Friday, January 19, 2007

amazing race report and funny!

Hi all!

My Ironman training is still going:) Thursday I rode 2 hours on my bike in the garage at 5am, then do 1 hour run with hill repeats in the afternoon!

Have to tell you I am sore..but determined.

Tonight I am going to do a 1.5 mile swim, 56 mile on our bike trainers and then 2-3 hour run/walk. Maybe this will help kick the body back. It was amazing when I sat on the bike for 2 hours how fast the time went, actually I thought it was going to be so much harder.

It is still so cold here in the Tetons!

Below is a great race story for you to read about 2 of my women coaching clients who are both going to run the MDS in March.

Have a blessed weekend,


At this point precisely one month ago, Patrice Clapacs and I dramatically completed the Round Rotherham 50-miler. A more apt name for the race probably would have been “over the river and through the woods 50-miler.” Okay, first things first, I am a virgin ultra-marathoner, unlike my seasoned training partner Patrice, but for some reason, 3 weeks before Christmas, Patrice thought it would be a brilliant idea to run a 50-mile race as we step up our training for the 2007 Marathon Des Sables in Morocco. Sounds reasonable, I suppose, but when you read of what actually took place, you’ll probably conclude that it may not have been the best idea after all.

Before I continue with the excursion to Rotherham, let me introduce the 2 main characters: Patrice Clapacs born and raised in New York – lives in Central London with her husband, two children and chocolate lab. My name is Elizabeth Smith from Columbus, Ohio and for 2 ½ years, I have lived in Central London with my husband and chocolate lab.

Thanks to the introduction by Lisa Smith-Batchen, Patrice & I started to run together in the summer of 2006. In a city of 7.5 million people, Patrice & I miraculously live within 3 miles of one another and often had run similar courses before meeting – generally in London’s beautiful parks – Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens St. James Park, Green Park, Regents Park and the larger Heath in Hampstead. Let’s face it – if you’re running MDS – you need diverse routes, so Patrice & I have ventured through the autumn training schedule in our pursuit to complete the Rotherham 50-mile race. Our adventure began Friday, December 8th, at the Kings Cross Train Station in London which serves as a major hub for commuters heading North – we had luggage full of power gels, water bottles, running shoes (I think it rained nearly every day for a month leading up to December 9th, so 2 pairs of running shoes were taken as a precaution. We arrived at the train station in plenty of time to stop at the Bagel Factory to load on up on some more carbs, caffeine and water before we headed North. Just the 2 of us with our rucksacks (That’s what they call them here) full of training gear, we took over the entire shop – preventing anyone else from entering and the usual customers weren’t so happy with the two Americans at this point. If only they knew what we were doing – perhaps they would have offered to carry our bags or something. But no, the usual lack of personal space in the U K just made it all that more difficult to get our things and head for the train.

Fortunately we were smart enough to book tickets with assigned seats so we didn’t have to “rugby scrum,” as Patrice likes to say, for a seat. But unbeknownst to us – we were on an earlier train than the tickets were intended, but c’est la vie. We moved to the assigned seats with confidence and the drooling girl (we think from her drool, stench and foul breath she may have just finished a 50 miler and been dehydrated? NOT) to my right didn’t think a thing of it. This part of the journey was relatively normal and took roughly 2 hours to get to a town called Doncaster where we were required to change trains – seemed easy enough, right? But the language barrier and opaque details on the train schedule left us a bit confused and worried – it was getting dark! We were anxious to arrive at our final destination to relax and tuck in early. Finally, Patrice went to a train operator to make sure we were waiting on the right platform and while she thinks he said “this one is the next train to Rotherham,” – it came out something like this: “des hr id right trm, idnt it?” So we proceed with far less confidence than we began…onto a platform that was waiting for a train that honestly could have been the same train my grandfather travelled in 1944 when he was stationed in the UK for the US ARMY during WWII – this thing was vintage.

Less than 30 minutes later, we safely arrived in Rotherham, Patrice – very organized, grabs a card from her posh Dior purse with a # for taxis in this remote town in Yorkshire. Our taxi comes and drops us at a hotel that Patrice had booked – sight unseen but it was brand new, so it had to be clean, at least. Indeed it was and the staff were very friendly. But the taxi driver was by far the most interesting bloke we’d met thus far. He probably was around 26 or so, still living in the same sleepy town where he was raised and clearly he desperately wanted to learn about the lifestyle of two Americans living in London. We gave him Patrice’s mobile so that we could call him to transport us into and from the race (about 9 miles away). Since the race started at 6 a.m., we were in for an early day.

Mind you in December, on a good day, you might have 6 ½ hours of light – so we (well Patrice) were prepared with Petzl lights and small flashlights. What we were not prepared for was the terrain…..

