Saturday, May 11, 2013
Friday, May 4, 2012
When all was said and done, I realized that I could only dedicate 3 days per week to running. This depressed me a bit but I told myself to make the best of what I did have. And since I was still in training for and focused on my trail race, I put the issue to rest temporarily and decided to come back to it a week or two before my trail race. Soon after, however, I saw an article on runnersworld.com about a 3 Day-a-Week training plan for the Half-Marathon distance. Apparently, this was a modified version of a Marathon training plan that had produced positive results for many people. Developed by the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training (FIRST), this appeared to be a less time consuming but more intense training plan. I read through the article and was quite intimidated. But I kept reading and I figured it was worth a shot--and it was a 10 week plan which was the perfect amount of time to get me ready for the Mini.
The plan centered around 3 runs each week--a tempo run, speedwork and of course, a long run. The goal was to improve speed, build your lactate threshold and gain endurance. These are the three things I attempt during any given training cycle so that was no issue. What intimidated me was the level of intensity needed during these runs--each one of the three types of runs were to be done at a pace faster than usually done. Which mean speedwork was going to be faster than fast. Long runs wouldn't be the typical slow and easy. No, it says in the article, "Make no mistake about it. There is real speed in these sessions." Eek! Speed is something I DO NOT have. I envisioned myself on a track, blue in the face and on my knees, crying. And I assumed, as well, that the long runs would be garbage each week. However, I told myself to give it a try. If it was too intense, I thought, I would just give it my best and hope for the best.
*The plan also requires you to cross-train, which is unfortunately something I am unwilling to do at this time. Having only 3 guaranteed days without my son meant using those 3 days for the 3 intense runs. So I wouldn't be cross-training. What I was able to do, however, was to get in some easy workouts like walks and hikes WITH my son 2-3 days per week. (That was more about getting outdoors than it was about exercise.)
*I replaced the tempo runs with hill repeat sessions. These workouts, while different, produce some similar benefits. I enjoyed the sessions with the Swag's group on Tuesday nights, and I wasn't prepared to give those up.
*Some of my long runs were longer than the schedule--this was a personal preference for me, as I already had a solid base. (When I say they were longer, usually no more than by about a mile or two.)
*The program advises that you lock into your race pace early and stick with it. I chose to begin with a conservative 5K and then speed up. This was also a personal preference that made me feel empowered, and in my opinion, allowed me to not become fatigued early in the race.
I stayed pretty much right on plan. I was determined to not miss any workouts (though I did end up missing at least one non-long run workout during the final two weeks of the schedule--but that's taper time anyway, right?) and my goal was to stay as strong and speedy as I could, though I surprised myself when I was actually able to meet (and at times, exceed) the pace requirements during my speed workouts. Those workouts were NOT pleasant, but they WERE manageable.
The most challenging part of the program was the increased speed for the long runs. It was difficult to maintain the necessary speed for runs over 8 miles. Notice I said it was difficult, but I never mentioned impossible.
My *dream* goal was to finish the race in 2:24:32--this was the half-marathon goal time which my training was based around. But realistically, even though I was confident in my training, I was shooting for sub 2:30. That, I believed, was going to be difficult but possible. And so that's what I went for. I ended up finishing the race with a chip time of 2:24:57--just 25 seconds from my "dream" goal. If only I hadn't jogged backwards to talk to a walker, and if the water stops had been well-stocked, I know I would been able to finish much more than 25 seconds faster.
I consider this training program a success and I will certainly use it in the future--I LOVED it. The intensity of the workouts kept me feeling challenged (in a good way) and I never felt over-trained or fatigued--physically or mentally. I consider my finish time pretty much right on target with the plan's goal for me and the best part was I ran the most comfortable race I think I have ever run--it was DEFINITELY the easiest half I have ever run.
