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  1. Gonzo Runner

    Not the Race Report You're Looking For

    Like many runners, fall is my favorite time of year to log miles. Temperatures are friendly, there’s no longer daily thunderstorms and tornado warnings in Atlanta, and with the holidays coming up there are plenty of calories around to fuel runs. Additionally, goal races have passed and there’s no stress to nail workouts or pressure to make it 16 miles instead of 14.5. It’s just fun to crunch leaves and not drown in sweat and have a social life again. Like a Friendsgiving celebration, for instance. Which was two Saturdays ago. The night before the Atlanta Lab Rescue 5k in fact, where I had an age group title to defend. So OK, maybe there was a little pressure. Not wanting to stress over results, I decided to indulge in plenty of spicy Bangladeshi food and Atlanta beer to help temper expectations for the race and keep it fun. This is a small race (~600 people this year, it’s biggest yet) and it’s only my second year running it, but it’s climbing my list of favorites. First off, dogs. There are literally dozens of dogs at this race, most of them Labrador Retrievers, including mine. Secondly, it benefits a dog rescue organization. Third, there’s a fancy doughnut truck selling freshly made doughnuts and coffee. Fourth, indoor bathrooms with real plumbing. And lastly, it’s small enough and outside the city enough I can actually compete for age group awards which I really have no business winning. Also, dogs. SO MANY DOGS. We arrived in plenty of time to pick up our bibs (The Wife and The Dog were running together), make a bathroom stop, and jog a warmup mile. That mile revealed some creakiness in a hip and my feet and a little bit of everywhere else, but I wasn’t sure if it was leftover marathon soreness or the six-pack I used to dull the heat of the delicious lamb vindaloo I enjoyed the night before. I made my way over to The Wife in the crowd and tried to do some leg swings and glute activation exercises to stay loose and keep myself occupied. We discussed what kind of doughnuts we wanted and where we’d meet as I eyed up the competition and assessed my chances of repeating a podium finish. It was then that I noticed a woman purposefully walking towards us with a look on her face that suggested a familiarity I should be reciprocating. I began wracking my brain to place who this was until I was jarred back into the moment by her outstretched hand. “Hi, I’m Kelly. You look like you’re gonna win this race!”. Huh. Relieved of my guilt at forgetting an acquaintance, I shook her hand and introduced myself. With unsettling intensity she tells me “I ran the Soldier Marathon yesterday, so I’m a little tired.” Uh-huh. “It’s his first 5k, he’s so excited!” she says, gesturing at her little dog. I tell her how much The Dog loves to run with us and how she loves races, making sure to gesture at The Dog and The Wife standing mere feet away. “So are you a big runner around here? You look pretty fast.” I tell her I run a lot of races in the area and before the last syllable left my lips she says “Well good luck nice meeting you” and disappears back into to the crowd. I turn to The Wife, and we share a puzzled look. Maybe she noticed my activated glutes. We got the signal to line up at the start and I made my way to the front of the pack, the gangly contingent from the local high school track and XC teams from which the winner would almost certainly emerge on my left, and on my right a couple in their early 60s wearing jeans and at the opposite end of a leash from a small terrier. I chatted with the nice couple while looking over their shoulders to see how many people I could find without acne or jeans who might be age group competition. I didn’t see many who looked to be my age, so despite feeling an age group or two older at the moment, I thought the odds might be in my favor. We got the 30 second warning, the grand marshal (a former rescue dog recently placed by the race’s beneficiaries) ran the ceremonial first 10 yards, and the air horn sent us on our way. As the pack narrowed from the width of the road to a single file along the tangent line I fell in behind roughly 20 or so runners. The HS kids led the way and I knew the only time I’d be close to most of them again would be as they passed the turn around. I also knew many of those ahead of me would begin dropping as we climbed the long hill that makes up most of the out section of the course, so at this point I just focused on settling into what felt like race pace. After weeks of marathon training opening up my stride and doing some fast running was liberating, and like a frozen bolt wrenched loose my joints finally felt the freedom of movement, the stiffness falling away like flecks of rust with each turn of my stride. As we turned off the park entry road and onto the main street to begin the long climb I had picked off the over-eager starters and was down to 9 runners ahead of me. I wasn’t really looking at my watch as I had no time goal or expectations, so I just focused on picking off as many people as I could. The closest runner was a girl who looked to be one of the HS contingent. While most of her cohort faded before the first 400, she looked to be running strong. But I could hear her breathing hard on the hill, and knew it was only a matter of time. I focused on my cadence and breathing and passed her not long after passing the first mile in 6:43. Next up was a guy in a gray shirt. I hadn’t been able to get a good enough look to see how old he was initially, so I had been treating him like competition and tried to quietly sneak up on him before making my move. However as I got closer I noticed his long, loping, effortless stride and seemingly disinterested side to side head bob as he ran. You know the look. All these damn kids make running look so frigging easy, the little bastards. I used the bitterness of lost youth as my fuel to pass him and zeroed in on the next target. The only other runner I could see close enough was a guy I remembered from the start line. He looked roughly my age, had calves the size of my quads, and an orange Clemson shirt. He was moving, but I could see the back of his shirt darkened by sweat and knew he was working harder than I was. By now the leaders had made the turn around and I started counting. The leader was another damn kid who looked like he was expending the same amount of energy I do chewing soup. Behind him was a guy who looked like an out of shape 50 year old expending enough energy to power a small city. I picked out one other runner who looked about my age, plus Clemson. As he ran by I could see the pain on his face and knew I’d get him on the downhill. I made the turn around and saw no one close behind me, so I decided to risk a little burn out and start to push. Within about a 400 I had halved the gap and gotten close enough that I knew Clemson could hear me behind him. He tried to pick up the pace and shake me, but each time he tried he was unable to hold it and I’d re-close quickly. Garmin signaled mile 2, 6:56 up the hill. I was still feeling pretty strong at this point, and Clemson and I had pushed each other to gain ground on another runner who happened to also be running the lead dog. I decided to push to pass Clemson now, and see if I could also real in the dog. Just as I was about to swing out and pass, I heard a “GO STEVE!” yell from the other side of the road. It was Kelly, waving and jumping and cheering. I gave her a thumbs up, still a little puzzled, but thankful for the encouragement. Quickly refocusing on the task at hand, I gave myself a few steps to brace for the effort and swung out to pass Clemson. He tried to block me a little bit, but I managed to slip by and did my best to make it look easy. I know my running is as graceful as someone falling down stairs, but in my head during a race I’m Jenny MF-ing Simpson, OK? I felt good enough passing Clemson, and he faded quickly enough, that I decided to go all in on the pace. I saw The Wife approach on the out and then saw The Dog almost take out a half a dozen runners when she saw me and gave her a passing pat on the head while The Wife confirmed “7th”. I used the last of the downhill to try and gain as much ground on the lead dog as I could, and had made up maybe half of the 200 meter gap as we turned back onto the park access road. The course covers some small rollers on this final stretch, and for the rest of the way he’d pull away a little on the ups and I’d close a little on the downs. I realized I wasn’t going to catch him, and also heard spectators yelling to someone not that far behind me so I focused on maintaining a steady clip to hold off Clemson or whoever was trying to kick. By now though this was no small task. I was suddenly very aware of my raspy desperate breathing, burning legs, and what felt like the memory of every step of the NYC Marathon manifesting on the aching soles of my feet. I watched a spectator who had been gleefully cheering the lead dog ahead of me slow her claps as I came into view and her smile faded into the kind of pitiful look one gives fresh roadkill. Mile 3 was announced as a 6:28 effort, and the last tenth nearly matched it at a 6:25 pace. I ended up with a 20:48, which was enough to hold off Clemson (who was in a younger age group) for 7th place overall but not enough to beat out the out of shape 50-something looking guy I saw earlier (who was actually 38). After spending my cool down mile wondering what my complete lack of understanding of what 35-39 looks like says about my own appearance, I picked up my age group silver, got cornered by Kelly again, and met up with The Wife and Dog for hot coffee and doughnuts. There is joy again in my running. Not from times or place or anything other than running for the sake of running. Running to feel the cold air burn the back of my throat and my eyes water from the biting wind. To have control of the pain again, and not feel compelled to push too far in pursuit of an ultimately unimportant goal that is knowingly beyond reach. It’s fun to feel alive again.
  2. eliz83

    Thelma & Louise 13.1 RR

    ... and I bet you local folks thought I was doing the Hospital Hill Half Marathon ... So that 13.1 that I was training for? It was the Thelma & Louise Half Marathon, a classic, run-with-your-best-girl, ladies only race set in the rugged cliffs of Moab, Utah. This race was an excuse for a girls trip with one of my closest friends. She's must faster than I am (former 400 m hurdler, that one), but she is the type that abides by the "run with", as opposed to "run at the same time" rule. In this race, it was especially fun to have a person that you run right beside every step. As Moab itself is at about 4,500 feet and surrounding terrain can get up to 7,000 feet, we decided to fly in Tuesday for Saturday's race - to get adjusted to the altitude change and to also take advantage of the national and state parks surrounding the town. We hit up Arches National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park (where T & L famously drove their convertible into the Colorado River), part of Canyonlands National Park and also some zip lining on petrified cliffs that somehow aren't part of any park, but are owned by the touristy places in Moab. For pics of those adventures, hop on over to my Instagram and check out #girlstrip. Race day was an early early wake up call. Our alarms were set for 3:45 am in order to get to the buses by 4:45 that would take us to the starting line. It's the desert. It's summer. The race started at 6 am. Friend, M and I agreed to join the sports bra squad on race day, but found ourselves needing long sleeves in the incredibly cool and windy morning that we awoke to. We literally had been moving about our tiny home rental, barely mummering to each other until we stepped outside and the cold air caused us to scream in surprise. That woke us up. The bus ride was relatively quick and uneventful. The race starting point was right along the Colorado River and surrounded by cliffs - an insanely beautiful sight. However, that early in the morning, before sunrise, it was cold and the wind was not helping. Luckily, we found a spot that blocked most of the wind, and wound up chatting with two other women who had traveled from Seattle. When it was finally time to head to the start, we shed our layers, dropped bags, hit up the toilets one last time and lined up literally at the very end of the pack. It was chip timed, so who cares, right? The course was described as a slight decline out and a slight incline back. So, the strategy was to keep things reined in the first half so as to not crash and burn in the second half. M let me control the pace, which I'm sure was painfully slow for her at first. We ticked off the first 3 miles in 12:24, 12:37 and 12:28. Starting at mile 3, there were aid stations every 1.5 miles - key in the heat and dry air for us Midwesterners who weren't used to this climate. Our goal was to run all the miles, walk all the water stops, because we both suck and drinking and running anyway. This was a great strategy, except for the part where it really messes with my split data, LOL. Around mile 4, we ran by an arch (jug handle arch) and this amazing group of women drummers, Moab Taiko Dan that energized us and quite frankly, made me so happy I've been trying to find a similar group at home. Miles 4-6: 10:48, 12:14 (water stop), 11:34. Slightly after this, we hit the turnaround and also the relay exchange point, so there was an amazing crowd, cheering everyone on. We both felt pretty darn good at this point, and we both were wondering when things were going to feel hard. For the first half, we'd been running in the shades of the cliffs, but the sun was up and over most of the terrain now. It was bound to get hot, right? Miles 7-9 ticked by in 12:01 (water stop), 11:04 and 11:26. We both kept making comments about how things still felt easy. Should they feel easy? There was a surprising amount of shade, and the wind was still blowing, keeping us relatively cool. Every now and then, I would glance down at my watch and see us nearing 10:00 pace, but then I would get scared and back off a little bit. Seriously, I need to stop running scared. LITERALLY. The last few miles I could feel myself tiring. It was a mix of emotions, because I was getting tired, but I knew I was doing well. I also knew M was full of energy and could have jetted off easily, but she stuck by my side, staying slightly in front of me to "drag" me along. UGH. Push, push, push, dig a little more. One last water stop and onto the finish. As we neared the finish line and hauled it in, I just felt all kinds of emotion welling up inside me. Tears were already forming and we hadn't even crossed. When we finally did, I just lost it. M's watch didn't have 13.1 yet, so she went off to "finish" her mileage and that was fine with me. I just needed to be alone in the crowd, half crying, half trying to not cry. I hadn't stopped my watch right away, but was thrilled by the time: 2:32.16. My previous PR was 2:35 and change. I actually did it. I finally broke that PR - set all the way back in my first half marathon. I was looking forward to seeing the official results and getting my actual chip time. Guess what? This race doesn't do chip time. Only gun time, which had us at 2:33 and change. Slightly frustrating, as I won't know my true PR. But hey, it's at least 3 minutes, maybe 4. Not too shabby. PS - this race has the best snacks Will I do another half marathon? Eh, I don't know. I know if the opportunity presented itself, I would do another race in Moab that is done by this race company and I would probably be willing to tackle this specific course again. After the race, I told M I'd love to actually be able to race her one day. She smiled - her goal is to get faster, too, so I may never catch her. But I'll have fun trying. BTW, girls trip came on the heels of a very exciting time in my life. The BF and I celebrated one year of dating ... and he asked if he could call me by another title for the rest of our lives. I said yes.
  3. eliz83

    Three weeks out

    On the last check-in, I had just finished a streak of post-surgery mileage PRs, which meant I had a cutback week coming up. And the timing was perfect for that, because I was freaking tired. Basically all my runs during cutback week were for time and not mileage, because, again, TIRED. I finally perked up when I met the BF for lunch at his favorite Korean place and I got beef. Ahhhhh. Red meat. Iron. <---- probs why I was so tired. That Saturday was the annual Corporate Challenge 5K. Some of you are familiar with corporate challenges, no? It's a spring/summer event put on by some organization (here one of the county parks & rec departments) and all the businesses compete against each other for team points. I'm still not sure what the winner in each division wins - besides bragging rights - but with my employer, you can get an extra vacation day if you participate enough, so I signed up for 1 event and 2 spirit team events (hold signs and yell loudly) in order to get my free day. My 1 event was the 5K. Going into Saturday morning, I knew I wasn't in 5K PR shape, but I figured I might as well test my fitness. This course is a monster. It's not rolling hills (my favorite), but rather a quarter mile slight downhill start, followed by a gradual 1.5 mile uphill, which is the worst. The. Worst. Total mind f*ck. Then you get one rolling downhill, followed by the rolling uphill before a mile gradual downhill "coast" to the finish. I don't know why everyone thinks running downhill for a mile is easy. It's not! Anyway, I found myself being passed by everyone and their co-worker for most of the race, because the start was a cluster and I just went in where I could. I think I started with the 24-minute 5K'ers. One day I'll be with them ... just not yet. Splits: 10:06, 10:11, 8:55, total time 31:08 Polly had that I went 3.22 miles, but I basically ran the opposite of the tangents because of the crowd, so that's not surprising. That last mile, though? I am so impressed with myself and simultaneously annoyed that I had that much left in the tank. I basically ran that last mile with a guy with a neon yellow t-shirt - sometimes he would slip ahead of me, sometimes I would slip ahead of him, but it was one of those carrots that you refuse to let get out of your reach. By the end, it was rough, but I think I'm finally learning to embrace the pain of a 5K. Should be an exciting fall if I choose to focus on that distance. Pulling just ahead of neon t-shirt guy. At the time, I thought maybe I had gotten a PR. No dice. If any week was going to really get messed up, it was bound to be this last week. I was traveling for work, getting back late Friday night and then heading to my parents' house to surprise my momma for Mother's Day. I was determined to get everything in though - and I did! All I had to do was move my runs up one day and skip my traditional Monday spin session. So Tuesday morning, I got in my 3 miler before I headed to the airport, did core work in my hotel room that night. Wednesday morning, I found a nice 5 mile route already mapped near my hotel ... got lost and ended up with nearly 6 (oops!) and got in another 5K Thursday morning with a colleague, after a quick strength/core session. Then, Friday morning, I found myself with enough time to do a yin yoga session before my flight home. Determined as ever, I got up early Saturday morning and did 10 miles solo. That 10 miler? Yeah. I HAVE to tell you about it. It was early. I was still travel-hungover from the night before. But I got up. Got my running clothes on. The threat of sprinkles was a tempting excuse to crawl back into bed and say, "meh". Actually, it wasn't that tempting. I just thought it would add to the drama. Water. Nuun. Cheerios. Extra long podcast. Visor. Sunscreen. And everyone thinks running is a "simple" sport. Also, yes, I'm high maintenance when it comes to long runs. At the very least, medium maintenance. Drive to favorite 4.22 mile loop spot. Check Instagram. Check Twitter. Realize there is no more stalling. Get out of car. Warm up. Fire up my favorite SURVIVOR podcast. Take off trotting. Think about SURVIVOR strategy. Feel a strong desire to watch the original Blood vs. Water season. Remember too late I was trying to figure out where the .8 mark was just in case the watch ran out of juice (which appeared to be dangerously low). Look at watch at 1.08 miles. Oops. Waking up a little bit now. It's humid. Sweat is dripping everywhere. Feel that gross trickle between my boobs (ladies, you know what I mean). Wipe sweat from my eyebrows. Realize there is a 5k/10K race starting at 9. Thankful I managed to start running around 7:20 - I'll miss nearly all, if not completely all, of the foot traffic. Finish the first lap. Desperately want to ditch my tank top and join the sports bra club, but don't, for reasons I can't even remember anymore. Drink a bunch of Nuun. I think I ate some Cheerios. <-- Seriously. Great fuel. Press on. Not really paying attention to my splits. Paying probably too much attention to SURVIVOR strategy. The podcast guest proposes a strategy of just winning everything, cuz then you can't get voted out and who can argue with the fact that you actually WON EVERYTHING? Consider this to be my strategy for when CBS inevitably casts me to see me become an emotional mess. Won't they be surprised when they write that million dollar check out to me? It starts sprinkling around 5.5 miles. It's cool, refreshing and I wish it was just a tiny bit more steady. My wish comes in full force two miles later, when it becomes a full on rain. Whatever. I feel good, I feel faster than when I started, but now my tank is just drenched and clinging to my body. Yuck. 8.4 miles. I stop quickly at the car to ditch the phone and headphones so they don't get too wet. The race has started, but I'm running in the opposite direction of the runners. Get a surprised look from a course monitor when I don't get in my car, but shut the door and keep running. The rain lets up half a mile later and I'm trying to do runner math to make sure I turn around at the right spot. I'm coming back and I realize I'm on the same path that the runners make, either for the final part of the 5K or to start the second loop of the 10K. A course monitor who is probably in junior high or high school looks worried when she sees me, but I give her a look that says "don't worry, i'm not that fast" and she thinks I'm a wierdo. Desperately want to be done now. Mile 10 beeps and I'm like, thank goodness. Another #psmPR Hobble to my car, stretch and head to get coffee. It's only then that I look at my cumulative time. 1:57:50. My last 10 mile on record was 2:11:52. My PR is 1:50:57. Had this been a race, who knows what I could have done. Which makes me think I might have a chance at taking down that EIGHT YEAR OLD half marathon PR. Yes, yes, I think I just might .... Do you listen to podcasts when you run? What would your SURVIVOR strategy be? Have you ever done a training run while a race was going on? Drag files here to attach, or choose files... Insert other media Feature Photo Choose Single File... Or drag and drop your file here Accepted file types gif, jpeg, jpe, jpg, png
  4. Gonzo Runner

