Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fat Ass At The Farm

It was during the Medoc Meltdown Fat Ass that it came to me. I should run 32 miles for my 32nd birthday and I should run it with friends. The day after Medoc, I went out to my parent's place in Smithfield with my training partner, Gene. He was there to help me map out a potential course and to give me feedback on whether my idea could work. Using his Garmin because I had forgotten mine, we walked around the big hay field and then down towards Swift Creek and back. It came out to a nice 1 mile lollipop shaped course. With my parent's skeptical approval, I sent out a Facebook invitation to some  running friends inviting them to the Fat Ass At The Farm. I planned to do 32 one mile laps to celebrate my birthday and reach my goal of 32 miles. The Friday night before the run, I drove to my parent's place to put up a few directional signs at the mailbox and a couple of other turns to the farm and to get ready for the next day's fun. Around 9 PM, I headed out into the darkness with my head lamp to check the mileage and put up a turn around sign and a couple of other signs to guide runners around the course. It was just a little eery, very humid, and there were huge spider webs across the spur part of the trail. I had to laugh when my Garmin showed the length as not 1 mile, but 1.24. So much for a perfect 1 mile lap but I was not about to try to change it at that point!

The morning soon arrived and I got up at 6 AM to set up the canopy, table, water, and Gatorade. The start/finish was in a shady spot close to the house where there was plenty of room for runners to set up their chairs, tables, canopies, and gear. Friends began to arrive around 7 AM and I put mom in charge of getting runners to sign a waiver and to let them know about their runner sheets. I had printed out lap sheets for participants to check off each lap as they came around. It seems like a simple thing to count laps without paper, but personally, I knew I would lose track at some point during the long day.

I gave a few last minute instructions including a warning about the hornet's nest near the course, the location of the restroom inside the house, and that runners could go either way around the loop and could switch directions at will throughout the day to keep things interesting. We started off a few minutes after 8AM. We followed the hay field around to the left, trotting through the freshly mowed grass (thanks to my dad who had mowed for us on Friday). This was a section that would be sunny later on in the day and quite warm but it was short and soon we were winding through a couple of trees with minor roots, nothing much to worry about for seasoned trail runners. Next was the Swift Creek spur section and we turned left down a shady path which flowed slightly downhill for a quarter mile until we reached the turn around sign and headed back up what was now a slight incline going the other way. My favorite part of the course was next. It was a wide shady path through some large Bradford Pear trees with the pretty field now to our right. It was a gentle slope up and at the top, we turned to the right to run next to some old round bales and one more turn to the right down the driveway and back to the start where a feast of junk food was waiting for us. As I had promised my friends, the course was runnable with all of it being dirt or grass and the majority of it being in the shade.

Throughout the day, friends trickled in to the event to run their laps or just to hang out and relax. We had our two dogs, Bogart and Amelia, and a few other fur kids. Ben brought Yoda, Candace brought Peanut, Jim W. brought Canyon, and Jim P. brought Sara and Wilbur the ultra pups. It was great having so many pups out to enjoy the day too! All were well behaved...including the humans. I was able to run a lap with my sweet Bogart, a lap with  hound dog Amelia, and another lap with Bogart before they got tired and spent the majority of the day chilling in the fenced yard enjoying the beautiful weather. It was a little humid, the high was in the upper 70s and though warm, there was a nice breeze to help keep things manageable.

My good friends and training buddies, Gene and Mo, were the first male and female to finish 32 miles. Chris K. covered the longest distance of the day, 35 miles, and went on to complete a trail 50K the following day. He's only a little nuts but we like him. ;-)

I kept plugging away until I was almost to my goal of 32 miles (No way in hell was I going to do my originally planned 32 laps since it would actually have been 40 miles). Ironically, I started to feel pretty ill half way through my last lap. I got dizzy and felt nauseated and trudged back to the finish where I forced myself to run in then promptly sat on the ground so I did not pass out. It was likely due to not taking in enough salt. I had been drinking dilute Gatorade all day, but I am a sweaty girl and I had not used any additional salt tabs, electrolytes, or anything. Anyway, my calves cramped a bit and I didn't feel great for a little while, but salty chips, a comfy chair, and a beer made it all better. Those who were still there enjoyed relaxing, snacking, and drinking beers or soda. Mo had brought corn hole and that was set up and a couple of people played. It was a great end to a long, but fun, day.

So, now that I am 32 you may wonder what I will do with the name of this blog. Well, I am not changing anything because I started this to try to capture my running experiences and I started it when I was 31. 31 Years and Running is therefore accurate. Here's to running friends and at least another 31 years of running! Cheers!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Blue Ridge Relay 2011

It all began with an email I received from my friend Jim Wei. His team for the Blue Ridge Relay needed a replacement as one of their members had torn her ACL in a motorcycle class. I had wanted to try a relay since seeing the documentary Hood to Coast last summer, so I agreed.

We drove up the Thursday afternoon before and were fortunate enough to be able to stay Elizabeth and Tripp's charming renovated farm house in Galax, VA. Early Friday morning, we rose and drove the 45 minutes to the start at Grayson Highlands State Park. It was completely dark and quite chilly, but we were excited. We took photos as best we could in the dark while wearing our kilts, team shirts, and headlamps. Our team was Road Kilt, a play off the term for when a runner is passed by another runner during a race. Since we expected to be "road killed" plenty during the race, it was an appropriate name. The race covered 208 miles from the Grayson Highlands to Asheville, NC. As you may guess, it was a hilly and scenic course.
The gals
The guys

