Monday, May 23, 2016

91% of the Perfect Race

People will tell you life is like an ultra - plenty of highs as lows as you make your journey. When it came to running, 2013 was the highest of highs, with wins at American River and Western States and a speedy 100 miler at Desert Solstice. But it was more than just wins and good race results, I felt great and the running all seemed to come so easy. But by Western States 2014 I was on a downward slide. I managed pretty good runs at WS, Angeles Crest and 100km Worlds, but everything felt a lot harder and they were all off my expectations. By 2015, things on the running front were hitting rock bottom. I limped though Lake Sonoma and Western States with sub-par finishes all while feeling terrible. I was dropped by Liza Howard at Leadville just a couple miles into my pacing gig and I gave up my US 100km spot because I didn't feel like I could represent my country well. And all the while, every medical test said I was perfectly normal and fit as a fiddle. 

Finally, finally I got diagnosed with asthma and things started looking up. I was getting treated and feeling so much better. I won 5 mile race, a half marathon, a 50k and a 6 hour. Things seemed to be going so well. Right up until I lined up for Gorge Waterfalls. Holy big bag of crap! I felt bad the whole week leading up to the race, but race day I just felt awful! I was hating every step starting about mile three. By mile 22, I called it a day. There was nothing that was so bad that I couldn't have finished if I had wanted, but I am not new to this rodeo and I knew just another finish wouldn't mean much to me. I quit but I didn't give a second thought to the DNF - I had bigger fish to fry. But first, I had to feel better again. During this time I was on some pretty heavy duty asthma medications - albuterol, steroid inhalers, oral anti-inflammatories and even a brief course of prednisone. I hate the meds - they make me feel like I am defective and weak. Taking them means I have to face that something with me isn't right and I don't like that. I'm an ultra-runner, I eat more veggies in a day than most people do in a week, and all my addictions revolve around exercise - I should be invincible!! But I wasn't; my lungs were failing me.  The good news is that the meds seem to work. It also seems that alder pollen is a huge allergic trigger for me and by the end of April their season was dying down. Everything seemed to be coming together as I headed off to Philadelphia for the Dawn to Dusk to Dawn  (D3) 24 hour race. But after everything I had gone through, my goal seemed a bit outlandish.

Ever since running 14:11 for 100 miles at Desert Solstice in 2013, I've wanted another shot, a shot to see how close I could come to Ann Trason's 13:47 World Record if that was my primary focus. I trained my butt off and did multiple long runs on the track, trying to pace exactly as I would need, but still, how can you tell how 30 miles will translate into 100?? And just to make sure I was in full panic mode, the RD let me know that the 100 mile mark had not been recertified after the track was resurfaced last year, so I'd have to run 267 meters extra to get an official time. 100 miles may not be that far, but 267 extra meters is really, really far. 

Race day was warm even at the start and I had ice in my bra and hat by 8 am. Still, I felt really good and I was right on pace. My quads started getting sore around mile 40, but lap after lap I was hitting the paces and it didn't seem to be a big deal. By mid afternoon the clouds rolled in, but so did the wind. And then it started to pour! I was fortunate to have Josh Finger and John Cash on the track with me and both of them were doing a few stretches at a similar pace so every now and then I'd get a bit of company and even a wind shield. I can't thank those two enough for letting me hang behind them for a mile or two at a time. I came through 100km in 8:24:51 (not 8:18 as reported) - perfect 8:08 pace. Everything was right on plan.


The pacing plan  :)


Cruising right along
Pacing with Josh in the wind


Checking the 100km split

Lap after lap, I was nailing it. My super crew was sticking right to the plan I had given them and if I needed anything else, I'd tell them on one lap and pick it up the next. I never broke stride. The bad news is that I didn't feel that I could predict what I would need more than nine hours in to the race so I only had a plan for that long. Let's just say the crew did NOT like that - lesson learned! But still I was cruising, passing through 12 hours with more than 88 miles, trailing only Ann Trason's marks for 12 hours. 355 laps perfectly paced at 8:08 and I was 7 minutes up on the 100M world record. 


