Monday, September 11, 2017

Mid-Mountain Marathon, Park City, Utah, 8/19/17

Mid-Mountain Marathon, Park City, Utah  

A few months ago, I felt compelled to see some mountain tops. Last June, SuperDave and I ran 51M up to a summit in Bryce Canyon, just in time to see the sunset. This was one of the best experiences I had in a long time. I needed to see the sunrise over a mountain again.

This year, Sid and I decided to visit Park City. While there, I ran the Mid-Mountain Marathon, a trail marathon that takes place at about 8500ft for most of the race. Being from 20ft, I knew the altitude would limit me. Considering that I feel very much out of "racing shape", I planned to hike when I needed to and run when I could. My biggest concern was whether or not I would be able to beat the cut-off at 16M. We had to maintain a 15:00 pace and I truly wasn’t sure if I would be able to do that. It really depended upon how technical the trail was.  Altitude can be soul crushing to those who reside at sea level.

I booked a hotel in a very nice lodge so Sid would have a comfortable place to stay while I ran. I felt like we needed a splurge weekend, so this trip was truly a vacation in a beautiful place with a marathon thrown in, just so I could get a workout. The lodge did not disappoint us at all.

The first thing we did after landing in SLC was to drive up to Guardsman’s Pass. This is the start of the Big Cottonwood Marathon, one of my very favorite races. We went on a short hike and just enjoyed the views while trying to breathe at 9700 ft. 

 







 The next morning I would try to run at 8500 ft. As I huffed and puffed while walking back to the car, I began to question what I had managed to get myself into. Hey, worst case scenario is that I DNF. That is not really a big deal to me. I know most people feel a DNF is some type of epic personal failure. I just don’t feel that way. Running is something I do for me, for fun, to bring me joy, and right now if I feel that I something is going so terribly wrong that I want to or need to stop I will stop. Sure it is disappointing, but I don't beat myself up for doing it. I have nothing to prove. 

No matter what happened, I knew I would still get to see the sunrise over the mountains while traveling as far as I could on foot. There will be a day that I can no longer run trails for any duration at 8500ft. Today would not be that day. 

I did not do much planning (or specific training). It was on the way to packet pickup that I realized I was supposed to take a bus to the start. When I learned where the start was, I was so happy to discover that it was actually .2M from my hotel!  POINT TWO MILES… No way!  That is so perfect!

With the 2 hour time change, getting up for the race was easy. My 5:00 AM alarm for a 7 AM race start felt like I was sleeping in. I didn’t even organize my gear until the morning. I wasn’t sure how my shoes would feel since I was wearing new wear-test Hokas. I needed to put 25 miles per week on them so this would knock out a week’s mileage in one day! I was hopeful they would be ok. They were. 


At sunrise, Sid and I walked over to the start. I was nervous. It felt like forever since I raced a trail race at altitude. I had no idea what the footing would be like. Setting realistic expectations, I seeded myself way in the back. 

The weather conditions were perfect! It was high 40’s at the start and the temp would rise into the 80s by the end.  However, with no humidity and a shady course, it just felt cool and comfortable the entire way.

Off we went and by the end of mile 1, I felt like I was already in trouble. The altitude was just too much for me. I learned from last year at Big Cottonwood, that when I don’t get in enough air, my lower legs cramp and spasm.  It was happening again, as we worked our way from about 7600 ft to 8500 ft. 

By the time I hit the 3M mark, I was run/hiking at a blistering 14:50 pace. I had stopped for a few photos, but I also needed that time to catch my breath. I was certain I was not going to make the cut-off.  I am pretty sure most of the entire field has passed me. Trains of runners on the single track “On Your Left’d” me for the first 45 minutes of this race. 

By 3.6M into the run, everything started to turn around! The shin spasms alleviated, the course started to feel better to me. There was runnable trail for a long time and I just ran ran ran… slowly... but it was definitely running ;)

From this point on, I must have passed about 100 runners. I wasn’t fast, but everything I could run I did and only one person passed me from the 3.6M mark through the finish (just one guy who was hauling at the very end). I had stumbled over rocks about 5 times and was so proud to have been able to right myself before falling. People around me were not so lucky.  Most falls happen when glancing away from the trail. When checking the watch, looking at the beautiful views, or looking up ahead to try to avoid mountain bikers coming the opposite way, all led to me kicking a rock that threw off my balance. 

But it was not until the last few miles of the race that I had gotten so fatigued that lifting my feet became a chore. The course shifted from shaded woodsy trail to extremely runnable downhill switch backs.  Due to my slower pace for most of the race, I was not really burnt out too much by the end. As we hit the switchbacks I was able to pick up my pace, but not my feet, apparently!  


I fell 3.5 times between M21 and the M25. At one point I was getting annoyed with myself for all the stumbling. (.5 was because I landed against a tree, so technically I was still upright. But that tree kicked my butt!) Even with my unique technique of flinging myself down the switchbacks, I was still passing people. 


This marathon turned out to be one of slowest marathons in my life, but it was one of the most enjoyable. I love the area. Park City is fun. 


The downtown main street area is filled with delicious food at interesting restaurants. The mountain views are inspiring. I was just so glad to be there doing something that scared me, in a good way.

I need more Adventure in my life and the Mid-Mountain Marathon certainly fed my soul. As I approached the finish line, I started to feel myself getting emotional. I was so uncertain about whether or not I could finish a trail marathon that was over 8000 ft elevation. A lot could have gone wrong. Very few things actually did. I set out at a slow pace, which helped make the work more fun.  By the end, I still felt energized. I was able to finish the second half stronger than the first. I was only bleeding a little at the end. It was a good day!


My time was 5:39.  Sidney seemed proud of me. He was quick to point out that I was 14th in my age group, which made me laugh a bit.  But he followed this up with “Look at the entire leader board!!! … Almost every single person ahead of you is from the mountains. You are one of the first from sea level to finish!

Ok, that made me feel proud of myself.












