Thursday, December 15, 2011

California International Marathon: Huge PR, Huge Bonk

2:55:48...If you had told me that ahead of time, I would have happily signed on the dotted line to guarantee it. My previous PR (and last marathon) was at CIM in 2008, when I ran a 3:10:37. (Unofficially, I ran a 3:09:52 marathon split at Autumn Leaves). I trained for a 2:55 and so to be within a minute of that seems like a big success. Indeed, I am very happy to finally be part of the sub-3 hour echelon on runners. Happy, but not satisfied as I had thought I would be.
In 2008, I was still a marathon runner and like any marathon runner my main goal was to PR. I missed my goal at Portland, signed up for CIM as a second chance and then spent 2 months obsessing over a couple minutes. When I crossed the line at CIM with a 3 minute PR, I was ready to be done with the marathon for a while and my attention turned to ultras. But after a couple of years running ultras, I came to believe that I could do better at the marathon, that really I was a sub-three hour kind of girl. But beyond just believing it, I realized that I actually wanted to be a sub-3 hour runner, to be able to legitimately say it. Because when I started running utras, I needed a break from the clock's objectivity, but as time passed and I got better at ultras, I realized I wanted a yardstick for my progress. And even in the ultra world, people still ask about your marathon PR.

But it wasn't until three other Salem women committed to running CIM that I cemented my 2011 sub-3 hour marathon attempt. As I have already mentioned, I loved the marathon training, but a big part of it was having wonderful fast women and awesome friends to train with. It also meant that race weekend was girl's weekend! Woohoo!
Fast Chicks from Salem, ready to run! - Mariko, Steph, Tonya and me

We flew down Friday and spent the day Saturday at the expo and around downtown Sac, fretting a little bit about the residual strong gusts of winds after all of the severe storms. We even made a trip over to the "elite hospitality suite." Why? Because we could! The four of us were taking great delight in the fact that we had all gotten in to the "elite" field (they finally let me in) even though we are a far cry from elite marathoners. We also did a little shopping for some special running accessories.

Balloon Rudolf and "Elite" runners (The "VIP" elites all got numbers less than 100)
Getting our fill at the elite hospitality suite
Salem Sock-sleeve solidarity!

My mom very kindly got up with us a 5 am and drove up to the start. We "oohed" and "aahed" (and maybe did a few other things) at the Great Wall of Port-a-potties. Seriously, I have never seen so many portable johns! Then we headed to the elite tents, where we giggled over the fact that every other woman in the tent was trying to hit the Olympic standard.

The race itself went great for me, until about mile 21. I clicked off smooth 6:35's, feeling great and way ahead of my 2:55 goal. I came through 13 at 1:25:27 - not too far off my 1:25:06 PR. I was still feeling strong and on pace through mile 20 and then the wheels just fell off. My legs didn't feel sore or tired, but I was just drained. My pace fell almost a minute per mile and I struggled mightily for the last 5 miles. With just over two miles to go, Tonya flew by me, looking great. And then in quick succession Todd and Jerry passed me effortlessly as well. I didn't begrudge them their good days, but it made me feel even crappier to see people I knew running so well around me. I averaged 7:15 for my last 10k and had a not so pretty 4:30 time difference between my first and second halves for a finish of 2:55:48. Tonya had a stellar day at 2:53:54. Steph and Mariko were a little duped by the 3 hour pace group, which did NOT pace runners to a sub-3 finish. They finished just a few seconds apart at 3:00:10 and 3:00:24 (pace leader finished around 3:00:20).
Mile 18-still feeling good

While it is possible that I went out to fast, I don't think that was the case. I think 6:35 is within my capabilities. My best guess is that I had a major "bonk" and I just ran out of fuel. I think coming from an ultra background, I didn't respect the distance enough and I think I didn't account for the increased glucose needs of that fast pace. I remember thinking that I can easily do 3 hour runs without much food and so I ate only two gels during the whole race. It is funny because I usually eat on the high side for calorie intake during an ultra. Losing a few minutes in the marathon itself, doesn't bother me too much, but I feel like I've made several nutrition mistakes lately and as a perfectionist and planner, that pisses me off! I think being "experienced" may be working against me right now, as I don't really get that worried about races any more and as such I haven't been fretting over "minor" details ahead of time. I need to get back to the point of over-analyzing everything and being overly cautious.

After CIM, I was ready to sign up for another marathon immediately, on a quest to shave off another 3-4 minutes. I KNOW I can do it, but with running you can't claim it till you do it! I am considering LA or Napa in March, but I am a little less gung-ho about the whole thing considering the 100k World Championships are in April. So not sure when my next marathon will be just yet, but probably sooner than I expected going into CIM.
A well deserved post marathon soak.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Turkey Stuffer 5k

Thursday, it was off to the races again for the Thanksgiving morning Turkey Stuffer in Springfield. I was coming off a big PR four days earlier at the 10k, but that paled in comparison to this 5k race, which was one of my best running experiences ever!

