Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bald Eagle Half Marathon, Callicoon, NY, 8/20/16

We (Kim and I, as usual) planned to run the Half Full in Philly on August 14th, but the race director canceled the Half due to excessive heat. I searched for another half, but in August longer races (unless you are looking for an ultra) become hard to find. On my first pass of the calendar I dismissed the Bald Eagle Half believing Callicoon, NY must be in the middle of nowhere and likely too many hours away to make it realistic. But when I looked again, I realized it was only 2 hrs and 20 minutes away with an 8:00 am start. We could drive there race day morning and that is what we did. 

I found the Certified course map and plugged it in to "Map My Run" and got an idea of the elevation chart. It looked good, like it could be a fast course (mostly incline out to turn around, decline back). Even with this chart, it was difficult to guesstimate how much incline we would face, so I wrote the RD. I was told it was a "false flat"on the way out. I assumed that meant the incline was not very steep and would not really be that noticeable.  

I looked at NOAA to see what the weather would be like in Callicoon, NY. I found out it would be a little better than what we were getting in NJ. This was great news!  The Universe want us to go to this race! 

Unfortunately, on Friday, once I arrived at the park to meet Alanna I noticed I was breaking out in a pressure rash. I wasn't sure how this was going to impact my running.  I decided to cut my training run short at 5.5 miles to get home to take some Benadryl.  I was really looking forward to racing and now something is really going wrong. 

If I had not convinced Kim that we HAD to go to this race, I would have never gone. She had to get up at 3.30am to get to my house by 4:55. We had hoped to arrive by 7:15 for the 8:00 am start. With three GPS's on to be safe :), but with all saying different things it is amazing we got there at all. We drove part of the course on our way to the start and I can say with confidence that "false flat" is another term for rolling inclines.  It wasn't mountainous by any means, but I have run much flatter courses. Some of the inclines would be steep enough to impact pace.

We arrived with 12 minutes to spare, (12 MINUTES, LOL!) and parked right next to the start/finish. We got our bibs, found a bathroom, and literally jogged a 1 minute to warm up before we lined up to start.   I was concerned about my pressure race, but I had to put it out of my mind. No turning back now. 

This race was tiny. Somewhere between 30-40 people only. No one wanted to line up near the front. I decided to move up and when the go signal was given I ended up taking the pace (out a little fast). I settled down. There were just two people with me. We quickly pulled away from the rest. 

We 3 ended up taking top 3 spots.

By the first mile, the woman took over the lead and pulled ahead. The guy eventually moved ahead of me too. I let them go. There would be value in having company to make it feel more like a race and less like a solo tempo, but they were moving too fast for my pace plan. I wanted to just run my own race.

After my recent PR 5k, I set my goal half pace at 6:50. I wanted to sit 10 seconds plus or minus that pace. M1- 6:42. 

The first two miles had most of the elevation changes and turns but after M2 we just settled in for a mildly rolling climb to all the way out to the 6.55M turn around. It wasn't steep but I knew I was climbing. I could feel it in my thighs. I watched the lead lady pull further and further away.  M2- 6:36

In the third mile I passed the guy and ran the rest of the race alone. Small races are mentally challenging. We need to find a reason to keep the pace up when no other runner are even in sight. M3- 6:50

As I start mile 4 I question myself. I was falling to the slower side of my pace plan and my legs were feeling so very heavy. Oh boy, this is way too soon for this to happen. I had a gel pinned to the waist band of my shorts and it was irritating me so I pulled of off, opened the tab. I planned to take it somewhere between 6.5M and 8M. Mile 4 was too soon, but I needed to try anything if I wanted a chance at a good race. I sipped a little and then folded over the top. I carried it until just before the turn around. M4- 6:49

M5 and M6 were steadily inclining and I struggled to stay sub-7. But I stayed positive, knowing this was temporary and I would get a better course on the way home.M5- 6:56. 

At the start at Mile 6 my watch read 7:27. This lit a fire under me. And that was the moment I knew that I need to try my heart out to break 1:30 today.  

The only chance I had to run PR was to use all the descents, run with fluid form, and push hard on the way back. I repeated to myself. "Every downhill is a gift" and "Fast Form."

I have been working a lot on trying to remember to carry my upper body with better form. Less hunching. Less high arms. Less scrunching at the shoulders. It feels unnatural to me to run with better form, but this is really Running 101 stuff. By running smoother my back feels better and even though I feel like I am moving slower because it takes a lot of focus, I am really moving faster. I take off after the turn-around and think. "Ok. 3 miles of tempo. Then 3 miles of progression and I am done." I don't think I can catch the leader. She is so far out in the distance I can't tell which is her and which are runners coming towards me. M6 - 6:59

I pass Kim as she runs towards the turn around while I am on my way back. She looks awesome. In the split second we pass she says "40 seconds!" and I know exactly what she is telling me. I also knew by her upbeat tone that she believes I have a chance to catch her. However, I was not so sure. I was running as fast as I could and it didn't seem like I was making up pavement. M7 - 6:56

I took the race mile-by-mile. We ran passed all the mile markers, so I would multiple the mileage that remained by 7 minutes and add that to my total (to allow for some fade if it happened). At M8, I was happy to see that add up to 1:29:xx (but this is still too close to 1:30 to feel confident I was going under it). M8 - 6:26

As I look ahead at the leader, I swear she is starting to get bigger. But that may just be wishful thinking. I just ran a 6:26, possibly made up some ground, but not even enough to be sure. It seems this may be her day to win the race. But I want a PR so I am not letting up. 