Sid and I spent the next few days hiking trails, eating and drinking downtown, and relaxing at the lodge. It was one of the best trips I have had in a long long time. We didn’t feel rushed. Our accommodations were so beautiful that just hanging out at the lodge felt like we were doing something special. We spent time just sitting on our deck together watching the mountain be a mountain.


What a great trip! 




Thursday, July 20, 2017

Racing with Sidney and the Teterboro 5k, Teterboro Airport, NJ. 7/15/17

This Saturday morning I convinced Sidney to race a 5k with me. This wasn't hard to do. Afterall, he completed his training on Wednesday, the same day he started his training, by running a 3.1M run declaring he was ready to go. ;)

I love Sidney.  He keeps my perspective in check.  Sid doesn't "train" for anything. He just runs without any idea of how fast, how far, and even how often he is running. He takes the dogs out for their exercise, comes home runs a few more miles on his own or with me, and that is how he trains. There are no "workouts" on the plan. He doesn't use a log. He just runs.

In my opinion, he generally picks the worst (hottest) time of day, wears dark colors, usually wearing a black cotton T-shirt that makes me crazy. He carries nothing with him, except now he carries his phone if he is on call for work. Often, it seems like he isn't even having a good time. But he still just runs.

When we run together, he is usually about 6 strides in front of me. I just follow him around until we are done. No talking.  Just run. It is a very unique experience. This technique began when we first started dating and he would take me to Allaire to run trails. He knows trails. He is/was a mountain biker.  On single track, we needed to run single file and leave some room, about 6 strides, for me to see the ground between us so I could stay upright.  This just became how we run now.

Even though Sidney doesn't "train" for anything and doesn't often seek out races, he will race anything I ask him to race. Ironically, his favorite races are events like La Luz, the 9M, one-way, uphill the WHOLE way, trail race in New Mexico that starts at 6000 ft and ends at 10600 ft.  He has done this 5 times and once just climbed the trail solo because he could. Yes, he climbed La Luz mid-day, and I am sure he was wearing a black cotton T-shirt. He did carry water. Phew.

On the other end of the spectrum, he loves the Key West Half. We used to do that race every year for a decade. He says he liked that race because it has free beer at the end... but he doesn't drink beer ??? I think he tries to torture me. I also think 6 of his 10 his Key West race photos are of him racing in the sub-tropics in his Dark Forest Green La Luz trail run shirt. At least it was a tech shirt. :)

Once, 3 entire weeks before the LBI 18M run, Sid declared he wanted to run it. No training at all.  So I say "Ok, if you want to run 18M on 0 training, I will pay to see this happen."  I register him when I register myself.  Sid has screws in his knee from a motocross injury (He was very very good at Motocross. He used to race across the US like I do with running. He was sponsored by Fox. I wish I knew him then). He has a replaced Achilles tendon from a cadaver. He has screws in his shoulder from a head on collision with a drunk driver who was driving the wrong way on Rt 9 at night with no lights one night he was driving home from work at the prison. The screws in his knee bother him when he runs too far, but somehow 18M on no training did not send up any red flags. I know the car will be parked at Mile 9 and he will have the keys. If he gets to 9M in pain, he can DNF, get in the car and meet me at the end. I fully expect to see him there when I hit the finish shoot. Screws,  a Borrowed Achilles, 18M, No Training... I am not sure he can finish this without pain. But no.  He runs 18M in 9:22 pace, eating only Candy Corn for fuel (while most likely wearing black cotton T-shirt.) :)  He only had a 4 minute positive fade in a race with a headwind throughout the entire point-to-point course.

Sid will race anything I ask him to race, but I don't abuse the privilege.  

Sid definitely does not over think things. Once we left for a 5k up New Hampshire and halfway to the race he realized he was wearing bedroom slippers and had no sneakers in the car.  We had to stop at Khols on the way,  run in, buy sneakers and then he raced it. Another time he forgot shorts?  I do think he likes to torture me. :)

Once he decided he wanted to run a marathon. He actually had time to prepare. Like weeks of time, maybe like 6 weeks? ;)

I convinced him to run the Beaver Island Marathon in Michigan. He could rent a plane and fly us there. He agreed that would be awesome. He devised his own training plan. He wanted to train for it by mountain biking a lot. (He was a very good mountain biker. Really good and he wanted to protect his knee from the pounding, so this made sense). I convinced him to do a few runs. So he decided to run a 5M, 10M, 15M, and 20M run each week apart, then rest a week before the marathon, and the rest of the time he would mountain bike or maybe run if he felt like it. So he ran a 5, 10, 15, and 20M run, as he said he would. All nonstop, all without fuel, most likely in black cotton t-shirts, at 10:00 pace or better, on trail loops. Even effort. No fade.

On race weekend, the Beaver Island was going to be hit with thunderstorms. He can't fly a Mooney in that so we canceled the trip. Since he was "trained," I signed us up for a 12 Hour race (Labor Pains) and we ran that together.  It was on a 5M loop of rocky trails. The loop required the use of a step ladder to get over a guardrail.  One lady fell on her face on some rocks and broke her nose. I may or may not have broken my toe or at least dislocated it. All I know is it was purple for a week and super painful. We ran 4 laps, stopped to have some burgers and kick our feet up to rest. Then we went out and we ran/walked 11 more miles. Sidney finished a 50k with me.  He has a vest that says "50K Finisher." But ask him today if he ever ran a marathon or ultra and he says "No. That race doesn't count. We had burgers. We took a break. We sat in lawn chairs. We use a step ladder.  What's up with that!? That doesn't count!" Ok, you covered 31.1M on foot and yes it was at a leisurely pace... so ok that doesn't count. Sidney likes to torture me.

Sid doesn't care for road races. So once I found us an adventure race that required us to canoe through a bioluminescent bay (beautiful), mountain bike a few miles, and then run... all while trying to find checkpoints in the middle of the dark night in Florida. The race started at 1:00 am and ended at 5:00 am. We had no time to train for this.  I have no skills with orienteering.  Sid has military training, so I was hoping someone taught him how to use a compass.  I don't even know if we had a compass?  But he thought this sounded awesome and agreed to do it. So we did it.  We actually found a few checkpoints, which was a small miracle.... especially with me in charge of the map and with me not realizing there were actual turn-by-turn directions on the back of the map they gave us 10 minutes before the start when we arrived.  Apparently, the regulars get there an hour or two early to plan their strategy and learn the routes.  Our strategy: Just Don't Die. This was more challenging than it sounds since we had to "jump over" a slow moving train with our mountain bike.  It was very slow moving.  Somehow we managed to not finish last. I suspect the other two teams behind us were blind.