I finished the race in 41 minutes and 54 second and I could not be prouder! My six year old daughter Megan completed her first 5k and it was awesome to support her as a family in this awesome accomplishment.

Since I had raced Sunday, our plan was for Mac to "race" the 5k, while I ran along with Megan and pushed Liam in a borrowed baby jogger. Since I was running for fun, I thought I'd wear a pair of cutesy Christmas socks, but when I got them out Megan started fawning over them and begging to wear them for the race. OMG, could this get any better?!? She wants to run and dress up! She is SO my daughter!

We got out of the house a wee bit later than planned for the 75 minute drive to Springfield. I think we had a conversation 50 miles into our drive that went like this:

Mac: What time does the race start?
Me: 8:30
Mac: Oh, we are so f*cked!

But we made it with about 13 minutes to spare. I sent Mac to get our numbers and told him I'd meet him at the start with the kids and stroller. I made it to the start in plenty of time but then just stood around waiting for Mac. Megan (who is a bit OCD) kept asking where was Daddy and Liam was trying to run over other runners with the baby stroller. Finally, the race started, but no Mac. Whatever. I figured he was up front and just didn't have time to find us.

Are you sensing the pre-race jitters??

Holy back of the pack congestion! Megan was pretty frustrated at first as she just wanted to run. She was weaving in and out of people, which was tough for me because I had to maneuver with a gargantuan jog stroller! But finally it thinned out and Liam even got out to run. That kid runs just like he thinks - all over the place! He kept getting in and out of the stroller depending on his energy level.

About five minutes in, Mac jogs up to us with a fistful of numbers and timing chips, "Hi, fam!" It turns out a few too many people tried to do last minute check in on Thanksgiving - oops! But it was a happy mistake, because then Mac decided to run with us, too. I pinned on our numbers and threw the chips in the baby stroller pocket.

Megan still needs to work on pacing. She doesn't do slow! Sprint-walk-sprint-walk-sprint, but we seemed to be making pretty good time. Liam got out of the stroller with 3/4 of a mile to go and ran to the finish, too, so he probably did about half the run on his own. My two kids are SO different. Megan had really wanted to wear my Garmin (another OCD runner in the making, I tell you) and she kept looking at the watch and giving us odd splits: "We're at one fifteen" (1.15 miles). When she'd try to catch up with somebody (Liam, a lady with a dog) she was so focused. Liam has no focus. He was trying to follow all the cracks in the road. When the cracks zigged, so did he. "Mom, we have to run on these cracks so aliens won't get us!" Ummm, whatever, dude, just keep running!
 You Go, Girl!

I love this photo. Megan is totally on task. I look like I have just said something very grave to Mac: "Yep, your  whole town has been stricken by the plague." Mac has a complete look of shock on his on his face: "The plague? What?! Nobody gets the plague anymore!" And Liam is like, "Hey, is that a piece of garbage in the gutter?" Also, did you notice there is SUN!?! (That makes the plague a little more tolerable).
Unfortunately, when we crossed the line our chips were still in the stroller pocket and didn't register on the timing mat, so don't look for us in the official results. 

The race had free admission to the local water park after the race, which was the reason we chose this race over all the other Turkey Trots in our area. This was great fun for the kids. Even Mac and I took a few runs down the slide!

After a couple of hours of splashing we headed back to Salem for a quiet Thanksgiving dinner at home. I am very thankful for our happy, healthy family. I am looking forward to many more Turkey Stuffers together.

Salem Salty Sistas Storm Track Town

I am super lucky to be training for CIM with three other awesome women from Salem. In fact, that is one of the main reasons I decided now was the time to do a marathon - because of readily available training partners. We have more or less been doing Pfitzinger's training plan at the 70 miles per week setting. I really love the long run component to the plan, though I can't say I have really read much on the reasoning behind the plan. But Steph said she wanted to try it and we were all game. It's been great with lots of marathon pace running. But last Sunday (11/20) we decided to skip the long run a do a 10k. I am not sure if this was supposed to serve as a "tune-up" or a reality check!

We headed down to the EWEB Run to Stay Warm in Eugene where the 10k makes a big loop around Alton Baker park (which I accidentally called Alton Brown park at one point, but alas, no foodie commentary at this 10k). Basically, you run a mile upstream, cross a pedestrian bridge, run three miles down stream, cross another bridge, and run back up the river to the start - very scenic and all on bike path, made even better because there was no rain!

