Every marathon is a different adventure, and the person who starts the race is never the same person who finishes it. Anyone looking to maximize personal growth within a few hours should race a marathon! Grandma’s Marathon was a 2 hour 49 minute 8 second finale to a training block that made me a more thankful person.
Race morning brought nearly perfect running weather, with temperatures in the 50s and overcast skies. The much lower than expected temperatures made it impossible to complain about 100% humidity. I wrote the verse “With God all things are possible - Matthew 19:26” on my arm; only because of Him did I even make it to this marathon after a rocky start to the training block. On the bus ride to the starting line I was thankful that it wasn’t hot or a deluge, both of which had been forecasted at some points. I was thankful for the amazing perks I received as an elite athlete in this event, which included a nice bus from our hotel to the start, an elite tent/staging area (Kellyn Taylor was in there too!), separate porta-potties and bag checks, and the ability to have my own bottles placed on the course (more elite details coming in later posts). I was also thankful to share the bus ride with my friend Michelle, just like we had before the Bill Snyder Half four weeks prior.
My race verse
I stuck to my typical pre-race warm up and routines, found Nichole who I planned to pace with at the beginning, and felt ready to go on the starting line. Although anytime I line up for a marathon, the 2:45 standard is on my mind, I knew it would be a huge stretch off of the training cycle I’d had, and we planned to start at 6:30 pace. I am pretty good at gauging what I have to give, so I knew that once I got rolling I’d know if I should stay at that pace or drop.
I started with Nichole and her friend Craig (you can read Nichole's race report here). The pace felt perfect as a marathon effort and the crowds thinned out. I looked at my first 4 mile splits and then switched to effort-based racing. I suspected my pace would drop a little as I got more warmed up and into a groove, but I didn’t want to force it down in an effort to hit certain splits and have that come back to haunt me later in the race like happened at Houston. One thing I’ve learned about marathoning is that just because you’re in shape to run a certain pace doesn’t mean you’ll be able to run that pace on race day, and forcing it early sure doesn’t do you any favors! Plus I wasn't actually at a fitness level to run 6:17 pace; I just had a small outside hope that race day magic would happen, but knew 6:20-6:30 was more realistic.
I wrote additional posts with the details of each section of the races (links below), but overall the miles flowed and I felt like I was running at the correct effort-level for me that day. I was thankful to be out there feeling good, although like any long race some parts were easier and some were rougher. I saw course clocks at the 10K, 10 mile, half, and mile 20, so I knew about where I was at based on those. After pulling away from Nichole and Craig during mile 5, I never ran with anyone for more than a mile or so, but I kept focusing on the runners ahead of me and working towards them. I'm pretty good at getting stuck in no man's land no matter how large the race, and the faster you're running the more likely that is to occur!
At mile 20, I felt like I had more left than I’d had at that point at CIM, which I was thankful for -- I was also about 2:40 slower so that probably had a lot to do with it! Although I loved the Grandma’s course (especially the straightness of it!) and would describe it as flat, the first half is a net downhill and from the half to about 23 is a net uphill. It’s not enough that you notice it racing, but it influences pace, especially when you're getting nit picky about seconds. I wasn’t sure how my body would respond in the final 10K, but I tried to focus and to catch and pass as many people as I could.
The closer I got to the finish line, the thicker the spectators became, and the more confident I became about having a strong finish. I drank my entire 8 oz bottle of nuun energy at mile 22, mainly for the caffeine, and shortly after I developed a terrible side cramp. It persisted from about 22.5-24.5, and I was able to keep running but wow it hurt. I’d kind of accepted that I’d have it through the end, so was extremely thankful when it abated and I was really able to cruise in. It also rained for awhile starting around 23 and Lemon Drop "hill". I developed some neck pain in the final few miles, which I've experienced at the end of my last 3 marathons now, and although it makes me lean back a bit and tilt my head upward, it was nothing major (at CIM it was debilitating, but at Houston was also fairly minor).
Around mile 25 I heard a spectator say “You’ve gotta move if you want under 2:50” to someone, and I thought “I sure want under 2:50!” and moved with all I could, which meant a 6:12 final mile and 5:55 pace final 0.2. After 25 miles with only 4 turns (all added to the course they've run in the past, due to construction, and all after mile 20), the final mile of the course had 5 turns, but I thought it was almost helpful at that point because it made it easier to lie to myself about how close I was to the finish line! There were also 2 clocks in the last mile, although they weren’t marked with distances so weren’t actually helpful; it never occurred to me that I could look at my watch to check the distance, but it didn't really matter at that point.
I remember running over this, I think
in mile 24 or 25
As I came down the final straight, I was again filled with thankfulness for making it to the finish line, for making it through my training cycle, for being 100% healthy, for my third marathon in the 2:40s, and for my second fastest marathon ever. My smile in this photograph that was taken just after I finished (and was immediately handed my gear bag - another wonderful elite perk) says it all!
Few things match the thrill of the
Results & official course splits
My official results, along with a lot of fun stats and two finishing videos, are here. I was 43rd female (I was ranked 42 so finished very close) and 9th in the 35-39 age group. 2:35 won my age group!
My family found me from the sidelines (Jon and Albani got to sit in a special section of bleachers with my elite pass!), and I think I surprised them with how elated I was. Sure, I was 4:08 off of my Big Dream time, but I met all of my realistic goals for the race. Those were to pace within myself and evenly (not by my watch), to negative split, to finish strong, to finish in the 2:40s, and to be thankful no matter what. I truly believe I got the best marathon I could have gotten out of myself on that course in that field on 6/16/18, and that’s a fantastic feeling! Before the race I’d been stuck on 2:48 as a realistic ideal day finishing time, so I was very close in my prediction. One big lesson I learned this training cycle is not to have 2:45 as my singular goal, because while I certainly want to hit that time standard, it can’t be the only way to success if I want to maintain the pure love I have for the marathon and the joy I find in racing it. I’m thankful for my passion for this hobby, and wouldn’t trade that for any marathon finishing time.
Post-race celebration with most of my
cheer crew (Jon took the photo)
On the other hand, I like to believe I’m improving, even though my time progression isn’t linear. I give a lot of myself to this pursuit. I wouldn’t have it any other way and I truly love marathon training, but I dedicate a lot to it in a life where I don’t have a surplus of time, plus traveling to ideal races is an investment each time. I am thankful that findmymarathon.com told me that based on course differences, I am improving!
I've said it 1 million times: Too
bad you can't OTQ at Phoenix
With God all things ARE possible, and I am most thankful for that.
More about my Grandma's experience can be found:
Elite excitement and expo
Race morning anticipation
6.2 to halfway there
Half to 20
The finish line is just the beginning of a whole new race
Caffeine taper, pre-race meals, & race day nutrition
Minnesota Vacation (how to family vacation along with Grandma's) - coming soon!
When you get to the part about The Loop, that is an explanation for my non-Loop readers on my other blog
"Chris is the girl that runs a lot..."
More and more things are becoming nostalgic triggers for me – certain 90’s songs, those Welch’s jelly jars that had cartoon characters on them, and the smell of running through the woods, to name a few. Those woodsy smells have always held a place in my heart and the other day it got me thinking back, way back, to when it all began and how I became frequently referred to as, “Chris is the girl that runs a lot...”
I was a REALLY active kid and felt like I just lived outside. My grandfather taught me to appreciate the outdoors at an early age and was a huge part of my life.
He was the father-figure for the early part of my life and I unfortunately only had him for 16 yrs.
My mom would have to yell and holler at my brother and I to get us to come inside. We built forts, played in the dirt, explored the woods as far as we could go, and would just get lost for hours at a time. I liked the idea of playing sports but we couldn’t really afford to, and my mom just didn’t have the time to take us to practices. I was always mad that I didn’t get to play much, but looking back, my single-parent mom was fucking Wonder Woman.
I have the best mom ever – and brother too. I think she was about 20 here! Wowzer. A baby with babies.
I did play one season of soccer in the 2nd grade, and attempted cheerleading in the 5th grade because all the other girls were doing it. Why I ever thought I should try cheerleading, I’ll never know. I quickly and happily gave that up.
Right before this picture was taken, I was at my grandmaw’s house taking pictures with balloons in my shirt (for boobies). Also, I had a black eye from where my brother accidentally kicked me on our trampoline! HAHA! I was called “Black-eyed Susan” that year! I’m just impressed now that kids knew what Black-eyed Susans were back then! Sure wouldn’t now! I’ll give you a cookie if you can pick me out!
I didn’t try any other organized sports again until high school. Actually, I joined JROTC my freshman year after being talked into it by one of my friends. After trying out, my friend hated it and quit, but I love it and stayed. My freshman year was the only year I went to this particular school, because my mom got divorced and we moved after that. The JROTC program at this school was LEGIT and they made us do lot of tough exercises and run. This was my first real taste of working out and running, but I hadn’t caught the running bug just yet. When I moved to the high school where I graduated, the JROTC program there was a lot more relaxed.
A friend talked me into trying out for the softball team my sophomore year – see the friend-talked-me-into-it pattern? I’d played ball around our yard with my brother, but never on a team. A majority, if not all, of the girls on the team grew up playing and all knew each other. I didn’t know any of the rules and just went with it. I picked it up nicely, as I usually do with new challenges. I found rides to practice and games until I got my own car.
I kept playing softball, but in my junior year (end of 1997) yet another friend talked me into joining the cross-country team. I honestly don’t think I would have went out for it if she hadn’t talked me into it. Again, my friend hated it but I LOOOOOOVED it. At first it was a great way to stay active while I wasn’t playing softball. I can remember huffing and puffing, and not being very good at the beginning. However, I picked it up really quickly and became pretty good. I don’t have the best memory in the world but I can remember a couple of meets where I sprinted so hard at the end that I couldn’t feel my legs! I remember one in particular where I sprinted, with dead legs, to the finish and was so thrilled by the floating feeling that I had. I had a big smile on my face when I finished! I was never able to reach my full cross-country potential because I didn’t run that much in the off-season and focused more on softball my senior year. We switched over to fast-pitch and I tried my hand at pitching for a while. I made all-conference in cross-country my senior year and was always curious how good I could have been if I’d started running sooner and trained throughout the year.
I ran my first 10K on January 10, 1998 and ran a 54:22 (8:44 pace). Gotta love Athlinks! Check out my profile!
I was 16 years old! Check out those Adidas shorts!