    The Crescendo

    For most of my childhood, my parents drove old cars. My mother had a 1985 Mercury Grand Marquis Colony Park station wagon, in fecal brown with some sort of plastic stick-on faux wood paneling veneer. This car was an absolute horrific creation whose very existence should have gotten at least 50 people at the Ford Motor Company fired and potentially jailed, from whomever named the damn thing to its entire engineering team. Assuming any engineers actually worked on it, that is. I remember before it hit 85,000 miles it had gone through three engines, two transmissions, and two exhaust systems. And not only was it the mechanical equivalent of New Coke, but it was so ugly my brothers and I actually wished our mom drove a minivan instead. The best way to describe its appearance would be to imagine the stereotypical ‘80s suburban living room, complete with thick wall to wall carpet in some regrettable earth tone and floor to ceiling wood paneling. Now slap some whitewalls on that sucker and you’re pretty damn close: And this is the brochure photo. I do fondly remember the jump seats which opened up in the trunk and allowed us to cram 10 people into this monstrosity, but we were eventually banned from them after someone ripped the felt headliner while horsing around back there and caused it to slowly pull away from the ceiling and hang down far enough to block the entire rearward view. The sagging headliner was soon complemented by the plastic wood veneer peeling off the sides, revealing more fresh fecal brown paint. This was actually going to be my first car until my mom totaled it when I was in high school, which is helpful background for the story of when I got grounded for a month for exclaiming “THANK GOD” when my mom called from the hospital to tell us about the accident. My dad’s car was a completely different story. For most of my childhood he drove a 1976 Pontiac Grand LeMans. It was the first new car he ever bought, and as much as he hated the station wagon, he loved this car. Living in Brooklyn all her life my mom didn’t get her driver’s licence until we moved to Jersey, so for years the Pontiac was the only car we had. It was the car that took me and both my brothers home from the hospital. It took us to school and sports practices and scout meetings and everything in between until the wagon arrived. My dad insisted we have a Dairy Queen ice cream cake for its sweet 16. Mom was too embarrassed to join us in the driveway to sing happy birthday, but we did it anyway. My dad taught me most of what I know of auto maintenance on that car. Some of it is still useful (changing oil, brakes, alternators, batteries, and the like). Some of it is not (how to tune a carburetor, how to replace a distributor cap, how to unstick a choke valve). But we all had a lot of great memories of that car, and the saddest I ever saw my dad was the day it finally died. To this day the fender skirts are sitting in his garage (his was a deep metallic green), and I still have the keys in an old valet on my dresser. By the time the Pontiac finally died, it had been showing its age. There were greasy spots on the driveway, rust was bubbling the paint, and a bad overheating incident on the Staten Island Expressway (seriously, to hell with Staten Island) had turned a throaty if underpowered V8 into an anemic, unbalanced, misfiring V6. The Mercury had rotted through its third exhaust system by this time and my father had refused to replace it out of spite, so when our family went anywhere, everyone in the neighborhood knew it. Now, to be perfectly clear, my parents may have driven old cars but we also had a nice house in an all-American suburb (we had a VFW, an Elks, and even a Knights of Columbus) with a big backyard and a pool and my brothers and I all went to Catholic school and were in the Cub Scouts and played Pop Warner football AND Little League baseball. But I was too young to understand any of that, so after anytime I rode in a friend’s conversion van with its TV and Nintendo and curtains (how CLASSY), I would be embarrassed when I could hear my mom coming to pick me up from a mile away in the battlewagon. When my father finally broke down and started car shopping for family transportation that didn’t require noise permits and EPA registration to operate, he decided that 20 years of savings was enough to splurge a little bit. Those years of savings also happened to be the go-go Reagan ‘80s and the Cold War victory lap ‘90s, so the ol’ portfolio had done well. And that’s how we ended up with a 1996 BMW 525i. This was the car that taught me that you weren’t supposed to have to reset the dashboard clock every time you started the car and air conditioning wasn’t supposed to smell like someone was blowing a fan over bad (good?) cheese stuffed inside a damp gym sock. It had heated leather seats. A dashboard computer. A CD changer in the trunk. And I never once had to hold the choke with a screwdriver while my dad, as he told me never to do this, sparked the starter to get us to school on time. It was during a trip to Sam Goody to pick out CD’s to fill up the 6 disc changer that I first learned about Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. My dad told me all about why it was such an important album and then took the long way home, playing the whole thing and telling me the story behind each song. I remember sitting in the driveway listening to the final track, 'A Day in the Life', while breathing in leathery rich new car smell and having my backside gently warmed and thinking to myself “curtains in a van..so bougie…now THIS is success...” Or something like that. I did a lot drinking in the intervening years, so I may not have the exact quote. Anyway, for the longest time afterwards, even after I developed a more mature understanding of success and meaning in life, I would always look for and savor those “Sgt. Pepper in the Bimmer” moments. Brief, fleeting snippets of time where I felt like I’d achieved something or attained some marker of success. And anytime I hear any Sgt. Pepper track, I think back to my dad’s tour of the album and smile. This is supposed to be a race report, so let’s get to that part. The Publix Georgia Half Marathon course is the typical quad busting tour of Atlanta’s rolling hills, the worst part being the last four miles which are almost entirely uphill from the lowest point on the course to just shy of the highest at the finish. And while my running of late has generally been good, it has been focused on short and fast intervals for the mile I’m planning on in May. Not on holding something just above threshold pace for 13.1 hilly miles. I had no real goals but knew I was going to try and race it anyway, so I prepared myself for it to hurt. And starting at mile 6, it did. A lot. My hips, glutes, hamstrings and quads joined in glorious four part harmony to protest the effort, and I felt like Pete Best telling them all to shut up and keep pushing. (Ah, yes, the Beatles. That’s how this is all going to come together.) Now, once you enter Piedmont Park in mile 10 the race is a series of long climbs with barely any breaks in between. As the pain and fatigue and oxygen debts from one hill piled on top of what was built up in the last, it occurred to me that these weren’t really separate hills. The pain didn’t build in discrete segments, it was more like an ever rising crescendo of suffering we had to endure hoping that there was something beautiful at the summit to make it worthwhile. So what about the Beatles again? Well, if you’ve ever listened to 'A Day in the Life' (if you haven’t, why the hell not?), you’ll no doubt recall the orchestral frenzy that precedes its final, haunting piano notes. In our driveway study of the song I remember my dad telling me how John and Paul hired an orchestra without knowing how to write for or conduct one, and for this part George Martin had instructed them to start at the lowest notes on their instruments and slowly build up to the highest. The resulting crescendo, written by novice composers and executed by highly trained professionals in a haphazard setting, is a barely controlled feverish symphony whose beauty lies in its tenuousness. So, the race hurt, and it wasn’t the time the books told me I should be capable of running. But when I got home I dropped the needle on one of my half dozen copies of Sgt. Pepper, sat on the couch with a cup of coffee, called my dad, and reveled in my success.
  5. amarie2009

    Austin Marathon RR

    I finally finished marathon #7! It took 3 tries. It was a long time coming and it was hard. It took 3 days before I felt mostly normal again. By Wednesday I could stand up and sit down without whimpering or using my arms. Stairs were no longer to be feared, but walking down was still uncomfortable. The massage at the chiropractor hurt so good, and I felt a lot better after. I didn’t run at all until yesterday, and my legs still felt all those marathon miles when I did. Tomorrow I’ll go back to running before work. Travel down to Austin went well, all the St. Louis Team in Training people had just happened to book the same flight without talking about it ahead of time. I caught the shuttle to the airport hotel I was staying at the first night just as it was about to drive away. If he hadn’t been trying to drive off with the back doors open I’d have missed it and had to call the hotel back and have them send him back right away…and I would have had to wait around 20-30 minutes. Luckily I didn’t have to jump in, but I did have to yell at him to get his attention before he drove off. Free breakfast at the hotel and some family members (second cousins if you’re wondering) who decided to drive to Austin for vacation since I was running, gave me a ride to the expo and lunch. They also spectated a little at the race, though they only caught me near the finish. Lunch was at Green Mesquite BBQ, which looked like a little under the radar treasure, but since it was once on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives it wasn’t really. (I didn’t know that until we were eating, we just sort of stumbled on the place.). The expo was crazy so I just grabbed what I needed and stopped at the TNT booth and got out of there. I got to the hotel and settled in and then went to the pre-race Team in Training inspiration dinner. During dinner the all too familiar cramps of that lovely time of the month hit. I was expecting it, but it wasn’t welcome. At least I run better on the first day of my period than the day before, cramps aside. (There was a minor not cramp related issue by the end of the race, but I’ll spare everyone the details) Race day dawned misty and comfortable temperature wise. I felt good, but it wasn’t until late in the race I really believed I was going to finish. Just recently I’ve developed an odd issue where the collar of my right shoe is rubbing and pressing on the bottom of my right inside heel bone. I have no idea why this is suddenly an issue since my shoes aren’t that old but not new either. I thought maybe the shoe got bent a little from side lunges, but I don’t think that is actually the problem. My running buddy John and I set off at a good pace, and chatted much of the race away. We stuck together until the very end where he stopped to kiss his wife before the finish and I kept going so I finished a few seconds in front of him. During the race we counted some of the more interesting things we saw. 15 people in onesies, all of whom were spectators (only one of those was a baby) 5 people dressed as food items, a banana and a taco running the full marathon (both of which beat us), another banana as a spectator and two cliff gel packets at the aid stations where those were being handed out. Late in the race the taco was just ahead of us so we heard lots of “Go taco” and “Mommy, look, there’s a taco running”. 1 guy spectating in a long pink nightgown. (worn over regular clothes) We also saw several people pushing strollers running, a few dogs running on leashes (apparently that is allowed in this race?) and I saw one guy running on a running blade…he also beat us. This isn’t a RNR race but Austin is a music town so they had lots of bands and music groups along the course. Near the end of the full a bagpiper was standing in the median under an overpass we ran under. Clearly taking advantage of the acoustics to make a loud instrument even louder. It was good though. I think there were as many people out just playing on their own as there were race sponsored music stations. I didn’t catch a lot of the scenery. It all blurs together. It went from being super crowded for the first 12 miles to lonely when the half split off, even the crowds of spectators all disappeared. We went up and down rolling hills the whole time. Austin has a lot of murals, which were interesting to see. Not even one of the better murals (this building was apparently supposed to be torn down in December according to a countdown clock in the front window) We ran past the University and the Capital. Even the flat parts of the race weren’t actually flat. We still held a steady pace until about mile 22 where we faded a little but not badly. Mile 25-26 had a killer hill, I didn’t want to walk because I was SO CLOSE to the end but I just couldn’t make it to the top running. It seemed like the steepest and longest hill of the whole race. I ate more than I ever have in a marathon, 5 gels, a cookie, a slice of an orange and two bites of bacon. The orange was at mile 23ish and one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. Bacon is good, but I confirmed that I don’t really like it when I’m running. Nuun was the electrolyte drink and I was concerned about adjusting for the lack of carbs from that source but I think I more than made up for it. I also used some Eduralytes. For once I didn’t get an awful headache post race. I did work hard on shaking out my shoulders and making sure I wasn’t clenching my teeth or fists, but it looks like in general I can go even heavier than I have been on food and electrolytes. Good to know I can run a marathon without getting a headache later. Late in the race I was trying to do the math on how close I was to my PR – I knew I wasn’t going to make that, but for a little while I thought I’d be close. Then I realized I was about 10 minutes slower than I’d been thinking. That still meant that at mile 23-24 I felt good about finishing under 5 hours. That was before I saw the giant hill – but even with that I was safely under 5. My final official time was 4:55:02. I am very happy with this, especially since the race was so hilly. My PR is on a mostly flat course. I really wish I could write a more detailed, orderly race report, but my mind wanders all over during a race and it’s hard to remember the details and where and when things happen. So you get a wandering RR not a mile by mile account because that’s how my mind works. I was a bit happy to be done and successful with marathon #7.
  6. MaineJoe

    RR Millinocket

    Last week was the third annual Millinocket Marathon and Half and it was festive as ever. The race has gone from 50 runners, to 550, to more than 1,000 this year. The event was created to benefit a community hit hard by a mill closing. It is a free race. The timers donate their time. The community comes out in droves to support the race. The library and the economic development group have taken in thousands of dollars in donations over the last three years. Hotels are full. A would-be quiet December day in Northern Maine is filled with activity and runners contributing to the local businesses. The race is about an hour north of where I live in Maine. My wife and son were nice enough to make the day out of it with me. A runner friend joined us for the road trip. We were up at 6 for the trip, after my wife and I had attended a fundraising event, where she is a board member. Probably not the best rest plan to be standing around... and a little bit of dancing, the night before the run. The goal was to be there at 8. The volunteers are great but with the increase in runners, I expected bib pickup to be a little time consuming. Our timing was good and we had bibs in minutes! The volunteers were friendly and efficient. Registration was at the craft fair. We bought a t-shirt and a calendar raffle and some other things, contributing to the cause. So we had plenty of time before the race, and while it was "cold" at 29 degrees, with no wind, it was balmy compared to last year's wind chill. We still didn't want to spend too much time outside, so we drove the course. We took a few pre-race photos, including Mt. Katahdin. We returned to the start and layered up for the race. There were a number of festive costumes among the runners, including an very awkward moose costume with an extra pair of legs and large antlers. I decided that I needed to make sure I was started ahead of him. The marathon started at 10 and half at 10:10. We were in the half. I lined up in the middle of the pack. The starting line featured two loaded logging trucks. The starting cannon went off and I quickly regretted starting so far back. I hit the first mile marker at 7:35. Impossibly fast for the number of people I was weaving by. There were lots of people on the side of the road cheering us on as we ran into the Maine woods. A little while after passing the marker, my watch beeped, at 8:43 for the first mile. I guess the marker wasn't in the right place. It was relief because I hadn't wanted to start that fast, but it provided more evidence of starting too far back. Someday I'll figure that out. Although, it never ceases to amaze me the number of folks going a different pace at the starting line. The poor volunteer by herself after the first mile marker couldn't pour water fast enough. I ran by without stopping, then got drinks at later stops. One station was providing fireballs. I passed. I picked up a cup at one stop that was empty. Went back for a second one. One station had mini bottled water. That was a nice touch. The course started in town, then became a dirt road, the "Golden Road" that drives toward Mt. Katahdin. We took a right onto another dirt road around mile 6, then headed back into town on a rolling paved road. On that paved road, I continued to pass some runners, although I couldn't tell if they were marathoners or half runners. And some passed me. I came along a younger runner who was cold but I had already given up my gloves and couldn't help him. I had stopped to try and help but was useless. My wife and son had taken my gear and I couldn't find them at the moment. In the final couple miles, a couple of runners, appearing to be in my age group passed me. In one case it was because I was eating a cookie. Last year in the final mile, I had come along a nice lady handing out cookies to the runners. I didn't take one. You can't eat cookies in a race! But I regretted it ever since. This time I took a sugar cookie with red icing and sprinkles. My wife took a picture of me showing her the cookie. If I had to do that over again, I would have gone for the chocolate chip or molasses, and put in my pocket for later. After a couple bites of the frosted cookie I was breathing too heavy and covered in frosting. I had to dump the cookie for the final stretch. Disappointing but more fulfilling than last year. I ran pretty good up Main Street. I knew I was 1:42 something last year, and could see I was around the same time. As I crossed the finish it appeared that I was better, 1:41. When I think about all the weaving and stopping for the cookie, and trying to help someone, I feel like I was better than a year ago. Then again, part of last year's race was spent breathing through a frozen face mask and running into a head wind! My running friend, in my age group, had beaten me by 10 minutes in his first half. He had done very well. We gathered after the race and had a meal at a local restaurant, tipping generously of course!. We hit a downtown shop and picked up a few more items. My wife and son, between the library and a bookstore had gathered 8-10 books. My son picked up some driving time on the way home as the 3-5 inches of snow predicted for the evening has started. Overall it was a great day. You can't help but feel warm on a cold winter day when you are doing something you love (run), with people you love (family), and helping out a community working hard to make you feel welcome. Here is a link to the Facebook page with lots of stories about the race and next year's date. But be careful, because it might just draw you to Northern Maine next December. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1313318738729689/
  7. running_eng

