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After spending the weekend amongst the elite ultra runners at the Leadville 100 race, and seeing it with my own eyes, I still can’t fathom how they ran 100 miles. Not only 100 miles but a course which starts at a little under two miles high to an elevation of 12,600 feet.

Leadville cabin near twin lakes
A gorgeous Colorado scene

We arrived in Leadville two days prior to the run and the atmosphere was abuzz with the anticipation of the event. It was wonderful to be back in the Rockies ~ wide-open spaces, beautiful mountains, crisp clean air and charming western towns. Aside from an occasional rapid heart rate when going up steep steps, none of us succumbed to altitude sickness.

My involvement with the 100 mile run, along with my daughter, was strictly as a crew member for our New Zealander friend, Jean. I felt as though I was part of the run ~ minus all the bother with the painful, difficult, exhausting running part. My husband had dual responsibilities as a crew member AND a pacer. Thankfully, he’s still talking to me even after I misinformed him that his running would consist of 10 miles. Once we got to Leadville, Jean asked if he could pace her from Outward Bound/Fish Hatchery aid station to the finish. Hmmm…nothing like a surprise marathon (24 miles) at night.

How we ended up in Leadville: We met Jean three years ago in London. When she first told me she was an ultra runner, I distinctly remember thinking “what a nutter” and didn’t think we would spend much time together since, in my mind, ultra runners surely had to be totally obsessed with little time for other activities. Happily, she shattered those myths ~ her life is as balanced as anyone I know. Fast forward to this past January, we found out Jean was coming to the states to run the Leadville 100 in Colorado. I invited myself and family to be her crew. Somewhat presumptuous since I had no clue how to be a support crew but I’m always willing to learn a new skill set and was thrilled to have the chance to help her meet her goals. As we planned what we would do as her “crew”, we talked about split times. She told us to let her know if she was in danger of missing any cutoffs, especially the final 30 hour cut-off. That all changed when we met her at the first aid station ~ she was running fast enough to finish between 22-23 hours. Even after 75 miles, she was projected to finish between 24-25 hours.

Leadville 100 outbound at the Outward Bound fish hatchery aid station
At the Outward Bound/Fish Hatchery station

John joined her at the 76 mile point (Outward Bound/Fish Hatchery aid station) and this is where it became apparent as to the importance of having a pacer who could help with the timing. We knew she had a good shot of finishing under 25 hours which meant she would get the coveted big belt buckle. We next saw John after he had been running 13.5 miles with her and his only comment to me was “I’m running with a billy-goat!”

Highlights of the Leadville 100:

bazu-6820817
Photo credit: Official Leadville 100 Race Series.
Jean crossing the finish line at 24:57:15 ~ with a smile on her face.  Not going to lie, we were holding our breath wondering if she’d make it under 25 hours.

Leadville rainbowBeautiful rainbow and an inspiring message on the fence.

Leadville 100 Jean at Twin Lakes aid stationJean coming into the Twin Lakes station well under the time we expected her to be there. Leadville 100 at the Fish Hatchery stop #2 chilly and slight drizzle. Loved the camaraderie with the other crews. It was a little chilly and raining but spirits were still high.Leadville Dog
There were so many dogs ~ including this cutie.

Leadville 100 at the start of the run 4am
The 4am start was fun especially the playing of the national item and the shotgun (a real one) start.

Leadville 100 last runner under 30 hours
The “last ass” finisher. He came in right under 30 hours. He’s a cross-country coach and his students walked with him across the finish line. He didn’t topple over at the end ~ he’s kissing the ground. There were lots of cheers and even a couple of tears.

Over 600 runners started the run and 312 finished. It’s a tough run and I was thrilled to be a small part of Leadville 100. I have no ambition to actually run a 100 miles but I would certainly be on a crew again ~ it was a lot of fun planning out what to have at the stops and cheering the runners on. We clapped for everyone who came through the stations.

Next time I’ll actually know what I’m doing!!

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The beautiful Cherry Blossoms were in full bloom and the timing coincided perfectly with the Cherry Blossom 10 miler/5K. After four years of attempting to get into the run through their lottery system, I finally got the opportunity to run the 5K yesterday. It was sunny, about 65 degrees and zero humidity ~ ideal conditions for a run through the best parts of the city. Throughout the run, I reflected how lucky I am to live so close to this beautiful and vibrant city.