After I graduated, I went to community college where I can remember running occasionally on campus, but it was never a regular thing. I also ended up gaining the freshman 15. Folks in that part of NC just didn’t run for fun and I’d never really thought about it either. I was on the school’s volleyball team and played some intramural sports. I graduated there in 2001 and joined the Army. A few months before I went to basic training (I was in the delayed-entry program from June-September. My first day was 9/11/2001. Seriously.), I began to run to get in shape for the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). In basic training, they would break us up into run groups A-C, with A being the fastest group. I was too fast for the B group so I ended up in A where I was always the only girl, and would have to fight to stay with the guys. There wasn’t a single APFT where I didn’t max out my required run time. I had other girls coming up to me to ask for advice on how to get faster. During that time, I was just running and had no idea why/how I was able to run that fast. I did help one girl who was really struggling and on the verge of getting kicked out because of it. I made her run extra with me and paced her during her final test. I basically just yelled at her the whole two miles! HAHA! It worked though! The fastest two miles that I ever had for a APFT was a 14:30, 7:15 pace. That isn’t THAT fast, but I only needed like an 18:something to pass. Sheesh.
I didn’t run another race until 2005 when I was stationed in England. A few friends and I went to Scotland and ran the River Ness 10K. I let myself get out of shape in England and only ran a 54:11 – faster than my first but it could have been much better.
My first halfmarathon was the Victory Junction 13.1 in 2006 where I ran a 1:53. I got my race bib signed by “The King”, Richard Petty! (Abby, another blog with NASCAR in it! Haha!)
I need to bring that race hair back. That became my signature for a while…
That half really ramped things up for me. I had to attend a school in Arizona and was there for several months. I loved running in Arizona and did a couple races out there.
LOVE that race hair, those legs, and the giant Saguaros in the back!
My favorite race pic EVER
The first race I ever came in first overall female, was a memorial 8 mile run that took place while I was deployed in Afghanistan in 2008. There was one other girl that was as fast as I was and she lead the entire race. I played it smart and tailed her the whole way. She had no clue I was behind her, especially in the final stretch, because she had earbuds in. She didn’t realize I was about to pounce, and when I did, it was too late. I could see the finish line and just took off in a sprint. I remember how amazing that felt. I think she was really pissed off. HAHA! The next and only other win I ever had was a local 10K in 2010
My commander gave myself and the male winner an AWESOME aviator kit bag and knife, embroidered and engraved with the Special Forces logo, that I still have.
I ran my first (unofficial) 50K during that 2008 deployment. Myself and five other people planned and did our own Fatass 50K around the 8 mile perimeter of the camp. I hadn’t even ran a marathon at that point, and I remember high-fiving the guys when we hit that distance in the 50K!
Before the start of the Fatass 50K. We ran through the night and I worked the next day!
I think it was during this deployment (or maybe 2006) that I stumbled upon the Runner’s World website where I wanted a place online to log my training. They had a great, free training log back then, but I also found this awesome place called The Loop (which no longer exists, unfortunately). You could make a blog there, post it, and other runners on the site could read it. I didn’t post anything for a long time, but just logged my training. Little did I know that The Loopwould change my life, in many ways.
I had to throw in an Army pic That’s me in a Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan
I ran a handful of races in 2009 and 2010, but really hit my peak year in 2011 when I had a goal of doing at least one race every month for the whole year. That year included my halfmarathon PR (VA Beach Shamrock – 1:42:08), 10 mile PR (Ft. Bragg Army 10 miler – 1:18:38 – where I was asked to be on the Ft. Bragg Army 10 miler team but had to turn it down because I was already out of the military…ugh!), 10K PR (Jingle Bell Job – 43:53 -where I almost won the women’s race and had an epic battle with the winner), my first marathon (Nashville Country Music), and my first official 50K (NFEC Georgia). I also completed my longest adventure race, 30 hours in Northern Georgia. That was an incredible year for me. I was on a high that wouldn’t end!
I kept things going in 2012 where I completed my first 40 mile run (Uwharrie), marathon PR (VA Beach Shamrock – 3:53:08-barely over a month after the 40 miler!), a 24 hour run (Hinson Lake) where I ran 38 miles, and my only 50 miler (Mountain Masochist) to date. I had an undiagnosed injury from the 50 miler which took away my momentum for a bit and I didn’t run a single race in 2013. We moved to Colorado at the end of 2013 and that’s when I developed exercised induced asthma, and found running to be really difficult.
Being “Chris is the girl that runs a lot...” has been my identity since my teens. Running is my thing – that thing that I am REALLY good at – and I’ve always been proud of it being a huge part of my identity. When I found it really hard to run out here, when it had never been hard before, I didn’t know how to handle it. I would run here and there and even managed to run a marathon back in NC in 2014, but running really trickled off after that. I got REALLY depressed. I could run, but I was just so pissed that I was struggling that I didn’t want to do it. I was hiking some but got SO out of shape, gaining about 25 pounds and weighing the heaviest I’ve ever been. I’d always told my mom, who would constantly give me crap about being so “skinny” that if I ever stopped running I would gain a ton of weight. I love to eat!
I tried everything to get my motivation back, including several gym memberships that just went to waste, but nothing worked. August of 2016, I found a gym that offered HIIT type classes and I fell in love! The class environment, the coach I had (who is now a good friend!), and the atmosphere was great! These classes got me moving again, but I wasn’t ready to run yet. It wasn’t until last year that I got some simple words of wisdom and encouragement from a great friend that somehow snapped me out of it! I will never be able to thank my dear friend enough for helping to pull me out of that misery. The people I have met because of running and The Loop (including W!), have been some of the best people I will ever have the privilege of knowing. The community, camaraderie, and friendship of runners is amazing.
It’s now 2018, about 20 years since it all began, and I am back with a force. I finally feel excited and proud again that people referred to me as “Chris is the girl that runs a lot...” The future has much more in store for that girl and I am excited to see what happens!
Thanks for reading!
I had some hill sprints on tap today, which seems fitting since it's the 241st anniversary of our local Revolutionary battle, the Battle of Short Hills. On June 26, 1777, a sweltering day according to reports, General Howe of the British army attempted to lure George Washington out of his defensive position in the Watchung Mountains, and force a final battle in the American Revolution. Howe was met by the Continental Army under Lord Stirling in a running skirmish that focused on a swampy area about 2 miles from my house. A 1777 map of the area shows the short hill where I did my workout.
Prior to the hill sprints, I had a 5-mile run on tap, so I decided to head past Betty Frazee's house and down the road taken by the British army as it marched back to Perth Amboy after failing to catch out General Washington. There are still a few houses on that road that were there in 1777, and the swamp still borders the road in places, but at 5:45 this morning, the only people I saw were runners and bike riders, and they didn't seem to be in a fighting mood.
This was a different type of race. There are two 1.2 mile loops, course A for the first 10 loops, then course B until the end. You have 22 minutes to finish the first loop. If you don’t finish, you’re out. Then after 22 minutes, everyone starts together with a reduced amount of time to finish. Repeat until the winner remains.
Times were not recorded, only completed loops, so the correct strategy had to be learned. You can take it easy, essentially walking, the first several loops, and conserve energy. Or you could go a little faster and take breaks after each loop for food, bathroom, etc. I did a combination.
There just plain walking to start:
Some walking on the large wet rocks with slippery moss (the Table Rock):
Some climbing up a rock wall. These were nice dry rocks, so just a fun thing to do:
More slippery rock walking:
And there was a hurdle:
And many times walking across the finish line when I knew the lap was “safe”. You couldn’t see the countdown clock until you turned the corner with 200-300 ft to go. I’m not good at working the watch, so I trusted people around me who looked like they knew what they were doing.
The RD purposefully switched from “A” to “B” so people wouldn’t kill themselves trying to beat the clock. I thanked him for that.
Course B was all runnable, so I was still getting 2-3 minutes of rest between loops from miles 12-18 (through loop 15) as I sped up, although the time limit was shrinking. Then it got real. That 2-3 minute break disappeared really quick, and although the RD stuck with 12 minutes for awhile (10 min/mi pace), I was running out of steam, and was tapped out after 19 loops. Later that afternoon, the winner crossed the line for the 30th time. I don’t remember the time for that last loop, but I don’t think he started sweating yet when I finished.
The women’s winner (28 loops) was a straight poker face the entire time. She had the timing perfect, and beat the clock with less than a minute each time. She ended up being my “sweeper” - right in front of me as I got knocked out.
It was a pretty neat format for the race, since you got to run with people of all abilities every loop, and the winner finished last.
Back to a good speed run this morning, so all systems seem to be recovered.
Proof that I actually ran some:
While the surgery site seems to be doing well - almost pain free most of the time, the back of my knee continues to be a problem. As a matter of fact, this pain was the first issue back in February and why I first took time off. The day before I ran again following the first break was when the meniscus started to hurt. That became the worse of the two problems. I figured that all the rest would let that one settle down and by the time I was ready to run again after the 'scope it would be all better, too.
Yeah, didn't happen that way. It's usually OK in the morning getting out of bed, but I don't have full flexion on it without pain and resistance. Putting on socks and shoes, washing my feet - those activities are hard. I'm supposed to be stretching my hamstring more and strengthening my quads/hamstrings, according to this website. This is a little weird because I'm not the typical runner in this area. I've always been pretty flexible back there. I can easily reach the ground with a standing stretch, knees locked. Let me remind you that this is the left side, not the right that gave me the freak hammy issue in December.
I've giving it another two weeks and then calling the doc again.
Took the new lawnmower for its maiden voyage on Wednesday last week. What a difference. The only tricky part was finding the right setting for the variable speed control. I had to nearly jog to keep up with the machine unless I dialed it back from full. I'm in grass-cutting heaven. I almost wish it was spring so I'd have to mow more than once a week.
Painted one of the bedrooms last week. Finished up the trim, installed new electrical receptacles and light switch on Saturday. The window sill and trim had a little damage that needed repair before painting those. This week.
Friday morning, Mac called me on her way home from work, with a loud flapping noise I could hear in the background. She had a tire blow out as she started across the Lake Washington Bridge. It's almost a mile and a half across. I've run there, since it's part of the Seattle Marathon route. There's no shoulder. No place to pull off safely and change a tire or even wait for a tow truck, so she kept going all the way across. By the time she could get out of the traffic lane, her tire was in pretty sad shape.
The rim wasn't totally trashed because it was steel and not aluminum, so the guys at Les Schwab were able to straighten it out, saving her $500 or so for new wheels. Just glad she was safe.
In a bizarrely related story, on Saturday, Mrs. Dave and I were out at Kensington Metropark, scouting it as a location for the Dave Schultz Family Reunion in August. We'd just parked near one of the beaches and talking to Mac about her tire repair, when I noticed a HUGE crack in one of the CR-V's tires. Like about 6 inches long and who knows how deep, along the side wall and onto the tread. Not good. We drove from the park to a couple of tire places to see what they'd have to say. It's going to be close to $200, unless we need to replace two. Since these are original with only 40,000 miles on them, I decided to check the warranty and it may be covered as a defect. We don't recall a road hazard event and there seems to be no sign of any other damage close by like there might be from something hitting the tire. Check that out after work this afternoon.
What an interesting year 2018 is turning out to be.
