Sunday, August 31, 2014

Jimmy D. 5k, New Brunswick, NJ. 8/31/14

The Jimmy D 5k has been a wonderful 5k held each year to honor the life of FD Deputy Chief James D'Heron. He lost his life after entering a burning home which shortly exploded as a result of illegally stored propane.  The money raised at the 5k has been used to support burn survivors and fire services.
At the start of the race, each year, Jimmy's daughter makes a sincere and moving speech telling the story of her father.  It is meaningful and motivating and each year it makes me feel glad to have chosen to attend and support this event.  Today's race will be the 10th and final Jimmy D 5k.

The course is as simple as they come.  It is a straight shot out and back.  The course is gently rolling but it is primarily down hill on the way out with the steepest descents in the early part of mile 1.  We run down the road to the firehouse, where firemen hand out water at the turn around.  From there we run back (primarily) up hill to the track.  The track finish seems to awaken kicks that most don't realize they have in them.  I love a track finish! 

Kim and I met at 7:40 because we wanted 10 miles today.  We decided to run the course as a warm-up after getting our bibs.   It was a great way to get a handle on what to expect.  The firemen were already setting up the table and boosted our ego's by telling us how awesome we were to be warming up for a 5k with a 5k. :)  

By the time we got ready to start the official race, at 9:00 am, the humidity and warm was quite high.  We did a few strides, and took out sweat soaked selfs to the starting area. I knew this was going to be a really tough day.  Not only was the humidity quite oppressive, I also ran 21 miles yesterday in the 8:30's.  I felt tired and beat up and stifling hot and the idea of running a race as fast as I could was making me a little anxious.  

I have said it a million times because it is true...5k's scare me.  In a marathon or a half, you can run comfortable for miles and miles before the race starts to feel like you need to work and focus and dig.  In a 5k, I get 2 minutes of running while comfortable and for the next 18+ minutes, I can feel my heart in my ears and my lungs are on fire and there is nothing I can do to make it stop. 

Last year I had a great Jimmy D, one of my fastest 5k's of my life.  This year it didn't go as well, but I have no complaints.  The pack took off at the sound of the air horn and I try to find some room to run in the crowd.  The steepest part of the descent happens early and I saw was running low 6 minute pace.  I tried to settle down and find a pace that felt swift, but not over my head.  I reach M1 in 6:25.  I had hoped to be a little faster considering the decline, but I'll take it. (The clock here was 20 second off).

I begin to preparing mentally for the uphill half,  I feel like I am running in quicksand and just can't go any faster.  I look at my instant pace and it is still in the mid-6:00's.  I have an up hill to deal with.  I try my best to stay steady, knowing that worst part of this uphill is at the end.  M2 in 6:39.

I see Kim on my way in and she calls out that I am on 10th, I can see two ladies up ahead, but I don't think I can catch them.  I don't look back, but I hope that I can hold off whoever is behind me.  I feel like I am making a solid effort.  No one is passing me and I am overtaking a few guys on the way up.  My breathing is hard and I just can't find any more speed.  I can tell I am reeling in one woman and think if I can just get close enough on the track, and she has less of a kick than I do, then maybe I can advance one position.  The humidity and the incline sucks the life out of me, but this mile is done. M3 6:50.  

I enter the track and feel someone coming up on my shoulder. It is Eric, a really talented super fit guy I see often at race.  He doesn't have the traditional runner's build, considering he is basically 100% muscle (or at least it looks that way).  It always makes me feel super strong to be racing near him.  He tries to overtake me around the curve, but I think about my Track Practices with Dave and John and I find another gear.  I dig as deep as I can and I am actually holding him off! We are picking off people in our way and I am reeling in the girl ahead… but I just don't have enough time to catch her… and then Eric blasts past me in the last few yards, but I am ok with that.  We finish and he shakes my hand saying something like "You got a pretty fast kick for an Ultrarunner!" :)  Last .13 - 0:40 (5:05 pace) 

Kim finished strong, shortly after me. After a short break we ran the course again.  A spectator called out to us as we ran by, "Wow, running the course twice! That's impressive!"  It felt pretty good to be able to say… "Oh no, not twice… Three Times!"  It is a special thing to be in good enough health and fitness to run 10 milers with a 5k race in the middle. I am not sure how long this will last, but I know that I wasn't always able to do this either.  I know Kim wasnt always able to or interested in doing this as well.  Sometimes feeling proud of yourself, isn't always about the race pace or placement (but that helps too), but about how far we have come with hard work and dedication to being healthy.

Time: 20:36 (6:38 pace)
Overall Female: 9th
Age Group: 2nd

Friday, August 22, 2014

Turkey Swamp 50k, Turkey Swamp Park, Freehold, NJ 8/17/14 (Road Racing Flats for a Trail Ultra; How to be Over and Under Hydrated at the Same Time)

Top 3 ladies.
Photo provided by Sonia B (on left)
who took 2nd in her first 50k.
It has been almost a week since I raced Turkey Swamp 50k. I needed to think about what I wanted to say about this race. In 5 hours a lot happens. This is my report:

It has been a month since I last raced. That race was Running with the Devil, which doesn't file away in my mind in the same way most races do.  That race is a feat of strength and endurance in a much different way than any other race I run.  Turkey Swamp is quite the opposite of Running with the Devil.  I feel that Turkey Swamp is best described as beginner trail.  It is a beautiful introduction for road racers into the world of trail running.  Due to a few rooty spots, a grassy section that lacks any semblance of shade, and the heat and humidity of August, I believe the course is a bit slower than it seems like it should be. Otherwise the course is a very runnable mixture of terrain that breaks up the loop nicely.

I was nervous, but I am always nervous before a race.  I don't expect to PR at every event.  I show up mindful of the training and circumstances surrounding me at the time and set my goals accordingly.  But even if I know I won't have a great race, even when I am not supposed to care about the result, I simple do care.  This is who I am.

And at Turkey Swamp I never expect a great race. My PR weather seems to be 37 degrees and rainy.  This is August.  Like most runners, I am not very resilient in the heat and humid.  In fact, I have learned to relegate my summer running focus to (1) recovery from spring, (2) surviving hot and humid training, and (3) fall race prep work. I am happy to just finish the races I start from May through mid-September without feeling disappointment about my slower summer performances.

The Course:
The course is a combination of dirt road, rooty and/or sandy trails, and fields.  The whole thing is runnable.  It is flat, with the exception of two little uphill sections in the fields.

We start in a parking lot, run out the North Side of the lot onto a woodsy trail section.  We exit the trail onto the dirt park road and make our way back towards the very same parking lot we started in, except this time we are on the South Side.  Here at .5 or so miles into the course we find a set of porto-potties conveniently located just steps off the course which makes it very convenient for runners traveling on that part of the course to make a pit stop. These port-o-potties are also available to runners as they finish their loops, but the runner will have to walk all the way through the parking lot towards the north side of the course to access them. It is not that far away, but it just seems smarter to run all the way around the course and then stop at them.

The dirt road continues until we are about 1 mile into the loop, where we turn left and enter the woods.  We travel through the runnable woods for about another .8 miles until we enter the fields. This is about the half way point of the lap.

The fields are separated in my mind into two sections: (1) the top cooler sections and (2) the bottom warmer section.  The top section has more shade cast from the trees during the race which keep it slightly cooler up there. There was also a water stop and port potties if needed.  After completing the perimeter of the first field, we reached two very short but noticeable hills, and the 2 mile point in the loop.  There we start to run a gradual incline around the field which felt shadeless to me and therefore cumulatively sucked the life from me during the last 6 loops. Stephen felt this section was fast, but I felt like the grass was grabbing my feet and holding me back, while rays of sunshine pummeled the life out of me.  Once around the cars parked in the final field, we entered the woods for a short trip back to the start finish line at 2.6 miles.  There was fluid and aid available.  Repeat that 12 times for the 50k. 

Road Racing Flats for a Trail Ultra? (And Why I love High Drop Shoes):
My biggest decision leading up this race was what shoes to wear.  I have been posting a lot lately on my FB page about my love of High Drop Shoes. This may be quite odd when the running community is so very much in love with Low Drop.