Our start time was 6:30 AM, the earliest available, since we figured to be one of the slowest teams. The fastest teams would start at 1:00 in the afternoon and the amazing thing is, they would later pass us in the early hours of Saturday morning. The race started and our runner #1, Dominic, was off  running down the mountain with his safety lights flashing.
Runners 1-6 (Jim, Jade, Sheri, Christy, Marc, and Dominic) were in Van 1 and runners 7-12 (me, Tripp, Elizabeth, Bob, Tina, and Shannen) were in Van 2. I was runner 11, second to last in the lineup and had a long wait until I would start my first leg. Van 1 went to the first exchange zone to wait for runner 1 to arrive and the slap bracelet to be handed off to runner 2 to start the second leg while Van 2 headed off for breakfast. When we came out to the parking lot after eating, we found we had been "muffined" by another team, Runner's Dozen. They had drawn their symbol - a muffin - on one of our back windows. We painted a circle around the muffin with a line through it and vowed to have a stencil and extra paint next year to tag other teams. We were relay virgins and it was obvious since we didn't know enough to bring supplies to tag other vans.
Van 2 relaxing while we waited to start our legs 7-12
 One by one, the runners in my van got to do their first legs. It was finally time for my first leg around 4:00 in the afternoon and after all the anticipation, I didn't even really want to run anymore! I was just not used to waiting around that long to start a race.
Shannen handing off to me at the start of leg 11
 Nonetheless, I exchanged with Shannen and started leg 11 which was almost completely on the Blue Ridge Parkway and covered 6.3 miles. The views were outstanding, but the hills were long and relentless.  I pushed my pace beyond my comfort zone, running it like it was a normal 10K and not a mountain one. I got road killed by a couple of guys who flew by me on a downhill and there was nothing I could do to stop it. As I neared the exchange zone, I had to climb one more evil hill that had me almost puking in front of the other teams gathered at the exchange zone. After heaving a couple of times, I walked a bit to stop the urge even though I felt everyone's eyes on me. As much as I wanted to run up the hill, I figured it was better for them to see me walk than to see me puke! Once over the crest, I did trot into the finish. I completed my first leg at an average of 8:34 pace. After I had a chance to rest and catch my breath, I actually felt pretty good.
Handing off to Elizabeth after leg 11

 After Elizabeth's leg, our van had a long break and we sat down to a delicious dinner at a restaurant in Blowing Rock, NC.

The view during dinner at Canyons in Blowing Rock

My next leg was #23 and it began at nearly 2:00 AM.  The temps were in the 40s and it being early September I wasn't used to the chill yet, so I wore a long sleeve shirt and capris. When I saw Shannen running strong up the hill to the exchange, I handed my Umstead hoodie with my gloves in it to Bob, got the bracelet, and took off down the road. This leg started with a run on a country road with an open valley below the dark outline of the mountains to my left. I frequently looked up while running this section to take in the perfectly clear sky and bright stars. The course then turned onto a dirt road which wound deep into the dark woods and felt quite isolated and a bit creepy. I was glad I had my small flashlight with me as my headlamp just wasn't doing a sufficient job of lighting the ruts and changes in footing of the dirt road on its own. This section was also a long downhill and I flew down it in the dark with my arms raised for balance to catch me if I tripped, my breath steaming in the cold air in front of me, and my handy flashlight shining on the path before me. Several vans passed me on my right and most all of them rolled down their windows to encourage me, including my own Van 2. I got road killed again as a few runners, all male, passed me on an uphill section. They were moving swiftly, but at least one told me "good job" as he flew by. The last 3 miles of this leg was a winding climb. My team told me later that as they drove it they were talking about how hard a leg it was. Luckily, I didn't think it was all that bad, thanks in part to the fact it was so dark and also because the climb was gradual and winding. That is one good thing about running at night, the hills don't seem near as bad as they do in the daylight. I was glad when I reached the exchange zone as I was spent and completely out of breath. I had been following a lone female runner for the last couple of miles and I almost road killed her as we approached the exchange, but I didn't have it in me. I managed to complete the 5.6 miles at a 9:23 pace. As I caught my breath, Bob broke the news to me that he didn't have my hoodie and that it was left behind at the last stop. Apparently, I had handed it to a complete stranger at the exchange, not to him. For the rest of the relay, I tried to locate my hoodie, but to no avail. I hope whomever has it is enjoying it as much as I did.

 After Elizabeth finished the 24th leg, we drove to the next exchange where we planned to sleep for a bit. On the way there, a deer ran in front of the van. Tripp was driving and suddenly screeched to a halt while the deer stared back from the middle of the road and just a few feet away. This was despite a long day, no sleep, and windy mountain roads - definitely some skill full driving on his part. I'm pretty sure I would have hit the deer if I had been driving. We arrived at the exchange which was at a church and a few of us caught a few hours of sleep in our sleeping bags laid on a tarp on the wet ground while the others slept in the van. It was very cold, but I was exhausted and slept soundly under the stars. After a few hours, I woke up on my own and went to buy some pancakes, sausage, and coffee the church was selling. I think it was 5 bucks for the meal and it was delicious. While eating, I learned from other runners that every team but ours was sleeping in the warmth of the church while we were sleeping in the dewy grass just a few feet away! We were so tired when we arrived that we didn't realize this was an exchange zone where there was an indoor place to sleep. Oops.
Starting leg 35
 My third leg didn't start until 1:00 PM and was also mostly on the Blue Ridge Parkway. But first I had to climb the steepest hill of my life. I could tell by the elevation profile the race provided (the grade it showed was as high as 11%) and by looking ahead while waiting for Shannen to arrive, that this was going to be tough. It started on a long incline and just kept on going up for 2 miles. I was grateful that the road was mostly cool and shady as it was now quite warm, about 70 degrees or so. I tackled this steep section by jogging easy as much as I could and incorporating intervals of power walking. Early in the climb, I was lucky enough to witness a group of wild turkeys crossing the road in front of me. The road was made up of several switch backs and there was a lack of shoulder in places, so I stayed alert for traffic. There was really no good place to run safely and I switched from side to side with the curves and at times ran in the middle of the road so I could see any cars coming. There was very little traffic and so I luckily managed to not end up as real road kill.

When I arrived at the parkway and the top of the brutal climb, I was pleased to see my Garmin showed an average pace of 12:20 per mile, pretty good considering what I had just conquered. The course profile had made the remaining 2 miles look like it was all downhill, but there were devious uphills stuck in there and just when I thought I was home free, I found myself facing a bit more climbing before the truly flat and downhill stretch. Though the parkway was beautiful, it was exposed and warm and I was ready to be done with my part in the relay. Motivated and smelling the barn as I like to say, I kept up a good pace while looking ahead to spot the last exchange. I got road killed again by a fast chic within a mile of the exchange. When I arrived, I gladly handed off the bracelet to Elizabeth and walked some to cool down before hopping into the van to ride to the finish in downtown Asheville. Incidentally, I just barely escaped some swarming yellow jackets we had disturbed by the shoulder of the road where the van was parked. My final and third leg was completed at an average of 10:29 pace.