Every downhill is a gift. 
Fast form. 
Watch the arms. 

I hit M9 and I am right at my Red Line, but not really suffering. My feet are starting to get torn up a little from my super light racing flats (NB RC500s) that I have only worn once. But I don't care. I can't let up. I feel like I have invested a lot of effort to set myself up to go sub-1:30 so it has to happen today. I hit mile 9 and my split looks good. M9 - 6:31

Less than a minute later I pass the 4 mile mark and add 28 minutes (7:00 x 4M) to my time at the 9.1M mark (61 minutes) and see I am still sub1:30. But I am not running 7:00s. I am running 6:30s and I feel like I can hold the pace. I also notice the leader has gotten a little bigger. I am reeling her in. This was like a shot of adrenaline! 

I make up a narrative to motivate me. I imagine that she has been running he entire race under stress about losing the lead. I decide she must be exhausted from being out there alone wondering if she will get passed. I think about Desi in the Olympics, running so many miles solo trying to reel in the leaders. I feel like Desi. Working alone. Running as fast as I can with no one nearby, but not letting up. I push the pace. She gets bigger still. It is getting hot. Where there is shade I am happy to have it. M10 6:32

I get lost in internal dialogue for the last 5k.

... I feel strong!  
... Fast form. Dont Forget this. 
... Drop the arms. 
... Feet hurt... badly. Really badly!  Serious hot spots!
... Forget the feet, they will be fine
... Don't think. Just run. 
... You're making up ground. You have a chance. Believe in you, like Kim does. 
... "40 seconds!!!" meant she thought I had a shot... But I didn't believe her then. But now I do. I can do this! 

M11 6:24

When to pass? Not too soon. Don't give her time to regroup and come back hard. Don't plan to hold the lead for any longer than needed. Don't pass too soon and not be able to do it with authority.  Never look back. Pass with a burst. But how long can I burst for. A quarter mile?  Half mile?  The rest of the way in? Can I get far enough away to win even if I fade?  ... Forget all that. There she is. Just pass now. Dont... Look... Back..

 11.9M I pass and drop my pace hoping she does not come with me. 12M - 6.25

Dig! Lift the legs. Push! Is she coming? Don't look back. Don't you dare even think about looking back right now. Can I hold her off? Feet are burning. Just Run. Omg which way do I go? I have no idea how to run this fast and not have someone to follow. What if I miss a turn?  Phew, I have a police escort. The Sherif is leading me. He is leading ME! This is amazing!  I hope I can do this. I don't want to lose this now.  

I glance at my watch. Lap pace. 6:09. Nice! Keep pushing. I don't hear her. I need to cross the street. It is not closed to traffic. This is my chance to check where she is because I have to look back anyway.  I know she isn't on my heels. I see cars letting me pass. I don't she her. 

Only .3 to go. Come on finish line. Where are you?! 

M13 - 6:07

I have not checked my watch since I passed her. I know I am breaking 1:30 but not by how much. I turn the corner. I can see the finish. I can see the clock. 1:27. 

Omg. O.M.G. There is the finish mat. I did it. I broke 1:30... I broke 1:29 and 1:28 too!

And I won the whole thing! I don't care that this race was tiny. Really tiny. I didn't win a tiny race with a slow time. I raced my heart out against competition who pushed me so hard I set a new half marathon PR by over 3 minutes. I ran more than a 2:00 minute negative split.  My last mile was a 6:07. My last .1 (.17 on my watch) was at 5:52 pace. I ran a sub-20 5k for the last 5k. I worked for this. 

I still can't believe this is my new half PR. 


1:27:21 (6:39 pace)

First place Overall 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Toys for Tots 5k, Colonia, NJ, 8/4/16

Yesterday was a good day. Well not 11 years ago, but yesterday it was. This morning while running through the woods with Alanna I realized that yesterday was my 11 year “anniversary” of the day I was diagnosed with cancer.  In hindsight, this made yesterday so much sweeter for me.