    Marine Corps Marathon 2017 - Going Big

    Marine Corps Marathon 2017 But there are times in our lives when we need to tilt at windmills, times when the scale of the quest frightens us, focuses us, and motivates us to stretch higher than before. The fact that we’ll more than likely fail is largely the point. (Jonathan Beverly, Runners World) This was my 3rd time running the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) and my 8th marathon. Getting a BQ back in January put me in an interesting place for this marathon. I wasn’t worried about my finishing time and that meant I could just race without worrying what would happen if everything went wrong. 17 weeks of training, more miles than I had ever run before, intervals on Tuesdays, long tempos on Thursdays, no injuries. I was ready ….. but how ready? My PR from January was 3:31:25 and I was pretty sure I could go under that. Was a sub 3:20 possible? (Hint – nope) I had a plan, well maybe not so much a plan but maybe a dare – run by feel, run hard and see what happens. Glory or spectacular failure. The local running club offered a bus ride and a hotel conference room near the finish line which worked pretty well – I was able to avoid dealing with the metro system or parking and got to meet a number of other local runners. After being able to relax, use a real bathroom (several times), it was time to walk the 1.5 miles to the start line. The only worry now was about the weather – how warm would it get and how quickly. The start temp was low fifties, not bad but it wouldn’t stay there. The MCM has start corrals but they operate on the honor system – and, unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of honor going on. I lined up between the 3:15 and 3:25 pacers; and after the National Anthem, a V22 Osprey flyover and the other usual start line ceremonies, the cannon fired and we were off. Kind of. It seems like a lot of slower runners decided that they needed a head start and had seeded themselves with the 3 hour marathoners. So the first mile had a lot stutter stepping and weaving; at one point I was on the shoulder of the 3:15 pacer who expressed some frustration over the situation. (I’ve had a lot of races where there is some weaving, but this was at a whole other level.). So after a slow first mile I did the natural thing when I hit the long downhill and made up all of the lost time (not smart but it was fun to turn the legs loose). Finally settling down after the madness of the start, I started to get the reins gathered back in and settled into the race. Knowing the heat to come, I made sure to get a cup of water to drink and another to dump on my head. After romping through the early miles in Virginia it was time to spend a bunch of time in DC. First was Georgetown where I knew Caitlin would be cheering. Resulted in a nice boost in early race morale and my favorite photo from the race (and the one I didn’t have to pay for). 8:00 7:26 7:23 7:06 7:24 After Georgetown, the race took on an out and back up Rock Creek Park. Downside: out and backs mean ugly u-turns. Upside: got to see the race leaders Upside: I really enjoy running in Rock Creek Park. Factoid: Rock Creek Park was the third National Park created by Congress Bonus Factoid: it’s larger than Central Park. 7:22 7:41 7:28 7:27 7:27 After the Park we hit what is, for me, the mentally tough part of the course – East Potomac Park and Haines Point. This part has been a real hard for me in the past. There aren’t any hills; it’s actually dead flat. It’s not that far into the race; Haines Point is the race’s midpoint. I’m not sure what the problem is other than it is a bit lonely and maybe bit boring? Got through it this without having a brain meltdown and felt pretty decent this time. 7:18 7:35 7:28 7:30 7:28 Now the race started get fun as it made lap of the National Mall which is the highlight of the race. Monuments, the Capital, Smithsonian buildings. It was somewhere in this section that I started to the burn in my quads. Since it wasn’t hamstrings or hips (old injury sites) I wasn’t too worried except for just how much the race was going to hurt in the end. By now I was also starting to notice that it was getting warm. 7:28 7:25 7:30 7:23 7:33 And then the race got really hard. This where the course crosses the Potomac on the I 395 bridge. There are some really iconic bridges in DC and isn’t one of them – uphill, highway, no spectators, mile 20. And you’re on it forever. I was hoping to be able to pick the pace after the bridge in Crystal City but it wasn’t happening – for me or anyone else either. I slowed down but there weren’t many people passing me either. The heat caught up to us and the slog was on. 7:38 7:46 7:57 7:41 8:17 The final mile of the race is a slight uphill from the Pentagon toward Arlington finishing with a short and very nasty final hill to finish before the Marine Memorial. The hill hurts but you can see the finish and there are Marines urging you on – finish as strong as you can. 8:17 8:34 – 3:20:55 After shaking hands or fist bumping about 20 young Marine 2LTs after the finish I received my medal, a salute and the race was officially over. I missed my “everything goes great goal” of 3:20 but I made all the important goals and was on pace for most of the race to have crushed the 3:20. · PR (previous was 3:31:25) · BQ (needed 3:40) · Make the top 20 in the Age Group; I finished 9th! · Run aggressively. OK, I may have overdone this one a little bit. A walk through the finish area and I was soon back to the running club’s hotel convention room where I was able to clean up a little, change clothes, get something to eat and catch up with other runners as they finished their races. I finally took the Metro home and spent several days hobbling around – my legs were completely trashed but trashed in a good way. I didn’t break 3:20 and I maybe could have if I had run a little more conservatively but I’m actually happy with how I ran and how the race ended. Age-Graded Score: 71.39% Age-Graded Time: 2:52:13
  8. MaineJoe

    Turkey Trot and other thoughts

    The last 24 hours have given me a few of minutes to revisit The Loop. It has been fun to read the stories to see what people have been up to. The lurking made me a bit guilty for not submitting anything so here are some thoughts on things since I last posted. Baconator- Being in Maine, I'm glad we'll still be able to share our weather-related challenges, a measurement of the most dedicated or foolish among us. Running in Maine, it is close to my heart. The weather has been kind thus far, but I've begun my daily peek at the forecast for the Dec. 9 Millinocket Marathon and Half. I'm signed up for the Half. For those that don't know, the race was created to try to boost the economy in a Northern Maine community hit hard by a mill closing. It was frigid cold at last year's race, where there were 700 runners or so. This year more than 2,000 are registered. On a cold December day when there might not typically be a visitor, us runners will be in town to feed the economy. We all warm up from it. Current forecast calls for a high of 31 degrees and 1-3 inches of awesome snow! Which is better than last year's single digit wind chill! The downside will be the view of Mt. Katahdin might be blocked by clouds. The race is FREE, but runners are invited to give to local charities, and spend money in town. RR- Turkey Trot. It has been an interesting year of running. Tremendously excited to have run Boston for the first time and perhaps the last. Not proud of my time but everything else was incredible and the rest of that story is a different blog. Speaking of blogs, I need to circle back to a blog from last December or January. I don't remember which. In it I made the strategic decision to avoid a race in order to move up an age group (50-59) for my racing club. The obvious thinking was that I would be faster than those "old guys." Guess what? I wasn't before and I wasn't this year either. Took me all year to realize it. Moving forward, I'll be working on seeing if there's a way to be faster at 51 or dealing with how to come to grips with being slower. Which brings us back to the Trot. The local high school runs the Turkey Trot. It's sponsored by the sophomore class, of which my son is a member. He worked really hard on the race, which from the days working up to race day, looked a bit scattered, but was fine on race day. All the volunteers did great. The race is a little out and back 3 miler. The forecast was for 40s to low 50s, chance of rain in the morning. No problem race is at 1. I got there early only to be directed by my son to the pre-registration line. I picked up my timing chip and my wife's registration and shirt. She was skipping the race due to her illness, an asthma challenge she has been fighting for months. I had our stuff and returned to the car. It had started raining, but it was still about an hour before the race. From looking at the radar on my phone, the Fun Run kids would be drenched at 12:30 but we would be dry at 1. I would later see photos of the Fun Run. The series of pictures starts with a young girl taking a face plant at the start on the wet road. It looked nasty. There were a series of pictures of her falling to the ground, seemingly in slow motion. I felt for her. The next photo showed the same girl crossing the finish line, then all the other kids finishing. She had won the race. Tough cookie. As I returned from a quick warm-up, I met one of my age-group nemeses. He is new to the running circles, actually returning to the circuit. He has beaten me in all the short races this year but I still like him. We talked about the weather and I assured him I had seen radar and we would be fine. Well, I saw him again at the start line, and as the rain fell from the skies and he wiped his smartphone, he said, "what radar were you looking at?" Apparently, the wrong one. Luckily for us, by Maine standards it was a warm rain. He mentioned that he was running Millinocket too, and was trying to stretch his mileage. We agreed to meet after the race to add on some miles. Stupidly, I think I might have said I'll wait for you. I didn't even mean it. I went out a little fast, 6:15. The middle mile has a little hill which slowed me to 6:44. At the turn I could see how far away I was from the age group leaders, which is to say, mostly out of reach. The good news was I was breathing hard enough that I wasn't worried about any pain in my legs. Last mile was 6:33. I reeled one person in with a half-mile to go but the next runner was just too far ahead to motivate me. He ended up being in my AG but 10 seconds was too far in the final stretch into the wind. Anyway, the gentleman I spoke to at the start won the age group. I was fifth in the age group, 29th overall 19:47. My AG friend waited for me so that was cool, and we did 3 more to cool down. The added bonus was we both qualified for turkeys as parents of students, and because he won the age group I took the turkey in the parent group! Yay food! Then I kind of ruined it by looking at my previous Trot results, only to prove that I was getting slower with age. Father time remains undefeated. I think my next running goal is to figure out dealing with being slower or get faster. Not sure what will happen, but I have a hunch I won't be faster. But if I can stay healthy, I'll enjoy the journey.
  9. RoyalDryness

    Well...that didn't go according to plan

    “Bro, this $h!t hurts.” The quote above, from a random runner next to me as we ran passed the Philadelphia Zoo on Saturday kind of summed it up. I’ve run the Philadelphia Marathon or Half Marathon(which used to just be the first half of the marathon), 3 or 4 times. They’ve recently changed the courses but they still follow the same basic pattern. Start by the Art Museum, through Center City, down along the Delaware River, back thorough Center City, across the Schuylkill River to University City, little bit of Fairmount Park, along the Schuylkill, then finish back by the Art Museum. It was somewhere around Drexel University that I had the rather sudden realization that “today…today is not my day.” I don’t need to give a mile by mile recap. In general, I did what anyone considered the smart thing. I started slow and conservative. I’m nowhere near what I would consider true racing shape, but I could darn well plod my way through a half-marathon. In fact, I very easily made my way through a 14 mile run just 2 weeks ago. It was one of those magical long runs when you finish, and can honestly and truly say, “I could have gone a lot further.” And it’s not the, “well if I was being chased by wolves I could have gone further,” it’s the real thing. The first 7 miles breezed by with nary a complaint from a calve or hamstring, not a cranky hip or sore foot, no tense shoulders, or rumbling stomach. Just smooth, dare I say, easy running. And despite what my wife or friends who claim they were at a 30th birthday party for me…in 2013, I am in fact still the same 28 year old who ran 1:10 at Broad Street (that's 7:00/mile for 10 miles, not trying to even humble brag because I’m not sure I can run 7:00/mile for one mile these days). But I do know (or thought I knew) that I could run about 10:00/mile for 13.1 miles. But, as I looked at the long, but very gentle incline of 33rd Street, my body said it was done. I had to look around for a moment, was I still in a race? Had I zoned out so much I just kept running and now I’m 20 miles outside the city? No, I was right where I was supposed to be, except I hurt. ALL. OVER. It was weird, because I felt like I had energy, I wasn’t crashing from lack of fuel, or breathing heavy. I just hurt. I felt like the Tinman in the Wizard of Oz, all rusty and awkward and have to imagine I looked awful. You know it’s bad when strangers on the sidelines are cheering for you, but it takes on that tone of, “Damn, that poor guy is hurting, I’m going to try to give him a boost” instead of the more generic “WOOOOOOO, GO [insert name on the bib]!” Given the circumstances I started playing the mental games we all play when we need to keep going and something tells you, “Hey! Dummy, you are in a modern city, just get an Uber or something, what’s all this running business about, no one is even chasing you.” I’d walk, then stumble/jog, then walk, then jog, then run, then walk. The miles ticked by slowly, painfully. “I’m at 10, I can make it 3 more miles. Remember that time Hector’s van broke down at 11:30 and you had to be home by 12. That was at least 4 miles. That was hard, this isn’t as hard as that right?” “Oh, wait, now I’m at mile 10, the Garmin is off by like quarter mile.” Kind lady who looked like my former neighbor: “Do you need a Gu or something to give you a little energy?” Me: “I need a lot more than a Gu, but I’m gonna make it.” With about .5 mile to go. I don’t remember if it was a half mile on my watch or on the actual course, I decided that I was going to run the rest of the way, the only way I’m stopping is if the pull me off the course. At times I felt like I was listing to one side like a sinking ship, another time I wasn’t quite sure if I was actual running as much as just trying not fall over forward and catching myself each step. Then I crossed the line, and for some dumb, unknown reason I decided that I was going to jump and tap the banner as went by. I’m 5’6 and can’t jump very high on my best day, and at this moment had legs that feel like jello mixed with fire and that banner had to be 8.5 feet up. And you better believe I smacked that thing like it was the last thing I’d ever do. I’m sure if there’s a picture (and there better be a freaking picture finish line photographers) it will look awkward and awful, but I will still hang it on my wall, because I finished, and it doesn’t matter that it was the second slowest half I ever ran, it doesn’t matter that I missed even the most modest of my time goals, and it doesn’t matter that I had to walk back to my car which was much further than I thought. And it doesn’t even matter that I took the elevator to wrong level of the parking garage and had to walk up a flight of stairs, painful step by painful step trying to hold on to a space blanket that wasn’t keeping me warm like I thought it should and bottle of water and empty broth cup that I also should have thrown away but didn’t because my head was somewhere else, what other explanation could there be for carrying an empty cup for 10 blocks passed a few dozen trash cans. And in the universal law of “well that doesn’t make sense” I’m legitimately more sore from this slow half then I was from any of the marathons I ran. But like my wife said as struggled to get off the couch later that day, “You can thank yourself for being so sore.” She was right too; I am thankful to me for doing it. Even though without a doubt that $h!t HURT!”
  10. NCAthlete

    Denver Pumpkin Pie 5K & 10K Race Report

    Signing up for a race where I could run both the 5K & 10K, AND get pie at the finish was a no-brainer for me. I’ve never run two races in the same day before. I’ve only ever run races two days in a row like, the VA Beach Shamrock Whale challenge – 8K & 26.2. By the way, the VA Beach Shamrock races may just be my favorite races EVER. It’s always so well organized, you’re almost guaranteed a PR, the swag is amazing, I always end up running with good friends, and there’s beer at the finish. All really good stuff! I hope to run there many more times in the future. It’ll always hold a special place in my heart. I was planning to do these races as training runs, so that’s what I did. The course was a 5K loop around City Park, so with both races I ended up running three loops. I had several friends running the race including Carol (CompulsiveRunner)! I met up with her before the 5K started. She and I ran the whole race together. It was nice to be able to run with someone again, as I’m always running/training alone. When we finished the 5K, we had less than 15 minutes to run about a half a mile to our cars, change our bibs, and get back to the start. The two bib thing was kind of annoying but I get it. I grabbed a piece of pie and ran with it back to the car! The crust was sturdy enough to wedge it between the plate and it didn’t get smashed. I shoved a big piece of it in my mouth before I left it in the car to run back to the start. By the time we got back, they had already started the 10K but people were still running through the chute. I felt really good during the 5K, but started to feel every little ache and pain during the 10K. The phantom leg thing, headache, and the bottoms of my feet were feeling like I was running with no shoes on. I didn’t really enjoy the 10K, but I did enjoy my second piece of pie. It’s crazy how runs can go from one extreme to the other in the same week. Euphoric to sub par in a matter of days. Ugh. But as everyone always says, the bad days make the good ones even better. I usually have TERRIBLE race picture, every one of them, and I thought that was the case this time. However, when I went back to save the pictures I wanted, there were two new ones (basically same pic) that I actually like! This one…NOT so much. I look like I’m about to crap my pants. Not this one either… I look like ones of the Blues Brothers. Ok, maybe just the glasses. Thanks for reading, Chris
  11. SIbbetson

    Bass Pro Half Marathon: Call it heat training!