We arrived in Asheville and changed into our team shirts and kilts and headed to the finish. We found our Van 1 team members who had already enjoyed beers and a meal in Asheville while they waited for us. All team members from both van 1 and 2 were now together and we would join Elizabeth at the end of her leg for a team finish. Soon enough, Elizabeth came into sight and we all cheered her up one last hill and then ran beside her for a short distance and across the line. Our final team time was 31:44:52 for an average of a 9:21 pace over the 208 miles. We took some team pictures and then made our way to a pub where I had nachos and a beer or two. It was heavenly.
Road Kilt at the finish in Asheville
 The BRR is a well organized event and I would do it again. The race swag was a long sleeve cotton T shirt in nice colors and a cool race logo magnet that I have stuck on my car. The course is both beautiful and challenging. If I were to run it again in the future, I'd like to be part of a 6 person ultra team so I can spend less time in the van, more time running and the whole team can be together and not split in two vans.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mayo Lake Triathalon 8/11/12

I did something really stupid the other week. I registered for my first triathalon. I have been saying for a few years now to anyone who encouraged me to do one and also to my poor husband who is afraid I will find more reasons to train and not be home, that I was not interested in tris because I don't have time for 3 sports (its hard enough with running plus the cycling for cross training) and I don't have money for fancy tri stuff like $10,000 bikes. But Mo Percy, aka "No Mercy" was doing it and she thought I could do it, so then I started thinking I could do it. It was Mo's very favorite tri ever and besides, I've been kinda bored with my training lately and I didn't have a race for August. I thought it might be a good change, something to keep me on my toes and wake me from my summer drowsiness. Never mind the fact that I don't swim.

So, I signed up Wednesday; the tri was on Saturday. When I went to packet pick up, the girl started to hand me a nice green T-shirt then snatched it back when she realized I was "NG" - Not Guaranteed a shirt. I mentioned to her I had just signed up yesterday morning and she asked whether I had "just gotten a wild hair" or something. Yep, something like that.

The morning of the tri me, Mo and our training partner, Gene, met at early o'clock to carpool together. We joked that we were always getting together at 5 or 5:30 AM and never at a decent time. Gene was along for cheering, coaching, and photography support. As we neared Roxboro, we saw several streaks of lightening and the rain was steady at times. I worried about the weather, but there wasn't anything I could do about it. By the time we arrived, the stormy weather had passed, leaving the gravel parking lot a lovely expanse of puddles and mud. We trudged through the wet lot pushing our bikes and carrying our stuff. Gene graciously helped us with some of our load. Still, I complained that the tri was just like an ultra in that I had to bring so much crap with me! A couple of people were carrying their bikes instead of rolling them through the dirt. I guess I would do that too if I had a fancy Cervelo! Ha! 'Ol Blue didn't mind. He's used to it since he's a cross bike. Yep, that's right - I don't own a road bike, I have a knobby-tired $500 cross bike and I was going to ride the damn thing the best I could.

We found our assigned areas in transition and set all our crap out ready to go. I looked around at the other race participants with their tri suits on and had no clue what I was doing there. I wandered over and I got all marked up with my bib number and my future age by one of the volunteers. At these tri things, they make you older than you actually are. Like we need that!
What the hell am I doing at a tri? Photo Gene Meade
Mo, Coach Gene, and me before the start

Our ages +1 written on our legs. I am sporting a nice bruise and scar from a tangle with my bike 2 weeks prior                        Photo Gene Meade
When it was nearing race start, we headed down to the water for the swim portion of the race. The first two waves were men and the third wave was all us women. While we waited to get in the water, my heart pounded in my chest. I was really scared. I stuck close to Mo and literally wanted to cling to her. Here's the thing, the swim was a significant 750 meters in the lake - the dreaded open water swim - and I had done zero swim training! The last time I had swam at all was a couple hours of snorkeling in shallow water in the FL keys in June. Other than two awkward laps back in March 2011 I tried when I was injured and subjected to pool running, I hadn't swam laps in a pool since I was a small child. I didn't even know how to put the swim cap on because I had never worn one. I tried putting it on the wrong way and I couldn't get it on my head until I realized I needed to turn it around the other way. I had borrowed goggles from Mo because I didn't own any. I had tried the goggles on in my shower to make sure they wouldn't leak. You know the expression "fish out of water"? I was about to be a runner/cyclist "in the water" and I was freaking out. I'm sure I looked a fool. Yep, the photo confirms I did in fact look a fool.
Clinging to Mo for dear life while waiting to start the swim Photo Gene Meade
I finally got my ugly white cap on my noggin and within a couple of minutes, we were in the water. I had a few seconds to get my goggles securely suctioned to my face and then we were off. I started out freestyle and breathing on alternating sides like google had told me to do for open water. This didn't last long as I soon found freestyle with zero training to be exhausting. I coughed a couple of times. I switched to breast stroke and my pace slowed significantly but at least I could breath better. I noticed a few women around me doing the same. I stuck with it until the first buoy and then the second buoy. Then we were headed to the 3rd buoy. By this time, my heart was pounding, I was breathing hard, coughing, and I had a long way to go before my feet would be on ground. I flipped on my back for a couple minutes of rest via unskilled backstroke and promptly got lake water up my nose. Revelation: lake water stings when it goes up there. I resumed backstroke and tried to make some good progress. My arms are weak, but my legs are strong, so I managed to pick up the pace this way. After a while, I turned over to check where I was I didn't know. There were no other racers near me and the rescue boat was to my left. The guy in the boat asked if I was okay and I assured him I was and asked him which way I was going. He informed me I was going the wrong way! I turned back around doing breast stroke again so I could see the next buoy. I had gone backwards for a few minutes and I'm guessing 10 swimmers had passed me while I was doing so. Trying not to think about the wasted effort and time, I kept swimming. Here is where my ultra training helped me. I told myself to keep making relentless forward progress and not to panic. I kept breathing steadily and little by little made my way towards the next buoy. I was behind almost all of the field. Finally, I reached the last buoy and closed in on the exit out of the lake. It was a relief when I was close enough to shore that I could get my feet back under me and walk out. Whew! I made it! And I didn't even hang on to a canoe or buoy. After exiting the water, the course went up a grassy hill that was now wet and slick with mud from the traffic. I ultra-walked with a purpose up the hill, grinned and waved at Gene as he snapped a photo of me, and arrived in the transition area. I was really pumped up by the fact that I had survived the open water swim!
Thrilled to have made it out alive! Photo Gene Meade
In transition, I saw that there was one other bike still there besides mine. This worried me, but Gene told me something like they're out there and I would get them and I focused on that. I sat on my 5 gallon bucket, put my socks and bike shoes on, pulled my helmet on and ran out of the transition area with my bike next to me and holding onto my gloves. Got to the mount bike line and carefully clipped in to the right pedal and pushed off. Stupidly, I tried to pull my gloves on while on the bike and nearly lost control - twice. I used my teeth to pull them the rest of the way on while I pedaled in pursuit of whoever was ahead of me. The bike course was reportedly rolling hills, but I soon found that I had ridden hillier routes in my training and I didn't think it was that bad. Within a couple of miles, I saw another cyclist. Determined, I closed in on her and passed. I set my eyes on the next person I saw and passed them, then another and another. Every time I passed, I told the person "Good job". I hoped it was nice and not obnoxious to say that. Every time I passed a volunteer, I thanked them. Before I knew it, I rode by the 5 mile mark. I continued to ride as hard as I could knowing that it was only 16 miles compared to the usual 25+ mile rides I had been doing recently. I stayed in my highest gear on the flats and downhills and downshifted just enough for the climbs. I drank most of my Gu Brew and snacked on a few Shot Blocks that I had taped to my bike. The course was pretty countryside and we passed over the lake twice. I enjoyed myself, looked at the scenery, and passed as many racers as I could. I didn't see the 10 mile marker so I was pleasantly surprised when I came upon the 15 mile marker. The ride went really quickly and soon I was coming to a stop at the dismount line and running to the transition area to change into my running shoes. 

