WTF50K Recap: The Final Exam

Have you ever reached a point where you realized all along you had been subconsciously preparing for that moment? Granted my “moment” was nearly 8 hours long, but this was exactly what happened at WTF50K.

Unbeknownst to me, my WTF50K training began in April 2018 at the Boston Marathon. I survived the 26.2 miles of wind, rain and cold to finish. In May, I ran a portion of the Appalachian Trail on Mother’s Day with Sara. At times, the trail was a river. In June, I ran (swam?) 18 miles with a group at the SU Cool Spring campus which was extremely flooded. As far as hill climbs go, in October I felt the need to tackle a mile long road climb I hadn’t run since high school. In December, I tackled a decent climb at my in-law’s house. Wind? In the past few months, I’ve run several mornings with gusty winds with both the Stephens City DD crew and the Wednesday morning group. Creek crossings? I think I got my fair share at Fire on the Mountain 50K in November. Snow? The Monday before the 50K, I hiked/ran 6 miles of trails in at least 5 inches of snow with Ryan.

At the time, all of these were just individual crazy experiences I shared with running friends. At the WTF50K, I realized all of them were lesson plans for my final exam.

Everything you are learning is preparing you for something else.” ― Marjorie Pay Hinckley.

Pack and maps ready to go!

If you read my last post, you know the expected weather forecast. Thankfully, no precipitation was going to fall. Just cold and WINDY. We arrived a little early, Emily, Laura and I gathered our gear and got ready to start. You will not believe what was announced next. The WTF50K finisher stickers had been left behind! A humorous groan traveled through the small crowd of about 4 dozen. After a few more announcements, we started trudging forward through the mud. Not too far in, we started our first climb of Waterfall. Whoa. Very steep at times and just kept going higher and higher. After a few switchbacks, we reached the top and headed towards Crisman Hollow. A couple miles later, we were rewarded with a beautiful view.

Photo credit: Emily

At this point, I shed my jacket, gloves and earband due to being extremely warm. We continued along the ridgeline for a few miles – rocky and snowy. We reached Jawbone Gap and headed up to the top. Along our ascent, we saw Matt S. and Kevin W. headed down. After a quick glance at the view, we turned around and headed down towards mile 9 (first aid station). After a couple pizza rolls, we were off again. A couple miles later, as we headed down switchbacks, I heard a few familiar voices at the bottom – Matt and Kevin (thanks for sharing the Moon Pie with us Kevin!). Emily and I joined up with them, as well as other runners Levi and Eric. Through this section we alternated a lot of hiking and running until we hit a good decline leading us to….Waterfall Climb: Round 2.

At mile 16, we tackled this tough climb once again. At this point, Matt and Emily pulled away as Kevin and I fell a little behind. I reached Crisman Hollow the 2nd time alone; however there was a runner at the top trying to make sense of his turn sheet. I informed him we were to head left on the road and we trotted off together. Since the last snowstorm, this road had not been touched by a plow. The only bare spots were created by the sun/radiation and at times, the road seemed more like an ice skating rink. We traveled about 2 miles until we crossed over Rt 211 and tried to locate the Aid Station before Mile 20. I grabbed some calories, a swig of Coke, refilled my water and was offered hand warmers. The wind was definitely picking up and I felt the coldest around this time. I pulled the hood up on my Cotopaxi jacket and took off with my new running partner Keith towards the trail. I reluctantly became navigator for our new group of two (which is one of the components of the race I was most worried about!). Soon, we hit the Bird Knob Climb. This climb had much more snow and ice than the previous climbs (which I’d take over the ones with rivers flowing down upon us). After the climb, we were rewarded with a somewhat more runnable path. We turned onto the white trail and then onto purple, following our turn sheet.