Sticking to the plan ("1" = done)


Closing on 12 hours

My quads were burning now, but I knew I'd be sore after; it's a long way on a hard track, of course they were burning! But from a fatigue standpoint, I was golden. I didn't feel taxed at all. I knew I had a 100 more minutes in me, piece of cake! Going into this race, I thought my chances were exceedingly slim, but if you had asked me at 12 hours, I would've bet the house; I was so SURE I had it! But I didn't have 100 minutes left in me; I had 26 more minutes and then my quads shut down completely. It wasn't cramps, it wasn't bonking, it wasn't me feeling too tired, and it certainly wasn't my mind calling it quits. My quads were just dead and they had gone into full on rigor mortis. I took a gel, a salt tab, caffeine, 2 ibuprofen, a quad massage - nothing would revive the hunks of burning flesh on my legs. My cushion was so great, I only needed to hit 9 minute pace for the remaining 8.8 miles, but instead I pushed with everything I had only to achieve a disappointing 11+ minute pace. After 91.2 miles my perfect race went up in flames.

The crew version of what happened

But don't let my Gorge Waterfalls DNF fool you: I am not a quitter when I have my mind set on something. And one thing I said I knew I could do no matter how the 100 mile attempt went was stay on the track for 24 hours. I hobbled to 100 miles in 14:08ish and got my official 100M (100.16 M) time at 14:09:43. I then took a short break to change out of garments still wet from the rain and into warmer clothes and I set off with my iPod ready to walk the next ten hours and see the race to the conclusion. My legs didn't seem to work, but I was in good spirits and was doing well on fuel after a couple of puddings. I should apologize to my fellow competitors for singing so loudly when I most certainly do not have a good singing voice! Afterwards, someone asked me if I was singing gospel music, which I most certainly was not (teeny-bopper pop rock all the way!) so maybe I owe God an apology too for my bad singing! But as I walked, I realized the master's 200km American Record (20:20) was a done deal even if I didn't run at all. But what if I tried to run?? I was stiff and sore and couldn't do anything faster than a 10:30 pace, but I could run a tiny bit. And then I fell in with Connie Gardner, the Queen of tough, and was able to keep going. It hurt and it was hard but I could keep that 10:30-11:00 pace going. It was so far from those 8:08 miles I was cranking off earlier, yet it was so much more effort to move my nearly lifeless legs and somewhere along the line, I lost my stomach. But I was still moving better than I expected. Forget the master's record, let's get the overall record! My Frankenstein legs got me to the mark in 18:48:28, more than 30 minutes better than the current American best of 19:19:05.  I promised my husband I would get this record in 2013 and then didn't so I felt like I had redeemed myself.


I just need a tiny rest!! I was up three minutes later!

That was officially the end of all running. I took a brief rest in a chair to regroup, but three and a half minutes later, I was up and ready to finish even though I knew I'd be walking every step for the next five hours. Bob Hearn was still chugging away, pushing toward his own 200km record (50+ age group) and I told him he would catch me if he kept it up. "That's my plan!" he told me in a very matter-of-fact tone (he has a different version of the story, but that is what I heard at the time). My brain had a brief flash of competitiveness, but my legs wouldn't have any of it - it was very certain at that point that walking was the best I had! By dawn I had covered 143.6 miles, and while I could not best Ann Trason's 100M time, it was a small point of pride that I eclipsed her best 24 hour mark.

