Race Review: Relay #7 – Burning River 100 Miler 2018

Miscellaneous, Running

On Saturday I ran as part of a relay for the Burning River 100 mile endurance run.  Believe it or not there are souls that run the whole damn thing by themselves! (I am a crazy triathlete, but DO NOT sign me up to run 100 solo miles, ever.)

There are 8 relays and I ran #7…or also known as the PARTY RELAY!! (I think I just made that up, but #7 is known for its epicness, usually because most people run it at night.)

I would be running 16.1 miles through the trails of Cuyahoga Valley National Park…but here’s the kicker…I would start around midnight. Teams have 28 hours to cover the 100 mile distance. The teams are also responsible for figuring out the logistics of getting their runners to each of the starting and ending lines. (Some people run this as a FOUR person relay oppose to eight!!)

The first relay started early and I was in a group text all day getting updates from all the runners — even the ones running! It was SO MUCH FUN!! The team was so positive and I couldn’t wait for my turn and to experience it. I had never even met my teammates in person either until race day (and never even met a few in person due to timing.) Yet another reason why I love the running and endurance community!

So much positivity and good vibes!

I didn’t end up starting my relay until 1:10AM and I finished slightly before 5AM.

IT WAS EPIC.

Waiting to start my relay at Pine Hollows. They had a big screen playing a movie for the spectators and relay runners — so fun!! I was shocked by how many people were sitting at the relay zones/aid stations.

In a nutshell basically this race/relay was kind of my own personal nightmare, but it was also incredible. Running alone in the woods in the pitch black at night. (Think: Blair Witch Project.) I mean I saw numerous runners out there at different points, but it was not like your typical race where you are always surrounded. I would go 10 or 15 minutes without seeing ANYONE. Sometimes this freaked me out to the point where I was desperately praying to see a headlamp of another runner in front of me.

Meeting up with my teammate who ran Relay #6, Kristin.

Since I knew my relay was going to be in the middle of the night I opted for a headlamp and one of my teammates had suggested Christmas lights on my camel back. The lights were such a hit and people were wishing me a Merry Christmas and calling me a Christmas tree LOL. I’m glad I added these because at the last minute I was debating it. It not only helped runner moral, but it helped me to see!!

Let’s just talk about the darkness for a minute… Pitch black. Like to the point where my headlamp battery died (thankfully I had another with me) and when I changed it, my Christmas lights weren’t even providing me sight coverage in front of me. It was wild. We were in the middle of the freaking woods in the middle of the freaking night. I kept laughing out loud as I ran like how did I get here and what on earth am I doing?? It felt like a dream because I had tunnel vision from my headlamp illuminating the path directly ahead of me. Why would I sign up to run 16.1 of trails in the middle of the night?? But I had THE TIME OF MY LIFE YOU GUYS. So much fun!

We climbed up hillsides and rocks. Jumped over mud pits, rivers and trees. We dodged pricker bushes and rooted trails. I saw and heard people falling, but some how I managed to only trip violently, always catching myself before hitting the ground.

I met so many hilarious people who were so incredible — many who were between miles 70 and 80 of a 100 mile solo race. Some were in good spirits, some wanted to chat, some didn’t say anything and I could tell they were fighting dark mental places of despair. I tried offering encouraging words and prayed for everyone I saw. Going into this relay I had no idea just how ridiculous, amazing and CRAZY this entire race was.

This might have been crazier than even my full Ironman — we’re talking that epic. One of my friends who had run relay #7 before even went so far as to call it “spiritual” . You see the world and yourself in a whole new way. Even with the Ironman I wasn’t running in the pitch black alone, in the woods, at 3AM.