Part of the easier trail we traveled. Photo credit: Kevin

Finally, we hit the pink trail. Keith said, “And that’s about all that’s left right?” I responded yes, 4.2 miles until our final turn back onto orange for the final stretch. Around this point, I actually was a little sad the adventure was almost over. As we traversed pink, we approached a fast-flowing creek with no great way to cross. I tried one route – trying to cross on a log like we had on several earlier in the day. A few steps on the slick log and SPLASH! I was in the frigid water up mid-calf. Keith tried another route and SPLASH! Ugh, we trudged on. Soon, I felt something hard flapping on my shoes every step and realized my shoelaces had turned into icicles.

About 1 mile before the turn onto orange, Keith pulled away. For the first time of the day, I was solo for a few miles. I quickly found the sharp turn onto orange and ran into a few downed trees. I couldn’t see a way around and did not see any footsteps in the snow. Crap, where did I go wrong? I retraced my steps and my eyes darted around the forest for the orange blaze. Aha! I missed the trail bearing left. Knowing I had less than 2 miles to go, I was on a mission. All of a sudden, I was flying forward; instinctively dropped a shoulder into a tuck and roll. Thank goodness I fell where I did and not where the trail was very rocky or muddy. I popped back up unscathed and continued on with a smile on my face. Soon, I could see the cars in the parking lot above. I climbed up the ledge and headed towards the fire and food. Complete!

7 hours and 42 minutes. Nearly 7,000 foot of elevation gain. Below freezing temps. Wind. Snow and ice. Mud. Did I mention sloppy? Following a turn sheet. So many obstacles to overcome. Prior to the run, I definitely had some fear. When I was out there, I was oddly calm. Mile by mile, climb by climb, I slowly chipped away at WTF50K. 

Prelim results just came in! 48 starters; 30 finishers and I made podium for females! Read more details about the weather, the run and the results here!

I’ll leave you with my final thoughts….

Remember that question I asked – “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”

The reason I signed up for the Waterfall 50K is because I actually wanted to attempt something I knew I could fail doing. I didn’t want guaranteed success; I wanted to fear failure – buckle down and give it all I could give (and then some).

I’m encouraging you to find a goal, a little out of reach and maybe a lot of crazy and go after it. If you fail, try again. And if you succeed, you better start looking for the next crazy goal..

Ultra Crazy – Preparing for WTF

By now, you may already classify me as certifiably crazy. If not, I may be able to convince you before you finish reading this entry.

In two days, I am signed up for a “training run”. The WTF 50K. Noooo, it does not stand for “What the F*ck” – it’s Waterfall (what is wrong with you??). Actually, the closer we get to Sunday, the more I am thinking the acronym does stand for that potty mouthed acronym.

Let’s preview what I’m up against…

The course is 31 miles on trails. The course is unmarked. You are responsible for carrying your own turnsheet and paying attention to your surroundings. It’s going to be snowing and/or raining. And windy. And cold….and the temp is going to drop. The high for Sunday is about 38. The low? 8. Without a wind chill. WTF (remember, that stands for WATERFALL).

In 2018, I endured the historic (read: insane) weather conditions of the Boston Marathon. It was cold, windy, raining – over a thousand dropped out due to hypothermia. I suffered from a sense of race weather PTSD for months. Anytime that weather trifecta is forecasted, I remember the paralyzing feeling of running along for 26.2 miles as a mobile popsicle. Now I’m thinking that race was just preparing me for something bigger; more challenging.

Not going to lie, this week I’ve been really contemplating over my decision making. The run has no entry fee. There is no tangible reward. No race t-shirt. No medals (that’s right, no bling!). If you complete the task? A WTF50K sticker. Yes, I said sticker.

I shared my anxiety with my fellow 2018 Boston teammates Mario and Jeremy. Jeremy quickly reminded me, “You wanted a challenge. It just got more intense.” Mario agreed it’d be a challenge, but assured me I’d be fine. I messaged with friends who are experienced WTF50k finishers. Thankful for their brutal honesty, tips and a little bit of comfort, my attitude started to change. By the end of the day, my fear was slowly dissipating and the beast mode was flickering on.

By nature, I am competitive. However, I am not treating WTF50K as a race. To me, this adventure is so much more. There are so many variables and obstacles I will be up against – what if I get lost? What if I start feeling hypothermic? How will I handle 7000+ ft of elevation gain over 31 miles?