Please let me share my secret thoughts about drop. One drop isn't best.  High drop doesnt make you a heel striker.  Being a heel striker makes you a heel striker.  I run in high drop and I run up on my forefoot.  In fact, I find that low drop makes me more of a heel striker than high drop does. Low drop challenges more of my achilles and calves. I can feel them working harder, even my gluteus too since I find I sit back over my heels more in low drop, rather than ride up on my forefoot.  This extra work is what is supposed to makes us stronger.

But Low drop isn't always going to be the better choice over Higher drop options.  I believe the right answer is to rotate your drops in a reasoned way.  I have about 7 pairs of running shoes I use for a variety of reasons.  They vary in drop, weight, and traction.  My drops vary from 0mm through 12mm. I have training shoes, racing shoes, and trail shoes. And after reviewing my race results and analyzing my best races, I have discovered this pattern: I find that when I use low drop shoes for training, I engage more of my achilles and calves. The extra work can act to keep the strong, flexible and healthy. This is true until they get overworked, then I need to train in high drop to help them recover.  If I stay in high drop too long and I lose those benefits of low drop.  Since I run a lot, I periodically feel my achilles or plantar fascia getting irritated.  I know the only thing that resolves this almost immediately is to train in high drop shoes until the achilles and PF are happy again.  I am constantly choosing shoes based upon what my body needs, not what marketing or others say I should use.  One last observation is that my fastest races have been raced in High Drop, Light Weight, Low Stack Height Shoes. My motto (for now) is going to be Train Low, Race High.

If you read my last race report, I had some serious achilles pain and managed to survive Running with the Devil.  I immediately ordered some 12mm training shoes since I was training in 9.5mm and 4mm shoes and feeling pain.  After a week in the 12mm my achilles were happy.

But I was very concern that by racing 31 miles in my 4mm trail shoes, I was going to reverse all the hard work and patience I had put into my recovery.  Rather than risk this, I decided to wear the same pair of racing flats (but a new pair) I wore at Strolling Jim 40 miler in May, the ST5 Racers.  These are not my lightest racing flats, but they are under 6 oz for my size, have a 12mm drop, and they have a supportive post under the arch.  I am a neutral runner, but for some reason I found that the stability posting of this shoe helps to eliminate all foot pain in ultra distance races.  I just love this shoe.  But it is road shoe.  The tread is not meant to navigate roots or manage muck.  But like I said earlier, Turkey Swamp Trails are beginner trails so I suspected Road Racing Flats would work and they were perfect.  I ended Turkey Swamp no worse for the wear than before I started.  No achilles pain.  No blisters.  No plantar fasciitis pain.  No black toe nails.  Nothing was wrong and this is a big deal.

Over-Hydrating while Dehydrating and What to do about it:
Hot humid weather is tough, but this year Turkey Swamp started out extremely mild. Mid 60's in a blessing in August.  The early laps were enjoyable.  I manage to run about 5 laps of the race non-stop without worry.  It felt easy.  I wanted to start just under 9 minute pace and that is where I was by lap 5.  Thank you Stephen for the company at the start. I knew I would not run all 31 miles non-stop since the heat would beat me down.  I started to take the one little hill in the field as a walk break on lap 6 and hoped I would not need to add many more walks to this day.  But turns out I was wrong about that.

At 5 laps in, I could already tell the humidity was getting to me.  It is not a good sign for me when I am struggle before the half way mark. The temperatures rose significantly from the early morning.  The sun broke through the clouds and beat down on us strongly.  At two points we had the gift of a light rain, but that didn't last very long.

I was carrying a bottle and drinking cups of fluid at the stations.  Thank you Alanna for filling my bottle at the station to help me out.  I tried to drink as much as I could but even though fluid sloshed in my stomach, my mouth was extremely parched. I needed hydration so badly but simply could not get it into my body fast enough.

I had two options at this point.  I could try some sodium to see it that would help trigger some faster absorption… or I could slow down and walk more to try to sweat less while digesting what I had consumed.  I didn't want to do that, so I took the salt.  I haven't taken much salt in races in a long time, so I hoped this would work.  Unfortunately, it really didn't help much.

I continued on, slowing a little hoping to digest the fluids still bloating me. I tried to focus more on pouring water over me to try to cool myself down rather than drink.  At the same time I began to try to figure out my race position.  I needed to think about strategy not speed if I wanted to get through this.  Thank you to Sidney and Stephen for doing all they could to sort out the race information and getting me some leader board info.  They did a great job with limited data and it helped me keep my head in the game.

I needed to start walking more just to make sure I was getting some hydration. I knew I didn't need to drink more, but out of sheer thirst and reflex I was still sipping fluids.  By the start of lap 8, my stomach couldn't handle me trying to push in any more fluids and I ended up throwing up everything I was trying to put in.  Because this bout of vomiting had nothing to do with stomach irritation, I actually felt better.  This is not the same thing as when my stomach starts bleeding at hour 14 of an ultra and nothing helps.  This did help some and I was able to run again.  I continued to douse myself and sip water as I moved along, but my pace suffered.

As I came around lap 10, Sidney told me I had about a lap on the second place woman and was this a relief to hear. At this stage, I just wanted to finish this but knew I was still teetering on the edge of a DNF if I threw up again.  I was feeling very unwell.  I was dry heaving when trying to force in calories.  I was on the verge of throwing up at all times and it felt horrible.

During the entire race, I was only able to get in water, some diluted gatorade, a sip of mountain dew and 1.5 gels the entire race, and one of those gels I threw up. This is about the same as running 31 miles on practically nothing.  My energy was shot, and I was unraveling completely.  It was a suffer-fest but I had surprisingly not reached my limit yet. I admit that already started thinking about how much I wanted to just stop, but this time I was able to shake those negative thoughts away easily and I did everything I could to keep moving forward.  I was still running, but just adding more walking when I would have gagging fits.

When I started lap 12 and realized that I was still over a lap ahead of 2nd place, I knew I was going to finish the race and take home a first place for my effort. This was a big deal to me because Sidney was able to make it out to this race and I didn't want to fail at one of few races he gets to see me run.  He was incredibly helpful and even made me laugh a bit when he tried to hustle me out to run after I lingered a little too long at the aid station before lap 12.The final lap was a death march but I didn't care.  I was finishing and that was such sweet relief.

This race ended up being over an hour slower than my best 50k and slower than I ran Turkey Swamp last year, but I am so very very proud that I got this done.  It took hard work to cover each and every step of that course.  I was falling apart.  I could only focus on one thing and that was to get to the finish line and officially be done.  What a great feeling it was to get to do that.

I want to thank Alanna for being at the aid station and helping with my bottles; Stephen for running the miles he ran with me and then getting me race data when his race was over; (The Amazing) Kim for sticking around after her half plus 7 miler to be there at the finish; and to Sidney for being there to provide such great motivation and support.  It is nice to have such great people in my life. :)

Thank you Tom for RDing one of my most favorite races :)  It is alway so great to see how genuinely supportive you are of all the runners out there on the course. You do a great job!
Sidney walks behind me as I finish. photo by Vivian Corlew

31.1 miles
1st Female
6th OA

Friday, July 25, 2014

Running with the Devil 6 hour, Mountain Creek Ski Resort, Vernon NJ. 7/19/14

Running with the Devil is by far the most difficult race I have ever run.  I do this event each year, always scared to death when I show up that I won't last more than a lap… and always end up surprised that I stay in it for the duration.

Elevation chart from two years ago… when I managed 7 laps.

This race takes place at Mountain Creek Ski Resort.  We run out of the ski lodge and up a ski slope.  The loop is 3 Miles. We climb to over 1400 ft in elevation by the time we summit at just about the halfway mark. We return down some significantly steep descents the lodge to refuel.  I do this loop for 6 hours.  Many do it for 3 hours.  Some attempt 12 hours. The grade varies with the worst of it being a stretch of about 0.3, where the snow machines are.  The grade there is 30% incline.  This part is very humbling.

Here is video made by Dave on one of his loops:

I believe Steve Tursi snapped this shot a few years ago.
This is the longest hill but not the steepests

The snow maker section pictured above. .22 mile across.  308.6 feet up.  This is hard. 

Achilles Tendonitis and Decisions to Make.
This year the heat was not as much of a factor as it has been in the past.  Still, without much shade on this course, the sun did burn my skin. I did come home more than 5 lbs lighter from dehydration, despite my conscious attempt to drink to thirst and carry a bottle the entire day.