*****
Earlier this year a friend of mine confided to me that the Fuji Mountain Race is her dream race. As a Japanese American, the race not only represents a physical challenge but it has significant cultural meaning. The race course is challenging: nearly 10,000 feet of climbing in 13 miles and my friend is not a trail runner. But she is a tough and tenacious woman with a sub 3:00 marathon to her credit. "You should do it," I told her. 
"More than 50% of the runners don't make it in the time limit," she countered.
"You can do it," I told her. "I know you can." I meant it but she still had doubts.
"What if I fail?" she wondered.
"So what? So what if you do fail?"
"Oh, I'd be so embarrassed!" She told me.
*****

I had a BIG goal going into D3 and I knew it was a long shot. I didn't hit that goal, but I am not embarrassed one bit. How will you ever know what you can do if you don't set the bar high?? There are plenty of things I will second guess: Should I have done longer runs on the track? Would my quads be stronger if I hadn't stopped lifting? Could I have made it if the weather were better? Should I have aimed for 2:03's instead of 2:02'? But I do not doubt for one minute that I gave everything I had on that track. And for that, there are no regrets. I am not giving up on this dream. I may be old and have a defective set of lungs, but I am not ready to wave the white flag just yet!

While I didn't hit my main goal, there were plenty of things I did accomplish:
8:24 100km split - qualifying for US 100km team
88.23M in 12 hours - Age group world record and third best female 12 hour mark ever
14:09:43 100M time(officially) - New US track 100M American Record and 100M Age group WR, 4th fastest female 100M time ever
18:48:29 200km - New American Record 
143.6M in 24 hours - 8th best North American 24 hour run and qualified for US 24 hr team (Team USA liaison Howard Nippert says he thinks it is the first time someone qualified for both teams in one race)

All in all it was a pretty successful failure! ;) But the best part might be the sense of optimism I got from the race, the idea that I can not only find joy in running, but maybe, just maybe I can be good at it again, too. That being said, I do not know how optimistic I am for Bighorn in four weeks! Woowee - it took me a week just to walk again! And with essentially no trail training on my legs, it's going to be an adventure! But that's what ultra running and life are all about!
 So happy to be sitting down!
 Girls rule, boys drool! The ladies go 1,2,3 overall!












Friday, April 1, 2016

New: Liposuction For Athletes!

On the bulletin board over my desk hangs a saying cut from a magazine ad. It reads: "If you can run, you can run farther. If you can train, you can train harder." This is a sentiment most ultra-runners embrace, except for many actually get to their training limits; a point where more miles and training are detrimental and prohibit recovery. But ultra-runners are a discontented crowd always looking for ways to improve fitness and get better. So along with training, many runners focus on achieving a specific "race weight" to perform at their best.

So while Tyra Banks and feel good social media posts urge us to love our bodies for what they are, running literature is telling us to get thin - crazy thin - if you want to run your best. In fact Runner's World continuously publishes the formula: 1 pound = 2 sec/mile. And the Jack Daniels' table has weight as a variable in one column so you can see your predicted times at your current fitness if you lost weight.

There's just one problem: dieting SUCKS! Sure you can lose weight if you eat only baby carrots and lettuce with water to wash it down, but where is the joy in that? Show me cheesecake, cookies and beer and I'll show you joy! I mean, come on, isn't one of the main reasons we run to be able to eat more food?? Hell, chocolate has been shown to stimulate more pleasure receptors in the brain than sex!

Well, now you can have your cake and eat it, too - literally! Introducing liposuction for athletes.

Liposuction has been around for decades and is a safe and fast procedure for removing unwanted pounds. Liposuction can be done in the out patient setting and you can be back to running just three days later, only at a much lighter and much more enjoyable weight.

Salem Bariatric surgeon, Dr. Raj Nair adds, "Thousands of athletes use surgery every year to help them get back in the game, from things like Tommy John surgery, tendon scraping and arthroscopic knee procedures. So why shouldn't athletes use surgery to help them get to the top of their game as well?"

Drugs in the amphetamine family are very effective at stimulating weight loss; unfortunately, they are all banned by WADA and an athlete risks sanctions and social ostracism if they use them. But liposuction is perfectly legal! The masses might balk at this being unfair, since only the rich can afford it, but with all the new liposuction centers popping up, the price of the procedure is on par with a high end home treadmill or an altitude tent.