My competition will be me, myself and I. Pace will not matter. Who finishes ahead or behind me does not matter. What matters to me is continuing to push my limits and see what I am capable of. And yes, getting that dang sticker.

On Thursday, I asked you via Runner In Training – what would you do if you knew you could not fail? Part of this journey is knowing I can definitely fail and choosing to forge ahead despite that possibility. You will never know your limits until you push yourself to them.

While most will be pulling up the blankets a little tighter Sunday morning as Mother Nature unleashes another bout of unsettled weather, about 60 runners will be preparing for several hours on the WTF 50K course. Crazy? Perhaps. In our minds, it’s a chance to willingly put ourselves outside our comfort zone and see what we are made of.

Hopefully, I’ll be back on Monday with an exciting race recap to share all the highs and lows of this next challenge. Stay tuned!

“The longer and farther I ran, the more I realised that what I was often chasing was a state of mind – a place where worries that seemed monumental melted away, where the beauty and timelessness of the universe, of the present moment, came into sharp focus.” – Scott Jurek

My First DNF: Seashore Nature Trail 50K Recap

One week ago when I wrote “Keepin’ It Real“, I had no idea what the upcoming weekend had in store for me. Before I dive into those details, let me back up a few weeks.

As I returned to the Runner In Training booth at the South Berkeley Christmas 5K expo on December 2, Dylan came running up to me. “Mom, you got picked off a waitlist for a race!”, he excitedly announced. Not remembering any race waitlist, I picked up my phone to see what he was talking about. Aha – the Seashore Nature Trail 50K Jeremy and Sara had run in 2016. From the email I saw I added myself to the waitlist in June and had completely forgot. The email informed me I had until Wednesday, December 5 to make a decision.

After a lot of hemming and hawing, talking to John and a couple friends, I decided I would go and run. I searched for a hotel close to First Landing State Park and got all my other ducks in a row to head to Virginia Beach on December 14. Since the local Shenandoah Valley Runners Winter Series race was on the same day, John decided to stay home with Dylan (unfortunately John’s paternal grandmother passed away on Wednesday as well).

Friday was soon here and I was excited to hit the road at lunchtime and arrive around 4 p.m. The drive should only take 3.5 hours, but my map app was already telling me 4 hours 22 minutes. Darn. Off I went. Packet pickup was at a local running store until 7 p.m. I found some tunes and started my trek south. My ETA kept getting later and later the further I went along. Somewhere around Newport News, it was suggested I take a detour to save 25 minutes. Sounds good.

Yeah, not so much… The detour guided me through a jam packed shopping area and through a residential area with bumper to bumper traffic. For 20 minutes, we crawled. Stop and go. Stop and go. Finally, I was on an overpass making the left hand turn back onto 64. The SUV in front of me began to move or so I thought. Boom. Dang it. Already running late, and now I’m in a fender bender. We pull over and do all the fun things you need to take care of in an accident. An hour later, I’m finally back on the road. 30 miles to go – GPS puts me at the running store at 7:02 p.m. Thankfully, I call and the race staff pulls my race bib as well as Jeremy’s (the Sanders were stuck behind me in all the traffic).

Finally, I arrive 3 hours later than expected, get race bibs, call and cancel dinner reservations. At this point, I just wanted to check in to hotel, find food and get some sleep. After a quick meal at the hotel, I prepared my race gear and was asleep rather quickly.

Jeremy and I at the start (Thanks Jen!)

Race morning: woke up and ate my usual pre-race meal. I opened the oceanfront balcony doors to see nothing but a wall of fog. Temperature was not bad at all – about 50. I headed over for the short drive to the park and check out the surroundings. After a little walk and a short warmup, it was almost time to start. I decided to aim for 8:30-8:45 pace and see how the trail conditions were. First few miles went by pretty easy. The course was pretty, albeit foggy, and the volunteers and others along the way were upbeat and encouraging. I knew I was the 2nd female and man, was the first female (Gina Slaby) moving!