    I was waiting on my professional photos from this race to post this, but 2 weeks later I've decided I might be waiting until my next race so here it is! This race was November 5, and I am now 2 weeks out from my big goal race marathon at CIM. The Short: Based on the crap weather (72*, dew point of 70*, 15-25 mph south wind), my goal for this race shifted from aiming for a solid time to running it at goal marathon pace (6:17). I also cut out the small taper for it, running 70 miles for the week instead of the planned 61, because there wasn't any reason to sacrifice marathon training volume when there was no chance at a fast half. My goal that stayed constant was to get the overall female win, and I accomplished that one despite not being able to quite hit goal marathon pace (I averaged 6:20 pace...but let me tell you, 6:20 sure felt like 6:05 pace!). However, I loved the hometown event and ran with a smile on my face the entire race! God doesn't always give us what we want (such as nice race weather), but He always gives us what we need (perhaps the way things turned out will be more beneficial for The Big Goal). The best part about the race was that two of the ladies I train with took the 2nd and 3rd overall spots, effectively giving our group the 1-2-3 sweep! Oh, and Albani's shirt was also a hit, and she couldn't have worn it in cooler temperatures. But her dad gives her junk food while her mom races! The Long: I included this half in my race schedule because it's local, the organizers do a fantastic job, and it was 4 weeks out from my goal marathon so I thought it would be a good checkpoint -- also because my coach recommended that I not run the Bass Pro full marathon as a B race like I usually do. The course isn't fast because it has one million turns, the final 2 miles up inclines, and the field at my pace is always very thin/nonexistent, but those cons are usually balanced out by nearly perfect weather and by it being a hometown race (typical routines, no travel, sleeping in my own bed, eating at home). But, alas, the 40*/sunny/light wind combination we usually get for this race was not to be in 2017! Instead, it was 72* with a dew point of 70* (i.e., painfully humid) with 15-25 mph south winds. Midwest weather is predictably unpredictable, but our high of 83* on this day set an all-time record, so it's usually not quite this extreme in November. I knew I couldn't run a PR or anywhere near it in those conditions, because anytime the dew point is in the 70s my performance nosedives. I've read that humidity that high reduces your VO2 max, and based on how my races go in those conditions I fully believe it (not where I originally read it, but it is mentioned here and here so I did not make this up!). Pre-race my goals shifted from gunning for a fast time to mainly working for the win and running around goal marathon pace. I also ran 70 miles during race week, so I figured to some degree this could simulate the second half of a marathon. Race morning I woke up in my own bed after the time change (meaning an extra hour in bed!), headed to the race with my husband and daughter, and warmed up with my dear friend Missy. It felt more like a workout day than a race, and I felt no pressure. I hoped to keep my pace between 6:15-6:20, and I knew I shouldn't bank on a negative split because the course started off working its way north (tailwind) and finished working back south (headwind), plus the beginning has more decline and the end has more incline. After the gun I found myself in first female position for the half (the first female in the full was just ahead of me, but I know her and knew she was running the full...she is also my coach's wife and he was running with her!). This seemed like a great sign for me, because I was running around 6:20 pace. There were a handful of men around too. The half and full courses split just after the 1 mile mark, and I saw 3 men in front of me. I also got a female lead cyclist at that point, and despite my experience with having a lead female cyclist without actually leading in Kansas City two weeks prior, I trusted that I was leading this time since it was a much easier gauge in less of a crowd and complete daylight. Around 2.5 The race itself was pretty uneventful, while at the same time very enjoyable -- the awesome local race feeling! I locked into the effort that felt sustainable for 13.1 and ran familiar streets. I drove the course twice the week before this race to prevent any re-occurrences of The Bass Pro Wrong Turn Incident of 2016. I thought driving the course beforehand helped me run the course tangents, but sometimes I couldn't run the tangents due to cars parked on the side of the road, aid stations, or huge mile marker signs blocking the path; however, I thought I did a much better job than my watch indicated. I later learned that the current half course isn't certified anyway, so perhaps I did do a better job with tangents than my watch showed. There are two certifications on the USATF website for the event, but neither is the course we ran (see here and here for the certified ones), also making me not feel so bad about missing the Missouri State road racing record for age 37 (1:23:11), since it wouldn't have counted anyway. Nor would a PR have really counted had I run one, so maybe I can even say I dodged a bullet there (just being optimistic)! Excuse the tangent - pun intended. My pacing was very consistent when considered with the elevation and headwind/tailwind situation, so even though I wasn't running my fastest I thought I did really well at zeroing in on the effort I could sustain for a half in these conditions. I got to see my husband and daughter around 2.5 and 9.5, something that I don't get to do in non-local halves. Elevation I really enjoyed all of the amazing spectators and volunteers out on the course. Many took the time to shout "First female!", "Girl power!", etc. as I passed. I am so thankful for our amazing running community! Around the 15K, I heard one spectator say to another, "Wow, she looks so strong and fast", and that made my day. I ran with a smile plastered on my face the whole race. It's such a fun race to win. Even though I never felt stellar, I loved being out there and having the opportunity to race locally and see so many people I knew. My lead cyclist was awesome, and I asked him to let me draft off him going south, but we could never quite work it out -- I think it's difficult to maintain consistent 6:20 pace on a bike, because that's very slow cycling. Around 9.5 - running into the wind & trying to draft I have often struggled with the last 2 miles on this course, but I got a boost from my friend Danielle cheering around mile 11 and a man passing me a bit before mile 12 (he went on to beat me but I hung with him until the last half mile or so). It felt great to hear the race announcer mispronouncing my name as the overall female winner for the half Running happy around 11.5! I look like I'm haulin' here (although I was not necessarily) Sweet finish stretch Clock shot I then got to see two amazing ladies I train with come in 2nd and 3rd overall females! I was so proud of them and that our group dominated this one. I will also add that I know they are both in 1:25-1:26 shape and that this race did not show anyone's true fitness level (the overall male has run 1:12 recently). Official results can be found here, and a news article about the race here. After the race (and an I'm-dehydrated-and-starving cool down to make it an 18 mile day), I enjoyed socializing with our amazing running community. Albani and I also volunteered at the expo the day before the race and enjoyed plenty of that there too. Runners really are the best people! Future marathon pacer Missy's daughter Emma ran a 5K PR with Danielle's help! Awards Results Splits that reflect the headwind/tailwind miles well (7-10 headwind) Although it would have been nice to have a confidence-boosting speedy half going into CIM, maybe I got more benefits from skipping tapering for this race and the heat training adaptations that I hope occurred from it (in a timely coincidence, I read this blog post regarding the benefits of heat training the day before the race). On one hand, I think if I want to run a marathon at 6:17 pace, I ought to be able to hit a half at that pace under any circumstances, but on the other hand I averaged 6:10 pace for a 10K on Labor Day in similar weather, and then managed 6:07 pace for half a few weeks later with decent weather, so I haven't lost faith. And, I ran far better at Bass Pro than I did at Dam to Dam, so I guess I can call this my 70* dew point PR! Hopefully this also means that I'm due some really, really nice weather at CIM! I know that God will give me what I need, even if it isn't what I want, then too.
  12. (It wouldn't let me edit, so I'm just re-posting this to add photos.) Sometimes I sign up for a race, and then make a vacation out of it. Examples are Boston, New York, Loopfests. Other times I schedule a vacation, and then look for a race to add to it. The point here is to have fun, explore new places and add a little running spice to an already good trip. If it fits into the training plan to race it hard, well, that's a bonus. So this was the latter. Sure, I had hoped to race hard, and made some goals, yadda, yadda. But once I got there, the running gods gave me plenty of reasons to shift gears and drop the pretense and just enjoy the race for what it was. Spice for the weekend. Not the main dish. The main dish was camaraderie; spending time with five old friends from high school. As we do every year, we chose a warm location to play a lot of golf, rented a house, and spent four days hanging out. No wives allowed. When I got home and the wife asked me how the other guys' families were doing, I had nothing. Because that stuff never came up. Yeah, it was all guy talk; golf, football, running, investing, politics, careers. I guess there was a little talk about kids. I'm not a monster. In addition to three rounds of golf, we also had a bowling night (where I had top score with a 192), played some pickleball, walked along South Beach in Miami, caught the Vikings game in a Miami sports bar, and ate lots of good food and drank every night. Not exactly tapering for a PR race. Plus I got shingles. Yes, shingles. I noticed some soreness in my hip area during my shakeout run Friday, and found some telltale rash marks. My brother had experience with shingles many years ago, and he confirmed my diagnosis. Then another roommate who happens to be a doctor (Ob/Gyn actually) also confirmed. Lucky to have him there because he was able to quickly write me a prescription for an anti-viral and phone it in to the local CVS. It's the same drug he has prescribed for genital herpes hundreds of times. I wore a bag over my head to CVS. Anyway, I was a bit nervous that it would get much worse by race day, but the drugs seemed to nip it in the bud, and it didn't get any worse. It was a minor irritant, and I didn't seem to be getting the fever or fatigue that often comes with shingles. I actually played my best round of golf in years that day, and it didn't hurt my bowling game either! So I was still planning to run the half on Sunday. But there was plenty of temptation to drop. Only four of us planned to run. Two were signed up for the relay, where each runs half of the race. But then one guy decided not to do it, choosing to golf a fourth day instead. And another guy said it was too warm and decided he would drop at the halfway point also (conveniently at the start/finish). So that just left me doing the full 13.1 miles. I could have taken the bib for the relay slot and done the second half. Or I could have dropped halfway with the other two guys. But I'm stubborn and I wanted to do what I had committed to and earn that medal. I did however alter my goals. No more shooting for 7:30 pace or better. I would go out conservative (about 8:00) and run with my two buddies, and then see how it went. If I was really fatigued I could drop after 6.5. But I hoped to keep it under 8:00 and finish strong, if possible. Post a respectable time but not kill myself. Work but not suffer. Race day it was 77 degrees already at 6AM, and the wind was blowing hard off of the Atlantic. Really hard. More reason to sandbag. The last half of the race was out and back along the coast, but the wind was mostly out of the North. So while miles 6-9.7 would be rough into the wind, the last 3.4 would be coasting with a tailwind. Also there was cloud cover, so at least there was no sun to go with the heat and humidity. Ugh, the humidity! This California guy was not used to it. But it was much worse Friday then Sunday. Sunday was definitely too warm, windy and humid for PR effort. But it turned out to be just fine for a vacation race! We arrived before dawn for the 6:15AM start. Plenty of time to poop, I thought, but they only had about ten port-a-potties for over 1,000 people. We got in line anyway, and barely made it in and out as the national anthem started. So no warmup at all. The start chute was only ten feet wide and packed, and we had to funnel in the back behind the 2:30 pacer. Oh well, not a race, right? I jogged in place for twenty seconds for my warmup. Once we got going we had the whole road and it opened up quick, so we had enough room to maneuver around the joggers. Good thing I didn't care, so I kept it reasonable and took my time. We gradually passed all the pacers: 2:30, 2:20, 2:10, 2:00...up until I finally caught and passed the 1:45 guy around mile two. The first mile the wind was at our backs. We had one bridge to get over right at the start, but then it felt pretty easy. The three of us were together, and that was nice to run in a little group. We were passing people in a pack and feeding off each other. At times it felt maybe too fast, but I didn't want to drop behind them, so it was helpful to have them there. First three miles were 7:54, 7:46, 7:51. In mile four I noticed that the other two had dropped back a little. I didn't think I had accelerated, but I guess I did a little. Just like in my training runs, I get more comfortable after about three miles and start speeding up. It was feeling comfortably hard and there were people to chase and pass, so I just kept plugging. Miles 4-5 were 7:41, 7:46. Then we were heading back East toward the ocean and hit a lot of wind. That really took the wind out of my sails. Or more accurately, blew the wind against my sail! I tried to find some people to draft behind, but I couldn't stay behind anyone too long because they were all going a little bit slower than I wanted to go. So I did my share of fighting the wind. I reminded myself there was a long way to go. I was tired, but no more than usual. Less than usual for a race actually. So I didn't even consider dropping at the halfway point. Got through mile 6 in 7:58 and had a little out and back where I got to see my buddies hadn't dropped too far back. I waved and started the four mile gauntlet into the North wind. Running into that kind of wind creates a sense of kinship with the runners around you. You are working this thing together somehow. We are all suffering in the same way, like soldiers in a bunker. There were several guys I ran close to for quite a while here. We formed our little silent friendship (in my head anyway). Alternated drafting duties a little. When I accidentally dumped some Gatorade on one of my new friends' legs I felt pretty bad. Sorry, buddy, I guess you're not my friend any more. (He was cool) The wind was relentless, but I kept my head down and just ran. This is where endurance training is helpful. You don't think "oh hell, four more miles of this shit - I'm gonna die". You just stay in the moment and look for the next landmark or mile marker or water station. You just keep plugging. Long way to go still, so I just tried to maintain. Pace slipped over 8, but not by too much. I knew relief was coming once we turned and it would be easier. Miles 7-9 were 8:10, 8:04, 8:11. I took a GU at 8.5 and then walked just a bit at the water stop to make sure I got a good drink. That's when the 1:45 pacer caught me. What? He must be ahead of schedule. But I welcomed the company, as it was getting a little lonely out there. He had four guys with him, and I joined the party. Drafting behind them was like a little break that I felt I owed myself. So I stayed with them to the turnaround at 9.7. And then I moved on by and the headwind disappeared and life was good again. I had a little pep in my step and pushed the gas a little. Some other guy went by me even faster, but then I was able to use him to chase for a couple miles before he faded. Then I was alone for the last two miles. Mile 10 was 7:52 (mostly headwind). Miles 11-12 were both 7:40. I figured I was on track for 1:43:xx with a shot at 1:42:xx, so that gave me a little motivation to keep it going. By the end I was tiring and ready to be done. But I was able to hold the pace. Nothing like serious race pain, just hard workout fatigue. My calves were starting to twitch a little, but they didn't cramp. When the end was in sight I picked it up a bit and cruised on in to the finish. Mile 13 was 7:32 with the last .13 at 6:34 pace. Official time 1:42:58. Hooray for small victories! That placed me 43rd of about 800, and 3rd in my AG. More importantly, I had fun, I didn't die, shingles didn't sideline me, and there was free food and beer waiting for me. Unfortunately my buddies wanted to get going since they had already waited a while for me, so I didn't get to go to the awards ceremony. Not sure what I would have won. Perhaps I will get it mailed to me. Some Norwegian girl was first overall in 1:26! and third overall was a 55-year old guy in 1:29! So much for winning my AG. So now I'm back home and ready for more training. Turkey Trot 3-miler next week. And then another vacation race in Rehoboth, where I hope cooler weather and less shingles will let me take a shot at a fast time. Life is good.
  13. Cliff

    Mt. Washington

    I have a fascination with Mt. Washington. I've done the Mt. Washington century 5 or 6 times, and the hill run twice. Rode my bike up it once. Here is something I posted elsewhere June 24, 2016. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Last Saturday I ran up the Mt Washington auto road. In July I will do a cycling century riding around it, then in August I will ride my bike up the auto road. Here are a few details of the run. ---------------------------------------------------- So, admittedly I was getting a little freaked out about the weather. The week up to the run temps were I the 20s and 30s, several inches of snow, freezing rain and winds averaging 50 mph with gusts in the 90s. Those are far past the conditions for which they would simply cancel the race. If it were in the 20s or 30s alone the race would go on. I was not prepared for those temps. The day before the run was beautiful. The forecast for Saturday was also perfect, I started to relax a little. Dawn and I went to pick up my number the night before, I also wanted to check the place out. I’ve driven up Mt Washington many times, but this was my first race of any kind ever. It was a pretty big deal. The starting banner was set up the night before. I got my number, not sure how I scored such a low number, but I was happy to have an actual race number. The morning of the race I was again concerned about the weather. Predicted 40s at the top, while not cold, it’s colder than I would run in just shorts and a shirt. I had on a compression shirt (love that thing) a cycling jersey (for those that run and don’t cycle, these are cool as they have pockets), tights and shorts. I was also planning on carrying a sweatshirt tied around my waist. I changed my mind an took off the tights and left the sweatshirt behind. Once Dawn headed up the mountain, no turning back. I walked around for almost 2 hours (cars had to head up very early) and started to get a little chilled. Clearly I need to HTFU. While I was waiting I met George Etzweiler. Really cool guy, his 11th time running it. He’s 96! They are pretty good about giving him a bib with his age. Finally the race was about to start. Again, I’ve never been in anything like this, so it was all really pretty cool to me. They had us all line up at the banner, the people that were expected to win / place well were in the front. A few minutes of talking, some words from our sponsor, a singing of the national anthem, sounding of the cannon and off we went. All 1140 of us. The first mile we all stayed together. Some of the fast people obviously went ahead, but the rest of us lumbered along. By mile 2 I was happy with my decision to leave the clothes, I was soaked with sweat. At this point I was still running. By mile 3 it was a mix of walking running. I took off the compression shirt and stuffed it in one of my jersey pockets. It was soaked. I was trying really hard to drink as much as I could. My breathing and heartrate were too high to sustain. This is when the walking started. It was mostly running until mile 5, then it switched to mostly walking, running when I could. I am also doing the bike ride in August, that is going to be a lot harder. At least with the run I can stop, or walk. There is no comparable option with the bike, it’s go or stop. On a hill like that there is no starting again once you’ve stopped. So the whole run I was saying, this section will be hard, but not too bad. This section will be really hard and about all that I can manage. Uh oh, this section is probably harder than I can handle, what will I do? I had to stop doing that and focus on the run. By mile 6 I knew I still had a long way to go, but I was convinced I’d make it. By mile 7 you could see the top, then you turn a corner and you can see the observatory. I knew I was close, and I knew I had someone who loved me and was cheering me on waiting. I am very lucky. The end is a brutal 22%. I was mostly walking at this point but needed to make a good show of it and tried my best to run that hard part. The crowds cheering you on really helped, but it was more than I could do. I ran most of the 22% hill, walked for a little, than ran across the finish line. 2 hours 17 minutes. 910 out of 1140, clearly no record, but I wasn’t last. Actually the guy in last was pretty special, it was George, he finished! He’s 96. His son and grandson started with him, not sure if they finished. At the top they packed the cars in like sardines, Dawn said it looked like a scene from the Walking Dead. I got my participant trophy. The blanket was nice, I was pretty overheated and the air was cool. Then the best part. I haven’t had a soda in almost a year. I love soda. So there it is, the hardest physical event I have done (to date). Will I do it again? Possibly. At lunch with Dawn yesterday I suggested she do it next year. She didn’t say I was nuts. She’s thinking about it. If she decides to do it I will start training this fall for a run that is next summer. I want to run the whole distance next time. As far as winning, I feel like I won. I have a lot of respect for Mt Washington. I’m saying Man 1: Mountain 0, but suspect it’s more of a draw at this point. Next up is the century around it next month, then the ride up it in August.
  14. BANGLE

