DNF

The signs were there, but again, I chose to ignore them. I didn’t experience any knee pain until 12-14 days ago, and it started out mildly enough. As I continued to train, the pain became progressively worse into early last week (5-6 days out from the race). I was dreading every run and I think that the pain was contributing to my sustained dark mood. I usually don’t take the day off before any race, but I did this time. A short jog across the parking lot while working at the expo reminded me of my knee pain.

Yet, I showed up to the start line at 6:30am on Sunday!

I showed up, ran ~16 miles at a respectable pace, stopped at a porta potty and realized how terrible I felt, slowed down and took a few walking breaks until mile ~19, then removed my bib and began to jog/walk back to my car. Having reflected on the race, I think that I didn’t feel the knee pain as much while running faster, but it came out in full force when I finally slowed down. My pace definitely slowed after mile 16, but I think that I could’ve finished in 3:10-3:15 with a healthy knee. I don’t often speak of what I “could’ve run” because I believe that one can always claim they “could’ve run” this or that time, but I felt decent fitness-wise. The weather was good for running, it was a pretty flat course, and I felt like my energy reserves would’ve held up. I didn’t finish though, I earned a DNF and left with my tail between my legs.

As for the injury itself, it is incredibly painful, which is to be expected after running 20 miles on a bum knee. The pain is in the lower, right corner of my knee cap and radiates about halfway down my shin. It is a very grating pain and feels more bone or joint-oriented than tendon or muscle. I’m not sure if the origin is the knee cap or where my knee meets my shin, but I’m hoping to get an x-ray or MRI this week. In the meantime, I’m icing it when possible and resting. While incredibly frustrated and sad, I’m aware that this is 100% my own doing.

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Before.

After.

After.

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Avalon Benefit 50 Mile Run Race Recap

My legs took me further than they ever have before, so I give them full credit for this race. My heart, lungs, brain, feet and eyes certainly helped out, but my legs really surprised me.

Lori, Laura and I boarded the ferry to Catalina Island on Friday afternoon. I was full of nervous energy, but excited for a weekend getaway. We arrived without fanfare, but the hotel check-in procedure was mildly interesting. With four people expected to sleep in our room, we absolutely needed the roll-away bed that was offered as an option during booking.

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“A roll-away won’t fit in that room” – front desk worker

“Why was it offered during booking then?” – Lori

The front desk worker shrugged. There were no rooms left at this hotel, and only one hotel with a (very expensive) vacancy left on the island. We decided that we would make a queen bed, a tiny amount of floor space, and a lot of blankets work. There was a heater in the room and a booklet with instructions on how to turn it on, but we couldn’t get it to work.

“The heaters in the rooms don’t work. We haven’t updated the booklet, sorry” – front desk worker

In the end, we stole the roll-away bed which was sitting in the hall next to our room just asking to be taken, the fourth person booked a last-minute room at another hotel, and we cocooned ourselves in all of the blankets. It worked out.

I was living in the moment of “I’m about to pick my race bib up for a 50 mile run” while waiting in the long packet pickup line. We stood around and got to know a few other runners and before I knew it, the 50K and 50M line split. I was one step closer to the start line. Bibs and shirts in hand, we found a sushi restaurant nearby and sat down for a relaxing pre-race meal and glass of wine. We stopped at a VONS and ran into a group of Laura’s friends. I realized this weekend how much I truly love the local running community – everyone is positive, encouraging and slightly crazy. After VONS, we finished preparing drop bags, ensured race outfits were ready, and set alarm clocks. One aspect of ultramarathon running that I am not keen on is the amount of stuff required. Perhaps I over-prepared, but my drop bag and hydration pack felt overloaded. Regardless, I felt confident that I had everything that I would need to run 50 miles.

I slept fitfully, but was really excited to run when my alarm clock sounded at 3:30am. I ate oatmeal with peanut butter and drank 2 cups of instant coffee. I was going to run almost 2x my standard race distance so why not have 2x the amount of coffee that I usually have? Worries of dehydration or an upset stomach fluttered around my brain, but neither ended up happening. At 4:30am, we walked outside into a light drizzle. The weather forecast had been waffling earlier in the week and everyone was nervous for rain. During the 2015 Avalon Benefit 50 Miler, Laura had run the entire race in a downpour. We hoped that the drizzle stayed light and would eventually stop. As a precaution, I wore a rain jacket over my long-sleeve shirt.

