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Hi. My name is Eliz and I'm afraid to go fast. I'm your typical Goldilocks character. I like to challenge myself (I go on adventures through the woods and have no problem staying with strangers that I have never met before), but I also like to be comfortable. In my ideal world, the temperature would always be 72 degrees, except when I'm running outside, then it would be about 68 degrees. The perfect shoe has a wide toe and about 1/4 inch of room from where my longest toe ends and the front of the shoe. Dress shoes would look like stilettoes but feel like running shoes. My pillows would always be fluffed just right. MJ would never raise her voice again. I would never burn my tongue when taking a big gulp of coffee. I want to go fast. I want to be faster, mostly for time's sake. I dream of the day where my easy runs are at least 10 minute miles. But I'm afraid. I'm afraid of pain, I'm afraid that I won't be able to tell searing-giving-your-all 5K pain from legitimate, you should stop running cuz your hip is falling off pain. Perhaps that's the Goldilocks in me, perhaps I have a little paranoia from all those years I ran with an injury that no amount of rest would completely heal, perhaps I just have a really unrealistic expectation of pain. In any case, I've realized the past few years that I am simply afraid to go fast, and it's been hindering my development as a runner. That's where that Peloton app has been pretty helpful. The coaches (that's what I like to call them, I think their job title is 'instructor') have set paces they tell you to go, which naturally are based on normal ranges for runners. So, on a treadmill, a 4.5 is a power walk, 5.0 is a light jog, 6.0 is a light run, etc. As a good student, I like to do exactly what the coach is asking of me, so I end up going a lot faster than I would normally go. Most of the time, it works and I amaze myself at how well I'm doing and how fast I'm going! There was one run where I got under 9 mm pace (for just a little bit, not average), which normally would seem untouchable to me at the end of a workout. There are other times where I have to remind myself to be humble. It's exciting. I haven't tested the speed outside - too much snow, or melting snow turned ice or too cold of weather. I am looking forward to see how things work out, though, and I'm really looking forward to that 5K in April. My only hope: that I can be brave enough to go fast and smash that previous PR. Gratuitous engagement photo (by the great Morgan Miller Photography)
Around mile 8 of a very, very muddy 14'ish mile Pennsylvania trail race I pulled off the ultimate Superman fall and landed on my head. I had been tucked in behind a girl who was holding a good pace through some narrow single-track. I can remember thinking how great it felt to finally stretch the legs out a bit and to not be slogging through mud. Maybe, I thought, I can recover enough stamina through these woods to feel a bit racy on the second half of this course. I had heard someone say the mud wasn't as bad on the backside. Most of Pennsylvania has had a pretty soggy May and we were no exception. 2+ inches over average and only 20 days in. I knew it would be sloppy but I wasn't quite thinking bog after bog of ankle- and sometimes knee- deep mud. At one point I had so much mud on my shoes they stopped draining and my toes were in a fishbowl for a bit. Anyhoo, here i was running making plans for an epic 2nd half of the race when in slow motion- I start the fall. It's so true that these things happen in complete slow-motion. I think I hit a stupid little root barely peeking out of the dirt. Full sprawl. There were about 5 or so ladies behind me so I quickly rolled to the side of the trail, took a quick inventory and told them to go ahead- I was fine. "um, honey... no you are bleeding. From your head." That's when I noticed the drops of blood raining down. Crap. Being trail runner folks, they quickly went to work rooting through packs and belts looking for paper towels, TP and tissues to press on the 1 inch gash in my scalp. They refused to leave me and we hiked to the next aid station, a little over a mile away before they continued on their way. I got checked out there and the bleeding started to slow down and not long my RB Sue caught up to us. She is faster than me but DOES NOT like getting her feet wet nor does she really like to race so I was pretty sure she was somewhere behind me grumbling. By this point I was pretty