Monday, November 6, 2017

THE ULTRA New Year's Resolution 2014-2017

Every year on New Year's Day, I make a list of resolutions.  I try to keep them simple:  read a book/month, smile more each day, or teach Carson how to write an essay!  I don't like to set myself up for failure, so I try to make my goals achievable.  Unfortunately, there has been one "elusive dream" that I have written down each January 1st and chased for four straight years:  to run an ultra marathon.

An ultra marathon is any race longer than the classic marathon distance of 26.2 miles.  For some strange reason, I decided four years ago that I wanted to complete an ultra.  So . . .  I made the same New Year's Resolution (4 years in a row). I bought books on how to prepare for an ultra.  I followed runners on Instagram that run ultras.  I browsed the Internet looking for an ultra race that would fit into my family's life and my running schedule.  I never found the "perfect" race, so I never signed up, I never trained, and I never checked off my New Year's Resolution.  Finally, this summer I decided that enough was enough.  I was FINALLY going to JUST DO IT!  So . . . I looked up ultra races offered for Fall 2017, and I found it!  An ultra race that was not all trail.  An ultra race that was close to home.   An ultra race that offered a 50k (31.0686 miles).  An ultra race that had beautiful scenery.  It was the ORRC Autumn Leaves 50/50:  a 50k and 50 mile race held in Champoeg State Park along the Willamette River.  I signed up, paid, wrote up a training plan, and started to run!

The course for Autumn Leaves is a 10k loop made up of 80% paved bike paths and 20% single dirt track.  For the 50k, I knew I'd need to complete 5 loops of the course.  (The 50 milers have to run 8 loops.) I was a little bit nervous about how I'd handle the repeated loops both mentally and physically. **I ended up LOVING the course!  I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to run an ultra.

I put in all the training over the next four months:  long runs, speed workouts, trail runs.  In the end, I knew I'd done all of the work, but my main concern was still how my stomach would handle the mileage of a 50k.  Would I fuel correctly?  Would I be racing from porta potty to porta potty for 31 miles?  Would I be able to enjoy the race or merely have to endure it?

Warning: Don't read the following paragraph unless you are a 40+ year old female runner that doesn't mind TMI! *Unfortunately, I found out that Aunt Flo was going to come visit the morning of the race.  This caused me even more angst.  What was going to happen on the course?! I reached out to a running buddy that gave me some great advice:  take Imodium!

So . . . the week before Autumn Leaves, I made my final preparations:  I tapered, I bought a new race "robe" for inspiration, I bought a banana for my pre race fuel, I bought 7 GUs for fuel, I bought a new pair of Saucony Kinvaras to run in (Note: You should NEVER wear a new pair of shoes on race day!  Luckily, it worked out this time!), and I bought a package of Imodium.

Race day morning:  I woke up at 3 am, ate my waffles, prepped, and left for Champoeg (pronounced sham-POO-ee) at 4 am.  Does anyone else notice the irony in the pronunciation?!  Ha!

When I arrived at the State Park, I was greeted by the cheeriest volunteer, Kelly, whom I'd met at a previous race.  Sweetest girl ever!  She pointed me in the right direction, and I was off to packet pickup.   P.S.  Kelly is pictured in her amazing cat tights below with the awesome race directors, Bret and Gail.

Next stop:  the porta potties!  Autumn Leaves has the COOLEST tradition ever!  Ever person that registers for the race by a certain date gets his/her name entered into a drawing to win a personal porta potty that can be used ONLY BY THAT PERSON before, during, and after the race!  It would be my dream come true to win my own personal porta potty.  Although I didn't win this year (because I registered too late), I did get to meet one of the winners, Karey, and got a tour of her porta potty.  Her name was posted on the outside, and the inside was fully decorated with lights, candles, and streamers.  BEST PRIZE EVER!!!

After I toured Karey's porta potty, I stood by the fire to warm up, watched the 50 milers cross the starting line at 6 am, and headed back to my car to do my final fuel up before the race.  I ate my banana, took 3 Imodium (crossed my fingers), took off my Poo Emoji "robe," and headed back to the starting line. I was excited to see Jerry, an amazing runner I'd met previously at the Portland Marathon Training Clinic.  The seconds ticked down, and the race began!