    Vacation Racing - Ft. Lauderdale 13.1

    Sometimes I sign up for a race, and then make a vacation out of it. Examples are Boston, New York, Loopfests. Other times I schedule a vacation, and then look for a race to add to it. The point here is to have fun, explore new places and add a little running spice to an already good trip. If it fits into the training plan to race it hard, well, that's a bonus. So this was the latter. Sure, I had hoped to race hard, and made some goals, yadda, yadda. But once I got there, the running gods gave me plenty of reasons to shift gears and drop the pretense and just enjoy the race for what it was. Spice for the weekend. Not the main dish. The main dish was camaraderie; spending time with five old friends from high school. As we do every year, we chose a warm location to play a lot of golf, rented a house, and spent four days hanging out. No wives allowed. When I got home and the wife asked me how the other guys' families were doing, I had nothing. Because that stuff never came up. Yeah, it was all guy talk; golf, football, running, investing, politics, careers. I guess there was a little talk about kids. I'm not a monster. In addition to three rounds of golf, we also had a bowling night (where I had top score with a 192), played some pickleball, walked along South Beach in Miami, caught the Vikings game in a Miami sports bar, and ate lots of good food and drank every night. Not exactly tapering for a PR race. Plus I got shingles. Yes, shingles. I noticed some soreness in my hip area during my shakeout run Friday, and found some telltale rash marks. My brother had experience with shingles many years ago, and he confirmed my diagnosis. Then another roommate who happens to be a doctor (Ob/Gyn actually) also confirmed. Lucky to have him there because he was able to quickly write me a prescription for an anti-viral and phone it in to the local CVS. It's the same drug he has prescribed for genital herpes hundreds of times. I wore a bag over my head to CVS. Anyway, I was a bit nervous that it would get much worse by race day, but the drugs seemed to nip it in the bud, and it didn't get any worse. It was a minor irritant, and I didn't seem to be getting the fever or fatigue that often comes with shingles. I actually played my best round of golf in years that day, and it didn't hurt my bowling game either! So I was still planning to run the half on Sunday. But there was plenty of temptation to drop. Only four of us planned to run. Two were signed up for the relay, where each runs half of the race. But then one guy decided not to do it, choosing to golf a fourth day instead. And another guy said it was too warm and decided he would drop at the halfway point also (conveniently at the start/finish). So that just left me doing the full 13.1 miles. I could have taken the bib for the relay slot and done the second half. Or I could have dropped halfway with the other two guys. But I'm stubborn and I wanted to do what I had committed to and earn that medal. I did however alter my goals. No more shooting for 7:30 pace or better. I would go out conservative (about 8:00) and run with my two buddies, and then see how it went. If I was really fatigued I could drop after 6.5. But I hoped to keep it under 8:00 and finish strong, if possible. Post a respectable time but not kill myself. Work but not suffer. Race day it was 77 degrees already at 6AM, and the wind was blowing hard off of the Atlantic. Really hard. More reason to sandbag. The last half of the race was out and back along the coast, but the wind was mostly out of the North. So while miles 6-9.7 would be rough into the wind, the last 3.4 would be coasting with a tailwind. Also there was cloud cover, so at least there was no sun to go with the heat and humidity. Ugh, the humidity! This California guy was not used to it. But it was much worse Friday then Sunday. Sunday was definitely too warm, windy and humid for PR effort. But it turned out to be just fine for a vacation race! We arrived before dawn for the 6:15AM start. Plenty of time to poop, I thought, but they only had about ten port-a-potties for over 1,000 people. We got in line anyway, and barely made it in and out as the national anthem started. So no warmup at all. The start chute was only ten feet wide and packed, and we had to funnel in the back behind the 2:30 pacer. Oh well, not a race, right? I jogged in place for twenty seconds for my warmup. Once we got going we had the whole road and it opened up quick, so we had enough room to maneuver around the joggers. Good thing I didn't care, so I kept it reasonable and took my time. We gradually passed all the pacers: 2:30, 2:20, 2:10, 2:00...up until I finally caught and passed the 1:45 guy around mile two. The first mile the wind was at our backs. We had one bridge to get over right at the start, but then it felt pretty easy. The three of us were together, and that was nice to run in a little group. We were passing people in a pack and feeding off each other. At times it felt maybe too fast, but I didn't want to drop behind them, so it was helpful to have them there. First three miles were 7:54, 7:46, 7:51. In mile four I noticed that the other two had dropped back a little. I didn't think I had accelerated, but I guess I did a little. Just like in my training runs, I get more comfortable after about three miles and start speeding up. It was feeling comfortably hard and there were people to chase and pass, so I just kept plugging. Miles 4-5 were 7:41, 7:46. Then we were heading back East toward the ocean and hit a lot of wind. That really took the wind out of my sails. Or more accurately, blew the wind against my sail! I tried to find some people to draft behind, but I couldn't stay behind anyone too long because they were all going a little bit slower than I wanted to go. So I did my share of fighting the wind. I reminded myself there was a long way to go. I was tired, but no more than usual. Less than usual for a race actually. So I didn't even consider dropping at the halfway point. Got through mile 6 in 7:58 and had a little out and back where I got to see my buddies hadn't dropped too far back. I waved and started the four mile gauntlet into the North wind. Running into that kind of wind creates a sense of kinship with the runners around you. You are working this thing together somehow. We are all suffering in the same way, like soldiers in a bunker. There were several guys I ran close to for quite a while here. We formed our little silent friendship (in my head anyway). Alternated drafting duties a little. When I accidentally dumped some Gatorade on one of my new friends' legs I felt pretty bad. Sorry, buddy, I guess you're not my friend any more. (He was cool) The wind was relentless, but I kept my head down and just ran. This is where endurance training is helpful. You don't think "oh hell, four more miles of this shit - I'm gonna die". You just stay in the moment and look for the next landmark or mile marker or water station. You just keep plugging. Long way to go still, so I just tried to maintain. Pace slipped over 8, but not by too much. I knew relief was coming once we turned and it would be easier. Miles 7-9 were 8:10, 8:04, 8:11. I took a GU at 8.5 and then walked just a bit at the water stop to make sure I got a good drink. That's when the 1:45 pacer caught me. What? He must be ahead of schedule. But I welcomed the company, as it was getting a little lonely out there. He had four guys with him, and I joined the party. Drafting behind them was like a little break that I felt I owed myself. So I stayed with them to the turnaround at 9.7. And then I moved on by and the headwind disappeared and life was good again. I had a little pep in my step and pushed the gas a little. Some other guy went by me even faster, but then I was able to use him to chase for a couple miles before he faded. Then I was alone for the last two miles. Mile 10 was 7:52 (mostly headwind). Miles 11-12 were both 7:40. I figured I was on track for 1:43:xx with a shot at 1:42:xx, so that gave me a little motivation to keep it going. By the end I was tiring and ready to be done. But I was able to hold the pace. Nothing like serious race pain, just hard workout fatigue. My calves were starting to twitch a little, but they didn't cramp. When the end was in sight I picked it up a bit and cruised on in to the finish. Mile 13 was 7:32 with the last .13 at 6:34 pace. Official time 1:42:58. Hooray for small victories! That placed me 43rd of about 800, and 3rd in my AG. More importantly, I had fun, I didn't die, shingles didn't sideline me, and there was free food and beer waiting for me. Unfortunately my buddies wanted to get going since they had already waited a while for me, so I didn't get to go to the awards ceremony. Not sure what I would have won. Perhaps I will get it mailed to me. Some Norwegian girl was first overall in 1:26! and third overall was a 55-year old guy in 1:29! So much for winning my AG. So now I'm back home and ready for more training. Turkey Trot 3-miler next week. And then another vacation race in Rehoboth, where I hope cooler weather and less shingles will let me take a shot at a fast time. Life is good.
  15. The first day after I ran 115 miles at Hinson Lake, I slothed like I had never before. My body ached from head to toe and though the brain fog seemed less intense than the prior year, it was still there. I lazed around the house, soaked my feet in an Epsom salt bath, snacked, and rested. I didn't actually feel any hungrier than normal - it is strange how sometimes I feel ravenous after a race and other times, it seems to have no effect. Needless to say, running was out of the question for a few days. I was determined to be a little smarter about recovery this time around. The itch would come soon enough. Last year, I ended up with a couple of weeks of Achilles pain following Hinson Lake probably due large in part to too much, too fast, too soon. It was a beautiful fall day the Wednesday following the race and all the soreness had finally dissipated. I decided to take an easy loop on the trail near the my house. Veeeerrrry easy. It. Was. Incredible. I don't know that I have ever had a run that was so good. I knew I should only do 2 of the 1 mile loops, but I couldn't help myself. I ran 3 loops. If I could bottle that magic and sell it.... But running isn't always magical. And in the runs following that one, they have been somewhere in the 3-6 range on a 1-10 scale. Some better than others and I attribute that mostly to the fact that the weather has been far less hot and humid than 6 weeks ago. But my legs have had no get up and go and an 8:00 minute mile feels like a 7:00 minute mile. I know I should be patient in the recovery process. But I am so anxious to run fast after nearly 5 months of longer and slower. Knowing that I have been sliding more and more into being competitive in races, I needed a fun race. Last year, I ran the Greenville Marathon dressed as a donut large in part to remind myself to keep it fun. So after my friend Matt graciously helped me secure a race entry, I decided to keep it fun again this year. Adam told me he ordered a costume online that I could wear to the race. However, by Thursday night, it still had not arrived so I told him to grab me a Wonder Woman costume at Target. They were sold out of course so I went with my backup. I've been hating all my running shoes lately and ordered a pair from Amazon to arrive Friday. Except I got a notification they were damaged en route to me and were to be reshipped. So...I would be running in my trusty Clifton 1s that are now a half size too small. My feet have grown at least a size and a half in the past 10 years! I ran 1.2 miles on the treadmill Friday night in the costume to make sure I would be reasonably comfortable. The handle was my biggest concern, but my arm swing is weird and short on my right side anyway so it kind of worked out perfectly. I slept like a brick per usual on Friday night and awoke to my Garmin alarm at 4:15 a.m. I put on my race clothes, made a cup of coffee, warmed up some frozen pancakes in the microwave, and was on the road by 4:45 a.m. Traffic was nothing and I arrived to Furman University by 6:30 a.m. Matt and I eventually found each other in the correct parking lot and I jumbled around trying to get my act together. Lots of Vaseline all over my arms and shoulders as well as the usual hot spots. There was a possibility of rain in the forecast and I was determined to not have to toss my costume onto someone's lawn due to chafe. I talked with a few people as I made my way over to the start because wearing a beer stein is a pretty good conversation starter. I was probably the most calm I have ever been at a starting line because I really had zero expectations of anything for the day other than to make it to the finish line. The gun went off and as we began, a safety pin popped open on the right side. Aw, shit. So I struggle to try to run and close a safety pin within the confines of the costume. It took at least 90 seconds before I got the stupid thing shut. I could have stopped to fix it, but I was trying to not be that jerk that stops right in the beginning of the race. I was already being a jerk taking up extra room in my costume. Once I was secured, I spent the next mile catching up to the 4 hour pace group. It was the group I ran with last year and it felt like a reasonable place to be given my current fitness. Once I caught them, I tried to stay towards the back of the pack at first knowing that my personal space area was a bit, um, amplified. As we began to tick off the miles though, I slowly fell in place behind the pacer and eventually talked to her for awhile. The early miles were around Furman and a mix of sidewalk and road. A few college kids were out ringing cowbells and cheering, but it was fairly quiet overall. Once we started running off campus, it got even more quiet. This part of the course was different from last year and I didn't care for it at all. It was through a residential area dotted with huge homes on acres and acres of land. The road wasn't coned off and though I was running with a group, I couldn't help but think about the safety of those who weren't. It wasn't clear what side of the street we were supposed to be on and the road was completely open to traffic. I was feeling reasonably good and nothing was really bothering me which is always a happy thing while running a marathon. I remembered to start taking my Huma gels every 5 miles and a light, misting rain helped to keep things nice and cool. I actually got a little chilly for a bit and was kind of glad that I was wearing a non-breathable polyester costume. The course had a bunch of rolling hills and I was pretty glad that I wasn't going for a PR. Nothing that was crazy, but a far cry from flat. As we neared Furman again, I was looking forward to getting on the much more scenic and tranquil Swamp Rabbit Trail. The pacers switched off at the 13.1 mile mark and the girl pacing, Shannon, was the same one from the pace group last year. It was fun to talk a bit and then I ended up talking to Brooks for about a mile while we led ahead of the 4 hour group. He decided to slow down and remain with Shannon, but I was now kind of set on that slightly faster pace. So I just stayed ahead of the group and decided to do my own thing around mile 17. There were a fair number of cyclists out on the Swamp Rabbit Trail and it was fun to get smiles as they came swooshing by. I was feeling happy and good at this point - a strange feeling in the last 8 miles of a marathon, but I guess I just needed an 18 mile warm up? The water stations towards the end were full of cheering people and it was energizing to run through the crowd. It is hard to sneak by another runner in a beer stein costume so I tried to at the very least say good job as I went past. I ended up talking to about every other person in those final miles, asking them how many marathons they'd done, what their goals were, or how they were feeling. As I headed into the last 10K, I knew I wasn't moving super fast by my own standards, but I felt pretty good all things considering. It was a perfect fall day and a wonderful long run. There were going to be snacks, beer, and football to nap to later. Life was good. I passed a guy on a unicycle who said that is awesome and I said no, you're awesome! I actually laughed out loud when that happened because it just seemed so random that a person riding a unicycle and a person running a marathon in a beer stein costume would pass each other on a Saturday morning. The last mile had a short, but steep hill and I powered up that beast ready to take on the mile 26. Except my shoelace started to come untied as I went flying down the other side and I actually had to stop and tie my shoe with less than a mile to go. Ha! I forgot about all the uphill in the final mile and kept looking around for the entrance to the baseball field. Finally, a volunteer pointed me left and I followed a couple of runners onto the warning track on the first base line. There was a lady ahead of me who I recognized from earlier in the race and though I had a sprint finish in me, I decided to just stay about 15 feet behind her in case they were doing finish photos. Talk about worst photo bomb ever.... Crossing the line, I felt satisfied. It was still a marathon and it was still tough at times. But I felt a sense of relief that I could rise to the challenge after feeling so mopey for weeks. Having fun and running just for the sake of running was exactly what I needed. Splits if you are into that kind of thing: 1 9:02.4 8:55 2 9:07.1 9:06 3 9:01.6 9:01 4 9:04.2 9:00 5 9:01.8 8:57 6 9:10.5 9:09 7 9:00.7 8:53 8 9:08.9 9:03 9 9:06.2 9:06.2 10 9:07.0 9:00 11 9:08.5 9:01 12 8:59.6 8:59.6 13 9:03.2 8:57 14 9:05.1 9:02 15 8:59.7 8:59 16 9:19.8 9:14 17 8:58.1 8:57 18 8:46.8 8:40 19 8:40.8 8:36 20 8:38.3 8:36 21 8:55.2 8:51 22 8:46.5 8:39 23 8:29.4 8:26 24 8:41.3 8:35 25 8:23.3 8:17 26 8:30.9 8:26 27 1:33.1 1:27 Summary 3:53:50 3:53:47 26.21
  16. Gonzo Runner