Yesterday was also my hill repeat day. I started early with Kim and we ran 8 Miles with 10 x 0.2 mile up and 0.2 down hills repeats (4 miles of hills) on a very very steep park road. I pushed myself hard, negative split the workout, and ran the fastest set of hill repeats I have since we started training the cycle.  I did my XTing as soon as I got home.  
I felt good, but I was tired

Wednesday I got a few new pairs of shoes in the mail. Two were trail shoes and one was the lightest road racing flats I have ever owned, NB RC5000. They are about 3 oz.  It is like putting on some sturdy socks with some grip in the bottom.  I have a half marathon coming up soon and I wasn't sure if those “race slippers” would be appropriate.  

Wednesday night I pulled up the race calendar to see if I could find a 5k to test them out this weekend.  Instead I found a 5k 3 miles from my house that started at 7 pm for Thursday.  I had planned to run a double on Thursday, but my second run was supposed to be more relaxed.  I thought about it more throughout the day, realized the price was low, the race was close, and the temperature was cooler this week than it was last week when I ran a PR in 92 degrees and 1 billion percent humidity. I decided to break some “rules” and run two back-to-back hard works on the same day while wearing racing shoes right out of the box. Hey a double worked for me last weekend so I knew I had a shot at running well. I just didn't know how tired my legs would feel after those hills.

I arrive with about 30 minutes to spare. I see Nuno and force him to warm up with me :)  He accepts without having much of a choice and runs about a mile with me. I see Angela as I finished up my warm up and she gives me the low-down on who is fast. I love how in tune she is with the local racing scene!  She tells me that a fast runner who won this last year is back (Chelsea) and she is very good.  I see a woman who looks very speedy and I ask who she is. Angela tells me she is Amy and she was second last year.  Angela also informs me that there is younger blond girl who looks like she may be pretty fast too. 
What I find amazing is that here on a Thursday night, in the middle of Colonia, with a race of maybe 200 runners, there seems to be an awful lot of speedy ladies. 

We line up in the street. The street that recently had the blacktop stripped down because it was being paved. The surface was uneven and I knew the start would be slow because of that. This would be a good thing.  Slow start, Fast Finish.

I line up next to Amy and she introduces herself, says she remembers me from Westfield and we talk a bit. The lead runner from last year lines up next to us. Amy asks about my goal and I tell her that since I ran a 6:18 pace for the 5k last week, I wanted to start with that pace as my first mile (knowing the course was basically flat).  From there I hoped to speed up, if possible, but if my legs feel shot I may have to shut things down. I encourage to come work the race with me.  She points out Chelsea and lets me know that Chelsea is very fast, tends to starts slow and has a very strong finish. That is good to know. We should do that too ;) 

Half the street is has a mat with a corral, but the racers line up across the entire road.  We find out that they want us all to funnel over the starting mat when we are sent off.  That is going to be tight.  I am one row back I am worried about jostling, but it works out just fine. 

From Toys for Tots Central Jersey Facebook Page
The Marine who was responsible for sending us off after making a speech about how this race raises money for Toys for Tots, gives the Go signal and we funnel over the start mat. I start my watch at "Go" and then I split my watch at the mat to get my Gun/Chip time split as well as a more accurate pace for M1.  I was 1.7 second behind the mat. 

I sit behind Chelsea who takes out the pace comfortably  Amy is right behind me and the younger girl pulls up along side.  We made a small pack in Mile 1 and it felt really awesome.  The pace did not feel too fast.  Our pack of ladies starts slowly reeling in an picking off the guys who all started faster and are settling down. I had to use my will power to not pick it up and to just wait. I checked my watch and I was running exactly where I wanted to be.  M1 6:18 

There are moments in Mile 2 where I get ahead of Chelsea. I know I am running faster than at Westfield. I feel great and I don’t want to get ahead of myself.  She passes me back and I am ok with this.  She is not pulling away from me.  

I spend this mile watching her fluid form and thinking about my own. I need to do better. I have been making an effort lately to try to run with much better upper body form. I put a mirror in front ( well, caddy-cornered) of my treadmill, where I can see what my body looks like when I run.  I force my upper body to relax and get my arm swing to look most efficient. I have spent a lot of miles trying to learn what I FEEL like when I LOOK efficient. Then I look away and my form goes back to "normal" where my shoulders are up and the angle of my elbow is much too acute.  The problem is when I run with form that looks better, I actually FEEL slower and it feels harder to hold (but I am actually moving faster). I try to remember this…. I may FEEL like it is slower and harder but that is because this is  actually EASIER to run with better form so I am moving faster as a result and moving faster is harder. 

I spend mile 2 really focused on releasing the tightness and dropping my arms. I catch myself often and make corrections. I wait patiently for Chelsea to drop her kick and pull away, but she does not.  M2 6:14.

I feel phenomenal. Sure, I am tired. My legs are a little jello-y, but I am not toasted. I have another gear.  With a mile to go I open it up. I pass her and I focus on the guy carrying the flag running a 6 minute pace!  I don’t look back.  I pass him too. I focus ahead.  I can feel that she is still with me but the sound of her foot steps are fading. I try to make an authoritative move now and pull ahead further. Open the gap.  I look at my pace. 5:59. It doesn’t feel like 5:59 so I am going to try to hold it. 