sure that I didn't have any neurological issues and could continue but by now my "race" was over and Sue and I agreed out of caution we would just hike the rest of the way in. Amazingly after miles of muck, we still had a great time hiking our way to the finish, wondering if were were last (we weren't) and wishing for handsome cowboys to ride by on their horses and offer to carry us away (none out there). That's me on the left. There might be some blood and dirt on my cheek but not to shabby after all that +14 miles. Today I am sore sore sore. My neck and back are tender, probably from the fall. My cut wasn't super deep and scabbed up nicely. It's hidden in my hairline. I've got some lovely bruises on my right palm along with some bruising and abrasions on my right elbow. Considering the alternative- serious head injury, needing to be med-evac'ed out of the woods, knocking out teeth... I am one lucky trail runner. On to the next adventure!
We run tempos and 400m intervals and runs of 8+ miles, we are running 20 or more miles a week together, we’ve had great runs and crappy runs, we’ve run in rain, snow, wind and sleet. But the moment I knew with firm certainty that Clark, my new running buddy and protege running his very first race, was a RUNNER for real and for always was when he announced at Mile 4: “Boy, I sure am glad I was able to poop this morning!” So am I, dude. SO AM I. The New Runner Guy Clark (for the backstory on him see my two previous bloops) and I have been planning and training for this race for a couple of months. I mixed training with him along with my own marathon training, and it resulted in both getting him ready and helping me stay motivated and add mileage. Clark crashed on our couch the night before, since he lives about 20 minutes in the opposite direction of the race. While sitting around the evening before, DH kept reminiscing about a few of his racing glory days, but he was happy to go to bed and know he could sleep in till the cows come home the next morning (He's planning on running a spring 5k with me, though!). We runners were up bright and early to get some food and coffee choked down and head to the Peninsula. Race nerves are so much easier to squelch when you are with someone. Clark and I are like siblings; we banter and joke and hurl insults. Today, him being the newbie meant we could cover all the “first-time” jokes nicely (just relax and follow my lead, I’ll be gentle with you, start slow so you don’t blow up early, I’ll let you finish first since I’m the experienced one, etc. etc.) like a couple of degenerate 12 year olds, laughing hysterically and snorting coffee first thing in the morning. But like actual siblings, we’re also fiercely loyal and close. Clark is the kind of friend I could call any time of the day if I’m in some dire need and he would drop everything. And I would do the same. I was majorly a little annoyed that he was so darn calm, though. I AM NERVOUS AND ITS MY 62ND RACE! HOW ARE YOU NOT NERVOUS?!!! He shrugged and kept saying coolly, ‘I’m not nervous’… what is there to be nervous about? What’s the worst that can happen?’ FINE, YER NOT NERVOUS, YA IRRITANT! Kidding... I was impressed and just secretly a little jealous. He wasn’t nervous, I could tell. Relaxed as an old man on his front porch rockin' chair. He wasn’t doubting our sub-50 goal, either, asking me what splits we are running to accomplish it and commenting on the pleasant morning and the beautiful Bayfront views. I chalked it up to his years of experience in competitive sports like baseball and football, because it was the only way I could salvage my tattered dignity (You Loopsters better never betray me by telling this guy, if I ever bring him to a Loopfest, what a basket case I was at Marshall… Rehoboth… Philly…Wineglass. Okay, all the races. BOOOO!). Like I said, cool as cucumber (below). And holding the pikermi sweatshirt he borrowed from my DH, one that TOsuperstar gifted him years ago. Fitting to wear for a race, for sure. Though clear and sunny, the cold temps called for layers for anyone spectating. Prerace selfie in the parking lot: The St. Pat’s Day 5k/10k is always a fun race. After a long winter, some 300-400 Erie runners come charging out of their treadmilling, espresso-drinking, too-much-pizza-eating, YakTrak-wearing lairs to celebrate the start of spring running and shake off the winter rust. And there was a boatload of rust to shake this year. Punxsutawney Phil called it, March came in like a lion and stayed lion-like, and