"Ugh, ultra runners spend so much time talking about nutrition and it is so annoying," says Dr. Nair, who is an ultrarunner himself. "If you want to be fast, it doesn't matter what you eat, you just have to be thin. If your diet causes you to put on a little extra weight, just have it surgically removed a few months before your next big race." Dr. Nair often has two donuts and several cans of Coke for breakfast, further demonstrating that this Stanford grad doesn't place a lot of importance on the quality of food.
Medical expert, Dr. Raj Nair, trying to get some more of his beloved doughnuts

While we are not aware of any elite runners who publicly admit to having had liposuction, it seems on the brink of becoming the next best thing for achieving that performance edge, especially in the masters athletes where weight just doesn't seem to budge from your 40+ year old middle. If getting to race weight seems like too much sacrifice of all your favorite, check out liposuction. It just may be the solution you are looking for!

Mac Smith is all ready for his liposuction surgery yesterday (or his meniscus repair, whatever)

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Spring Break!

We originally weren't planning to do much for spring break as we thought Megan might be having her tonsils out. But after a fairly illness free winter with NO strep throat, we decided maybe Megan was growing out of this repetitive sore throat thing and surgery wasn't such a good idea after all so we booked a couple days at the coast and a couple days at Mt. Hood. And then I read an article about how awesome the Utah National Parks are in the early spring and then I needed to go there. Ever since we visited Yellowstone and Grand Tetons in the summer of 2014, I've been kind of obsessed with getting my kids to the National Parks. After this past week, we've hit 15 and I've got hopes of hitting another five this summer with the kids and two more without them- not too bad for getting out and seeing this awesome country!

We got in to Vegas late Saturday night and as luck would have it, the Moonlight Ultra 24 hr and 100M race had a six hour little sister that started on Sunday morning (the others started at 6pm Saturday, hence the "moonlight" in the moniker). You are supposed to be sleep deprived when you are in Vegas, right?? So I headed off to Floyd Lamb park right about the time most drunken gamblers were calling it a night. The race was a low key affair on a 1.74M gravel loop through the desert. I was looking for a long run, but didn't want to push too hard with Gorge Waterfalls only two weeks away, so was hoping for at least 40 but not more than 42 miles. The dry desert air was great for my asthma and I felt better than I had in weeks (Oregon pollen is not my friend). I chugged along doing my own thing and by mile 12, I had already lapped every other runner in the race. I got to 40 miles in 5:26 just as it was starting to get pretty warm. If I kept the pace up, I knew I'd go over my plan of 42 miles, so I ended up walking, taking selfies and texting Mac the last lap and made it back to the start/finish in 5:45 where I called it a day - First place overall by three laps (5+ miles) and a new women's course record by almost 7 miles. The people at the race were super nice and it was inspiring watching the 100 milers plugging away especially as the day heated up.
Lap splits. I used the bathroom on lap 4 and 10 (lap 4 was only mile 6. I was so disappointed in my colon! I will attribute it to a bad airport meal and little sleep). Lap 22 I ran part of the way with the men's leader for some company and lap 24, I lolligagged. Otherwise, pretty decent training at 8:16 goal pace.
The Moonlight Ultra course
Just taking a selfie mid-race!
Since middle aged parents with their kids in tow have no business in Vegas during spring break, we fled Sin City as soon as the awards were over and headed to the family friendly land of Utah. God bless the Mormon women who all have about a hundred children and they raise them all without the crutch of alcohol! My own brand of  parenting consists of hiking all the sass and energy out of my kids and that's just what we did (and I didn't drink once! But there was one horrendous night where Mac let the kids have caffeinated soda at dinner and I might have had some murderous thoughts, though I am not sure if they were towards Mac or the kids!). We made the ambitious drive to Moab that night and then worked our way back through Arches, Canyonlands, Little Wildhorse Canyon and Goblin Valley, Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Zion. Wow - such an awe inspiring list of places in such a small area! 

