Glacier Ridge Trail Ultra 30K

The Pittsburgh Marathon took place on a Sunday. The following Saturday, I drove up to Moraine State Park and completed the Glacier Ridge Trail Ultra 30K. I know what you might be thinking – “Lara, you ran a marathon on a Sunday and then did a trail run on Saturday! Are you crazy?”

Yes, yes I am.

Was it a good idea?

Nope, no it was not.

Back in 2015, I did this race and the last couple of miles were pure hell. I ran out of water, the temperature got ridiculously hot, and I had side cramps that made even walking forward difficult. I should also clarify that I ran out of water because my dumb ass passed up a water stop. If my memory serves me, I didn’t come in before the cutoff, but they gave me a medal anyway.

When I crossed the finish line, my friends Kelly and Emily were waiting for me. Once they saw how overheated I was and how much my fingers looked like sausages, they went into overdrive to make sure I cooled down. Water may or may not have been poured over my head.  Honest to dog, I honestly thought I might need medical attention for the last mile.

This race haunted me.

Gearing up for 2019, I vowed to not make the same mistake I made in 2015. I wore a hydration vest and carried an extra bottle of water in the backpack. I did trail runs on a semi frequent basis prior to the race. I thought all my marathon training, weight training and other cross training meant that I was going to kill this race.

Before the race, I found out the cutoff time for the race was 7 hours. I thought, “Oh, so that must have meant I ran it past 7 hours back in 2015. I got this!” Plus, the temperature was absolutely perfect the day of the race. However, the day before the race, it had rained a bit, so the trail was pretty muddy. I’m talking the kind of mud where your shoe stays in it but your foot leaves (that is, if you don’t tie your shoes secure enough).

During the race, I felt good, all things considering. I kept reminding myself that I had ran a marathon (injured, nonetheless) not even a full week ago. I stayed properly hydrated and didn’t feel like I was all alone for most of the race, unlike last time. For a long stretch, there was a woman I kept figuratively and literally chasing. I know she was using me as inspiration to keep going faster. We leap-frogged a couple of times and when she was ahead of me, I noted her looking back at me a couple of times and then increasing her speed.

(Spoiler alert: I caught up to her for the last mile and a half. I beat her! Mwahaha.)

Someone actually captured a photo of me during the last portion of the race. I’m smiling and more importantly, I’m actually running. If someone had photographed me in 2015, they would have caught me in the midst of heat exhaustion, wanting to cry.

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I wanted to come in under six hours, but that didn’t happen. I walked more than I wanted to, but I listened to my body. I came in at 6:09, but I wasn’t in the midst of heat exhaustion or potential heat stroke. I was happy that I came in with time to spare! I didn’t get swept!

I was convinced that I destroyed my 2015 time because didn’t I not make the cut off time that year? I looked at my time from 2015 when I got home from GRT and saw that I was 11 minutes SLOWER this year.

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No, it’s fine. It’s fine. It took me a day to accept that I was actually slower this year. I was definitely a lot faster at 35 compared to 39, plus I may have gained a little bit of weight.

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Whatever, I still did it and I came in feeling strong. This race isn’t going to haunt me anymore.

 

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World’s Okayest Runner

I’m so behind on my race recaps, but then again, I don’t think I have that many captivated readers who have been waiting with baited breath for my marathon recap. (If you do read these exercises in word vomit of mine, leave a comment! Until then, I’m going to believe I’m typing into the void.)

I celebrated my birthday one week before the Pittsburgh marathon. Dave took me to breakfast and then we saw Avengers: Endgame. It was exactly what I wanted to do for my birthday. Afterwards, we parted ways and I went grocery shopping to complete my weekly meal prep. I placed one grocery bag in my trunk, and then a second. I leaned forward to push the second bag back a bit when I felt a muscle pull in my left shoulder.

That’s right. I pulled a muscle in my shoulder on my 39th birthday putting groceries away in my car. It hurt so bad that I yelped loudly. Really? I injure myself putting groceries away? Come on.