50m-map

50m-elevation

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We all began our trip around Catalina island at 5:00am. I knew that it was going to be a long day, I would feel pain and be uncomfortable, I would deal with one or more low points, but that I would to fight to the finish. After about a mile on city streets, we begin the 2 mile climb up the Trans Catalina Trail. I kept my effort level very low (2-10) as I wanted to save my legs for the latter miles. Around mile 2.5, I started to run with John who provided great company for the next 18 miles. We were treated to a beautiful sunrise at the crest of the first climb (photo credit: John). We ran right through the first two aid stations (Haypress @ 5.4, Empire road @ 11.9) both feeling great. I bypassed my drop bag and ran through the third aid station (Little Harbor/Wacko Cafe @ 18.9). When John told me what mile we were at, I was elated that we were almost 20 miles in and I still felt fresh.

Photo cred: John

I knew that we had two small-looking “bumps” between miles 20 and 35. John and I separated coming down one of the “bumps” and I continued on solo, enjoying gorgeous views and sounds of sea lions. During my long descent into the city of Two Harbors, I crossed paths with a few of the race leaders and cheered them on. Having only had a few pieces of chocolate at mile 17ish, I decided that I would eat something more substantial at the next aid station. I feasted on salted potatoes and Coca-Cola at the Isthmus (25.4) aid station and then began the 1.3 mile climb toward the turnaround. I was shocked to learn that I was sitting in 2nd place amongst female runners. Knowing that there were still 20+ miles for something to go wrong, I continued to keep myself in check.

This fox can only be found on Catalina Island.

This fox can only be found on Catalina Island.

I drank another cup of Coca-Cola at Isthmus (now @ mile 26.7) and climbed out of Two Harbors. During a long run a few months ago, I randomly experimented with Coca-Cola for fueling and found that it works really well for me. It sits well in my stomach and I seem to absorb the sugars and/or caffeine quickly, with burping being the only side effect. I was glad that every single aid station offered this sugary elixir.

After coming up out of the city of Two Harbors, we descended and I locked into step with Joe from Arizona for a few miles. The downhill seemed to jostle my GI system, because I ran straight into a porta potty at the next aid station (Little Harbor/Wacko Cafe @ 33.2). After the bathroom stop and finally removing my rain jacket, I felt 2 pounds lighter. Joe and I separated at this point and I began to feel not-so-great. Miles 33 – 40 presented winding trails, rolling hills, warmer temperatures, and sightings of the current first place overall woman. I took a few brief walking breaks up the hills and tried hard to keep doubt from creeping into my thoughts. I broke the rest of the race up into manageable pieces: 7 miles to mile 40, which was further than I’d ever run, 7 miles until the 3 mile downhill. I simply had to complete each section.

View of Two Harbors

View of Two Harbors… I think

Somewhere between the aid stations, a jeep full of course rovers pulled up and asked how I was doing. I was surprised to see my friend Bino in the jeep! He provided me with a much needed boost of spirit and a bonus selfie. “You have about 1.2 miles until the next aid station, a 1-mile climb, a few miles of rollers, and then let ‘er rip for the last 3 miles downhill. You’re also pretty close to the first place woman so… lock that up.” he advised. I thanked him and focused on getting to the last major aid station.

I struggled the most during this 1.2 mile stretch, which felt like 12 miles. I passed the lead woman right before stuffing my face with more potatoes and Coca-Cola at the last major aid station (Pumphouse Hill @ mile 44). I wish I could write a Yelp! review for that aid station. Not only did they season their boiled potatoes with Montreal steak seasoning (heavenly), they were also a very encouraging and high-spirited group. The combination of the well-seasoned potatoes and power walking the entire 1-mile climb left me with a second wind for the last 5 miles. I moved well through 2 miles of rolling hills and, per Dino’s instructions, let ‘er rip for the last 3 miles. It certainly helped that it was downhill, on road, and I could see the city of Avalon down below. I had a massive smile on my face when I finished my first 50 mile in 8 hours and 11 minutes, good enough for 13th overall and 1st female overall.

I walked around for a few minutes, congratulating other runners and assessing my physical state. My legs felt tired and I felt nauseated, but everything seemed to be in working order otherwise. I sat down to take off my shoes and realized that I actually felt really nauseated, either as a result of running for almost 8 hours straight or because it was just really sick of potatoes and soda. I stuck around talking to new and old friends, patiently waiting for my stomach to settle. I finally made my way back to the hotel, showered and dressed, and then walked with Laura (who placed 3rd overall female and earned a huge course PR!) back to the finish line to wait for Lori, who finished strong and also earned a 50 mile PR. The rest of the evening included nachos, margaritas, Bloody Marys, a 4+ hour hot tub session, rum, and pizza (in that order). Recovering can be just as fun as running.

A ferry full of runners comparing race stories and blister sizes made the return trip fun. I felt sad to leave the island and part ways with my friends on Sunday, but so full-hearted and content. Aside from a huge wad of prize money cash, I can’t think of anything that would’ve made the weekend better.

