Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Leadville SR50 Week 10: Pace Is Not A Goal

I want to start this post off by saying that I love my children.  All the moms out there probably know what is coming next, but in case you aren't a mom, I will explain.  When a mom starts off with "I love my children," the next thing to come out of her mouth will be a complaint about motherhood.  Kind of like when someone says, "No offense," the next thing to come out of their mouth will be horribly offensive.  (If you are from the south you can substitute "no offense" with "bless your heart.")  It is like the former statement offsets anything negative said in the latter statement.  Like, "No offensive, but your face makes me want to throw up."  And, "I love my kids, but if they don't shut the hell up I'm going to sell them on Craigslist."  "No offensive" and "I love my kids" made those totally acceptable statements.

No offense, but when I had the VERY rare opportunity to drag all my kids, and my achy post-race body to dinner the other night, after I had just run a brutally tough race where I conquered Mt. Everest (4 times),

I instantly found the Craigslist phone app when I asked my kids to pose for a "nice family photo"  ....

Bless their hearts .... do you think they are in need of some sort of family therapy?  Maybe I can find a group discount on Craigslist, I now have the app at finger's reach.

On to running, which isn't really as entertaining as my kids (after Leadville, I'm starting a "Stupid Things My Kids Do" blog)... unless I write about the brainless things I do running or cycling (I doubtlessly need to include myself in the new blog)...

I'm entering a phase in my training for Leadville where the miles and the vertical climbing need to get longer.  Joyous. I run 99.999% of my long runs alone (all runs, basically, not just long.  Cue the violins).  I map out where I need to go, drive a long-ass way to get there, run, go home, crash. Ignore kids, dinner, mail, phone...repeat.  This pretty much sums up my long run days.  I know my body pretty well and how it responds to these long, solo plights; fun at first because it's exploring new stomping grounds and tackling more vertical miles in a month than I've probably done in my entire running career.  I'm not complaining, I love that I'm embracing a world that has frightened me for so long and I haven't given up, I'm enjoying the rewards my body is reaping from the hill work - and more than happy not to hear any longer,  "No offensive Honey, but you have a big butt....bless your heart."  Hill work can have give the body some pretty impressive advantages!

But eventually, long vertical hours running alone can do some wild things to my headspace.  Thoughts of wild animals peering behind rocks, creepy old men lurking around, songs on my iPod I never want to hear again - ever ever ever ever, podcasts that make me want to vomit they're so pointless, audiobooks I've missed whole chapters because I got sidetracked wondering if creepy old man was looking at me the wrong way.

So to offset a few of solitary long runs, I'm entering the world of The Trail Race.  

I was brought up in a racing world where a time clock was held over my head and I ran laps repeatedly around a track based on a specific time (I watch Ryan go through this same scenario, daily).  Races were time tests and the reward of those tedious laps, if all panned out well, was a personal best.  You enter race, you performed your best.  Period.  But endurance trail running isn't like that, at least not for newbie trail runner me.  I'm learning (and not the easy way, either) to chuck the watch and let my ego fly out the window because pace means basically nothing; all I need to really know is time and elevation.  I thought as Leadville grew closer (Holy crap it's getting close!), I'd enter a few hilly trail races to use as long training runs.  Get me away from creepster old dude.  Put me in an environment where I am forced to keep moving forward ...matter ....what.  No more road racing here on out to Leadville (let's just not count the 5k I'm doing Sunday ;)), I'm entering the zone where every mile - on the trail - is really, really REALLY vital.

Since I know y'all stalk my blog daily (no offense, but the number of daily hits are dwindling rapidly.  Actually, I don't follow my stats, I don't really care - It was just perfect timing to use "no offense" again :)). you've seen I had two trail races since my last post.  Let's just do a quick recap, since you're chomping at the bit to hear all about the glorious triumphs (aka: I am still alive).

