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.

Stats:
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


Stats
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! 

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


Stats
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! 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Sunset Classic, 5 Miler, Bloomfield, NJ, 6/30/16

Last night was the Sunset Classic. This is one of my favorite 5 Mile races, but really I don't race 5 Milers very often at all. There are more 4M, 8k's, and 10ks (barely), but not many 5 Milers to choose from that are part of the USA-TF Grand Prix Series.

The Sunset Classic is usually a very hard race to get to, but once I arrive it is always good to me.  It tends to be very hot, humid, with threats of thunderstorms year-after-year, but not this year!  This year it was warm out, but not stifling and the storms stayed away.  It was nice.

I almost missed the race due to several accidents on the Parkway.  Thanks to Kim teaching me about the Waze app, I was able to use it to direct me around all the stand-stills.  Even with bypassing as much traffic as I could, I still arrived over 30 minutes later than I hoped.  This race is not a good one to be late to. Parking is mostly street parking and it can be hard to find near the race last minute. I still needed to register so I needed to make sure I had extra time.

I find a dead end streets that appears like it could be connected to the field by a foot path, possibly. I can see the field through the trees, so I am hopeful.  I see another runner parked at the end of the dead end and I ask him if this street connects to the field.  He desperately replies "Oh it better!"  He scrambles to get his stuff to together and runs into the trees never to be seen again. I am hopeful that there is foot path.

I finish getting my stuff organized and ask a man watering his lawn if there is a path to the field. He says "Not really." I ask where that other guy went?  He said "Oh he ran behind my garage and down the hill... it is not a path, it it just my yard. You can go that way too. I'll show you the way. Just be careful of the poison ivy." Oh Boy. This is ridiculous.  

He points me in the right direction and wishes me luck. It really was not bad at all, A few steps through some brush and I am on the road, closed to traffic, across the street from the park. Sure I have to jump a median, but there are no cars.  I just need to remember when in the brush I need to reenter the trees to find my car in the dark. LOL.  This is all fine for a day time adventure but I am pretty sure I will not be able to find my car later and the man casually mentions that I should expect to see his dogs out at night when I return and to not worry. LOL. I figured I would be smart to find a better way back to the street. After the race, I could easily take a longer way on sidewalks, like a civilized human being.

As I am running over to the start, I have to run under a set of bleachers. Three kids are sitting under the bleachers looking like they are up to something, but they are young and not worrisome to me.  As I run past, one joking holds out a bag of snacks as asks me "Want a Funyuns?!"

This is hysterial because I had just shared a post about how I love Funyuns, but only in ultras.  I told him I did not want any Funyuns today because my race is too short for Funyuns.  I continued on to register.

I found Anthony with 16 minutes to spare before gun time... much better than last year's 8 minutes. I was on the porto-potty line which was moving at an impressively fast pace! I was done with the line and we were warming up with 13 minutes to go.

I saw Andy at the start, the man who complimented me at Lager for writing an article about running he enjoyed.  He asked me what I thought I would run today. I explained I had already run a workout this morning (b/c when I race at night, I still feel that I need to make sure I get a run done in the morning in case something happens and I miss the race).   I had run a 6 Mile Tempo with Kim at 6 am, so I was not sure how much this would impact me.  I told Andy I hoped for 6:40 pace.  I had run 6:22 pace at the Lager 5k and this seemed reasonable.

The Race:

I know this course well. Mile 0-1 is fast as we head out to a steep hill just at the start of Mile 1-2.  The hills is not very long, but long enough to knock the pace down and the wind out of your sails. M2-3 is fast b/c at 2.6 miles we get to run downhill, at the same grade we had to run up a few blocks earlier.  Mile 3-4 is a slower mile mentally b/c it is long and lightly rolling and we are recovering from the hard up and down. But we do get to descend more before we hit the last mile home.  The last mile is fast only because the race is almost over and there is the track finish that makes it all worth it.

I take off towards the front of the pack and I feel great again.  I look at my watch and it says 6:09. I start to settle down because I wanted about 6:30 pace to start.  I look to my right and see Roberta... ok, this is not right.  But she just must have started behind me. Her and Beau were steadily pulling away, as they should.  I notice Hortencia in my peripheral as well.  I know she is racing well and I wondered when she would pass me. I don't see any other ladies ahead of me.  This is why I love a fast start, even for a few seconds. It allows me to see my position and know where I stand the rest of the event.