Around mile 14 I had been running alone for quite some time and was starting to climb up a giant hill. Suddenly I heard what sounded like sirens…until I heard the other “dogs” start chiming in with these “sirens” AKA howling…it was a pack of wild coyotes. And judging by how loud they were they must have been close by and it sounded like A LOT of them. I felt panic and fear in my chest and I started sprinting — looking for any sight of headlamps around me. I just wanted to be near someone else because I was so scared. I saw a faint light somewhere a head of me and ran as fast as I could to a girl slowly running the trail. (I felt like I wanted to puke from sprinting the hill), but when she saw me she looked just as scared “DID YOU HEAR THAT?” She asked me. And I explained how scared I was too. We continued on together for the next mile or so, but were were very skid-ish and jumpy. I even took out my mace! We eventually split off, but not first without making the “we’re not out of the woods yet” joke as we promised not to get eaten by coyotes. (Girl was running the 50-miler! Bad ass!)

A few times the wooded trail would open up into a field and the full moon was brilliant, casting an eerie but beautiful glow all around me. Moments like that took my breathe away as I realized just how incredible this entire experience was. I crossed over fields with fog rising and the stars were so clear and vivid. I was speechless at the beauty around me. I knew that not many people got to experience moments like that and I felt so grateful to be one of the lucky few.

Somehow I managed to make it to mile 16.1 and I met my relay exchange teammate, Cohen. She was bringing it home running the last 10 miles to the finish.

I tried to eat something before making the hour drive home, but I had no appetite. I pulled into our driveway at 6AM and felt like I was drunk, but really I was just exhausted and in awe of the entire experience.

What an epic adventure with incredible people. I love being a part of something much bigger than myself.

 

Portage Lakes Triathlon 2014

Miscellaneous, Running

Welp. I did it again. I conquered a terrifying swim and finished it with a bike ride and then a run. This past weekend was the 2014 Portage Lakes Triathlon in Akron and I competed in the sprint distance – 1/2 mile swim, 13.1 mile bike, 5K.

Like many other triathletes, the swim was the most terrifying part for me. The entire race got postponed 30 minutes because fog had taken over the swim course and you could barely see the first buoy. The sky was overcast with dark clouds and it was only 48 degrees, however the lake was a warm 70 degrees. It actually felt better to get in the water than to just stand around shivering on the beach waiting for the start (which of course didn’t help my nerves).

Fog covered the entire swim course.

Fog covered the entire swim course.

Around 8 AM the fog began to clear and the first wave of the mini triathlon went. I kept hinting to the fiancé that a “mini” might be good for his first triathlon race. He has terrible knees issues, but kept complaining that he wanted to be out there competing the entire time.

The race had a beach start (different from my first race in that we started already in the water and there was far less panic and splashing going on). I was  near the front because I told myself that I needed to be more aggressive. The siren went off and basically all hell broke loose. I fought to keep my spot as we bounded toward the water, arms and legs splashing everywhere. I got hit in the head and back a couple times and did my fair share of hitting too. The first couple times I accidentally hit someone I stopped to scream “Sorry!” but then realized it was slowing me down and wasting my energy. It was still considerably crowded by the time we hit the first buoy, but then we had another problem…seaweed. Now I wouldn’t consider myself a girly girl who is terrified of unnecessary things, however this seaweed freaked me out! I later told my fiancé that it felt like a movie or video game because it felt like the seaweed was wrapping itself around my arms and legs and I couldn’t get away from it. The more I panicked about it, the more I began to sink. I tried treading water, but of course I was STILL over the stupid seaweed. I flipped over on my back for a brief second and out loud I said “CALM DOWN. YOU’RE FINE. RELAX.” At the time I didn’t care how crazy I sounded talking to myself because it began to work. I flipped over and put my head in the water, telling myself that I just needed to get around the buoy and everything would be better. And it was. Around the first turned it cleared up, the seaweed was gone and I found my stride. I began to make a rhythm in my head from my stroke (something I did my first race) and it gave me something to focus on. “Arm-Arm-Leg-Leg.” Around sixteen minutes later I was out of the water – and incredibly happy to be done with it!