Sidney is my running opposite.

I know every detail about every step I take. I try to race with precision, collecting data along the way, making reasoned decisions. I plan my training, my fueling, my pacing, my gear.  I am my worst critic.  My heart gets too invested. I elevate running to some status it may or may not deserve in reality. But running gives me a tremendous sense of purpose.

And then Sidney leaves for races forgetting to bring running shoes. But he always manages to finish what he starts, no matter what the challenge is. He may not train, but I love his perspective.  

Sidney has a lot of lessons to teach me about running, many of which I am still learning: 
-Don't over think things.
-Believe in yourself.
-Be honest with yourself.
-Know your ability.
-Work within your means.
-Get it done.
-Do the job you set out to do.
-No excuses.
-No quitting.

Sidney is awesome.

*****

Teterboro 5k

Today I convinced Sid to run the 5K at the airport he flies out of for work.  I wanted to race so I could work on my sharpening my pacing. I knew my time would be much slower than last year.  I wanted his company to make the whole experience more fun. After the race, he could show me the jets he flies as a charter pilot (he flies wealthy people around or gets hired to fly surgeons to hospitals in the middle of the night to pick up organs for transplant patients). Even though this was one of the days he did NOT have to go to Teterboro, he was a good sport and went with me anyway.


Sid made an effort to warm up with me. After his .25M warm up, I did another .5M around the area we could use for warm up space. Space was limited because this race is on an airport tarmac and security is tight there.

I decided to line up towards the front, second row.  I ran 7:04 pace at Belmar last weekend and had predicted I should be able to run 6:50 pace or better today.  My goal is to start around 6:50, maybe 7:00 if I felt sluggish, then aim to get slightly faster each mile. Goals: Run by feel, forget the watch, listen to my body, and no fading.

I don't expect anything in terms of placement, but I know I was 2nd last year with 19:43.  6:50 or better is about 21:15... I hope to maybe squeak under 21 if I feel strong.

Sid heads towards the middle of the pack. He decided 9:00 pace would be realistic. Under 9 would be wonderful. Part of finishing what you start is having some sense of self-awareness about your ability. It is a little better to underestimate than over estimate speed and endurance when you haven't raced anything in 9 months.

The gun goes off. I start behind Sergio and next to Ben. The pace is a tad fast off the line. After getting pulled out too fast, I let three ladies go and I settle back a little. I size up my competition as I run My Pace. In the first half mile, I suspect that 2 of the 3 women in front of me are breathing a little too hard too soon and likely not going to be able to hold their pace. The third woman looks strong. I don't even look at my watch. I am trying to run by feel alone.  I plan to check my splits after the race. I want to feel like I am picking up my pace each mile.  M1 6:42.

In the second mile, I shift a gear and get a little faster.  I catch up to Ben and begin to reel in the one woman ahead of me. I ask Ben. "Is she first woman?"  Ben: "I believe she is. But you can take her"  Me: "Not if I blow up in M2... I need to be patient.  If she is still near me in the last mile, I have to go for it.  After all, I have extra motivation today ... Sidney is here!"

I pick up a bit, trying to stick to my plan of gradual negative splits. I reel her in faster than I planned.  I hope to wait until the final mile to pass, but just before M2 I end up right behind her.  M2 6:38

I have no idea where the M2 Marker is and I not looking at my watch often or if I am I am not retaining what I see.  I find myself passing her, a bit earlier than I hoped and I have a choice. I can hold my pace and risk having her go with me or I can pass "with authority", put some distance between us, hope to not blow up before I settle down, wait for a little bit of recovery to set in so I can find my next gear, and then kick at the end to hopefully seal the victory.

I decide to pass with authority and hope to hold it together the rest of the way.  I glance at my pace after the M2 beep and it is 6:18. I know I am not holding that for the full 1.1 to the end.  Once I can't hear her feet hitting the ground I settle down.  I want to look back so badly, but I don't.  I stick to my plan.  I settle down to regroup, ideally cleaning my lactate so I can burst if needed if I hear her approach. I figure if she had to work hard to catch up to me, she won't have another gear once she reaches me and we are starting to run out of road.  M3 6:33

I think about the track workouts Alanna, Kim, and I have been doing. I know my turnover has been low 5:00 pace for 300 meters repeats. My best 300 in training as 59 seconds which is a 5:19 pace at the end of 3.75 miles of 300 meter repeats. I know I have another gear, but I just want to until I know I can hold it before I shift one last time.  We are close to ending this thing, but it is still too soon to be confident. With each step closer to the finish, I take it granted even LESS that I have this wrapped up.  That last thing I need is to be over confident just strides from the shoot and lose the race.  I have no idea where she is.  I don't look back. I won't be confident that I have this race won until I actually do it.

I think about Sidney. I really want to be able to tell him "I won!" He rarely attends races with me and not often when I am peak shape. When I have goal races in mind and when I am well-trained, I prefer to go to races without him so he can stay home with our dogs and I can focus on what I need to do. I do better on my own. But when I do well, I do wish he could see me at my best.  But even at my best, I don't win a lot of races overall so when he does go to a race with me, the chance that I will actually win is quite low. Today I would like for him to see me win something.

I know I have another gear. I did my work and paced this well. When I see the finish line, I dig deep. If I just run as fast as I can, push as hard as I can, then I will have a good chance at winning. And if I get beat, I can't be too upset because I will know I tried my best.

I kick as hard as I can. I imagine I am on the track trying to run my best 300m repeat. I make it to the shoot first, running the last .1 in 5:50 pace. I turn around and see how close this was. I had about a 15 second lead by the finish.