Oh, I failed to mention that in addition to the course being off-trail, it was sparsely marked, so Patrice smartly grabbed a map, but I didn’t really think much of it – thinking that we would just team up with others on the course and stick with them as long as possible.

So, at 6 a.m, we left the local college where the race began with Peter, a Yorkshire man of about 58 who runs ultra marathons on every continent and nearly every other week! He completed Leadville in 2006. We also met Anna from Reading (England, not Pennsylvania) who had probably never run more than 13 miles at one time, but was enticed to do the Rotherham run with her boyfriend Ken/Kevin – we never did quite figure that one out. Regardless, we stuck with this crew for the first 10 miles until the first stop. Patrice & I already had blisters from the damp terrain. We felt a bit like Army cadets in some remote training camp – maybe Fort Knox, running through stream, navigating rocks and slipping more than actually running. Let’s take a look at the first 10 miles – just a few words that line the map (see adobe attachment of pictorial view of course).

“Don’t go under bridge,” “cross road follow surfaced path to canal,” “turn left along concrete track,” “through gate (or cross stile on left) path between fences.” Okay, enough – you probably get the point. And by this point, you realized that not only is this a 50-mile race in the middle of nowhere in Northern England – it’s a CROSS COUNTRY RACE!
Did I mention, I’ve only done one off-road race in my life in July 2006 in Switzerland and it was BRUTAL. Patrice was far more mentally prepared for this adventure and probably because she researched beforehand and had completed much more challenging races in Hong Kong in the past. I envisioned this race to be somewhat like the Chicago marathon – just twice around.

So, we safely departed Checkpoint #1 after munching on some really good cookies and adding compeed on our soaking wet feet. We still had nearly 20 miles before the “big stop” where we could change socks & shoes. I was not in the best frame of mind at this point, but this chap Peter was a veteran of this Rotherham race and he regaled us with stories of his recent adventures in the US – he’d been to Aspen in September – so I tried to focus on the golden Aspen leaves falling from the beautiful trees and not think about my soaking wet, muddy, 30 lb feet. Oh, I should also mention that Peter knew exactly when to walk v. run and we followed his lead. Mainly, if hills were very steep – we walked and when we were crossing farmland on a narrow foot-path (afar different than what us American s call footpath) that was so muddy we couldn’t get our footing. Peter had us walk. Oh, well this is probably as good a time to mention that this would be Tumble #1 for me, down a narrow muddy trail. I fell into a side of a hill and this time only bruised my ego – just Peter saw – Patrice was too far ahead to notice. My black tights and black Sugoi jacket were covered in mud – and shortly thereafter my pride was back and in fact, I was beaming with it – I now looked like a real trail runner. I didn’t bother to clean it off as I was fearful I’d lose Patrice and I would be in big trouble – she had the map! We followed a series of other not-so-clear directions to another checkpoint, getting slightly lost once and at Checkpoint #2 – mile 17 we decided to chat a bit with a lovely couple who had just come back from NYC where they ran the marathon. We shoved some candy into our mouths and re-filled water and the next minute, we headed out – as we soon saw runners who had begun an hour after us coming up behind us. We also lost Peter at this point, so the city girls were on their own. Checkpoint #3 wasn’t too far away and we would have run a marathon by this point. The course became far more suitable for horse and cows than humans, especially those attempting to run. Here’s where the wheels started to come off… Pay attention – this part is really good. As we ran through the series of farms, each were separated by stiles which we were required to climb and jump and after about the 6th one, I lost my balance and came down on my left ankle – fell into the mud (probably cow manure) and started to cry – not out of pain, but out of anger. I was afraid that the race for me would be over and I was terribly upset. Patrice sees what happens and quickly jumps the stile behind me and innocently leaves her hand on what appears to be a white nylon rope…unfortunately, it was an electric fence. The shock sends waves to her knees and they buckle. We both just start to laugh hysterically – me lying in cow dung – her frying like a piece of bacon. It’s precisely at this point that Patrice’s phone rang. We thought alas a phone call from family/friends checking on our progress (which in hindsight they never would have, as they think we’re certifiably mad); but instead a call from our beloved taxi drive, checking in on us to see how we were getting on! He called several times subsequently, safely got us to the train that evening to head home, told us he’d like to come visit us in London and actually called later that week, but prudently, Patrice ignored the call – fearing the inability to translate (recall – they speak English in Yorkshire, just not a dialect we’re familiar with) or possibly the bloke could be a mad stalker. Back to the race, runners pass us by and we cannot stop laughing. I finally got up and at first I couldn’t walk, but after walking for about 10 minutes through the remainder of the English “footpaths” I start to run – think that I will take myself out at the next checkpoint and let Patrice carry on. I tied my shoes tighter – stretched, grabbed some cookies and we carried on – together. Oh, but we lost page 3 of our map, which directs us the next 12 miles. Yes, you read that correctly – the two chics who got lost with the map in hand, now had no map. So Patrice kindly asks for directions from one of the blokes at the Checkpoint. Yet what she heard sounded something like this: “Ot see,s tjat ot pv\er tjer/ “ Well, the good news is that we run into more runners and we’re not too far from the BIG CHECKPOINT where we envision our clean socks & shoes happily waiting for us. We could not wait. We also figured there would be a good chance of finding a map, so that we weren’t entirely “blind.” As it turns out, the map did us no favours anyway – more on that later.