Tonya, Mariko and I all started together in our matching Salty Sistas singlets. Salty Sistas is the Salem Hood to Coast team. I have never actually been on the team, but Mariko said I could wear her hot pink singlet. I joked that I was the illegitimate salty half sista! Please note that I did NOT plan to wear hot pink with red gloves!
We came through mile 1 in 6:03. Tonya blurted "Oh, shit!" because she was aiming for 6:15 pace, but I wanted to push myself to try and hold that pace. I felt great till about the 5.25 mile mark, but pushed through to the finish for the win and a huge PR in 37:20 (6:03, 5:53, 5:50, 5:56, 5:57, 6:06 -oops!, 1:36(5:41 pace)).
My friends Gordon Cully and Michael Libowitz from LongRun Picture Company were out snapping photos on the almost felt like I had the paparazzi following me around!
Michael got this shot and despite the Rainbow Brite outfit, this is probably the best running photo of me ever! Plus, it makes me think the push-ups may be paying off (although, note that I still do not have big enough biceps to keep extra small sleeves from falling down!).

The Salty Sistas stormed through Track Town, going 1-2-4-5. We have an 8 year age span so we cleaned up in age group wins (including master's overall)!
The Salty Sistas (and illegitimate salty half sista!) 

We won these nice hoodies, except they say "WINNER" on the back. If your sweatshirt says "winner", doesn't that make you a loser?? I wore mine to the gym all week (yes, I am a loser) and got several comments about that back, which I think confirms my loser theory.

If this was our reality check, I have to conclude I am ready. In two weeks, the four of us head down to Sacramento. And I found out this week, that I'll be joining my friends in the elite field. I guess a few spots opened up, so I got in!!

Thanksgiving Day, I was off to the races again. This time the Turkey Stuffer 5k...but that's tomorrow's story.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

JFK Weekend

Wow - what a show at JFK this morning! Super fast times up front in both the men's and the women's races...awesome to watch but I just got bumped out of the top 10 all time list! :) To feel like I had a connection with this year's race, I chose today to hot glue last year's trophy back together. I hadn't even had it an hour before it got kicked across the gym floor by a stumbling racer. But a little hot glue and it is good as new (but still as ugly as any trophy out there).
Even trophy runners have an Achilles heel

Following Javelina and JFK the last two weekends made me long for the ultra scene a bit, but I have to say, I am actually loving marathon training. The fast pace stuff on the track is great and the long runs fly by. Last weekend I did 17 miles in 2 hours and since I started at 5 am, I was home before anybody even knew I was gone...can't do that with ultra training! And tomorrow I am racing a 10k (for "sharpening"). It almost feels like a brand new race to me as my last one was July 4, 2008. CIM is the real goal race and not this 10k, but I will be disappointed if I can't slip under my "current" PR of 38:52. 

Well, off to bed. Gotta get my sleep in; I have a "big" race tomorrow! ;)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Autumn Leaves

For me, fall provides the quintessential running opportunity: crisp air, not frosty, with crunchy golden leaves both underfoot and lingering in the trees. Those days just feel like I am supposed to be running. It’s a welcome respite from summer heat (well not in Oregon this year) and the feeling of “borrowed time” before they grey days of winter, mixed with the nostalgia of college cross country. I absolutely love it. And Saturday at the Autumn Leaves 50k/50M was one of those days. 

Autumn Leaves is close to home, it has great RD’s, it was an opportunity to “race” my husband (more on that later), AND it has a costume competition! I am a total sucker for costumes. Partly, I like the exercise in creativity. But really I think costumes represent a socially acceptable way to get a little crazy. Dye your hair green in April and people think you are a meth head, but do it for Halloween and they give you prizes!

Autumn Leaves has both a 50k and a 50 mile option. Last year I joked about the 50k being the "JV" race and I would love the opportunity to run a really fast 50 miler some time, but my focus race right now is CIM, and running a 50 miler 5 weeks out just doesn't fit with that goal. But surely I could justify a 50k, I mean, that is just a short jaunt in the park, right? So, no varsity for me this year either, much to RD Bret's disappointment...and my husband's. Mac also decided to run the 50k and he wanted me to do the 50M so he would finish before me. When he found out I was going to be doing the 50k with him, his first reaction was,"Oh my God! Are you going to lap me?!" I fired back some playful trash talk,"You are totally getting lapped and I plan to smack you on the ass when I do!"

But immediately, I was back pedaling, I wasn't so sure I could back up my jesting cockiness. So we got out the calculators and figured paces and Dang! - it was actually going to be a pretty even match, his 40k to my 50k. Because of the differences in our paces, Mac and I never get to race each other, but this set up provided the opportunity for a cute little spousal dual and we had fun trash talking up to the race. Well, at least I did. ;)

This was a serious race for Mac and he meticulously got everything ready the night before. My biggest worry was how to get 17 plastic snakes to stay on my body as I ran. I had found an awesome piece of fluorescent green snake skin spandex which had me racking my brain for serpentine creatures, ultimately settling for the most popular of the Gorgon sisters, Medusa. And so my race morning preparations weren't complete without an application of lipstick to the eyes and eyeliner to the lips!
Just a few more snakes and some green hair spray and I'll be good to go!
Practicing my game face. Don't I look "petrifying?"
 This race went super smoothly and I was surprised how good I felt given that I did not alter the marathon training plan at all going into this, except to skip Friday's 8 miler.