I never go to Running with the Devil with a plan to race it.  I consider it strength training and an exercise in managing self-doubt.  But, I was very concerned this year about whether I should actually go at all.  Three weeks ago I acquired a very significant upper respiratory infection with serious chest congestion and a recurring low grade fever that I just couldn't shake.  For two weeks I delt with that cold by reducing my mileage, causing me to miss some hill training (and even work).  When finally felt better, I jumped right back into training, increasing my mileage by almost 25 miles that week.  I did my hills, raced a mid-week 4 miler, trained several runners, and was able to run a hard track workout.  But this should not have been that big of a deal.  I was running only 50 mile weeks when sick.  I bumped up to 75 miles.  Prior to getting sick I was up and over 85 miles per week.  I was hoping to be reaching 100 miles per week at this time,  but the cold set me back.  I felt the 70-75 goal was a safe compromise considering my training history.

My achilles tendons did NOT agree with my assessment.  By the very end of last week, I ended a 12 mile run with inflammation in both achilles.  I have not had this much achilles pain ever.  I could feel the swelling on my drive home.   I did 1 mile "test" runs  the next two days to track how my achilles felt (and to keep my streak alive).  By Tuesday morning, I felt better and ran 3 miles, which caused me to revert right back to experiencing painful inflammation.

Wednesday night, I pulled out several pairs of shoes of various drops and started experimenting on my treadmill. I started with the Saucony Virrata 2 that I just acquired as a prize from a recent 5k. Virrata 2's are 0 drop and OMG did this hurt A LOT.  At .03 mile into my attempt to run on my treadmill, I stopped and tried my Launch at 9.5 mm.  This was much better.  It  made me wonder what my 12 mm drop Ghosts would feel like.  This was like night and day.  In a 12 mm drop, I could run pain free.  The higher drop alleviate the tension on my achilles and I ran 5 miles without issue.  Thursday morning, I was able to run 4 more but did feel some minor aches.  I met Dave for 15 x 300's because I made a commitment.  We have a schedule to keep. My ST5 Racers are 12 mm and I was able to minimize my discomfort.  We do some great work at the track and nothing hurts me during our workout, but by the cool down I was back to feeling pain.  UGH! At this point, I tell Dave that I was very very concerned about Running with the Devil, especially knowing my trail shoes are 4mm drop (NB WT 1010v2) and there was nothing I could do about this because those were the shoes I would wear on that course.

Race Day
During my morning coffee,  I ruminate about what to do. I paid. I love this race.  I can't remember if I have ever missed this race.  I could have.  But maybe not.  I will have to check later. I would hate to not go.

I tell Sidney that I will go, but if I find that I can't run it because of my achilles, I'll just come home early.  I truly expected to get up there, hike a lap, and then come home.  That made me sad, but I really had to get there or I would feel even more disappointed.

On the deck, I fill a small handheld. I check on Dave who started his 6 hour even early because, as he told me 17 TIMES in the last week, he had to get out to PA that afternoon for a party.  As he ran by, I asked him if he had any plans for the rest of the day ;).  He was flying and there was no way I could have hung with him had we started together.

Lap 1
The 3 and 6 hour runners runners meander off the deck with no sense of urgency.  I jog a little to the first incline. As we start to climb I realize I am in HUGE trouble. My achilles are on fire when I try to run up hill and I am only about a few tenths into this race. I consider turning back. Oh Boy.  This Does Not Look Good. I start walking. This hurts less.

I hook up with Sean and we start chatting.  He tells me he doesn't feel fully prepared for this race.  I tell him I am going home after one loop because I have some tendonitis that hurts a lot on the ups .  I tell him I need to walk because running hurts but walking seems to be manageable.  I am terrified about the 30% grade and I am not sure what I am going to do.

Sean and I make decent time hiking most of the up hill.  Even though there are some runnable parts we could have run, I take things very very easy because I don't want to tear anything.  The race is a slow motion test of attrition and I know that those running hard are either in the 3 hour or they will wish they were.  We are able to run much of the downhill.   I am happy to get my consecutive mile plus some on the first lap.

The descent takes a lot of pressure off my achilles and I am feeling comfortable. I tell Sean that if he wants company for lap 2 I am going for a second but I need to do something about my socks.

I had two pairs of new Feetures socks I bought a few weeks ago.  The socks have caused me more trouble than they were worth for me.  I want to like them but I just don't think they are for me.   Being a complete idiot, I pack both pairs of the new socks, only.  Two of the exact same pairs of socks… and the socks were not working for me.  They feel good when I put them on.  But one pair lasted one run before the seams came undone. Feetures sent me a new pair.  Today, the socks did not stay put.  The inclines were so steep that my socks would slip into my shoes and bunch up in my arches. I have never had this problem with other socks at this race.

Lap 2 and beyond
At the lodge, I decided to just get rid of the socks altogether.  I was concerned I was going to turn my feet into chopped meat.  Grit and dirt were getting in my shoes.  I suspected I would leave at lap 2. Those sock were so uncomfortable that I knew I could not complete another lap with them on.  So off Sean and I went and I hoped my feet would survive.

Sean and I spent another lap together, talking about all things running… hydration, salt, sugar.  The conversation was so engaging that before we knew it we were at the summit in good time.  We were still being conservative.  We discussed what we needed to do to prepare for Lap 3.  And it was now clear that dropping out was no longer an option for me.

My feet survived without socks.  My achilles were hurting no more or no less than lap one.  Our pace was survival mode but we both know the race is about survival.

We headed out for lap three and we continued our discussion right where we left off.  We discussed racing, how many races is too many racing… shoes, hokas, vibrams, minimalism, maxi-minis or whatever, altras, low drop, high drop… barefoot running, barefoot running records, barefoot running records in the sand, … runners who run barefoot,  ultras people have running barefoot, other races worth running with shoes.

Next thing we knew, we were past the half way mark.  We discussed a little about science and biology.  I learned that Sean is a biologist.  That is very impressive.  We talked about keeping track of data and doing studies on ourselves. We talked about some horrible things we have read about hydration rate and how sometimes it is clear that people giving advice have not actually done the things they recommend.  We talked about Born to Run (yes, still people still talk about Born to Run at ultras… but now it is more about the book being fiction and a good story rathe than it being the answer to all ultra running prayers).  We talked about how Jurek would supposedly take flour tortillas out with him on his runs.  I asked Sean if he ever tried this.  I have and it was horrible.  It turns into a ball of flour paste in your mouth.  Yuck.  This is not a good idea at all. :)

We started to talk about race strategy.  Laps are taking us about 50 minutes or so.  We were in no rush.  But we had timing to consider.  At 30 minutes left we can start small laps.  How will this work?  We had either enough time for 3 x 45 minute laps or we could do 2 x 50+ minute laps and then wait to start the smalls.   I figured it would depend on where I was in the standing to make that decision.

I noticed I was 5th place. I wasn't sure where the others were.  They were only a lap ahead of me.  I didn't know if I could catch them.  But,  I knew I could not run up the hills without hurting myself.   I also knew I was getting tired.  I wasn't eating much.  This was not on purpose, it was just because I didn't feel hungry.  My gatorade that I hope to use for calories remained frozen all day.  I ended the day sorely under-fueled, having had consumed 12 oz of gatorade (80 calories) , 4 oz of Mt Dew (120 calories), 3 Pringles (possible 20 calories?), 1 wedge of watermelon (nothing significant) and last minute desperate attempt to get sugar in the form of one nauseating Hammer Gel. (100 calories).  This is about 320 calories during the race.  I did have some gatorade and Mt Dew prior to the start along with a banana (abt 400 calories).  The rest of the day I drank water.  No sodium was taken.  Nothing else.  So that is about 6 hours of mountain climbing off of 720 calories.   Not nearly enough.

I admitted to Sean that I didn't have 45 minute laps in me so I was planning on 2 more bigs and then start the smalls.  By the 6th big, I was bonking hard.  At one point I asked Sean if were going in the right direction!  LOL   I took my time on the last big because I knew we could not start the smalls until 30 minutes to go anyway.  My achilles were getting tired again and I want to be careful.

We got down to the Lodge with just under 30 minutes left and I noticed I was now in 4th place.  We headed out for a small and that is when that gel I took just before we left the lodge was not sitting well. Up the hill we went and I knew I was done.  I took my time, noticing no ladies behind me and none in front I could catch or see.  I told Sean to go on without me.  I was toast.  He had energy. He was amazing in those last 30 minutes.  Had I stayed with him I could have caught the women!

