite all the asthma drama of recent months, my lungs behaved themselves the entire day, so it was also around mile 29 that I mentally gave props to my asthma guru, Dr. Kent Knauer (no joke).  I thought ahead to my next marathon (Cincinnati), giggling at the fact that I can say it’s only 26 miles and looking forward to scaling back to running only four days a week.  So for a couple miles on the last loop, while my feet pounded the trails with “perpetual forward motion” (a volunteer’s battle cry I took up as my own), I guess you could say “And then there was one.”

And then I got grumpy and tired.  But that’s why I run with BMO – he pushes me when I need it.  And I needed it.

Almost there!

Me...the ultramarathoner!

31 wut wut! Still smiling! In an amazing ensemble, I know!

After immediately shedding some wet layers and warming my frozen bum by the fire, I inhaled a bowl of vegan chili, devoured a grilled cheese sandwich, and topped it all of with a very slushy cup of ginger ale.  There are no awards because no one (or everyone?) wins Regis, so we picked up our vests, said our thank yous and goodbyes, and headed home to the nearest Starbucks.  I spent the rest of the day warming up in the tub, stretching, napping, and eating pizza.  Luckily I had Monday off, which allowed me a quick massage with the PT at Achilles, a pilgrimage to Whole Foods, retail recovery therapy, and an hour of [very easy] boxing to keep my legs loose.  And since I am a firm believer in the idea of rollover calories, I am now headed into the kitchen to indulge in my newest food addiction: Sensible Portions Veggie Straws.  #ultrasmakemehungry

PROS:  Absolutely everything.  Sweet swag, a good cause, amazing volunteers, yummy grub, indoor plumbing, breathtaking scenery, camaraderie, running BFFS, double bridges, trail markers hung on icicles, “if you can read this you’re going the wrong way” signs, slippery slopes, a dog wearing boots, men wearing shorts, icy beards, VFFs, fireplaces, frozen eyelashes, tied shoelaces, and easy breathing

CONS: Um…

STATS:  Time: 07:42:53.  Place: 53/60 overall, 11/14 female.  I am shocked at the small number of people that ran the 50K.

PS 04:45:20 won overall.  Holy shnikes.  (Woman: 05:21:20)

I think it’s time that we take a [run] down the scenic route

TITLE NOTE:  Listening to Kate Voegele either makes me sob hysterically or smile uncontrollably.  I love her so.  Need a good cleansing bout of tears?  Check out “Gravity Happens.”  Want a self-affirming song that makes you hold your head up a little higher?  You’ll find your mantra in “Unusual.”  Today’s title comes from “Enjoy the Ride,” which is a song of the smiling variety.

This weekend found me caravanning to Seneca Nation with a group of ladies numerous enough to field a soccer team.  Amidst all the birthday festivities (aka losing money on quarter slot machines and dodging Tanya Tucker fans in full camo), my sister and I snuck out of the smokey casino and GPSed our way to the Allegany State Park to pound some much needed miles.  All of our friends and several dozen casino patrons thought we were crazy.

There might be some white stuff on the ground, but it was a stupid nice day.  It also happened to be the first day of hunting season.  More on that later.

Foursquare was nice enough to show me two possible routes for our run – Beehunter Trail and Red House Lake.  The path around Red House Lake was very Greenway Corridor-esque [aka paved], and Beehunter Trail was a 6.5 mile off-road loop.  Even though we did NOT pack our trail shoes, we decided to go with the buzz buzz, which I kept accidentally calling BeeRhunter Trail.

Don’t be fooled.  This is a topographical map.  I have no idea what I’m looking at.

On our way through the park to the trailhead we had seen pick up trucks galore, cabins brimming with burly, camouflaged men, and even some shotguns leaning precariously against trees.  However, I had also noticed posted “NO HUNTING” signs, so I thought we were all good.  Two minutes into the [uphill] run we heard the first gunshot, and back down we hustled to the shorter [safer] Red House Lake path.

Wonder of wonders, I left my GarGar at the hotel, so I have ZERO facts to share about the stats of the run.  What I do have, however, are loads of pictures.  Even in the nakedness of winter, the park was breathtaking. We ran for over an hour, stopping from time to time to ooh and ahh at the scenery, warn the deer about the hunters lurking to the east, and hold impromptu photo shoots with Kelly’s “running camera.”

As much as I love the CLE and her amazing parks systems, running out of town [especially with your BFF slash little/big sister] was amazing.  I run the same route so often that I deconstruct the run – 1 mile to the middle school.  Another half mile and I’ll be at 84.  Three road crossings until the freeway, then .3 miles to the bottom of the Chair Factory Falls extension.  A hard .3 miles back up, then another mile to the turnaround.  Negative split, let’s go.  Blah blahblah blahblah blahblah.

Running the path at Red Lake was plan-free.  We ran wherever we wanted, turned around when the trail ended, and didn’t overanalyze anything.  So many times I forget to look around, enjoy the run…and take a gratuitous amount of photos.

I think it’s time that we take a drive down the scenic route
Baby, sitting round here and talking ’bout it, well it doesn’t count

Can we slow down and just take our time
Close our eyes and just enjoy the ride