    Ain't No Blues in This Chicago RR

    “Keep your sunglasses on, I want to take a selfie.” The Wife looked at me with a skeptically raised eyebrow. “A selfie? Since when do you take selfies?” “Well-” I said “-this is a big trip, and I know you like to take the occasional selfie, so I thought you might want one.” “Why the sunglasses? This isn’t for some stupid Blues Brothers joke you’re going to make that no one is going to get is it?” “...” “Yeah, I thought so, no selfie.” I spent the rest of our ride on the Plane Train (1. this is its official name, and 2. it’s Atlanta, of course this story starts at the airport) quietly sulking at the lost potential of my Blues Brothers joke. I travel so much for work that once I enter the airport my body goes into autopilot until we’re in the air, so as I gave up on figuring out a “106 miles to Chicago” bit my mind drifted to the task soon to be at hand. Or at foot. Whatever. Unlike the lead up to Philly, the week before Chicago had been eerily calm. No work disasters. No abnormally idiotic clients. The partners were all traveling. And aside from some minor taper madness, training had gone exceptionally well. I marveled at all of this at first, and then had a horrible thought. Nothing goes this well for me, ever. Things had actually gone too well, and I began to feel that the other shoe was surely about to drop. And then I started thinking about how many different things could go wrong during a marathon, and grabbed the brown bag our sad airport lunch had come in out of The Wife’s hand and started doing some deep breathing. I rarely get nervous before a race anymore. There’s no worries about finishing, and I generally know what will hurt and when, and for how long. There’s just not that many surprises left out there. But the marathon is, as you’re well aware, a wholly different animal. It's so long that doing half of one is considered a long race in and of itself. You need to train entire physiological systems to perform when they’re damaged and broken, and prepare yourself to ignore tremendous pain and suffering far beyond what you experience in shorter distances. All of this gives the marathon an epic feeling, and it was this sense of an impending monumental struggle which was racing through my mind as I filled my lungs with deep breathes infused with eau de soggy chicken panini. The Wife grabbed the bag back to take her lunch out before I ruined it and I disengaged the autopilot and rejoined the world around me. I started to give myself a little “there’s nothing to be afraid of, you’ve done this before” pep talk, but realized the anxiety wasn’t coming from fear. Before Philly, I was afraid of what lay beyond mile 20. I’d never been there, never seen the wall, never felt the despair of that last 10K. But this time, there was no mystery. I knew how cold it was in the shadow of the wall, how it feels to empty the whole tank fumes and all, and how a 4 inch curb could bring a grown man to tears. And I realized that what I was feeling wasn’t fear. I have a delusional sense of grandeur and often view approaching challenges, be it protesting some asinine policy against “the man” at work or a local 5K, as epic struggles testing every ounce of my physical strength and mental fortitude. The root of this is likely some deep seated psychological demon revolving around a fear of living a life of no consequence. I wake up every morning in my Ikea bed surrounded by the beige apartment walls, go to work at my big city office job greasing the wheels of capitalism but making absolutely zero impact in the lives of the people around me, and ride the train home as an anonymous member of the mass of daily commuters. I pay my taxes, I feed the meter, I obey the honor system. A good worker bee. But knowing I live this life without consequence eats away at me, rots my soul. So I seek out chances to feel like I’m a part of something grand, something that matters. Imagining being a part of a herculean struggle against insurmountable odds with my very worth as a human being in the balance helps to keep me from leading a worker bee revolt and burning down the hive. There’s a lot more to unpack here, but this is already more than enough for a running blog. Visualizing this epic struggle is how I mentally psyche myself up and prepare for big races. I was rolling this around in my head as I bit into my soggy chicken panini, and it dawned on me how ready I felt for this. I knew I was well trained. I had nailed my tune up race. I was well rested and fueled. And as I approached the field of battle for my profound clash of Revlite and carbon rubber against hot asphalt, I knew I wasn’t afraid. I felt like a mythic warrior from some old epic poem about to enter the dragon’s lair. A confident, purpose built and finely tuned machine driven by a razor sharp focus. It wasn’t fear. It was anticipation. I felt ready to slay some demons. “He then went to visit and see - when night came - the high house how it, the Ring-Danes after the beer-feast had occupied; He found then therein the nobles’ company slumbering after the feast; they did not know sorrow, misery of men” -Beowulf, lines 115-120 We checked into the Hilton Chicago, a massive, beautiful, old fashioned hotel whose shadow cast onto the edges of Grant Park. The Wife and I did a 5 mile shake out along the Lakefront Trail and prepared to meet a friend for dinner. We were chatting as we exited the hotel and bumped into two people doing the same on their way in. I looked up and started to apologize but the words never made it out of my mouth. The Wife barely noticed and kept going until she realized I had stopped and was staring at the two people we’d passed. Before she could get mad at me for making us late, I told her that we almost just took out Galen Rupp and Alberto Salazar. Upon hearing this she started geeking out and I got to chide her for a change for making us late and we finally went on our way. After dinner at Pequod’s (highly recommended) we stopped by the hotel bar for a night cap. While looking for the bar we wandered first through the coffee shop, where I again spotted Mr. Rupp. I elbowed The Wife as we walked past, and in response she punched me in the arm. We grabbed a seat near the window and looked out at the park, sipping cocktails and discussing our race plans and anxieties as we watched the world unencumbered by marathon jitters pass by. And then I saw a familiar looking woman. Slight but strong looking, with short gray hair and dark, deeply intense eyes. I wasn’t sure at first, but the eyes were unmistakable. In every picture I’ve ever seen of Joan Benoit the intensity of her gaze has always struck me. I did a double take, which caught her attention through the thick glass of the window, and we exchanged half smiles and nods. This would have been the highlight of my weekend, had the race gone differently. But we’ll get to that. We hit the expo Saturday morning and after picking up bibs and t-shirts sat in on a discussion with Deena Kastor and Emily Hutchins nominally about women in running moderated by the new editor of RW magazine. Despite the title though, the questions from the moderator mostly focused on general topics like “how to recover” and “how to incorporate strength training into your routine” which was a little disappointing considering the panelists. But, in answering one of these vague softball questions, Deena said something that I couldn’t get out of my head. I’m paraphrasing here, but the gist of it was: “Don't judge the race just by whether or not you hit a specific time. Even if you don't hit your primary goal, think about how this race and this effort will change you and help you continue to grow and develop as a runner and person, because it will regardless of your time.” Because this was only my second marathon, in the run up I kept comparing everything in training or preparations to Philly, which was my only frame of reference. And while I didn’t hit my A goal in Philly, I still saw it as a major success. Yes the conditions were awful and all that, but the fact that I was able to run a marathon at all, regardless of time or conditions, was something that had been unthinkable just a few years prior. I was reflecting on all the ways the marathon had changed me and by the end of the talk my head was swimming with all the feels. So when they asked for questions from the audience, I raised my hand. The Wife turned her head and whisper yelled to me “WHATTHEHELLAREYOUDOING” while the emcee brought over the microphone. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to ask, but as I grabbed the mic my thoughts coalesced into this: What, other than being good at it, draws you to the marathon as opposed to the 10K or 5K or other events? I thought it came out well off the cuff, and was pleased with myself until I realized Deena was just giving me a blank stare and not saying anything. Oh God what the hell did I say? I replayed the question in my head to make sure the thoughts up there and noises that come out of my mouth had been the same, and I may have broken into a cold sweat. Then the emcee calmly repeated my question at an actually audible volume, Deena smiled and I felt a whole lot better. And then she said this (again, paraphrased, I’m not a frigging court reporter here): “When I ran the 10K and 5K, it was always on a track in a stadium and I always felt like I was performing for people. But the marathon is different. There’s a community around the marathon. Not everyone who runs a 10K knows what it’s like running in stadiums full of people, but everyone who runs the marathon has the same experience. We all run the same course, from elites to the slowest finishers. We all have the same aches and pains and hydration and nutrition struggles and digestive issues and injuries. We pass the same aid stations and timing mats. We’re all in it together, and there’s a huge community all sharing in the highs and lows and supporting each other. That’s what I love about the marathon.” I don’t remember the rest of the expo because I only have so much brain power and it was all being used absorbing this. If you ever get a chance to hear Deena speak, take it. Responsibly of course, please don’t go up to her in a restaurant and stick your fingers in her food to hear her yell at you or anything like that. After the expo we met my brother and his family for lunch and had run-ins with Khalid Khannouchi, Tatyana McFadden, Feyisa Lelisa, and Rupp again. We had a low key dinner of pizza margherita and my traditional two beers and headed back to the hotel for an early bedtime. As we went through the ritualistic pinning on of the race bibs and laying out our fuel and gear I also went through my final mental preparations. I planned out my pacing, which called for 7:45-7:55 for the first 3 miles, 7:35 for the next 17, and then as fast as I could manage for the last 6.2. The results would hopefully be 3:20 with a slight negative split. With every physical and logistical detail now finally tended to, I laid down to sleep. I replayed the day’s events to keep something positive passing between my neurons and stave off the anxious tossing and turning. It had been a day full of meeting heroes and legends, seeing family and friends, and enjoying good food and drink. A day without sorrow or misery, full of the feast of life. “He came then to the hall the fighter journeying, cut-off from merriment; the door soon rushed open, firm with fire-forged bands, when he tapped it with his hands plotting evil then he tore open, now that he was enraged...” -Beowulf, lines 720-723 I woke easily, which is no small miracle, and quickly set to the task of making breakfast. Peanut butter on a bagel and hotel coffee were the morning’s fare. The bagel was stale and the coffee tasted like an old kitchen sponge had been floating in it, but I knew this offense against my palette paled in comparison to the abuses I was about to subject the rest of my body to. The patented two beer system worked perfectly, and with my top end full and bottom empty, we dressed and headed to the start line. The atmosphere in the hotel lobby was so charged the hairs on the back of my neck stood up as we made our way through the crowds of high strung runners and headed across the street to Grant Park. On our way we happened to bump into a large crowd of fellow Atlanta Track Club members from the marathon training group who were running together, wished them luck and found our gate. Once we passed through security, The Wife and I separated and entered our corrals. The journey of months and miles to this time and place was now complete. Very soon we would rush through the starting arch, leaving merriment behind and searching for the pain we all knew was out there waiting for us. There was nothing left to do now but run. A few minutes after the starting horn sent the elites off to warm up the asphalt for the rest of us, our corral started moving and made our way into the start area, slowly shuffling forward. I kept moving with the crowd, expecting it to eventually stop and then have another horn sound to send the corral C runners on our way. But as we approached the starting arch, people just started running through it and I realized this was a rolling start. I panicked briefly and fumbled to ready my Garmin, which thankfully connected just in time, and in the least dramatic fashion possible I crossed the start line and my race began. The Wife had warned me that the first few miles pass under several roadways and bridges, and that this would likely throw my Garmin off. She had also warned me that with the course’s roughly 9,436 turns, it was important to find the blue line and follow the tangents to not run an ultra distance. I kept this advice in the back of my head and checked my pace right before we reached the first overpass, even though it was something like a quarter mile into the race. But it was 7:55, which was right where I wanted to be. I felt absolutely perfect, and now that my anxious energy had a productive outlet even my mind was clear. I enjoyed the gorgeous Chicago architecture, took in the crowds, and enjoyed the fresh bounce in my stride because I knew it wouldn’t be there long. In between overpasses I checked the Garmin and saw paces hovering around 10:00, which I knew wasn’t right so I ignored them and went by feel. This is not my strong suit, but there was nothing I could do about it and I tried not to let it bother me. The first 3 miles were 7:46, 7:52, and 8:02. After mile 3, I made an effort to pick it up a little bit to get to closer to race pace. There was no worry or stress, I knew there were plenty of miles left, but I didn’t want to get too far off plan too early. We were no longer running under bridges, so I tried to rely on the Garmin hoping it would be accurate. It kept showing paces in the 8:00-8:15 range, which given my mile 3 split I assumed was correct and accordingly kept trying to pick it up. When I passed mile 4 in 7:10, I did worry. I did some deep breathing and calmed myself down. I told myself one slow and one fast mile offset each other and comforted myself with some runner math, convincing myself I was right on track. I focused on getting the legs settled into goal pace. I took my first Honey Stinger and some water at mile 5 and found a groove as we left the city streets and entered Lincoln Park. The pathway through the park is decidedly narrower than the roadways which caused some congestion, but by now the mass of runners had settled into loose groupings of similar paces so there were no serious ill effects. Just an increased risk of being hit with some neighborly flop sweat. I was looking forward to miles 8 and 9 as I have a friend who lives nearby that neighborhood and was planning on coming out to cheer, but as we left the park and approached his neighborhood I was distracted by my first rough patch of the race. The neighborhood we were running through had little to no shade, and by now the sun was high enough overhead to remind us that it was not going to stay cool for long. I also started feeling the shooting nerve pain which is a remnant of the piriformis injury I had two years ago and comes and goes periodically. This combination had me more uncomfortable than I was comfortable with this early in the race, and I slowed again in mile 8 to 8:02. This was far sooner than I had expected for my first visit to the Valley of the Suck, so I did some self-evaluation and revised my plan a bit. I was taking a Honey Stinger every 5 miles and had planned on taking Gatorade halfway between fueling points, but given how much I was sweating I decided to at least sip some green go juice every mile to make sure I stayed hydrated and full of those delicious lemony limey electrolytes. There was nothing I could do about the periodic shooting pain in my leg, and I knew it would come and go all day. So I borrowed a mantra from someone I knew was also on the course that day. You all remember the story of the runner who was assaulted last year and managed to fight off and beat the shit out of her attacker. She kept telling herself “not today motherfucker” as she fought back against her assailant, which I remember thinking at the time was the height of badassery, and she was running Chicago today with the rest of us. If she was able to fight through an attack like that I could beat this comparatively insignificant pain in the ass. Every time the pain flared up I would yell out “NO, not today” and press on until it passed. We turned into my friend’s neighborhood and a tunnel of cheering crowds and I started to feel like I was getting back on track. I found my groove again and began ticking off goal pace miles like a metronome. I don’t know if it was the incredible crowd support, the modified fueling/hydration strategy, the defiant mantra or some unknown celestial favor shining down but I was feeling perfect again. I was ignoring the piriformis pain, I still felt fresh, and the pace was downright relaxed. I never saw my friend, but I did see my brother and his family at mile 11 which gave me a boost and I started the runner math to get an idea of what my half split would be. In the middle of my arithmetic I felt my Garmin go off for mile 13, and looked down to see a 6:23 mile split. I momentarily panicked until I realized I couldn’t even see the mile marker on the road yet, and I decided the Garmin was officially useless. Mile 14 was also way early, so I hit the manual lap button when I hit the 14th mile marker to try and give me some frame of reference based in reality. Which I found ironic as in my daily life I seek out every opportunity to escape reality. But, the marathon makes you do crazy things. This minor Garmin drama actually turned out to be a fortuitous unpleasantness. The Chicago course is basically three out and back sections, and the stretch I was on heads west and away from the finish line which can be deflating if you reflect on being more than halfway done but somehow still running away from the finish line. It’s also where the crowd support thins a bit, and it starting to get noticeably hot. But because I was fumbling with my watch and doing runner math off my half time I hadn’t really noticed any of this. My goal was to be out around 1:41, and I crossed the 13.1 timing mat in 1:40:57 per the official timing. I was ecstatic with this, especially considering the early pacing hiccups, and as we turned around and the Sears (up yours Willis) Tower came back into view I resolved to ignore the watch, check my splits only at the mile markers, and focus on my fueling and hydration to combat the heat. Mile after perfectly paced mile passed without even the hint of an issue, so I did something I rarely do in a race. I took in what was around me and enjoyed what I was doing in the moment. I knew I was getting very close to a whole world of pain, but for the time being, I felt amazing. And not “for mile 16 of a marathon” amazing, I felt “first night of the honeymoon” amazing. In fact I have never felt so strong, so in control, so capable during any stretch in any race I’ve ever run. My stride felt graceful and fluid, my legs felt light, I wasn’t breathing heavy, and I was even managing the heat well. I thought to myself at one point “who the hell feels GOOD in mile 18 of a marathon?”, but I didn’t have an answer. So I made sure I didn’t pick it up too much and prematurely empty the tank, and just kept feeding on the swelling crowd support and cranking out the miles as we made our way back into the heart of Chicago. One of the things everyone is told when they sign up for Chicago is how great the neighborhoods are. And they are, with each having it’s own unique way of showcasing their city for the runners. The two I had heard the most about were the Frontrunners in mile 8 (who absolutely lived up to their billing) and Chinatown, which I was now approaching. But first was Pilsen, about which all I knew was that it was a Latino neighborhood. I was wearing my Atlanta Track Club singlet, and although the cheering was all in Spanish, I started hearing “Atlanta” (well, “Ad-a-lanna”, but close enough) in the cheers from the spectators. And damn were they energetic cheers. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t understand the words themselves, the energy and excitement with which they were screamed made their meaning perfectly clear. The blaring music and enthusiasm of the crowds manning pop-up aid stations was infectious, and I felt as though I was dancing through this stretch. Other neighborhoods were great, but for my money the energy of Pilsen was the best. Gracias amigos. “Woe be to him who must. through dire terror, thrust his soul into fire’s embrace; hope not for relief, Or to change at all” -Beowulf, lines 183-186 It was just after the Pilsen neighborhood that the course turns south, away again from the Sears Tower and the finish line. I don’t know if it was a let down from the crowd support high, the psychological effect of running in the wrong direction again, or just the 20 miles I’d run, but here I had my first rough patch since mile 8. It only lasted a few hundred yards or so and only cost me a few seconds, but I knew this was the start of the race. For the next few miles, I would have stretches where it felt as though my body remembered what it was we were doing and sought to punish me for it. My legs would get heavy, the heat would get to me, and that bone deep fatigue would set in. And then, as quickly as it arrived, I’d pass through the Valley of the Suck and be back to skimming the pavement on feather light legs. Every time one of these rough patches hit I would remind myself “Don’t you fucking stop”. I knew if I did, or slowed down, or allowed myself to physically or mentally back off in any slight way I’d never be able to recover the pace. We approached Chinatown, and I kept an eye out for the famous dragon everyone had told me was such an incredible sight. And I needed the pick-me-up, because I was again descending into the Valley, and the visits were beginning to increase in frequency and unpleasantness. But when I finally saw the dragon, it was just a guy holding the head. The rest of it was nowhere to be found. Now, I’ve read and heard stories about the importance of being in a good mental state when indulging in psychedelic pharmaceuticals. Being in a bad place mentally while partaking in mind altering substances can, apparently, lead to what the kids call a “bad trip” and leave you in a terribly frightening hysteria. So I’ve heard, at least. And while I wasn’t preparing to expand my mind in quite this manner, the last 10K of a marathon certainly causes it’s own mind alterations. Distraught over a beheaded dragon was not how I wanted to enter this stretch, and I tried to shake the disappointment quickly. The Valley of the Suck is a bad enough trip on its own, I didn’t need any help making it worse. I thought back just 2 short miles to Pilsen, and how strong and in control I had felt then. It felt like another lifetime. I went from the toes up to see if anything was wrong. My feet hurt, and for the first time I was wishing that the NB 1400s has a touch more forefoot cushion. But I didn’t have blisters or toenails shooting off, just fatigue. OK. My legs were sore and tired, but I was running a fucking marathon, so they should be. I wasn’t listening to anything coming from my piriformis so as the status reports came in there was nothing suggesting injury, just the fire of fatigue warming my lower extremities. It was a different heat I was feeling that was beginning to concern me though. By now the shade had all but disappeared from the course, and there was no avoiding the beating sun. I reminded myself that it was still a full 20 degrees cooler than what I trained in all summer in Atlanta, and with a fraction of the humidity to boot. I’d tell myself this or remind myself that I wasn’t hurt, just hurting, and would gradually rise back out of the Valley of the Suck. Then, in a familiar pattern which would repeat for a few miles I’d slip back down and have to claw my way out gain. Somewhere around mile 24, we passed under a railroad bridge which required a short downhill stretch and then an equally short climb back up. I distinctly remember this as the last time I felt good. The little hill sucked enough life out of my tired legs that they weren’t able to keep pace and recover, and since I wasn’t slowing down, they just never recovered. As the walls of the Valley of the Suck grew higher and steeper, I realized I wasn’t going to get out of it this time. It was tough to judge how this was impacting my pace because my Garmin was telling me I was running at 8:30, but every time I passed a mile marker it would beep and show me a 7:3x split, which I verified with fuzzy runner math. I’d been trying to figure out if I was on track for my 3:20 goal since mile 16, but the Garmin issues and mental fatigue had made this like trying to navigate to the moon with a compass and sextant, and I kept alternating between a minute or two over and then under. As we passed mile 24 the math simplified enough that I knew I wasn’t going to make it, but still had a chance for 3:20:xx if I could pick it up a little bit. I tried to dig, but nothing happened. I tried to do a status check, but couldn’t formulate the questions in my head. I tried to repeat my mantra, but I couldn’t remember it. Then I forgot what I was trying to do all together, and all I could do was run. “Fate often spares the hero not fated to die when his courage endures.” -Beowulf lines 572-573 We were on Michigan avenue now, heading back north to Grant Park and the finish. I was aware of this, and knew it meant I was almost done, but that was about all my mind could process. I never lost awareness like in Philly, but I could no longer form complete thoughts. And all there was to be aware of anyway was pain and exhaustion. There were no more pace calculations, or nodding to people yelling something about Atlanta, or mantras, or feeling bad for the guy cramping so bad he was sideways crab walking just to keep moving. Or maybe he wasn’t really there. I honestly don’t know. This was supposed to be my epic showdown where I pushed beyond my physical limits and dug deep to gather the strength for one last attack to slay the dragon, and instead I couldn’t even remember to swallow when I took Gatorade at the last aid station. I remember passing the 800 meters to go sign. I knew how far 800 meters was, but couldn’t understand what that meant to me in terms of how close I was to being done or how long I would have to keep enduring this. I knew we were supposed to turn right, and then go up a hill, but I couldn’t process how much further that was. It wasn’t until I saw a sign that said 300 meters to go that I was able to have a coherent thought again, and it was one of crushing disappointment that we’d only run 500 meters in what felt like 20 minutes. I couldn’t make out the numbers on my watch and had no idea what my pace was, but as we turned up Roosevelt and climbed the hill whose viciousness multitudes of Chicago veterans had warned me of, I managed to feed off the fact that I was passing scores of people on the incline. As we turned onto Columbus Drive for the final stretch, I remembered from Spirit of the Marathon and from watching the race in the past that this stretch was longer than it looked, but I had lost all sense of time and space by this point and have no idea how long it was. I crossed the line under a clock that read 3:29:xx, which I knew from when I started meant I had a 3:21:xx. I stopped my Garmin without looking, and for the first time in 26.61 miles I allowed myself to stop running. The picture worth a thousand words I wobbled through the finish chute like some alien life form adjusting to Earth’s gravity for the first time, grabbing whatever food and beverage I happened to be stumbling past because I didn’t entirely have control of where I was going but I knew I needed to eat and drink something, and slowly made my way to the after party to meet The Wife. That journey took a full 45 minutes, complete with multiple hands on the knees pauses to do some awkward am-I-gonna-puke-or-cry thing until I made my way to the Goose Island beer tent. Which naturally was at the furthest possible corner of the park from the finish line. I enjoyed the best Goddamned beer I’ve ever had, and sat on a bench chatting missed goals and exploding blisters with a nice Canadian couple while I waited for The Wife. As I did my marathon post-mortem I keep focusing on two things. The first is, I set out to run 26.2 miles at 7:38 pace. For the 26.61 miles I ran, I averaged a 7:34 pace (and even managed a roughly 30 second negative split!). The second thing is, I didn’t hit the wall or bonk. I was in a world of pain at the end to be sure, but my last 5 full miles averaged 7:38 pace on the nose. The last 2.2k was my fastest of the day. So, while the number on the clock isn’t what I wanted it to be, I’m pretty damn happy with how this race went. I executed my pacing and fueling almost perfectly, I just ran too far. Which got me thinking. Did I run this pace because that’s what I trained for, or because that’s as fast as I can go? What if I’d trained faster? How much faster could I try for next time and still hit? It’s way too early to start setting goals for next year, but I might be setting some big ones. I have also been thinking about this through the lens of Deena’s talk. I’ve never run in a stadium in front of a crowd, and never will. Nor will many of you. But we all participate in this little internet community and even let it bleed into real life when the opportunity arises, so we definitely embody the special thing that is the running community. We all share the same struggles and injuries and fears and anxieties, the joylessness of waking up at 3 am to get the miles in, or of running in sub-arctic temperatures. And those shared experiences are what the community is built on. And I don't think there's any deeper shared experience than the marathon. Because of what it does to you, stripping an otherwise highly intelligent and advanced creature at the height of the evolutionary ladder down to nothing more than a stinking panting starving animal barely capable of the most basic motor functions, to be a part of the marathoning community is to expose your naked soul. The well of your physical strength and mental will are on full display to your fellow road warriors and how you react in those darkest stages of the race shows more about you to the world than almost anything I can think of. I’ve shared a lot about myself with the running community, but more of it has come out through the marathon than from anything else. The support marathoners show each other is also unparalleled, bonded by the shared experience that is only understood by those who’ve lived it. The marathon is something special indeed. Thanks for making it that way.
  17. Keep Running Girl