The 50k (actually 50,500 meters) is a 5 loop course, with a three mile out and back section that allows for a lot of interaction with other racers, and 1.5 miles of flat, non-technical trail and grass each loop. The first loop was dark and cold. I used a flashlight instead of a headlamp, so as not to mess up my lovely hairdo (ie. it wouldn't fit) and ran most of the lap with Aaron, who ended up as the 50 mile winner in his first ultra. I came through the loop a hair under 48 minutes, grabbed two Fig Newtons and was off for another lap.

On the second lap, I saw Mac on the out and back and we compared split times: my 48 minutes to his 59. Hmmm, at that rate, I wouldn't be doing any grab-ass on the course! Ha ha! Time to pick it up.
Redefining "fierce competition" at the end of lap 2
I upped it to three Fig Newtons for the start of Lap 3. It was still looking like it was going to be a tight race between me and Mac. Plus, my half-way time calculated out to just 30 seconds faster than last year's CR time, so now I had a race with my past self as well!

At the end of Lap 3, Jerry Mark caught up to me at the start/finish while I was helping myself to another three Fig Newtons. He was about 20 steps ahead of me for a mile and then I pulled alongside. I'd met Jerry once or twice before, but I didn't know him very well, but we just got in a groove together and started moving. After a couple of miles, he told me I could go ahead whenever I wanted. "Are you kidding me? I can't run 6:50's for another nine miles!" "Well just hold on for as long as you can then."

Turns out I was wrong. I just kept matching strides with him and I DID keep it up for another nine miles (we were around 7:15-20 on the trail section, so the average was a little slower). The only hiccup during this period was that the AS was out of Fig Newtons, probably because some thoughtless pig had eaten more than her share the first three laps! But Oreos proved an adequate substitute.

Mac put up a valiant effort, dropping his running partner and posting his fastest lap of the day on loop 4 trying to hold me off. I had told him I thought I'd be right around last year's time and he was banking on being safe if he hit the 40k under 3:50, but it didn't work out. It really is Jerry's fault because I would not have been running that fast without him. But with 2k to go, I got to do a little bootie spanking! (ok, it was just a love pat!)

With a half mile to go, Jerry sprinted to the finish to set a 50k PR by 35 minutes! I don't have a spint finish, so I just motored it in 14 seconds behind, a 5+ minute PR for me and 3rd overall. Joe Uhan flew around the course in a blazing 3:18, though I know he was disappointed to miss the CR by less than a minute. Mac finished the 40k in 4:47:50 and had a nice word of congratulations for me ("Bitch!" - haha) as he started off for his last lap. He finished in 4:45, looking strong and setting a huge 50k PR by over an hour! I guess he should have bet on who could set the bigger PR!

I copied my splits from the results page. I have to say I am pretty psyched that I got faster each lap.

Gender/Age Laps Time Pace Distance  Total Time
1.Pam Smith F/37 5  7:14/M  31.250   3:46:07.9
Lap   1       47:54.7     7:40/M     6.250      47:54.7
Lap   2       45:52.6     7:20/M    12.500    1:33:47.3
Lap   3       44:47.3     7:10/M    18.750    2:18:34.6
Lap   4       43:48.6     7:00/M    25.000    3:02:23.3
Lap   5       43:44.6     7:00/M    31.250    3:46:07.9

As a reward for running bedecked in plastic serpents and neon green snakeskin, I got a huge basket of goodies. My Garmin said I burned 2809 calories for the race. This basket must have had triple that between the alcohol and the candy. I sheepishly admit, that the beer and candy was all pretty much gone by the end of the weekend, and I really can't say that I shared too much of it with the kiddos (for their own good, of course!). I did give Megan the headband, although I wouldn't have if it had been an edible headband!

Hope you had a happy Halloween...and that you ate less junk food than I did!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Good Life

Many people will tell you they really just love to run and don’t care that much about racing. Some blogs even seem to make the claim that this is the purest form of running: just running for the act of running itself. But that is not me. Really, I love to race. I love the adrenaline, the excitement, the camaraderie, the competition, the idea of pushing yourself more than you even would alone. Oh, I love to just run, too, but honestly, I am a race junkie.

I have managed to get my habit a bit more under control in the last year, mostly because I have learned that I need the recovery to really be sharp when I race. But from time to time, I still fall off the wagon, which is really the only way to explain a road 100k, a high altitude 50k, and a ‘fast’ (in my terms) half marathon over the span of four weeks. So many races, so many goals, and a serious under supply of patience!