Erie is creeping up on Buffalo’s record snowfall of just under 200 inches in one winter. We’ve had snow and cold for what seems like an eternity. But here we were: 300+ hardy runners turning out on a morning that was a crisp 25 degrees at race start. Clark and I ambled into the building where all the race action was happening. Got our packets, put on the timing chips (you need help getting that thing on?), started checking the time to see how close we were to race time. People were trickling in steadily now, and every couple of minutes I was seeing a running friend. The great thing about the local scene is that no matter how long it’s been since you showed up to race, you just pick up right where you left off: talking about running, racing, training. And the usual sandbagging, just in case your race went to the dogs: I haven’t been running that much… winter’s been rough…life got in the way… dude, I don’t know when I last did speedwork! The 5k was first! Clark had the advantage of getting to watch a race firsthand before actually running one himself. He had his layers on and was watching the proceedings with interest. He took a prerace pic (FYI, I'm freezing!)... ... then I lined up with the crowd of 300+ runners and we were off with the usual mad 5k mass scramble. I tried to settle into a comfortable pace while dodging people at the front of the race who should have started halfway back. I don’t know that I ever settled into a comfortable pace, though?! Maybe it was the exceptional volume of winter rust, maybe it was training for a marathon instead of shorter distances, maybe it was the hard speedwork I’d done just 3 days before? But it felt uncomfortable and not smooth the entire way. Mile 1 came in at 7:04. Perfect. Still uncomfortable, but it would get better and faster, right? We looped back nearly past the race start and people were gathered by the course to cheer. Clark was taking pics, but I could only smile and nod. 5ks are not the race distance where the runner can shout greetings and salutations or swing over for a high-five. But it’s always great for an extra boost to hear a friendly voice when you’re struggling to breathe and feeling the Grim Reaper of Lactic Acid clawing at your calf muscles. There was this little kid whom I fell into step with just before we hit the spectator section. He was gritty. He was fast. He also kept surging, falling, surging, falling. Probably 5-6 times. Surge ahead with an impressive kick, then slow down. I’d reel him in slowly, bearing down behind him, and he’d keep glancing over his shoulder. I’d pass him. Within 30 seconds of being passed, here he comes again, steaming around me with his legs churning, face red and breathing loudly. Ughhh, I wanted to put him behind me… but at the same time, I admired the crap out of his fortitude. Lots of little kids, you pass them once and they shrivel up like worms on a hot sidewalk. Not this one. Mile 2: 7:05. CRUD. It was just one second slower, but I was not feeling better. And the hardest part was coming up ahead, where the turnaround takes you back to the course. Into any wind coming off the Lake, and a slight uphill. It’s mentally the worst stretch of any race here on PI; that .5 mile section always gets me in the grumpies like OOOOOOF, KILL ME NOW! Every step was now a cruel reminder of why I love/hate 5ks (all hate at the moment) and how I haven’t been training to race 5ks. But, I was still managing to pass people. I passed at least 6 women on the course, and probably just as many dudes. And that’s the story, all the way to the finish. Pain… slowing slightly (Mile 3 was 7:09, grrrrr)... and THAT DARN KID!!!!!! I mustered up a little bit of kick to the finish with a 6:15 pace for the final .16. I’d seen the clock from a distance coming into the final turn, saw the 22:xx and knew my goal of sub-22 wasn’t happening. Oh well. I focused on pushing to the finish line. My legs and lungs were screaming in perfect-pitch unison, my head was throbbing with every step, and I was only vaguely aware of Clark, a red blur standing at the side of the course, yelling ‘something-something PEEEEEEEG!’ 