With 15 minutes left, I did an assessment of the leader board.  I could do a second lap and finish one half mile behind the top three ladies but I could not catch any.  I could not be caught by the 5th place woman.   I could get around once more but my achilles were hurting now so I decided to not go.  I was afraid I would tear my tendons in the last 10 minutes of a run I should have never been able to complete.

I decided to stop and call it a day.

I have to thank Sean from the bottom of my heart for hanging out with me all day.  He was great company.  The conversation was so engaging that I almost forgot I was climbing a mountain.  I don't have that type of experience with a fellow runner often. To be truthful, in ultra running, this does happen to us runners.  We all have stories about trail camaraderie and the connections we make out there while struggling through adversity.  We latch on to people.  We become instant friends and offer genuine support.  We want to help each other in the face meet the challenges.  This type of things does NOT happen in marathon running.  This is part of why we run ultras. Even this has happen to many of us, it is still special with it does. I have run enough ultras to know that when you end up spending 6 hours side-by-side with someone and the time just flies by, that is a remarkable experience and it should be appreciated. So thank you Sean for spending that day with me! :)

The other thing about Running with the Devil worth sharing is that this race is an exercise in adversity management.  Year after year it reminds me that I CAN do a lot more than I believe I can do but only if I stop making things so hard on myself.  Even though the mountain is what it is, I can still control a lot of the details of the challenge, if I just leave my ego behind, if I just focus on the lap I am in, if I work on managing my resources and taking care of myself as needed, and if I dont worry about what anyone else is doing. When I just keep moving forward despite wanting to stop,  I end up coming down the mountain 6 hours later more impressed with myself that I imagined I could be when making the drive to the race.

Life is hard. Sometimes we just need to slow down and not let the mountain eat us alive.  Sometimes slow and steady is truly the right way to go.

Total Distance: 6 x 3 mile big loops and 1 half mile small.  18.5 miles
Time: 5:45-ish
Place 4th female.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Woodbridge Run for Pizza 4 Mile, Woodbridge, NJ. 7/9/14

photo by Mike Mooney
This race wasn't really on my calendar, but two days before Martin texted me to ask if I was going.  Asking me if I am going to race is almost as good as compelling me to be there.  I decided that I had to go.  After all, it was about a mile away.

I had to train a client a few hours before the start and also ran with another runner in the morning.  The race would round my mileage out to 14 for the day which would make me happy.

It was hot and humid at 88 degrees, which is to be expected in July.  I almost decided to stay home because of this, but I really needed to race.  I have been sick for two weeks with a wicked chest cold.  I rarely ever get sick with colds, but someone carried some serious germs onto our unit and half the staff ended up very very sick, me included. I was worried about how this race would go for me considering the circumstances.

I told Sidney that Martin would be there and he decided he would go as well.  Martin then decides he can't make it. LOL. But then he shows up to get Joanne's packet, which some how now resides in my trunk! Sometime it is better to just not pay attention.

After a mile warm up, Iwant this race to hurry up and be over.  The gun goes off and I get a fast start off the line.  Soon one woman blasts past me and I try to stay close enough to her to get a sense of what she is doing.  She is moving very fast and I wonder if this will last.  She is pulling away from me by the half mile mark.  I can tell I am running too fast already and decided to let her go. I look at my watch and I am sub-6. I slow down.  Sub-6!  LOL

I am surprised that I don't feel horrible.  I just feel hot.  I am not as tired as I thought I would be. M1 6:25

I concede that unless the first chick blows up completely, she is going to win.  By around mile 2, a second female comes up to my side and slowly passes me.  I make this very easy for her, as I have slowed significantly. I am sitting right where I thought I should be at this point pace-wise and it is too soon for me to get back into a deficit.  I let her go and hope to stay in range by the time we crest the hill in the last mile. M2: 6:53

At this point, I am starting to fight to hold my pace and I feel the impact of the heat and the last two weeks "off".  Runners are spread out and there are enough turns that allow views of the course behind us and I can't see where the next female is.  I am glad that I have a shot at holding 3rd, but it is still to early to be sure. M3: 7:00

There is one hill to crest before a flat finish. I work hard to get my pace back down after slowing a lot on the incline. I manage to finish strong, inspired by cheering from Mike Mooney who took the photo above.  It is really motivating to hear your name when digging gets hard to do.  I was so glad to see that finish line.  It was especially nice to see Sidney and Martin cheering me in.  M4: 6:53

Last time I ran this race, I remember the awards taking a bit of time.  We got some pizza and I walked to the car to get some things to sit on.  As I got back, they had already started.  I mentioned to Sidney that they were doing awards now.  He was engrossed in conversation with Martin and Nuno.  They started with Overall Women, 3rd place first.  I was the first name called, got my plaque, sat back down and waited for Sidney and Martin to pause in their conversation, which happened promptly… giving Sidney a moment to notice my plaque and ask… "What's that? I missed it? When did that happen?" LOL!

Time 27:20
Place 3rd OA Female

Monday, June 23, 2014

Fitzgerald Lager 5k Run, Glen Ridge, NJ. 6/22/14

Friday, by the end of my work day I felt my throat beginning to sting.  I hoped it had something to do with the climate at work and not me.  But this past week was a stressful, my sleep patterns were disrupted, and by bedtime on Friday, I knew something was wrong.  I could hardly swallow.

From 2 am through my alarm at 5 am Sat morning, I was up with a swollen sore throat yet still deluding myself.  I texted Kim that I was up but wasn't feeling great.  I planned to meet her for possibly only one 5 mile lap of the Reservoir.  Then I got up (ugh) and found a thermometer.  Not terrible, but with a 99.9 degree temperature, I really started to second guess whether I should drive 45 minutes each way to run 5 miles or more feeling like crap.  We originally planned for at least 12 and I usually aim for 15-20 on weekends.  I text Alanna and she was up and able to meet Kim.  Thank you both :)  With my guilt about missing a training run assuaged I laid back down and woke up about 4 hours later, feeling horrible. I wasn't sure I was going to make it to the Lager run, but I did have until Sunday night to decide.

I had made plans with John to attempt to run from a park in Rahway to a park in Cranford and back on Sunday morning.  I guessed it would only be about 6-7 miles each way, but I wasn't sure if the route was really runner friendly. By Sat night my throat was feeling better and my temperature was normal.  I really wanted to do this run, but 12-14 miles seemed like it might be a bit far since I wasn't feeling great yet.  Not sure what would happen I asked John to meet me, and see how far we could get before I needed to turn back.

John is a good sport. :) Apparently Rahway to Cranford and back is about 13.6 miles and after that morning run, I knew I was more likely to go to the race than not.  After all, this was supposed to be the day Rich breaks 20.  I had to go!

Photo by Becky Wiechman from about .3 miles to go.
The Lager Run

I didn't check the weather, but I knew it wasn't bad.  I am becoming acclimated to warm weather now, so even at gun time (6:15 pm) it felt tolerable for a June race.

I know this course well and the first and last mile are fast, while the middle mile contains the uphill and it is slower.  But overall this course is one the fastest courses we run in the Grand Prix Race Series.  Add in mild weather and there is the potential for PRs for everyone!  Except for possibly sick chicks who ran over a half marathon in the morning… 

I arrive at the starting line, still looking for Rich. People said he was there so I wanted to find him and I did, about three rows back. We discussed some pacing ideas on the starting line… around a 6:20 first mile… expect something around 6:35-6:40's for the second mile with the uphill... and then come back hard in mile 3 for the sub-20.  Rich knew I wasn't feeling 100% so I told him to not worry about running with me if he felt good or if I was slow today.

Gun goes off and I start my watch.  I cross the start mat and split my watch. (2.4 seconds).  Now I have both Gun and Chip time. 