Next weekend we're taking a little break and traveling to Toronto. No big plans. We'll catch the Blue Jays hosting the Tigers, ride up the CN Tower, see a museum or two, but really we just want to get away for a few days.
Hopefully nearing the end of my time off the roads.
Since I have a separate blog, is it easier for you to just click the link to this blog so that the pictures aren't screwed up?? Let's try it... please leave comments below after you read it, if you wish. If this way is annoying, please tell me!
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Thanks for reading!
How YOU doin? Yeah, YOU. It’s Friday, I DO have a job and I do have s–t to do. One of those things is to finish this post! I may have had a bit too much coffee, so forgive me for the use of expletives, exclamation points and CAPS.
Getting back from travel is always an adjustment. With my Grandmother’s passing leading to an unplanned trip to CA followed by our planned vacation 2 weeks later, I was gone for 2 out of 3 weeks. This can certainly put things out of sorts. I ran plenty of days during my time away, but in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar climates.
I sincerely miss those unfamiliar climates, since the familiar climate here in Virginia is hot and muggy. Some of these runs have really been kicking my butt! It’s hard to tell just how out of shape I am from the 6 months away due to injury and how much of it is that I’m dying in the weather.
My first 20 mile week since December! I’m on my way.
That 6 mile run was certainly the highlight of my week in running. I’ve always kind of looked at a 6 miler as the threshold where a run becomes “long” in the sense that physiological and mental concerns kick in. That’s a distance where I need to consider hydration and fuel. That’s a distance where I can lose focus, become complacent, or lose interest. For me, it brings new challenges that I don’t really deal with on shorter runs besides the obvious that “it’s longer”.
I can't wait until I run out of fingers!
I did follow up that long run the next day with a challenging 4 miler with running buddies Robbie and Ed. It was great to run with them, since I hadn’t done so in quite a while. Running with people that I tend to compete with added some pep to my step and had me wanting to go. That’s a feeling that I’m having trouble finding at times.
We got faster as we got going. That’s always fun
Everything I learned about pushing it, I learned from Salt N’ Pepa.
I feel like I’ve had a plan or a goal on my mind for most of the time that I’ve ever been running. There was always a race coming up, or a BQ to dream of, or a time to beat. I’ve let that all go for a little while and it feels great!
I’ll admit that some of this is out of necessity. I don’t have my kick back yet, even if I wanted it. I seem to tire earlier than I used to before I got hurt. The lack of pressure and expectations are probably a way of protecting myself from discouragement or disappointment.
That may be the case, but it really doesn’t matter WHY I’m choosing to do this. I’m enjoying myself and that’s what matters. I don’t know how long I’ll feel this way, but I’m certain that eventually it won’t be enough. I’m going to want some race to conquer or some PR to chase, then I’ll just be enjoying myself in a completely different way.
... and I bet you local folks thought I was doing the Hospital Hill HalfMarathon ...
So that 13.1 that I was training for? It was the Thelma & Louise HalfMarathon, 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 halfso 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 halfmarathon. 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 halfmarathon? 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.
Time for my weekly update on Louie's lack of progress.
Saw the doc last Wednesday (maybe it was Thursday - whatever). He was pleased with the level of swelling (not much) and the way the incision sites looked (good). He was surprised when I answered his question about the amount of pain I was in compared to before the operation, "Not much different." He recovered quickly, but it didn't leave me with a warm fuzzy. Either the operation as a bust or my pain before was less than what he imagined it was.
He said to begin stretching and strengthening as long as it's tolerable, and in a couple of weeks I should be able to start some walking/jogging.
I'm hoping that the pain I'm still having is residual from the surgery and not a sign that something more needs to be done.
"Don't regret anything. At one time, it was exactly what you wanted."
B1 is still so fresh on the mind, so fresh on the body that it is almost too easy to make correlations between the two. And while the physical implications are ripe with similarities, my mind is a completely different spot. It's liberating that I don't feel the same darkness looming over me. I cannot pinpoint exactly what I was afraid of except that it was fear of the unknown. The uncertainty of when I would run again. The uncertainty of finishing the year's biggest race. The uncertainty of the weeks that followed. The uncertainty of this thing that had defined me for so long that I truly struggled with coping without it.
It is a classic case of too much, too soon with the possibility of an old injury hampering my efforts. A VO2 max ready to climb mountains and bones that said "hell no!" I was so anxious to get back to the same level that I didn't see that I had to complete steps B through Y. I just thought I'd go from A to Z. Looking back, I was aware of my own reckless behavior and aware of the potential consequences. I got part of the results I wanted: finish Boston and successfully pace Lauren at CJ100. The downside is that I likely overcompensated with my (formerly) good right side and wound up with a stress reaction* in my right tibia.
*I'm not even sure we are calling it that - the bone scan showed it was likely not just a soft tissue thing, but there were no definite cracks either. The x-ray was inconclusive as these things often are with stress reactions/fractures. The good news is that I've had no official breaks or even cracks seen. The bad news is that something (um, probably overracing the first time and too much, too soon the second time) is making my bones angry.
If we were to backtrack to about a year ago, I would relay the story of whacking my right tibia so hard on a stone planter that I bled though a pair of khakis. The bruising that followed was nothing short of epic. Over the course of the next year, that spot seemed to get angry from time to time, but never appeared to impact my running. It was just this funny little bump on my shin that almost looked like the blood vessel was swollen. I'd run my finger over it and it would feel like a bruise - tender and mildly irritating, about a 2 on the pain scale. I have no idea if it is related to this, but certainly didn't help.
Flash forward to June 2018 when the same area started to hurt again. The thing about most running injuries is that they typically are not pinpointed to one particular run or instance. They often start out with teeny niggles of pain and creep their way further in until you cannot ignore them any longer. My mind was slightly more attuned to watching out for these warning signs, but admittedly, I wanted to just keep marching on into my normal summer running. It was just 2 weeks ago that I somehow thought I was ready to jump back into weekly double digit runs.
But by that weekend, I had the ominous feeling that I was to be facing another DL sentence.
I cross-trained early in the week and by the time I had the bone scan on Friday, I decided to just take an entire week off of exercising. A whole week. No cross-training. No weight-lifting.
The following Monday, the podiatrist told me to drop by for another boot - I needed a taller version to protect my tibia - and to schedule a follow up appointment in 4 weeks. In my permanently optimistic brain, I am hoping that the 4 week time period means there is a slight possibility that I won't have to wear it after 4 weeks. After all, my foot recheck was at 3 weeks and I was sentenced to another 3 weeks after! But using that logic, I would be booted this time for a total of 8 weeks. <insert cringe face here>
Honestly, it doesn't hurt in the same way that my foot did. I'm sure part of that is because it is a different bone (duh), but also, I am hoping because I caught it early enough, it won't have suffered as much damage. Walking doesn't seem to bother it and I'm not changing my gait while walking because of it. In fact, it really only started to bother me towards the end of my runs and later in the day. The straw that broke the camel's back? It started to ache when I was just sitting around in the evening and lying in bed.
During the first weeks of B1, I threw all of my angry energy into working out. I went from running 60 mile weeks to zero. I had a lot of extra time and energy on my hand. Plus, I was so pissed that I was injured that I was determined to make my body stronger. I can't say I have regrets about any of it because I do believe it helped me finish Boston. But perhaps a little more R&R could have been beneficial if I had been able to channel some of that energy later. I ended up spending more hours per week working out while booted than I usually did while running!
In any regard, when I received the news last Monday that I was going to be booted again, I had a much different outlook than B1. Being in the middle of an exercise hiatus helped (pats self on back for forced laziness). But also knowing the value of myself as a (hopefully temporarily) non-runner was huge. I'd happily taken on this persona of runner girl and let the other pieces of me just kind of fall out where they could. When I couldn't run, I was so stressed out about not running that I was a mess.
B2 is different already. I'm working out again, but don't feel compelled to reach the same levels I did during B1. I obviously want to return to running as quickly as possibly so some movement over the next 4 (....to 8, FML) weeks will be good. I just don't have to go nuts. Also, B2 is happening during summer which is a loathsome time to be running in Georgia anyway. I miss those long, hard, hot days on the trails like you wouldn't believe, but there will be more of those. The runner girl will return, but she will hopefully have an even rosier outlook than before.
One likes to think there are reasons for this kind of thing happen. Reasons give us validation and purpose when life throws frustrating stuff our way. I don't know if there are reasons (beyond the science of overusing my body) that I feel strongly about with this hiccup. It has given me a chance to look at other areas of my life with a little more clarity. It has provided me with a bit more empathy. It has made me realize I'll be okay if I'm not running.
I am taking note of the progress I have made this year in other aspects of life and being grateful for what I have accomplished thus far. I set out 10 goals for myself in January:
Volunteer/Crew/Pace >5 races (7 total!)
Strength or stretch >30 minutes weekly (24 of 24 weeks so far)
12 new recipes (8 total)
Read >20 books (18 total)
200,000 impressions on LinkedIn
100 mile race (not in 24 hours)
Prepare financially/fiscally for Everest Marathon 2019 (halfway to financial goal)
Camp 2+ nights (1 night...ish)
Finish the GA Appalachian Trail
I'm not really a person who takes anything for granted, so ten years ago, when I was a new runner, I would have been skeptical if anyone had told me I'd still be running a decade later. But my t-shirt collection tells me that in 2009, I participated in the Fishawack Run, a 4--well really about 3.97--mile race in Chatham, NJ, that I've run every year since, including this past Saturday, which was the 41st running of this race.
This isn't my favorite race. It's in June. It starts at 9:30. It's almost always just on the wrong side of bearable humidity. The first mile and a half is a nearly 200-feet gain in elevation. But I have relatives who live walking distance from the start, and they've had someone in this race every year since probably the early 1990s, so it's a family event that marks a kind of summer kickoff for me.
For the first 7 years I ran this, I was chasing PRs and training for other goal races, so my times were always in the 29-32 minute range. In the last two years prior to this year, I was fighting burnout, so my running was a lot more casual, and often without a watch. This meant I would sometimes take long breaks or run once or twice a week. In those years, I finished this race in the 35-minute range. But in February, I hit the NYC Marathon lottery, which meant that I needed to add some structure back to my running. I chose Fishawack as a goal race to help me increase miles and get used to a regular schedule again. It also happened to be run a week before I planned to start my marathon training, so it would be a good transition point and a way for me to see where my fitness is at before training starts.
And it worked out well. My approach to this race has always been to try to find the balance between completing the initial climb with enough gas left to speed up through the middle miles before hitting the gift that is the last mile (or .97 mile) back down the hill to the finish. And that's what I did.
I passed more often than I was passed. I repassed some people who had passed me earlier. I high-fived many kids standing by the course with their hands out. (That never gets old.) Official time of 31:43 (7:56 pace). My fourth fastest time for this race, and about what I expected to run. I'm knocking out about 25 miles a week, and I feel ready for my next 20 weeks of running.