The ½ way checkpoint was great – clean shoes, clean socks, some deodorant – we were ready to roll. The ankle was swollen but nothing a few additional Advil couldn’t cure. Lo and behold – MORE STUPID STILES! I thought I was going to stop right there but instead, we took the stiles just as our 85 year old grandmothers would do – gently and slowly, we meandered over them. It was at this point that Patrice and I wondered if a good pair of wellies may not have been a better choice for footwear. The running shoes, after just a mile, had collected so much mud and rock (and who knows what else). Our next big landmark was something called the Roche Abbey. Well that sounded nice and surely, we could find that. Okay, our luck was changing – we actually found it with little trouble and it was spectacular – honestly, we felt like we were in one of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – Wife of Bath?

Unfortunately, our Bliss (and no, not the posh NYC products we bathed with earlier that morning) ended as we got lost for the second time, but fortunately for us, we didn’t seem to lose too much time. We were running in a churchyard/cemetery (quite common in the UK) and the directions led us to “ahead, not main road.” SO clear, eh?

But soon enough, we were at our next checkpoint. We were really hungry by this point. It was Mile 40 and the sun was quickly fading. In addition to the regular dose of gummy bears we carried with us, we took the opportunity to eat something more substantial – I had tuna on white and Patrice had peanuts. Clearly, straight sugar could only take us so far – Mile 40. Okay, so we met some guy just before the stop who has a tiny little dog, just like the one on Frasier, who is running by his side. We stayed with him for as long as we could but our 8/2s were getting slower and slower and the mud seemed to getting heavier. Where was the asphalt? It was at this very point that we made the most fatal error – we should have maintained pace with the guy & his dog as it was at this point that we got lost – again. The next big landmark (which was big by all accounts) was completely out of site. We felt so alone – no other runners were near and we hadn’t a clue which way to turn through the fields. After seeking direction from local farmers out on their Saturday walk, we carried on and ultimately found Hooten Roberts and two other guys who seemed similarly confused. As the sun completely set we were comforted to have a couple of two other blokes to keep us company – but that didn’t last long – they were in no position to carry on, so Patrice and I were alone again.

We carried on thinking we couldn’t be far and surely we will find others to join us. The next 3 miles felt like 20 and we were not confident at all that we were headed in the right direction. We ultimately reached the final checkpoint before the finish. The same group at the first checkpoint are at the last and when we arrived they were so happy to see us. They were surprised that we had fallen so far behind and were terribly concerned that something had happened to us. We munched down on some more cookies and carried on for another 3.5 miles. Or so we thought. It was pitch black, so we pulled out our lights and did more of a walk/run at this point, than a run/walk. We were absolutely fine for about a mile and then after passing a group of 15 year old “hoodies” drinking their Strongbow (local beer), we became a little nervous about our safety. We picked up the pace but unfortunately missed a turn. We ended up at a train station and searched/ran for 10-15 minutes and ran the wrong way. We circled back and ultimately got on the right trail again and carried on. Ok, we’re only 2.5 kilometres away – how can we possible mess this up?????? Sparing you the detail, we did. We found ourselves on a main road in town, asking directions from the guys at the Kebab House. They didn’t have a clue. And our patience was wearing thin. We carried a fabulous sense of humour with us throughout the race, but at 5:30 at night, I can honestly say, we had had it. Who has a course set up that isn’t more effectively marked and clearly mapped? We ran around, what was probably 2 miles, trying to figure out how we went wrong. We re-traced our steps and discovered the error and moved on. This would have been our last error and finally we arrived back at the DVC Sports Facility. The guy with the Little Frasier dog was at the finish line waiting to make sure that the two American girls arrived safely.


Bob - said...

WOW what an event ...Glad you were SAFE and Awesome that you persevered and FINISHED .. way to go Ladies!!

pcthrpy said...

That is one great race report. Way to hang tough!! I shouldn't have laughed at the cow dung and electric shock treatment but I was laughing with you, not at you. Great attitude!!!