Cheyenne Mountain 25K, April 27th (15.44 miles, 1821' vertical)
I went down to Colorado Springs a couple months earlier to run some of the course with my friend, Kathleen (the .01% of the time I get to run with someone) so I had a little bit of an idea how challenging it was.

For some reasons only known to those who work for Garmin (no offense, but Garmin folks suck), my elevation profile display actually worked for once (normal display is flatlined, even if I run 3000', or more) so I get to share it.  Starting on an incline was challenging and I worried about my pace and if my effort was too ambitious.  Since the trail was a single track so for a good mile, my pace was at the mercy of those in front of me.  But it soon thinned out eventually and I could do my own thing....but the problem was, I wasn't really sure where my "own thing" needed to be - this thing had to be run on effort, not pace, and I couldn't get a good reading of my body and what it needed to feel.  I was running with my friend, Aimee (who I've never gotten the pleasure to run with awesome triathlete who is the kindest, sweetest woman) and we were trading positions in front for the first 4 miles.  When we got to the aid station at mile 4, I told her I was pulling back, I thought my effort was too hard, yet a half mile later, we came upon a sweet little descent (finally), and I felt my effort was too easy, so I took off and I left her.  My "effort" was all over the map and I struggled to feel exactly I needed to be.  Inexperience was evident.

Myself and Aimee pre-race.
That last climb from mile 7.5 to 11 was a doozie, and the terrain became pretty technical with large outcrops of rock.  I learned from my awesome hill running clinic that I just needed to put my head down, place hands on knees and use them to push down and power-walk this sucker when it became too beastly to run.  I found that my power-walk was actually as fast as most running around me so I wasn't losing too much ground on people (important for the competitive freaks like me), and bonus: once I'd get to the top of the uphill, I wasn't so winded like everyone else, and I was rewarded with an enormous amount of strength in me... I started passing people like it was my job; it was incredibly empowering.

When I got to mile 11, I stopped to take a salt tab and a guy passed me who told me to come with him.  He looked strong and I knew he was my meal ticket to finishing the last 4 miles well, so I clipped in behind him and we shared a few laughs together how I was his wingman.  He was all for it and so encouraging to me.  We were flying down this mountain, and climbing strong the hilly parts - I was having a blast, finally, and my stupid head stopped playing mind games with my effort.  With a little over a mile to go, we came to the last aid station and I grabbed some electrolytes (both calves cramped up a mile earlier like a total mother ..), gave my speedy pacer the thumbs-up (with a nod of approval from him) and off we went.  It only took a minute before the finish line came into view ... and no offense, but I dropped my pacer like a once bad drug habit (not that I have any experience in that arena).  I actually felt a little bad about using him to drag me to this point, but that thought only lasted a microsecond; he told me to gun it in if I had it in me, and somehow I did.  I sprinted like it was the last lap of my old infamous mile races from eons before and I crossed - feeling pretty dang satisfied.

Um, yeah...that's a podium 1st place 50-99 age group finish, thankyouverymuch
AG: 1/9
Female: 14/100
Overall: 50/188

Greenland 50K, May 4th (30.81 miles, 2198' vertical)
Ah, Greenland 50k, my first completed "ultra" distance and longest run I've done to date.  It should be ranked up there as one of those greatest accomplishments in my running career, but I'm not sure it honestly was.

The website describes this race as:
"Colorado’s fastest 50K! With Pikes Peak as your backdrop, you’ll cruise over a soft dirt trail on your way to a new personal best.  The entire course is run on dirt trails. With wide, smooth double track trails, the Greenland Trail 50K is a very fast course and also very beginner friendly."
Let's review that statement from my perspective and compare:
Pikes Peak was definitely my backdrop (gorgeous, blanketed entirely in white).  I did not cruise, I felt lethargic from step one.  The dirt wasn't exactly soft, the first 3.5 miles (times 4, because this was a 4 loop course of 7.75 miles each) mimicked something more like a walk along the beach in thick, heavy sand.  It was absolutely not fast.  And if this is a beginner friendly course, then I'm going to die in Leadville.  I did get a personal best though (hard not to when it's a new race distance), so I'll walk away with at least one check mark in the positive category.