I started the race wearing a long sleeved shirt and a wrist light.  It was cool and still dark outside.  I ran beside/behind Jerry during that first loop.  He was talking easily, and I was gasping for air.  I always really struggle at the beginning to get my breathing under control.  I tried to stay with him.  Jerry knew a lot of people on the course: both runners and volunteers.  Hearing his cheery, "Hello!" to fellow runners and friends made the time fly by for me.  When we got to the turnaround point around the 3 mile mark, I was still trying to hang with him.  We ran another mile and a half when we hit the single, dirt track.  This was the part I was dreading.  I was really nervous about how my legs were going to function on the trail.  We ran along the path.  It was absolutely gorgeous.

The fog was lifting over the fields, the leaves and ground were covered with autumn leaves, there were some small hills, and then we popped back out onto the pavement and headed back to the starting line.  Loop 1 was done!

I dropped my light and long sleeved shirt, took a GU, and headed out for the next loop!

During Loop 2, I tried to keep Jerry in my sights.  He was so inspiring! He continued to talk to runners on the path.  We saw some amazing costumes.  It was fun to see all the runners multiple times throughout the race as we passed each other going back and forth through the loops.  Everyone cheered each other on.  The comaraderie amongst the runners was top notch!

I'm like Gargamel in this photo!

I really enjoyed the 2nd loop!  I looked around and really soaked in the beauty of the park.

I started to fade a bit every time I hit the trails.  I tried to keep Jerry in my sights, but as you can see here, I started to slow a bit.  I kept on running though.

The bridge was a fun part of the loop.  We had to run over it to head to the 3 mile turn around, and then we ran across it again on our way back to the start.  I saw some more fabulous costumes.  I saw Wonder Woman on each loop!

Loop 3 was tough for me!  I think it was at the end of this loop that I saw my friend, Teresa, cheering me on.  I was so happy to see her.  I yelled, "Are you going to run with me on the last loop?!" I ran the fourth loop knowing that I was going to have company soon.  I pushed through. As I crossed the starting line, I thought, "Four!  One More!"  I saw Teresa up ahead.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  I knew she would talk me through this final six miles.  I was able to introduce Teresa to Jerry, but then I started to fade.  Jerry pulled ahead.  It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other.  Teresa was fabulous and chatted as we ran along.

I knew that I just had to make it through the trail section one last time.  I just kept chanting to myself, "You can do hard things!"  I also kept thinking about pizza!

Teresa ran ahead of me through the trails.  I willed my body to keep running and try to catch her.  She cheered me on until the end of the trails, took my picture, and headed up to meet me at the finish line.  My feet hit the pavement, and I made my way towards the finale!

I cannot begin to explain how I felt when my feet crossed the finish line.  I was laughing, and I was crying.  I couldn't believe that I had FINALLY finished my resolution from years ago.

I am so grateful that Teresa showed up to cheer me on and run me into the finish of this race.  She was my angel!

I smelled so bad at the end of the race that I crouched down hoping that the race directors couldn't smell me as much!

In the end, I dressed like the Poo Emoji, but I didn't have to stop once to use the porta potty!  It was an Imodium miracle!  I was able to cross the finish line as first female with a finish time of 4:05:47.  Moral of the story:  NEVER give up on your goals.  Sometimes it takes YEARS to achieve what we set out to do, but it WILL happen in the end.  One step at a time.

Thoughts after the race:

"What just happened?"

"Ready for a cool down mile!" Ha!

"Jerry rocks!"

My favorite after race snack!

I met the sweetest girl with the cutest signs.  She was there cheering on her friend who was running the 50 miler.  I got to pose for some pictures with her and her signs!

This was my favorite!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

BORING thoughts by Vanessa Heber

I finally ran in a BORING Marathon, but this race was anything but dull.  I think I've run somewhere between 30 and 35 marathons so far (I need to go do an accurate count), and this race definitely ranks at the very top!  I've thought all week about why I enjoyed this race so much, and here is what I came up with.  The Boring Marathon has the  . . .