At about halfway into Mile 1, Rich pulls away.  I felt I was running fast enough at this point with my Garmin showing low 6s.  I knew Rich was ready to chase his PR.  I just wish I was ready to chase it with him.  M1 6:16

As we hit the uphill in Mile 2, I can feel how tired I am and there is nothing I can do about this. I just do my best and hope I have something to come back with after the hill.  The hill is early in mile 2 and there is a lot of room to recover from it if you work every decline. I see the 2 mile clock.  Rich and I talked about how we needed to be as close to 12:45 as possible to ensure a sub-20.  I see him near the clock as it read 12:49. I end up there at 13:01 (which is the same 2 mile split I ran at my last 5k).  I knew I was already too slow for sub-20 but I also know Rich still had a shot!  M2 6:44

I made a promise to myself in mile 2 to make an effort to kick hard in mile 3 and I don't think I let myself down.  My last report discussed how you can't save it for the final mile, but in this case the second mile was up hill and I knew the last was fast. I was a little slower than I wanted to be in mile 2 and had hoped to keep in under 6:40.  I just didn't have it today.  I pushed with what I had and didn't feel like I was letting up.  We entered the track and I could see Rich ahead as I approached the 3 mile mark.  M3 6:23

I noted that he was already past 3 at 19:27 on the clock.  He needed to kick hard to get it.  It was seriously going to be close!  I knew I didn't have enough time to kick for a sub-20 myself, but Esly flew past me in the last 200 meters and encouraged me on.  My chest was hurting, but not as bad as I anticipated. I gave my best effort.

As I watched the clock roll past 20:00 I knew Rich made it! 10 seconds later I was done too.

Time: 20:10
Gender 9th Female
30-39 AG 4th place

I won nothing today except the amazing experience of getting to witness a friend's entire PR race from start to finish!  Congratulations to you, Rich, for finally getting that 19:55!  It was such a joy to watch you execute it perfectly and never appear uncertain any step of the way!  You set a goal, you worked hard, and you did it!  And I got to see the whole thing unfold, like watching a movie from 10 seconds back.  Thanks for making my race extra exciting… and, um, you can stop beating me now… Thank you in advance ;)

And also I would like to wish a Very Happy (belated now but not then) Birthday to Jim O and
give a Shout Out to Ben T for being the most awesome team leader.

That is all. Thank you for reading :)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

President's Cup 5k, Millburn, NJ. 6/16

I didn't intend to attempt to pace anyone.  Besides, it isn't really pacing if you are also running as fast as you can.  All I know is I really wanted Rich to break 20.

I wasn't sure what my race would be like. I don't set goals for summer racing.  The heat and I don't get along.  I am not a 5k runner.  5k's are ridiculously hard and there is nothing I can do about that.  I have broken 20 twice. Came very close a few other times. (20:00, 20:03, and others)… but my asthma, my massive amount of slow twitch muscle fibers, and things like that Nutella sandwich on Brown Sugar Cinnamon Swirl bread I had for dinner tend to hold me back from seeing 19:xx on the clock easily or often.

My last 5k was two weeks ago and it was a 20:20. I figured my time should be around there again.  But Rich wanted to break 20.  I like Rich.  He is a nice guy and I hoped he could do it. I told him we can go for it together.  I rarely every run side-by-side with others or plan to do so from the start.  I hope to be able to pull him through 2 miles at a pace that would allow him to break 20 even if I couldn't.

I knew the course and knew it can be a fast course:  Two uneven loops. First loop is just over a mile, with a downhill start.  Turn left and run around a block to some up hills.  Continue left and head back down hill past the starting line.  Run back down the first half of that fist loop (just the downhill part). But on the second loop we turn Right and head out to a school (which is just slightly inclined out).  Turn at the school and head back (slightly declined back). Finish off the second half of the first loop at the end, by running up and over the hills on tired legs.  End with a downhill-to-level finish.

The weather was not as bad as it has been in the past.  I believe it was just under 80 degrees and the thunderstorms that usually hit us were behind schedule this year.  The humidity did not seem horrid.  I asked Rich what he wanted his first mile to be and he 6:20. Ok, I can do that.

We get up towards the front of more than 1200 runners.  It is a tightly packed start.  As we take off running, a guy behind me, apparently an expert twister player, manages to hook the front my shin with his foot? Twice?  Twice, I stumble and manage to not fall down. He was polite. He apologized. I still don't understand what exactly happened there, but I am just glad I didn't fall on my face and get trampled.

The pack goes out FAST.  This is a Men's Championship Race. There are incredibly fast runners there.   This is a downhill start and people are taking advantage of that.  Karl flies by Rich and I.  I call out to him that he has been racing awesome.  I pick up the pace briefly, out of habit of trying to run with Karl, but then I look at the pace. Whoa.

Rich asked "How fast?"

"World Record Pace!  Did you want to break 6 for Mile 1?  I think we can slow down and just let people go", I reply.

Rich agrees and we settle down.  The hill is in Mile 1 and it is not terrible but there are two hills back to back.  I joked that we had plenty of time to burn off since we started so fast. M1 - 6:18

This is pretty good. We get over the hills well. I am hoping we can keep the average pace under 6:26 and maybe have something to kick with. I am watching our average pace.  Mile 2 is tough.  At this point Rich shares his concern that the pace may still be a little fast. With over half the race left, including those same hills, I knew we had a lot of time left to manage. My asthma was already an issue, but at this point I still felt strong but tired.  I knew that going out to a school is slightly, minorly, inclined on the way out, which means we get a slight decline back to use if we can. I suggested we settle down, regroup, and then at mile 2 be prepared to fight for a strong finish.  Our average pace was still 6:22 at this point, so we could not slow much and still make it.  I feel myself pulling away, just a little.  I don't want Rich to let me go ahead because I think both our races will be better and a lot more fun if we pull each other in Mile 3. This is truly the only point in the race I made a conscious decision to slow my pace just slightly in order to stay with Rich.  M2-6:39

We made it to Mile 2 just a bit slower than I had hoped we would. But I knew we still had a shot at breaking 20 if we could really pick up the pace on the way out of the school.  But this was the point in the race where my legs were getting heavy and my asthma was causing me to suffer.  Unfortunately, even though we both knew we needed to pick it up, neither of us did so.

As we ran past Rick, he called out "Only One K to go!"  We were coming upon on those two hills and I felt like that kilometer was going to be the longest kilometer of my life.  We held our 2 mile pace in the last mile rather than find another gear. Bummer. It was clear now that I was fading a little and he was pulling ahead.  I think as soon we saw that hill, we both knew sub-20 was not happening today.  We hit the top of the hill and I encouraged him to kick!  I believe I heard an "LOL" at my suggestion ;).  But Rich has a strong finish and I knew this.  M3-6:42

After the crest of the hill, the finish mostly is downhill.  Rich had pulled away.  With half a tenth to go,  I tried to close that gap back up.  It was close but I could not catch him.  I finish a second behind. I can honestly admit that once I knew we were not breaking 20, I lost some of my desire to kick as hard as possible, especially since my place amongst ladies was secure.  Last .1 0:45

I would like to say we learned a lesson about pacing and that maybe if we didn't let ourselves get pulled out so fast in the first half of Mile 1, things would have gone differently… but I don't believe that at all.  I think the fast start is a product of it being a declined start and using it is not necessarily a bad thing.  Aiming for a 6:18-6:20 Mile 1 is reasonable goal when trying to average 6:26 overall.  Maintaining a more evenly paced mile 1 will likely be helpful but I think the sub-20 was lost at 1.5 miles into and confirmed by the start of Mile 3.

The real hinge for us both lies in our ability to find a way to stay focused, as well as tolerant and accepting of the suffering that happens in Mile 2.  It seems Mile 2 is where sub-20 (or PRs for others) happens or it doesn't.  If we can get to Mile 2 under 13 and remain confident during the first half of mile 3, we can break 20.  If we get to Mile 2 over 13, unless that mile is downhill to the finish, it will be a fight. The final mile can and will be fueled by the sense of being almost done with just tenths of go. Kicks will be dug up for that last mile.  But Mile 2 has this ominous sense of "Omg, if it hurts this bad now and it is only 1.5 miles into this thing, then how am I going to finish strong?"  The mile between M1 and Mile 2 can be dominated by self-preservation and a desire to save something for the end… and that is what needs to be ignored to a degree.  The worse that happens is we come through Mile 2 in 12:55… and then fall apart, fading in M3, and not break 20. I think I would rather lose my shot at breaking 20 in Mile 3 than in Mile 2.  So next time, I plan to run a strong 2 mile split and see how bad Mile 3 beats me down.

Time: 20:25
Gender Place: 11
AG:  1

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

BUS Joe Kleinerman 12 hour, Bayside, NY. 6/7/14

Photo by Donna Sajulga-Tablos  
I had two races on the calendar to choose from: The Joe Kleinerman 12 hour or the College Avenue Mile.