Cherry Blossom 5K
Running the Cherry Blossom 5K

Wedding with the cherry blossoms
Great spot for wedding photos

Washington monument the crowds and cherry blossoms
Lots & lots of visitorsJefferson Monument blue skies

Jefferson MemorialCHerry Blossoms with the Washington Monument
Cherry Blossoms covering the view to the Washington MonumentJefferson Monument and cherry blossoms

Jefferson Monument Cherry Blossoms
Can’t get enough of the Jefferson Memorial ~ so beautiful

Memorial Bridge
Scarlet Tulips along the Memorial Bridge

Tulips
…more vibrant tulips and the Kennedy Center across the Potomac River

Washington Monument
Washington Monument and the Cherry Blossoms

Washington Monument
Washington Monument

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It was no surprise to me when Washington DC was ranked as the top “Fit City” in the United States by the American College of Sports Medicine. The two comments we always get from first time visitors to our nation’s capital are: “It’s such a beautiful city” and “There are a lot of fit and good looking people here.” The second comment is usually said while watching runners race by along the National Mall.

DC Fitness
There are people exercising all over the city!

If you’re a runner, I highly recommend two 10mile/5k runs in the spring. First is the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile/5K on 12 April 2015. You will run through the National Mall and the Tidal basin area where all the gorgeous Cherry Blossoms will hopefully be at their peak. This race is so popular, it requires a lottery. I haven’t been lucky enough to get a number through the lottery so I volunteered last year which guarantee me a spot for 2015. The lottery is open until 12 December. Click here to enter.

If you don’t get into the Cherry Blossom race, then there’s the scenic GW Parkway Classic 10 mile/5k on 26 April 2015. I ran this for the first time this year and loved it. The crowd was friendly and festive, I wasn’t the last one in (I’m not the fastest runner) and we lucked out with beautiful spring weather.

A few more fitness photos:

Bike in DC
Biking

Roosevelt Island Runner
Running on Roosevelt Island

Kayaking
Water Sports

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I can’t stay awake for 38+ hours straight let alone run 100 miles through the mountains of France, Switzerland and Italy, but my Kiwi friend Jean did it for FUN! I’m awe-struck!! Gotta love technology ~ we were able to track her through a live-feed as she tackled the Ultra-Trail Du Mont-Blanc. After the run, she sent a recap and it’s obvious, at this level of competition, mental fortitude is so much more important than the physical aspect. She’s not on social media which is not surprising since she spends her time with her husband, two boys, controlling aircraft (she’s an air traffic controller) and running?! but I’m hoping to talk her into guest blogging her experience one day soon.

image

Until then, I’m going to brag on her just a little: she ran the race in 38:30:27, came in 2nd in her age group (49-58 years old) and was ranked 28 in the Overall Women’s category. Anytime I want to quit a workout, I think “well, if Jean can run 100 miles then…”

I’ve been searching and finally found the perfect “congratulations on finishing another 100 mile race” gift. It’s a t-shirt with the saying Strong is the new Skinny. I found it at Bear Strength which is a UK based cross-fit attire company but the clothes are for all types of workouts. Since Jean is the strongest woman I know, it couldn’t be a better choice (hope she likes it as much as I do). I’m going to order one for me once I finish my next race as a congratulations to myself!

My fingers are crossed that Jean’s next 100-mile trail run is here in the states so I can be in the support van (where I hope napping is allowed)!

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I did it ~ after all these years, I finally ran my first official 5K!

GW Parkway Finish Line
At the finish line with my first ever “finisher” medal

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a serious debilitating mental block against running. I could hike down cliffs in Guam, through the Grand Teton trails or play tennis for hours but within three minutes of running, I would think of every excuse to stop. I signed up for the George Washington Parkway Classic in 2012 but backed out when my allergies flared (yes, I know, another excuse).

In London, I met a woman who ran ultra-distance races. She typically ran 100-mile races. Yes, ONE. HUNDRED. MILES. When I first heard about her long runs (and didn’t know her), I thought surely she must be obsessive and compulsive. It seemed (and still does) superhuman to run that far.  After I got to know her, I couldn’t have been more wrong. She’s a bright, fun, and above all, BALANCED woman. She is a married to a wonderful, supportive husband (one of the nicest men I’ve ever met) and has two great sons who are so proud of her accomplishments. She isn’t obsessive at all.

She ran one of her ultra distance races last June and I was fascinated by all the details of what it takes to do a race such as that. It sounded incredibly painful and yet she persevered. I absolutely can’t get my head around the fact that she ran 100 miles. Not only did she run 100 miles but she beat the women’s and men’s record time. Within days of running the race, she went with me and several other women to the Royal Ascot Horse Race for Ladies Day. She had a little trouble getting up and down from the picnic blanket but other than that, she was the life of the party. No complaints about the after-effects even though her body had to be in serious recovery mode.

When I asked her why she endures these long, ass-kicking runs, she said because she wants to do it “while she still can.” Guess that’s as good of a reason as any. And the real kicker for me is that she didn’t start running until she was in her 40s.