Best Race Directors
Mike and Carissa Strobel truly care about making this race a wonderful experience for the runners. They spend countless hours working on details to make sure the race runs smoothly.  They are amazing!
Outstanding Organization
Packet pickup was super smooth, runners were well informed with race details, the race started at 6:30 am on the dot, all the aid stations were well stocked, there were no issues knowing which direction to run even though there were right and left turns and out and backs in the race, and there were plenty of porta potties! I had zero complaints about this race!
Rad Course with a Rad Name
There is something for everyone:  downhill, uphill, out and backs, and neighborhoods.  The course was challenging but also offered relief at just the right moments!  And . . . who wouldn't want to run a race with such a BORING name?!
Inspiring Cause
The registration fees, sponsorship, or donations first cover the costs for the race, but the rest of the money goes straight to the Sam Barlow High School Track and Cross Country Teams and the West Orient Middle School Track team.  The race directors' goal is to help build "the next generation of runners." I love that running in this race helps young runners learn a lifelong skill.
Nicest Volunteers and Cheering Sections I've Ever Witnessed During a Marathon
The number of people that volunteer their time to support the runners for this race is huge:  Eastwind Running Endurance members, other runners from nearby cities, the Boring community, cross country runners from junior high and high schools, and family members and friends of runners.  I was taken care of from the moment I arrived at the race:  bag check by Joy and Janet, pictures by Millie, a welcome from Mike, one of the race directors, and awesome volunteers who helped direct me to parking.  The support at the aid stations was TOP NOTCH.  Volunteers and bystanders cheered on each and every runner and directed us along the entire course.  It felt like each aid station was filled with friends and family that wanted each runner to do their best. AMAZING!
Great Swag Bag
Loved the Boring shirt, Boring glass, Boring soap, free GU . . . Seriously, the coolest bag!
Plus, this race has a mascot: a goat!  There are real live goats at the finish line!

More BORING thoughts from Vanessa Heber . . .

If I haven't convinced you to run this race yet, let me give you some more details of my personal experience in this BORING race.  I woke up at 3 am to prepare.  I actually have a pretty long "to do" list on race mornings:  take thyroid meds, get dressed, put on race bib, go to the bathroom, eat breakfast, go to the bathroom, count GUs, make sure music and race drinks are packed and ready to go, go to the bathroom again . . .  and finally, I left the house at 4:30 am and headed to the starting line.

When I arrived at 5:00 am wearing my purple bathrobe, there were volunteers that quickly directed me to my parking spot and then to the fresh, clean porta potties.  Somehow my purple robe has survived multiple races (I think it is too ugly for anyone to want to steal).  I'm pretty sure a few of the runners thought I was homeless as I headed towards the porta potties in the pitch black morning in my bathrobe.

I was thrilled to find a bag check where Joy and Janet promised they'd store my purple robe until after the marathon.  What great friends!

I also found my friend, Teresa, at the bag check.  She informed me that I would be running past a "porta potty" during the race that was JUST FOR ME!  There was even a fresh roll of toilet paper just for my use!  I felt like royalty!

Teresa and I found Mike, one of the AMAZING race directors, and took a picture with him.  I can't reiterate enough how much work he and his awesome wife put into directing this race.

Mike started the race at 6:30 on the dot with a "toot" from an Oscar Mayer Wiener Whistle.  And . . . we were off!

I knew the first half of the race would be faster than the second for me because of how the course is set up.  I decided to try to hold somewhere between a 7:00-7:15 min/mile pace for the first half.  I didn't really have a plan after that.  Here's the breakdown of my pace and fuel for the first 13 miles:

Mile 1 - 7:16                           Mile 8 - 7:04
Mile 2 - 7:00                           Mile 9 - 7:09 (2nd GU)
Mile 3 - 7:03                           Mile 10 - 7:19
Mile 4 - 7:23                           Mile 11 - 7:12
Mile 5 - 7:03 (1st GU)            Mile 12 - 7:25
Mile 6 - 7:01                           Mile 13 - 7:19 (3rd GU)
Mile 7 - 7:01

The first 8 miles were amazing.  The volunteers on the course were awesome.  Each and every one cheered me on when I passed.  So motivating!  I got to see Millie on the course taking pictures too! There were lots of twists and turns through some neighborhoods, but there were volunteers at every turn directing me where to go.  Amazing volunteers!  In fact, I felt really good until about Mile 9 when my stomach didn't handle the 2nd GU.  Enough said.  Use your imagination.