I finally started to find my grove again. I have been getting up before 5 am to meet a few awesome training partners (Alanna and Kim) at the park for early morning miles (7-9+ of hills).  I started speed work back up with Dave once a week and we work very hard out there running things like 20 x 200, 15x300, etc at sub-6 pace. I train three private clients for 30-60 minute sessions after work or on Saturdays.  Enzo, my dog, has turned into a running machine and managed to log 51.6 miles in 7 days to my 90 miles.  (But sadly, starting this week, the humidity has become too high to allow Enzo to train with me even at the earliest morning hours. He goes for walks and swims now until the temperature is under 65 and the humidity is low).

I decided to head out to the 12 hour, hoping to log a bunch of miles, but primarily to have fun and NOT get hurt.  It is hard to make "Not Get Hurt" a goal at a 12 hour because it is almost inevitable that something is going to hurt out there if you run hard.  But right now, I am just not interested in an extended recovery period, since I finally feel like am training well again.  It was only last week that I dropped my app in the mail for this race, so this was not something I trained hard for and I really wasn't sure what to expect.

On Tuesday, after running (and falling down) with Enzo in the morning, meeting Dave for speed work in the late afternoon, and then training a client after him… by Wednesday morning my achilles were upset.  But on Thursday the weather was pretty bad so I took a light day and felt better.

Late Friday night, I threw some clothes in a backpack with a box of gels and two handheld 10 oz bottles.  I just planned on using whatever was at the race.  I was not really concerned about my achilles by race day.  I was more concerned about it getting up to 80+ degrees, but ironically the heat did not bother me this time.

I chose the 12 hour because going to a BUS race is like attending a group run of familiar faces.  There are regulars that attend almost all the events and the competition can be fierce even if the events are small.  BUS events are simply my favorite events to run, even when I have a bad day.

The Gun went off and I started sub-9 pace.  There was really no need to go faster. By mile three I started forcing myself to find a spot to use as a walk break, knowing there was no way I would be running 12 hours non-stop.  I found a nice rhythm and once my pace settled to 9:40 per mile, it just stayed that way for hours. It was nice to have about .05 walk up a hill towards the S/F and run the balance of the course.

My legs felt strong. I was using a bandana soaked in ice water for cooling and it was working well.  I was taking a gel per hour plus all the liquids I could drink each lap with out stopping… a cup of gatorade some laps, a cup or two of water, a cup of coke.  I was eating a few (like 2) potato chips when feeling a little hungry.  I had some melon when available.

I spend several miles with Tim and Joe and this is probably what distracted me from my achilles issue for so long.  Joe was actually a lap ahead of us and running an amazing race. Tim was not himself and although I have a tendency run his pace when we start, I usually fade and he usually does amazing work by the end of the events.  I hope someday to be able to hang on and finish a race with Tim.

When I finally ended up running without the guys, I ended up in a hilariously well-timed game of leap frog with Lauren.  She would run the entire loop, pass me on my walk and get a lead on me. I would catch up to her on the run and pass her back. Lap after Lap we did this, but I noticed that I was catching her slightly sooner and sooner. Because I was walking already and she was not (meaning she eventually will need to walk and I may not since I was already walking) I knew I had the ability to move ahead.  After I passed her with enough time to walk up the hill and resume running again without  her catching me, something happened and she slowed a bit.  I assumed she was adding a walk break in now.

At this point it was about 4 hours into the race.  I could feel my achilles getting sore, but things get sore in ultras. I was coming up on my marathon split.  As a turned a corner, I felt something in the back of my left achilles pop, like when a knuckle cracks… not like a tear.  That was new.  It was not accompanied by terrible pain, but it did not feel good.  As I finished the lap, it was hurting.

I alway keep some tylenol in my backpack, but rarely take it.  Today I decided to give it try just to see if whatever was irritated might feel better.

I was caught by Byron and ran some with him.  He is a very supportive runner and one of the very first people I remember admiring from the ultra running world.  We talked about how things were going.  I was trying to stay positive and not mention my achilles hurting.  I really just hoped it would stop.

By hour 5, that one tylenol was futile and I really had no interest in medicating myself through 7 more hours of running.  I took an extended walk break to see if walking was less problematic. It was not.  IT hurt more to walk and then it hurt more to run. And that was all I needed to decide that I was done.

I walked the remainder of the lap, and at 33 miles in 5:25 I reported that I was done for the day.

I got some ice on the achilles and stayed for a little to be social.  That is when Trishul and Kaaren arrived.  Two amazing massage therapist who tend to show up just when I need help.  Kaaren was generous with her time and took a look a my achilles.  She stretch my calves our and just touching my achilles signaled shooting pain.  She informed me that it was swollen and it made not sense to irritated it more.

I thanked her for her time and for validating my decision to stop.  As disappointing as it is to stop so early, unless I am prepared to manage an injury, lose training time, miss out on running with the partners and clients I look forward to running with each week,  I know better than to run though significant inflammation and pain.

It is now Tuesday. I rested with one mile Sunday and three miles on Monday. I am already back to 9+ miles in the morning with hill repeats and plan for speed tomorrow.  Pain is now only fading soreness and tightness that is subsiding and clearly resolving.

Ego may be bruised, by I saved my achilles and saved my Fall training cycle. So overall a I got a really solid 33 mile LR and successfully avoided an injury and down time.  Not a bad day.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Guest Blogger: Kevin from Baltimore, On Training and Chasing a 5k PR.

Beginning a few months ago, I had the opportunity to work with Kevin, a very talented, dedicated, hard-working runner from Baltimore who is experienced in racing everything from 5k's through marathons.  He was ready to see if he could chase down a new 5k PR and asked me to help.

Kevin's race was on Memorial Day weekend.  I wanted to share his race report here on Creating Momentum.  His story is truly inspiring as he does a great job explaining how the value of working towards a goal is not always about the race day result, but rather about the lessons we learn and the relationships we build along the way.

Below is a copy and paste of Kevin's race recap.  You can follow Kevin's journey here on his blog about life, running, work, spirituality, and the connections he makes along the way. 


5K Race Recap +

So, yesterday, I ran the MCVET 5K race for the 4th time.  First two times, I paced my now 14 year old.  Last year I ran it for my own time.  This year I did the same.  The goal (as stated in my last entry) was sub-19.  I did not make my goal, but I had a great race.  Here is the story.

I had to awaken my 14 year old just before 5:30.  We had not had a chance to pick up packets in advance.  So, we drove to a little more than a half mile from the start of the race where parking is free and walked down.  Easily found the packet pick up.  Got our numbers, our goody bags, and out timing chips.  And then met up with other runners from Back on My Feet.  I wanted to get in a whole mile in adance of the race, so I left before the stretching was done and the Serenity Prayer was recited.  Not what I wanted to do.  But it gave me time for my warm up, a last trip to the rest room, and a few striders before the race.  I did not line up in the front row but a few rows back.  My goal was to go out at 6:06.

As we began the race, people sorted themselves out quickly into relative paces.  There was a guy named Duance whom I see in a lot of local races.  He didn't end up having a great day and I was surprised at how early I passed by him in this particular race.  I don't think that I was passed or passed anyone except for one person after about the first mile.  This is getting more and more typical in races I run where there are a relatively small number of fast competitive runners.  This time there were 10 out of 242 who ran sub-20. I am not in any way saying that there is not some good competition and kicking it out at the end to win among runners who take longer.  Just not usually a lot in the front.  

So, I passed a few people who had gone out quickly.  Saw that ahead of me there was at least one guy who looked clearly older than me and I knew Maurice was out there (it turns out that there were three) and I settled in.  I have tried to make it a habit not to check my watch excessivley during the run especially because it is hard to know whether the watch is measuring exact distances.  So, I came through.  A time of over 6:20 was announced by the guy at the first mile marker.  It had not felt that slow.  Adding up the time that my watch said as it beeped for one mile plus the extra time to get there to the marker, I had 6:16 based on my watch.  The second mile was all flat and involved teh turn around on Key Highway and passing the water stop.  It was very warm out on the road despite the chilly start yesterday morning.  I took a water at the water stop before the turn around (there are water stops just beorfore and jsut after the turn around) and poured it over my head.  I had just passed someone whom I would spend the rest of the race in competition with.  If nothing else, I finally had someone to push me the whole way.  That was a good thing.