Starting the run. Finally, something I knew how to do! Photo Gene Meade
I sat on my bucket, pulled off the cycling shoes, and pulled on my running shoes. I grabbed my handheld water bottle, snapped on my race number belt (thanks to Mo for the belt) and ran out of transition on a mission. I was psyched to have made it to the run part of the event because running is what I know best. I have had my bike for just over a year and as mentioned earlier, I don't swim. The run started uphill on the road but quickly entered the woods and changed to single track. There is a water stop just before the woods, but I had my handheld, so I ran on by. The trail was rolling hills and all single track with the exception of a few short field crossings which were grass. I passed several ladies and men who were all walking or running very slowly. I happily ran by them at the best pace I could muster at this point. I was running hard enough that I was breathing loudly and they would hear me coming and move to the side. The trail was pleasant and I confidently ran down and up, over roots, and through light mud. Here is where I had an advantage over the average triathlete who I doubt was thrilled with trail for the run. Though I was in my element, I was also ready for the race to be over but the course seemed to go and on. I thought I must be almost done but then I saw a sign that said 2 miles. I was in disbelief so sure was I that I was about to round a corner and see the finish line. Soon after the 2 mile mark I made it up a short climb and saw Gene at the top taking my photo and cheering me on.
Trucking up a hill Photo Gene Mead
Another minute or so and I was surprised to come upon Mo. She moved to the side when she heard my ragged breath and I called to her that it was just me. I tried to encourage her to pick up the pace a bit to lead me in, but her knee was not feeling good and she let me go on ahead. I continued to pass runners as I steadily made my way through the last mile. Finally, I could hear and see the end. There was one last devious climb to the finish which I stubbornly slogged up though I really wanted to walk. As soon as I stopped, I had the sudden urge to puke but I just heaved a bit and managed not to decorate the volunteer's shoes as he removed my timing chip.

Here are my results:  I crossed the line in 1:52:41.
Swim (750 m open water): 23:19, T1: 2:47, Bike (16 miles): 57:30, T2: 1:51, Run (3 miles): 27:12. I ended up 2 out of 4 Athenas (and got a sweet shoulder bag) and 45 out of 72 females.
Finished! Finally! Photo Gene Meade
Mo was right behind me in 1:53:11 and got 3rd in her age group. All in all, the event was a success. One bummer was that Mo discovered that the vehicle parked next to us hit her car when they pulled out. They were in a rust orange Honda Element and got out of there without leaving a note or anything. Jerks! You can bet that an ultra runner would not have done that. Just saying.

So, I may have gotten lucky to not drown due to foolishness, but the tri went well enough for me that I would do another one. I was surprised by how much I really enjoyed myself. Maybe next time I will do a few pool laps for training. At the very least, I will know how to put the swim cap on. ;)

Me and Mo at the finish :) Photo Gene Meade

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Purple Cloth 5K

My good friend and training partner, Mo Percy was putting on an inaugural race, the Purple Cloth 5K, to benefit Dorcas Minestries Unfortunately, the race only attracted a small field for it's first year. To be supportive, this ultra slogger decided to cough up the 20 bucks (a deal!) and register even though my last 5K was the 2010 Wake Forest Turkey Trot. Not having done any speed work and having only run once since The Smoky Mountain Relay on April 21st-22nd due to a strained calf, I did not have big expectations for my race. However, seeing as I am innately competitive in nature, I was going to run the damn thing as fast I as I could, even if it made me puke.
Gene, our other good friend and training partner, also signed up to support Mo and her race. He had not done any speed work in the last several months either due to also being an ultra runner these days. To make things a bit more interesting and to get myself psyched up for the impending pain that is a 5K that you are actually racing (not taking it easy or walking), and because I am a brat, I started bantering with Gene that I was going to kick his ass, etc.

The Friday night before the race, I wrote in an email to this good friend of mine:
"I am gonna get you old man! I am gonna run 'til I puke just to finish in front of ya! 
See you in the am and prepare for defeat!"

In due response, he replied: "BRING IT!"

And sent me this picture:

 I told him he looked like a yellow Terminator.

Race morning arrived warm and humid with the race start at 8:15. They also had a kids dash at 8:00. We lined up near the front of the starting line in the field at Cary's Bond Park. When I looked behind me, I didn't see any "real" female runners. They pretty much all looked like beginners. I'm not being mean or rude - we all start somewhere - but you can tell when someone hasn't been running long or is just planning to walk. Cotton t-shirt, long pants on a hot day, Keds on the feet, etc. This reinforced my plan to run as fast as I could and do as well as possible.

 The race started and Gene and I took off down the field together side by side with just a few male runners in front of us, no females in my sight. The course followed a meandering paved path and into the woods where the path was packed bark. There's a good climb with wood steps in the bark section and I continued running up that too, though I already couldn't breathe. We stayed together or just a little ahead or behind each other. When we reached the 1 mile mark a volunteer told me I was at 7:35. I was behind Gene but still on his heels. I thought to myself "Whoa, that pace is not gonna last!" I managed to stay with Gene until we came back towards the open field where we had to climb another hill. It was there that I lost him and never caught him again. So much for kicking the old man's ass!