Then around Mile 10, 11 or 12 a girl came FLYING past me.  She turned her head as she ran past and said, "Don't worry, I'm not really running in the race.  I'm just out for a training run!"  She was wearing a race bib, so I thought maybe she was telling me a fib just to make me feel better about being passed. I tried to keep her in my sights.

At about Mile 13ish, there was a turn around point with a green pole in the middle of the path.  I grabbed the pole for luck as I went around it, and it fell over with a clunk onto the path. The security guards standing nearby got a good chuckle out of that one.  My body was feeling like the pole.  I could tell I was out of energy, and that I might start falling apart.  I slowed down and smiling got more difficult.
Suddenly, an angel named Steven Woodley, showed up just when I needed motivation to finish.  I had run with Steven once before and had also seen him before the start of the race.  He is an amazing runner who was just out doing a training run on the race course and cheering on friends that were racing.  He said, "Vanessa, you've got this!  I'm going to run with you for awhile."  Steven literally talked me through the next 5 or 6 miles.  I kept complaining about how much I was hurting, and he just kept telling me I could do it!  He ran right in front of me, and I just tried to keep up.

I ran back through the neighborhood section on my own, talking myself through the miles.  When I ran out of the neighborhoods, down the hill, and back to the trail, I almost started crying when I saw Steven waiting to run the last 3-4 miles with me.  Such a blessing.  I kept saying, "Is there anyone behind me?" and Steven would reply, "No, Vanessa.  Just keep running. You are doing great!"  I think I asked him the same question 25 times.  On the way towards the finish line, I saw Chris, Teresa, and Rachel.  They were just the boost I needed to finish strong.

Here's the breakdown of my pace and fuel for the last 13 miles:

Mile 14 - 7:34                           Mile 21 - 8:11 (5th GU)
Mile 15 - 7:36                           Mile 22 - 7:48
Mile 16 - 7:37                           Mile 23 - 8:03
Mile 17 - 7:47 (4th GU)           Mile 24 - 8:21
Mile 18 - 7:42                           Mile 25 - 8:27
Mile 19 - 7:46                           Mile 26 - 8:07
Mile 20 - 8:02                           last .2 - delirious
Finish time on my watch: 3:17:28 Average pace: 7:34

When I looked towards the finish line and saw the pink tape stretched across, my first thought was, "That girl that sprinted past me was telling the truth! She wasn't in the race!"  What?!  I couldn't believe I was going to be the first woman to cross the finish line of the 2017 BORING Marathon! It was a truly incredible feeling running through that piece of pink plastic.  It was exhilarating.  It was gratifying.  It was truly a team effort to get across that line.  The people that directed the marathon, the people that volunteered, the people that cheered, and the people that ran, all felt like a giant supportive family.  Thanks to everyone who made this race so awesomely BORING!

Some more BORING moments I don't want to forget!

I got to train in the mornings with Claudia and Matt who completely rocked their first marathons! So proud of them!

Teresa FLEW through the 1/2 Marathon course!  She is a rockstar!

So lucky to have running friends that stick by me, no matter what I smell like! Life is never BORING!

Friday, May 12, 2017

She's a True Aggie Now!