Sidney came in a few minutes later, in 8:08 pace!  <3

Stat:
Time: 20:30 gun (20:27 chip time: 6:36 pace)
Gender Place: 1st OA Female
Overall Place 30

Friday, July 14, 2017

My Initial Check-In Race for this training cycle: Belmar 5, Belmar, NJ, 7/8/17

To solidify my focus and to get a handle on what my training paces should be right now, I needed a "Check-In" Race. 

I also needed to wait until I felt ready to enjoy the experience. It was going to be a challenging day, with a race time that was much slower than I have run in the past, as it should be. I worked incredibly hard for my PRs last Fall. I am not at that level of fitness now. I am having fun on the track. My long runs are up to 18M. I am doing my hill work. 

Starting over can be hard to do, but once the ball is rolling, positive progress can be made. I know that reminiscing about past performances and feeling "bad" that we am not running as fast right now does nothing to move us forward or make us fitter. That is wasted energy, negatively toned, that only operates to hold us back. It is human to think about where we have been and how great we have run before, but that is the past. Today is not that day. To get fitter I know I need to assess where I am right now, in this moment, and build from here. I don't have a lot of trouble moving past that hurdle once I get started. It is the first race back that is the hardest step. I need to wait until I feel ready and then all it takes one Check-In Race to give me a new present focus to build from. Today I found my focus. 

After a beach run with Kim last week, I emailed Suz. I had been asked by Laura if I was racing again. Suz was building a team could use some runners. I wasn’t going to make any promises about my ability. I had no idea what I could do.  I needed a race to find out. I could promise to be a body on the roster if she needed runners to field a team. Suz was happy to let me on!  Thank you!

My last race was a 10K in April. At Mile 4, I strained my Achilles.  It was a weird mishap that was not from training, but rather from walking 8M (unplanned) the day before in crap shoes and really exhausting my calves and Achilles. (Sometimes it is what we do when not training that has the biggest impact on our race day experience).  When I started running to 10k, my Achilles was already very tired. I truly needed recovery from that walk, not to run 6:45 pace up a hill. By M4 of that race, my Achilles just gave out. I knew I was going to need a lot of time to recover. I just should have stayed home that day, but I had no way to really know I was not going be able to run 6M and finish in one piece. Just the week before I ran a 1:30 20k with a 6:35 final mile. I thought I be ok.  I was mistaken.   


So today, I was a bit anxious about racing again. I did not want to restrain my Achilles. Trust is hard to build back once broken, but the only way back is to take some calculated risks and accept the consequences. There was no reason to think I would get hurt. I took a long time to heal properly. I felt 100% well. I was not just race-ready.

Because I am still building up my volume and this was not a goal race, I wanted more than just 5M of running, especially if I was going to take a drive to the beach (45 minutes each way). Kim had 8M on her plan, so we met at 5:45 am, caught the sunrise, and ran that together as my “warm up”.

We parked just over a half mile from the race staging area (so Kim could be sure to get out of Belmar easily). SuperDave came down to race. He parked in the same lot, arriving as I was in my car trying to remember what it felt like to lace up a pair of racing flats. Dave and I got our bibs, I found some of my teammates, and we headed to the start.

The first race back always feels a little surreal. My body hadn't felt the rush of the neurochemical cocktail that primes the CNS to perform in a long time. 


During the warm-up, Kim asked me what I thought I would do. 

Me: “Oh Jeez, I have no idea??? I really hope to be between 7 and 8, but I would be really happy with sub-9! I haven’t run anything in the 8’s in a long time. I hope I can run 8:30s!” 

Kim: “OMG! You will be faster than that! Would you be happy with 7:30’s?” 

Me: "Absolutely! I would be thrilled with 7:30s. I ran 6:38 here last year… I don’t expect that to happen today.”

Just jogging to the start felt hard. The 8M 10:00 paced warm up felt hard. I had trouble imagining running in the 8:00’s. It is human to reflect back on how fast and fit I was just months ago and feel “something’ about not being in that type of shape again. But I was ready to see where I stand.  In some ways, this is "Just a Race." But for me, running is also my livelihood. The bulk of my income comes from my coaching. I need to be able to perform well (for me), to role model good balance, and to practice what I preach. It is very very important for my survival and this often makes running and racing much more important to me in some ways than probably most of the runners standing there at the start alongside me.

I line up a few rows back, further than I would if I was fitter. After the National Anthem, off we go. I am immediately trapped behind a wall of people, most running too slow for where they seeded themselves. I try to find my way around groups of runners without running too far out of my way. I try to be patient, but I really just need room to run without getting jostled around. 

After hitting the accelerator to get clear space, I see my pace is 6:28 at less than a half mile into this thing. I am pleasantly surprised! No way! I didn't expect to see that at all.  It is clearly too fast, but it doesn't feel terrible and that is the best part!  

I pump the breaks to get myself closer to a 7:00 pace. I feel good! My breathing is not out of control (yet). My legs feel springy and energized. Nothing hurts!  But I know running too fast is a trap. Lactate is building up, imperceptibly, behind the scenes in my blood stream. It is only a matter of seconds to minutes before a pace that seemed unbelievably easy to hold becomes soul-crushingly hard and requires even more slow-down to recover from after the LT is over-shot that if I just slowed before overshooting, which then destroys average overall pace. I decide to aim for 7:00 and see how that feels. I work on slowly, slowing down but a part of me is still falling for the false promises my lungs and legs are making me, making me wonder if 6:45 is possible… I slow and hit M1 6:44.  


Ok, I have 4M more to go and I know better than to start too fast. No. 6:45 average pace is not possible. I am out of practice. I have no frame of reference. What is "too fast?" I have no idea? Negative splitting everything is what brought me great success last season.  Going out too fast on a wing and pray is a formula for negative experiences, not negative splits. Accepting my ability and working on control, holding back until it is time to kick, this is the path to PRs. But to do this I need to trust that I know my ability really well. Today, I am not sure of my ability so I get to mess this race up judgment free and then use the information I gather to make better decisions next time. Next time, I will have no excuse to not negative split. No pressure ;) 

I get the watch to read 7:0x. Could I possibly come back in M5 with a strong enough kick to dip me back into 6:59 average? Maybe?   Let's make that the plan: Find a seemingly sustainable pace and try to reserve another gear for M5. I stop looking at the watch and start running by feel. I don’t care what the pace says, sustainable is a feeling, not a time. M2: 7:04 


We continue on towards Ocean Ave. I can hear Dave D. playing his trumpet. That makes me smile. I wave my arms to catch his attention and he cheers for me like I am winning the Olympics! This gave me a little boost as I head down the road that parallels the boardwalk that I run almost weekly. 