We continued back along Key Highway toward Light Street and reached mile 2.  This time, my mile was right at the mark and I had a 6:09.  I had picked up nicely but still not enough to really shoot for the sub-19.  Goal was still to beat last year's time.  Running neck and neck with the woman whom I'd passed and been jsut ahead of at the turn around.  I don't know how "just ahead" of her I was, but I did worry about splashing her when I poured the water over my head.  

Now, it was time to dig deep.  The third mile is the only one with some uphill.  I didn't think I had lost that much.  And during the third mile, the woman who was running next to me offered some advice on how to fix my stance and stride.  It helped me speed up but it is hard for a 44 year old who has been running since he was 14 to make major changes on the fly during a 5K.  

We reached Calvert Street still running neck and neck.  I was looking for the three mile sign.  I don't know whether it was never put up or it had fallen down, but when all was said and done, I saw the six mile sign for the 10K race that used mostly the same course but I did not see the 3 mile sign for the 5K race.  I wasn't going to worry about it.  I had someone to outkick.  Afterwards, I looked at my watch and it said 6:24.  All that was relelvant at the time was that I not lose my place.

So, the last 0.14 according to my watch was run in 38 seconds.  Was it 0.14 or just 0.1?  It does't matter.  I held my place, and the other runner and I congratulated each other.  After having crossed teh finish line and gotten our chips removed she came over and made a further comment about my stride and mentioned to a friend of hers that it was just the coach in her coming out.  She had had enough energy during the race to encourage the woman who won the race (good for her!) and the other woman who came in before we did.  (This was after they had turned around on Key Highway but before we did.)  And then to offer me some coaching.  Not only that but she came back and was the third woman overall in the 10K as well.  I don't know if I would recognize Amy anywhere else, but hats off to her for a great race and for helping me to come in ten seconds faster than I did last year.  Goal achieved.  And the race was actually a race rather than just a hard run surrounded by others.  

A few other things beyond the race report.

First, this puts it at 837.3 miles for the year.  I am on Illinois Route 3 in Venice, IL, right near a train yard and about to cross the Missippi and enter Missouri.  

Second, I am wondering whether I make the commen I am about to make only because I didn't reach the goal, but for once I feel that the journey was as important as the destination.  Runners talk about this issue a lot.  I'd be interested in knowing from fellow runners whether they find it comes up much more when they have not reached a goal.  But the key is what is more important--for a 5K, for a marathon, or for running in general?  No simple answers here.  But I found that yesterday, I was not as disappointed as I expected to be.  I ran 16 seconds faster than a race three weeks before.  I ran 10 seconds faster than the same race a year ago.  I was eighth overall and first in my age group.  I can't complain.  My son got a medal as well.  And I enjoyed the preparation.

Why did I enjoy the preparation?  Because I had a plan that someone had helped me to develop and I worked through the plan.  Every day.  Every workout.  Each one hour experience was just right.  Why worry about whether 19 1/2 minutes was just right when for the eight weeks of preparation everything was.

I also learned something else about myself.  I have said for years that running is no longer just an individual activity for me.  The camaraderie I felt yesterday was amazing with so many runners from Back on My Feet.  The many workouts with others leading up to yesterday.  But I found during the preparation for this race, that one other thing was important.  Talking with others about running.  

The person who had helped me prepare a plan also wanted to know how each workout went.  Having someone to talk with about each run provided an opportuntiy for useful insight and feedback.  And it was nice to have someone to talk about running with who cares about it as much as I do.  (There are plenty of people out there like that but not necessarily people I engage in conversation with every day.)  It reminded me of why I like Johns Hopkins and why my oldest son has enjoyed the Baltimore School for the Arts and will attend a conservatory for college.  It is great to be around people who care about your activity as much as you do.

So, in conclusion, hats off to Coach Shannon as well--for the plan to prepare and for helping to learn some more about running and some more about myself.

The two women who are first and foremost among those who have been strong in my life and are represented by Irene rescuing St. Sebastian in my tattoo are my wife and my mother.  For my wife, every day of life with me and three boys in the house is a show of strength.  With this running experience of the past eight weeks culminating yesterday with an enjoyable race, I have added Shannon and Amy to the list of strong women who have influenced my life.  

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Stomp the Monster 5k, USATF Open Women Championship, Marlboro NJ. 6/1

Stomp the Monster is quite an event.  The organizers did a really good job putting on a 1200+ person 5k and Festival to raise a ton of money to help cancer survivors.  

Their mission statement: "STOMP The Monster™ provides financial and other support to cancer patients, their families, and caregivers when they need it most – during their fight with the disease.  We promote a healthy lifestyle with proper diet and exercise, leading by example, and provide funding for potential advances in prevention and treatment."  Here the story behind the race. Please read it if you can.  In short, it is about the inspiration for this event, Seth Grumet, and his fight and ultimate survivorship.  

Due to my involvement since 2010 as a Coach or Captain with Team in Training (a group of marathon or half runners, as well as Triathletes, Cyclist, etc, who raise money for cancer research in exchange for coaching and race day assistance), I got to see a lot of familiar faces and people I have not seen for a while.  It was so nice to see Janet and Jacqui briefly before the start.  Janet and Janet are closely connected to the cause and Jacqui did a lot of work for Smiles for Shira and inspired massive amounts people to register their bone marrow swabs in order to become a match for those in need.  Many many lives were saved as a result.  Please read that too and get swabbed if you are eligible.  As a cancer survivor myself, I am not swappable, but Sidney is and he did it.  To be able to save a life of a person in desperate need and running out of hope is truly a miracle. 

I also saw Bobby who I have not run with since he kicked my butt at the Manasquan Reservoir by agreeing to meet me for a few miles and then telling me once we got there that he needed 15 at sub-8 pace… holy crap.  :) I hung for 10 and retreated to my car, mumbling something about having to get home.  Boy was that an awesome workout.  Especially since I had not seen Bobby for about a year when he was running in the 9 minute range.  People who work really hard seem to find a way to get in phenomenal shape fast.  Bobby is now an Ironman. He too has a close connection to this cause. 

I ran into Bill and Joy, as well, who were a big part of the TNT group for a while but we lost them to Triathlons.  I blame Stella and her crazy wigs and tutus for this.  I tried to lure Bill back into marathoning with promises of a fast course in his future, but I can tell he is gone. :) 

In addition to all those I seem to have connected to my life as a survivor, this race was also a USATF Championship race for Open Women.  This means the USATF-NJ Race teams were sending their fastest ladies and the smart men, like Martin, who want to snag as many points as possible in this large 700pt race were there.  I spent at lot of time after the race "warming down" with Bill and Bob. :) Can someone please send me a link to a Runner's Lexicon for Bill.  He needs a lot of help, but we can start with just that for now :) 

The race started at 10:30.  This was my only complaint.  10:30 is like mid-day for me.  I am usually done running with Enzo by 8:00 am now and we are doing 8-9 a day at parks about 30 minutes from my house.  It was so nice and cool this morning, but by 10:30am it was getting warm, I will guess high 60's at least.  The humidity was lower than last weekend so that was great.  I was hoping to run faster than my 5k at Ridgewood since that was just a suffer-fest for me.

I line up towards the front, since net time matters in the Grand Prix Series.  I find Karl, which is easy since he is like 7 feet tall and wears orange. He has been racing incredibly well this year and I was hoping to usurp some of his energy without him knowing. (Karl those racing flats I mentioned were the ST 5 Racers). 