I took Sunday completely off, but have run every day since with no issues. I was quite sore on Monday and Tuesday and kept my effort very easy. Not surprisingly, I started to feel antsy by Wednesday and ran the AREC loop at a decent pace. I threw some speedier miles into today’s run and while I didn’t feel as bouncy as pre-50 miler, I was pleased with the effort.

 

Paramount Ranch 50K Race Recap

“It gives your life focus and purpose on a daily basis and it’s really that context of living with intention that I find the most fulfilling and rewarding. If I didn’t have that burning desire to be doing something all the time, like, life would just seem sort of dull and even keel.” – Anton Krupicka in this video.

Watching Anton smile through a grueling and self-supported triathlon to the top of Longs Peak, successful in his goal to set the FKT (Fastest Known Time) for the route, was truly inspiring and relatable. I can’t imagine a life without movement.

Unfortunately, my legs weren’t keen on moving last weekend. They felt heavy, which I suppose I should’ve expected having done a harder-than-planned hill workout with Rufus two days prior. While it’s never fun to run on non-responsive legs, it simulated what it might feel like to run a lot of miles on tired legs. I set 3 goals for this race:

  1. Run 32 miles as a long training run for Avalon 50 and finish feeling like I could run 18 more miles.
  2. Practice running with my hydration backpack and experiment more with fueling.
  3. Suffer through a loop course. I’m not a masochist, but I believe that the mental training is just as important as the physical training.

I ran the Paramount Ranch Trail Runs half marathon last year, so I knew that it would be a fun morning. I left at about 4:45am, stopped for my standard 7-11 coffee and Quest bar, and arrived early enough to score an excellent parking spot (= shorter distance to walk post-race). The race goodie bag included a Trail Runner magazine, which I read while relaxing in my car with the heater going full blast. It was sub-30 degrees! After a bathroom visit, I began the race preparation process and checking: 2 long sleeve shirts, gloves, deodorant, hydration backpack, snacks, phone with podcast ready to go, chapstick, and a hat stowed away in the pack. The sun was up and I was ready to run!

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Tam!

We started at 7:00am and I tried to settle into my run, but the course was much more up and down than I remembered. The inclines and declines are short and sweet, but relentless. Loop #1 didn’t feel great, especially with semi-frozen hands and face, but I figured I would warm up into 2 and 3. I came through the start/finish line after the first 2 rounds questioning whether or not the 50K was a good idea. Thankfully, I started talking to Grant during the third loop and it served as a nice distraction. He was running the “marathon” in his bid to complete 41 marathons before his 41st birthday! We ran through the start/finish line together absorbed in conversation and I felt better, but still heavy and not settled. We separated somewhere during our fourth loop and I noticed that there were definitely less people on the race course.

Up and down and up and down x 5.

Up and down and up and down x 5.

One element of the course that I did enjoy was that it doubles back often, which means passing by other runners at multiple points. It was fun to see the same people on each of the loops and enjoy many opportunities to encourage and be encouraged. However, it was hard to gauge which loops other runners were on since our bibs were the same color. I saw Rachel a few times and wondered whether she was running the “half marathon” or 30K. She was running hard and strong and placed first for the women and second overall for the 50K!

loooops

Thoughts of dropping to the 40K “marathon” formed after the third time of passing through the finish line. Each time I passed the emptying parking lot, I thought about the dry clothing and face wipes which were waiting for my in my car. I was feeling tired and slightly bored, but I knew that I would be really disappointed with myself if I chopped 10K off of my race. Plus, once I started loop #5, there would be no turning back. Double plus, I felt semi-decent for having run 40K on lead legs. I was intimately familiar with the course profile by this point and just moved through each of my designated “sections.” There was a woman sitting in a chair and a man in a Christmas sweater, both of which we passed twice at two different intersections. I just focused on each of those 4 passings, knowing that the 2nd time by Christmas sweater-guy was close to the finish line. I felt very strong coming into the finish and crossed the line in 4:46:26.

Standard post-50K fatigue set in, but I felt really good. I didn’t walk or stop at all during this 50K, but I predict there will be walk breaks during the 50 miler, especially since there will be more sustained climbing. In regards to my 3 pre-race goals:

  1. Run 32 miles as a long training run for Avalon 50 and finish feeling like I could run 18 more miles: I feel more confident that I will finish the 50 miler intact, but it will be painful. I recovered very quickly from this 50K.
  2. Practice running with my hydration backpack and further experiment with fueling: I still don’t like it, but I can do it. For this race, I had one Honey Stinger gel, one Warrior bar, and one green tea Kit Kat. My stomach didn’t get upset and my energy levels were good, but the Warrior bar was tough to eat while running.
  3. Suffer through a loop course. I’m not a masochist, but I believe that the mental training is just as important as the physical training: I’m still not a fan of loop courses, especially since it makes it much easier to drop, but I got it done. I can’t imagine running a 1-mile loop course for 50+ miles!