And so the family headed up to Victoria for The Good Life Marathon and Half Marathon on October 9th. It was the Good Life for Mac and I, as a pair of running parents, because the start of the half and the full (which Mac ran) were staggered by an hour and fifteen minutes, with the half starting first. The wife of Mac’s running partner agreed to watch our kiddos for the brief race overlap that we would have, which turned out to be the Good Life for my kids because Lisa treated them to ice cream for breakfast. So a win-win for everybody, except maybe Lisa, who had to watch my kids and is out ten bucks. (thanks again, Lisa!).
Lisa not only is a great babysitter, but a great photographer. I stole most of these pics from her.

I had only one goal for this race: break 1:26, which is the elite standard for the California International Marathon in December. There are usually several women who break 1:20 at Victoria each year, so I knew this was just me versus the clock.

At 7:30 the herd started to stampede. I started three or four rows back and my Garmin said 5:50 pace for the first quarter mile and I was practically being trampled! I guess I have forgotten how these big road races start. My goal pace was 6:30, so I got to the side and slowed up to be closer to pace and I couldn’t believe how many people were flying by me. I am not exaggerating to say at least 300 people passed me in the first mile, including so many women that I knew it was pointless to even try to guess what place I was in. Just me and the clock!

I hit 5k at right at 20 minutes, and 10k at 40:02. There was one “big” hill (meaning not big at all, but enough to complain about) that slowed mile 10 down to a 6:45, but otherwise, all my miles stayed under 6:30. It started to feel hard right around the 1 hour mark (which coincided with the big hill), but I also knew I only had 25-26 minutes to go.

Victoria has 100 meter count down signs for the last kilometer. I got to the 400 to go mark with 90 seconds to break 1:25 and mentally, I was like “Yeah, I can’t do that right now and I don’t really need to anyway.” So yeah, a failure for not even trying to go for it, but my finish of 1:25:06 was still a big PR and good enough to get in to the elite field. Or at least it should have been. Apparently the elite field at CIM is “impacted” (The elite coordinator’s word, not mine! As a physician, I really can’t use that word in everyday conversation!) and they can’t let me in. Bummer.
Running SO fast, everything else is a blur!

After the race Mac asked me if it was hard and I wasn’t sure how to answer. Mentally, it was easy. I have races where I hurt for 25 miles, so to hurt for 25 minutes was nothing. And the distance to the finish always felt really short. But at the same time, I really don’t feel like my legs could have gone any faster on that day and to maintain the exact pace when I got tired was a challenge.

What I do know is that I had a blast! What a fun distance to race! Though I have completed 30 ultras and 7 marathons, I had only raced two half marathons prior to this. But I see myself doing more in the future. It is long enough to still be an “everybody gets a medal” kind of race (and feel like you did a good day of running) but short enough that I felt really good after the race. In fact, I would say I felt better after the race than before it. Plus, Victoria is a great city. I hate to dis on Oregon, but I’d recommend Victoria over the Portland Marathon (same day) for all the PacNWer’s out there looking for a fall marathon.
After the race, Megan asked me what I won (my daughter seems to think life is all about prizes, despite our efforts to emphasize fun). Nothing, I told her, I was fourth in my age group. Well, why don't you just go ask, she tells me. Optimism pays off - top 5 got glass plaques! (pic by Megan; I got busted by groundskeeping for standing in the rose garden)

My hubby was a bit under trained going in to this one, due to a foot injury, but he finished with a solid 3:50... certainly not his best but not his worst either. His foot never bothered him during the run, but the lack of training caught up to him (maybe more after the race than during even; he was not walking too pretty afterwards!). But we both had a great weekend. Spotting orcas on the ferry ride home was icing on the cake.

The "Salty Brothas" after the marathon! (That would be brothas from anotha motha, of course!)

Prerace activities included a trip to the bug zoo

Beautiful Victoria (pics by Lisa)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Flagline 50k

Last year the Flagline 50k was created outside of Bend, OR to be the USATF 50k National Championship. I was fairly excited for this race, not so much because it was a national championship, but because I thought it'd be a fun course at the foot of Mt. Bachelor. But then I went into a funk after Western States last year and finally just decided I needed a month off to regroup. So no Flagline 50k for me.

This year the race was only two weeks after the 100k World Championships, and so I figured I'd be sitting this one out, too. But I wanted to get out there and had put it on my schedule weeks in advance, planning to volunteer. But after Worlds, I found myself perusing the website and the course map...Maybe I was longing to get back to trails after a summer of road training for worlds, or maybe I panicked that my ultra-running was done for the year (I am concentrating on a sub-3 hour marathon at CIM for the next two months), or maybe I worried this would be the last good weekend before the beginning of the endless Oregon winter, but something in me really wanted to run it. When I signed up, I was still sore from Worlds and I hadn't run a step. I knew I wouldn't be at my best, but I didn't care, I was really just looking for a fun day on some great trails.

