Race Report: Mo’ Bell 100

Where: Montgomery Bell State Park, Burns, Tennessee

When: August 4-5 2018

Stats: 1-100 mile options (1M, 5K, half/full marathon, 50K, 50M, 100K, 100M) with a technical/hilly ~3 mile trail loop or 1 mile paved loop option.

Bottom Line: If you are chasing a goal and want a friendly, supportive and caring team of people taking care of your every need–and you don’t want to worry about missing cutoffs–this race weekend is for you!! Beginner friendly, no egos allowed, just a fun time pushing your limits with like-minded folks. Tons of support and by the end, everyone knows your name!

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My first 100 mile attempt brought up all the expected feelings–the thrill of a new race, the butterflies in my stomach the night before and the ache of my feet by mile 50. But what I did not expect was for my journey to morph into something different all together. Something much better than I could ever have planned.

But let me back up a bit first.

These past few months have been exhausting for me both mentally and physically. If it had not been for my two running BFFs, I would have backed out of this race. I mean, my family life had put me through the ringer. The onslaught of hospital stays, new diagnoses and life changes were daunting to me. It derailed my training. It depleted me emotionally. There was just so much to deal with.

training run when 100 miles seemed so far away

But I was ready to take this journey with my friends. I knew I was capable despite my setbacks. I knew WE were capable.

And honestly, all of us were dealing with heavy stuff in some form or another.

So back to the story. The night before the race I was stressed. I laid in bed unable to sleep while trying to ignore my sore, swollen throat. I slept maybe an hour that night. Which totally sucked because I knew I would be up and running for the next 30-40 hours straight. Which stressed me out even more.

The morning of the race I felt great. I was eager, hopeful and ready. My throat hurt but I ignored it. The day went as expected.

But around mile 34 things began to go south. My throat was swelling and I could hardly swallow. My head felt heavy and I had some extreme chafing showing up in some…ahem….sensitive areas. I’m not new to ultrarunning but this chafing was unusual for me and I’m not sure what went wrong. By nightfall I was barely coherent and in pain. At one point I couldn’t even stand upright and almost face planted into the ground.

That’s when I knew it was not safe to keep running. My friends stayed on course while I went to sleep off my delirium. But I knew what it meant for me–that I might not make it to 100. After several hours I awoke feeling a little better. Since it’s a looped course, I decided to get up and run. I joined my friends and decided I would see how the day goes before settling on a certain ending mileage.

I ran. I walked. And I decided that if I got to 100K I would be happy.

But then I decided that this race wasn’t about my goal anymore. It was about my friends. It was about spending time with people who make my soul happy. And in the end, it would end up becoming a journey to see my friend Bud cross the 100 mile mark and earn his buckle.

No matter how terrible I felt, I vowed to myself that I would get my buddy to the end. That was my goal for this race now. My friend Jenn and I were comfortable with getting to the 100K mark (and beyond) due to unforeseen circumstances. But we knew we had to get our friend Bud to his goal. And we did.

You probably want to hear all the crazy, funny details from those last 20 miles or so. But those moments on the course with your BFFs are sacred. Memories that make life meaningful. Stories that won’t be written on a blog.

I ended up with 78 miles total–my furthest distance to date. But I also got to see my friends succeed–which means a whole hell of a lot more.

I did it all for the miles and smiles with these special people. Worth every painful step.

The best trail buddy and the best crew chief (my hubs!!)

Post race exhaustion

After the race I was sidelined with a horrible cold. I had been fighting it the entire race weekend and it finally wiped me out. But I still felt so good. I was hardly sore at all, a testament to my laissez faire style of training 😉 I have another hundo coming up this winter and I know I’ll be ready. This time I won’t settle for anything less than a buckle! But even if I do fall short of my goal, I now know from experience that it will be an adventure of a lifetime with my peeps.

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Life is….

….unpredictable, to say the least.

Being a mom to 3 kiddos with special needs isn’t very conducive to 100 mile training. After an unexpected 9 day hospital stay for one kiddo last week and a hospital procedure tomorrow for another kiddo, training has been anything but consistent. Throw in the other extracurriculars and therapy appointments and the fact that I’m preparing to head back to work soon….well you get the idea.

Life has been overwhelming lately. It is now 10 days until I conquer my first 100 miler. 10 days, y’all!!!!

One thing I know for certain, though, is that I’m 100% mentally ready for this race. Physically, I also know I am capable. I just wish I could have carried out my training as I had originally intended.

I’m fighting some arch pain from a mild case of plantar fasciitis, so I’m taking it easy right now. More biking and weights, less running. I’ve been working diligently on stretching and strengthening my foot. I have faith that it’s going to be OK… or at least enough to get me through my 100 {this stretch above is so simple but works so well for stretching my feet!!}

It’s time to prep, rest, restore and just breathe. And eat 😉 Next post will be all about prep and supplies. 10 days!!!!!!!!