I can’t leave the always-important race swag review out. Kierra, the race director, does a seriously fantastic job choosing and designing her event shirts. Last year’s Paramount Ranch Trail Runs shirt and her Griffith Park Trail Runs top are items that I wear often. Not only are the designs tasteful, but they fit well. Her events are just all-around high quality and worth running.

 

Santa Barbara “Marathon” Race Recap

Another friend suggesting a random race, another random race to add to my completion list.

I ran the Santa Barbara Red Rock Marathon last Saturday, deciding and convincing Chris to tag along only a few days prior. We left at 2:30am on race morning and arrived to a dark, extremely cold, but lively camping area. I was nervous – the participant email billed the event a “no frills trail race” and advised us to bring our own water and food supply. Though there would be aid stations, they weren’t close together and would provide minimal offerings. However, I grew less nervous and more excited as I listened to the bathroom-line chatter. Past participants reminisced on past year’s races and said that it was a great course and a lot of fun. I caught up with Lori at the pre-race meeting who would be running her first 50 miler!

At 6:00am, about 200 of us left the start line area. There was a “half marathon,” “full marathon,” and “50 miler.” I use quotation marks because the distances ended up being 14 miles, 29 miles, and 52(?) miles. Before my hands and feet even had a chance to de-frost, we arrived at our first water crossing. I paused and watched a dozen people stop to remove their shoes, deciding whether or not I wanted to do the same. I couldn’t really feel anything anyway, so I just ran through the ice water. I passed birthday boy Sean (running the 50 miler) a few minutes later and began to settle into the race. After about 5 miles, I finally started to warm up.

This was my first race using a hydration pack and I am so happy that I won a VaporAiress Hydration Backpack back at Whoo’s in El Moro – it was perfection. I was worried that it would bounce around, feel heavy, or chafe, but I completely forgot that I was wearing it. I’ve never been a fan of carrying a lot of things while I run, but it was nice to know that I had water, nutrition, a visor, and my phone should I have needed any of it. I was able to bypass aid stations without worrying about finding myself thirsty or hungry in the middle of the race. I loaded my phone up with a podcast for the later miles, but I didn’t end up using it.

elevation

The first 7 miles included a water crossing, technical terrain, ups, downs, and a big downhill into the first aid station. Miles 7-8.5ish were on a road, followed by a big up and big down on a fire road. I fell into step with a runner from Switzerland for a few miles and we chatted. I was sustaining my pace on the climbs, but he was taking them a bit slower as he would be running 50 miles, so I wished him good luck and we parted ways right before the second aid station. I continued toward the turnaround after throwing a few M&Ms into my mouth. I passed about 10 people between the first and second pass at this aid station. The turnaround was further down than I’d expected, but I was moving really well. I saw the first female running really well on the other side and started to fish my half-eaten package of Cracker Jacks out. This isn’t standard race fuel for me, but I wanted to finish the package that I’d started before the race.

Miles 15-20 were uneventful; I was basically re-tracing my steps back toward the start/finish line. During the race, I didn’t know what mile I was at at any point (and didn’t know that the course was 29 miles/turnaround was 14.5), but I asked the last aid station volunteers how many miles remained. I was still feeling good, but knew that we had a steep and technical climb out of the aid station which would require a fair amount of my energy. I was surprised to learn that there were still 7 miles to go.

The next 4 miles were very technical, with a lot of short ups and downs. Parts of the trail were narrow and rocky, which always feels more difficult on fatigued legs. I focused on not tripping and continuing to drink water. I really wanted to put my visor on, but I didn’t want to stop and get it out of my pack. The sun had come out and it had warmed up, but not overwhelmingly so. I was living in that moment of “I’m out here in the sunshine, on the trails, doing what I love, feeling so good.” I couldn’t hear anyone behind or in front of me. Those miles were so peaceful.

Upon starting a longer downhill segment, an on-course bike rover passed me and said that I was looking good at mile 20. “I don’t think this is mile 20?” I thought to myself. I had estimated it to be mile 17 or 18. I thanked him and kept going, speeding up slightly with the knowledge that a majority of the last few miles were downhill. About 1.5 miles later, I was shocked to see the first woman up ahead of me. Had I sped up or had she slowed down? I didn’t feel like I’d picked it up that much. I’m not sure what came over me, but I cranked the pace down at this point. I mean, I really cranked it down. I felt like I was running sub-6 minute miles, aided by the decline. Fully believing that she would chase, I ran as fast as physically possible down the hill.