Friday night we were back to St. George where we stumbled upon the Hog and Jog 5k. When I asked Megan if she wanted to do it, she looked at me like I had just let out a stinky fart, because running isn't cool any more and she "doesn't want to be crazy like me and all my friends who have to run all the time." And here I thought the family vacation was going so well! But Liam was all over it. He told me he likes running more than swimming and would even go if there wasn't any bacon! Liam crushed his 5k PR with a 32 flat and I managed three bacon "shots" during that time which was a bacon PR for me! Not bad mother-son bonding and all for $15 each! We spent the afternoon getting the VIP treatment at a nice Vegas resort courtesy of my cousin, who is a professional gambler, before catching a late night flight back to Portland.

Five national parks, two races and lots of quality family time - certainly a lot better than a tonsillectomy! Hope you all had a great Spring Break!


Arches NP
Landscape Arch, Arches NP


Delicate Arch, Arches NP
Double Arch, Arches NP
She says she doesn't like to run, but I caught her running!
Canyonlands NP
Planking on Whale Rock, Canyonlands NP
Goblin Valley State Park
My two Goblins

Hickman Bridge, Capitol Reef NP

Bryce
Merry Christmas from the Smiths!
Angels Landing, Zion NP
Bacon!
 
Right on the white line...future Badwater runner??


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Hagg Lake 50K - A Pyrrhic Victory

Well, I said half marathon phase was over and ultra-phase had begun and what better way to kick it off than with an ultra!


Nowadays, there are big ultras every month and the two loop mud-fest at Hagg Lake has been relegated to "small local ultra" status, but back in pre-Ultramarathon Man days, Hagg Lake was pretty much the only thing on the Pacific Northwest Ultra calendar this time of year. In its 15 year history many top name ultra runners have kicked off their season at Hagg including Kami Semick, Joelle Vaught, Ashley Nordell, Cassie Scallon, Krissy Moehl, Devon Yanko, Denise Bourassa, Darla Askew, and for the men guys like Hal Koerner, Karl Meltzer, Max King, Jeff Browning, Ty Draney, Rod Bien, Ryan Bak, William Emerson, Jacob Puzey and Sean Meissner. With a history as a season starter like that and a location less than 90 minutes away, it was hard not to choose Hagg as a kick off for my (hopeful) comeback to ultra running. Plus, I have four Hagg Lake finishes of my own (my first goes way back to the 25k in 2002!) and five finishes gets you into The Hall of Mud, and who could resist that?? (you maybe haven't heard of it, but I assure you, it is very prestigious. Very.)

I took a very easy week between the Roaring Run Half marathon, mostly doing little three milers on my treadmill at a pace that I am embarrassed to post on my Strava (and usually don't!). But I assure you that 12+ minute pace is very deliberate (and even way slower than MAF) to allow recovery and "flushing the system" without adding any running stress or fatigue (I have to do these on the TM to run that slow, but I actually enjoy it - makes me feel like I could go forever!). I ended Roaring Run with a pain in my right hamstring and right foot, but the right foot pain was mostly gone the next day and the hamstring pain got diagnosed as piriformis/sciatic pain and stretching (esp. pretzel stretch) seemed to be helping so I didn't think it would be too big a deal. I had done five 20+ mile runs since Jan. 1, and while 13 weeks can't substitute for years of continuous training, I was feeling pretty good about my fitness for a 50k. What should have worried me was the fact that none of those runs were on technical trail.