I headed out to Bend after work Friday and caught up with William Emerson at race check in, and I got to hear some of this guy's crazy adventures which include hiking all of the PCT, the AT and much of the Continental Divide trail. Then it was off to my very fine $42/night hotel. Nothing says class like wood paneling and pastel floral bedspreads!

Race morning was cool, but not cool enough to be optimistic about the afternoon looked like we were going to be in for a hot one in the high alpine air (low point on course: 5,800'). The first 8 miles had a gradual downhill and I was running so well. I felt quick and light and unbelievable given the circumstances. I was only a minute or two behind the two front runners at the first aid station. One of the women was Stephanie Howe, who was second at Flagline last year in her only other ultra. I knew she was fast (and a top notch nordic skier), but maybe inexperienced. And the second woman was running her first ultra. So for a brief bit I had stars in my eyes, thinking maybe these two would go out too fast, not fuel right, etc. and burn out in the end.

Right in the mix

But very quickly reality smacked me in the face...well, in the quads the trail then began one of the major ascents. Now who put 20 pound sandbags on my back?? My legs had NO power, there was just nothing there. Normally, I am better at uphill rather than downhill, especially the gradual runnable grade stuff, which was pretty much everything at Flagline. I tried to keep myself running even though my quads were burning, but it was such a slow jog, I got passed by four guys on that first big climb. I like to do the passing on the uphills!! It is usually the downhills where people pass me. By mile 10, it was really obvious that I would NOT be in it to win this one. But in some ways that made the race more fun as I can get into a bit of tunnel vision when I am racing, and on this day I was able to avoid that so that I could look around, enjoy the trails, even joke with most of the volunteers.

Hey, maybe if I eat more, I'll run faster!

My legs were worthless on the uphills, but they were turning over great on all the downhills and I even got four guys back (though, not all the same ones). I figured if I could keep the turnover on the downs, I could maintain third place. The second big climb was particularly ugly for me and I walked WAY too much of it, but that is what I had on that day. About a mile from the top I came upon two bow hunters completely decked out in camouflage, including full face paint! As I passed I commented,"I am glad I am wearing hot pink today." One of the bow hunters just leaned in close in front of my face and with big eyes said,"Boo-ga, Boo-ga, Boo-ga!" That put a little extra spring in my step to the top of the hill as I just kept thinking,"Don't shoot me in the not shoot me in the back."

The last seven miles rolled to the finish and it was a major roller coaster for me: "I am flying...I am dying...I am flying," just depending on the slant of the trail. The last little uphill grind on the road was a killer especially as you had a good view on the straight road of runners WAY up ahead and you felt the full heat of the 80 degree day.

I kept my third place and scored a $200 check. After race entry, hotel, gas and dinner, I figured I netted about $26. Who says you can't make money in ultra-running? ;) But truly, I got a lot more out of the day than that - a beautiful day on the trails, enjoying the scenery and the post race taco-salad in the sun, and hanging out with lots of great people. It was a nice reminder that not every day has to be your best race to be a great run.

Stephanie Howe pulled ahead of Natalie Bak in the final mile to take the women's win, while Max King once again had the Midas touch on the men's side, outpacing Natalie Bak's other half, Ryan Bak.
 Results here.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

100k World Championships

I am up in Canada getting ready to run my second race since worlds, so I guess it is about time I write something aboot Worlds, eh? (I am practicing my Canadian).

I have been completely unmotivated to blog about Worlds. A lot of it has to do with the pace of life: kids back to school, me back to work and training, and my garden in the season of full bounty. Two weeks in the Netherlands put me way behind in harvesting and canning so I have been spending a lot of my free time putting up tomatoes, soup, sauce, pears and juicing watermelons (for popsicles, and my personal favorite...margaritas). But some of my reluctance comes from difficulty in presenting the two sides of this event. This was an overwhelmingly positive experience and I can not put into words how amazing it was to be part of the US team competing in a race with support and spectators that made it feel more like the Boston marathon than an ultra.
On Your Mark...
Team USA women stride past a windmill
Spectators out for a party with yard decorations.
Awesome street decorations. The flag of every participating nation was on the right and race photos with "Welcome" in every language on the left.

Lots of kids handing out sponges. I must have taken a hundred of these in the last 50k.

But my race was tainted with disappointment. I went to Winschoten with three great 100k's under my belt this year: A second place at Bandera 50 minutes faster that 2010; a solid 7:53 at Mad City; and then a win at Miwok. My training after Western States was strong and I felt like 7:45 was well within my capacity. But at the end of the day, I only had a 8:16 to show for my efforts.

The days leading up to the race were very low key as there was little to do in the athletes village. I went on a couple of easy runs, including a preview of the course, and made sure I got plenty of rest. We had a couple of team meetings.

