Thursday, March 22, 2012

The 50k That Wasn't RR

Whomever pissed off Mother Nature, you picked the absolute wrong weekend to do so.  Shame on you!

I knew I could potentially be in trouble when I started stalking days prior and saw the temps for race day steadily climbing.  Admittedly, I was a bit worried.  Forget the fact I wasn't in any sort of shape to even run this thing, which could have killed me on that alone, but I've had one too many heat related running issues in the past and call me crazy but I really didn't relish the thought of another.

Aside from the ridiculous-for-March high temps, there's also that little thing I needed to take into consideration that us Coloradoans lack training in much of: HUMIDITY!!!!

Race day provided plenty of both.  Plllleeeeeeenty.


My friend, Tom, came from Grand Island, NE to run the whole shebang with me.   Tom runs marathon a good hour better than I do yet offered to stick by my side for this race the entire way.  I can't even express in coherent words how touched I was he offered to do that for me.  This race was capped at 150 people and probably 100 of them were doing the 25k, so that left about 50 insanies doing the 50k.  Considering the lack of proper training or conditioning I was in for this thing, I knew I would be close to the back of the pack (and right I was!); my anxiety of getting lost was sky-high ... I know I couldn't have done this thing without him by my side.
Thank you, Tommy!!!
C2Iowa, another friend I have known for a couple years but never had the opportunity to actually meet in person, come from NE Iowa to run the race also.  We all met up for about a half hour before the race....

Myself, C2Iowa, Tom
Someone obviously has no St. Patty's day spirit, huh?
At least I was NOT going to get lost in those woods!!
The calm before the storm
This was the view from the race start.  Later in the race, the lake was filled with white-caps
My high school girlfriends, Meg and Karen, where there too to cheer us on.  I may have had one sucky past couple years with my foot and some personal stuff going on, but I am truly blessed for the few very close friends I do have and was so happy to spend some time with them....I've known these girls for 40 years!
Meg, myself, Karen: pre-race dinner
So with cheering squad, pacer, and friend all in place, it was time to go at 8am.  In about 70 degrees.  Bleh!

The first mile was on trails in a heavily wooded area (see pic above where Tom is standing).  Pretty...but lots of tree roots hidden underneath dead leaves and I almost bit it a couple times.  The trail here was short-lived and soon we were out on a fairly busy country road.  Exposed.  Hot.  Hills.  The absolute worst part of the race.

Mile 4.5 we hit the first aid station.  I wore my Camelbak filled with water....remember, whimpy heat/humidity girl here, but I only carried water in it and I was dying to get in some electrolytes.  I also grabbed some orange slices and took a salt pill.

I was literally dripping with sweat everywhere and my back under the Camelbak was soaked.  Lovely!
The smorgasbord in an ultra is pretty delicious
The trail now hits some pea gravel and runs along Lake McBride for the most part.

It's definitely pretty, but also fairly exposed to the elements.  This is March, after all - no leaves on the trees yet.  When we did pop back into the woods briefly, we got absolutely no breeze.

Exposed to the blazing sun and a slight breeze or a bit of shade and no breeze.  Pick your poison. That was pretty much how the entire race was.

I was slowly quickly melting.

Mile 9 was another aid station and here we picked up a 19-year old girl, Liz (she did the 25k) to tag along to our posse.  She was really sweet yet I'm certain she thought Tom and I were super lame.  Well, because we are.  God only knows what the hell we were talking about...and Tom has a habit of talking a lot :).  In another mile, we'd hit the water crossing...I was really excited, yet nervous, about this.

We ran along the lake and across a bank...
Until we got to the spillway where we had to cross to get to the other side...
Tom, showing me the way
Other runners crossing.   
I knew this water crossing was coming, I had seen Tim's (Race director friend of mine) video of the course.  He said the crossing was about 40', but I think it was a bit more.  I was so worried about slipping and ending up in the lake below, but when I got to the water I was so incredibly hot and just wanted to get wet in that cold water so was relieved to see it.