The bike course was beautiful and I would have liked to just cruise and take in the scenery, but I kept telling myself “No this is a race.” During my last triathlon, I felt like I was taking a casual bike ride and kept forgetting I was “competing”. Not this race. I hit the ground running (well, biking), powering down the open road and giving it my all on hills – which can I say – the hills were UNREAL on this course. Another runner told me that the course was hilly, but good Lord! By about the 8th hill I groaned out loud “COME ON” (since there was no one around me at that point). The bike course took me way longer than I had anticipated and I got to T2 already disappointed with my time. I forced myself to keep going. I normally run a 5K around 25 minutes, but because of the hills I cramped up around mile 2 and finished the run in a stupid 31 minutes. I met a really nice runner on the trails though and we ran together for a good chunk of it. Sometimes that’s all it takes to push you and I think that if I had still been running alone I would have been even longer on the run.

portage-lakes-2

The straight away into the finish was glorious because my whole body hurt and I was fighting a major leg cramp. I honestly couldn’t wait to be done! There was another woman a little ways ahead of me and when I saw my family standing there cheering for me, I made up my mind that I was going to pass her (mainly because she looked like she could have been in my age group!) The girl’s family was standing close by mine and both parties started screaming loudly as I came sprinting up behind her. The girl’s family was screaming “Hurry up she’s going to pass you!!” and my family was egging me on. I did end up passing her by just a hair at the finish line and the announcer said into the microphone “Don’t worry you guys aren’t in the same age group!” It was actually really funny and the girl and I laughed about it afterwards.

portage-lakes-3
I had terrible leg and stomach cramps for about an hour after the race. Not sure if it was my nutrition (I may have had a few beers at a friends house the night before) or if it was just a challenging course. I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed with my time, but I tried telling myself that this is only my second triathlon and I’m still just a rookie. I actually PR’ed my swim time on this race though, finishing in 16:41. (I was 17 something at my first race.) I still need to work on my transitions though. It took me almost 4 minutes in T1 and almost two minutes in T2. T2 should only take me about 30 seconds! I’m not sure what I was even doing. Watching TV? Painting my nails? Seriously though, my time was ridiculous.

So that’s the wrap on triathlons for 2014 – one indoor race and two outdoor sprints. I’m already thinking about doing an Olympic distance at some point next summer. I think it might be my goal to compete in 3 triathlons during the season. I’ve also decided that this winter I am investing in a wetsuit and I’ve made it my goal to join Cleveland Triathlon Club in the spring. I only want to get better and more into this sport so I have to get out of my comfort zone. Another goal for next summer – find someone to race with! The friends I’ve asked all basically said “Hell No.”  I can only image racing along side someone would help, however I’d never be one not to do something because I was afraid to do it alone. (Stay tuned for finding a racing partner.) Next race is my absolute favorite of the ENTIRE season – The 2014 Akron Marathon on September 27! I feel like it’s soon going to be Christmas morning soon. And don’t worry, I have one of my best friends to run this race with 🙂

portage-lakes-1

Biathlon (Run + Bike) Registration Give-a-Way!

Miscellaneous, Running

DRAWING UPDATE – The winner is Dave Marsi!

Time to celebrate summer! I’m giving away one FREE registration for the 2014 Bellefaire JCB Biathlon & Walk on Sunday, August 24! If you are looking for a perfect, end-of-summer race then you won’t want to miss this one in Shaker Heights!

Photo courtesy of Bellefaire JCB.
(Photo courtesy of Bellefaire JCB.)

The biathlon includes a fast, flat 3-mile run, followed by a mostly flat 12-mile bike ride. The transition area is simple and perfect for runners looking to make the transition to multi-sport events. I ran this race in 2013 and it was my first glimpse into the world of competitive biking. I was THRILLED to place first in my age group last year! (There is also a two-mile fun run and walk that takes walkers through the beautiful streets of Shaker Heights and University Heights.)

Photo courtesy of Bellefaire JCB.
(Photo courtesy of Bellefaire JCB.)

Not only is this a dual event, but the post race picnic afterwards is awesome. Forget just water and a free banana (although I’m sure they will have some) this event boasts a huge selection of food and fun afterwards. Sloppy joes, donuts, cookies, an assortment of fruit, pastas, juices and more! There will also be children’s activities and ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s. Be sure to bring your family members!