Drop those Arms!  

I may actually have a chance to run my first sub-6 mile in a 5k and it will be in the 3rd MILE of the race… That would make my day! I try to hold this pace and hope that my effort to run as fast as I can is enough to hold the lead. 

But as the mile grows on my legs are getting fatigued fast. I stop looking at my pace and just try to focus on form.  

Fast Form. Fast Arms. Relax the shoulders.   

My legs are giving out.  I cant lift them as easily, but I am still ahead and moving.  I am not sure how much race course is left. I am not looking at my watch, but I think we need to make on more turn. I don’t know why I think that. I cant see clearly. My eyes are tearing up. 

I hear foot steps behind me.  

Please be a dude … 

I am so close.. I think.  I don’t know where that finish is because every thing looks blurry.  

The footsteps get louder and I can tell they are little feet… 

Please be a little dude … 

We start going up the unpaved terrible road to the finish… and there she blasts past me. I have nothing to counter with.  I cant even kick.  I have been kicking for the last 6 minutes…. 

She take the lead and pulls away and that is when I realize the finish was not actually around the corner, but just a little further ahead. Heart-breaking, but not really b/c I just ran the fastest 5k of my life and in the smartest way possible and I had nothing left anyway.  

I am thrilled!  M3 - 6:04, Last 0.1 - 6:03

Amy B (3rd OA Female) and Me 
Time: 19:20, 6:13 pace New 5k Lifetime PR
Gender 2nd Female
Award: Actual Prize Money!  No way!

Not a bad way to spend my 11th year anniversary of Survivorship. :) 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Westfield Pizza Extravaganza, 5k, Westfield, NJ, 7/27/16

It was hot. 92 degrees as I drove over to Westfield. I stepped out of my car and it was incredibly humid. I was not terribly rushed, for once in my life, so I sat in my car a bit before starting my warm up.  I had run a 7 mile tempo with Kirsten in the morning. I didn't have high expectations, but I knew I was planning to try my best.   

The last 5K I ran was at Teterboro, which is pancake flat and on the tarmac of an airport. Teterboro was hot, but not as hot as this race. This race also has some hills that roll through it, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

I ran Teterboro all wrong, but on purpose. I wanted to got out really hard to see how it felt to just push from the start.  I faded in Mile 2 and 3 there, but I still ran a PR in 19:40.  My average pace was 6:19.

At Westfield I wanted to pace better using my average pace from Teterboro as my starting pace with a hope that I could negative split at then end if I could hold it. I had forgotten how hilly Westfield feels when running hard.  Maybe I was just tired from the morning, but it felt hilly to me. I tried hard to get my pace down to 6:19, but I just could not hold it comfortably.  I stopped looking at my watch when the first incline had me much slower than I hoped to be and ran by feel.  I pushed my pace on the descents. I tried to stay in control on the inclines.  M1 6:23

I was running hard, but I knew I had one more gear to dig into. I also knew that shift would not last me 2 full miles, but I hoped it could last me one. I tried to slowly pass anyone I could or stay with anyone moving a little faster than I would move if running alone. I felt great, really strong in some ways, but getting tired. M2 6:23

There was one younger girl in front me. I was going to try to reel her in. I had over a mile to do it. I was ready to go. I shifted to whatever I had left and made up some ground. I had a chance. The last mile felt like the longest mile of my life.  My legs were feeling like jello. Someone call out her name and warned her I was coming up from behind her. She responded strong. I was running so hard I could no longer see my watch. I had no idea how fast I was moving and had no time to figure it out. M3 6:11

The race is big and the crowd is loud. The finish of this race feels like a big event. The spectators are corralled off from the course. As we turn towards the finish, the crowd cheers. It is truly a lot of fun.  

I see the clock. It reads 19:36…19:37… 19:38…. I think “I know That’s not right!”  I can’t see my watch because my vision is so blurred. I feel great! I finish behind the girl I chased, and immediately and uncontrollably YELL at her “Thank you! That was awesome! I don’t know why I am yelling! I am sorry!”  Last 0.1 = 5:50 pace.

At some point I stop my watch and look down and it says 19:55. I believe that time seem accurate. I ask a few people if the finish like clock was off and I am told “Yes!” but in the wrong direction. Those people may have been failing to consider gun vs chip time. 

I scroll through my watch and see I started 3 second after the gun (b/c I hit start at the gun and then lap at the start). I discovered that I also hit “Lap” when I reached the finish line and then “Stop” after I finished yelling like a crazy person at the girl. There was a 15 second lap between those splits.  

No Way! There was a 15 second gap!!!  The finish line clock was correct!  I wasn't sure what I ran but it was going to be really close to a new PR. offers 
which allows you to pull up your race results immediately. But of course my phone won’t allow me to log on to the internet when I needed to. Something was not working and I could not figure it out.  So I jog my cool down and then I try again. I get online and I am thrilled.  