A guy moves to my side and says “So are we Winning this thing!?"

I answer “I don’t know about you, but I am! I haven't run a race in months so just getting myself to the Start was a Win for me… this stuff, the running part, this is the celebration!”… 

He says something back, that I can’t make out and then pulls ahead. I let him go. I am running by feel. I don’t care what others around me do. M3 7:04.

We turn and I feel tired. The pace is catching up to me. I am about to blow past my threshold. I feel my legs subtly heavier. I feel my breathing has increased a little. I have 2M to go. I slow a little because I want to make sure I have something left for M5. I don't look at my watch. I don't care what it says. Again, I just run by feel. This is the only way I know to run my best. Sustainable is a feeling, not a time on the watch. M4 7:19.  

As we hit 1M to go, I starting thinking in tenths. "Just tenths to go!"  I start thinking about the intervals I do and how I ran 59 seconds for the last 300 after doing 14 other 300s before it.  How maybe with 1 minute to go, I can find a faster gear, not 300 meters in 59 seconds fast, but faster than what I am doing now. 

I focus on form, try to keep up my turnover, and work the last mile the best I could. About three ladies blow past me in the last mile... I just let them go. Today is the day for competition to crush me down the home stretch, but come fall, I hope to be the one with the blazing fast finish. Today is not that day. M5 7:04

Once I met back up with SuperDave we walked back to the car. I was hoping to head back to the venue to socialize with my team, take photos, cheer on the award winners. But once at my car, I realized it was almost 10:00 am, I had 8 runners on my roster to write plans for and I wanted to be done with work as soon as possible. I messaged Laura and Suz to apologize for leaving. I just really needed to get home to work.  

I did not expect to win anything. It turns out I was 1st in my Age Group a--nd our team actually won overall too!  <3  

This is a great way to start the training cycle!  

Stats:
Time:  35:19 (7:04)
Place: 26th F OA
AG: 1st Place






Saturday, July 8, 2017

Recap and A Fresh Start #ChasingSunrises

It has been a long time since my last race report and it is time to start again!  Some of the best races of my life never were reported about, because I have been overworked, overstressed, spread too thin, and short on time. I needed to prioritize my work-life and some other heartbreaking issues (not to be discussed) over running for a few months. Now that things are in a better place for me, I am ready to get back to doing what I love most. Bring on the races!  :) 

Here is my recap to get the ball rolling:

First, I had a fantastic Fall season. I broke 3 hours (2:56) in Utah for the first time in early September. I ran a few 1:27’s Half Marathons in August and again late Sept. I broke 19:00 in the 5k twice. Then I broke 3 hours again at Steamtown (2:55). The following weekend, I set an Age Group American Record in the 6 hour (43.16M) in October. The next weekend, I  ran a 1:28 Half in the most miserable weather (at Beat 539, which was a great first-time event and I hope they do it again). The following weekend I placed 4th at the 50M Nationals (Tussey). After a little rest, I ran a 6:00 paced 8k at Ashenfelter, followed by another sub-19 5k and then I decided I needed a rest from racing.  

I went on to simply run for the joy of running! I felt like a machine. I was logging an average of almost 125M per week for a few weeks in a row, running just shy of 500M in January. I planned to taper for John Prices’ 100K in Virginia, but as soon as I reduced my volume, I became acutely aware that all my running was really just the glue that was holding me together while I tried to figure out how to cope with significant, insurmountable, and painful stress (which I will not discuss here).   

I needed time, a lot of time, to sort out my thoughts. I needed to grieve. I needed to give myself room to breathe and not feel like I was under anyone’s microscope.  

In March, after a month of feeling terrible, I did run Caumsett 50K Nationals at 8:45 pace.  I was thrilled with that 4:32, because I really had no business running that well considering how crappy and stressed out I felt. The only reason I was able to finish at all was because of Kim.  The support of her friendship was holding me together and when I wanted to just quit anything or everything that felt hard in my life, it was nice to have a friend nearby who believed in me. After walking up a hill at about Mile 18?, Kim caught me and just running a few strides together helped me remember that I am stronger than I think. I found my second wind and together we persevered, pulling each other around that 5k loop course until we both ended up in the top 10 at Nationals and Kim had a new PR that was almost 1 minute per mile faster than her fastest 50K before that. This is even more impressive when I say that we also missed the start by about 2 minutes! Now we get to joke about how we passed every single runner on the course that day and still managed to bring home USATF National Championship medals! 

In March, I tried very hard to get my body back to training, but I clearly needed more time to heal, inside and out. My 125M weeks were a thing of the past. They likely left me too beat up to do anything well. Running yourself into the group is great for numbing pain, but not great training. 100M per week ok, that feels great and I can recover from that. 125M per week, that is likely more than I ever need to do to myself again in training.  My body felt run down, beat down, and tired. I lost motivation to run a lot and started gaining weight fast from being less active but still eating like I was running a ton. My nutritional choices were also a little more relaxed, as I did not see the point of eating the way I eat when I am training hard because I was NOT training hard. I don't need a post-workout protein shake after a 2M treadmill run. I have more carbs because they seem to enhance mood a little and cake tastes good.  If I am not racing, then I am going to I want a cookie. 

I found myself more often than not, eating things I knew would not help my fitness improve, but I just was not ready to get focused on fitness and I was very much OK with that. I knew when I was ready to focus, I would focus 100%. I am confident that I know how to get myself in Race Shape.  But until I felt I was ready to focus on fitness, I was OK with not racing, being a little less fit, and eating the cake because it tasted good.  I really needed to not be so demanding of myself for a little while.