After what felt like 5 miles of running hard (probably 2 miles max), I felt tired and wondered what would happen once the course flattened out. The second-to-last water crossing was waist high (!), with a photographer staged on the other side. I can’t wait for those pictures. After a section of flat fire road, there was one last water crossing, but it was shallow and run-able. Shortly after that, I came too close to the edge of the road and rolled my left ankle. Perfect. Never looking back, I continued toward the finish line and was the second runner and first female “marathon” runner to cross it. A friendly face greeted me with a handmade finisher’s necklace and winners ceramic plate! I chatted with the winner and took a picture with Scott and Michelle.

plate

group

While I was chatting with runners and volunteers and enjoying a hot bowl of chili, it began to rain. Within 15 minutes, I would categorize it as “raining really fucking hard.” I hoped that Chris had made it past the steep uphill section after the last aid station. It would only be a matter of time before that part become a giant mud slide. I took refuge in my car while waiting for him, watching finishers come down the final stretch. Call me a fair-weather runner, but I would not have wanted to run more than 5 miles in that downpour, especially muddy trail miles. Chris finished, changed, and then we left. As expected, there was a lot of southbound traffic, so we stopped at Whole Foods and enjoyed hot bar fare and cookies. Caramel macadamia nut cookie = 9/10. Lemon coconut cookie = 7/10.

As expected, I woke up with a very swollen ankle and extremely sore legs. I can’t remember being that sore since running the Twin Peaks 50K. I attributed it to the last 3 miles of hard, downhill running. I predict that if I hadn’t run that section so aggressively, I wouldn’t have been as sore. My legs really took their time regaining pep and it took until Friday for the soreness to dissipate. Reflecting on the race, I am very happy with the effort and how I felt. I really enjoyed the course and getting to know the trails of Santa Barbara!

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Bakersfield Marathon Race Recap

“Bakersfield?! That sounds like it would be …interesting” I responded to Chris when he told me that he would be pacing the full marathon. Combing through the website, I came across the course map and thought it actually looked interesting, and in a good way.

course-map

I clicked around, curiosity mounting. As an industry professional, I’m critical of website items such as ease of accessing pertinent information like course maps and registration, spelling and grammar, communication of dates and times, and general layout. Stumbling upon the awards page, I noted that the prize purse for the first place woman was $1000. I don’t usually win marathons, but this was an inaugural race and I figured maybe I would luck out and earn an easy win. I also checked out the event’s Facebook page and learned that it had been canceled before. I began to get the sense that race organizers have been trying to get it going for the last 2 years, but the city wasn’t easy to work with. While I was nervous that it would be again be canceled, I went ahead and registered.

Training was and has been going well: long runs, harder effort runs, my beloved hill workouts, a 32 mile run/race in the bank, no major injuries, and a general sense of smoothness to my running. The only component that I have yet to add back in is speed/track work; I’ve been extremely apprehensive to add this back into my routine. Though it likely has only been a single factor in past injuries, I feel like it is the most significant contributor. A lack of speed work + not having run a road marathon since June = no idea what I would run on race day. My A goal was sub-3:20, with my “secret” goal being to break tape and take $1000 home.

Chris and I arrived at the packet pickup about 15 minutes before closing on Saturday and hastily grabbed our race items. In addition to a bib and race shirt, our “goodie” bags included some The Wonderful Company samples, coupons for meals and desserts, race advertisements, and a very helpful event guide. In fact, I referred to the event guide multiple times on Saturday and Sunday – this is something that every event should provide!

welcome-sign

 

I found Hodel’s Country Dining on Yelp! and we took full advantage of their inexpensive, but delicious, buffet. Full of food and tired, I fell asleep early and woke up feeling rested on Sunday morning. Chris and I are both naturally (very) early morning risers, so we were both ready to go much earlier than our planned departure time. We stopped by 7-11 for coffee and leisurely made our way to the race. Traveling to and parking at smaller races is generally much easier than the big affairs. I visited the porta-potty, pinned my bib on, chatted with other runners, and dawdled until locking up the car and dropping my bag off at gear check. I arrived in the start area at about 6:45am and chatted with Lori and Vanessa for a few minutes. At 7:00am, it was announced that the start would be delayed. While slightly irritating, there isn’t one much can do about it, so we continued standing around and chatting. I recognized a girl I’d run a few miles with at the OC Marathon and we caught up.

At about 7:15am, it was announced that the race would be further delayed. It wasn’t terribly cold (high 50s, low 60s?), but I felt like my body was stiffening up from not moving. At 7:30am, a runner loudly chided the race announcer to start the damn thing. At 7:45am, I began to consider just dropping down to the half marathon because I didn’t want to run the latter miles in the heat, and also because I was feeling lazy. An hour after the race was supposed to start, and we were still standing around CSU Bakersfield. The race announcer then let us know that we were 5 minutes out from starting and that a car accident on the course had been the source of delay.