19:36 (New 5k PR) (6:18 pace)
1st in AG

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Teterboro 5k, Teterboro Airport, Teterboro, NJ. 7/16/16

Digital Leaderboard at Finish Line
I ran Teterboro 5k many years ago.  I ran my fastest 5k that day. I wanted to return, but it always conflicted with a different race I prefer to run. This year that other race no longer conflicted so I thought I would try to see what I could do on the tarmac.

I registered last Wednesday and all the way up until just before I left for the race,  I was not feeling very committed to the event. I had recently run a few good races and when I have a string of good runs, I fear that one bad one that bring back the self-doubt.  I knew hot blacktop shadeless surface in July heat would not be the ideal course to PR.  I did not expect this to go well.

So rather than feel badly that the condition slowed my pace, I decided to go out an play around. When I am very serious about racing, I am careful with my pacing. I devise a plan and I stick to it. But every once in a while I like to do things Wrong, just to remind myself about why the right way works. Today I decided to go out Hard and see how it felt and accept my fate when I fall apart. Sometime planning to make a mistake takes the pressure off.  I just needed a low pressure day.

I line up next to Chris. We are only a few rows back. The gun goes off and it seemed like no one directly in front of me was interested in getting a really fast start (well, they were being smart). I should have lined up closer to the line if I wanted to go out hard.  So I say “Excuse Me. Can I squeeze past?” and I get no response. I say "Excuse me" again.  I am briefly trapped behind a row of guys and I just can't find a line through. I know to just be patient and I will get out. But sometimes the first few seconds you are trapped behind people, watching the field spread out before you, feels like an eternity.

Then I hear Chris call out, “Come guys! Let her through. She is fast” :) That really made me feel good. Thank you Chris. After a year of running some of my Personal Worst times, to have someone refer to me as “fast” again really made me feel like all the work is paying of.

They guys hear Chris and let me through. I opened up my stride and take off.

Photo by AnneMarie Uebbing
I run hard, really hard.  I got my breathing laborer, but I actually did not feel terrible. My legs were not on fire. I did not feel like I was in oxygen debt.  My pace felt comfortable… but the longer I held it that more I knew this pace was not sustainable. I looked at my watch and it read 5:45 for the first few tenths of the mile. I imagine for a moment what it would be like to be able to run this fast the entire way.

I caught up to Ruscel, who is about a minute faster than me.  I said “Hey! I need you to pace me to a PR today!” He glances back to see who is this asking him for favors in the middle of Mile 1.  ;)  The last time I met Ruscel was Oct 2nd about 2 years ago,  at a Wednesday Afternoon 5k race (? yes, a Wednesday Afternoon 5k race), when I did the exact same thing… tested out what it felt like to go out too hard. That race went pretty much the same way as this one. I faded hard the whole way, but I ran a great time that day.

Ruscel smiles, says "Control your breathing" and encourages me to hang on. I already know I can't really hang on.  But I was really excited to think I might actually log my first sub-6 mile in a 5k ever. Too bad I failed.  I needed to settle down and started to do that before M1. I hit M1 in 6:04. This is probably my fastest mile in a 5k race. It was not smart pacing, but it was so much fun!

Ruscel, Me, Anthony, Jessica P.  
As I start M2, I am sitting at 6:25 pace. I watch all the people near me slowly pull ahead. I don’t feel badly about this.  I know I cannot move any faster and still have a chance to finish strong.

It is getting so hot.  A guy starts walking. As we approach the turn around I can see I am in third for women. I know I cannot catch the first woman.  I wondered if I had a chance at catching the 2nd. If I did catch her, it was going to be because she started too fast and faded, not really  because I found some blazing kick.

I was right at my redline and starting to feel dizzy.

As we turn back I remember Anthony saying how he likes to run on the white line because he thinks it is cooler and every degree counts. I take his advice. Few other do. The white line is very wide. I stay on it. M2- 6:25

I look at my watch and it says 2.4. My pace is looking good still (sub-6:30). My legs are dead.  I feel overheated.  The last .7 miles feels like a marathon. There is no one in front of me and I don’t look back to see if I am being run down. I try to find a pace that will allow me to have a kick, but I am toasted out there. M3 6:28

We hit the final turn and I am glad to be almost done. I think about my speed work. I kick like I am running a 400 meter repeat. It feels really good to have another gear but I cant even see straight from the heat.  I cant see the clock clearly. I can read my watch because I am so dizzy. I have no idea what my time is, but as soon as I can see again, I notice my watch says 19:43. Last .13 5:45 pace.

This makes me so happy. A new PR and a 3rd OA Female finish!

I wait at the finish and I see Jessica P. and Anthony come through. I rush over to see how they did and Jessica is so happy! A new PR for her too today!

This course is flat and many people run fast, but the heat can be a killer. Either you can tolerate it or it beats you down. I feel like I have a faster 5k in me, maybe on a cooler day where I pace the race out appropriately. But If I dont, I am wont be sad. At 40 years old, after a year of feeling old and broken, I am back setting PRs and getting my name on the digital leader board.