Kim and I had planned to run Dawn to Dusk to Dawn way back in December.  Kim trained her butt off, running more than one 100M training week, despite rolling an ankle while away on vacation. We finished that last 100M with Two Rivers Marathon, 3 weeks after the 50K Nationals. Our plans for Two Rivers was to just finish the race and get the big week of training volume checked off the training To-Do list… time didn’t matter.  We both recently averaged 8:45 pace for 50K in early March, so 8:45 or better seemed like a realistic goal.

During our warm up, I felt so awful. My Achilles was so tight it hurt to jog. I could not do anything but hope that once we started racing, I would feel fine. Gun goes off and I feel great. The downhill start is super steep… I start fast and then peel back to a 7:23 M1, only to realize something is very very wrong.  I slow more and feel my shins and Achilles are just hot and inflamed.  By Mile 1.8 every step is painful. My lower legs are on fire!  By 2M I am walking. By 2.5M I am stopped, just standing on the side of the road frustrated by the fact that my legs just don’t seem to want to work and I don’t know what to do about this. So I just start walking and hope the tightness will loosen and the pain will go away. It doesn’t.  I am almost in tears from frustration. I try run-walking b/c I just need to get back to my car.  I know that I can turn at 11M, but that is so so far away. This race is desolate. There is no one who could help me. I don’t have my phone. I just need to get off the course asap, but that is still going to take hours at this pace.

I finally get off the course and sit in the restaurant with Anne and Bob while waiting for Kim to finish a huge week of mileage with a marathon-LR.  She ends up “accidentally” running a 3:37!  This is fantastic!  Another BQ for Kim, by accident! ;)

I do my best (poorly) to show that I am thrilled my friend did so great (my experience is no reflection on hers and I want her to celebrate)… I know she is trying hard to not be too exuberant b/c she know I am not thrilled with my race and something is wrong and concerning me… but I know I am dealing with emotional stress not really physical stress.  Physically, I am strong and nothing happened that hurt me. I just wasn’t able to function and that felt a little scary.

The next weekend (April 2nd) was the first Clifton team race of the year, Indian Trails 20k, on a hilly course. I was very much afraid that the hills would set off some reaction again where pain debilitated me… so I start with caution and somehow manage to negative split to run a 7:19 paced 20k. I felt great!  No Achilles pain. No shin pain. Nothing hurt.  My last mile was 6:35 and I felt like whatever happened last weekend was a fluke.

I register for the Cherry Blossom 10k on April 9th. All I want to do is beat 7:20 pace and I will be pleased. The day before there is a special Pop-Up Tea Shop at the MET in NYC. I ask Sid if he would go have tea with me. (I was obsessed with Tea for a little while).  We make a day of it, but I didn’t realize we would end up walking 8M in the city.  The park was beautiful with cherry blossom everywhere.  The weather was gorgeous.  We walk and talk and have tea together. We have lunch at the MET. It is a nice day, but I could tell my legs, Achilles, and feet were so tired.  Dressy shoes (flats) were not the best choice for that amount of time on my feet, but in the moment I just didn’t think much of it.

The next morning, I feel tired but this is only a 10k. I ran a 20k at 7:19 pace, so I should have no trouble running this 10k 7:19 or faster. I start off feeling fine, but as the miles pass I could feel my achilles starting to feel tight.  I assume this is because the first half of this race has some inclines.  I am hopeful that the declines will feel much better… but at Mile 4, my left Achilles feels painful and I can’t go on.  I shut down to whatever pace I can run that would allow me to finish the race so I could get back to my car.  I manage a 7:22 average pace despite the last 2 Miles being around 8:30s. I hobble back to my car, realizing that this magnitude of this strain is greater than anything I have experienced ever in running and I am most likely NOT going to run Boston this year.  After a few days, I am sure I can't finish a marathon like this and I cancel my hotel.

Kim and I were also registered for a mountain marathon in Virginia on 4/22.  I was hopeful that by skipping Boston, I could run that one, even if slow.  But even by 4/18 I knew I could not. I had to skip that race as well.

The next race on the calendar was Dawn to Dusk to Dawn (a 24 hour track race). I knew there was nothing good going to happen for me at this event, but Kim was ready to shine! This was Mother’s Day weekend and boy did we get hit a Mother of a Storm. It rained from before the start until 11pm that night. Once again Kim and I are late to the start. Only by 1 minute this time. We are improving. This meant that we ended up racing in the crappy shoes we had on while setting our camp up, planning to change into racing flats just before the start. Well, that did not happen.

We had some trouble wrestling with our pop-up canopy (I forgot one of the pegs was broken and I still need to ask Sidney if he can help fix this). This delayed us. It was more important to get a dry camp set up than it was to be on time to the start. In 40 degrees with high wind gusts and heavy to moderate rains all day, we needed to make sure our gear was going to be ok.  Our set-up was good.  We had my two-man tent with rain cover set up under the pop-up canopy and this worked well to keep about 90% of our stuff dry.

In the first three hours, I already started to have trouble with my body temperature. We were doing well, started slow and stuck to the plan we created to stay on our pace goal.  But I was so so so cold. My hands were so cold they stopped hurting, but they were useless to me. I ended up wearing two rain jackets and an emergency poncho to dry to stay warm.

The only way I could keep my body temp up was to keep running while wrapped in plastic.  Walk breaks would drop my body temp too low. If I stopped moving to take care of a need, I was in trouble. I couldn't think clearly.  I fought through two bouts of feeling mildly confused and hypothermic before I decided at 9 hours in to the race that I was done for the day.  I needed to change my clothes and that would be hard to do. I needed to feel my hands again. I needed to take a nap. I needed to crew Kim. I needed to break down the camp. I needed to load the car back up. I needed to drive us home. I was very much OK with stopping at 43 miles. The irony is that my achilles felt great the whole time! I am sure the flat track helped.  This trip was 100% worth because I got to witness Kim run like a Goddam Machine in the worst conditions I have ever run in and she just never gave up on her goal.  She managed a new 24 PR with a great finish, once again!  I am so happy she went and pushed through!