22:13. Not my fastest 5k. But still, my 4th fastest (21:35, 21:46, and 21:52 were my faster ones) out of the 24 5ks I’ve completed, so there’s that, I guess. Along with 31st place overall (of 332 participants), 5th female, and 1st (of 21 total) in the 35-39 AG. Oh, and that kid beat me! By a few seconds. What a little turd trooper! My head stopped throbbing and my eyes refocused through the pain fog to see Clark waiting patiently, still carrying the gym bag full of all our stuff. I had a brief moment of panic… how the heck am I going to be able to pace this guy to a sub-50 in 30 minutes when my legs feel like jello right now? But after some water and sitting down to catch a breath, things returned to more manageable and runnable state. It was racetime soon! AGAIN! YAY (this was MY first time doing a double, btw)! For Clark, almost go-time for his first race EVER! He left to do his warmup and visit the restroom and I chatted with more local running friends that were popping out of the woodwork to run the 10k. We joined the crowd at the race start. I was so excited to get rolling. A little nervous about my pacing duties. Jittery. Probably more so than Clark, who was calmly watching the crowd and stretching and helping me out of my warm-up sweatshirt because I was shivering uncontrollably from the chill of sweating and standing in the barely-30 degree temps. I usually like to help undress, he joked impishly, and our laughter cut the race nerves down right where they were standing. Our plan was set, our splits were in my head, and our goal of sub-50 hung there in front of us like a carrot. I had faith in Clark, he was putting his faith in me, and this was a team effort. Then we were lining up, we were on our marks, we were OFF! For not having felt very good during the 5k, my legs were fine now! Huh. Maybe I should run a 5k warmup before actually running a 5k? However, it also helped that I was running a minute per mile slower than I was for the 5k. Definitely less painful. People were shooting past us like torpedoes, but I held back. I could tell Clark was itching to run, with the typical eagerness of a first time racer. Slow down, I said. We’re running 7:30s… 2 minutes later: Slow down… we’re still running 7:30s! It was an effort to slow down. Which is a good thing. Less than a mile in, we were coming up behind a running friend, Juliann. I knew approximately what her goal pace was and I knew she was a very consistent runner. We would hang with her for awhile. Mile 1: 8:07. A little faster than our intended 8:15, but I could tell Clark was completely relaxed with the pace. He hung off my shoulder, occasionally switching sides. Mile 2: Another 8:07. Still feeling good, or at least I was. Clark said he was too. I kept asking, checking. He had a relaxed stride, even breathing, and was inquiring about splits at the mile markers. Good. We came up behind Brianne, another running friend. She had told us before the race that we would probably catch her, first time runner or not, so now she glanced over and said “Told YA!” She’s a triathlete, so if this were a swimming or biking race we’re be left in the dust. We also passed Karen, my running friend who is the RD of my favorite spring 5k. The first turnaround, and Mile 3: 8:00 flat. A little ahead of schedule, but good. Then I sensed Clark, restless, chomping at the bit. He pulled up beside me. “What was that mile? Are we picking it up now?” I chuckled inwardly. We’re not even halfway… there’s a lot of race left, I told him. Patience was really important right now. He listened, fell into step. I was tempted to let him loose, just to see what would happen but nope… we all know how those end. It was important to me that his first race be a positive one, not one where he falls apart at Mile 5.5 because the pacer took him out too fast. Julianne was still ahead, keeping her consistent pace at a nearly-8:00 pace. Clark was relaxed, even chatting now and then. The runners, the pace, the views of Presque Isle… Frankly, I’d expected him to have to start working a little harder a little sooner than he did. I was still holding him back a little, though, so I was relieved when he kept talking. It meant he was relaxed. I was having a blast. No pressure on me, except to maintain this pace, which felt pretty good. Yes, my legs were tired, but not race-pain-tired. It felt good to be out here, doing what I loved, with friends, soaking in the camaraderie, the competition, the friendly support and banter. I have missed racing so much! Mile 4: 7:46. Almost sub-consciously, I’d picked up the pace and started bearing down just a little. It was race time. Hard work time. Pain time. This was where Clark could test himself. I tried to stay aware of his body language. Was he breathing too hard? Was his stride faltering? Was he fading? But no, there he was, glued to my shoulder, a few paces behind. As I took the seconds