Friday, I got all of my bottles set up. Even at Mad City, I ran with a hand held and some food so I could make fueling decisions on the fly. Basically, I run with only very loose guidelines for fueling: aim for a bottle an hour and at least 200 calories, but I pretty much eat what and when I feel like it. Having to come up with a more concrete plan and then set it all up ahead of time was very new to me and something I should have put a bit more thought into.

Race day was overcast, and I asked the team manager Lin if she thought it'd be a good idea to start with sleeves. "Ugg, no," she replied, "it is so muggy, you'll sweat just walking to the starting line!" Humidity was over 70% for race day and when the clouds burned off after the first couple of laps the course was entirely sun exposed with temps in the high 70's.

One of the highlights of the race was running with Annette. I caught her in the second lap and ran about two laps with her. The running was so smooth an easy and we were chatting up a storm and talking a lot about our spouses like love struck teenagers. The course was also amazing. Well not the route, per se, but the elaborate decorations, the crowds, the windmills, and all the families with their own aid stations and sponge buckets. And I loved that we had our names on our bibs. Partly, it was cool too have the fans yelling our names (as Annette said to me, "you are lucky to have an easy name because everybody wants to cheer for you."). But also it was amazing to run by people and see such a mix of names: Yuko, Sabine, Oxana, Bjorn, Kostyantyn, Jose, really cemented the international vibe of this event for me.
Running with Annette
Running with the Polish team (me-back center). We weren't supposed to run with the men but I was with these guys for about 3/4 of a lap because I couldn't get around them. They finally sped up and dropped me.
The Aid Station row. Our booth said had signs for "AND" and "USA." My first lap I came through and though "And USA what??" Then I remembered we were sharing a table with Andorra!!

As for the race itself, well, run one 10k loop and then repeat ad nauseam. Unfortunately, for me the added nausea started just after 35k. Even during the race I remember thinking,"OMG, I haven't even run a marathon yet!" But general nausea morphed into stabbing, painful side cramps that had me barely shuffling for three laps. During those three laps, I chugged some water with two salt tabs and then didn't eat for 30k. My stomach eventually settled down, I switched to Coke and pretzels and had a decent finishing 30k where I passed nearly 20 women to finish up 16th overall. My splits pretty much tell the whole story:
45:25, 45:50, 45:50, 46:26, 55:27, 54:40, 55:11, 49:21, 50:33, 48:08

To me the biggest disappointment was not so much the bad race, but the sense I have that I was the cause of my own problems... basically, that I messed up. I think I am usually good at strategizing and fueling. I know my typical fueling seems "loosey goosey" but I am good at assessing what I need at a certain moment and taking care of it. In this race, I had everything laid out ahead of time and for some reason, I treated it like it was set in stone. I hadn't planned for that much heat and humidity and I didn't adjust soon enough. Additionally, I didn't think out the timing very well. Normally, I would aim to eat every 30(+) minutes, but I was coming through the aid stations 21-22 minutes apart, so I not only under-consumed salt and fluid but I over consumed calories.

Another thing that is hard to swallow is that I didn't score for the team. I had the third fastest qualifier on the team and it really feels like I didn't come through for them. Plus, being a non-scorer is like I didn't even count. It's kind of like being the back up goalie in World Cup soccer (only the back up goalie gets no playing time and I got MORE "playing time" than my scoring teammates - ha!). The write-ups are hard to read because they really make me feel like I didn't do anything worthy out there. My consolation is that my time could replace ANY of our three scorers and we still would have gotten the silver medal, a testament to the strength of our team. And I do feel like I helped Annette, not only by keeping her company, but also by pulling back on the pace several times to make sure we stayed at a sensible clip.

I am trying to keep this in perspective, as I know there is still a lot of positive here. When the going got tough, I definitely kept my wits and will together and rallied at the end. The women's field saw massive carnage as many others succumbed to the heat and humidity as well, with only 42% of the women finishing the race. One hundred and seventeen of the world's top women came together to run and at the end of the day, I was 16th. Sixteenth in the world and a team silver medal can't be so bad! Hey, Max King finished 16th at his first World Mountain Running Championships, so I am in good company!

As I stated in the beginning this was an overwhelmingly positive experience, something that I am so honored I got to be a part of and I don't want to get too caught up in the negative. But I made some mistakes and didn't have the race I wanted. But live and learn. I think I am much better prepared now that I know what to expect and I am hungry to prove what I can do in Italy next April.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hello From Holland!

I met the Monday morning tracksters for one last run (a very abbreviated workout for me) before leaving. Because it was Labor Day we met at 7 instead of our usual 5am, which actually feels like sleeping in these days, but it meant I had to scramble to get ready to leave.