What training plan?!

Get ready to clutch your pearls….my first 100 miler is in 5 weeks and I don’t really have a “training plan” to follow.

I mean, I have an overall idea of how I want my training to look….but a plan? Nah.

Here’s the deal–after my 50 miler I had an epiphany of sorts. Now don’t get me wrong, I keep up with weekly mileage and vertical gain. In my mind I assess weekly volume and compare my long runs. But I don’t follow a prescribed plan. After my 50 miler I decided to change my approach a bit and I’m really excited about it.

My endurance is where it needs to be. I spent months and months building up a nice base. So far this year I have completed a couple of 50K’s and my first 50 miler. Note–this is not my first year of ultrarunning though! I’ve been completing ultras for a couple of years now and I’m slower than molasses… Just to give you an idea of what we’re dealing with. I don’t do crazy amounts of high mileage each week either. I know some people frown upon that, but you gotta do what works for you.

For this 100 miler I am choosing to focus now on learning to run better on tired legs. I have been simulating this by lifting heavy again on my lower body and then performing back to back long runs. I will be working on longer back to back runs before I begin to taper for the 100 miler. I’ve also been in the gym doing rowing, cycling and lifting as heavy as I can. Fatiguing my legs and then running on them as much as I can (while still preventing injury) has been my primary goal.

So far I feel great! I can tell that I am adjusting to running on tired legs. I recovered within just a few days from my 50 miler and I knew then that my endurance was where I wanted it to be. I just needed to work on fatiguing my legs more and more.

So if I had to sum up my so called non-training plan for this 100 miler, it would be as follows –

1. Focus on recovery

2. Run on tired legs

That’s it! The burning question is will this actually work out for me? Who knows! I’ll let you know in about five weeks or so 😁

Dam Yeti 50: not your typical race report

I want to start this post by saying I had an amazing race this past Saturday at the Dam Yeti 50 miler in Damascus, Virginia. This race is put on by the Yeti Trail Runners and is such an inclusive, fun and uplifting event!

Where: Damascus, VA along the Virginia Creeper Trail

When: June 2, 2018

Stats: 50 miles starting at the top of Mount Rogers National Recreation Area along the border of NC/VA …. follows the Virginia Creeper trail down to Damascus, into Abingdon and finishes back in Damascus. A mostly downhill race on beautiful, but non-technical trail.

Bottom Line: This race is a fun event that is perfect for your first 50 miler. There’s also a 50K as well!

Why did I say this is not your typical race report? Because I want to give you a story about the events that led up to this race for me. This is my first 50 miler and I’m just happy that I was able to finish. It was a long, hard road and I want to give you some insight into what this race meant for me. Because for me, the trail is therapy.

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It’s Tuesday before race day. I’m frantically chasing my special needs son down the road as he explodes into rage. Despite our best efforts to keep him safe, he is able to break through windows, maneuver through safety locks and alarms and burst out of the house in fits of rage looking for oncoming traffic to run into. It happens in the mere matter of seconds. Yes, this is the life of a child with significant needs. I won’t go into the specifics of his needs, but it is overwhelming to both him and us. My special needs son came to us at age 4 from a history of severe trauma, neglect and abuse. He suffers from the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome and many other disorders. As he becomes older, it is harder and harder to keep him safe. But this day ends happily, he is safe and changes are made to our safety plan. His team of professionals is made aware of the event and we are planning to meet with them first thing in the morning. For now we are staying out of the hospital.

But this night, I awake at 2 AM with the most horrible migraine I’ve ever had. I rise out of bed unable to breathe, my heart beating erratically, sweat dripping down my face while I shiver and try to figure out why my chest is in extreme agony. I pace the floor trying to breath… I am overcome with anxiety and panic… I crawl to the bathroom where I vomit and shake in the fetal position on the bathroom floor. This is my reality. Panic attacks that are triggered by the hard days of being a special-needs mom.

The next morning I awake and turn back on my “mom mode.” We meet with the doctors for my son, the day goes on and I prepare for my race.

Race weekend has arrived and we head off for Virginia. So far, things are fine and to my great relief, we are able to enjoy a nice family trip.

The months leading up to the race included a sprained ankle and two episodes of corneal abrasions. Despite my best effort to train, mom duties and injuries littered my journey. But I pressed on and made the best of it. I was just hoping to finish the race and that is all.

So on race day I channeled all the emotional and mental strength I had left and remembered that I had to run 50 freaking miles!! My family was there to cheer me on and seeing my special needs son happy gave me just the extra amount of energy I needed.

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Now for that race report!

We arrive for packet pick up and are greeted with a yeti party. The kids were excited to run around and splash in the creek. We then headed back to our hotel in Abingdon to get ready for the long day ahead.

Nervous at the start!