For the week leading up to the marathon, I refrained from running or anything physical really. I iced my shoulder and rested. I also worried like a crazy person, filled with anxiety, like, “Am I even going to be able to run the marathon?” I could barely rotate my left arm without pain radiating throughout my shoulder, and I’m going to run 26.2 miles? I kept thinking, “I may be cursed to never run this fucking race. Unreal.”

The night before the race, I still didn’t feel remotely good but I decided to go for it anyway. I figured that I would try and if it got to be too much, I’d stop and do a Do Not Finish. I wanted to try because this is The Race I have been wanting to conquer since 2015, 2016.

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I may be smiling but I was thinking, “If anyone bumps into my shoulder, I will probably cry.”

I did make a crucial error the morning of the race. It was raining, and I did not lube up my feet. I had vaseline with me, but Race Day excitement means I’m more forgetful than my normal. You’d think I haven’t been running since 2013, but sigh… welcome to my brain.

During the first 16 miles of the race, my friend Emily stayed with me. She and I trained together a good portion leading up to the marathon. Throughout the race, I had a couple of close calls where I came close to someone colliding with my shoulder. As a result, Emily stayed on my left to prevent anyone from getting near my left side. I am so grateful to her.

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She was ahead of me on the hill but I wasn’t that far behind!

Mother Nature was not kind to us runners that day. It rained a bit during the race, and so I formed a gnarly blister on my right foot. I was feeling it bad. I also kept having to stop and clear my glasses off so I could, you know, see. When we were approaching 16 miles together, I could tell the wheels were starting to fall off for me, and my friend was holding back for me.

My shoulder hurt, and because my shoulder hurt, I wasn’t rotating the way I normally do when I run. On top of that, the blister on my foot was killing me and for the first time in years, I felt IT band. Before I pulled the muscle in my shoulder, my training was pretty solid and consistent. My 20 mile runs were each around 4 hours. I thought I could get 5:15 or thereabouts.  I knew that wasn’t going to happen for me, and I will be damned if I hold anyone back.

I told Emily to go chase her PR and I would be fine running by myself. Besides, if something bad happened to me, I was never truly alone. I’d be fine. I appreciate that she wanted to make sure I’d be okay before she went chasing her PR (spoiler: she got it!).

During the last 10 miles, once I accepted that I wasn’t going to hit my time goal, I just focused on enjoying the beauty of the marathon. I looked to see if I recognized anyone, and I thanked the volunteers who braved standing in the cold, rainy weather to help crazy people like me. When I hit mile 18 (aka the greyhound mile), the rain was coming down pretty hard, so the greyhounds who normally like to run with the runners, were all taking refuge under a bridge. I didn’t blame them!

The last couple of miles were a real struggle. My shoulder hurt, the blister was taunting me at that point, and I was overcompensating all over the place. I later saw a video of me close to mile 26, and I was run/limping, hop a long Huffman.

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Yeah, take a closer look. I’m in a lot of pain here. My foot is really not supposed to be turned in that direction.

For no reason other than pride, I was hustling as much as I could the last couple of miles because I wanted to come in before the 5:30 pacer. My first marathon in Columbus, I was at 5:00:58. For my second marathon in Indy, I was 5:28. I wanted to beat 5:30, so I can still stay this is my range.

I CROSSED THE FINISH LINE AT 5:28:58. That’s right! Pittsburgh is much harder than Columbus or Indianapolis, and I ran that sucker all banged up and still managed the same time I did for Indy. (Granted, I didn’t cross train at all before Indy, and that murdered me.)  That still shows how much I really worked hard for this race.

Now, if my health does a nose dive into the crapper again, I’m not going to be haunted by the race I never got to do. I did it, y’all. [Redacted] can never take that from me. If I find myself in the chemo chair again, and given [redacted], it could very well happen, I’ll tell everyone who’ll listen to me about that one time I ran a marathon a week after I pulled a muscle in my shoulder.

Stayed tune for the next post, where I provide my Glacier Ridge Trail recap. Why yes, I ran a 30K trail race 6 days after running a marathon.

So I did a thing

Pretty much anybody who knows me knows I do not like the spotlight, nor is it something I ever seek out.  The very idea of it makes me ridiculously uncomfortable, like a thousand bugs crawling on me. I don’t like being in photographs, and I cringe when I see myself on video.