This race offers more than just a traditional 5K and the route is scenic and beautiful, PLUS proceeds go to a good cause. I loved this event last year because I convinced the fiancé to do it  (he runs only a select few with me) and the weather was absolutely gorgeous. If you know anything about me you’ll already know that I adore the month of August. For some reason I just love the dog days of summer, so adding this awesome race to the end of August fits perfectly!

bi-couple-2013
(A photo from last year’s race.)

Free registration is a $50 value; however proceeds for the event go back to Bellefaire JCB. Bellefaire JCB is among the nation’s largest, most experienced child welfare agencies. The organization helps more than 21,700 youth and their families achieve resiliency, dignity and self-sufficiency through its more than 25 programs. This race also offers sponsorship and fundraising opportunities for this great cause.

To enter the drawing for one free registration for either the walk or biathlon, please leave me a comment by Wednesday, August 13 telling me how old you were when you first learned to ride a bike OR comment about another fun race that you already ran or are planning to run this summer. (Winner will be chosen using Random.org by Friday, August 15.) 

Run brag! My medal from last year's race.
(Run brag! My medal from last year’s race.)

Training Season

Miscellaneous, Running

I love August.

Honestly it might be one of my favorite months. I don’t know what exactly it is, but I’ve always loved the end of summer. Don’t get me wrong, the start of summer is incredible and filled with anticipation of so many events and activities, but the end of summer has a different vibe. The end of summer usually means being in top physical shape for us runners. After training all summer, the end of August should be your peak performance state. You should also be your tannest and happiest considering you just spent the last three months enjoying flowers and fresh air rather than dragging yourself through snow and slush! There’s just something about knowing you had an amazing summer behind you, but also knowing that there is still some more amazingness to squeeze out before autumn closes in. I always loved feeling the rush of the last few days of summer break before returning to school. Like in college when you spent all summer at home and then suddenly you got to pack up all your stuff and head back to have fun at school. The excitement, the nerves, the newness and the warmth of the summer encompasses everything.

For me now-a-days, the end of summer and watching it fade into fall means that the Akron Marathon is closing in. I’m so excited I get giddy just thinking about it. Last year I ran Akron as my first full marathon. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it changed my life. No other memory can give me goose bumps and chills the way thinking about the Akron Marathon does. I loved every single beautiful, painful second of that experience, and I know only other marathon runners can relate to those feelings.  I’ve been doing my long runs on Saturday mornings and there’s nothing like waking up early, excited to run 15 miles. I guess that’s why they call runners crazy. I know I’m not alone in feeling like this though and I can’t wait to be around thousands of other people who felt the same way all those Saturday mornings during training. Running a marathon is an experience like no other and I absolutely cannot wait to get out there on the blue line again in 56 days.

August also means competing in the Bellefaire JCB Biathlon again. It’s a charity ride featuring a fast, flat 5K and then a 13 mile bike ride. Last year I won my age group and it was my first glimpse into the world of competitive biking. Speaking of bikes, I bought an amazing, fast touring bike from a fellow biker in Chardon about a month ago. I have yet to get clip in shoes yet though, so stay tuned for that. (I have visions of myself toppling over and unable to get my feet off the pedals.) I’ve taken the bike out on quite a few rides and every single time I’ve come back thinking “Wow that was fun!” Best feeling ever.