The rest of the race, I struggled to hang on to my relatively fast pace which I was definitely not trained for or used to. It was very warm and I slowed down a bit on the pace for the last two miles. A couple of other guys besides Gene passed me, but I did not see any females go by.  Every once in a while, I glanced back, fearing a strong female runner would be there chasing me and kicking it into high gear to pass me, but no one came. Finally, after what seemed an eternity of running hard and barely being able to breathe, I reached the field and sprinted across it to the finish line. Trying not to puke as Mo pointed a camera at me and took my picture, I crossed the finish line in 25:03. Shortly after I stopped, I gagged and a spit up a little bile, but didn't truly puke. Maybe if I had run hard enough to puke, I would have beat the old man after all. Funny enough, I was the first female to finish, something that I'm sure will never happen again! I got a sombrero and an Inside Out Sports gift card for being an award winner.

Finishing and trying not to puke for the camera

Gene was a good sport about my challenge and the subsequent ass-kicking he gave me. He didn't rub my defeat in my face or be obnoxious otherwise.

Reaction to Mo's announcement that I just did a 100 miler 4 weeks before - feeling shy...
Purple Cloth 5K is a nice, small event that I would recommend to anyone looking to run their first race or if they would like to have the chance to be competitive in a small field. It was a very well run, family friendly event and I'm sure it will grow with each year. The 2013 race is tentatively set for the first weekend of May.

Running friends: Gene, Rhonda, me, and Bill

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Umstead 100 Endurance Run 2012 - Unfinished Business!

It was difficult to believe, but the big weekend was finally here. Within a month of my DNF at Umstead 2011, I had decided I was going for a redemption run in 2012. I had been waiting ever since for another shot at Umstead 100 and it had been a loooong year! I made sure to get a deep tissue massage 8 days beforehand to help work out some tightness in my calves and IT bands. I also got a pedicure 7 days before race day to try to prevent blisters by smoothing out the rough edges from old blisters and callouses. While waiting for my pedicure, I spontaneously decided to see if I could get some custom artwork.

I know I have funny-looking toes, don't laugh.

With the Umstead race logo triangle and a sparkly "100" on my big toes for an extra boost of motivation and confidence, I was ready to go. 

The Umstead 100 course is a 12.5 mile lap that is shaped like a lolly pop with an out and back spur. There is quite the buffet of an aid station adjacent to the Head Quarters building and a second manned fully stocked aid station buffet, AS2, at about mile 6.5 of each lap. There are also 3 other water points along the course, one of which had gels, snacks, and Gatorade.

My plan was to run the first 50 miles in about 12 hours, with each of the four laps in 3 hours plus or minus a few minutes. The second 50 miles would be run in 16 hours with an average of 4 hours each lap. Total goal race time was 28 hours, leaving me a 2 hour cushion to finish under the 30 hour time limit in case of unforeseen issues. I was not going to make the same mistake as I did last year when I foolishly thought I could make it in under 24. Going too hard on the first 50 was not the sole issue last year, but it certainly did contribute to my DNF.

I volunteered at registration on Friday which was a lot of fun because I got to see and meet so many of the other runners. I also got to hang out with my friends Jimbo Plant, Gene Meade and Tammy Massie and met Jimbo's friend Franckie from Tahoe. I attended the race briefing and enjoyed dinner outside at one of the picnic tables with friends. I scarfed down a plate of delicious spaghetti and meatballs and two helpings of race cake and vanilla ice cream. I am a girl who knows how to eat, so ultra running fits me perfectly.

Start/Finish of each lap. I took this photo before the race started.
Race morning was warm with temps in the 60s. As my husband Chad and I drove to the park, the rain started falling true to the forecast and it was apparent it was going to be at least a partially wet weekend. We arrived and Chad helped me get set up in Head Quarters. I then milled about taking photos with friends, greeting fellow runners, and getting a little breakfast in me. At 6am, there was a gun shot signaling the start of our adventure and us runners started up the camp road in the dark. Some carried lights or wore headlamps, but I had decided to take Jimbo's advice and not bother and just use the light from another runner to see my way down the road. This worked fine and we made it to the camp gate and turned right on the bridle path. All the lights from the other runners bobbing up and down and coming towards me from those who had already made the turn around were just beautiful. I placed my camera on a rock on the straightaway after the airport and turned it on video to record the lights. It wasn't high enough to record what I wanted, but I did get about 15 minutes of invisible people going by and talking in the dark and the occasional light. :) I didn't mind that it was raining since, thankfully, it was warm. Early in the lap, I found myself running with my friend Linda Banks and we had a great first lap which we ran mostly together, completing it on schedule in 2:52.

Linda Banks and I on lap 1
Random Super Dave Cockman and me on lap 2
During lap 2, it continued to rain, but I met a great guy named Dave. Also from Raleigh, he had pulled a muscle in his lower leg the Wednesday before the race during a taper run and had even considered not starting but in the end he decided to give it a go. He was doing really well considering the pain he was in and we had a grand time chatting and swapping stories as we covered the miles. My mom called me at one point and heard me talking to him and when she asked who I was running with, I told her "This random guy named Dave". Mom thought that was pretty funny and when we came through to HQ where she and my sister, Dallas, and my niece and nephew were waiting, mom cheered for me and "Random Dave". For the rest of the day I called him "Random Dave" and then in the later laps it turned into "Super Dave" as the run became more of a struggle and he carried on despite his injury. His actual last name is Cockman and he told me a hilarious story involving his name, but you will need to join him for a run and ask him to tell you the travel agency story if you want to hear it. Lap 2 was done in 2:56; still on schedule.