The Gun goes off and for the next 20 minutes I got to watch Karl fade off into the distance and there was nothing I could do to stop this. I then notice someone running near me, calling out how long we have been running to her running partner.. 1:15, 1:18, 1:20… omg, I wonder if she did that the entire way? It was also at about 1:20 that I noticed my breathing was starting to labor to much so I reigned it back and tried to settle down to a pace I felt I could sustain.  I was left to ponder how I have about 18-20 more minutes of this to go. I couldn't figure out if I thought that was good or bad.  I tried to ignore my watch until I hit Mile 1.  M1 6:22. (not bad, still a shot at sub-20)

I felt challenged but not as if I was digging for anything too hard at this time. I also felt that in another race, where my heart was ready to PR, I had some wiggle room here to work with.  But for today, I just wanted to be able to have a decent final mile.  Again I did not look at my watch. Rather, I watched the runners around me and paid attention to how fast I was moving in comparison to those nearby.  If I was gradually passing people I was doing ok.  I was passing some, but a few were passing me, including the guy who was making dry heaving noises and I was almost 100% certain he was going to vomit all over me if I did not give him room.  If there was ever a reason to NOT run the tangent, boy was this it.  M2 6:39 (I knew sub-20 would be unlikely)

I felt good, like I could hold this pace and be low 20's.  I hoped to be able to find a kick somewhere.  I could no longer plan to steal Karl's since he was probably done by now.  Unless I felt a waive of adrenaline I knew breaking 20 was unlikely to happen so now I just wanted to sit and wait to feel inspired to shift gears.  And then we hit a little uphill.  Bummer.  It made me tired, but I knew it was setting us up for a fast finish. What I lost being a wimp on the incline I regained on the decline.  But there were 2 ladies just in front of me which meant I had some decisions to make.  I started a discussion with myself on whether it was possible to pass them before the end. M3 6:37

With a tenth left to go, and my mind still observing the passionate debate between my heart and my legs, I noticed that the finish line was getting close and I had to make a decision before time did that for me. "Can I kick? Do I even have anything left? Is there even enough time to pass them if I try?  Does it matter if I pass them or not?  How much is this going to hurt?…. Oh screw it… Just shut up and Kick!"   So in the last 20 seconds or less, I ran as fast as I possibly could.  Spectators yelled to the women ahead "Run! Don't let her catch you!" (Hey what happened to cheering for the underdog! Whose side are you on? ;) )  This, honestly, just made me HAVE to catch them.  I had just enough time for one more gear, and I passed the 2 ahead of me just before we entered the shoot.  Had I hesitated more, I would have run out of road.  Had I gone sooner, they may have had time to respond… so it was the best timing of a kick I could muster despite my delay.  Last .1 0:45

With this being a fast course filled with fast ladies, I was not surprised to be 20th place and 4th in my age group.  I would have left earlier by Martin won an award and I always like to stay to cheer for him when he wins. 

Time: 20:20 (6:33)
OA place: 76/1200+
Gender: 20/855
AG: 4th 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fred D'Elia Ridgewood 10k and 5k Double, Ridgewood NJ. 5/26/14

This shouldn't be a very long report, even though I ran two races and these were both large races for local road races. There was 970 runners in this 10k. 

Coming off my best marathon last week, I road a wave of adrenaline to a 90 mile week.  I haven't run a 90 mile week in a long time.  In fact, I actually tapered a bit for Run for the Red marathon by running only 30 miles the week prior.  But I think that was more out of feeling sluggish than from me planning a bona fide taper.  Run for the Red was not supposed to be a PR for me, but rather a race to see how much work I have to do to run a great marathon in the fall.

Going from a 30 mile to a 90 mile week left me feeling flat.  I still thought I had a shot at  some 6:45's.  My expectations were not crazy. I ran 6:43 pace here last year… but that was last year when circumstances were different. 

This felt like the most humid and warmest start to a race so far for me this year.  Each week I will only be reporting the same until at some point in Sept when I hope to be reporting the decline in temps.  Strolling Jim may have gotten up to 77 degrees, but it was cool at the start.  Today was the first day I was sweating while in my car getting prepared to race.  The humidity was thick and I knew it was going to be a struggle. 

At 8:15, I line up with Rich T. and declare that we will run a bunch of random splits. Of course I was hoping that those splits would come true because they were good ones. It did happen. Bummer.  I knew miles 3 and 4 were slow for me last year, so I expected something similar.   Three wasn't so bad, but mile 4 this year was much worse.  M1 6:43,  M2 6:41, M3 6:47, M4 7:12 (ugh, LOL!).

By mile 3.5 I had managed to pair up with a guy who's name I forgot, I want to say Mike, but I just can't recall. I sorry Guy I will refer to as Mike.  We ran side-by-side in silence for a while.  I think initially the instinct racers have is to race people nearby. Usually someone breaks and one pulls ahead.  But "Mike" and I just stayed steadily on the same pace until somehow the energy changed from competitors to companions in this together.  I was clearly the weakest link for most of this final third.  At a water stop, I managed to pull ahead, but looked back to see if he was coming back up.  He was.  He asked me once about pace. I gave him the data.  M5 7:08,  M6 6:50

I was hoping to have a shot a breaking 42, but as we hit the 6 mile clock and I saw the time already in 41:xx  I knew I wasn't going to be close to breaking 42.  My breathing was labored since my asthma is triggered by humidity (most other with asthma report the opposite). I decide to just hold my pace, not let anyone pass me, and hope to survive the 5k.   Last .2 1:25 (6:38 pace)

Time 42:49
OA 91/970
Gender 13th/426
AG 1st AG ($25 Gift Card)

As I finished the race, a guy on the medical staff looks at me, very concerned, and asked "Are you OK?".  I said "Yes" and he pointed at my stomach.  I looked down and I had blood and sweat streaming down my mid-section.  I can't wait to see my race photos. 

Since running the marathon last Sunday, I had suffered from chaffing from my sports bra band. I usually I do a few successful things to protect my skin, but I did none of those things race day morning before the marathon.  By the end of the marathon, I had a raw spot that remained sore for days.  During the week my mileage ramped up so fast that my skin was not able to heal.  The small blister bandage is usually all I need to protect my skin.  But, I had run out of bandages during the week my skin was not happy.  

Before today's races, I had prepped my skin, first with rubbing alcohol before applying the bandage, hoping the alcohol would help the bandages adhere firmly before the race.  The humidity was working against me and was much stronger than the adhesive on the bandage.  By mile 1, the bandage had fallen off. By the end, my skin was torn up and I was bleeding significantly with out even realizing it. 

I went to the med tent to ask if they had anything I could use to clean up the blood and then anything that I could use to lube up the area before the next race.  They did a good job coming up with creative solutions to try to figure out what I could do to not bleed all over myself in the next race. 

The 5k started at 10:15. There was 1706 runners in this race. I am pretty sure about 900 were under 15 years old and they were all in front of me. :)  I found my way towards the front but had trouble getting into the street.  The group was loud and rowdy.  I was feeling a bit dizzy and claustrophobic being packed firmly into the group of runners.  The starting Gun was a tired little air horn that was barely audible from my location (which wasn't that deep into the start, it is just that the crowd was loud and I was smushed into a dense pack of people).   

When the boys behind me realized that the race had started, they started screaming and shoving and yelling for people to RUNNNNN!!!!  It was probably one of the most unpleasant starts I have ever had during a race, as I felt myself being forcefully pushed from behind.  Not pleasant at all.  This made me wonder if there was an effective way for RD's to share the idea that a runner's official time does not start until the start mat is cross so there is no reason to push or jostle in the starting corral when the gun goes off. 

As I started the race, my legs felt tingly and I felt surreal.  I am not sure if it was the humidity and heat increasing as it passed 10 am, or if I felt the impact of being smushed into a herd of people.  I knew this was going to be hard.

At .2 miles into the race, many over zealous youngsters were starting to peter out.  I thought it was adorable to hear a little girl encourage her friend by letting her know, "You know, it is really OK to walk some."  At this point, the crowds were thinned out and running was smooth.   

As I reached mile one I feel incredibly tired, but I am so grateful that there is only 2 miles left. M1 6:48

From here forward, I feel like I am on cruise control (set to not a very fast pace), not able to run any faster, but rather just trying to survive while hurrying to get to a place I could stop. The miles were hard. My legs were tired. But in comparison to the 10k, the 5k really does feel manageable. M2 7:12,  M3 7:02

I pass a few ladies in the last mile and decide that I really don't want to be passed back in the last tenth, so I dig a little for something more.  Last .1 37 (5:32 pace). 

Just after I cross the finish, I hear someone say "I tried to keep up with you this time, but I just couldn't catch up to you!" It was "Mike" from the first race.   

Time: 21:38
OA: 110/1706
Gender: 21/849
AG: 2/89 ($10 Gift Cert)

That was a great way to run a 15k! Not my fastest 10k/5k double.  I can't say that I am honestly thrilled with my performance, but I can't complain.  Considering both races cost me $40 and I won $35 in Gift Certificates, I am happy.