If you are time-constrained due to work or family responsibilities but are willing to work hard when you do find time, I highly recommend this program for you. Read about it here: 3-Day Half Marathon Training Program
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
The morning of the race, however, was not quite as fun. Have I mentioned that I love being a Mom? Have I also mentioned that being a Mom creates all sorts of…let’s call them obstacles…to my normal routine for preparing to run—especially for long runs and races? Of course, I do not get enough sleep. On average, I’m getting about 4 hours of interrupted sleep at night. But that’s not the issue. The first “late” cries started at 4AM. So, I went to console my little guy and after a half an hour, he was asleep again and I decided to stay awake so I could relax, eat, get ready, and chat with Mom a little when she arrived to babysit. I went to start a pot of oatmeal and I hear crying again! My morning went like this: baby crying, mommy frustrated, baby consoled, mommy hopeful, mommy takes 5 minutes to do something, baby crying. Repeat x 10. Somehow, though, I managed to eat my burnt oatmeal in the nursery, get myself ready, get everything ready for Mom and we only left 10 minutes later than we planned. We arrived downtown and quickly found a parking space 10 minutes earlier than planned. WHAT?!?! Joey drove…
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Since becoming a runner (okay, maybe a little while--or long while later) in my late teens, I've simply considered myself a runner. Period. There were only two adjectives that I ever found necessary to include--"woman" and "slow." But within the last 16 months, I've had to add other adjectives like "pregnant", "sleep deprived," "mother" and "nursing" to describe the runner I am. And I've finally acknowledged the most important one to me yet--"dedicated." So that makes me a "dedicated-sleep-deprived-nursing-mother-slow-runner." (Yeah, I dropped "woman" because "mother" sums that up nicely.)
During my pregnancy, I ran, hiked and walked throughout. It was very important for me to continue my active lifestyle, both because of the obvious health benefits and because of how easy it is to CONTINUE a habit as opposed to picking it back up. And I was fortunate enough to be able to continue doing the things that I loved safely. I was the only woman I knew that ran during pregnancy and I had to deal with a lot of negative comments from people who thought I was abusing my unborn child. (There were some positive comments, too.) I documented my experience here as best I could so that anyone dealing with the same issues could find something with which to relate. And perhaps I documented my thoughts for myself, too.
So today, I'm here to give some more advice for any mother that may be wondering if they, too, can run while nursing. (Okay, not exactly WHILE nursing, as in "at the same time as." I've never actually tried to nurse my son at the same time as I ran. But you know what I mean.)
Most of the following tips will be common sense and will even be exactly the same as the tips you would expect to find for pregnant runners. But they are important, and worth repeating. And just as I was virtually all alone as I ran/walked/hobbled down the paths and trails of my pregnancy-hood, you can assume that I'm still very much alone on my journey as a nursing runner. So, I share my experiences so that you may be able to foster your own, should you find yourself nursing both a love for running and a lovely little person. And if you have anything to share, please do so!
1. Listen to your body.
As a runner, you're probably very good at listening to the cues that your body offers you. (Example: Wow, that cramp only comes on when I'm not well hydrated...) And if you're like me, you became hyper-aware of every bodily function and function of your body during pregnancy. Use everything you've learned and apply it well now. You probably have very different circumstances now than ever before--less sleep, post-pregnancy aches and pains, and time constraints and it's more important now that you truly pay attention to the needs of your body.
2. Fuel up and hydrate wisely. And sleep when you can.
Chances are, you probably make healthy choices about the food that you eat because you are nursing. And of course, you always sit down with a glass of water! But it's more important than ever to take care of yourself because, as much as you love them, our little nurslings are leeches. The better you take care of yourself, the better you will feel after your runs--which inevitably are immediately followed by a nursing session. These sessions can leave you feeling drained both literally and figuratively but if you are consistently providing your body with proper nutrition and hydration, you will feel much better.
3. Plan ahead and enlist a supportive helper.
Your breast pump will be your best buddy. Pump or nurse right before you leave, if possible. Full, heavy breasts are at the top of the list when it comes to running discomfort. If your partner or a friend or family member can watch your little one while you run, they may also allow you the benefit of coming home to a well-fed and well-cared for baby that doesn't need your immediate attention, freeing you to stretch and take a shower.
Note: until your supply balances out, the early runs will be challenging if you don't pump beforehand--especially if you are going for a long run. Again, may I stress the importance of the breast pump?
4. Be patient and optimistic.
All of those aches and pains that you felt during pregnancy are still going to be there but they will gradually improve, even as you continue to nurse. More than 8 months out, I still have discomfort during and after my runs in my pelvic area but the onset is much later than it used to be (Two months after having my LO, I started to feel the discomfort 2-3 miles into the run. Now, I don't notice it until 7-8 miles in.)
Both your ability to cover longer distances and your speed will improve over time--and honestly, not very much time. Don't be discouraged. Every run I've had since giving birth to my son, I reflect on how far I've come. I think about how awesome it is that I have a beautiful 8 month old and I'm actually able to run 15 miles or 13 miles or 2 miles. Count each improvement as a success, no matter how small it might be!