I had hoped that D3 would jump start my fitness focus like the Virginia 24 hour did for me last year.  But this did not happen.  I still was just not ready.  Life stress was still pummeling me in full force, and I now my health was on my mind.  I needed a few exams to rule out a very unlikely possibility of cancer again (which all worked out as I knew it would, but just another round of biopsies and ultrasounds really freaked me out for a while).

Finally, by June, I got my shit together.  Things shifted. I made some changes to all my work schedules to give me more time to decompress.  I finished a semester of school which took one major task off my plate.  I started sleeping a lot better.  I started getting up a lot earlier to train. I found a way to accept the stress that will always be a part of my life from here forward.  And I decided that I was ready to get back to work.

Alanna decided to join me in some really focused training to help me and her prepare to be strong and fit by fall. She has given me a gift by agreeing to torture herself with me ;).   Kim has fully recovered from her 24-hour Monsoon PR at D3 and is also ready to get back to work too.  We all are focused on speedwork, long runs, tempos, hills, balanced training, balanced nutirition, getting rest, and just coping with all the crap life hurls at us.  

I now have a great training schedule with Alanna and Kim. Most of this involves getting up early to witness the beautiful sun rising over trails, the ocean, even the track, with people who care about me enough to get up at 4 am to do this with me.  <3 

And when not running I get to look forward to what SuperDave and I call our “morning meetings.” We call each other when I am driving to my hospital work to hash out things and come up with great plans that help us both stay focused on the important stuff. I need this time. Sid has also stepped up more than I realized he could or would to help lift me out of this quagmire that I have I felt stuck in for months. As a result of giving myself time to process and heal, to find my way out of the dark, following a path illuminated patiently by the love and support from those closest to me, only recently have I felt like myself again.

I now look forward to getting up in the darkness to get out the door early, to see the world brighten as I start my day... making sure to take care of myself, my needs, first... to focus on setting myself up for success (with good nutrition, restful sleep, and healthy coping). I am ready to allow the magic to happen. And I have the best friends in the world #chasingsunrises with me!  I am ready to get back to work <3 

(Next Up, RR: Belmar 5M)

Thursday, November 3, 2016

GLIRC 60th Birthday Run, 6-Hour Duration Race, Kings Park, NY, 10/16/16










For me, there are not many events more challenging than a 6-Hour Duration race. In this event, to do well, you need to accept that a faster pace does not get you to the finish line any quicker.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  The faster you go the further you get to run as your reward. The only way to make a 6-hour race easier on yourself is to slow down. A 6-hour race is fast from the gun and it just doesn't let up at all until the horn sounds, signifying permission to finally stop moving.

A volunteer from GLIRC hands me my bib. In an excited voice, she says “Your number 747! That’s a good number. You are gonna fly!” 

Photo posted on Emmy's FB page
Oh boy. No pressure.” I reply.

I am unsure about what I can do today. I really don't have a solid plan. My fall training was planned around a September marathon and everything else after that is gravy. I was surprised to have run a great Steamtown just 7 days before.

The guy standing next to me looks at my feet and says,“Nice new shoes!” (I think that was supposed to imply I was not making a good choice by wearing new shoes to a 6 hour race? I dont really know.  Maybe just small talk to pass time at the start).  I explain that "my shoes aren't actually new, they are just clean because they are road racing flats." (This was likely not a great explanation, since the course is mostly trail).  He says ‘Well, they are going to get dirty today!” I have trail shoes in my bag, but I like they way these shoes fit me. Since the course is not really technical and the weather is dry, I was sure my comfy light road flats would serve me just fine. I look at Aaron (eventual winner) and he has on a pair of Launch’s, so I know I will be ok in my Hyperions.

The race starts. Downhill we go and the pace feels good. But before the end of the first mile, I already know my legs are too tired for the 7:45 pace it would take me to try to run a 50K PR. I had wondered if a 50K PR was possible today before we took off. It took me less than 8 minutes to come to my senses, used some reason, and settle down a little.

A young kid leads. Phil is ahead. Aaron pulls away. There are two other men in front of me. I find a pace that feels comfortable.  I notice that my watch is not holding a signal. It is dropping and reconnecting. It tells me lies, reporting that have covered no distance at all or that I am moving at a 25-minute pace. For some reason, this doesn’t really bother me. I have had watch trouble this entire season and maybe this has been part of the secret to my successes. There is something to be said about listening to your body.

At the start/finish, I try to use the race clock to make a mental note of my 2.1 mile split at each lap. But, because my mind is wandering as I run, I keep forgetting the exact clock time. I think part of me just did not want to know what my pace was. Fast or Slow, it did not matter because I was certain I was making my best effort.

I decided to switch my Garmin to display the Timer Mode. I paid attention to elapsed time. I managed the race one hour at a time. Aiming to run between 3-4 laps per hour.

I did not carry anything on me, except one gel. It is a short loop. My back hurts when I carry things. I still have pain when I carry nothing in training, but I am much more likely to have pain when I have a vest, a waist pack, or even a bottle with me.

I planned to use only the aid provided. However, two laps in a row I blow past the aid station. I didn't turn back. But on the third lap, I forced myself to remember to grab fluids. I was already worried I had gone too long without aid. I swiped a cup of Gatorade from the table and kept going.

After a few laps, I had found a nice comfortable flow at a pace that was just fast enough, yet still sustainable. I even felt like I could speed up from that pace if I wanted to. I wondered if I was patient, would I feel this way later? Could I Negative Split a 6 hour?

An older guy runs up and asks, “What event are you running?” This was an odd question.
There is only one event...,” I reply.

Are you planning to run the entire 6 hours?” He asks.
Yes. That is the plan....”

Maybe you should settle down and relax?
Nah..I’m ok.”

No, really, you should consider going easier now and THEN try to reel in the leaders later, like I will!
No, really. I’m fine. I have run these before.”

Well I’m just saying … you should consider…” (Now this is getting a little redundant and I just want to focus on my running and not have to explain myself to a stranger).