Some random thoughts:
I've yet to run a Jersey race where some house along the route hasn't had Born To Run playing through a speaker, because it's Jersey and it's Springsteen and it has "run" in the title. This race had that, too, but hearing it got me thinking that I would like it better if someone kept the Springsteen part but played songs that trolled the runners, like One Step Up or Long Walk Home or My Best Was Never Good Enough. Kind of like the time when I was at a 5k on an unseasonably cold May morning and the local high school jazz band played Let It Snow.
I met Bangle's evil twin after the race. (Bangle's words. Not mine.) He's fast like his brother.
This race is an informal reunion for some of the local cross country runners past and present, so it can be competitive for such a small field (231 runners). Winning time this year was 19:58. The fastest time of the 10 races I've run here.
This race is part of Chatham's annual Fishawack Festival, and the last two years, a food court has been set up in the parking lot where the start/finish line is. I can confirm that soft tacos and churros are a fine post-race meal.
I typically choose my half races based on how fast I can run them. End of season, point-to-point, flat or net downhill, fall temperatures. Sunday’s was none of these.
A few months ago my wife saw that there is a race 3 miles from our house to raise money for Charity for Children. In the back of my mind, I was thinking it was the wrong time of year and an awful course to race and run fast. But she encouraged me to run, so what the heck. This was a warm day half, with some pretty good hills.
I went in thinking I should run strong, but not do anything stupid. It’s been forever since I’ve done a tempo run of any distance. Or any speed work. Or hill sprints. Or running when the sun is out. With all my excuses neatly lined up ahead of time, I went out with the expectation that I’ll achieve a new PW.
And I crushed it. 1:51:15 for an all-time PW, beating my previous by 2 minutes. That was my first half, 4 years ago on a flat, fast course in the cool fall temps.
Most important, nothing stupid happened on the course, and I’m healthy going into next week’s race: a last runner standing event, The Table Rock Challenge. You’ll remember from my last report that I have this on my calendar. It’s a 1.2 mile loop. Everyone has 22 minutes to finish the first loop, then the time limit gets faster from there. You can either take it really easy in the early loops, or go a little faster and give yourself time to take care of business between loops. In order to take a stab at a strategy, I’m using my 19 mile run from last week.
Here’s a chart showing the required pace for the race (black line) and my pacing for my long run last week (gray). The bars show the elevation gain for my long run (blue) and the race (yellow). The race course changes after lap 10. Of course, laps for my long run were miles, and the race laps are 1.2 miles, but you get the picture: things will start to get hairy around lap 13. The time limit for laps 16-20 are all 12 minutes (10 minute miles), and that’s about where I was throughout my run on 6/2 with a little more elevation mixed in. Should be fun!
Mt. Evans Ascent – 14.5 miles – June 9, 2018
I signed up for the Mt. Evans Ascent mostly to get in some altitude training. I haven’t really ran at altitudes that high, and I knew it’d likely be a run/walk situation. Nonetheless, good training no matter what.
Weather warning from the race director:
“The weather at the start line has little to do with the weather you may experience once you pass Summit Lake at 9 miles. We have had a beautiful and calm start, but the wind above treeline was blowing at a steady 50 miles per hour. We have seen snow, hail, and lightning at the finish line more often that we see sunshine. We have also had runners stopped for 30 minutes at over 13,000 feet when a Flight for Life helicopter landed on the road to meet a rescue crew with an injured climber. Anything can happen, so we ask that everyone come prepared for the worst.”
This is exactly what I wore, minus my UD Vest
Having climbed multiple 14ers, I knew they weren’t kidding. We were required to bring a long-sleeved shirt, which I️ ended up wearing anyway. Having a cool race in June is pretty awesome, as it has already gotten really hot here on the front range in CO. I wore my Ultimate Direction Adventure Vesta, and carried: my UD Ultra jacket, Buff, gloves, a water bottle, my phone, and one pack of Cliff Shot Bloks. I wanted to ensure I was prepared for anything, and I really didn’t even notice the pack on my back. That vest is comfy!
I drove up Mt. Evans road and was stopped about 1.2 miles from the start line. I had to park there but was able to hop on one of the shuttle vans to the start. I was able to find a “secret” bathroom located in the campground by the start so that worked out really well! I’d attempted to just squat in the woods but folks kept coming by and I didn’t want to flash them.
The start line sat at about 10,600′ at Echo Lake. From the lake, they had the road to the top closed to the public and any spectators. In previous years, the shuttle vans had major problems getting to the top and back down. Plus, there are no guard rails along the sides so it can be quite dangerous to runners.
14 of the 14.5 miles to the top are uphill. The only real downhill part wasn’t until mile 8-9.
There is a cutoff time at mile 9 of 2 hours and 30 minutes. You had to finish the whole race before 11am (that’s 4.5 hours to finish the whole thing).
You get a special rock with a placard on it if you finish under 3 hours (for ladies) or under 2:40 (for guys). William earned a rock for his one and only time doing the race (ya freak!).
It’s literally a piece of rock with stickers on it. Haha
Once we started, I was actually able to run a mile or so before I started taking quick walk breaks. Starting on a hill is always hard for me and I tend to need a few miles to warm up. For something like this, there was no way I was going to do any warm-up miles beforehand. Pffffffft! I passed quite a few people and finally ended up in the group of folks I would play leap frog with the rest of the race.
Honestly, the race was quite uneventful. Run, walk, run, walk, run, walk. I ran when I wanted to and walked when I wanted to. Everyone else around me walked pretty often too. If I fell behind someone I’d been running with, I’d make a goal to catch back up to them. I feel like there is always that token runner that drives me bat-shit crazy. The one for this race literally talked strategy the ENTIRE time. I felt bad for the guy he was running with because he would not shut the hell up. He even used the word strategy many times. “I think I saw this curve on Google maps.” “Around this bend, it flattens out just a little bit.” Let’s run until that pole up there.” “I don’t see a pole or another landmark to use as a start point! What should we use this time?!” “We are using good strategy for this thing.” Shut. The. Hell. Up.
Around mile 8, I hit the only downhill section and tried to make up as much time as I could. This was also the only section where my knee hurt – uphill doesn’t bother it at all. Go figure. If I was going to get the sub-3 hour rock, I’d have to average a 12:something pace. That wasn’t happening, and that was 100% fine with me. I hit the 9 mile cutoff at two hours (30 minutes ahead) so I knew I was good to go for the rest of the race. They had aid stations at miles 3, 6, 9, and 11.5. The only thing I was getting at the aid stations was Gatorade, and it was STRONG! They didn’t have it watered down nearly enough so I tried no to drink too much – from previous experience, I’d get a tummy ache if I did. However, the only thing I ate the entire race was one block of my Cliff Shot Block packet. This may have played a role in how I felt later.
This was the bottom of the downhill section and just past the Mile 9 cutoff aid station
Around mile 10, the wind started to pick up and I started getting a little chilly when I wasn’t facing the sun. The wind was whipping through my thin long-sleeved t-shirt and buff. My arms and ears got quite chilly. I still managed to feel pretty good and was able to run/walk until I hit mile 12 at 13,500′. It was getting pretty steep and I wasn’t able to run very much, but any time I did try to run I’d feel really light-headed. I don’t think I ran any during the last two miles. I was just proud that I knew I was going to finish and I just didn’t care about my time.
I crossed the finish line at 3:29 and was handed my medal and a water bottle. We had to then wait for a shuttle van to pick us up (because they’d all headed back down to take earlier finishers). I hadn’t packed a summit bag because I thought my UD jacket would be enough to keep me warm. I was wrong. Some folks were making the 134′ trek to the actual summit of the mountain, but I didn’t give a fuck about that. I’m glad I didn’t because they had a few 15 passenger vans and several 6-8 person Suburbans, but I still had to wait in line about 30 minutes before I got on one. I was FREEZING and shaking by the time I got into the warm van. I was also feeling quite nauseous and my head was pounding. Luckily, I was able to sit in the front seat of the van, but I still felt quite queasy when were making the switchback turns. I honestly felt like I was drunk and could puke at any moment. I took deep breaths and made sure the keep my eyes straight forward. I felt bad for the driver because I couldn’t carry on a convo with her the whole way. I think she got it after the second question she asked me where I just nodded. Sorry!
My watch was a whole quarter mile off by the time I finished…
When we finally arrived back at the start-line where the post-race food was located, I still felt really bad. I went over to a picnic table and just sat there. I saw others eating the food, BBQ and baked potatoes, and I thought I was going to puke just smelling it. I finally got up, took a GIANT deuce in a porta-potty, and started the 1.2 mile walk back to my car. I did have a guy stop me to say thank you for the pace that I had kept because he was just trying to keep up with me the whole time. That was nice! I also got behind a couple guys I’d followed the whole race and talked to them about the race while we walked.
Once I made it back down to I-70 at Idaho Springs, I think I was at about 7,500′ and I felt 100 times better. I was also HUNGRY. I wanted Chick-fil-A and knew I’d have to wait until I got almost home to get some. It was SO GOOD.
Yesterday, I went to a local trail running festival where they actually ended up having the women’s winner as a guest speaker. She ended up talking to me for a bit after someone else there told her that I’d run the race too. She said something about it being hot at the top when she finished and I thought, I guess it may have been warm the hour and a half before I got there.Haha! I was going to run a few shake-out miles but two of my co-workers came and I ran/walked a mile and a half with one of them. The temp was sweltering and too hot to run during that time of day anyway.
Today, and the whole time since the race, I’m not sore at all. I’m not kidding. I can’t even tell that I ran uphill for 14 miles! That just goes to show how sore downhill running can make you. I also didn’t have any kind of blisters or hot spots on my feet either. I think running downhill makes all the awful shit that can happen, happen.
I did get some adjustments and needling for my back from my PT this morning. I tweaked it a little doing too-heavy deadlifts last week. I knew better. The Leadville Heavy Half is Saturday and I’m excited and nervous! I just hope my stupid knees hold up. I’m already anticipating them hurting because of this elevation profile…
That downhill after Mosquito Pass is gonna HURT. Ugh.
I’m just going to have to power through and deal with the aftermath later. I plan to use some Rock Tape to see if that helps mitigate anything.
Does anyone have any knee tricks I can use? I tried a patellar strap but it did nothing.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for another race report!
Getting a knee operation isn't a big deal anymore. The worst part of this was getting approval for the MRI. We've been through that story already.
I was the doc's second surgery scheduled last Wednesday. Mrs. Dave brought me in at 7:30. Paperwork, blah blah blah. In 2018, why do I still have to fill out the same information on twelve different forms? On paper! Whatever happened to carbon copies? Where's the computer/database/cloud efficiency?
Can someone tell me why I need to be buck naked for them to make two half-inch incisions in my left knee? Or why they need to shave my leg from ankle to upper thigh?