Chad, Amelia, and Bogart on Turkey Creek
Between lap 2 and lap 3, I changed into my Sam Rizk Umstead 100 shirt. Sam was a friend and inspiration and was the first to mention to me a few years ago that I should run the 50 miler at Umstead. Sam was registered for the race, but sadly passed away in December. I kept thinking that Sam should be out there running with us, but I know his spirit was alive that day. There was a group of friends and family running a lap in his honor starting at 11:00 am so I planned to wear my Sam shirt during lap 3 which was my lap that would begin closest to 11:00. During lap 3, the rain stopped and it became very humid. I was already hot in the rain, but without it's cooling effect, I really started cooking. Random Dave and I continued on together for lap 3 and we were still enjoying ourselves despite the less than ideal weather conditions. Chad met me a couple times on the backside of Turkey Creek and he brought our fur kids, Amelia and Bogart, to see me. They got really excited when they recognized me coming down the trail and each time, Chad let Bogart go running to me. Amelia couldn't be let go because she can't be trusted at all off leash. Every time I met another runner in this section I said to them "Did you see my doggies?" "Those are my babies!" It was a real bright spot to see Chad and the fur kids on this lap. I completed lap 3 in 3:10.
37.5 miles down, 62.5 (100K) to go and still on track time wise.

Coming in to HQ at the end of lap 3 with my Sam shirt on
I decided to check my feet between laps 3 and 4 as I felt hot spots on the big toes during lap 3. Removal of my shoes revealed not just hot spots, but decent sized blisters on both my big toes and both my heels on the inside. My feet were damp and starting to prune - good potential for problems. I had tried pre-taping Friday night for the first time because these are my "traditional" blisters that I seem to lately get without fail and I figured the tape wouldn't make it worse and hoped it would help prevent them. Well, the tape didn't prevent the blisters, but I also don't think it made them worse than they would have been anyway. I asked my crew and surrounding friends to see if Jonathan Savage, Blister Guru, could be found to help fix my feet. Jim Wei found Jonathan as he was about to shower after having completed his own fast 50 mile race, but he willingly postponed his shower to take a look. I still don't know if he got ever to shower as he ended up working continuously on runners with bad blisters that weekend. While he worked on my feet, I was brought a cup of Breyer's Vanilla Bean ice cream (thanks Erika!). It was delicious and so cold and really hit the spot! Yum! Jonathan agreed it was a good thing I had stopped to address my blisters rather than waiting until later. He expertly bandaged my feet, I changed into dry socks and shoes, and went on my way. I spent about 30 minutes or so at that stop, but I believe it was worth it as blisters can be extremely debilitating and I still had 100K to go. Plus, I got to sit with my feet up, rest and cool down a bit, and enjoy my ice cream!
Enjoying ice cream while Jonathan and Charles West check out my blisters
For lap 4, I meant to take my mp3 player, but I forgot to grab it. Chad was going to meet me at the other side of the course near Aid Station 2, so I called him and asked if he could bring it to me there. I continued on, still feeling good, still walking the uphills and running all the downhills and flats. The sun came out and it really warmed up on this lap and got steamy. When I neared AS2 just after the Butt Tree, Chad was there with Amelia and Bogart. Seeing the doggies and Chad out on the course so many times was a treat. I got the mp3 player and I was able to listen to music for the rest of the lap. The music lifted my mood (not that it was bad) and got me moving more energetically. It also helped pass the time as I ended up running the whole lap by myself. I had lost Random Dave when I stopped so long at HQ before. I think I was going down Power Line Hill singing out loud to Steve Miller's "The Joker" when I ran by a group of 3 girls who didn't look like they were having nearly as much fun as I was having - maybe they were grimacing at my singing. I'm not sure I was in tune since I couldn't really hear myself with the earphones, but I didn't care. I finished lap 4 in 3:38 which included the half hour stop, so still not too shabby all things considered. My total for the first 50 miles was 12:36, 36 minutes slower than my plan thanks to my blisters, but it was all good.
I changed all my clothes including under layers before lap 5. I just wanted to get the sweaty crusty clothes off and feel a little "fresher" and hopefully, prevent serious chaffing. I swear my shorts could have stood up on their own from the salt! My friend Renee, who was also managing the kitchen, was my pacer for this lap. When we started down the camp road, I was amused by her immediately springing forward with pent up energy. She said it felt great to get out and move after many hours volunteering. I reined her back in just a bit to my ultra shuffle pace and we settled in together nicely, chatting and having a lovely time. It was at the turn around check point on the airport spur when I asked the guy checking numbers at the cone whether he got my number and he said "No" that I realized I had left my bib at HQ. I looked down at my shorts and - no number! I was worried because I didn't want to do anything against race rules and I wanted to be sure my splits were recorded at the aid stations. So...Renee and Elizabeth to the Rescue: Renee called our friend Elizabeth at HQ who drove towards the camp gate while Renee ran back up the camp road to meet her and get my bib. I kept moving forwards towards my goal, looking back every so often to check for Renee and then I saw her, blazing up the trail towards me, bib in hand, and on a mission. She arrived happily out of breath with the chance to get some real running in and I was relieved to get my number back on and focus back on the task at hand. Renee is always so cheerful and lap 5 was no exception - she was a great pacer. I can't remember if I pointed out all my "landmarks" to her on our lap or not, but there was the usual Cork Screw Hill and then my additions of Mossy Mountain out of a Mole Hill and Dead Tree Hollow, followed by Jimbo's Toe-break Ridge, my Turkey Creek Turn Pike, the Butt Tree (a favorite of us locals), and then we were at AS2. The sun had set by this time and when we entered the woods again, I showed Renee my favorite sign which I could really relate to.

I have found from experience that periodically walking backwards uphill during a very long run uses different muscles and gives the "forward motion" muscles a break from the continuous use and abuse. I got some funny looks from other runners on the course, but it really seems to help me when the legs are weary of moving forward. If you haven't before, give it a try on your next really long training run or race and see if your legs don't experience some relief when you use different muscles walking backwards. Just don't fall off the trail, crash into obstacles, or other runners while you are doing it! You'll need to peak over your shoulder once in a while to confirm the way is clear. It also helps to have a pacer like Renee who will look out for you and lets you know when you are wandering too far to the side!