5. Set goals, challenge yourself and never underestimate your abilities.
Despite what you might find yourself feeling these days, you are incredibly special and incredibly important. And allowing yourself the freedom to do the things that you love, like running, is
Don't underestimate your power and strength. Of course, you aren't sleeping enough. And you'll be tempted (just as I am, sometimes) to talk yourself out of running because you are stretched so thin as it is and even a 3 mile run will wear you down so much that you'll suddenly become ill and everything will fall apart. Well guess what? That's hogwash! Go out and run, sleep-deprived or not. (Of course, see tip #1 above.) The mental, emotional and physical benefits that you'll receive during that run will more than likely be just what you need to feel refreshed, strong and healthy. Sleep will come later...much, much later.
We really can have the things that we most want for ourselves. It just takes a little planning and dedication, along with some support from those that love you. Do take care of yourself during this special time but don't overthink it. Just be a great nursing runner!
Friday, February 17, 2012
Almost immediately after having my son July 30, I was motivated to get strong and regain my running fitness. It has been a long and difficult challenge but I have been dedicated and disciplined. After running my first trail race in December, I was hooked and made a commitment to run the 15 mile option of the Lovin' the Hills race. But I was very concerned because I knew that given my time constraints, I didn't have the amount of time I would have liked to prepare. Prior to the race, I had never run more than 14 miles in my life and it had been more than 2 years since doing that. I was anxious, but I knew I'd regret not doing this race. And after watching Running the Sahara and hearing Ray Zahab say, "Any limitations that we have, are those that we set upon ourselves. If you think you can only run 5 or 10k, you’ll only run 5 or 10k. It’s where you set those goals—because really there are no boundaries," I knew I had to DO IT! If I told myself that I could run the 15, then I COULD!
The training runs 2 and 3 weeks before the race were humbling, to say the least. I was slow--I knew that already--but slow running over the course of 15 miles means you have to really know yourself, be tough mentally and be prepared with enough fuel for your body as well. Prior to running this race, I ran 13.4 miles on similar but not-as-tough terrain. I knew I COULD finish 15 but I wasn't sure how I'd feel doing it. So, my main goal was to finish. My second goal was to not finish last. And my third (secret) goal was to finish in 4:30 or less.
Driving to the start, I was nervous because it had been very cold and snowy the night before and the road to the start is basically all uphill and most people call it "scary." I was afraid it would be slick but luckily, it wasn't. At the turn, there was a sign directing the racers to the start. I honestly teared up a little in anticipation. Everything I have been working for was about to start in an hour! I was emotional and very, very excited.
The parking area was buzzing with activity and as I've found to be the case at trail events, the racers were extremely friendly. It's such a fun atmosphere. The man parked to my left was whistling and singing and talked with me about how over-prepared he always is (me too!). The woman parked on my right was super friendly but nervous because it was her first trail race. These events are like parties, and because they are small and geared to a specific interest, everyone knows each other, or at least it seems that way. And even those people that have only met you once will scream your name and run to give you a hug or a high five. It's incredible!
The race actually started on time and I was excited to run the first leg--I know it very well and I know I handle it very well. There was lots of chatting and laughter during the first 5 miles or more. My cousin was running the 6 mile race (the 6 mile, the 15 mile and the 50K all follow the same course for the first 6 miles) so we stayed close throughout, and it was fun to talk with her and everyone else nearby. I also met a man named Ted with whom, we discovered, I share a Birthday! (Trail racers are such a talkative bunch and you always make new friends!) Before the end of the first leg, I was behind a group that was running a steady pace except for on downhills. I decided to pass them and power down the hills and I broke away at that point. At the end of the first leg, I stopped for a bathroom break, some food and some Gatorade, thanked the volunteers for being in the freezing cold and then headed back on trail to start the worst part of the rae. This part leads onto the Blue-Mitchell Hill Lake Trail, which connects to the Yost Ridge Trail and a spur trail until finally, you are in the Yost area of the Forest and by far the most hilly section.
I was basically alone for over a mile and just focused on running strong, and I felt very good. On the Yost Ridge Trail (over 7 miles in), I saw the lead runner coming at me. He was flying and looked strong. I was impressed at his speed--if he was doing the 15 miler, he was almost done. And if he was doing the 50K, he was in a great position to finish near the top. Eventually, I saw the road crossing that meant I would be heading into the Yost area--the part of the race that I dreaded. As soon as I crossed the street and hit the single track, I looked uphill and saw a group of about 7 or 8 runners in the distance, coming right in my direction and flying downhill. I stayed clear of them to give them their space to run their race and I was shocked at how nice these guys were--all but one told ME that I was doing a great job. I saw Eric Grossman, who I was rooting for to win but he was at the back of the pack and dare I say, I doubted him. I shouldn't have.