“I’m really ok. I have run over 41 miles in 6 hours... more than one. I am REALLY ok … but, please, you go on ahead and have a good race.”

He pulls away (thank goodness).

The next few minutes I am left wondering what was that all about. Why so many questions? Why not just let me run my race? Was he trying to be helpful? Does he give unsolicited advice to everyone he runs up to? Was it because I am female? Does he tell men to slow down too?  

I watched him slowly pull ahead and then settle in to a pace similar to my own. I kept my eye on him, wondering when he will make his move to reel in the leaders?

As I passed two wonderful volunteer course marshals, they notice that I am leading the woman and show a lot of support. After a few laps, I ask if they know who is in second? I like to have information, not that it would change my pacing. They weren’t sure, so I just continued to do what I was doing.

At about 8 miles in I took the gel in my pocket. Why not? It was there. Calories are good. In marathons, I take gels about every 8-9 miles, so this could work here too. But I also carb-loaded A LOT for this race. I felt very energized, but a gel could not hurt.

At about 10-11 miles in I started to lose track of my lap count and my mileage. I was so much in my zone that I was not able to focus on the clock or splits… I just ran. For most of the race, I tried to figure out how to divide different amounts of time by 2.1, but really it just confused me.

"17 divided by 2.1 is…. um… 16 dived by 2 is 8, but then there is one minute left and a point one to deal with and now my head hurts…" 

Lap after lap, I just ran… I ran without any idea how far I had gone or how fast I was running. I just ran. And it was wonderful! I have never felt so good running in my life. 

I pass one of the guys who was ahead of me.  

Then I pass the guy who told me to slow down.  He doesn’t say anything this time. Before the end of the race I will lap him … twice ... and he will drop out early. 

I wanted to say, “SeeI do know what I am doing.” I wanted to say "Did you INTEND to stop early? Were you NOT planning to run the entire 6-hours?" I wanted to say, "Maybe you should have slowed your pace a little at the start and took it easy?"But I try to be kind. So I don't say anything. I think my running made my point for me. 

Just before 3 hours, I complete 21 miles (10 Laps). I try to run a little stronger. I felt amazing. I am clicking off mindless laps, while grabbing cups of Gatorade and Coca-Cola and occasionally some water. Sometimes I skipped aid because I feel great. I didn't stop long for any reason, except to take a few strides while trying to drink from the plastic cups. I didn’t need any solid food. I never grabbed any more gels. I just ran and ran and ran…

At one point I noticed the lap I was on would end about 4:03. 4:03 is my 50k PR. Even though I had no idea how far I had run, I wondered if I was close to the 50k mark so I made a push to speed up just in case I was on track for a 50k PR. It turns out I wasn't really that close. LOL. That was a lap too soon. My 50k split was 4:20, according to the lap sheet.

With two hours to go,  trying to make the race seem shorter, I tell myself that I won't need to be on this “big loop” for the entire remaining time. We get to run a small loop at the end. I wasn't sure when I would get sent over to the small. I assumed with about 30 minutes left in the race, I would get there. I wasn't sure what the smalls were like, but I was getting tired of the HILLY second half of the loop that had loose SAND with poor traction.

There is a guy sitting at picnic table on the back half of the loop. He starts talking to me each lap. He is paying more and more attention. At one point he says, “You don’t have an ounce of fat on you, do you!”… I try to say something witty, but I can’t make sentences. Each lap, thereafter, he cheers me on and tells me I look really strong. I start to look forward to seeing him.  He is my new best friend. :)

I can't believe I have run this far without stopping for any longer than it took to drink from a cup. I am overwhelmed.  


I... BELONG... HERE. 

The guy on the back half asks, “How far are you running today???

Me: “I think... maybe... 41 miles?

Him: (SHOCKED!) “OMG! What? 41 miles!!

Me: “I think so. I’m not really sure. But this should be my last lap. Thank you for cheering! :)”

On the 19th lap, my legs (or maybe it was just my mind) start to get very tired.  I decide I need to walk the hill. I made it 5 hour and 15 minutes before things started to get hard.  This would be my first walk break of the entire race. I am sad that I would not be able to say I ran 6 hours non-stop… but I know I walked through aid a few times already, so I truly couldn’t make that claim. However, this was the first significant walk I took all day. I needed it so I could regroup a bit before tackling the second half of the loop, which has more hills and that loose sand that slowed me down. I had suspected this would be my last Big Lap and I wanted to say good-bye to the hill.

I come through the start/finish and the volunteers are still there, cheering loudly for me, by name. I feel like I am someone special.

Richie looks at my time and says… “One More Big!
I grumble back “Really?” (
I was hoping for smalls b/c I had already said good-bye to the hill.) 

Richie says, “28 minutes to go.  If you do it, you will have the course record!
OMG, what!? “Really?!!… Ok!” and I go for it.

It occurs to me that I ran 10 laps in 3 hours and I am about to run 20 laps with some time to spare. I am actually negative splitting this race!

The guy on the back half is gone. There are very few runners left on the big loop. I feel alone, but I am pushing myself. My legs feel dead, but I am lifting them. I come around and see the finish line… I have plenty of time. Minutes to spare. 20 laps. The small crowd cheers for me. I don't even think I had the energy to crack a smile. I was kind of in a state of disbelief. Is this me doing this?

Richie sends me to the small loop. And it is terrible. Half downhill, half steeply uphill… but I have a few minutes left and I want to crank out as many smalls as I can to push my new CR further into the distance. Minutes feel so long.  But the more time I get now the better. But I want to stop.  I am torn.  The lap is about .3 miles and every time around the small crowd make me feel like an Olympian.

And finally... there is the signal...  We can stop… 
It is over... My head is spinning… My legs are tired... My heart feels full of joy. 

I love the 6-hour race. It is good to me. It gives me a chance to fight my heart out and I did not let it or myself down today.

Stats:
Time: 6:00:00
Distance: 43.16 miles
Pace: 8:20 per mile
Place: Second place OVERALL of men and women
Gender: First Female
Course Record: Women’s Course Record by 2.25 miles

My Heart is so very Happy.