Now Hagg Lake is not a technical trail, nor is it particularly hilly with 3,370' feet of total gain, but the issue at Hagg is the name sake mud. Hagg runs very differently on dry versus wet years, and this was a VERY wet year, especially after six straight hours of rain the night before. The dirt becomes a thick layer of sticky clay and it only gets worse the second loop after everyone has churned it all up the first time around. My La Sportiva Mutants did great in the mud, but so much force is needed to push off your toes to propel you forward and not having done any training for this, my feet were weak. By the end of the first lap, my arches were hurting badly! Hips and quads also had something to say, but only just typical minor whines.
Did I mention the mud?
The dam on the lake before the five mile AS is usually a nice little break from the trail, but by the second loop, I was in agony. I pretty much ran duck foot the final nine miles with several shouted "Ow!'s" (but no cuss words!). Fortunately, I had a lead and was able to keep it to pick up my third Hagg win, but at that point, there would have been no racing from me if anyone had passed. I was so glad to finish, but then the pain only got worse. I have never been so anti-social after a race! I made it to my car where I finally got my shoe off but could not take off my socks because of the pain when contorting my foot. I thought I'd walk the 100 yards to the food, but I almost fell over on my second step because I couldn't  put pressure on my foot. I got in my car and drove away and twice screamed in pain while driving (who needs to brake??).

My overall time was pretty slow compared to my other times, but I think this was the muddiest I have seen the course and the times across the board were slow. The men's winning time was 4:16 as compared to a 3:24 course record and winner Zach Gingerich is not a slow guy! Even the top ten master's times for men are all under 4 hours, which again just speaks to how slow it was this year. That being said, I know I didn't run the second lap very well, but I don't feel like it was due to bad pacing or fitness and my fueling was good, so overall, I am happy with the race. I am not, however, happy about my feet! I have a newfound sympathy for plantar fasciitis sufferers and I must admit, I probably didn't have a lot before. I have run through so many different "niggles" that I kind of thought people must be exaggerating with PF, but it is no joke! I hope WebMD has some pointers for me (hahaha- as if!). I am 3 for 4 in races (plus a master's win) since December after getting diagnosed and medicated for asthma, and while winning isn't really that important, especially in these smaller races, it is just nice to feel like I am getting back in the game. I don't want to have another set back! (yes, that is my whiny baby voice!). Anybody got any good PF advice??
Happy to be done! Also happy my car is the closest one!





Tuesday, February 9, 2016

I am Old Lady, Hear Me Roar - Roaring Run Half Marathon

This past weekend I ran the Roaring Run Half Marathon to see what 13 weeks of training and medication could get me. Well, it got me a strained right hamstring and a finishing time that didn't mesh with my goal time! 

Three weeks ago, I ran the Cascade Half Marathon at a controlled effort for a 1:26:44 finish. I thought three additional weeks of training along with a "race day" mentality (including a bit of a taper and better pre-race nutrition) would allow me to run ten seconds per mile faster for a 1:24:30 finish (6:27 pace), for my second fastest half ever, which would be a good accomplishment in my book (my PR came in 2013 when I was running out of my mind and I am not sure I will ever be able to equal that effort). I actually think it was a pretty reasonable goal and in line with my fitness. Unfortunately, I got a little too fired up early on and deviated a bit from the plan. (That's a euphemism for "I went out too fast and screwed up the pacing"). 