The last thing I remember was making fun of the anesthesiologist for failing to get the IV in my left hand. The nurse took over and then I was ready. The next thing I knew, Mrs. Dave was with me in recovery and I was getting dressed to go home.
They gave me a bottle of NORCO (Hydrocodone/paracetamol), but I never used any of it. The worst post-op pain I had was in my throat from the tube they stuck down it in case I had trouble with the anesthetic (which I didn't), and Tylenol took enough of the edge off that to let me sleep. On Thursday I worked from home and Friday was back at the office. The hardest part of that was walking from the parking lot to my desk (two round trips since there was a lunch off site for a colleague who's leaving). I was ready to sit around the house after that.
Small amount of fraying in the joint, zero arthritis, and a small tear in the medial meniscus (didn't show up on the MRI).
Minimal swelling around the knee, and the two incision sites are healing up nicely. Until yesterday I had this weird squishy noise when I bent or extended Louie fully. You could hear it across the room. Squish, squish, gurgle gurgle. It takes weight just fine. There's a little pain/stiffness at the back after sitting with the knee bent for more than a few minutes. I'll ask about that on Thursday at my follow-up appointment. That's also when I should get a date for my first tentative steps at walking/jogging. Maybe this weekend, maybe the weekend after.
Of course, we're already talking about the next marathon. I don't see anything sooner than December, and until I actually get back on the roads I'm trying not to think about 2018 at all. Trying hard.
One of the stitches came out yesterday morning. One of the knots was undone after my shower. I grabbed the end and the whole thread just pulled out. There was always going to be a little scar there, so nbd.
So, my assessment of arthroscopic knee surgery - so far - is, "ho hum."
Last December I was at the grocery store and I heard someone say, "Gwen, I've been hoping I'd see you!"
It was a friend's boyfriend. His name is Jim.
Jim had been losing weight after a health scare. He said he had a challenge for me. He wanted to race me across the Ocean City bridges. He would be walking the bridges once while he wanted me to run an equivalent amount of time.
I explained about my hamstring but said we would talk later.
I saw Jim again in March and he was beyond excited about the bridge challenge. I on the other hand was more worried than ever about my silly leg. Jim's infectious excitement made me realize come hell or high water I'd be racing Jim across those bridges.
Jim has been using a nutritionist at the hospital to lose weight. When I saw him in March it was the day before he found out he'd lost 100 pounds. The hospital did a big story on him and he told them about our race.
Jim and I decided on June 6th for our race not even realizing it was Global Running Day.
I kicked my butt to get ready for the race by combining Crossfit and intervals. Jim walked at the gym and even completed the bridge twice.
Jim was starting in Somers Point and I was to run from Ocean City to Somers Point and back. The goal was for the winner to claim the bench first.
We each had an official starter. My husband was with me and our friend Charlie was with Jim.
I was way more nervous than I should've been. Jim confirmed he was too.
At the word go I took off like a shot. The weather was perfect- 60 with little humidity. Up the first bridge and my calves were grumbling but my breathing was good. My husband had brought his bike and got some great shots.
Coming down the backside of the 1st bridge - a flying shot!
I just kept cruising along not really sure what pace I could manage. Mile 1 clicked in at an 8:42. Holy cow!
Mile 2 is flat at the beginning and then there's another bridge at the end. I got about 2/3 of the way across and stopped to ask my husband if he saw Jim. We finally saw him coming down the 2nd bridge (His 1st bridge). Jim admitted later when he wasn't further along when he saw me he got worried.
We high fived when we passed each other. Another friend tooted and cheered as she drove to the finish line so she could grab some pictures.
I cruised up to the top of the 2nd bridge still feeling strong. Mile 2 was an 8:40.
I bemoaned the fact that as soon as I hit the bottom I'd have to turn and immediately start climbing again.
Suck it up, butter cup! How lucky am I to be out running with a friend when nearly a year ago my running came to a screeching halt with a torn hamstring?
Up the bridge again. Climb, churn, go!
I crested the top and still felt fantastic. My husband would talk to me every now and then and I eventually had to wave him off. Every time I looked at him I would almost trip on the concrete curbing. I'm still favoring my left leg due to the injury. Not sure why because my left leg is almost as strong as my right.
Mile 3 was an 8:21. Hell yeah! The wind was at my back. One more bridge to climb!
My DH was keeping an eye on Jim and I'm still not sure if he was keeping an eye on me so I didn't win. I had to slow on the final bridge as Jim was only 6 light poles ahead.
Look at him! He was loving life!
I came flying down the final bridge just amazed because without Jim's prodding I would have never figured out how to train while still rehabbing. Mile 4 - 8:33.
Hell yeah, baby! Jim and I both set bridge PRs on Global Running Day! Both total winners! 37 minutes and change!
We are setting up another showdown for a 6 mile race. Stay tuned!
Immediately on the heels of a fantastic Parkway Classic 10-Miler I dove head-first into another fantastic race weekend, this time involving some of my favorite Internet weirdos!
Saturday, April 29th, was the North Face Endurance Challenge 50K and 50 Miler (and a marathon, but we didn’t know anyone running it, so who cares?), which Zamgirl, RunningPlaces, ASchmid, and NCAthlete were all participating in, and which Vblevins, Bblevins, Running_Eng, SLCAthena, and I were all spectating/cheering for. And then Sunday, April 29th, was the inaugural National Women’s Half-Marathon, which Keep Running Girl, SLCAthena, and I were all running, and everyone else was spectating! So much moral support to fit into two days ❤️
To kick things off, I met up with Zamgirl for lunch on Friday afternoon when she came into town to pick up her and RP’s packets for the 50 Milers. The fact that we’d just seen in each other in Raleigh only three weeks earlier didn’t slow down the talking. It also gave us a chance to strategize for the next day, when I was planning on jumping in to pace her for the last of three loops that she’d be running on the section of the course that was accessible to spectators and pacers. Let’s be honest: I was more nervous about the 7 miles I’d be running than she was about all 50! I’m so inexperienced on trails, and obviously didn’t want to do anything horribly wrong as a pacer that could negatively impact her race. But this was kind of a perfect first pacing opportunity, because Zamgirl can run 50 miles in her sleep at this point, and was basically letting me tag along for my own fun and not because she actually needed the assistance.
On Saturday morning, I woke up bright and early, picked up my rental car (car-free life is great most of the time, except for when you need to get out to the middle of nowhere for races!), and drove across town to pick up SLCAthena from the friend’s house where she’d been staying earlier that week. We then hit the road out to Great Falls, VA, about 45 minutes outside DC. We got to the aid station area and met up with Running_Eng, VBlevins, and BBlevins just in time to see Zamgirl come through for the first time (Mile 15ish). We’d just missed RunningPlaces, but we’d see him again after each of the three loops they ran around Great Falls park. It was great to see the Blevins duo and Running_Eng, since it had been a long time since I’d hung out with any of them! After Zamgirl went through, we moved closer to the aid station and set up our chairs and picnic blanket to mark our spot for the rest of the afternoon. This is the central hub of the race, and we’d see the 50K runners come through on their way in and again on their way out after a single loop, and we’d see the 50 Mile runners a bunch of times as they completed three loops: at miles 15, 22, 29, and 36 before they set back out on the 14-mile trek to the Start/Finish at a different park. It was a lot of fun to hang out in the park with my fellow spectators, chit-chatting about all manner of things and cheering for all of the runners coming through the aid station.
At 11:45am, Zamgirl came in from her second loop and picked me up to run her third and final loop. By this point it was hot (75*) and sunny, but Zamgirl looked as strong and steady as ever. We set out onto the trail after she’d replenished some fluids, and met up with another runner that she’d been running with for most of the day. Rachel was doing her first 50 Miler that day, and had been wisely taking in all of the advice Zam was doling out! The three of us ran together for most of those 7 miles, and chatted on and off as we navigated the technical terrain of the park. I was having SO MUCH FUN running and power-hiking in the woods and soaking up the dramatic change of scenery from my usual road and bike path routes. It was a gorgeous day to be out in the woods, the technical course was an awesome challenge for me, and the volunteers were so helpful and perky at all of the check points and aid stations. Plus I was running with a totally badass ultra veteran who makes this stuff look easy.
All too soon for me (though probably not for Zamgirl given how much farther she’d run by then!) we came back into the main aid station and heard the cheers of our friends.
Zam took off for the last 14 miles, and we packed up our picnic stuff and headed back to our cars to drive over to the finish area and wait for our runners. Aschmid and NCAthlete had already finished by the time we got to the beer garden, and they met up with us shortly after we got ourselves settled at a table. There was more chatting, with beer this time, and watching the tired, muddy, happy runners come through the finish chute. SLCAthena were able to stay and see RunningPlaces finish, and then we had to drive back into the city to meet up with the final member of our weekend crew: Keep Running Girl!
The three of us met up for dinner at a pizza place downtown (because carb loading is important!), and then called it an early night in preparation for our own race the next morning: the inaugural National Women’s Half-Marathon. We shared a ride home since KRG’s hotel was near my apartment (SLCAthena was staying with me that night to simplify race morning logistics), got our flat girls ready, and hit the sack.
This half-marathon was just supposed to be a fun run for me, since I’d raced hard the previous weekend, and had two more long races in just a couple of weeks (to be continued in the next bloop…) So I decided that since it was a women’s race, and I wasn’t going for a time goal, it was the PERFECT opportunity to bust out the Wonder Woman running costume that I’d gotten last summer for the Vermont 100 on 100 relay! I’d decided on this race outfit several weeks ago, when I assumed that a race on April 29th in Washington, DC, would likely be pretty warm. The reality was that it was 35 degrees out with a windchill in the mid-20s (!!) that morning. But I was way too invested in my costume plan at this point, so I added some arm warmers and called it good. It would only be a couple hours of suffering, right?
SLCAthena and I had coffee and breakfast, and then headed out to pick up KRG at her hotel, and then share a Lyft down to the start line near the Lincoln Memorial. It was dark and oh so cold out! Definitely not what anyone expected of a late-April race in this area. We got the start area soon enough, and joined the crowd of bundled-up women heading over to the port-a-potties and the bag check. The wind was pretty relentless, but I was somewhat comforted by the fact that what would likely be the windiest part of the course was in the early miles, so we’d get it out of the way quickly.
My race plan was simple: run comfortably and have fun. Ideally I wanted to run strategically enough to negative split, because that type of pacing isn’t deeply ingrained yet, and it’s always good to practice racing that way (or so Coach says). I figured I’d start off at an easy 8:45-9ish minute pace, and see how that felt after a few miles, and pick up the pace from there, with an aim to finish a bit under 2:00:00. After all, I’d just raced a week ago and there wasn’t much point in pushing myself to run hard in a non-goal race.
Well. My legs had other ideas.