At 8:05am, the 500 of us tackling 26.2 miles finally left the campus. We twisted and turned our way toward downtown Bakersfield and I fell into my rhythm about 10 feet behind the 3:08 pacer. The pace didn’t feel like a jog, but it felt smooth and sustainable. Boredom motivated me to catch up to the 3:08 pacer, who was running solo, and initiate conversation. He told me that the course markers were a bit off, so he was trying to maintain 7:00 minute/mile to make sure he finished in close to 3:08. While that’s faster than I wanted to run that early in the race, I felt good and decided to continue with him. Around mile 8, a woman breezed past me and I realized that I was in the 4th place OAF position.

A few yards before the mile 10 marker, we discovered that a group of runners had run off course and added a mile onto their marathon! That’s never happened to me, but I’d be annoyed for sure. I slowly pulled away from the 3:08 pacer after mile 10 and was feeling curious about how the 4 mile climb between miles 12 and 16 would feel. We started going up at about 12.5 miles and my legs welcomed the elevation change. The incline was more than I anticipated, but I passed ~20 runners between miles 12.5 and 16 and was never working overly hard to maintain my pace. There was a short downhill right before mile 15 and I remember thinking “what the heck? It’s over already?” Of course, we turned a corner and continued going up. I learned how far behind the first 2 females I was during an awkward circle around a fountain on the Bakersfield College campus (mile 16).

elevation

Miles 15-19 felt twisty and turn-y, but we were rewarded with some nice views on fittingly named Panorama Drive. I regained my rhythm and took my Clif gel, waiting for the downhill section Doug had told me about. Running alongside the bluff reminded me of the Back Bay bluff section of the OC Marathon. I was feeling great, moving well, and smiling. I felt the best between miles 15 and 20, but kept my zeal contained. I am always cognizant of the fact that things can go south quickly during the marathon. A short, but very steep downhill segment took us to the bike path.

I remember reaching the mile 19 marker and thinking that maybe I could catch up to the two women ahead of me. I was still feeling strong and even picked it up slightly after mile 20 (wishing I race Garmin-equipped right about now). The riverbed was boring, exposed, and windy, but I don’t feel like the weather was a factor in my deterioration. In fact, aside from a vague feeling of nauseation, I think I just lost steam due to a general lack of endurance. I saw a lead cyclist pacing the first 2 women turn to look back at me a few times at the 22 mile marker and I wondered if he said anything about how close I was. Unfortunately, I switched into “just get to the finish line” mode after mile 22 and slowed down. My smile turned into a half-grimace and my energy went toward simply moving forward. Thankfully, the path was becoming busier with half marathon walkers and I directed my attention toward grabbing snippets of their conversations. I passed a marathoner right after mile 24 and we traded words of encouragement. When I arrived at the 25 mile flag, I thought “next stop, finish line!” Boy, was I ready for it.

The riverbed curved and I finally caught sight of the finish line. I could hear the announcer, see the crowds as well as the mile 26 and mile 13 flags. The feeling of nauseation that had set in earlier suddenly became much worse – I felt 90% sure that I would vomit either right before the finish line or upon stopping. “Should I turn and throw up before the crowds become thicker, or try to make it past the finish line and then hurl?” I asked myself right before the mile 26 flag. I continued on, took deep breaths and wondered what it would be like to throw up in front of all of these people. I crossed the line in 3:04:42, received my medal, grabbed a bottle of water and kept walking. I am very happy to report that I did not throw up! I think that Clif gels are too thick for me and that I need to stick with Honey Stinger gels, which didn’t seem to cause me issues during WIEM.

Done!

Done!

The male runner I’d passed around mile 24 finished about 40 seconds after me and we congratulated eachother. It was his first marathon and his longer training run had been only 12 miles! I was thoroughly impressed with his epic achievement. Lori and Vanessa found me and we all chatted about the race. Lori and I picked up our finisher’s sweaters and then started to walk over to the festival area. While the finish line is in an odd spot, right in the middle of the riverbed, the festival area was great. On the way there, I talked with the girl who had passed me at mile 8 and learned that not only had she placed 2nd OAF, it was also her very first marathon! She’d played soccer in college, but was now experimenting with long distance running. She ran a 3:01 – I see a bright distance running future for her. Apparently, she had run step-for-step with the woman who won from miles 9 until .10 from the finish line and the other woman out-sprinted her for the win.

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Since Chris was pacing the 3:53 group, I had time to change and relax for a few minutes. I always enjoy turning my phone on after a race and receiving a barrage of texts from friends asking how it went! The rest of the morning was uneventful and naturally, we hit a lot of traffic in LA.