When I got there, Tom was ahead of me and I didn't want to get too far behind so I didn't even think about it, I just plodded through, stopping a couple times to throw water on my face and back to cool off.  I'd guess the water to be about mid-calf in depth; there was one little section that was a bit deeper at the end and it was filled with algae... but the rocks weren't slick at all and I crossed without incident.  Phew!!

On the other side of the water crossing, we literally had to climb on all fours to get up over this cliff and then a steep climb until you came to some dirt trails.  It was heavily wooded here ... and also very hilly.  I was running pretty well but could tell the heat was taking its toll on me, I was starting to get lead-like legs and I was only at mile 11.  Ugh.

Mile 12ish, we come into the starting area before the final 3-mile loop to the half way point.
Heading up to the starting area with our new friend, Liz
Tom and I talked about switching out shoes here after the water crossing, but I knew if I stopped too long I was going to have trouble getting going again; I just wanted to get to the half way point.  So we high-fived my girlfriends and grabbed some aid-station supplies and hit the last 3-mile loop.

This last section was the prettiest of the entire course; it was starting to turn green and you wandered in and out of the woods.  Here, we met up with a group of 3 woman, one of whom had done Badwater.  I enjoyed the Badwater chick's company and grilled her all about Badwater, but I don't think Tom was overly impressed with any of them.  And made that well-known.  Ha.
We reached the half way point at almost 3 hours exactly.  Not speedy by any means, but this was actually my first lap goal and I was happy we made it.  My watch clocked us at 15.03 miles, Tom's at 15.55 miles.  Crazy Garmins.

But .... I was starting to really struggle with the heat.  I spent a lot of time at the aid station filling my Camelbak full of more water and grabbing a lot of calories.  Tom went over and switched his wet shoes and socks... but for whatever stupid reasons, I opted to stay in what I had on.

Dumb.  I was starting to get a blister on my little toe; new socks might have solved that problem.  But I just wanted to get moving again....just let me get the hell done with this race and out of the heat!
Off we go for loop #2
Once we got to the godforsaken exposed busy country road, I was pretty much cooked.  I had a blister on my little toe and it was killing me, and my right armpit was chaffing and rubbing my skin raw.  I was walking a lot more here and made Tom start telling me some jokes to keep my mind distracted.  The aid station at mile 19 couldn't have come soon enough.

I think I snarfed down 300 salt pills and 160 bananas and begged for some Vaseline or Body Glide for my toe and arm.  They had neither.  WTH!?!  I don't think I was even logical here otherwise I would have asked for a Band-aid for my toe, but I wasn't thinking straing.  I had some Chapstick in my Camelbak so I slathered that everywhere.  That seemed to work for the moment.

Tom told me it was a good thing I didn't hear someone tell him what the temperature was.  I asked, "80?"  He said, "No, 86."

Holy hell.  86 degrees in the middle of March!!!!  The humidity had to be an equivalent percentage!     I lived in Iowa a good chunk of my life, I don't ever recall it so warm and humid this year in the year!  But back to all the fun...

After the aid station, we're back on the exposed trails - the breeze felt great.

I started walking a lot here.  I kept trying to do the math in my head on our estimated finish time by where we were but I couldn't do it.  So I made Tom make sure we were on schedule and I just dragged my feet along.  All I could think of was how great that water crossing was going to be when we got to it at mile 25 - I just wanted to sit in that cold water and I couldn't think of anything else.

So we're plodding along at something like a 14+ min/mile.  And I was grateful for that.  Really!!  I'd run a little and walk a lot but at least we were (somewhat) moving forward.  We were alone out there; I saw no runners in front or behind us.  So grateful for Tom's company!

Around mile 24.5, Tom and I came up on a park ranger.  She started speaking ... but I wasn't fully computing the words coming out of her mouth.  Tom said a few things to her and then we started moving again and then it hit me what she said:


A few runners were having heat related issues and a runner had gone down due to heat exhaustion smack in front of the ranger station.  Ambulance called (runner is actually just fine now.  Phew).  Angry park ranger lady freaked and shut the race down.