I FELT SO FREAKING GOOD!! I blame the costume. There was just no reasoning with it. The first mile felt super easy and fun, but the first mile often does when you’re burning off the adrenaline of the start corral. I figured around Mile 2 or 3 I’d start to feel a little tired and would rein things in, and deal with the bonk when it happened. But the bonk never came! And I felt so energized the entire race! It definitely helped that I was getting SO MANY wonderful cheers from both the spectators and from the other runners, especially on the out-and-back section. I’d expected a race like this to have a pretty strong costume game, but I was the only one that I saw, and I totally soaked up all the extra mojo.
I figured the crash would come eventually, and I’d just enjoy the ride until then. But nope! I hit halfway still feeling great, and figured I might as well step it up a little bit and try to negative split. I finally started feeling a little bit tired at Mile 11, but shortly thereafter I saw the whole gang of Loopsters cheering! I got high-fives down the line, and that gave me a great boost. I made the final big turn back towards the finish line, and ran into (pretty much literally) the only negative part of this whole race: the back of the pack of the 8K. They’d apparently been instructed to stay on the left side of the road, but of course they didn’t and there were many people walking the last mile of the 8K (in large groups, naturally) all over both sides of the road and I, and the other half runners, had to dodge and weave around them. Not the end of the world by any means, but pretty darn annoying when you’re trying to finish strong in the last half-mile of a race!
I crossed the finish line in 1:45:46! Only 19 seconds slower than my PR from New Orleans in March! (I 100% blame the 8K walkers for those 19 seconds, but oh well).
I got my medal, hurried over to bag check so that I could get back into my warm coat, and then walked over to where the Loopsters were cheering to join them! We cheered for a while longer and saw SLCAthena come by (apparently I’d just missed KRG), and then we walked up to the closest coffee shop to thaw out before our brunch reservations.
It was so cold out and the coffee tasted so good!
KRG had waited for SLCAthena to finish, so they walked up together and met us at the coffee shop just in time for us to all walk over to our brunch spot. We enjoyed warm food and bottomless brunch beverages!
All in all, an extremely successful Loopster race weekend!
(Why yes I did wear my costume for all of brunch! Did you expect anything different?)
I still can’t quite believe how fantastic I felt during that race. It makes me feel so good about my training and fitness, especially since I still have six months to go until Rehoboth. The barn isn’t close to full yet, but the hay is definitely starting to pile up.
This was my 3rd year running the race and each time it was a goal race. I missed my goal the past 2 years (2:11 instead of 2:10, then 2:01:5X instead of sub2). After last year, I swore I wouldn’t do it again. It’s obviously a huge race so logistics make me more anxious than necessary but it is well organized with lots of support along the course (both aid and spectators). The downsides are it takes several miles to feel a bit of space and the course profile does not agree with me. It is net downhill but has 420 ft elevation (including some incline near the end) but more importantly, you don’t really notice most of the downhill. So there’s not much to look forward to…except the end. I didn’t sign up for the race until April because, like I said, I swore I wouldn’t do it again. But after my marathon in January, I started running more and saw my fitness improving. I felt like I wanted a goal HM at the end of my season and this was the only race to fit the bill. But I should have known, sigh.
Training went great! I worked with my same coach again and hit 180 miles in April and 170 miles in May (vs 100 and 141 in April/May last year). Based on the workouts I was nailing, she felt like a 8:55 pace was doable. I really wanted an official sub2 since my “PR” half in December was a short course and decently net downhill at 1:55:21 (pace 8:57) for 12.9 miles. So my plan was to start at 2 hour pace (9:07 pace) and try to speed up. LOL as I’m typing that. No injuries during training and I didn’t miss any workouts. I cut a few runs short the weekend before the race because I was traveling and it was 95 degrees with 1000% humidity.
Race morning started just before 4am. I splurged for the VIP experience through RnR since the parking and PoP situation is awful for this race. My first year, I stood in line for almost an hour and missed my corral start. Year 2, I got in line immediately but then had to pee again before the race started and just held it throughout the race. Not ideal. For $69, I got parking in a garage right next to the finish line, shuttle directly to the start, and then a tent area that had seemingly 1 PoP per person (!), light breakfast, chairs, VIP gear check, sunscreen, etc. Worth the $$. There were also heaters but they weren’t turned on…because at 5am, I didn’t even need my long sleeve. By 6 am, before my warm up, I was already warm in a tank. Desi Linden was supposedly part of the 2 hour pace group. The corrals are madness so while I saw the sign for the group, I didn’t see her and couldn’t get close to that corral.
Race started at 6:15am and it was close to 6:30am when my corral crossed the start line. Why are there people walking at the start?? I started off, aiming for 9:05-9:10 which felt a bit harder than I expected. Through the early miles, I really tried hard to focus on the current mile, try to stay relaxed and take in water or Gatorade at most of the aid stops. The Sun came out blazing after the 5K mat and I never saw a cloud again. It gave me PTSD flashbacks to my marathon in Phoenix back in January where I was running directly into the sun for hours. Not good. I saw mile after mile click off that was around 9:10 or a little slower and I knew I needed to start picking things up, but I just couldn’t. With every small hill, I felt myself slowing more and more. Around Mile 8-9, I gave up. I didn’t have sub 2 in me that day and reasoned I’d rather run quite a bit slower and enjoy the remaining miles rather than really crash and burn. I even walked briefly up an incline while my brain was screaming (hopefully not out loud) how much I hate this race. There is some nice downhill at Mile 10 and it was here that I realized just because I won’t go sub2 doesn’t mean I can’t PR the course. So I picked it up a little more but too little too late. I would cross the finish line about 10 second slower than last year in 2:02:07. Which kills me –less about the actual time—and more because I am fitter this year but I have no race to show that. The weather definitely played into things a little but it wasn't crazy hot. Probably mid to high 70's and very sunny.
So yeah, I’m a bit bummed. I was really hoping to be able to put this sub2 obsession behind me and make new goals for the future. Time and time again, I just don’t have the mental game for these goal races. I get through the training just fine (and enjoy it!) but then come race day, I give up rather than push through. I know that my current fitness isn’t a waste and it will benefit me going forward yada yada yada but I’ll allow myself to be disappointed for this week.
For those reading, this race is really a great course and I look forward to running it again but ONLY FOR FUN.
After the Chicago Marathon last year, The Wife and I were discussing races and goals for the year ahead. We were heading down wildly divergent paths; while she was deciding to take a break from the marathon, I had spreadsheets devoted to selecting my next one and was wondering how big a chunk to try to bite off. I kept throwing out times I thought I might be able to improve by, 5, 7, or maybe even 10 minutes. But then I started to think how close that 3:15 or 3:11 was to a BQ and kept dismissing it as unrealistic. I’m not fast enough, can’t run enough miles, I don’t do strength work or stretch, I’m a Gemini born in a year of the dog, and a whole host of other excuses were bandied about. The Wife cut me off mid-sentence with an exasperated sigh and got up to walk away. She responded to my slightly hurt, confused look with:
“Stop debating and just do it.”
This didn’t help. “...wha… you mean… Vaporflys… ?” I feebly offered.
“No you idiot. Just go for it. You always spend weeks hemming and hawing over times like you’re planning to invade Russia in winter, then go run whatever you want to anyway. You’re like a machine. So just shut up and go BQ.”
I’m a machine. Visions of Rocky-esque training montages ran through my head and my swollen ego decided yes damn it, I’m going to BQ. I figured I’d be running the friendly Wineglass course and started writing up the training plan and convincing myself the workouts and paces weren’t beyond my ability. I downloaded the Rocky IV soundtrack. And I slowly started to believe. Then I got into the NYC Marathon, and my focus changed. I was ecstatic, this was the race I’ve wanted to run since before I even wanted to run, and for a while I forgot about goals and just enjoyed the fact that I would finally be joining the party on the Verrazano Bridge. Any running train of thought quickly ended up at Grand Central and included images of flying up 1st Ave through a tunnel of noise, and I spent weeks in this euphoric daze like a kid who got the “it” toy at Christmas. But as the spring racing season began the excitement gradually faded and I revisited my training plan for the year. The NYC course is definitely tougher than Wineglass. And I remember watching some nasty windy days in recent years on the first weekend of November. I need to run a 3:10 to BQ, but to get in I probably need to cut it down to 3:05. That’s almost my current 10k pace, and I couldn’t imagine running that over the 59th Street Bridge (sorry Mayor Koch).
Then Boston happened. You all know how that went. The winners weren’t the flashiest athletes or the ones in the most commercials or those with the best PRs. They were the grinders, the ones who don’t take no for an answer, who don’t make excuses, who don’t ever stop. The telemarketers of the marathon world, you could say. I marveled watching elites drop like flies while the regular folk endured and in a few cases even finished in the money. It was a race for those who lace up not because they’re getting paid to, but because they want to. Or maybe need to. It was a race celebrating those who consciously choose, without glory or paychecks, to be perpetually exhausted, always hungry, in pain, and forever lacking a complete set of toenails.
There were a lot of theories about why the elites seemingly suffered worse than the citizen runners. One thing I didn’t see mentioned but that I kept coming back to was that for most people who endured the conditions, they probably didn’t know if it was their first or last or only shot to run Boston. They couldn’t drop out and collect a check a few weeks later and try again next year. They may never again have the chance to go right on Hereford, left on Boylston and they weren’t going to be denied the opportunity, even by an apparent act of God. If you’re not inspired by that, you either need someone to check your pulse or you’re about to lecture me on how running will ruin my knees.
They say you should announce your goals and put them out there for all to see. Helps keep you accountable, they say. Helps you to, with apologies to the already long dead horse, keep showing up. So here we go. On November 4th I’m going to return to the city of my birth and qualify for the BostonMarathon. I’m not going to try, it won’t be an attempt. I’m going to just fucking do it.
Happy Sunday, everyone! As I discussed in my last post, I’m not training for anything. Right now, I just like running. I might want to run fast, or I might want to run slow. I just don’t know. The world is mine!
Great times with my family. I miss them already.
I got back from California on Thursday morning and I felt a little out of shape to say the least. I ran while I was there, but I wasn’t capable of running the miles needed to break even from all the pizza and junk that I ate.
4 miles burned off one of the slices of Round Table that I ate. Too bad I ate like 15 slices.
I was pretty worn out from a red eye flight on Thursday, so I didn’t go to work. I had Friday off too, so I guess I came home to a 4 day weekend! I ran a few miles on the treadmill on Friday (one on the manual treadmill, which is unpleasant but they say is good for me). On Saturday I ran my longest run since the injury, a 5 miler!
Felt great to hold up 5 fingers!
Running buddy Wade and I decided to run a lake loop on Sunday morning, and then it hit me. I ran 3 days in a row. I had to look back for the last time I ran 3 days in a row and that was back in August.
I’m going to try something new. I’m going streaking. I don’t care what the distances or the paces are, but I’m going to run SOMETHING every day until I don’t feel like it anymore. I might only run a mile, but I’m running.