    A small hometown race

    I’m not really sure how to explain New York. Let me go back. 2015 I had to defer. It hurt. A lot. I devoted to day to being there for someone I was sort of in a complicated situation with. His race blew up and I supported him through a five and a half hour finish. It hurt not racing. There were a lot of emotions with him too. I was honestly afraid the race would always be associated with this going forward. 2016 I ran the first 16 before a planned drop. I tried to wave at my friend from the 59th St Bridge to cheer him up. I was grateful that fivestarks had chosen that year to come up and cheer the race and graciously offered to trip me if I decided to try to finish. I was overwhelmed by all the support I got, people that checked in, well wishes and encouragement. I’m pretty sure that money changed hands when I actually dropped where I should have. 2017 I just PR’d at Wineglass. No one needed my support. No one was holding their breath about my race. It was for me. No clock. No expectations. I was here to have fun and do what I wanted. Not finishing the race the previous year had left it like an itch in the back of my brain. That feeling of a stuck sneeze. Or smoking only half a cigarette. I needed to finish it. I needed to cross that finish line. But that’s all I had to do. Everything else, between the start and the finish, was up for grabs. Dr Whiskers had suggested that I run it in a costume which was an amazing idea. I quickly nixed the luchador because running with a face mask quickly becomes like waterboarding yourself. I looked at a few other options before deciding to just run in a tutu. I knew this race was going to hurt, I might as well not make myself to uncomfortable too. Plus, I looked cute in it. So that’s how I found myself, running down 4Th Ave, high fiving every child, grown up, and teddy bear (I counted four) that put their hand out. It was liberating not worrying about my time. Brooklyn is in my blood. It's my favorite part of the race. I love soaking up the cheers of the crowds. People are there for YOU. They love YOU. And the streets are narrower than elsewhere so you get a lot more interaction with the crowd. I let myself truly enjoy the day. If I started to feel like I was racing, I'd pull back. I walked through water stops, stopped for pics, stopped to pee, walked parts of the 59th Street Bridge, and just did whatever I felt like. I made sure to high five all the little ones who may have been getting overlooked. I don't think I ever realized how much fun relaxing could be. It started to hurt around mile 18. That’s really when it stopped being fun. Or rather, when it stopped being just fun. It still had it's moments. I let myself walk the first minute of every mile and through every water stop. I briefly regretted the tutu because I was getting a lot of attention and every time I started to walk, someone would call out to me from the crowd with words of encouragement. I felt obligated to react even though I just wanted to be alone with my pain for a bit. After a few repetitions of this, I decided that I’d respond with a smile and/or a high five. I realized that it was actually helping to have to smile. Yes, this hurts. Yes, I’m happy. Yes, this is fun. I remember making it into the park and wanting to walk it in but also not wanting to make it take longer to finish. Everyone was really loud but I don’t remember a lot of it. Why are these miles always so difficult to remember? I thought I was on mile 24 when I was on 25 which was a nice surprise at that point but also shows where my mind was at. My garmin was pretty much useless since the bridge and was an entire .6 short. The finish line is fuzzy. Somehow I crossed and got my medal. I was soaked, nauseous, in pain and I couldn’t stop smiling.
  18. Slow_Running

    Syracuse Half

    "The Syracuse Half Marathon? OK." That was the response to some running friends in my LRG when one suggested that we put together a group to run this race. It fell 3 weeks before Rehoboth so it fit perfectly. I've always felt that nothing prepares me for racing a half better than racing a half, so the timing was right. I'd like to race Rehoboth, as long as the weather and surface cooperates - part of the race is on trails so that's a factor. This was my first trip to Syracuse, NY. It's a 2.5 hour drive from my house, not exactly what you want before a race. I didn't think sitting in a car for the long drive would be an issue since 3 of us were planning only a moderate effort. Typically it's not easy to run after sitting in a car for a few hours but we managed. The alarm went off at 3:40 AM and you can imagine how that felt. Everything was packed/laid out. Alarm, bathroom, clothes, toothbrush, fridge, coat, shoes, running bag, and out the door by 4:00 AM. We ate in the car and talked about strategy. 2.5 hours later we parked in a ramp and made our way to packet pickup and the bathrooms. The weekend featured record low temps. Big change from the 70 degree temps that seemed to last until the end of October this year. I definitely over dressed for the 27 degree temp at the start. Fortunately, packet pickup and the after party were inside a convention center so we didn't have to stand around outside. Whoever told us the course was mostly flat was full of shit or didn't have a clue. The course was a never ending hill. Not much elevation gain, but always up or down. Nothing gradual, just BAM! running uphill. This is the elevation profile according to Garmin: We started on a flat street downtown and went into a long hill starting about 1/2 mile into the race. Seemed like it would never end. From there it was mostly up or down. After the first few miles we turned into neighborhoods, then it was back to a more urban area where some bar patrons greeted us from the front door. Maybe they just finished 3rd shift? Next we ran through an area that could pass for the "heroin district" and then back toward the downtown area and the finish. There were plenty of water stops and GU was handed out at 2 spots. The race seemed well run and there was some crowd support despite the cold temps. The race site indicated they sold out all 6,000 spots. After finishing we refueled on chocolate mile, pancakes, bacon and beer. (Hard cider for me.) Garmin says we ran a 1:57:53. Slightly slower than the planned pace. I'll blame that on the long car ride and lack of sleep. I was dreading this race at 3:40 AM when the alarm went off, but it turned out to be a good day with friends. The race is worth running if you find yourself in that area. Next stop is Rehoboth and hopefully a PR. My current PR is 1:53:21. Anyone want to pace me to a 1:51 finish? I was counting on FiveStarks. 1:51 is an easy day for her, but then she went off and strained a hamstring so I need a plan B.
  19. SandiBeach

    10K goal race

    It's about time that I updated everyone on how my goal 10K race went on 11/4/17. Since returning from the mini vacation running trip, life has thrown a few curve-balls at me, but nothing bad. THANK YOU to everyone who provided comments on pacing strategy, I appreciated reading them all!!!! It was the 10K with the Wine and Dine Half in Disney World. Nothing like a nice trip to Florida just when temperatures start to drop up here in the mid-Atlantic! The weather was beautiful for hanging out with my family (who mostly live just next door to Disney), but slightly humid for racing. It was 66 and foggy at the start of the race at 5:30am. Good thing I train at that time every morning, so waking up with the 3:15am alarm wasn't too bad for me. Nothing beats the party atmosphere of a Disney run at 4am! This year the DJ conducted a lip-sync competition between the corrals, which was highly entertaining, and the hour wait for the start flew by! Before I knew it, fireworks were sending us on our way. I studied the results from last year and realized a 45 min pace would put me around the top 100 finishers (Disney races make you feel fast!), so of the crowd of 10,000, I put myself about 10 seconds from the front of corral A. Just enough people to keep my speed in check down the initial stretch, but not enough to have to weave around people for too long. As suggested, I decided to run by feel, and not look at my watch until the first mile marker. I ran what I believed to be "comfortably hard" and hit the first mile in 7:06, mile 2 was 7:09 and 3 was 7:14. All three of these miles felt "comfortable," and I didn't really think I was slowing down. Then I hit the "hill" and I quickly became aware of the problem with my treadmill training at 0%. The barely-a-hill overpass (my Garmin says I gained 7 whole feet in elevation that mile-Ha!) dramatically slowed my speed, and mile 4 clocked in at 7:29. After climbing the mountain, I was able to bounce back with a 7:11 and 7:17. I was also able to push slightly harder, and finished the last 0.3 (Garmin's calculation) at a 6:51 pace! All in all I averaged 7:14 (Garmin) exactly my goal! So I am SUPER happy with that, but that darn 0.1 extra put my official time at 45:32 (cursing that extra 0.1 also since about 0.1 from the finish I was about to lose any contents that happened to be in my stomach!). Gotta try to run those tangents better, which is difficult in such a large race. Probably the better answer is to train smarter and aim for a slightly faster pace! Overall, it was a great race, and I am extremely happy with the results of my treadmill training! Next go-round I'll be sure to add some incline to the mix, even though I despise the thought. My time was good enough for 15th female and 2nd in my age group!!! YAY! Being the crazy running type, I also ran the half marathon the next day. I didn't have any particular time goal and just wanted to give a good effort to see where that would put me. Such a perfect run! Full of runner's high and feeling like I was soaring for much of the race! I was smiling and waving at all the volunteers, and high-fiveing everyone I could! High-fives might be my favorite! They give me so much energy! Of course there were some points of struggle - we went up that same mountain, but overall, it was a run of pure joy! AND I was able to pass two women in the last mile, always feels good to do that! Finished with 1:44, another 3-year best! BTW- if anyone ever wants information on the Disney races feel free to ask me questions, my Mom and I have been running them for years...I did my first Disney half in 2000, so I have a lot of information, and I love to talk about them. Since getting back to NJ, I ran an easy three on the treadmill on Friday, and 4 easy miles both yesterday and today at around 8:30-9:00 pace. I was lacking energy Friday and yesterday, but I am starting to feel more like myself today!
  20. Running Nutz

    Trail Love- A Winter Race Report.

    Trail running really started one summer when I just couldn't stand running on hot pavement through hot air while the hot sun beat down on me. Even though my closest trail system was on top of a mountain with no cell service I felt I had little choice and OH SO CAREFULLY trained myself to run on trails. I was terrified of rolling an ankle and breaking something as the sun set, my DH (non-runner) would never find me in time and the healthy population of black bears would have me as a substantial meal. I split my time between the trails and roads depending on time of day, mileage and weather. Around this time last year one of my running buddies introduced me to her running buddies and a running crew as born. We trained for a 5 miler that we ran together last December. After that race we all agreed that we really enjoyed each other's company on our Sunday afternoon jaunts and wanted more. All winter long we met on Sunday's, no matter the weather, and ran all kinds of fun trails. We trained for a ridiculous race in May (Hyner) requiring massive climbs and learning to descend with no regard for ones own life. We were appreciating what a beautiful area we live in- ESPECIALLY in winter (this was last year on the Loyalsock Trail): On Saturday, we got to run a race on more of these beautiful, cold Pennsylvania trails. I'm just getting over a wicked case of peroneal tendinitis so I chose to run the 10K race while my crew ran the half. The temps on top of the hill hovered around 13 balmy degrees at the start. YIKES! It's been since February that I've run in temps that cold! But I was ready in tights, long-sleeve tech t, vest and headband-ear warmers. No gloves or heavy coat needed- even though it was super cold there was no wind and the sun was out. I will admit it took a full mile before I could feel my fingers but after that I was fine. This 10K course is extremely runnable- mostly double-track or wide single track. Sections of technical stuff but it's not extreme and does not last long. The worst is the last mile and a half which is all downhill but goes through an oak forest. You really can get some speed up but the trail was completely covered in leaves. Because it's my bread-and-butter trail- I KNOW what roots and rocks lurk under those leaves- totally stressful in fun sort of way? This was not the fastest time I've ever had on this trail, but it was good enough for 4/18 in my AG so I'm really happy considering the extent of my tendinitis earlier this year. My hips were a little tight, and I didn't have my shoes tied tight enough so I've got some callous blood blister issues to deal with so I'm also happy with the choice to run the 10K instead of the half. After I finished I changed out of my gear into warmer clothes- I checked the parking lot but there is a chance someone got a very good look at my anatomy- and headed back up the trail dragging coats and gear for my RBs. Everyone was happy with their times and we headed to the local bar for snacks and lots of hard cider! I am so happy that I'm healthy going into this winter- my favorite running season. Get out there and enjoy the cold! Sure love our new home- so much easier to post pics.
  21. Riggers

    I'm Seeing Gold

    My daughter left for the TX State Championship XC Meet on Thursday. I made the 7 hour drive on Friday after watching my 8 year old in her 3rd grade play. This year I was really prepared for the trip before it crept up on me. I ordered books for the kids and I found these Saucony XC cleats on sale on Amazon for $21.99 before the race. All of which arrived on Wednesday! I'm really glad my daughter liked the Saucony cleats. When they came in I wasn't even sure if there were going to be shoes in that box it was so light. The races start with 6A @ 8 am on Saturday morning and it's every bit as exciting as I had anticipated. I just LOVE watching cross country! Since I spent so much time and money coming I decided to stay the whole day and watch all 12 races. I got to see the top female in the state win AGAIN as well as 3A boys Luling 8-peat team gold! They were amazing to watch. Our guys won gold team AND our top runner got his second 1st place state individual win. But best of all was watching my daughter lead her team to another 1st place team win. I cannot believe she managed to get yet another PR. I positioned myself about a half mile from the start where I would miss the beginning and the end but I would get to see the bulk of the race. As I see them approaching I realize she's in 3rd/4th-ish position which means she sprinted out and I'm immediately nervous because that's not her race style at all. Her first mile was 3 seconds off her PR 1600 at 5:57. She does start to fall back a bit after that but held on enough to finish 16th in the state with a time of 12:35.05! Not quite the sub 12 goal she set for herself (but I never really expected she could improve that much in a year anyway). 2016 State XC Championship she placed 28th overall, 6th runner on her team with a time of 12:47.7 (3200 meters) 2017 State XC Championship - 16th place overall, 1st runner on team with a time of 12:35.05 (2 mile) The team scored 76 pts overall to take first. The second place team scored 100. I just can't believe they won again. I think we were all unsure if they could repeat after the star runner moved on to college last year. Now I'm sitting in a hotel in San Antonio waiting for State Marching Band competition tomorrow. I guess all my vacation budget went on state competitions this year.
  22. HotPinkSneakers

    Wineglass Marathon RR - Everything is Awesome!