After the 2nd aid station, we headed right into the woods. Along the way, the course crosses several wooden bridges. As I stepped onto the bridge, I lost my footing but caught myself. Took another step and woosh, my feet go out from underneath me, I slide and fall hard on my right side. Yeowch. Right arm is scratched and bloody but nothing seems absolutely serious. A guy running in a kilt in front of me asks if I’m okay and I respond yes. I get back on and trudge on through the back loop chatting with him, trying to keep my mind off the searing feeling in my right hip area. On the way back to the turn around point for the 2nd loop, I battled between the voice of reason and the competitive athlete in me. The pain was not lessening. Do I just keep on running? Should I simply run/walk just to be able to finish? Should I drop?

Spectators along the way were encouraging me – “Second overall female. Keep going, you look strong!” Ugh, I am not feeling strong. I saw Jeremy on his way onto the second loop and gave him an update. At the turn around point, I mentioned to the race support I was most likely finished. They encouraged me to continue, again reminding me I was second overall female. “You can do this! You can walk and still finish in the time limit.” I refilled my water bottle, added a Nuun tab and decided to try to continue. Starting back up from run to walk was tear-inducing. My kilt running friend said, “Keep it up! Only a half marathon left!” 13 miles?? The reality hit me like a ton of bricks. Running in true discomfort and possibly risking further injury was not worth continuing. What about Boston? Other 2019 races? I decided to surrender and wave the white flag.

Not too much further up the trail, I saw my friend Jamey headed towards the finish area. I turned around and gave him the details. We walked and ran back to the finish together and I grudgingly announced I was pulling out. I walked defeatedly to my car and headed back to the hotel. What a disaster.

Battle wounds!

Sunday morning, I woke up in my own bed and the stress of the weekend hit me all at once. I may seem like a strong, competitive beast, but guess what?

I’m human 🙂 I allowed myself to snuggle up under the blankets and have an ugly cry.After I let the sadness out, I could feel the spark returning. I started thinking about 2019 races.

Yes, the weekend was a complete disaster but, no one was seriously hurt and I live to run another day. You win some, you lose some and yes, you DNF some.

 

I do think I want to go back to Seashore and try again. This time, I think I’ll walk the bridges…

 

Keepin’ It Real

“Running is my therapy.”

Over the years, I’ve heard this statement from many and have said it myself. Some use running as means of recovering from an addiction, some are running down one problem at a time and some just need to escape life for an hour to help manage stress or anger. Consciously or not, I think we are all often in search of the “runner’s high” – a little bit of euphoria before we tackle our day or to escape whatever the day heaved upon our shoulders.

Sometimes, running alone in silence can be therapeutic – just tuning into the rhythm of your footsteps and the sound of your breath. Some of my best thinking occurs during a run; away from all of the distractions of life. Nearly of my blog posts have been mentally hashed out and many decisions have been made as I logged my miles. The road is a good listener.

Other times, running with a friend may create a safe space where you feel comfortable letting your guard down. Running side by side, runners often offer each other advice, sympathy and support. Over thousands of miles in my lifetime, I’ve listened to stories of heartbreak, vents of frustration from work and relationships, sadness over divorce and death. I’ve played devil’s advocate, I’ve suggested gifts for birthdays, holidays and anniversaries. I’ve also experienced the positives –  times of excitement over exam grades, proposals, pregnancies and promotions. Thankfully, others have also listened to the good and the bad I’ve shared. Running tends to break down barriers. Some days it’s not about speed or miles; it’s just therapy.

Social media has become a highlight reel of our lives. Marriages look picture perfect, our children look like Albert Einsteins or Michael Jordans and we all have bottomless bank accounts to experience exotic vacations. The marital arguments, financial distress and the times when Junior failed history stay hidden offline; where we may pretend they do not exist. I feel the reason many may struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s vibrant highlight reel.

But you know what? Life is hard. We all struggle sometimes…and that’s okay. We fail. We get sick. We have bad days. We make mistakes. We doubt ourselves. We are human. As positive and cheery as I may seem, I too, am pessimistic at times. I stumble and fall; yet pick myself up again and again. Some days, I have terrible runs. Some races, it’s just not my day. No need to make excuses. I am human.