How could I not be motivated and inspired by her?! So, last November, I signed up once again to run the GW Parkway classic 5K. The idea was to have a long “training” time. That plan didn’t work so well since we had the worst winter in 30+ years. Seeing as I’m not a runner in the best of weather, I certainly wasn’t getting out in the snow and cold. I went for TWO runs the entire winter ~ one for a mile and one for 2 miles. Needless to say I was sorely tempted to “excuse” myself from this race due to lack of training.

But then I thought of my ultra distant runner friend and carried on. And during the race, when I was at the half way point and was thinking how badly I wanted to walk the rest of the way, I thought of how Jean must have felt at mile 75. And yet she continued on.

Here’s what kept ME going today ~ the weather was perfect! My dear husband stayed with me earning his PW (personal worst) in a 5K and a piece of gum that a friend, Jayne suggested I chew while running.  Yeah!  Next time ~ yes, I do believe there will be another 5K in my future ~ I’m going to hydrate more and definitely do a few more training runs.

GW Parkway 5K
A mile done and I’m still smiling

GW Parkway April 2014
Those bathroom lines are ridiculous!

GW Parkway 5K
With husband, daughter and exchange student. A great run for all of us

My favorite quote of the day was the woman standing behind me at the start of the race. When asked by her friend what her “goal” of the race was, she said “Completion”

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It was a gorgeous day for the Cherry Blossom 5K run! This was our second time volunteering for the race and, this year, we brought our exchange student from Bangladesh. It was a great new experience for him and he really enjoyed himself. It’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement when the runners are coming through.

Lincoln Memorial at dawn

Lincoln Memorial at Dawn

Memorial Bridge early morning

Memorial Bridge as the sun comes up

We were assigned to the first Water/Gatorade station which is located just over the Memorial Bridge on the left side of the Lincoln Memorial. We woke at 4:15, took the metro to the Arlington Station, walked over the bridge and made it to our volunteer check-in spot at 6:00. Then it was time to fill the cups ~ all 1,000 of them.

CHerry Blossom Run Water/Gatorade station cups

Handing out gatorade

We had plenty of Gatorade for the runners!

At the end of the water/gatorade handout

This is what it looked like once 18,000 runners went through the water/Gatorade stop

Cherry Blossom Water/Gatorade station

Happy Volunteers

Next year, I hope to run the Cherry Blossom 10M/5K ~ most likely the 5K. It’s always inspiring to see the runners go by with smiles on their faces even if they’re a little behind the rest of the pack. The last group of runners/walkers to go by got the biggest cheer from all the volunteers at the stop. Good for them to keep on going…

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Couldn’t believe it was 34°F when John left for the start of the marathon. Burrr…

JP getting ready to head out for the Madrid Marathon

JP getting ready to head out for the Madrid Marathon

We next saw John at Plaza del Sol which was the 18km mark and where a great Rock and Roll band was playing:

JP found us!

JP found us!

Logan and I attempted to catch John again at the finish line but he ran too fast and we miscalculated. He ended up finishing the marathon with a 4:05:05. Yeah to John!

John’s observations of the Madrid Marathon are:

  • Mostly the runners are from Spain with not a lot of foreign runners. More of a local marathon than a destination marathon
  • Fewer women than other marathons he’s run
  • Not as many people were “dressed up” ~ although we did see Nacho Libre and Minnie Mouse outfits
  • They had in-line medical volunteers amongst the runners spraying “icy hot” on runner’s joints and vaseline for chafing. John only saw one “wipe-out”
  • All runners including marathon (elite as well), 1/2 marathon and 10k started in the same corrals at the same time then diverted at different stages of the race. Usually runners start at different times.
  • Course was a bit hilly
  • Only food handed out along the course was power gel at one station
  • Bottles of water and electrolytes were handed out but the large bottles were more than he needed at one stop. He prefers the smaller cups
  • Lots of Porta Potties
  • Lots of wonderful bands (after all it was a Rock and Roll Marathon)
  • Overall, he loved the marathon and would like to run it again!

Here’s a bit of what I saw while cheering the runners:

Elite Men, Madrid Marathon

Elite Men, Madrid Marathon

One of the Elite men, Madrid Marathon

One of the Elite men, Madrid Marathon

Elite Runner, Madrid Marathon

Elite Runner, Madrid Marathon

Fun Band at the 18K, Madrid Marathon

Fun Band at the 18km, Madrid Marathon

Madrid Marathon at the 18K

Madrid Marathon at the 18km

Two Minnies, Madrid Marathon

Back of Two Minnies and a Mickey, Madrid Marathon 2013

Back of Two Minnies and a Mickey, Madrid Marathon 2013

Nacho Libre (?) at the end of the Madrid Marathon

Nacho Libre (?) at the end of the Madrid Marathon

Helping Mom and Dad to the Finish Line

Helping Mom and Dad to the Finish Line

End of the Marathon Band

End of the Marathon Band

John’s marathon shirt was too small for him, so lucky me, I have a new shirt to wear to my next tennis match.

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