    TL;DR: Wineglass Marathon was amazing! I ran my most consistent race and got a PR by nearly 6 minutes. Parents and Loopsters made it extra-special. 10/10, would run again. The parents and I arrived in Corning, NY, late Friday afternoon. We checked into our hotel and met up with Liz and Peg for a drink and bite to eat nearby. It’s always great to catch up with Loopsters, and it was fun for my parents to meet some of the people that I talk about so much. It had been a long day of driving from Massachusetts, so we called it a night pretty early. Saturday morning started out with a short and fun shakeout run with the Loop ladies: Later in the day, we went to the Corning Museum of Glass, where the race expo was held. Very cool venue for sure! The expo was surprisingly large for such a small race, and the swag we got was top-notch. High quality half-zip pullover specific to the race distance (which I LOVED! I’m always kind of disappointed when there’s a single shirt for all distances), a wine glass, a split of sparkling wine, and a nice drawstring backpack to put it all in. After the expo, the parents and I visited the museum itself, which was very cool! We saw some contemporary art installations made of glass, as well as some breathtaking glass mosaics made and/or designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. On Saturday evening, the parents and I went to the official pre-race pasta dinner, because securing a dinner reservation in Corning turned out to be way more stressful than I would have expected. So the official dinner seemed like the safest bet, and the menu we saw online was much actually really great-looking! Turns out that this was one of my favorite parts of the whole weekend! I shouldn’t have been surprised, because runners are the best people ever. But our tablemates were completely delightful, and we quickly got into sharing race stories and training experiences and our goals for the next morning. The food was plentiful and delicious, and I tried a couple of new things that worked out amazingly well and might become part of my goal race routine: gluten-free pasta (this one was corn-based) and a baked potato. I picked the corn pasta because it was spaghetti-shaped, while the regular wheat pasta was short (farfalle or something) and I just like long pasta better. But my stomach was noticeably calmer than usual the next morning, so maybe it’s something to consider for future races. Anyway, the main attraction of the pre-race dinner was the featured speaker: Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray! He was funny, self-deprecating, charming, and inspiring as hell. It was such a great way to get pumped up for the next day’s race, and definitely further stoked my desire to qualify for and run Boston in the near-ish future (more on that eventually. I’m not ready to put my plans down in black and white yet.). After dinner, we went back to the hotel and got ready for race day! Mom and I got our flat girls ready (she was running her second half-marathon!) and we put ourselves to bed. #racenailsonpoint The next morning dawned cold and crisp, which was exactly perfectly right for an October race in central NY! But for this pseudo-Southerner used to the never-ending DC summer, it was soooooooo cold!! I just kept telling myself how good it would feel once we got running. Mom and I caught our respective buses to the half- and full-marathon start lines (the half-marathon started at the half-way point of the full course), and I quickly found the other Loopsters once I got to the marathon start line staging area. Another awesome thing about Wineglass: they had a lovely big tent for us to wait in, which got nice and toasty once several hundred runners were packed inside! It was so great to be able to stay warm-ish and sit down on actual chairs while waiting to toe the line. Eventually it was time to walk over to the start line and get this show on the road! I chucked off my layers of Dad’s old sweatshirts and lined up next to the 3:45 pacer. Most of my training this summer had been done with a 3:40 in mind, but then I hurt my back in August and missed about three of the highest-intensity weeks of the training plan. I’d felt good in the few weeks leading up to the race, but I knew those weeks off had cost me something. I thought that an 8:35 pace seemed reasonable, all things considered, and figured I’d start there and if I had to back off, then so be it. The gun went off and we ran into the misty morning. The fog was pretty thick for almost the first half of the race, and it kept the air quite chilly! I didn’t ditch my gloves or makeshift tube sock arm warmers until at least 10 miles in, which is highly unusual for me. I stuck to the pacer like glue, and to my pleasant surprise, the 8:35ish pace felt practically effortless. After battling the heat and humidity of DC for so many months, feeling cold while running was kind of amazing and definitely made a huge difference in my race. The course (or at least what we could see of it through the fog) was pretty and quiet and rural. There were small pockets of spectators as we went through small towns, but it was pretty zen overall. I just listened to my music and tried to trust the pacer rather than check my own watch every few minutes. The pace group was pretty big, and several people were chatting steadily as we ran. I tried to tune them out and just keep my breathing steady and not worry about anything more than taking my gels on time. The pace was still feeling really good at the halfway point, and when the pacer peeled off to use the bathroom I took the opportunity to surge ahead a little bit. I was tired enough that his banter and people’s talking was getting annoying, and I wanted to just run my own race from this point on. I tried to keep my pace as steady as I could just ahead of them. I felt pretty good about the fact that they never passed me after that. Around Mile 18 or so I really started to drag, and I focused on just getting through the intervals in between gels. I felt so good about how the race had gone thus far, and worked hard to maintain that psychological momentum if not the physical. I didn’t let my pace stray too far above the 8:35 target, and I tried to take it one mile at a time. Eventually I reached the little bridge that leads into downtown Corning, and there was only one left turn remaining between me and that finish line. I took out my earbuds when I made the turn onto Market Street with about half a mile to go. This would be the greatest number of spectators I’d seen all day and I wanted to soak up the cheering, because I knew that I’d run my butt off for a nice PR! This was my face when I knew that I was about to finish in 3:45:xx: Official time: 3:45:21. A PR by 5 minutes and 39 seconds, and my most steady marathon splits ever: I definitely credit the pace group with keeping me in line during the first half of the race, and enabling me to save up the energy for the second half. Such an awesome race calls for another Bangle Pump: I spotted Peg shortly after I finished and got the quick version of her race. After getting some snacks, I found my parents back along Market Street. My mom had finished her race with a 7-minute PR! Then I got to see Liz finish looking crazy fast and strong! Eventually we got all the Loopsters back together for a group picture. PRs all around!! Wineglass is just that awesome! I printed out my official results, which I have almost certainly since lost but it was nice to have the record in-hand even briefly. In another super cool feature, they had these race clocks where you could punch in your bib number and bring up your time for a photo op: Everything about this race weekend fell into place perfectly. I really can’t recommend it highly enough. I was really worried about how my unplanned time off would affect my fitness. This may not have been exactly the time I’d planned for at the beginning of my training cycle, I really couldn’t be happier with how I felt or how I did once it all came together. Now that the goal race for the fall is behind me, I’m focusing on having fun! To that end, I leave on Thursday for what will surely be a VERY different New York marathon experience: the New York City Marathon on November 5th!! I can’t wait to get to the city and see all of the craziness of the expo and race pavilion and everything. It’s sure to be an unforgettable race experience.
  23. ChicagoPhil

    First RR in forever and a day...

    I think the last race report I did on the old loop was either Chicago 2014 or maybe even Boston 2013... Anyway, that's about the time I kinda started losing the old running mojo. It was a slow decent into lethargy. I ran 6 races in 2014, including two 1/2's, and the Chicago Marathon in a steady 3:31 which was actually my 'easiest' marathon ever. I felt great the whole way through, and ran basically 7:50-8:10 splits for every mile. I was in excellent shape, but not running for any particular goal any more. Maybe it was not tough enough? I don't have any races logged for 2015 OR 2016. I think I actually did a couple in 2015 but didn't even log them in. I was getting bored with running. Of course there were tons of outside distractions. Changing jobs (not completely by choice), teenage daughters (don't even go there...), and other excuses we can all make. Sure there were some injuries too, but basically I was losing the motivation to get out there the way I had since 2008 when I started "chasing the unicorn" as it's called. Maybe once I completed it, I didn't have anything to replace it with. So fast forward to 2017 and I'm pretty far gone. 20 pounds heavier and going weeks between runs. Run three of four days in a row. Then take three or four weeks off... Around my 50th birthday I committed (again!) to get back on the program, and hopefully this time it's sticking. I joined a gym. I got a fitbit for X-mas, and I've since 'lost' my Garmin. I count steps instead of mph now. It's kinda liberating to run without checking pace every 3-4 minutes actually. I knew the answer would be depressing anyway... After getting a few decent weeks in a row of running in, I started to feel good about running again. And (finally) seeing the scale show I was 10 pounds lighter, I bought some new running shoes. First new pair in 18 months at least... So I signed up for a race. I think deep down since I DNS'd at the 2015 polar dash (I just slept in. I've never, ever, DNS'd before) I knew I needed to get back to racing to try to get the mojo back. So I signed up last week for the Hot Chocolate - one of my favorite races that was coming around the corner. So this morning was race day. Up at 4:50 AM. Feed and walk the dogs and on the train by 6:05. Ate a power bar on the train and headed to the race. It was still dark and cold. 34 deg and 5-10 mph winds. I waited around the gear check and stretched until almost 7 then took off my outer layer and headed for the corals. I had signed up with a 8:45/mile target pace, which I thought was honest... That put me in coral F, fine by me. I really was looking at this as a training run. I hadn't actually ran 9 miles all year I don't think... And Like I said, I 'lost' my garmin... So I assumed most people around me would be running around 8:30-9 ish pace. Nope. So finally we get going. The first 1.5 miles is pretty much in the tunnels of lower Wacker Drive, which is a bit funky but warmer than at street level. It was pretty congested There are 45,000 runners in this race, most of them in the 5K. And obviously a lot of them were less than honest about the coral they belonged in. Once the 5K throngs split off at mile 2.8 it was much better, but still a lot of slow runners...? Certainly reminded me why I used to care so much about getting seeded up in coral A for these bigger races. But that's fine. Anyway, I'm totally rambling. Sorry. Here's the nuts: I ran 1:24:08 or 9:02 / mile average. Wow. Yeah, that looks about right... (it felt faster, whatever that means). Looking at my race history I've never averaged anything slower than 8:12, which was a hot year marathon. But I'm not disappointed. I wasn't running for time. I wasn't shooting for a PR. I was hoping to run a little faster than that I guess, but I'm ok with the time. I felt good throughout the race (mostly). I didn't stop running, I finished strong, although much more winded than I should for 9 miles at 9 min pace.... But still! I negative split each 5K. In the end, what matters is I got out of bed and got the damn race done. It's all up-side from here is what I'm saying. Hey, if I had run my pace from the last Hot Chocolate I would have been 10th in my age group. Yeah yeah... The important thing is I may just have my mojo back. We'll see in a couple weeks if I'm still out there on the frozen tundra that can be Chicago in winter. I think a certain Polar Dash needs to be added to the calendar next.... Run Happy my friends!
  24. Catawbagrl

    We Interrupt This Race

    First I have to say THANKS for keeping the Loop alive. I had not been on much since April when I had a really miserable race at Toledo and finally admitted I needed to take some time off to let an injury heal. Since then life has been a roller coaster ride of emotion. My son enlisted in the Army about two weeks after he turned 18, just signed himself out of school (with a fake parent note) and enlisted. I thought I had talked him out of but I should have known - he is the most stubborn kid. He then graduated high school and left for basic training. Now I am a very emotional mama so between graduation and leaving for basic I have kept Kleenex in business, I am pretty sure they showed a pretty good profit because of me. To add to that, shortly after he left for Basic we found out my Dad has prostate cancer that has spread to his bones. He is 86 years old so it has been rough on him. He had surgery but at his age and health that is the extent of treatment. My running really suffered because I wanted to spend every minute I could with my son before he left because I knew things will never be the same and I am trying to help my parents as much as possible. All that to bring you up to speed in my little world. Now on to the race report. Our LRS revived a local race from the 70's called the Wooster Brick Run 25K. The race got it's name because of a paver company that used to make bricks and you got a brick as a prize. I got talked into running it by my running buddies - they know all they have to do is call me a wimp and I am going to sign up. So I signed up to the shock of my more sensible RB's, I really need to hang with them more, they aren't as fun but I probably wouldn't be injured. I have only had one long training run of 10 miles since April. Everything else has been 6 or less. I "ran" the Akron Half Marathon a couple weeks ago with a friend but barely beat my Toledo time. This is a very small race(54 participants), I knew probably 90% of them and that makes it so much more fun. I found the girl I promised to run it with but told her to feel free to leave me because I know it isn't going to be pretty and I have Columbus Half Marathon next weekend so I am not going to push it. We start off and there are 5 of us running together and it just feels like our regular Wednesday night run, the conversation is fun and the pace is very comfortable. After about 2 miles there is just 3 of us left together and I am so thankful that the two guys hung back with me. We hit the first aid station and I eat a chocolate donut hole because I didn't eat anything before the race because my stomach wasn't feeling good but I know I need to eat something so why not something chocolate. We re-fill our water bottles with the guys putting Nunn in the bottles to try. About a 1/4 mile later they are both getting sprayed from their water bottles because that stuff is fizzy - to funny. We make a turn and we see the monster hill ahead of us. Call me a wimp but I had decided before the race even started that I was walking this sucker. I am not in shape to run it. It is about 3/4 of a mile long and the first .4 is between 9 and 12% grade. Maybe next year but not this one. The guys walked it with me and we hit the aid station at the top for re-fills and some pretzels and M&M's. I am liking the easy pace because I can eat this stuff without worrying about getting sick. We roll on down the other side and across the street and into a little park. It has a short steep hill that I run to the base of and start walking. The guys are sticking with me and we are having a great time just running and chatting. Halfway up the hill my phone starts ringing - starts ringing with THAT ring tone!!! I am frantically trying to get my belt off, phone out and answered before it stops ringing. It is my son!!! Their company had lost phone privileges so I hadn't heard from him in 3 weeks and it's not like they get their phones that much - only when they phase up. I start crying as I hear his voice, you see there had been an accident on base and several recruits were killed and several more badly injured. His battalion page had posted that none of their recruits were involved but quite frankly I don't always believe the information we are given. He sounded a little shook up but he is ok and has passed everything so barring anything stupid will he graduate basic on 10/18. I try to keep walking slowly as I am talking because I notice that my RB's are not leaving me. They are up ahead but walking slowly. These calls are the fastest minutes of your life! I put my phone away and start running to catch up with my RB's feeling a whole lot lighter. I thanked them profusely for waiting for me - I really have the BEST running buddies in the world! The rest of the run is flat to downhill and we run/walk it as we feel. The extended walk break has allowed another running buddy to catch up and we all finish up together. 3:20 minutes - LOL so bad but hey it's a PR because that is the first time I have raced that distance. Here is the elevation chart from Garmin. Sorry, I don't know how to make that picture smaller, still learning the new Loop. Pretty decent hills but a lovely downhill. I certainly didn't mind the interruption mid-race to get to talk to my son and next week I will be in SC to give him a hug after he graduates! My running mileage is about half where it was last year but my cycling is more than double which is why I think I have been able to keep a decent amount of fitness. Next up is Columbus Half Marathon this weekend and I am hoping to get closer to my normal times. I know I don't have the training in running but I am hoping the cycling will help me have a decent race.
  25. Riggers

    Hills

    There are no hills where I live. None. I am going to have to break out the treadmill and practice on incline because hills apparently take some experience. I ran the Howl-O-Ween Dog Run/Walk in Lubbock. There aren't a whole lot of hills in Lubbock either; however, they manage to find them for the few runs they have there each year. It was also freezing. Any recommendations on how to keep my toes from turning into ice and breaking off inside my socks? I really thought racing would help me to beat my practice time but no... First four miles of 10k the other day were 38:08.7. I was over two minutes slower. Here's Saturday's run. If the altitude and hills affect others at the Bolder Boulder then I better really start working on it soon. Probably won't best an hour in my current condition. You can see my pace was all over the place.
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