Especially in the darkness of pre-dawn runs, I’ve learned just how much we all struggle. You know, the types of stories that don’t show up on our news feed. No one wants to read stories of sadness and no one wants to be the Debbie Downer. I’ve chatted with people who have been afraid to share goals or stories with others in fear of being a disappointment. People who feel they aren’t “enough”. Friends who have distanced themselves because they feel alone in their struggle (whatever it may be). We tend to be hesitant to share the “real” version of ourselves to each other.

Why am I writing about this? I want people to know they are not alone. I want people to know life is not about being rich, or popular, being highly educated or being (or seeming) perfect.

Life is about being real, being humble and being kind. I want you to know I will be there if you need someone to run (or walk) a mile with you and hash out the ugly. Or I’ll run/walk by your side in sacred silence just so you know someone is there for you. Running has taught me to plan for life’s obstacles and showed me how to tackle the tough parts while making sure to enjoy the journey. I’ve learned that, in order to get where we want to go in life, we have to keep moving forward no matter how difficult it may be. And I’ve learned we don’t have to do it alone.

My offer will always stand. You know how to reach me 🙂

Follow Your Heart

The Shenandoah Valley Runners Winter Series starts on Sunday! This year, the series kicks off at the South Berkeley Christmas 5K which is a very festive and fun way to begin. Are you signed up yet? Why not?

Based on my experience, here’s a great reason why you should sign up plus I’ll share my goals for this year.

The first time I ran the SVR Winter Series was in 2016-2017. Still new to the area’s running community, I would show up and nervously smile and say hi to the few runners I knew. I loved the energy; listening to some of the guys exchange a little friendly trash talk and seeing family and friends running together; I felt excited to find this wonderful group of people. Every other weekend, I continued to show up and meet more and more friendly runners.

This is where I found my tribe. Somewhere in the middle of the first Winter Series, I started joining a few of the guys who were training for Boston for weekend long runs. Being around the easy and humorous banter between them made the miles fly by and pushing myself to keep their pace helped me improve immensely. At this point, I had never even considered qualifying for Boston a possibility, but they inspired me to reach higher than I had ever dreamed about. With my newly rekindled passion for running, my competitive fire was ablaze and I was able to finish the last two Winter Series as the 2nd Overall Female.

The first Winter Series was a springboard for me back into competitive racing. In training runs and during races, I chased the guys which helped me stay in the top of the women’s field. I will confess I did have serious FOMO (Fear of Missing Out); running a lot of races within a year. If there was a race, I wanted to run. I set some Becky v.2 PRs in every distance from the mile to a 50 miler; and qualified for both Boston and NYC. It has been a lot of fun not only from a personal standpoint but the social aspect as well. I sometimes find myself wondering if I would have ever have attempted some of the challenges I have without the encouragement and support of the inspiring runners I have had the pleasure of meeting.

This year, things started to change. Races I once loved, I didn’t find myself excited for. I found myself searching for the next challenge. Seeking out where I felt I belong – is it the 5K? Half? Marathons? Trails?

As I ran through the trails with friends Sunday, a conversation took place discussing doing what others think you should do versus what you feel you should do. Which brings me to the reason I am writing today.

Looking towards this Winter Series, at this moment, running the 5K races competitively is not jump starting my heart. Maybe this will change on Sunday, but I’m unsure. However, this does not mean I will stay home under the blankets while you fools run in subzero temps and snow. I have just decided to take on the WS in a different way – I am the race director for WS#3 and the others, I may volunteer, maybe pace a friend and yes, I will still race a couple too. I am just going to have fun being involved, no matter the role I play. Giving back makes me just as happy as racing.

As for my 2019 goals, my race calendar is still full of holes as I continue to scour available races while listening to the pitter patter of my heart telling me I am on the right path. Until I share my plans, I sure hope to see you out at the SVR Winter Series! Be sure to become a member first (if you are not, shame on you!) and then sign up for the Winter Series – you can’t beat this deal! I truly hope you not only have fun at the Winter Series but maybe you’ll find your tribe too.