Who’s with me?
Anybody else have any streaking experiences to share (running or otherwise)? I’d love to know how it went.
No running here. I'm going to celebrate National Running Day on Wednesday by getting my knee scoped. Last Tuesday I reviewed the MRI with the doc. He showed me the areas where there was significant "fraying" around the meniscus. Said it was an easy job for him to go clean it out. It's an outpatient procedure, and if I'm careful with the recovery, I should be back to running in 4-6 weeks. This is good news, but it does mean that 2018 will be marathon-less for me. That's disappointing, but best not to push things right away, and to fit one in before January I'd have to push pretty hard.
The last time all of my brothers, our sister and I were gathered in one place was 1984, when our younger brother was killed in a snowmobile accident. I'm the geographic outlier, so I guess it's mostly my fault. Although the two oldest don't get along. It happens.
This past week we joined for another sad occasion, the passing of our mother. She was 82 years old. Back in 1953 she was swept off her feet by a young Air Force mechanic and together they started a journey that carried them away to nearly every state in the US, eventually bringing along seven sons and two daughters (one of each taken away too soon). It wasn't an easy life thanks to boys being boys, and having battles of her own with depression and anxiety to deal with.
But she was old school. Always there. Always loving. Always cooking, cleaning, supporting, teaching. Mostly unrecognized by her self-absorbed children. She never complained. Her approach to life was to do your best, regardless of who did or didn't notice.
The last 20+ years of her life she had severe rheumatoid arthritis. The pain in her hips made it painful to walk. The pain in her hands made it painful to play her beloved piano. She still served three separate 18 month church missions (Louisiana, Kenya, Martin's Cove, WY) with Dad, despite the pain.
We laid her to rest beside her son Jim at the north end of the Teton Valley in Idaho. They'll have a great view.
Total mileage for the month: 355 (in comparison: January - 207, February - 254, March - 298, April - 307). I guess this is peak month -- also a monthly mileage personal record! Before this month I'd only run one week of mileage in the 80s ever (CIM peak mileage week), and the most I'd run in a month was 323 in October 2017.
April 30-May 6: 76.2
May 7-13: 81.0 (all time weekly mileage PR)
May 14-20: 82.2 (all time weekly mileage PR, the sequel)
May 21-27: 86.7 (all time weekly mileage PR, part 3 in this trilogy!)
May 28-June 3: projected at 72
We start many runs from this church & loved this sign!
May 19: The Bill Snyder Highway HalfMarathon in 1:21:41 for 2nd overall female. I was thrilled with this outcome with the mileage I had on my legs for this race (which I intended to run as a workout). Running a 1:21 during an 82 mile week has to be good for marathon training, right?
My May 19 race time was the second fastest half a woman ages
35-39 has ever run on a certified course in Kansas
May 2: 3 x 2 mile split tempos in 6:07, 6:05 / 6:09, 6:05 / 6:12, 6:02 (6:06 average) with 0.5 recovery jogs (2.2 warm up, 2.3 cool down). This was a pretty big workout a few days off of the Illinois Half, but so goes marathon training! My goal pace range was 5:55-6:10, and as per always I'd prefer to hit the lower end, especially at the end of the workout, but my legs were tired the entire run so I was happy to mostly hang on to the range. I had a hard time getting rolling on the final rep, and at about a half mile in I was averaging 6:23 pace, so I had to fight to bring the second to last mile down to 6:12. This was my first warmer workout, at 66* and 75% humidity...which is not bad, but was an abrupt change from the 30s-40s!
May 9: Flippin' Fartlek (2.3 warm up, 2.3 cool down). This workout is pushes of 6', 5', 4', 3', 2', 1' with recoveries of 1', 2', 3', 4', 5'. My push paces were 5:56, 6:01, 5:57, 5:48, 5:42, 5:18. I also ran this workout last month, so the obvious objective was to beat last month's paces, and I am happy to report that I mostly did that even at a humid 71 degrees. The 6', 3', 2', and 1' were faster this time; the 5' was 2 sec. slower and the 4' was exactly the same pace. I am pretty sure the 1' push is the fastest pace I've hit all year, although in full disclosure it included some decline and Strava grade-adjusted it to 5:30, whomp whomp. But on the flip side, Strava grade-adjusted the 6:01 5' push with some incline to 5:58. All in all I was perfectly happy with all of this on marathon training legs.
May 16: Medium long 12.3 miler with 0.15 (1:00ish) pick-ups in the final 5 miles. My push paces were 5:40, 5:27 (downhill), 6:07 (uphill), 5:40, 5:40 (average for the whole run was 7:13). The last time I ran a similar workout (March 27) I struggled to hit 6:30 paces on the pick-ups for whatever reason, so it was nice to not repeat that! It was fun to have a little work within the run instead of just a straight base one, and between the pick-ups my pace stayed faster than it had been before they started, I think because they opened up my stride.
May 19: 13.1 miles at tempo (6:13 average), with 2.2 warm-up and 5 cool-down. This wasn't the 3 x 4 mile split tempo workout I had planned, but hitting my goal tempo pace for those for 13.1 miles continuously instead was sure a confidence boost that I could use! Details are here.
May 23: 12 miles with 4 progressive fast finish in 6:48, 6:34, 6:21, 6:17 (7:01 average for all 12.3 miles). My goal splits for the progressive fast finish were 6:45, 6:35, 6:25, 6:15, so I was right on, but this type of workout always makes me wonder how in the world I ever ran a marathon at about the same pace as those final 2 miles, and even more so how I just ran 13.1 miles straight at 6:13 pace 4 days prior to this workout. In other words, that last mile was really hard! It was an uphill finish (our infamous Mentor Hill) and I was solo, but whew.
May 29: 8 x 0.25 hill repeats (3 warm up, 3 cool down). Hill repeats always make me feel like I'm going to go into cardiac arrest, but I'd chose this workout over 8 x 400 m on the track any day. This workout was extra challenging since I started it on tired legs (it usually takes me nearly a week to really come back from 24 milers)...I feel like I'm a broken record mentioning running everything on tired legs, but that pretty much covers my month! I got them done with grade-adjusted paces between 5:30-5:53. Actual paces were all over 7:00, showing how challenging the hills I run these on are. Climbing 97+ ft in 0.25 mile is no joke!
Doubles on May 2, 7, 9, 14, 16, 21, 23, and 28.
Strides on May 3, 14, 27, 31, and at least a few before all workouts.
Full body strength workouts on May 2, 5, 9, 12, 15, 20, 23, 26 (after 24.5 miles!), 30, and 5-10 minutes of core work nearly every day.
Favorite workout: Definitely the tempo turned race at the Bill Snyder Half on May 19, but if I can't count that then the split tempos on May 2. None of my workouts were bad this month, so that also feels like a big victory (refer to earlier this season when all of my workouts went poorly)!
May 5: 18.3 miles base pace (6:57). I celebrated this one! I am pretty good at pacing by effort level on runs, so when I saw a sub-7:00 mile split on mile 3 when my effort was low, I had a flashback to the relaxed long runs that I did leading up to CIM when I was averaging 6:5X. This season I've often wondered how I did those and how they seemed so easy! But on this run I felt back to my fall self, and clipped off the miles on rolling farm roads (608 ft elevation gain). My final 8 miles were all 6:39-6:50 (except for one 6:56), and they felt amazing! I was very thankful for this run. Rebecca joined me for about 6 middle miles (from about 3.5-9.5...we have a meeting up system because no one else is currently doing marathon long runs), but otherwise I was solo enjoying God's creation.
May 12: 22.7 miles (7:03). Hello summer! I was pleased to get this big one done and to finish feeling strong! Apparently over-dressing on cooler runs really helped (more details below), because I usually suffer on my first few long runs in warmer temps, and even though I went straight from 47 degrees on May 5 to 71 degrees and 80% humidity for this run, it didn't phase me aside from needing more fluids. I ran 3.5 miles to meet Rebecca, ran about 9 miles with her, ran to a spot Amy had dropped water, then ran a course that Amy and Jeff were running in the opposite direction so I could say hi to them on the way back to my house. I dropped bottles with nuun in two spots, carrying 2 bottles for 0.3 then 1 bottle for 1.1 farther to place them at spots I'd be passing again later in the run. I drank at approximately 6.5, 12 (also a gel), and 18. I didn't stop my watch for any bottle pick ups, but grabbed them while on the run (also no bathroom stops). I did have to stop twice to safely cross a highway, so my elapsed time was 25 seconds longer than my moving time, whomp whomp (I try not to stop my watch on these runs since race clocks don't stop)! The course I ran had 696 ft elevation gain, and when I had to choose from 2 routes that would get me back home from mile 17.5ish, I chose the more difficult course over the easier one that I knew would give me faster splits. I want to be prepared for Lemondrop hill around mile 22 of Grandma's! My 22 miler before CIM was 9 second/mile faster average, but it was also in 28 degrees (I love that Garmin Connect saves weather data), so I think this was comparable.
May 19: 20.4 miles (2.2 warm-up, 13.1 at 6:13, 5 cool-down), described above and extensively here.
May 26: 24.5 miles (7:00), The Big One! I hoped to run around 7:00 pace, so I was happy to hit that right on, although of course 6:59 would have been better! Always thankful, never satisfied, right?! It was warm (72*), sunny (no shade on the route), and humid (90% humidity) for this, and I wanted to finish it faster/stronger than I did, but based on how I felt during the final few miles I was happy just to hold my pace steady. It pretty much felt like the end of a marathon, and I kept telling myself "This is making you stronger, this is good practice for the marathon, just run the mile you're in" and also "Just get in and don't walk!", which is something I've told myself in the final miles of many marathons. The course had almost 800 ft of elevation gain, which is almost double what Grandma's has. I took one gel during the run and that was not enough (my blood sugar got really low towards the end), so lesson learned to at least carry two, but again probably good practice. I ran 6 with Rebecca, 6 alone, then 12 with Daniel. A big thanks to him for pulling me along at a consistent pace towards the end when I was struggling! I again did all of my drinking on the run and had no stops. My 24 before CIM was a little faster, but it was 42* for that one so I feel this was comparable. When I got in from the run, my husband went outside for a bit then came back in and said, "It's jungle humid; 7:00 pace is like 6:45 today!" I hope he was right! This run was also a good reminder that although overall I'm dying less in the warmer temps this season, they do still affect me so if Grandma's is warm I need to go out more conservatively. Around 70* and sunny feels way warmer than 70* and cloudy too!
My Wednesday medium long runs all morphed into workouts this month, so are described above. It also seemed like I ran double-digit mileage more days than not, making there no real distinction between medium long runs and every day runs this month.
Favorite long run: I'm going with the 22.7, because I felt stronger at the end than I did on the 24.5!
Amy, Jeff, and I are all Grandma's bound!