down, he matched the pace. No whining, no complaining. He stopped talking, mostly, and I could sense that he was pushing now. But not faltering a smidge. My legs were not getting happier, though. That 22 minute 5k was yelling at me. Then he said it: “Boy, I’m glad I was able to poop this morning!” I laughed aloud. It was the best, funniest, most fitting thing I’d heard all morning. We have a real runner here, folks. Talking about poop as naturally and comfortably as a non-runner talks about his morning coffee. Next up: nipple chafing. Yes, we need to have The Talk about that, heading into longer races. There is no limit to the interesting conversations when you’re a runner. Mile 5: 7:34. I was in slight disbelief that we were this far in the race and already dropping so far below our 8:00 flat goal. I knew now that we had it in the bag… but I was going to bring it as far under 50 minutes as I could! I picked up the pace. We passed Juliann; her clockwork pacing no longer satisfactory. We thundered past a couple more people. We’ve got this, I told Clark. It was obvious by now that he was pushing, working. It was starting to hurt. Mile 5.5: I was glancing down and seeing 7:20s. I was in full-on race mode. Clark asked, his voice raspy, what we were running. I told him. 7:20s. We’re ahead of schedule. Don’t think about it. Just focus on me, follow me. I’ll take you in. We got to the little turnaround, heading into the nasty grind of KILL ME NOW. Except it seemed shorter this time, mostly because I was focusing on running as fast/hard as I could without losing Clark… steady, steady… keep him controlled. He was breathing hard now, hurting, I could hear the effort in every intake. I could see the pain creeping into his face. But he never complained or let up, and he kept his stride smooth. I was so stinkin proud of him. Hang in there, you’ve got this. Mile 6: 7:25. We rounded the corner into the final .2. I picked up the pace another notch; we were nearly sub-7 now. Heck, I was hurting now! Clark was tight behind me, giving it his all. Then we could see the clock, the homestretch. I started yelling. THERE IT IS, WE’VE GOT IT, CLARK, C’MON, GOOOOO! KICK IT!!! And kick he did. He burst into some overdrive craziness and was matching my sprint, stride for stride, almost overtaking me. Uh, nope, not so quick, buddy, so I answered with a surge that overtook him again. He fired back, losing all abandonment and kicking past me. I yelled, “HEY, YOU IDIOT!!!” (in fun, of course!), then remembered that I am, after all, the pacer, slowed up, finished the race laughing… 2 seconds behind him… as he fist-pumped and grinned victoriously. Is that the well-deserved euphoria of a first time race finisher or WHAT?! 48:32 official time. 7:50 average pace, 10 seconds per mile faster than our goal. And for a brand new runner… only 170 total miles since Clark began running a couple of months ago! Also, another 1st place 35-39 AG win for me. And just about the prettiest mile splits you'll ever see. I can’t even describe how I felt as it hit me that we had just smashed the sub-50 goal by nearly a minute and a half! I gave Clark a few seconds; he was bent over with his hands on his knees. Then he stood up, painfully, and turned to face me, holding his arms out for a celebratory hug, a mixture of exhaustion and elation on his face. This was my first experience with pacing someone I’d coached/trained, and there in that moment, both of us smiling, laughing, sweating, trembling a little with the cold and the pure, hard shot of adrenaline, our pulses still thudding with the effort of that last sprint: it made every minute and every mile of training so worth it. That very first 2 mile run we ran, in frigid temps and snow...The circles around the community park...The speed sessions on the treadmill...The 8 mile long run at the peninsula...The good runs, the crappy runs...The times we ran for speed and the times we ran to get life and complexities and difficult things off our chest. I felt tears prickle at my eyelids… “You’re making me cry a little”, I muttered, and Clark chuckled. I was/am so incredibly proud of him! This is where it’s at, guys. Running, racing, and then sharing it with others and knowing you brought another person into this fellowship. It was one of the top 5 proudest, most satisfying moments I’ve experienced as a runner. Bringing someone along from first run to first race, to this magical place called The Finish Line. Where you lose yourself in the pain and then find yourself again in the joy. Where problems disappear, life gets put on pause, and a little nirvana opens up. Where you feel just about as alive and free as you’ll ever feel. You fall in love with it, hate to leave it, and keep coming back for more. For Clark, the more is already in motion. We’re training for a spring half marathon.