Yost was a real challenge--it's extremely hilly and the fatigue started to settle in. I did catch up to some of the people that I had passed early in the race (who had apparently passed me when I took my break) and that gave me a little bit of a kick. I could see Ted about .25 mile ahead whenever the turns of the trail allowed it and I really wanted to catch up to him because he had been doing a nice, steady pace before and, well, he was just NICE! I wanted to talk some more! Eventually, I did catch up and I got my wish. I hit the wall at mile 11 and stayed there throughout mile 12. Had I not been with Ted, I'm fairly sure that I would have given in and walked but this nearly 70 year old man didn't give up and I wasn't about to either. (I found humor in the fact that we had apparently both reached for a Clif bar at the same time--and we both complained at how freaking hard it was. It was like chewing a huge piece of concrete because of how cold it was!)
Right after mile 12, there was another aid station and it was nice to see some friendly faces--runners and volunteers. There were oatmeal creme pies and crackers and cookies and all kinds of goodies but really, all I was concerned about was filling my handheld with water. After stretching out my VERY tired, stiff, sore legs, I took off again, knowing that I would soon be heading back to the finish--about another 5K was all we had left. I was feeling a lot if discomfort but wasn't ready to give up and just ran as much as I possibly could. It wasn't long before I was back out of Yost again (YIPPEE!) and back on the spur trail. I looked ahead after hitting a turn and thought I saw another runner--that gave me a little motivation. I WAS GOING TO FIND THIS PERSON! I never saw them again on the spur trail but after reaching the Yost Ridge trail again, I was happy to see my training buddy Ed! I wouldn't have made it through the training runs without him so it was great to see him at this point in the race.
When I made the turn from Yost Ridge to Blue trail, I looked downhill along the switchback and saw the elusive runner that I had seen earlier. YES! He was a considerable distance ahead but just seeing him made me feel happy! I watched him run around the lake fairly easily and I'll admit, I gave up the hope that I'd ever catch him. I saw Craig, the photographer, so I tried to look a little stronger than I felt! My Garmin beeped at me and I lost reception right at 13.44 miles. As I left the lake and made the turn back uphill, I saw the runner again and he had stopped to walk. I caught up to him and we talked--he was very nice and encouraged me. We saw the "house" where the finish was and we both got that extra kick. We could see the clock in the distance and it showed 3:5x:xx...we could potentially finish in under 4 hours! Somehow, my training buddy, Ed, had made his way to the turn to the finish and he was so encouraging and told me how awesome it was that I was going to finish in under 4 hours "easy!"
As I crossed the finish line, I looked for Mom but she wasn't there yet because I had told her I'd finish in 4:15 or 4:30! But my cousin (who had finished her 6 mile race a couple of hours earlier and had promised at the beginning of the race that she would come back to see me finish) was actually there waiting for me! Not many people would race, go home and then come back! She's awesome! I crossed the finish at 3:56 and received a tree--yes, a tree! And there was a Montrail rep there who was very complimentary about my shoes--the Montrail Mountain Masochist. I raved about the shoes to him--after all, they got me through the most grueling 4 hours of my running life!
I loved this race and I love Headfirst Performance for the awesome job they do for the racers. Cynthia Heady is an outstanding human being and she's also an outstanding soup and chili maker! I couldn't wait to get inside and enjoy her food! There were 6 different soups/chilis, the best coffee in the world and my personal favorite, the natural peanut butter and 7-grain bread! It doesn't get any better than that after a chilly 4 hour run on the best trails in the Louisville area!
I'm looking forward to doing this race again next year--but I'm hoping to double the distance and do the 50K. I can't wait!
Friday, January 6, 2012
In Amby Burfoot’s book The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life, there is a chapter titled “The Transcendent Moments of a Runner” which captivated me. He described his six favorite “precious” and “emotional” moments, including running at sunrise, the first race, runner’s high/runner’s “mellow,” cresting heartbreak hill, running with a partner, and slapping hands with kids at the side of the road.
Reading through this chapter, my mind became consumed with my personal experience as a runner. I have had many “transcendent” moments and I reveled at how precious they were to me, even though some of them may not have made it into the pages of this book. But of course, how could they? Certainly runners share many similarities, but within that realm of similarities, there exists much variation. In fact, two people can be running side by side on the same course, at the same time of day, wearing the same shoes and still, they will have two very unique experiences. If we were all exactly the same, think of the boredom that would ensue. So, in appreciation of our differences, here are my favorite “transcendent moments as a runner.”