While I sure hope it's not hot and humid for Grandma's Marathon, I'm training as if it will be. I suffered hard in the Dam to Dam Half last year, when we were hit with temperature and humidity levels much higher than anything I'd trained in during our relatively cool spring, and I don't want to repeat that. I did a lot of over-dressing in training this month, wearing more clothing than I needed on most easy morning runs I did. I never imagined how much I'd sweat wearing a stocking hat at 65*! Of course, I also never thought I'd wear a stocking cap running at 65*... My friend Liz and I used to call runners who over-dressed at races "Arctic Runners", and every time I'd put on too much clothing I'd think about that term! Not dying in or even feeling bothered by the warmer humid temperatures during my 22.7 miler and at The Bill Snyder Highway Half made me confident this strategy works. Dying a little on my 24 miler made me confident that sunny is more difficult than cloudy at the same temperature!
I had blood work done in April that showed some irregularities that may have explained my running slump in February and March. Since I was already feeling much better when I had it completed, my doctor wasn't too worried and had me re-test about a month later, and I am happy to report that everything is back to normal in May! The high values in my April test indicated that I had a virus, possibly mono, which is crazy but would certainly explain why I had many runs where I was grossly off the paces I should have been able to run.
I feel like female runners are constantly told that we are likely to be low on iron, so I'd started taking an iron supplement back in February when I was feeling bad, thinking that was perhaps why. My blood work came back high on iron, indicating that I didn't need a supplement! I stopped taking it as soon as I got those results, but learn from my mistake and don't supplement unless your physician has approved it, even if society tells you that you probably need it. I'm lucky I was only taking it for a short time period; too much iron over a long period can damage your liver and kidneys.
I logged into my Athlinks account for the first time since 2010...it turns out I had a lot of unclaimed race results, but now it's mostly updated. I'm not sure why some races are on there while others aren't, but my only one missing that really mattered was my halfmarathon PR race. As I was going through to claim my results, it really reminded me just how many races I've run that were the wrong distance over the years, with results including a 10K in the 35s (short!) and a mile that was 6:08 (long!).
No days off again this month; I've run every day since 1/27/18...if all goes according to plan my next day off may be June 17, the day after Grandma's (or I may run a little that day to promote recovery, we shall see...but I will take the week after mostly off).
Photo bombing Amy's daily Lululemon photo after heat adapting
My fast young training partner left for med school, but I'm
going to convince her to run a marathon with me soon
Albani had Awana awards night.
Albani ran her second ever 5K at the Girls on the Run 5K on May 5. It was warm, and before the race she said she was worried the weather would hurt her race time. She really does listen to things I say! After the race we went to Artsfest (a lot of walking outside), and that afternoon Albani ran all around playing with a neighbor. We all slept well that night!
Mother's Day! Albani gave me a sweet card that she and Jon bought when I was present (they tried to be sneaky but were very bad at it) and a bird feeder she made at school. After church that day I got a nap and we watched the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials from YouTube, hah.
Albani's art was chosen out of over 3,000 pieces created at her elementary school this year to be exhibited in Missouri State's art education department, and we got to attend a special young artist's reception.
We did a family fun weekend in Manhattan following the Bill Snyder Highway HalfMarathon! I am so thankful to be able to incorporate races into activities like this, and that my family supports my racing.
May 24 was the last day of school! Albani will go to summer school in June, because our district offers it for everyone and she enjoys it, plus I like keeping her in the routine and getting some extra learning in. They will do a unit on inventions and get to make their own creation! I cannot believe I have a 5th grader...
We took Albani to the drive-in movie theater for the first time over Memorial Day weekend. I hurt for about 36 hours afterward from staying up until 1:00 a.m.!
We do a lot more outdoor and weekend activities when the weather is nice! Related: I didn't read as many books this month.
Excited for her second ever 5K!
Proud but hot!
Some were more capable of holding frames
than others...Jon took this without even telling
me all of the problems with my pose!
Lightsaber at Artsfest
Sucker Days in Nixa (named after the sucker
fish, not the candy, haha!)
Bubbles at Sucker Days
Baby ducks at Orsclens
This was on Mother's Day
The title was "Sunflower Weave"
Proud Mom moment
Outside the MSU art building
Last day of school!
What she did after school on the last day
Good morning! I have a few hours of an airport layover to kill, so I figured I’d draw up a training plan. Here it is…
Week 1 – ?
Week 2 – ?
Week 3-? – ?
Isn’t it beautiful? I promise not to deviate from it in any way. I promise not to stress out about hitting the right paces or making sure there are enough hills or laps.
Now that I’m done with my structured running as part of my physical therapy, the world is mine. I’m not about to be tied down at my first taste of freedom.
I’m still not quite right. My baby calf tires. My lungs lack the capacity that they had before my injury. 4 miles was once a warmup and is now a long run. There’s work to be done. I’m going to joyfully do it.
I miss that speedy fella. Time to bring him back.
(*except for Rehoboth, which is really in its own category of everything)
There are some sure signs of spring’s arrival that I look forward to each year. Birds singing in the mornings again. The sun coming up before I’m done with my pre-work run. Daffodils and tulips poking their colorful heads out, even through the snow sometimes. Cherry blossoms of course. And the George Washington Parkway Classic 10-Miler! This was my very first double-digit run back in 2012 (only a couple of weeks before I broke my ankle), and I’ve run it every year since. It’s become my favorite DC-area race due to its beautiful course, reliably crisp spring weather, and well-organized logistics. It is also typically held the Sunday after the BostonMarathon, so I’m usually still a little high on all the excitement of tracking superstar Loopsters on Marathon Monday as I head to my own race. The fact that I’ve PRed there all but one year doesn’t hurt either…
This year, the Parkway Classic was designated as my big spring goal race by Coach, so most of my workouts over the last few months have been aimed at this, with a target 10M pace of 7:40-7:30. This would be a good 30+ seconds per mile faster than I ran this race last year, so this felt like an audacious goal. But I’ve learned to do as Coach says, and even if things went poorly, it was “only” a 10-miler, and life wouldn’t be terrible for too long before the finish line.
April 22nd looked to be another perfect spring race day: sunny with an overnight low in the mid-40s and a high in the mid-50s, with a light breeze. I got Flat Caitlin ready and made it an early night given the ridiculous time that I needed to leave the next morning to get the shuttle to the start.
I left my apartment at o’ dark thirty to board the shuttle bus that would take me from downtown DC to the start line out at Mount Vernon in Alexandria, VA. It was a long ride, but I chatted with a few of the runners sitting near me, mostly about how crazypants Boston was, and about upcoming race plans. We got to the start just as the sun was coming up and illuminating the little athletes’ village on the lawn of George Washington’s estate. I like to get to the start excessively early (one year of having to sprint off the bus, drop my bag, and race to the start corral just in time for the gun to go off was enough, so now I over-correct), so I found a nice place to camp out and killed some time on social media, since runner friends are reliably up early.
This was my second time running, and first time racing, in my new Nike Vaporfly 4% shoes, which look pretty darn cool with neon socks.
Eventually it came to be time to ditch my warm layers, check my bag, and go do my prescribed 2-mile warmup. I headed off down the bike path alongside the parkway we’d be running on, and immediately didn’t feel awesome. There was no reason not to feel awesome: the weather was perfect, all my workouts leading up to today had been stellar, it had been 7 full weeks since the New Orleans half-marathon, and I was wearing my magic shoes. But I just didn’t have any pep in my step, and it was a struggle to get those warmup miles under a 9:00 pace. I tried hard not to dwell on that, and told myself that race-day adrenaline would kick in once I was in the company of the other runners. I made my way back to the start line, and got into my corral.
A few minutes later, the gun sounded and we were heading off down the parkway! There’s a big downhill right at the start, so I made sure to keep my pace in check and tried to just stay relaxed. My plan (i.e. Coach’s plan) was to try to hit the upper end of my pace target (7:40/mile) right away, and camp out there for the first 3-4 miles. Then I would try to drop the pace by 5 seconds or so for the next 5K, and then try to drop the hammer as much as I could for the final 5K and bring it in at whatever pace I could manage (preferably under 7:30).
I clicked off the first mile right on target, but the downhill start provided a big assist. Once the road leveled out and we entered into several miles of small-but-noticeable rolling hills, it was a much harder effort to hold that 7:40 pace than I wanted it to be. I tried to focus on the mile I was in, rather than worrying about how I was possibly going to drop the pace come Mile 4 when Mile 2 felt so hard. I also had the added mental boost/torture of knowing that Coach had signed up for live tracking, so she would know if I’d been able to follow our plan before I’d even finished the race.
I finished Mile 4 and knew that it was time to pick it up. I told myself that it was just one mile at a time. I could run this one mile at 7:35 pace and then see where I was. I focused on the upbeat tempo of my music and dug in.
7:34. Boom. Ok self, you’re halfway done now, and the back half of the course has more downhills. You got this. And COACH IS WATCHING.
Hitting my Phase 2 target right when I was supposed to provide a major confidence boost (as did finally getting to the nice long downhill in Mile 6!). Miles 6 and 7 clicked off relatively quickly, and then it was just the final three miles to go. Phase 3. Drop the hammer and race. I pretended to be the kind of runner that actually “races” during a race and started picking out people ahead that I could try to catch up to and pass. I tried not to look at my watch as much as possible during this last phase and just ran as hard as I could manage. There was one final short-but-steep hill right at the Mile 9 marker, a left-hand turn onto Union Street, and then about 0.75 miles straight to the finish line. I caught up to one of the women I’d chatted with on the bus who had been just ahead of me for the last few miles, and as I passed her she picked up her pace and we raced each other down the last quarter-mile or so (I won by a few meters).
I waited a minute for my new friend to finish (we follow each other on Strava now). We high-fived and congratulated each other as we made our way over to where they were handing out breakfast tacos (totally a step up from the usual boring snack boxes from past years!).
I was eager to get my checked bag so that I could upload my Garmin data and look at all my splits together. I knew that I’d hit my target paces and had negative split as we’d planned, but I wanted to see the pretty pretty graph that proved it.
PR by 7 minutes!
I went over to the beer garden and found some run club friends who had finished earlier, and enjoyed some liquid recovery.
More people joined the party as they finished, and it was fun as always to rehash the race, talk about upcoming race plans, etc. with runner friends. I love this race so much.
I headed out with one of the run club friends to go meet some other run club friends (who didn’t race this morning) for brunch. Obviously, such a great race called for an appropriately celebratory brunch drink.
Another year, another fantastic Parkway Classic.
(They didn’t start giving out medals until my third year, which was the race’s 30th anniversary, so I don’t have a medal for all my times doing it. But it is pretty cool that I have all the medals that this race has ever given out!)
Next up (thanks to the time machine that enables me to post bloops about races that happened a month ago): the National Women's Half-Marathon with some Loopsters!