At the start line, terrified
My friend, Bob, who I happened to run into before the race
(he finished 23/238 place).  Incredible runner
with an incredibly warm heart; he waited after his 25k race to help me

 right after my 3rd lap
Greenland really wasn't a bad course - it was actually very beautiful and the 4 laps didn't bother me mentally whatsoever, like I thought they would (just the climbing Everest 4 times is all).  But something was off I and struggled to keep a consistent paced time each 7.75 mile lap.  Instead of pulling back when I felt labored early on, I instead pushed through those difficult miles, trying to maintain a pace which felt more like a tempo run than a long, slow ultra paced run, even though my watch read a number far slower than my base paced training runs.  Red flags were billowing in my head but inexperience at this distance told me to ignore them and it'd get easier.  I'm not sure where I got that idiotic idea, it's not like any marathon I've ever felt too fast at the start ended in a glorious finish, so why adding an extra 5 miles to any marathon distance I've done is going to miraculously get easier was beyond me.  I just didn't know what to expect, I guess, and went with a pace in my head instead of an effort. Stupid watch.
Lap 1: 1:14
Lap 2: 1:15
Lap 3: 1:19
Lap 4: 1:21
When I look at those stats I pulled from the website, they don't paint a picture as to what I actually experienced.  I felt like I pretty much succumbed to the proverbial death march around mile 24 and could only muster a few runnable yards here and there as I climbed up - and up and up.  I long ago turned the 'pace' display off my watch - I didn't want to look at that nauseating number; all I wanted to see was distance, and somehow try to get my head out of the bowl of mush it was swimming in. I started lap 4 trying to be cognizant of where I was in that moment and bare witness to all the glory that surrounded me instead the initial dread I was beginning to feel.  I remember looking at the mountains and feeling so blessed to live in such a beautiful place.  I remember hitting the last aid station, which just so happened to be placed precisely at the marathon mark, around 4:25:something and being pretty damn pleased.  I remember climbing the last vertical climb of the day, smiling, that I still had the strength to do it.
I remember reaching the top of the last climb, knowing I had two heavenly miles of downhill to the finish.  Downhill running must be my strength, apparently, because somewhere, I found the energy to run - HARD - again....and man did I run.  The race had thinned out considerably by now and only a few souls were scattered here and there, so I put my head down, ran as fast as I could, and picked off everyone I focused on.  I ran those last two miles in a sub-8:30 pace (I checked my Garmin later :))....on legs that were absolutely spent.  If I walk away with anything good spent in those hours on the trail, it'll be the remembrance of those last 2 miles...

They taught me that I do have a lot more physical strength in me when my feeble mind tells me otherwise and I am capable of so much more than I think I am.

AG: 3/9
Female: 8/30
Overall: 50/125
I won a gift certificate for coming in 3rd to a local running store :) 
I cannot express in enough words how thankful I am that my friend Julie came down to help me with this race.  I knew my head could land in a heap of trouble if I let it after each lap, it was so comforting to have Julie there - that familiar face of comfort that I had hoped I provided for Tim in Zion.  She let me vent about the "F-ing course" after my first lap and was always upbeat and positive.  If it hadn't been for her enormous hug she gave me at the finish and stating how proud she was for finishing my first ultra, I'm sure I wouldn't have been the emotionally teary-eyed marshmallow I had instantly become.  Thank you, Julie - I sincerely appreciate your long day out there for me and you helped me realize that though this day was much harder on me mentally than I ever imagined it'd be, I accomplished something pretty crazy amazing.

I did it, I ran my first ultra....and honestly, it wasn't nearly as bad as I let my head think it was.