Runner’s “Mellow” or When My Body Creates Cannabinoids
Burfoot distinguishes between the great but rarely-occurring “runner’s high” and the frequently-occurring “mellowness” that runner’s feel post-run. While I have experienced the runner’s high a few times in my life as a runner, the happiness that I feel after almost every run is so special to me because it is a constant reward for my physical labor. I do not have to wait for everything to magically “fall into place” to feel good—it just happens after most runs, even the easy runs! I do notice that after long runs, however, I feel more than happy. I feel euphoric. I find myself returning home with a probably annoyingly-giddy attitude, though my Husband never seems to mind.
This happiness, or euphoria is our body’s natural response to exercise. I recently read an article that cited a study which found that it may not be endorphins that cause our good feeling post-workout, but instead it is our body creating cannabinoids (yes, like cannibus) to make us feel “high.” Go, body!
Running with Buddies
The people with which I run are more than just “training partners,” they are my buddies. Something special happens when you run with someone else—it’s as if you are immediately bonded for life. The time I spend running with “buddies” is so special to me for so many reasons, but most important to me is the “realness” that exists. When you run with another person, you can’t be fake. You can’t hide beneath your running clothes. It is impossible to lie about your distance or speed. The makeup is off. You get sweaty. You get winded—sometimes you feel like you can’t take another step. And at some point, one of you is going to hack, spit, blow a snot rocket, fart or maybe even vomit. So sure, you might have a best friend that knows all of the intimate details of your life but I bet your best friend has never seen you blow a snot rocket.
Running buddies see the real you and keep coming back for more. There is only one explanation for this—bonding (or insanity). When you run with another person, you are doing more than just training for your next race. Running buddies tell jokes, give advice, share food and water and in some cases, running buddies may even BE your best friend, or at least act like one once a week. Think about it—a group run is perhaps one of very few moments during the week when you are with another living, breathing human being and there is no TV or any other distraction. Your focus is on your running and on each other and when you make it to the end of the run, you have each other to thank.
The very nature of trail running (pun intended) is transcendent. There is something almost magical about running in nature and enjoying the surrounding beauty, so much so that I often find myself forgetting that I am running harder than I ever do on pavement. From the sweet smell of wet leaves to the joyful view of a sun dappled tree canopy, there is much to appreciate when you are running trails.
One of my favorite trails takes me from an open field with a gravel path to a multi-track packed dirt path with lots of leaves and roots, and eventually into a totally shaded area with a single-track path of soft pine needles. There can be no boredom with trail running—from the changing seasons to the various natural areas, not to mention the wildlife, one can encounter on a single run—nature ensures this. There is only the glory of a challenging run in a beautiful environment, which is why I never feel better than I feel both during and after completing a good, hard run through the woods, around the lake or on a mountain.
Achieving Personal Greatness
Notice I did not title this section “Achieving a PR.” Achieving our personal best—whatever is most important to you as an individual—is often much greater than simply running as fast as you have ever run before. In fact, I believe achieving our smallest goals can be even more significant than meeting those massive ones. Of course, runners are always hoping to improve our speed, our distance, our form or our strength. And on those occasions when our training pays off and we achieve a hard fought goal, it is no doubt one of the most gratifying moments we can have. But I would argue that it isn’t those large “bests” that get runners to lace up their shoes and sacrifice day after day—it is the motivation to achieve those smaller, individualized goals.
When I look at my overall running career, what makes me most proud aren’t just the fastest race times or the longest distances I’ve run, but instead the challenging runs in a downpour, conquering the massive hills at my favorite park with fierce determination, and leaving everything on the track where I do my speedwork. These are the battles that we face daily. When you achieve a weight loss goal or successfully complete a killer workout, you have fought against your biggest enemy—yourself—and won. It is amazing to feel self-pride and it is perhaps what keeps us motivated to keep pushing ourselves to become the best version of ourselves. Nothing is more important than that.
Conquering THE Race
Most runners enter races at some point in their life and we “race” for a variety of reasons—to win, to PR, to prove something to ourselves, to motivate ourselves in training, or maybe because someone signed you up unwillingly! And if you race, then you know what I mean by “conquering THE race.” It’s the most meaningful or the most memorable race that you’ve run. It could be your first race or the one you did last weekend. It’s the race where you challenged yourself and succeeded by finishing, or maybe the race that you received your first age group award, or ran for your favorite cause. It can be a 5K or a marathon because it’s not the distance that matters to you as much as it’s what finishing meant to you. You proved something to yourself—YOU DID IT!
I have two of these significant races—my first half marathon, the Kentucky Derby Festival Mini-Marathon in 2009 and my first trail race, the Otter Creek Trail Race in 2011. Finishing the Mini-Marathon was emotional for me because I was running to raise money for Kosair Children’s Hospital and I was so touched by the individual stories of the children and their families that were helped by the Hospital. Also, finishing this race was a huge personal achievement. Though I had been running for more than 10 years at that time, I never imagined that I was capable of actually running the half marathon distance. It was proof to myself that I did have discipline, dedication and endurance, and that was and still is important to me.