Back in 2016 when I trained for the Fresno Marathon in November, I was in the best shape ever and ready to go for sub3...the race came, the weather was perfect and the miles passed by until mile 21 when my hammy had enough for the day....on 2:55 pace, I booked my first DNF, oh well. Fast forward, a 50 miler and a 3:02 training marathon later, I started training for the California International Marathon in August. The training cycle was mixed. Besides moving from Seattle to altitude in Denver, I had some issues with left lower hammy in October. The hammy/knee eventually improved but I missed 2 of the so important MP runs and adjusting to the Denver altitude took about 5-6 weeks. My confidence was boosted when I ran a +20 miler with 15 MP miles 3 weeks before the race, followed by a brisk 14 miler a week later at the same pace as in Seattle with less effort. I tapered well but honestly had no clue what would happen. I mainly put my hopes on the altitude bonus and the fact that I certainly had the training volume. I arrived in Sacramento on Friday afternoon, already on a carb high since my carb loading phase started that morning after a 5 day fat loading phase. I picked up my packet and consumed way too many of these delicious coffee latte cans they gave out at the expo. FWIW, I consumed about the equivalent of 9 espressos on Friday and 12 on Saturday... Later on Friday, I met for a late lunch with Kyan Matz. I got some good sleep from Friday to Saturday and headed to the hamster wheel in the hotel before 6 am....I wasn’t the only or the first one in the gym. No wonder, CIM served as the US Marathon Championships this year and the elites were staying at the same place... I ran 3 miles and finished my workout at 6:11 pace, further giving me a confident boost; maybe this altitude bonus is for real. Later that day, I met Sara, Dan and Donald. As I waited for Dan and Donald to head out for a pizza dinner, I saw Ryan Hall in the lobby. It was kinda funny, while current athletes were stopped for pics, Hall was in the lobby for 30 minutes and nobody cared. Dan, Donald and I got pizza and headed back to the hotel lobby. Dan’s buddy Eric joined us. The guy was blazing fast and ended up winning the Masters category on Sunday in 2:17, punching his 3rd OTQ at age 40. Damn! On Sunday, I got up at 3:30, had my bagel, gel and coffee before getting on the bus at 5:00. Everything was really well organized. I started my race with a 59 year old from Canada. The first 4 miles were strangely easy but I was running at 6:30 - 6:40, I decided to abandon my cautious racing plan to run 2:58-2:59 and just go big. The miles clicked away and I was on 2:53-2:55 pace, passing the half in 1:26 and change. Mile 15 came around and I realized for the first time that sub3 is mine if sh$% didn’t hit the fan. I decided to bank time until mile 20-22 and continued to run on pace...As I approached mile 22, I got super nervous: Would my leg hold up or blow-up again out of the blue like last year? Of course, I started to tire around mile 20 like all people do if you race and gun for a PR but I felt great and nothing hurt. A quick calculation and I realized that I could run 8:00 pace and still come in below 3 hours....Instead of pushing, I took some pace off, still running at sub3 pace for these miles but 15-20 seconds slower than before. The finish ended up more dramatic than expected, in the last curve, my left hipflexor cramped, a few seconds later I was across the finish in 2:55:07. I kneeled down to stretch my hipflexor and couldn’t get up...I tried but it wasn’t meant to be. Two volunteers arrived plus a third with a wheelchair...:”I am not getting into this thing, just put me back on my feet.” The two volunteers helped me to get up and I hobbled off while one volunteer ensured that I don’t hit the pavement in a few feet.. I got my Boston Cream Pie Cupcake from the Whole Foods stand and made my way back to the hotel. The race, while not easy, is fast. The field is usually deep, this year especially. I instantly fell in love with this race, of course the 5 minute PR helps but I really enjoyed the varied course, the supportive crowd and the great organization. I will def. be back.