One of the hills I used this method on throughout the race was the steepest hill of the course, aptly dubbed Effing Hill. It is the first significant hill after entering the Sawtooth 79 section just past AS2.When we got to Effing Hill, I told Renee about my pile of rocks at the top of the hill. It was Jimbo's genius idea that he shared with me during one of our training runs. A couple of days before the race, he collected 8 rocks for himself and 8 rocks for me from the MTC "dog pen" and he placed them in two piles at a tree at the top of Effing hill. My pile was on the left (L for Lauren) and his was on the right. I had already thrown 4 of my rocks into the woods with glee - one for each time I conquered Effing Hill. The rocks were different sizes and I decided to throw my smallest one on my first lap, next smallest on the second lap, and so on, thus leaving the largest rock for my 8th lap. I threw rock #5 and Renee and I continued down the trail.
My Dog Pen rocks just before I threw my 4th one. Jimbo's are on the right.
Renee and I continued through the Sawtooth 79 section until we eventually reached another landmark of mine, One Tree Hill. After that, we followed the gentle winding gradual climb back up to Graylyn. In just a few miles, we were back at HQ and Lap 5 was completed in 3:41.
Me and Renee after Lap 5
Next up was my friend Elizabeth as pacer for lap 6. E is an optimistic, energetic, and enthusiastic person, just the kind you want for a pacer when attempting 100 miles. This would be the lap of "to go where Lauren has never gone before" as I would be achieving a distance PR on this lap. My previous record was about 65 miles if you count the last couple of sickly miles on my pacer's arm last year and since that I had done only one other 100K at Weymouth Woods two and a half months prior. It was after 10:00 PM and still fairly warm but the temperature was dropping and I made sure to wear a long sleeve shirt with my shorts and Elizabeth tied a jacket for me around her waist (muling is allowed at the U100) We saw lots and lots of runners still wearing their singlets or short sleeve shirts and shorts. There was even one guy next me in HQ getting ready to go back out in a singlet and shorts. Between the two of us, we convinced him to take an extra shirt with him just in case. He told me later that he was thankful he had it. Well, about 2 miles into lap 6, we heard a rumble. I thought maybe it was a plane or at least I was hoping that's what it was, but when we heard another rumble and saw a flash of lightning and the wind picked up a bit, that confirmed it was a storm. Luckily, I had a disposable poncho in my pack thanks to Ron Wahula (he gave it to me at the Friday dinner) and Elizabeth helped me get it on before I got wet. I certainly needed help because it was really stuck together in its little plastic baggie and I was tired, but we finally got it on and with only one tear on the left sleeve! E didn't have any rain gear with her, but she seemed actually thrilled to be out in the elements. She told me it was her first time running at night with a headlamp and first time running in a storm. And it would be my first time going past 65 miles - it was a lap for firsts! Running down Corkscrew Hill just past the junction of Reedy Creek with Graylyn, there were a couple of flashes that lit up the entire trail for just a moment and the rain started coming down pretty hard. I felt a bit of dread at the prospect of a long storm, but by the time we reached AS2, it was much calmer and the rain had almost stopped. I was grateful it was so short lived and that I was still warm and mostly dry. I heard later that lots of runners got caught out in the weather without warm clothes and got chilled or they huddled in the AS2 tent or even under the tables at the water points. I also heard after the race that some of the area actually had hail. Luckily, we did not see any of that out on the course.

One funny thing that happened on the back side of Sawtooth 79 section was that two male runners called out to us and asked if we had seen the "glowing eyes in the woods". They were pretty freaked out thinking they were coyotes or something. Having done many night/early morning runs at Umstead, my home turf, I asked if there was a group of them and about this high (making motion of expected height) and they said yes. I was like "those are deer, we see them all the time at night". We had a good chuckle over the men who were afraid of the does. We made it back to HQ in a steady 4:24. Slow, but still chugging along.
E and I after lap 6 - less than a marathon left!
 I was behind my schedule but still feeling pretty good mentally with 25 miles to go. I was determined to finish the whole thing this time and I didn't doubt that I would. Another good friend and training partner, Mo, was ready and waiting to pace me on lap 7. I had mentioned to E during lap 6 that I needed to check my blisters when we got back because they were talking to me again, but I almost forgot.  I spent a good amount of time at HQ changing from my shorts into Capri's, donning a fresh long sleeve shirt, and consuming 5 delicious pancakes (no syrup needed) made by "Pancake Man" Ben Dillon. I was finally all set to go when I realized I had not checked my feet. I hesitated and considered continuing on without doing so, but then decided it was better to lose a few more minutes than to be out on the course with major blister issues. Once again, Jonathan Savage generously took care of my feet and rebandaged the blisters on my heels and big toes. I didn't have any new blisters, but the ones I had at mile 37.5 had definitely gotten bigger and they were quite tender. Jimbo Plant also kindly rubbed my cramping right calf while I had my feet up. Unfortunately, Jimbo had to drop from the 100 due to Achilles pain. Achilles issues are nothing to mess with. After I was fixed up as best as possible, I donned dry shoes and socks and headed back out with Mo for lap 7.
Getting my feet worked on again before lap 7 while enjoying a frappucinno
I had been in HQ for approximately 45 minutes, it was around 3:30 in the morning and my muscles had locked up on me due to the long break. I had gotten really stiff and I gingerly eased back into things by first walking and then doing an extremely short "baby step" ultra shuffle that was so slow Mo could easily walk next to me. After a few minutes, I was able to move better again and we jogged on down the airport spur. On the camp road, we saw a runner heading the wrong way down towards Camp Crabtree and called out for him to turn around. I was glad to help another hundred miler avoid extra miles. In some ways, this lap was similar to our normal twice weekly 5AM training runs. Same headlamps, same darkness, same trail. If I didn't think about how many miles I had already covered in the last 20+ hours, I could almost forget that I was in the heart of my journey to 100 miles and it almost felt like one of our routine pre-dawn runs.

I don't remember what we talked about during our lap or how I made it through yet another 12.5 miles. One thing that I do remember is that we were just past AS2 next to Ebenezer Ch. Rd. when I heard the birds beginning to chirp. It was about 5:30 in the morning and they were waking up and bringing in the new day. It was then it "dawned" on me - pun intended - that I had made it through the long night, the darkest and hardest hours of a hundred miler and I had not fallen asleep on my feet or laid down in the middle of the trail as sometimes happens to weary runners. That in itself was a success. Soon the sun would be up and my quest would be coming to an end. By the time we were jogging down Powerline Hill on Graylyn trail, the sun was up and the birds were in full swing. We made it the 3 miles back to HQ in 4:30, my slowest lap, but it included about 45 minutes of stopping.