I have a lot to figure out about pacing and fueling and everything-ing before Leadville.  But one thing I am not going to do is beat myself up further about is the pace.  It is not my goal to cross the finish line of these lofty races with a specific pace; pace is a reward of the vertical work I still have yet to do.  Instead, these races, and the hefty upcoming ones, are there to teach me all the things I need to learn to make Leadville a success. It's as simple as that - I just need to get word to my head to accept this.  I am making significant gains in my training.....thank you, Tim.

Looking at those pictures of my kids above reminds me that training and racing isn't my whole life; it only enhances my life.

No offense, Jill's head, but she ran a pretty sweet first 50k.  So shut the hell up and get her get on with Leadville  training.

A last quick note: kuddos Ryan who just ran an incredible 1:58 anchor leg in the 4x800 and his whole team.  His smile says it all (second from left).
4x800 both girls and boys: New PRs and state qualifiers!

"Fill all thy bones with aches." 
-The Tempest's sorcerer-king Prospero

Run strong,


MCM Mama said...

Great job! You are making awesome progress towards your goal.

And yes, all moms know the "I love my children..." lead in. LOL

Terzah said...

I love that Prospero quote! :^)

You are so strong--what a phenomenal pair of races. Don't worry--in Leadville (regardless of pace, which I'm glad you're not watching...) you will exorcise all the demons of animals and scary perverts on trails (and any other demons that might rise up to meet you, too!).

Robin said...

Your comments on the kids cracked me true! Your training is going awesome. I can't imagine. It's going to be amazing following you through this journey!

Hopefully you have an uneventful event!

Jenny said...

You rock! :-)

Kate Geisen said...

You look so freaking good. Running insane miles agrees with you! I'm so proud of you putting yourself out there and diving into something so big and out of your comfort zone. Seriously, you rock. Great job on the races!!

And the thing about your kids...yes! Mine only agree with each other when it's to torment me. Luckily, I usually find it entertaining..."usually" being the operative word.

Karen said...

Look at you kicking ass out there!! So much good news in this post I can't say anything more than: Woooohooo!! I'm proud of you :)

Gracie said...

You are seriously kicking BUTT! Amazing races and strong finishes!

Paul Rodman said...

Wow! You are busy there.
Gotta read it all again but sounds like you are doing really great at this new stuff 8)


brg said...

so proud of you! you are kicking ass..can you please go back the younger AG?? ;)

Big Daddy Diesel said...

Oh look, a comment in French, so educational!! I feel so cultured now.

Congrats on all the races

I have my first trail race this weekend

Well, looky there, a Julie sighting!!! Tell her I said come back to blogging

Michelle said...

Look at you GOOOOO.....
And don't we ALL love our kids? Grrr.

Johann said...

Haha, we have the same thing when taking family photos. But yes, we all love the kids :) You are training just right and will kick Leadville's butt for sure. Great racing and that is a fast time for a trail 50k! You are right about the pace thing. It doesn't matter at all. I am done with road races for a long time now as well. Keep up the great training!

Tasha @Healthy Diva said...

I think it looks like you have a pretty amazing kids! You are lucky and they are lucky that you are such a wonderful mom.

I like the trail race age groups- pretty big! 50-99 is a big margin. :-)

misszippy said...

I think you're tearing things up this year and I'm really happy for you!

Teamarcia said...

Yes Jill's head, Thelma is a star. So shut up and let her rock on. Look how cute Ms. Tempo Shorts looks in skirts too! :D

Anonymous said...

You look amazing! And I love how much good is in this post!

Sherry said...

You are doing amazing and are such an inspiration!
I remember my first trail race and ditching all ideas of pace - I wouldn't have lasted! Most of the courses I run I haven't run before and you never know what obstacle is coming up next, so I tend to go conservatively and have too much energy left over at the end, but it is fun overtaking those last few! Totally relate to your comment that you have more strength in you than you think, and I need to take that on board too.

Char said...

First off - fantastic results to both those races. I think you've found your calling.

I love the photos of you and your kids. Mine would be exactly the same unless I threatened them with something sharp and pointy.