This was a great day and I am so glad I decided to go.

Time (Chip): 19:40 (6:19 pace)
OA place: 26th
Gender place: 3rd Female.

Guest Post: Rebecca Schwartz, 3 Days At The Fair – 24-Hour Race Recap, Augusta, NJ, May 12-13, 2016

I have been sitting on a few really amazing Race Reports from athletes I coached earlier this spring.  It is about time I got these posted, since they are amazing accounts of incredible feats of endurance. I can't express how much gratitude I have for having the opportunity to work with such dedicated and committed people.

Although Rebecca is still new to the ultra world but has two 100+ mile 24 hour races, a 4:07 50K National Championship performance, as well as the 68 mile 12 hour Course Record at One Day at the Fair, in NJ all to her credit. Please take some time to read about Rebecca's experience racing 24 hours at Three Days at the Fair in May 2016.


3 Days At The Fair: 24-Hour Race Recap, Augusta, NJ, May 12-13, 2016

I ran my first 24-hour race at Across The Years in Phoenix, AZ in December 2015. I was killing it for the first 13 hours until I pulled my hip flexor, resulting in a major slow down. At 23 hours in, I called it quits after limping at a ridiculously slow pace for the final hours to get to 100.78 miles. My goal was 100 miles and I wasn’t leaving without that belt buckle.

I knew I could do better and wanted to try again while I still had the endurance built up from a strong training cycle. 3 Days at the Fair was 4 and a half months away and seemed like a great fit. I ran the 12-hour race at 1 Day at the Fair in November, coming in first place female and breaking the course record with 68 miles, so I had the advantage of being familiar with the course. I got my training plan from Coach Shannon and experienced one of my strongest training cycles ever.

Although the official 24-hour race started on Saturday, the Race Directors, Rick and Jen, allow runners to start whenever they choose. As an Orthodox Jew, I don’t run on Saturdays because it’s the Sabbath (I also keep Kosher and can’t eat any of the freshly cooked meals ultras are known for, including Jen’s famous chocolate chip cookies) so I opted to start on Thursday with the 72-hour runners. The Sussex County Fairgrounds are about an hour away from my house and it was nice to not have a long drive before the 9:00 am race start. I got to the fairgrounds at around 7:30, set up my stuff, picked up my timing chip and had enough time for a 20-minute nap in the car before heading over to the start.

Rebecca in yellow tank and pink shoes at starting line

Rick counted us down and off we went. I knew I would be at the front of the pack since the 72-hour runners were likely to start out slower. I have a tendency to go out too fast and told myself it would be bad if any of my laps were in the 7-8:00 minute pace range, especially since the forecast called for temperatures in the 80’s. I intentionally slowed my pace until it felt easy and comfortable and joined two men who wanted to get the first 25 miles of their race done “fast”. They were impressed with my pace, but I assured them I was “only” running for 24-hours. Most of the runners on the course were engaged in conversation and I was happy to have the background noise as a distraction. One thing I love about this race is the runners - they’re an amazingly friendly and supportive group.

As I continued to run the 1-mile loop course, I felt good and kept to my plan of fueling every 5 miles and staying hydrated. I had two small bottles attached to my fuel belt with Powerade in one and water in the other. Because of the heat, I refilled them a lot more than I normally would and lost time on the course as a result. This is the main thing I would do differently next time – bring a crew. I was able to get by without one at ATY because a volunteer at the aid station saw how serious I was and made it his mission to fill my bottles so I could be back on the course as quickly as possible. However, based on my experience at the 12-hour race, I knew the aid station would not have available volunteers – something I think Rick and Jen should take into consideration – and I should have been better prepared.

As the day progressed, the temperature continued to rise. The course has no shade and the sun was out with a vengeance. I continued to keep my pace within the 9:30 – 10:30 minute range. I chatted with other runners, making the miles go by faster. One runner, who kept up a decent pace, shared that he had just run a 100-miler 2 weeks ago and another one two weeks before that. And my friends think I’m crazy!!! Another woman came up next to me and asked if I run on Sunday mornings in River Edge, my favorite long run route. I told her I run there with my friends, whom she also remembered seeing with me “the guy (Glenn) and the girl who runs in a skirt no matter what the weather is (Eva)”. We’re famous! She then told me she thought I was going too fast. I told her I was “only” running the 24-hour race. She was surprised and claimed she thought for sure I was “the type” to run for 72 hours. Maybe next year.

A few hours into the race, I saw a familiar face. I met fellow Creating Momentum Coaching athlete Julian at the Broadway Ultra Society 50k two years ago. I caught up with him on a lap and reintroduced myself. He was running his first-ever 50 miles on the course and I shared some laps with him here and there. One thing I knew I needed based on my experience at ATY was conversation – yet another reason why I should have brought a crew along. While official pacers are not allowed on the course, it would have been nice to have a designated person to run laps with me and keep me entertained when I felt tired.