A few minutes later, the race director's girlfriend came by and talked about the down runner and explained that Tom and I could continue on, but she'd have to pull our bibs and we'd be on our own.  Tom and I talked about doing this and Tom was all for soon as we said we were doing to keep going on, she spits out that Tim (race director) could actually get into "some trouble" if we ended up having any issues.

I signed not one but two waivers and doubted Tim would be held accountable if something happened to me in the next few miles.  But I also didn't want the park ranger to continue her freak-fest and not allow Tim to ever hold the race there again.  I've known Tim since high school, I didn't want to be responsible for if something happened and he'd never get to hold his race again at this park (damn me for being so nice!) so I succumbed and the race was officially done for me at mile 24.5.


Not really, not at that time anyway.  My feet hurt. I was sick of sweating.  I was starving.  I was sick of my water.  My blister was beginning to bother me again.  I was soooo tired (the heat just zapped me!)  When did I become such a wimp?  This wimp thing was really bugging me; I used to have a lot more grit then these lame excuses but at the time, I was almost relieved to be done.

OF COURSE, later when I had time for the dust to settle, all I could think of was how close I was.  5.5 miles was all I had left to do.  I was well within the cut-off time and know I could have finished.

5.5 miles between me and that illustrious 50k.

5.5 miles.


I've been home for 4 days now and have pretty much felt sloth-like for the vast majority of those days.  I have been incredibly tired and have done nothing but swimming one day and weight lifting boot camp another (which almost killed me).

Tim, RD, send me a very nice and sincere email when I got home, apologizing for the freaky park ranger and the race ending before I could finish. As he said, "the guy that went down couldn't have done it in a worse spot: right smack in front of the park ranger station.  You were just in the absolute worst spot at the absolute worst time."  Well hell, aren't I just one lucky girl!?!?

It's not his fault and I made him well aware of that.  Hell, it's more my fault than any one's.  Had I been in better condition for this thing, I would have been able to run faster and could have been ahead of all the flurry of heat incidents.  I'm done beating myself up for not continuing on, it was just one of those crazy flukes that life throws at us sometimes.  I've had many disappointments in races in my lifetime; I'll have many more.

I loved the race.  It was one of the most scenic race I think I've ever run.  I got to go back to my roots and hang with some of my favorite people.  I got to know my friend Tom a lot better.  I got to meet a good friend, C2Iowa.  I got to be re-acquainted with Tim, whom I hadn't seen since high school.  I got to run 24.5 miles.

Yep, I am one lucky girl.

Today (Thursday) was my first day back running since the race.

I pulled up my Garmin data from the race and the 24.5 mile was on display.  I was about to hit "reset".... but I waited a moment..... and instead I hit "start".

I ran 5.5 miles.

And I felt great!

31 miles - done!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I'm Coming Home

I know I brag talk a lot about living in this fabulous state....
I've lived here in Colorado collectively for almost 20 years, so it definitely feels like my home now.  Both my brothers live here.  My aunt lives here.  My cousins live here.  My kids live here....

Colorado is where I live and I absolutely love it here.

But it isn't where I was born and raised and whenever I think about my childhood and my "home", I instantly think about this awesome place ....
Any geography buffs out there recognize this Midwestern state in America's Heartland?

Why yes, it is Iowa.  The state is pretty easily identifiable.  I grew up in Davenport - that tiny far eastern tip of the state (pink dot-ish.  Sorry, I'm just learning how to use MS Paint).