My first trail race was another huge personal achievement and the most exciting race in which I have ever participated. I am passionate about trail running and to actually run in a trail race was the pinnacle of my running career.
Whatever your Race is, it will always have significance to you—and not just as a runner. And when you remember it, you’ll always feel the same rush that you felt when you finished it.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
Let me preface this race report by saying that I have wanted to do this race since 2009 but have been unable to because of a horrendous work schedule. Since the Summer, ter having my baby and deciding not to hurry back to work, I knew that I would finally be able to do this race. Needless to say, I was very excited this morning!
When I awoke, the temperature was a very mild 57 degrees. I checked the forecast and found that by the time I would finish the race, it was going to be 42 degrees. I dressed in thin running tights, a singlet and a thin jacket but threw arm warmers, gloves, extra shirts and another jacket in my bag and decided I’d figure out my wardrobe once I arrived. After my one mile warmup, however, I decided that what I had on would work best. The wind was incredible this morning and had everyone chilled, even with the mild temperature. I ran down to the river, just for fun and I have never seen it so rough. I knew that the wind was going to be trouble!
Let me back track—I forgot to pick up my packet during the week so I had to grab it this morning. Only thing is, I had no idea where to go once I arrived at the American Turner building. There were signs everywhere that read “New Years Party, 3rd Floor!” What I—and tons of other runners—failed to realize was that those signs were for us! I picked up my packet, said hello to a few familiar faces and grabbed a cup of the blackest, strongest (and best!) coffee I have ever had outside of my house.
For my warm-up, I ran to Cox Park and back. It was during this time that I realized that I wasn’t really in the mood to run. I feel this relatively often during warm-ups but don’t let it bother me because I find that I typically get into a good zone after I start the race. I figured this time would be no different. I also confirmed my suspicions that the wind was going to be very annoying and I hoped that we would have it at our backs the majority of the time. Hope all you want, sometimes you don’t get what you want.
My goal for the race was to finish in 2 hours—slow to you, yes, but not for me right now. My plan was to run relatively slowly for the first 5 miles and then try to speed it up just a tad for the last 5. Miles 1 and 2 seemed to drag on and on. I got a brief adrenaline rush at the start of mile 2, which was at the Water Tower, when a truck driver hopped out of his cab and proceeded to yell at the officers blocking traffic. They responded with their own yelling, “GET BACK IN YOUR TRUCK, GET BACK IN YOUR TRUCK, NOW!” Was I going to see my first arrest during a race? Running the Water Tower loop was nice but I still felt unmotivated to do this race!
Through mile 6, I felt pretty low, mentally. The only bright spot was the volunteers who were incredible and the police officers who were super friendly. I noted that I finished the 5 miles in 1:01 and figured I could, in fact, reach my goal if I could keep going just a tad faster for the next 5 miles. During races, I rarely question why I'm actually there. But today, I did many times. I found the course to be very boring and not scenic enough--which is probably why I prefer trail running. I talked with another runner about why we didn't want to be doing what we were doing and how we wanted to go home and drink mimosas. Fortunately, just before mile 6, my wonderful Mom made her first appearance. It means so much to see someone out there cheering for you. And on this course, especially for someone slow like me, that was even more important because I felt very lonely at times. It was good to get a hug!
By mile 7, I was running on fumes and decided it was time to have a chat with myself--physically, not just mentally, I was breaking down. I reminded myself over and over that I COULD do this because I had just done it the previous week with our running group. I was so thankful for them while I ran today, because without them, I know that I wouldn’t have finished at my goal time. I wanted to walk so badly but I knew that I was cutting it close and had to keep pushing through the pain and I was in pain. I reminded myself that if I was able to give birth naturally, I could keep running for a couple of miles. Around 9.5, I was ready to give it up but I saw Craig Dooley, the photographer so I pretended I had some strength left! SMILE!
At the finish, my Garmin read 10.11 miles in almost 2:01. I did it, at least! It didn’t feel good, but I did it! The wind was brutal and battered us almost the entire race. It was unpleasant and it made me never want to do this race again!
Here are my splits, which averaged 11:53 for the race:
Mile 1 - 11:42
Mile 2 - 12:17
Mile 3 - 11:51
Mile 4 - 12:24 (I walked the first .25 of this to refuel and hydrate)
Mile 5 - 12:11
Mile 6 - 11:35
Mile 7 - 12:01
Mile 8 - 11:32
Mile 9 - 11:48
Mile 10 - 11:34
Final .11 - 10:57/mi
Again, I realize most of you think this is incredibly slow but it sure feels good to see my average pace for a 10 MILE RACE at the sub-12:00 mark. I can see that I'm making improvements and of course, it's exciting.