In reflecting on the race, I’m disappointed and satisfied at the same time. I’m disappointed mainly in how I fell apart quickly within the last 4 miles, which I realize now was to be expected. Consistent speed work helps me speed up or at least maintain pace in the latter miles of a long race, but I have yet to add that element back into my training. I’m frustrated that I wasn’t able to fight a bit harder at the end, especially since I boast about being a fast finisher. At the same time, I’m satisfied with the way that I felt during miles 12-20, especially for the 4 mile uphill segment. Always grateful that I am physically able to even complete marathon races, I am also happy that I finished in a very respectable time. In fact, it was my second fastest marathon! With the lack of real speed work and loss of training time after San Diego Rock n Roll, I’m surprised that I even went sub-3:05. “Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” -Frank A. Clark

I hope to continue growing, training, strengthening, experimenting, failing, succeeding, learning, and running freely.

 

Whoo’s In El Moro 50K Race Recap

Saturday marked my slowest running of the Whoo’s In El Moro 50K and served as an eye-opener for me. I am happy that I ran, elated that I finished, slightly regretful that I didn’t stick with the 25K, but ultimately disappointed in my performance.

Pre-race positives: I went into this race with 2+ weeks of consistently higher mileage, a few decent hill repeat sessions, felt good during my easy run the day before, and was mentally excited for the challenge of 50K, especially having not run a marathon+ since June.

Pre-race negatives: I felt physically and mentally tired the week prior and was under a lot of stress at work. I wasn’t sleeping or eating enough, and felt like I wasn’t recovering well after runs.

I was able to sleep in on Friday morning and run later in the morning, both of which felt good. The rest of the day felt long and stressful: I was very late for a work event, spent too much time in traffic, didn’t eat a hearty enough dinner due to being stuck in said traffic, and just felt tired and irritated. When I finally arrived home, I packed for the next day and tried to get some sleep. Since I’d picked my bib and race items up on Thursday, I didn’t rush to get to the race too early on Saturday. I ate a Quest bar and enjoyed a hot cup of coffee on the way to Crystal Cove State Park, arriving around 5:55am for a 6:30am race start. I didn’t feel very hungry when I woke up, so I felt like the bar would be enough of a breakfast, but I probably should’ve had a bit more.

Lori and I caught up for a few minutes before the race started and then we all made our way out and up! I usually find someone to run and chat with during the first 8-10 miles, but was left to enjoy the sunrise by myself this time. I felt very content and happy for the first hour, thinking about how lucky I was to be running freely while watching the sun rise over the mountains. It was one of those moments that I wish I could bottle up and use later. I also saw my friends John, Telan, and Carrie (course rovers) in the early miles – it always cheers me up to see friends out there!

There are two aid stations before the “major” West Cut Across station, but I generally don’t feel the need to stop that early in the race. We hit this major station a total of 4 times, the first time at 9.5 miles and the second at 13.75 miles in. I foolishly decided to skip it during the first two passes and try to power on toward the halfway point/turnaround/mile 15.25 aid station. I really wanted to get the Poles segment out of the way (.4 miles, extremely steep) and I actually felt really good going up. This climb almost feels like a break from “running” since I’m using a different set of muscles, but it’s definitely still a challenge. I finished off the last of my water bottle and took my gel while cruising down the No Dogs trail toward the turnaround. At this point, I would see how far behind the female leaders I was.

I should’ve paused here and re-filled my water bottle, but I didn’t want to stop running and then immediately start to climb, so I just made the u-turn to go back up No Dogs and down Poles. I didn’t feel overly thirsty, hungry, and still felt like I had some power left in my legs. After descending Poles, the course goes back up Machione, and this is where I decided that I absolutely needed to stop at the West Cut Across station. At mile 17, I re-filled my bottle for the first time, ate a few peanut butter pretzels and M&Ms, drank a small cup of Coca Cola, and grabbed a few paper towels. The food and drink aren’t the only energy-boosters on the course – Molly recruits awesome course support volunteers. I always love hitting this aid station 4x because of it! What I didn’t love, however, were the ensuing miles. I felt like I went from 85% to 40% between miles 17 and 20.5.

I tried to focus on my surroundings and remember sections of the trail, but I started to feel discouraged by how quickly I was losing steam. “Maybe the gel and food hasn’t kicked in yet” I thought as I approached the West Cut Across station for the fourth and final time. I definitely didn’t look as peppy as I did during the first 3 visits, but the knowledge that I was well on my way home perked me up a bit. I re-filled my bottle again and grabbed some more peanut butter pretzels before starting toward my least favorite section: El Moro Canyon to Slow ‘N Easy.