Our trail buddy and training partner, Gene, was waiting to join us for the last lap. He had pace another friend, Amy Surrette, on her 6th lap and then worked in a nap before getting ready to pace me. I was now on a mission - so close to finishing yet so far - and I quickly grabbed a short sleeve shirt from my supplies in HQ and headed back out to start my 8th and final lap. Mo and Gene were not ready for me to be so fast as they were now used to my customary lolly gagging between laps. Gene had promised he would wear his kilt to amuse me on the last lap and I barked at him "where's your kilt, get your kilt on" or something like that but being a good natured fellow, he took it all in stride. Mo had planned to change into something cooler and was getting ready to do so when I took off down the hill, past the start/finish flags and tape one last time, leaving my pacers behind in my rush. I wasn't worried because I knew they would catch up to me quickly seeing as they were still relatively fresh compared to me, despite earlier pacing and volunteering. They soon joined up with me a little ways down the camp road. We were now a "last-lap-ass-kicking posse" and we were laughing and joking despite me being both weary and whiny. When we reached the cone for the airport spur turn around, I went around one way and Gene ran around the other. Mo caught our silliness with her camera.

All fun and games at the turn around
There were a few times when the weariness overtook me and I started weeping. I asked them if they thought I was okay and just tired or if they thought something was wrong. In my experience, I get emotional when something is out of balance with my hydration, electrolytes, nutrition, etc. They assured me I was probably just tired. One of the times I started crying Gene told me to just let it all out, go ahead and cry and get it out and I had a good sobbing session. Though I had two wonderful pacers, I put my ear buds back in and listened to music on low to help keep my mind off the pain and discomfort and the lack of sleep and the music seemed to help me shake off the tears. I would relay to Gene and Mo each song that came up. Fittingly enough, "Crazy Train" and "Zombie" were two of the tracks.

When we reached AS2 for the last time, I hit the porta john (I was staying hydrated for sure) and Mo snapped this great shot of me as I emerged. :-)
Exhausted, I gingerly push the germy door away from myself.
It was getting warm and I finally was able to get rid of my long sleeve and put on the fresh short sleeved shirt I had picked up back at HQ at the start of the lap. I grabbed a piece of grilled cheese and someone filled my water bottle for me. We asked one of the kind volunteers to take our photo by the bridge at the aid station.

The last-lap-ass-kicking posse
When we reached Effing Hill for the final time, I gratefully threw my 8th and heaviest rock. It actually hit another tree and bounced back towards us!

Heaving my last rock!
We saw another friend, Angela White, at Water Stop #2. She had finished the 50 and was waiting to cheer for Linda Banks as she came by. I got a little whiny again to Angela and she told me I looked awesome and then let me chug about half of her very own lemon iced tea which was the best thing she could have done for me. That tea was so delicious and cold! We then continued on Turkey Creek trail, passing an older gentleman who was accompanied by his loyal wife and trying unsuccessfully to balance out "the leans" by carrying a huge rock in the opposite hand.

When we reached the top of the Powerline Hill, we saw another friend, Amy Surrette, also on her way to her first 100 finish. She was with her husband Andy and was walking due to very bad, painful blisters. I teared up a little seeing the pain on her face. I knew partly what she was feeling and was compelled to give her a hug. She is a strong, strong runner and I knew I would see her at HQ shortly.

We picked it up a little down the hill and ran the whole way to the bridge at the bottom then walked until we turned right onto Reedy Creek trail again. We saw Rhonda's husband Mike in the truck at the water stop, but I'm not sure he saw us. At this point, I just had a couple of miles left until I finished my first 100 and I was focused on that. Compelled by this knowledge, I kept on moving and tried to pick up the pace as much as possible. Every step hurt my feet, but I was also getting excited. We walked with a purpose up Cemetery Hill and when we crested it, I started right back to running again. In a few minutes, we were turning right onto the camp road, past the gate and my puking rock where my race had ended prematurely the year before. The camp road is fairly rocky and with every footfall, my sore aching feet protested the punishment, but I knew I was so close to my goal and I was not about to stop running now. I remember saying to Mo and Gene that I was really going to finish, that I couldn't believe it and asking if it was real or if it was a dream. We turned left at the fork in the road, then past the old cabin on the right, through the clearing, and then all of a sudden the finish was in sight. I could hear the cheering of all the wonderful supporters and volunteers. They were cheering for me! I sprinted forward, striding over each timber across the trail so as not to catch my toes. Those last yards were just as I had planned and imagined and I flew up that hill and under the banner in 28 hours, 29 minutes, and 57 seconds.
Chad was there waiting for me and so was my sister, Dallas, with my young niece and nephew. There were also many friends there, including Elizabeth and Renee who had waited for me to finish! I happily received my silver Umstead 100 finisher pendant. It was such an awesome feeling, a once in a lifetime experience, and I felt immense relief that I did not have to run anymore and I could rest. I had completed lap 8 in 3:19, my fourth fastest lap of the race.

After my head cleared a bit, I sat down with the best bacon and cheese omelet I have ever had. I think I had two more pancakes by Ben. I also enjoyed a lovely massage courtesy of Denise. It is all really a blur now as I am writing this 7 weeks afterwards, but I had Chad and many friends there congratulating me and taking care of me. My parents arrived and my mom gave me a banner she had made me. Mom was really disappointed that they had not arrived in time to see me cross the finish line. Mo gave me two congrats balloons that she had bought ahead of time - I guess she knew I would finish all along. I talked with Jimbo and Alanna and I think Jennifer Frahm and Jenn Ennis. I gave Amy a hug after she came into HQ after her finish. My mentor and friend, Rhonda, told me how proud she was and that I ran a great race. So many friends had impressive first performances. Bill finished his first 50 in under 10 hours. Bob, Charles A., Shannon, and Jeff finished their first 100 in under 24 hours. Linda, Alanna, and Amy all finished their first 100. Jade and Bryant had big distance PRs. As Jimbo would say, there was a whole lot of awesomeness going on at Umstead this year.
With Mo and Gene at the finish
After a bit, I made my way to the showers with Elizabeth helping me there and had absolutely the best hot shower of my life.

The Umstead 100 is a special race put on by amazing people who truly care about the success of their runners. It really feels like you are with family when you are there amidst all the enthusiastic, dedicated people involved in this event. I am especially lucky in that I am local and have had the joy of meeting and getting to know so many of those who were out on the course and involved in the race. Some additional perks of the Umstead is that finishers receive a certificate of completion for the 100 miles, prints of the photos taken by race staff of them on the course, detailed splits, and a nice letter from the RD, Blake, welcoming finishers into the ranks of hundred milers.

My finisher's pendant!
Freshly showered and resting on Chad's shoulder