The heat was grueling, but I didn’t let it deter me. I commiserated about its brutality with other runners, but ultimately, there’s nothing you can do about the weather so you just keep going. I’m not sure how I managed to keep up a decent pace, especially since the recent weather had been cool and my body didn’t have time to acclimate to the higher temperatures. The one thing I kept wishing for was a cold drink. Thankfully, the “ice angels” appeared. Two women who were crewing stocked up on ice and stood on the course offering it to runners. They put some in my hat and in my bottles every few laps and it made a huge difference. There were also ice pops (a Kosher brand!) at the aid station which were great.

By mid-afternoon the heat made me incredibly nauseous and the thought of eating was vomit-inducing. My gels were hot, my sport beans were hot and my usual go-to fuel option, Snyder’s 100 calorie bags of pretzels, were difficult to chew with a dry mouth. I had a cooler full of Ensure and it was my savior. At 350 calories and a zillion carbs per bottle, it kept me fueled when I couldn’t manage to look at food. Despite the heat, I racked up 65 miles during the first 12 hours, but I knew the heat would eventually take its toll and lead to exhaustion during the night.

At one point after sunset, I realized my body was covered in a thick layer of salt and despite hydrating well, I barely made any pit stops. I grabbed an instant soup from my stash and asked a volunteer to fill it with hot water so I could pick it up on my next lap. I told him my legs were starting to cramp and I definitely needed some salt. He suggested adding extra salt and although it tasted gross, it did the trick and my leg cramps were gone. While the temperature lowered at night, the humidity didn’t go away. I switched out my tank top for a short sleeve t-shirt and was still warm in that for the remainder of the race.

At around midnight, the exhaustion set in. I took a 5-hour energy shot, but it didn’t help at all. I was running with my eyes closed and felt like I could use a nap. While I was tired at ATY, it was nowhere near this level of fatigue. At ATY, I may have closed my eyes for a minute during pit stops, but this time I knew I wouldn’t make it through the night without sleep. I was disappointed by the thought of losing time on the course, but I knew it was a necessity. At first, I tried a 5-minute nap on a bench which led to more 5 minute naps during multiple unnecessary pit stops. I made it through a few more laps before I felt the overwhelming urge to sleep. I tried to push through, but realized I would just end up back on the bench or in the bathroom.

My car was parked practically on the course (another perk of this race) and I had a blanket and pillow in the backseat. I set the alarm on my phone for 20 minutes, made sure to elevate my feet by propping them up on the door and went to sleep. I was worried that my legs wouldn’t cooperate when I woke up, but this seemed like my only option. The nap helped, my legs worked just fine afterwards and I continued on. I still closed my eyes during a few pit stops and wished I had someone to talk to, but I kept pushing through the night until the sun finally rose.

By sunrise, my nausea disappeared. It was still warm out, but nowhere near as hot as it had been the day before. During the night, I felt blisters developing on the bottom of my feet right under my toes. This happened at ATY and I should have put both Body Glide and Run Goo on my entire feet before this race, but I stupidly only put them on my hotspots. As I continued my laps, the pain seemed to explode every time my foot hit the ground. I pushed through for a while then joined one of the runners I started the race with. We did a few laps together and the conversation took my mind off the pain. Once he went back to his tent, I continued on my own. As the legendary John Fegyveresi of Barkley fame passed by, he asked what mile I was at. I said 102. He responded, “you’ll keep going until 105 right?” Sure, why not? John had been cheering me on throughout the race, telling me how fast I was and how strong I looked. It was great to get one last push from him to finish off the race.

I crossed the finish line with 105 miles at 23:57:04, coming in 1st place female and 5th overall for the 24-hour race. I was happy with my performance and especially thrilled that things didn’t fall apart the way they did at ATY. But at the same time, I knew I could do more. I was trained for more miles. So I guess this means there will be a next time.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Belmar 5 Mile with my first CMRC Open Ladies Team, Belmar NJ, 7/9/16

Bettina, Me, Alanna, Kim
Training has been going well. I wanted Kim and I to race a 10k to see where we stood.  After a lot of searching, I could not find a 10k within driving distance. Kim suggested the Belmar 5.

My last 5M race (Sunset Classic) went well for me (6:35 pace). I feel like Sunset is a fast course and I suspect a net descent but I could be wrong.  There is a huge hill in Sunset but it comes early and the second half of the race is mostly downhill.   

Alanna, Laura, Suzanne, Kim, Me
Belmar is pancake flat. This had me concerned it would be slower than Sunset. I tend to run better on rolling terrain.

Alanna met me early for about 6 miles of warm up. We are both training for longer races. This was not a goal race, so it was not a big deal to run a long warm up before we started.  We arrive in the rain, both baffled because there was nothing on the radar predicting rain, but there it was.