Two women were out front together early, chatting away at 6:10 pace. I knew better than to stay with them, but I stayed a little too close especially as the first two miles went downhill. I backed off but only to about 6:20 pace - still faster than goal pace. By mile 7 my hamstrings were sore and cement like and the pace slowly dribbled into the 6:40 range for a 50 second positive split and a 1:25:18 finish. Oops! At the time, I thought my hammies were just suffering from the hot early pace, but afterwards it was clear something wasn't right. My right hammy and right foot were in a lot of pain. My planned five mile cool down lasted all of 0.2 miles. On the bright side, I was at the front of the line for the potato bar! 
Covered bridge over the Roaring River
Saturday after the race, my kids were in a piano competition. Liam was up first and he totally choked. He left the stage in tears. Afterwards, I tried to tell him that we all have bad days and that I didn't have a very good race that morning. "Yeah, except nobody cares about running, Mom. It's just a stupid race!" So as you can see, there is no good reason for me to get too upset about my race! Megan didn't have her best day either, so no real shining stars in our family for the weekend, but we are getting out and trying and that's what counts.
How Liam really feels about the Bach festival: "Sucks big time". Hahaha!
Despite missing the goal, I am still quite encouraged. Aside from the hamstrings, I felt great. It was an "old lady PR" (PR post-40) and a master's win. (The two fast women went on to take 1st and 2nd overall). I know I could do better, but I am not a half marathoner and am not too hung up on what I could run. I think of endurance fitness as having two main components: a cardio-vascular component and a musculoskeletal component. With asthma, my CV fitness got so bad that I really wasn't taxing my musculoskeletal system and that fitness withered away. But with the asthma under control, my CV fitness has improved tremendously and now my musculoskeletal system needs to catch up. Strength training has always been an important part of my training because I think it helps so much in keeping the musculoskeletal system strong enough to endure the stress when the CV system gets in really good shape. And the weights don't lie: last time I was at the gym, I struggled to deadlift 155#; at my peak I could DL 200#. Now that this base/half-marathon phase is over, I know I need to get back in the gym and get strong again! But this week, I'll be babying my leg and not doing very much: ultra-marathon phase starts next week and I need a healthy hamstring for that!
First Old Lady!
We ended the day with peanut butter pie for Mac's 42nd b-day. Pie is good for aging husbands, sore hamstrings and crabby little boys. :)


Friday, January 22, 2016

Come-back Half

Last Sunday I ran the local Cascade Half Marathon. In terms of performance, I had nothing riding on a set time and I didn't take the lead up to the race very seriously, yet, the day before the race I found myself really worried. I realized I was using this race as a test, a test to see if I really could control my asthma and get back to racing again. Because I had a lot riding on this emotionally, I kind of went into panic mode before the race, taking extra reflux meds, revisiting the steroid inhaler and taking the regular inhaler twice before the race started - I was going to make sure I was well medicated for this thing! (To keep the lynch mobs at bay, I will point out that everything is WADA legal. And contrary to what many people think, asthma drugs do not require a TUE).

I thought a 6:40 pace would be doable even in the pouring rain (you can count on miserable weather for the Cascade Half) and made sure my pace didn't dip below 6:30 on the way out to the turn around. On the way back, I just tried to keep a steady effort and ended up with a ten second negative split for a 1:26:44 finish, which is now the median for my 7 life time half marathons. Despite being a middle of the road time, I was ecstatic: I felt completely in control, I had no breathing issues, and my legs felt like they were working exactly like they were supposed to work, and the race left me exhilarated, not completely exhausted! In summary: I passed my test! If I never got any faster, I'd still be happy and able to enjoy running and that is a very nice thing to be able to say (finally!). Plus, I did actually win the race (the farm town of Turner, OR is not exactly a mecca for speedy runners in the middle of January), which was a nice little cherry on top. I parked eight miles from the finish line and caught a ride with a friend which forced me to do an extra long cool down, which made for a pretty good day in the log book!

One funny little story: a generous doctor in the area donated $100 for both the men's and women's master runners, but there was only a plaque for the overall winner, who is typically removed from the age group awards. I politely asked the race director (and friend) to give the overall win to second place and make me the masters winner -  I prefer a hundred dollars to a plaque! The RD thought that would be awkward so he ended up paying me $100 from the race coffers and the second place 40+ lady got the donated prize money. Everybody wins! (well, except maybe Cascade High School, which is now getting $100 less from this fundraiser. I volunteered to help for a couple hours the day before the race, so let's call it even!). I guess I'll use it to cover all the co-pays for my asthma meds, cause they seem to be working!