It was definitely slow, but not easy: I crawled along at a snail’s pace and stopped 3-4 times for a few seconds. I had a lot of time to ruminate over what lead up to me feeling this badly. I realized that I’d had at least 3 marathon efforts on my legs going into my last two WIEM 50Ks. In fact, I looked back on my results today and noticed that I’ve always run the 25K in October – this would be the first time that I tried the 50K “fresh.” Additionally, September and October are the two most stressful work months for me and training takes a back seat. It isn’t surprising that my lack of longer runs and sustained climbs plus not consuming enough calories in the days leading up to the race would result in an epic sufferfest. Being 20+ miles in though, all I could do was crawl on and get to the finish line.

I also started to notice the effects of dehydration. I’m not sure if this happens to others, but my hands start to tingle and my fists close up. As I become more dehydrated, my fists get tighter and won’t un-clench. I was drenched in sweat and still sweating (which is good), but was definitely losing more fluids than I was taking in. I didn’t walk for more than 5 seconds at any point in the race, but I was move very slowly. At this point, my goal was simply to make it from aid station to aid station. I was happy to reach mile 24, and celebrate the end of my least favorite part, but I felt pretty terrible. In the hopes of energizing myself for the last 8 miles, I chugged a Coca Cola and ate a handful of Swedish Fish. I usually find a second wind on Missing Link, but it was… missing. I knew that the next section (Moro Ridge) was going to feel 2x as long as normal in my depleted state. I entertained the notion of just hanging a right down I Think I Can, but knew that I would be left with an ugly DNF. If this race/run served as anything, it was a long and tough mental strengthening session.

When I arrived at the three-way intersection where we start the last, but most difficult, out-and-back section, I offered Jon and two other course marshals $100 each to let me just turn right toward the finish. They laughed, my heart cried, and my dead legs carried me out, and back. On the way back, I saw Michaeline who was running strong in the 4th overall female position. She is a very strong runner and could definitely catch me during the last, long downhill section. Unfortunately, I had no legs left for any type of a “race.” and desperately just wanted to finish. Seeing that three-way intersection again and knowing that I would finally be able to run straight to the finish line was a good feeling. I was working hard going down I Think I Can, but it definitely felt slower than usual. After what felt like 5 miles, I felt the energy of the finish line drawing closer, and crossed the bridge to complete my 4th Whoo’s In El Moro 50K.

With clenched up hands and dead legs, Molly helped me get a chair and a bottle of water. I was tired and dehydrated, but my stomach felt fine and I didn’t feel any odd aches or pains. I sat down for about 2 minutes, then got up to walk around and chat with people before the awards ceremony.

october-50k-medal october-50kMaggie (1) and Cindy (2) ran phenomenal times and looked great when I saw them on course. I would love to run that 50K as fast as they did some day! My 3rd place prize package included a pair of 2XU compression socks and calf sleeves, a Nathan hydration pack, a visor and draw string bag, a Running Skirts headband, and a few other small items. I also won a large container of Carbo Pro protein powder. My goal this week is to chase every run with a protein drink, regardless of if its an easy or harder effort. I don’t take in enough protein and know that it is likely inhibiting my recovery.

The remainder of my Saturday was spent eating and napping, and ended with a late night babysitting gig. I slept in on Sunday and ran a very easy 6 miles on the treadmill. I kept Monday’s effort easy as well, but felt surprisingly spry on Tuesday morning and ran faster than expected. My quads still felt sore and tender, but much less so than on Sunday. I’m optimistic that this weekend’s poor performance was just my body being shocked by 31 miles of hills after a 3+ month break from long-distance racing. I’m calling it a rust-buster and moving on.

 

 

Running, lately

Promises of weekly writing prefaced my last post, yet here I am, 7+ days later.

The last 2 weeks were excellent in terms of training. I was able to log a lot of miles (90, 93) which included harder efforts and hill repeats. I also completed two solid long runs of 18 miles at a quicker pace and 21 miles with a fast finish. I’m happy with the last 14 days of running and excited to see how my upcoming races play out! I’d originally registered for the 25K at the October edition of Whoo’s in El Moro, but switched to the longer distance and will be completing my fourth WIEM 50K on Saturday.

My non-running activities have also been very enjoyable and fulfilling. I finished reading All the Light We Cannot See, was introduced to the show Stranger Things, visited an apple farm, and finally bought and enjoyed some fresh persimmon (such a delicious and under-known fruit!). I like the balance of working hard during the week and relaxing on the weekend. It leaves me excited for a fresh start on Mondays, but seriously ready for a reprieve by Friday. This week’s non-running focus is on my mid-term and major changes at work, which I will likely explain in a future post.