Big thank you to Todd and Cynthia Heady for what they do, the volunteers who were the best I've ever seen, and the police who did a remarkable job and were friendly!
And here I am shooting hoops after I cooled down. Someone commented that I had a lot of energy to have just run 10 miles. I did, I don't know where it came from!
Sunday, December 18, 2011
For the brief version, scroll to the bottom!
It was a typical cold December morning and about 300 of us gathered together around a fire, awaiting instructions for the Otter Creek Trail Race. Standing on the outer edge of the group with my buddy Rachel, I struggled to hear the race director but it was difficult with all of the excited chatter that surrounded us. My mind was racing even before my body could begin to—this was my first trail race and I was a special blend of excited and nervous! After completing 24 road races in the last three years, I could tell at this moment that THIS race was going to be different. The people were different, the vibe was different. I wanted to jump up and down because I could FEEL the difference and I loved it.
Fact: if you fuel up 15 minutes before a race, the race will not begin on time. The start time was 8:30 for this race but we didn’t actually start until 8:48. We had a short paved portion to run before reaching the trail and I was so happy to be moving—everything on me was frozen. I intentionally hugged the back of the pack. My goal was to run a conservative race early and get a feel for this trail and how the race is run and if it felt right later, I could pick up the intensity. There was a lot of stop and go early in the race and a lot of people were annoyed by this. I didn’t care at all—I knew I had 8 miles to go and I was in no hurry. It didn’t take long before the field spread and everyone settled into their comfort zone.
We found ourselves running through a beautiful white pine forest and if I hadn’t already loved trail running, I would have fallen for it at this moment.
Despite having such warm and tingly feelings, I was noticing the silence of my Garmin (where WAS that mile alert, anyway?) and I felt like I had run more than a mile so I checked—1.55 miles. I was a little surprised at the time and started to worry that I had gone out too fast, even though I felt alright. I decided to keep plowing ahead at the same speed, knowing that if I needed to walk at any point, I could. Trail runners aren’t as stubborn about that as road runners. We know that power-hiking, especially on steep uphill portions, will get you to the finish just as fast or faster than running—and it gives you a chance to enjoy the scenery a little, as well.
Between miles 2 and 3, I pass a man that I will encounter quite a bit during the race. We chat as I trot by and discover he is running the marathon. He seemed to be in his late 50’s or early 60’s if I had to guess and told me he had turned his ankle too many times on the course already and he wasn’t going to risk injury because he had another marathon to do in Springfield, Illinois the next day! I wished him luck and ran ahead…more on him later.
Soon after mile 3, everyone was well spread out but I could still hear people ahead and behind me. I could tell we were nearing Otter Creek because the trails and surrounding areas were either slick or pooling water in places. I come to one of only two switchbacks that I remember—and it wasn’t nearly as bad as the ones I’m used to running. I look down the trail a bit and I see two cute gals precariously circumnavigating a stretch of trail. I think, “Uh oh, must be pretty dangerous up there” and feel myself tense up, sensing impending danger. When I reach them, I quickly survey and realize it’s just a long muddy patch. I tell them I’m going to go on and pass them and just walk through the mud. As I pass, I hear, “Are you K-dot-Ash?” I turned around, almost stunned! It’s KarenC and M! I was very excited to meet them and they were even nicer than I expected! We run and talk for awhile but I realize it’s time for me to fuel up so I tell them to pass me. As they head on, and I eat my Fig Newmans (which were incredibly cold, by the way), I realize it’s pretty quiet around me. I enjoy the solitude, even while feeling a bit lonely. I also notice that I was starting to feel chilly again—a big signal that it was time to run again.
One thing that I was warned about prior to this race is how easy it is to get lost when trail racing. When you are trail running alone or with a buddy, you are more aware of your surroundings. But in a racing environment, it’s easy to just zone out and follow the person (or people) in your lead. One of my goals for this race was to be very observant and stay aware of the trail markings so as not to get lost. Halfway through mile 3, I made note of a flag and not more than 60 seconds later, I see the group in front of me piling up at the Creek. Before I reach them, I survey the area and attempt to locate the next orange flag but I have no luck. I reach them and some folks behind me appear as well and we all try to find our way back on course. I stop my Garmin during this time and forget to turn it back on after we see the steep climb to get back on course. I don’t notice this, however, until I’ve run more than a third of a mile.