touring-bike
As if training for a full marathon and biathlon weren’t enough, I also signed up for my second triathlon in September. I’ll be competing in the Portage Lakes Sprint Triathlon in Akron on September 14. Yep – then two weeks later I’ll be back in Akron again, but this time running 26.2 miles. With that being said, other athletes can image and appreciate my intense training schedule. Most weeks I train 6 days a week, forcing myself to take a rest days on Sundays after my weekly long run. Sometimes I’ll cave and do a quick bike ride though. My diet and nutrition have been on point as well. Nothing is worse than eating a ton of pizza for dinner and then waking up early to get in a workout (especially a pool workout) and having that greasy pizza sitting on top of your stomach. It’s bloat city. I used to be naive and think that nutrition had nothing to do with athletic performance. (Yes I’ve now learned that lesson the painful way.) It’s still frustrating to me though when we are out at a bar on Friday night and my friends are drinking beer and eating burgers and I’m sipping on some water. Then someone makes some comment “Are you dieting? Why aren’t you eating!? Are you trying to lose weight?!” And I have to explain that I need to do a brick workout in the morning, AKA bike 10 miles and then run 5 miles and being even slightly dehydrated from drinking or bloated from eating a greasy burger just isn’t going to cut it. I constantly have to remind myself that not everyone understands the journey and that it’s OK because they don’t need to understand it.

So basically I meal prep almost everything I eat during the week. It keeps me on point and never in a position where I have to stop and get fast food. It’s a challenge, but then again this entire journey of training for 535263 events has been a challenge, but one that I wouldn’t give up for anything.

meal-prep-july
I only ran one race in July, which was a quick 5-miler in Painesville called the Johnnycake Jog. It was strange to only run one race last month though  because I ran a ton in June.

johnny-cake-jog-2014
Even though training is at an all time high, we still found time to squeeze in our engagement pictures last week. Here’s a sneak peek.

PS. Just looking at these  I cannot stop smiling – we are so excited for NEXT August. Yes, we are even getting married in my favorite month 🙂

kiss-path-engagement
engagement-picture-jump-flowers
us-looking-bench
Keep running!

Sponsoring Races: a PR approach

Miscellaneous, Running

I’m running the Black Squirrel 5K on Saturday in Kent, Ohio. More info about the race can be found here.

As I prepare for the race, I started thinking about the companies and organizations that sponsor races, whether they are 5K’s, 10K’s, full marathons or half’s. Not only do main company’s sponsor full races, but think of all the gift bags and free stuff (YES!) that you get post race most time.

Cleveland Marathon 2010

Cleveland Marathon 2010

I’ve received everything from free T-shirts and ID tags, to free four packs of Muscle Milk, water bottles and free food samples. A lot of time coupons are often stuffed into these “runners swag bag” as one race I ran in June called it.

What are some of the best, worse and even weirdest things you’ve gotten for free after running a race?

As I was saying, why do companies and organizations choose to sponsor races and give out free things?

Of course the most obvious reason – it get’s the company’s name out there. It’s all about the prospect to sell more products. For giving out free things, there’s hopefully a return in getting new customers and sales. Companies sponsor races out of advertising budgets because that’s just what it is, advertising to potential consumers.

Companies want you to sponsor them in the best possible light – I think there is a certain special relationship between sponsors and runners because runners are so passionate about what they do. It’s like tapping into a new consumer demographic.

Sponsoring a race or marathon is great PR for a company or organization, it can show a different side to what one normally see’s in a company.

Dick’s Sporting Goods sponsors the Pittsburgh Marathon (which I’ve always secretly wanted to run even though I hate Pittsburgh with a passion.) Rite Aide sponsors the Cleveland Marathon (which I also want to run if I can whip my butt into shape by then – hey I’m working on it and alright, alright, the half is probably going to be more realistic for me as of right now since there’s only 46 days left ’til race day.)

Sponsorship of race by Rite Aid

Sponsorship of race by Rite Aid

Also the famous Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure organization is another huge sponsor of races and charities. Next time you find yourself in the grocery store take a look at all the pink labels that certain foods like Cambell’s and Yoplait sponsor in turning labeling pink for a certain amount of time.

Take a look at the hugely impressive list of corporate sponsors for Susan G. Komen here. If that doesn’t say good things about a company or organization then I don’t know what does. There’s a certain level of respect and generosity that comes to a company the sponsors races. The company can really benefit from this in the eyes of the community.

As an inspiring PR pro, I want to be a part of a company or organization that sponsors some sort of charity race. Nothing feels better then raising money and trying to help those in need and all companies and organization should strive to try and make that a part of the business’s plan and moral.