Regardless, we did our miles, got our bibs, and waited for the rest of our Team to show up. A few days prior I posted a request on the Creating Momentum Running Club’s (CMRC) Facebook page asking if there was any interested in forming a team. The CMRC is new this year and I am doing a lot to attempt to create a club that has a lot to offer runners nation-wide and locally. Within a few days we had formed a CMRC Open Ladies Team. Thank you so very much Kim, Alanna, Bettina, Laura, and Suzanne!  Despite the short notice, we had a great team!

About three months ago Honey Stingers generously sent me some gels and chews to share with my running club. I looked forward to bringing these supplies along. Thank you Honey Stingers. (For those who are looking for something new to try during training, the Honey Stinger Waffles are truly awesome! Kim and I used those for most of our 24 Hour race at the end of May and they were light and easy to digest with good flavor). 

The Race:
As gun time approached, the misty rain slowed and the humidity was obvious to me. There was some wind, but the temperature was much cooler than it had been in the week before.

I line up towards the front. A woman steps up next to me and asked “What pace are you going to run today?”  (Sigh. After over 350 races, I still dislike this part of standing in a corral).  I am polite. I am honest. I tell her probably 6:40-ish. I wanted to start at 6:40, at least.  She tells me she is planning to run a 6:20 pace. She mentions some past races she ran and how she thinks she can do the 6:20 since this course is so flat and she trains on hills.  I wish her good luck. 

The gun goes off and she pulls away. I look at my watch after it settles down and I see my pace is 6:12. I reign myself in right away. There is no need for this speed this soon. I find my pace, something I feel is as fast as I can sustain for the whole way, and plan to focus on one mile at a time. M1 - 6:38

This pace felt appropriate. As we make a right turn and I notice a wind pushing us. I want to take little advantage of it, but I also want to stay fresh enough to have some energy when we turn back into it, which I know will happen when we round the lake. M2 - 6:34

I am happy to feel fluid and comfortable as we round the lake and head back out on the long straight away. But there is a chick ON MY HEELS… I am mean she was like glue. I felt her breath. I really wanted to drop my pace to get away, but I knew I was running right at my red-line and making a move this early was not wise at all.  

On the corner, before we turn onto the straight away, I hear a trumpeter… It always makes me feel good to hear, then see, Dave on the course.  I haven’t run many races he has been at in the past year.  When I saw him, he made me feel so good. He stopped playing, cheered my name, and gave me a High Five as I rounded the corner. 

This girl was still on me as we ran into the wind. I could not blame her for tucking in behind someone, even if she did not make a good choice, choosing me (at 5ft 2in) to try to draft off of! :)  I looked at my watch and saw the pace had dropped a lot and this made me realize there was more of a wind than I expected. I pushed through, catching up to the pack of men ahead of us. 

She stayed on me most of this mile, right up until I saw Todd wearing long red tights with scales printed on them, no shirt, but a set of huge bat wings, devil horns, and holding a sign that said to “Run like the Devil” (or something like that)… Again I got a wonderful ego boost when Todd cheered my name and called out “Shannon!!! Run Like Hell!”  Oh my goodness, Todd is hilarious. I forgot to mention his tied-dyed beard really made the ensemble work.  :) 

Right after I saw Todd, I was finally able to pull way from the chick.  A man on the sideline called out 18th and 19th Females!  (I really love when spectators call out placement to the runners.  This really can help).  I assumed I was 18th and the chick behind me was 19th. M3 - 6:50
I did not need to see that split to know that I slowed in the wind. I could also see 5 women in range ahead of me. I had some work to do and I wanted to see if I could try to reel in and pass all by the time we reached the finish.  I thought about my form and how to run tall to minimize my back issues. I could feel my back tightening, but it was not yet painful.  I adjust my form as I approach M4 - 6:38

As I hit M4, a man next to me points at the ladies and says “Go get ‘em!”  

I reply “It is still early”.  

I was getting tired. My legs were heavy. I could not hold a faster pace for the entire mile. I knew that.  I was already reeling them in at my current pace.  So I wanted to slowly reel them in and pass them as I approach, speeding up as I pass to make sure I do not get passed back. I counted my place in my head as I passed, “17th, 16th, 15th, 14th…”  It took me the entire last mile, but I was able to gradually run progressively faster, moving past each lady except the last.  One of those women was the chick from the start who shared she was going to run a 6:20 pace today when she quizzed me about my intentions at the start. She talked about how she wanted to run fast on this flat (easier) course than she trained on.  Sometimes flat courses are harder than rolling hills. We think the hills will slow us, but we can often make up lost time and sometimes gain even more time when running down hill.  The fact that we get to use different muscles help keep us feeling fresher longer.  I always expect flat courses to be tough. M5 6:28

Time: 33:10
OA: 120
Gender: 14th
AG: 2nd
Team: Second Place Open Females, despite most of my women being Masters Age.

Photo by Laura DeLea. Picking up our award!