Liz said...

Wow. AMAZING! Great racing, well done. And great running from your son too, I just love those family snaps!

Irene said...

Congrats on your first ultra! I know there was some apprehension when you signed up, but, bless your heart -- you won your age group! ;)


I'm so happy for you, though, and you're definitely back on track with a vengeance!


Mike said...

God bless you (and this post), now I can say anything I want :-).

Two races, two podiums is awesome! Age group win is awesome too. You are definitely reaping the rewards of your hard work. Loved all the pics too.

I was laughing at the pics of you and your kids. Last year on vacation, my kids kept jacking around while my wife was trying to get a pic for the Christmas card and she finally gave up and was pissed. I was in the dog house too (of course).

C2Iowa said...

You need to change your header to:
The New and IMPROVED Jill; ver 3.0

Wow - well done.

As for the much are you going to list them for? We have work around the house to be done. I am in the market to 'buy' help!!! hahahaha

bobbi said...


You are kicking all kinds of ass - congrats on 2 awesome races. Congrats on your first ultra!

So excited for you - keep it up!

mighty termitey said...

bless your heart... now that i have that out of the way, this southern girl will tell you what she really thinks:



(there. i said it)

your progress this year is commendable. i'm stinkin' proud of you, jill.


Julie said...

You my dear friend are AMAZING! And I will keep telling you that until your head finally believes it! AMAZING! Love you and it was an honor to be there and watch you complete one more step on your way to ultimate goal!

Anonymous said...

You are way gutsier than I am! I applaud you!

Jennifer said...

I am always amazed at your fortitude; in writing posts, in being a Mom and mostly in your running endeavors. Phew, you are amazing. Cheers!

Anne said...

You are so amazingly strong! It is so great to read about your races and your are doing great!! Congrats Jill :)

Matthew Smith said...

Oh my goodness! You're killing it out there!!! Good for you, and you've got a pretty cool family. Everyone looks so happy! :)

Anonymous said...

Jillie - I honestly take my hat off to you. I just keep thinking of this long road you've travelled in the years you've written your blog and I think this is the most exciting step yet. You're looking so strong, looking so fit and sounding so happy! I think I will follow your path - away from the road and onto the trail - in this next year. And hopefully, one day, there will be a trail where I can follow your dust?

Anonymous said...
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Black Knight said...

YOU run strong! A post with beautiful photos, my favorite is the 7th where you look a runner strong, fast and motivated.

GZ said...

No offense, but trail this, training that, Tim is a great guy this and blah blah blah ... 1:58! Now that is something!

Well, that is fast, and kudos to you and your continued progress to Pbville.

Suz and Allan said...

Bless their hearts is a commonly used phrase for me!

Kandi said...

I LOVE your 'nice family photos'.
I really like your skirt in the Cheyenne race. Can you tell me what brand it is?
You are amazing, Jill. Those races look so tough and you stuck with them and finished strong. You are looking so strong and fit these days too! Congrats on your first ultra and podiums in both! You are going to be awesome at Leadville and I can't wait to hear about it.
Holy cow, Ryan is fast! The 4x800 was my favorite track event!!

Holly KN said...

Just came over here from Miss Zippy's blog, and I just had to leave a quick note to tell your head to shut the heck up! This is an amazing run - and for your first ultra distance, to boot!

Your laps may not have been PERFECTLY even, but they were less than 1 min/mile off. And I hope that, as the days since the race has passed, you find both encouragement and learning in this experience.

Congratulations, and good luck as your Leadville training continues!

Christopher said...

You are an inspiration, motivation for us all.

lindsay said...

no offense, but i love your kids, bless their hearts!

seriously, bless them for putting up with you ;)

when did you become so badass? seriously. that sounds like a really good pace to me? and 3rd place, it must've been a good one!

Tina @GottaRunNow said...

Wow, I'd love to run an ultra someday, too. Congrats on the great finish time!

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