Ah, Iowa.  I love being from Iowa.  Iowans are good people and I'm proud to be one of them.  My ancestors were dairy farmers; I have very fond memories of visiting my grandmother in NE Iowa (green dot on map) and my life along the Mississippi River.
Blackhawk Bridge connecting Wisconsin to Lansing, in NE Iowa
Even today when things get rough I need to go to that "happy place" for a few moments of happiness, I close my eyes go here to NE Iowa and wander down the country roads with my mom picking Forget Me Knots and Lady Slippers and talking about the farm she grew up on.  It has a very special place in my heart!  My grandmother has long been deceased, and my parents too, so it's pretty rare I get back "home" to visit (it sometimes saddens me that my children never really got to know this part of me; my mom died when I was 25 and my dad about 10 years ago so they only get to hear the stories, not visit the special place or people.  The few times we have make it back for one reason or another, my kids were appalled at the humidity, claiming no one in their right mind would want to live there.  Haha.  Spoiled humidity-less Colorado kids!).

But I still have good friends who live there.  Very special friends I have kept in touch since high school...including this one, Karen, who flew to Boston to be there for support when I ran my first Boston Marathon in 2009.
After a Red Sox game
And this chica, Meg, who I've known since 3rd grade and was my college roommate.

I love these girls; they are as real as it gets when it comes to being a friend.

So when another high school friend, Tim, asked me if I was interested in doing the Hawkeye 50k race he was putting on to raise money for the Lupus Foundation this spring in Iowa City, I immediately got excited and got the brain cells working up ways I could actually do this thing.

I found a frequent flyer ticket; I talked other Iowans in joining me (C2Iowa for instance.  Praying his knee behaves and he can do this thing!); and begged a former client and dear friend, Tommy O., to run with me the entire way so I don't get lost and to help pass the hours by quicker....

So THIS Thursday... I am flying HOME, people - back to Iowa - to run my first 50k on St. Patrick's Day!

And despite the fact I'm in absolutely no condition to run this thing .... I'm not even nervous.

Because, you see.... these very special people will be there.  With me.  Karen and Meg and Race director Tim and C2Iowa and Tom....

I know I couldn't do this thing without them.

I am so lucky to be from Iowa.  Lucky for special friendships

I can't wait to go home.

It's been one very trying year for this girl, I can't wait to go home to my roots....

31.6 miles?  *shrugs*  I got this!!
On different note, I ran one of my favorite races on Sunday, the Running of the Green 7k.  I've run this about 6 times now, I think - maybe 7.  7000 people in a sea of green.  So much fun.  Sunday was yet another slow race in my continuation to perform sucky...BUT, I paced better than last week's 5k, I felt better than last week....and it was a fantastic sunny, warm day in Denver - finally!  A great morning of speed work, shared with friends.
I'll be back next week to give y'all the Iowa details....

Until then, I hope you all run strong!!!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Anyone want a do-over?

Well, another sucky attempt at this stupid 5k distance.  

Problem number one: I don't know what my current pace is.  At any distance really, but mostly for speed work.  I met a friend from the race team and we went for a short jog before the race and she asked me what pace I hoped to race.  Having really no clue, I told her it'd be nice if I could run solid 8s for each mile, that would land me just slightly below 25minutes.  SADLY - that's just where I am right now (I ran this race 2 years ago and it is my current 5k PR of 22:09. sigh).

Problem number 2: I have lost my ability to properly pace myself, I've lost what pace FEELS like.

I wore my Garmin, specifically because I didn't want to go out too fast and die at the end (long time readers know I don't like to wear the Garmin in races because I spend WAY too much time looking at the thing and not concentrating on what a certain pace feels when I run!) .  Funny... Garmin or not.....

Mile 1: 7:27 (oh crap!)
Mile 2: 8:09 (better, but I was already pretty cooked.  ugh)
Mile 3: 8:39 (really?  Holy suckville!)

Overall: 25:21 (8:04 pace)


I'm not upset at the time, I fully accept this is where my conditioning is right now, I just wish I'd have run it more consistently pace.  

Somehow though, I managed 3rd in my age group.  I'm not sure how I pulled off that miracle other than thank you for smaller races.

This "comeback" thingie is really blowing - big time.  I honestly have no one to blame but myself. Whatever progress I was making last fall is gone.  February should have been a great month to get my head on straight and get back to the speed work, yet it was anything but.  I've managed to mutilate any and all progress ... but every race I do, good or bad, teaches me something about myself out there and I think this race was just what I needed to kick my fat butt ... what a HUGE wake-up call!