Last Friday we loaded up the car for a quick road trip. Destination: Logan, Utah! During the drive, Carson watched the entire first season of Stranger Things, and I enjoyed a much needed nap(s). I packed a lunch and lots of snacks, so we were able to make it to Logan in record time!
When we arrived, we were greeted with lots of hugs from Cali and Jake!  They gave us a tour of Utah State.  We got to see the Art Building where Cali has studied 24/7 for the past four years. The grounds of the campus are gorgeous and surrounded by mountains.  We loved it.  Nyah REALLY loved it.  I think she may follow in Cali's footsteps and go to Logan for school.  Side note:  I tried to get Aaron to kiss me on top of the giant "A" on campus, but he said that would be way too awkward. 
Jake showed us the couch where he takes naps in between classes.  It was very comfy.
The next morning, Cali drove me up to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and dropped me off.  From there I ran six miles back to the hotel.  The sun was out, I was surrounded by mountains, and my route went right past the LDS Logan Temple.  It was a beautiful sight sitting up on the hill. 
When I got back to the hotel, we all got dressed for Cali's graduation and had some fun "borrowing" Cali's cap and gown.
The boys were tired of all the picture taking, so the girls heading outdoors for some selfies and more pre graduation pictures.  I love to see how much these girls love each other.
Guess who pulled into the parking lot during our picture taking?! None other than Grandpa Markie, Grandma Joannie, and Josh!  It was a joyous reunion with lots of hugs and more picture taking. My dad's car was filled with coolers that my mom and dad had filled with all the supplies needed for the picnic we'd planned for after graduation:  salads, veggies, a cake, soda, fruit, ice . . . My parents are an amazing support to me.  Boy do I miss them.
Next, we headed to campus for graduation.  It was surreal seeing Cali in her cap and gown.  She looked so beautiful and happy. Side note:  Carson and Josh snuck some macaroons from another college's ceremony to tide them over until after Cali's graduation.
As Cali marched in with her class from Caine College of the Arts, the bagpipes played some joyous tunes.  I'm not going to lie.  There were a few tears!
When Cali walked up to receive her diploma, the Dean of the Art College shook her hand and whispered, "You have quite the entourage here with you today!" He must have seen us all screaming and jumping up and down.
After the ceremony, I caught this photo of Grandpa David hugging Cali.  This picture is a keeper!
We enjoyed some Aggie ice cream after the ceremony and got the chance to meet Cali's Art History professor.  She was the sweetest person and raved about Cali.  
We saw on the weather app that some rain showers were heading our way, so we hustled outside to get pictures of Cali's entire entourage!  Now that we live in Oregon, we bring rain with us wherever we go!

Jake's parents, Don and Donna, came to support Cali at graduation.  I was so happy to finally get the chance to meet them.  Cali has told me WONDERFUL things about both of them, and she was absolutely right.  They are absolutely amazing and so supportive of Cali.  
Grandma Sue and Grandpa David drove all the way from California to celebrate with Cali.  They have been such supportive grandparents to her during her college experience.  They both looked AMAZING!
Aunt Kaylyn, Riley, and Wrigley drove up from Springville to spend the day with us.  They all looked GORGEOUS!  I was so happy to get to hold my new nephew.
Dad, Mom, and Josh were ROCKIN' it in the styling department as well!
My kiddos love their big sister! She is such a great example to them.
She IS coming up a little bit short in the height department though.  We lined the kids up shortest to tallest, and Carson is almost passing her up!
I love it when we are all back together again.
Cali has worn a "college" cap and gown twice now in her lifetime: once as a baby when Aaron and I graduated from BYU, and the second time during her own graduation from Utah State.  This girl has been through it all with us.  We couldn't be prouder of her!
Cali's entourage was definitely the most fun energetic group around!
The fun didn't stop after we left campus.  The raindrops worried us, but the clouds dried up during our picnic.  We headed to Merlin Olsen Park for a pizza picnic, lots of visiting, and a "friendly"game of kickball.  Cali's entourage grew at the park!  Caleb, Emily, Aunt Katie, Bailey, and the Peacock met us there to continue the PARTY!  What a fabulous celebration.
There was a beautiful cake for the gluten eaters.

Caleb and Emily bought two boxes of delicious gluten free goodies from City Cakes for the "silly yaks." Look at the happiness on these faces!
We goofed around for hours at the park.  I loved looking around at all of our friends and family laughing and talking together.  The Peacocks were our backyard neighbors for 13 years in Utah. They truly are part of our family. It was a wonderful day to reminisce and catch up on the new things in our lives.
Rena and I tried our best to reenact Nyah and Ady's shenanigans!
It was just like old times.  
My dad is a very wise man.  He leaned over to me when the picnic was about to end and said, "Vanessa, this life is all about family!" He is SO right.  This day was one of the best days of our lives, and it all had to do with the love and support we felt from friends and family, both those in attendance and those sending well wishes from afar.  Thanks so much to all of you who texted, called, messaged, sent cards, prayers, and happy thoughts our way.  Cali and our family truly felt your love and support. So proud of this chickadee.  She is going to soar!