We dropped the kids off with Mamaw (Mac’s mom – huge thanks in order). The kids seemed to take our departure fairly well. In fact, Liam was sad he didn’t get to stay with Mac’s mom when she arrived on Sunday, for as he explained to me, “Mamaw is better because she lets us eat junk food and she takes us to Chuck E. Cheese’s.” Megan was more interested in Sesame Street than me as she said goodbye. But at least they aren’t traumatized by our departure!

The USATF advised us not to wear team gear while traveling so as not to draw attention to ourselves as Americans. So I wore a pair of jeans and a plain shirt as I carried my USA backpack and toted my USA suitcase through the airport and train stations. Subtle, real subtle. But we somehow managed to avoid terrorist attack.

Actually, when we got into the airport, I was struck by how globalized everything has become. The Russian girl next to us in the train line had on Converse shoes, an O’Neill backpack and was playing on her iPhone. The athletic gear is all the same brands popular in the States. And the food court was serving up Burger King and franchise coffee. I might have been okay with it had it been Dutch Brothers, but it was kind of disappointing that the first thing I saw after passing through customs was a Starbucks!

After the all night flight, it was about another four hours to Winschoten by train. We had information that we could get a shuttle to the athlete’s village, but the train station was a ghost town and the station itself was completely closed down! It did not help our mission that there is not a single public phone in the entire town! And the townies were pretty clueless that there was an international race taking place that weekend. We kind of kicked ourselves for relying on the USATF plans of “there will probably be a shuttle.”
Winschoten Ghost Town, er, Train Station

Mac (who hasn’t always kept his cool in confusing situations) was totally calm and suggested we head to the library.

“Well, that’s a really good idea, but I am sure the library is closed on Sundays,” I told him.

“Yeah, but it’s Tuesday.” Right. That is why I hated my surgery and OB rotations so much – my brain does not function without sleep!
 The banner signals we've come to the right place!

After what felt like a video game quest in cold windy weather (go to town information, go to the library, go back to information, go back to the train station, go to town to find a phone, pay a hotel clerk to use the phone, go back to train station to wait), we got in touch with the athlete’s village and 20 minutes later Hedda was driving us to a very nice athletic facility with little apartments for our quarters. This place is way outside of town and we don’t have a car. We seem to be one of the first to arrive so the compound ispretty dead. We’ve just been wandering around with wide eyed stares from the isolation, lack of sleep, and mild culture shock. Two teenage girls showed up at our door with two bags of food, so at least we aren’t starving.

Map of Winschoten - It felt like we every number on the map!

The rest of Team USA arrives tomorrow and we have our first team meeting, so hopefully, we have a better sense of what is going on after that! We are also keeping our fingers crossed that the weather gets better. The wind and the rain we've had so far may negate the pancake flat terrain for fast times times this weekend. Despite the confusion, we've had lots of laughs being idiot US tourists!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Awesomeness in a Box

Yesterday I got a box in the mail. Not just any box, but a Big Box of Awesomeness from the USATF.
My immediate thought was to go get a machete and chainsaw to rip into this box, but fortunately, the USATF knows we are all a bunch of dumb jocks that can't open a box properly without instructions. And so travesty was averted as I used scissors with the utmost caution to gain access to the contents.
Inside there were TWENTY new USA emblazoned articles.
The collection included the hallowed "distance singlet" and "distance shorts" worn by all of the US male distance runners at the 2008 Olympics. (The women all seem to choose the bra/halter and bun huggers. I didn't know we could choose multiple options so I only ordered this. I am trying to see if I can get a bra top now, because my boobs need official USA gear, too).
Opening the package was a solemn, awe inspiring moment, where I was filled with pride, both for myself and my country. So I did the only logical thing to commemorate my excitement for the team: I put on every possible combination of clothes and took lots of ridiculous pictures!
Rocking the singlet, warm up pants, and hat
Whoa, those are short shorts! Maybe the new luggage can hide my exposed ass!
Do these pants make me look like a super hero? More importantly, do they make my butt look big?
Wait a second! These pants are defective! Where are the backs! By the end, Mac was getting a little jealous. "Oh next year can you order some of the stuff in a men's medium??" But in the end he found something for him:
His super hero posing still needs a lot of work, though. Sadly, the box did not include the unitard, but that is probably just as well because I don't think I could handle all of the "tard" jokes from my husband! But the kids did get some new pajamas.
OMG - this photo is so cute, it made me think I could never leave them for 12 days. But minutes after this photo was taken, Liam gave himself a bloody nose that dripped all over my new shirt. After that, I was once again comfortable with abandoning my progeny for nearly two weeks. However, Megan and I did figure out a way we could smuggle Liam onto the plane, just in case I change my mind at the last minute.
We leave for the Netherlands two weeks from Monday. (Sorry all you blog stalking would-be-robbers, but my in-laws will be here with the kids). I can't wait to represent the US in all my new gear.