In the few days after the race, I couldn't believe how sore my hamstrings were! Geez, don't my legs remember how to run 13 measly miles?? But a friend reminded me that I took ten weeks off and I have to think like I am starting all over again. I am optimistic that this means there is still lots of improvement to be had. I will test myself at the half again in three weeks at the Roaring Run, which will be 13 weeks since I started back running. Last year I ran 1:26:01 while suffering and feeling terrible (and experiencing several bad workouts ahead of time), so I will definitely be hoping for something better. Now that my hamstrings have recovered, it's time to get training!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

2016

Happy New Year! Sure we are ten days in, but I am still celebrating turning over a new leaf. Heck, I've even read two novels already, something that has been supplanted by running books and magazines the past couple of years. (Of course, I still plan to read all of those, too!).

Anyway, nothing better to kick off new training then a Fatass run! So yesterday, my training partner Dennis and I made the trip down to Yachats for the Cape Perpetua Fatass. We agreed that we'd be doing the run more "adventure style" than race style, which meant running in a group, hiking even the low grade stuff, and taking plenty of pictures - even a few selfies! We finished near the back, and I loved every minute of it! (And with no official results there will be no ramifications for my ultra signup score - phew! ;). The trails out there were like carpet - all pine needles and moss. There were a couple of miles that may have been the best suited to me than any other trail I have run: a thin ribbon of dirt running down an old dirt road over grown with grass, fast downhill with out a rock to be seen, just a few down saplings, most of which I hurdled with a  big smile on my face. I am taking three meds routinely with an additional inhaler for long runs, and while I don't like that I have to take them, the fact that they have made me feel so much better and have brought the joy back in to running makes it worth it. Now, hopefully with some concentrated training, I can bring the speed back in to my running, too.
Rays of sun through the tall trees

The beautiful Oregon coast

Stopping for selfies on the coast!
Big ferns and mossy trails: Oregon trails at their finest!
And since I have made it through a full seven days of training and a Fatass,  I have registered for a half dozen races! Here are my plans for 2016 so far:

1/17: Cascade Half Marathon - this is just a hard effort, long tempo day- a so-called "training race."

2/6: Roaring Run Half Marathon - This is the race I set my half marathon PR (1:21:15) back in 2013 when I was running at my best. I also ran a 1:26:01 there last year when I was having such a hard time and struggling to even do 4 mile tempo runs. So I have a very nice scale on which to measure myself and to get an idea of where I am at and what kind of expectations I should have for the year.

2/13 - Hagg Mud 50k - If you mention Hagg Lake you are likely to get an eye roll from anyone who has run it. On paper (or in the summer) it should be a super fast course, but it is endless thick, thick mud in February, which slows it considerably. I got my 4th finish several years ago and I figured this would be a good time to get my 5th and get my name in the  (very prestigious!) "Hall of Mud." But I am not paying $25 for a 5 year finisher's buckle! (really?? sheesh!)

4/2: Gorge Waterfalls 100k - No, I am NOT going for a Golden Ticket (no, really!) but this is a beautiful race with good competition and minimal travel. And I do love mossy trails.

5/13: Dawn to Dusk to Dawn 24 hour - Yes, another track race. Yes, I am crazy, but Yes, I still really like the idea of track races, too. I am undecided if I want to try for another fast 100 mile time or if I want to do the full 24 hours and try to get a 24 hour World Championship qualifier.

6/17: Bighorn 100 - Western States is awesome, but I need a break from focusing completely on that one race (not to mention, I don't have a spot!). I am very excited to get the chance to try another classic mountain 100 and the women's field is looking pretty stout!

8/20: Waldo 100k - (if I can make it through the lottery or convince the RD's that I am still "elite") - This is the race where I was first diagnosed with asthma in 2009 after breathing difficulties ruined my run. It seems fitting to go back as I am trying to rebound from such problems with asthma. Plus, it is another great race with minimal travel.

Fall racing schedule will be determined based on how all the above goes. 

So who else is running any of these races?