I know I have pontificated on the importance of parents being in the photographs with their kids based on the fact my mom hated being in the photos. I will cop to being a hypocrite when it comes to being in the pictures and videos.  Lara Huffman, hypocritical photographer. #thatsme

So, when I saw a post on Facebook, announcing that UPMC Health Plan was looking for volunteers for their “This is what a Runner Looks Like” campaign, I thought, “Hmm, maybe I can talk about Metavivor?”

I knew I could get UPMC’s attention by just saying a little about myself. Breast cancer + young age = catnip for social media teams. People love the breast cancer SURVIVOR narrative, so I used it to my advantage. Surprise surprise (or not), they called me up and said they wanted to share my story.

I told the very nice woman up front that I didn’t want to do it if I couldn’t talk about Metavivor somehow and mention their name.  She tried to get me to agree to do the series, even if I couldn’t talk about Metavivor, insisting that others will find my story inspirational. I told her that yes, I am sure, and I don’t want to put myself out there like that on behalf of UPMC if I couldn’t talk about the organization I wanted to broadcast.

I will only publicity whore myself out for charity, thank you very much.

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When I didn’t hear from her for a handful of days, I thought, “Welp, big hospital conglomerate decided they didn’t like my provision. OH WELL.” Then they surprised me, and got the approval.

Boy, the day of the taping, I felt so awkward and wanted to hide. I kept telling myself, “It’s for Metavivor, it’s for Metavivor.” I also thought if I could put it out in the universe that not everybody becomes some zen Cancer on the Buddha top after going through cancer treatment. That’s not me. I don’t have any answers, or pretend that I even do. Cancer didn’t make me a better person or some changed, wide-eyed person who takes life by the horns.

Cancer did give me something I didn’t have quite as much before: impatience with people who don’t deserve my patience. I don’t have the time for friendships that caused me more grief than joy. If you are not in my life, then it’s for a very deliberate reason, which I am under no obligation to explain myself. I definitely cut people out of my life who needed hand holding constantly, but if you have a problem, then they have to one-up you. I cannot stand those people, and they make me see red. I definitely do not have patience for anyone who wants to mistreat me or my loved ones.

 

So I never want to be put on a pedestal, because I’m going to jump off it. I am not some damn hero for not dying from breast cancer. (The real hero in that is science!) I also don’t want anyone to put me on a pedestal for talking about metastatic breast cancer. Shit like that is a distraction. Talk about metastatic breast cancer, and the need for research and real change in the breast cancer narrative.

The downside of making regular folks out to be heroes is that eventually the magic evaporates and what’s standing there is a regular person with regular flaws.

So, luckily, UPMC Health Plan edited me in a way that’s true to me, AND I got to mention METAvivor.

This is What a Runner Looks Like: Lara H.

It’s surreal to think almost 15,000 people watched this almost 2-minute clip of me TALKING. When the video first posted, I felt so uncomfortable and batted off any praise like a fly buzzing by me. Make it stop, make it stop, make it stop. Stop talking about me and go visit METAvivor. 

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I am not looking to be anyone’s inspiration, I’m really not. That puts a lot of pressure on me to keep deliverin’ the goods, and I don’t have the patience to feel weighed down by unrealistic expectations. This also isn’t me fishing for compliments. But you are! I relish that my friends admire me, and I don’t take that lightly. I wouldn’t be friends with them if I didn’t admire them either.

I know I signed up to do this, and I exposed the name METAvivor to almost 15,000 people. That’s all I wanted to do, and I can tell that the buzz around my video is already quieting down on social media (thank GOD). I just want the conversation be about metastatic breast cancer and the 114 that die in the U.S. every day from the disease. Instead of being wowed by the messenger, focus on the message. 🙂

I’m sorry for feeling uncomfortable about the exposure and not knowing how to react to people telling me they cried.

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Would I do something like this again? Uh, probably not, unless they let me link to METAvivor or talk more about metastatic breast cancer. But do something like this just to talk about myself?

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