And if you’re lucky, they’ll help you achieve more than you ever imagined.

With love,
Becky

 

 

Mission Complete!

If you landed on this page from my personal Facebook page, sorry for the click bait. Since you are here, you might as well keep reading!

I promise, this does have something to do with cake pops.

On November 11, I began the For Lucas 10×10 Challenge! Why? Top 10 Reasons I joined the 10×10:

  1. If I’m going to run, I might as well run for a good cause!
  2. Thanksgiving Prep. One would think you might drop a few pounds running 100 miles in 100 days. Wrong. You are hungry. All. Day. Long. This challenge should be called 10x10x10 (gain 10 pounds by doing 10 miles 10 days in a row because you want to eat everything in sight).
  3. I love a challenge. You might say, “But Becky, you’ve run 50 miles in 1 day. Surely, you can easily do 10 miles 10 days in a row.” Not the same. Knowing I had to run 10 miles every day for 10 days in a row was a little mentally overwhelming.
  4. To push my limits. I learned I am capable of running more miles in one week than I previously thought. 100 miles and I feel surprisingly great (other than a bit sleepy!).
  5. Our family has a connection to UVA Children’s Hospital. Dylan had surgery in 2017 at UVA Children’s Hospital. We were so pleased with his doctors and all the staff who took great care of him during his procedure.
  6. November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Dylan was born approximately a month early and had a short stay in our local NICU.
  7. To bring awareness to the Sanders’ new goal. $30,000 in 3 years to the UVA Neonatal Intensive Care Unit’s Bereavement Program. This program will use the funds to help emotionally console families with hand and foot molds, memory boxes, photography and to offset funeral costs.
  8. To encourage you to aim for a goal you feel may be slightly out of reach. Set your goals high and don’t stop until you get there! Believe in yourself.
  9. To give back. A little over 2 years ago, I met Jeremy as I returned to the running community. He has helped me surpass many of the goals I set for myself (including Boston and becoming an ultrarunner) in addition to introducing me to so many runners I now call friends.
  10. To pay it forward. I get the miles; one of you gets cake pops. To thank you for your generosity, I sweetened the deal with the offer of yumminess.

So, how did I do?

FL (2)

Okay, okay, I’ll get back to what you really came here for – cake pops!
You have 10 more days to have a chance to win cake pops. Visit my personal giving page to donate.

Anyone who donates any amount to the For Lucas Fund through my page will be entered into a raffle to win 2 dozen holiday cake pops.45886317_499003043924990_8787057643672829952_n

You know me – simply meeting a goal is not quite enough – help me surpass this goal for the Sanders family and other UVA NICU families!

I will pick a winner on December 1, 2018. Don’t miss your chance!

#ForLucas 10×10 Challenge!

10 days. 10 miles a day. In a row. I will take care of the miles, but I need your help in other ways!

First, read all about the For Lucas Fund. Then, visit my personal giving page to help Jeremy and Jen Sanders achieve a new goal: $30,000 in 3 years to the UVA Neonatal Intensive Care Unit’s Bereavement Program. This program will use the funds to help emotionally console families with hand and foot molds, memory boxes, photography and to offset funeral costs.

In addition to your generous gift, I am going to “sweeten” the deal. Anyone who donates any amount to the For Lucas Fund through my page will be entered into a raffle to win 2 dozen holiday cake pops.

For those of you who don’t know, I was a cake artist in a previous chapter of life at Beckaboo’s Cakes.

You don’t live local? You are in luck. I will even ship the cake pops to you f you are the winner.

Win-win right? Your pocketbook may experience a temporary strain, but I am going to take on the majority of the physical discomfort. You get to help NICU families and you may win dessert. You have until 11/30/2018 to make your donation. On December 1, I will pick 1 winner! Let’s blast my fundraising goal out of the water together.

Again, go to http://get-involved.uvahealth.com/goto/bmcgraw and make a donation #ForLucas!