After getting off course, there was a group of 5-7 runners that stayed together, sometimes playing “cat and mouse.” Included in this group was the man I met earlier—the marathoner, “Al.” He apparently does lots of back-to-back races and was a really nice guy. I looked him up after the race and it turns out he either looks a lot younger than he is or I’m a really bad judge of age—he was in his early 70’s!
Besides being a bit tired, I was probably paying more attention to the conversation than my footing and I found myself losing balance and about to stumble—but NO! I caught myself and felt like a superhero in slow motion! I was very proud of my save and happily took my next step to be on my merry way. And then “BAM!” There half my body lay in the mud. I recovered clumsily and fought the urge to look around to see if anyone saw me.
Beyond mile 5, we were told to follow the course to the “Blue Hole,” where there was an aid station. The two runners that had been behind me most of the race went on without taking this part of the course—this peeved me but I was too worried about finding a bathroom to care for long. I passed a runner who was leaving the area to head back to the course and she informed me that there were no bathrooms. Bummer. I ended up leaving a “donation” for Otter Creek. I also filled my bottle with a little HEED and some water, tightened up my laces and went on my way, but not before seeing Rachel, KarenC and M again!
The trail became multi-track here and again, I found myself alone. I felt decent after the break and tried to keep up the pace, but this didn’t last long. The course became littered with many more hills as we approached the Ohio River. Some hills I felt good enough to power up, others I was forced to hike. A little over 6 miles in, I was totally spent and had completely hit the wall, physically and mentally. Still alone, I decided to pop a GU and keep plowing up the looong hill. My heart was beating so hard that I could hear each “thump” pulsing throughout my body. This portion presented a 376 foot elevation gain and despite the exhaustion I felt, I was aware of my beautiful surroundings and felt it necessary to take a few pictures.
Nearing mile 7, we were met with breathtaking views of the bend of the Ohio River. I remembered hiking this several years ago, but somehow, I appreciated the view a bit more today.
Here was also where I was passed for the first and only time by a runner who had completed the loop once already. I was surprised that this was the only runner to do so. Moments later, I approached the runners that had “cheated” and skipped the Blue Hole. I thought “Ha! That’s what you get!” I looked at my Garmin, realized I had about a mile left (I thought!) and decided now was the time to run trails the way I like to run trails. I took off, zig zagged and had a blast. I was on auto-pilot. I wasn’t thinking about my next step, I was just landing them and I felt amazing. This was my fastest mile of the race and the fastest mile I’ve run on trails in over a year.
I continued on and saw two women who looked exhausted. As I passed them, they asked if I knew how far we were. I told them about my Garmin mishap but estimated we were a little over 8 miles. I had no idea how much further we’d have to go but I kept powering ahead, knowing the finish had to be near. I caught a view of a tent (another aid station) and the volunteer told me if I was running the 8 that I needed to hang a left to finish. LEFT! It was pavement again and boy, that felt strange. I ran past the parking area and saw what I believed to be my Mom’s car but I hadn’t expected her to show up. I kept running in and saw her standing at the last turn. She told me that they asked her to direct the runners to the finish because the volunteer hadn’t shown up! Approaching the finish, I saw my time was nearing 2:09 and I was so happy! My secret goal was to finish 8 miles in 2:00, and I had done that!
The finish was great! Lots of positivity and excitement, even for a slow runner like myself. I was impressed that I didn’t even have to bend over to get my chip—they removed it for me! I was amazed at how much energy I still had, although my legs were aching. But I wanted to get back to Rachel! I waited a few minutes with Mom, cheered KarenC in and then decided to run back up to the aid station to see if I could see Rachel. I caught a glimpse of her turquoise jacket and saw that she was with M, too! They looked great and we ran into the finish and grabbed some beans and rice and some yummy brownies, courtesy of Rachel!
How I felt about this race:
It freakin’ rocked! All I could think of during the race was “why has it taken me three years to do this,” and “when’s my next trail race?”
I heard several people comment that they didn’t want to get their shoes dirty. Really? It’s a TRAIL RACE!
I only said “shit” once. That’s usually my word choice when I trip or fall.
I didn’t think I’d only get “looped” once. I figured several more runners would pass me.
I didn’t get nearly as dirty as I expected.
Though I am accustomed to running faster in road races than on training runs, I didn’t expect that to hold true for a trail race.
What I learned:
When you are running with 200-300 other people and stay at the back of the pack, you won’t see any wildlife. Not even a squirrel.
All of the rumors were TRUE about trail races. The people kick ass, the vibe is laid back but energetic and it truly was the most fun I’ve ever had racing, hands down.