I have a plan, I really do, and I think it's going to go great.  

Starting this Tuesday, the Phidippides Track Club fires back up again and I will be the first one there with check and release form in hand.  This is a interval speed work track club and these guys are wickedly fast and really make me push myself out of my lollygagging comfort zone.  I'm also starting to work with a guy from the team who is making me go to these cardio boot camp classes.  If you've never been to an hour-long cardio boot camp class, I'm here to tell you that this class will KICK YOUR SWEATY BUTT (and every other sweating pore in your body).  Holy crap this class is insanely tough.  This guy is also going to work with me get my diet under control and help me try to understand why I keep sabotaging it; it will be great to have someone other than myself to toss ideas out and someone there for support. 

I think with these new plans in place, by summer I will be able to regain the fitness level which I desire.  I've just gotta put all the personal stuff aside and stop using it as an excuse and keep my head focused.  I know I can do it!

So today's feeble attempt at consistent pacing brought me to recall a marathon I did a few years ago: The Big Sur Marathon in 2008.  Bleh!  Fellow blogger and Pikes Peak extraordinaire, GZ (what an incredible athlete he is!!), recently wrote a great post, "If you could make it right....", asking readers what performance you'd make RIGHT if you could have another chance.  Meaning, what race did YOU personally screw up so badly and wished you could re-do it all over again. 

It appears I have a reoccurring pacing pattern,  Truthfully, though, this inconsistent pacing problem is more a lack of proper training.  If I haven't done the work, I don't know where my pace should be.  I hadn't done the work for today's race and I hadn't run a prior marathon in 5 years when I ran Big Sur. Both left me sort of clueless out there on the course.

In 2007, I started working with a personal trainer (very long time readers will recall that whole nightmare - ha) as my goal in 2008 was to get to Boston and I knew I needed some serious weight training to get my body fat down to race strong.  But I didn't want Big Sur to be my BQ race; I wanted to go to Big Sur with my girlfriends and Big Sur teach me the valuable lessons about pacing and fueling, etc. that I had lost with my marathon hiatus.  I wanted to use Big Sur as a fun run as I got into better shape for a fall BQ race.

But my then-trainer had other plans and told me there was no reason for me not to BQ in Big Sur (Hell yeah there is...that's one of the hardest marathons out there...can you say holy monster hills, Batman!?!).  But in my stupid head, I wanted to please him - despite telling him repeatedly I did not want to BQ in Big Sur - and when I stepped on the start line of that race, in sweltering heat and horrific winds, I thought to myself I was going to get to Boston or I was going to die trying.  I wanted to show him I could do it.

Mile 1 I think I clocked about a 7:20 mile.  I held onto this insane pace - even though I only needed a 9:10 pace to BQ.  My head thought I could hold on to this for the entire race.  

By mile 18 I was puking.  The heat.  The hills.  The wind.  The ridiculous pace all got to me and I almost DID die trying.

It took me 3 months to get over that race, I was literally was so distraught how poorly I ran it....but mostly, I was upset with myself that I set some stupid goals to make someone other than ME happy with my performance.  That race cost me a small fortune and who knows if I'd ever have the funds to go back and run it correctly.  But, as lessons are always learned in a race....and I will never run another race to please anyone other than myself.  Ever.  
Big Sur course.  Ugly scenery, huh?  :)
My friend, Kathryn and I, at the start.  I knew I could be doomed when the start
was already 80 degrees.
Standing at the bottom of the infamous 2-mile long Hurricane Point Hill.
The Bixby Bridge.
Great friends I ran with!
The pink ice plants were incredible!
So yeah, I'd like a do-over of Big Sur Marathon someday, please.  An all-expense paid trip would be really nice, too! :)

How about you guys, do you have a race you'd like a do-over?  If so, which one and why?  I love hearing other's stories....

Until next time....

Run strong, friends!