I brought along a friend for a little extra good luck…

This race is a fun one and the first 20 miles are all downhill! Heading down the Virginia creeper trail is gorgeous and you get to cross countless trestles. The trail is non-technical and easy to run, definitely different than what I am used to. Most of my races involve technical trail and lots of elevation gain. This was a great chance to just enjoy the run and the scenery. I also got to chat with new friends along the way.

I finally get to the turnaround spot around mile 35, and you gotta grab that horn or it doesn’t count 😉

I was so happy to get to that long awaited finish line in Damascus. By this time my legs were exhausted and screaming at me to stop. But I was all smiles as I get to hug Jason at the finish line and greet my family. After a rough few months of training, I was just in shock that I even finished. But most of all I was so damn proud of myself. I was proud of the strength I was able to gather up inside of me to push on and meet my goals. The stronger I become mentally on the trail, the stronger I am in every day life for my children.

So now we are back home, it is about 4 days post-race and I feel great. I hope to take a recovery run tonight. It’s been a stressful few days with one of my kiddos falling off the monkey bars and breaking his arm, and my special needs son having another episode. Working hard to get things straightened out and getting back on track for 100 mile training. Life is tough, but so are you. Here’s to more trail miles and finish lines in the days and months to come!

Coming down the mountain during the Dam Yeti 50 … rain, thunderstorms, sweat, a few tears and lots of smiles. Grateful that I get the chance to do this crazy ultrarunning thing. Someday my body will be done…. I want to make sure I have lots of stories to tell, not just things to show. Your body is capable of some amazing stuff. Don’t waste it.

Rest. Sleep. Eat.

My motto this week: rest, sleep, eat!!

I’m 4 days out from my first 50 miler. This week I’m refueling my body by focusing on non-running activities (hiking, climbing) and proper nutrition. I took a short run this past weekend and will probably loosen up my legs with another one tomorrow.

Tapering doesn’t have to make you crazy if you fill it with other fun activities! And sleep. I can’t overstate the value of true, quality rest. It always makes or breaks my ultra experience. Early to bed each night this week–no partying for this girl!

So what else do I usually do during the week when the countdown is on for a big race? Here’s a list…

• hydrate early and hydrate often

• make sure to eat extra antioxidant-rich foods, healthy fats, omega 3’s and complex carbs

• daily cbd oil, bone/joint supplements and turmeric

• sleep, sleep and more sleep

• foam rolling, yoga and light activity

• limit alcohol consumption

That’s it. It’s pretty simple and overall very similar to my normal routine. I used to not do anything in regards to preparing for a race… But when I took the time to properly rest and fuel, the difference was overwhelming. I’m not out there to win it–by any stretch of the imagination–but I am out there to enjoy myself. And I found that these simple little things can make my experience so much more enjoyable.

What do you do to prepare for a big race?!

Just truckin’ along….

Whew! Dam Yeti 50 miler is drawing closer. One more long solo run coming up and then a short taper before the big day. The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of distractions and injuries! But I’m still going to hold my head high and give it my all.

It wouldn’t be a good training run without my trail buddy and a minor sprained ankle….

Got a lot of time on my feet and even a run in while my son competed at Disney:

This week holds lots of treadmill running, strength training and a super duper long trail run this weekend. I’m working on getting acclimated to the heat and humidity and catching all the spiderwebs across my face. Happy hump day, y’all!

Inclusive Running: a run club for all

The human spirit is one of ability, perseverance and courage that no disability can steal away.

Years ago I was in the middle of a long run when suddenly I was struck by a question; why are there no run clubs or programs for individuals with special needs?

As a mom to a child with significant needs, I’m always on the lookout for programs that will provide exercise, social engagement and opportunities for accomplishment for my child. And I worry about adulthood–what will he do for fun, to stay active, to socialize?

And that’s when it hit me. Maybe I should be the one to do this…to create an inclusive run club that teaches others about the life long joy found in running with friends.

But I told myself I’m too busy. Three kids with special needs, teaching classes, training for ultras, running a household….when would I do it? Instead, I spent time volunteering in the special needs community when I could. I told myself that was enough.

Then last summer, my son participated in an adaptive triathlon through Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. He loved it so much–the joy, the pride–it was overwhelming! The first thing he asked when it was over is if he could do it again next week. That’s when I knew I had to make my dream into a plan.

But life happens. Hospital stays, doctor appointments, therapies and never ending obstacles riddle your life when parenting 3 kiddos with special needs. But again I was struck with a thought; how could I not want to give back to this sport that has literally saved my life? How could I put this off one more moment? Here is my chance to GIVE and share my gifts with others, so that they can, in time, do the same.

So here I am, bringing my dream into fruition. I have launched an inclusive running club in Nashville for ALL ages and ALL abilities. I have big plans for this group and I’m excited to see where we go from here!