I settle down to a comfortable pace.  I am surprised to find that the pace that feels best for me is closer to 6:40 than 6:30. I did not feel good about pushing harder since that hill was coming soon.  M1 6:37

As we turn the corner a man next to me says "Here we go!"  Now this hill is no joke!  However, the hill I train on is harder (not by much), so I feel very well-prepared.  I try to push from the bottom to see if I can hold my pace and really work this uphill. This is the opposite of how I normal take hills (which is to downshift and use an even effort approach, then crest and pick up my pace over the top).  However in races that are not goal races, I like to try different things to see how they feel. I was curious how long I could power up and not go into oxygen debt.  The answer was "not very long at all!"  Before the crest my pace slowed to 7:00 and I was looking forward to getting over that hill.  It took the rest of that mile to try to bring my pace down and it was hard work.  M2 6:50

I am looking forward to Mile 2-3 because I love that downhill.  I am ready to blast down and see how much time I can make up.  At 2.4 we start the turn towards the drop and I say to the same guy "Ok, now we get it all back here!" and we hit the downhill.  It is such a step downhill that running fast feels out of control. The road has potholes.  I push my sunglasses up so I can see more clearly.  I am flying and I feel great.  Then my sunglasses fall off my head!  Oh boy, really! Come one.  I have to go back for them.  When I do turn back for them (maybe  I lost 3 seconds, not much time) I see Hortencia coming and I already know there is nothing much I can do to stop her from eventually passing me, but I will try.

Mile 3 feel long and exhausting. I do my best to run fast, but my legs feel like Jello. It is too soon for Jello-legs with 1.5 to go. I can hear her breathing and I know I can't go with her because I don't have another gear to hold this far out. I am running as fast as I can at the time. She passes me and we exchange positive words of encouragement and a high-five.  M3 6:27

I don't want to give up, but I need to recover.  That Mile 3 took a lot out of me. I could feel how it was just a few seconds too fast for my fitness and that is a few seconds too much. I slow a little and feel a lot better. She is not really pulling away from me quickly, so I am motivated to try to keep her in sight.  We hit the small down hill turn and I gain momentum that carries me closer to her.  However, I can sense she is just running as easy as she needs to to hold me off and once I get close she will likely just pull away again. I still try and I am reeling her in. M4 6:34 

Finally the final mile. I see Randy on the side line. He is encouraging. He yells out for me to use the tangent.  This is was helpful because there was no reason I could not.  Everyone else was running along the outside curve for no clear reason.  I hug the tangent.  She is still about 5-10 seconds ahead of me and there is nothing I can do about this.

We hit the track and I can feel the spring of the rubber under my feet. It feels so good. I try to kick but my jello legs are tired.  I do pull away from those entering the track with me. I contemplate trying to shift into one more faster gear, but my hamstring feels wonky, and has since way back when I had to squat down at mile 3 to get my glasses off the ground. I decide to not do anything too sudden. A hard surge at this point was not going to get me into 2nd place but could pop something in my hamstring, so I play it safe and finish strong but steady about 6 seconds behind my pacer ;).  As I round the final turn I can hear people cheering my name from the bleacher (Ross) and really that made my night!  It felt so great to hear someone rooting for me out there. :)  M5 6:26

I like Hortencia.  She always offers fierce, but friendly competition. It is hard to be bothered when beat by her. She is 2 years older, than me but has a 2:39 Marathon PR to her name from her younger years.  That is just so amazing!  She is fast and strong, but she works so hard for her results.  She is a great runner to race alongside.  I am sure as long as I have Hortencia nearby, we will push and pull each other to great times.  This is a good thing, since she is one of my teammates :)  Go Clifton!

Stats:
Time: 32:57 (6:35 pace) new 5M PR for me
OA Place: 27/455
Gender Place: 3rd/164

Digital Leaderboard at the Race!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Guest Blogger: Kevin's Comrade's Race Report.

As a coach, I am grateful I get to live vicariously though my athletes!  It is a perk of this work.  When I draft training plans, I spend time researching and understanding the obstacles my runners will face at their chosen events. I try to create training plans that will help each athlete grow, based upon their personal abilities as well as help each athlete feel prepared for the race-specific challenges they will face.  

Often, I feel compelled to want to race those same events!  In my own imagination, I have transported myself to a lot of exciting race courses, many that I will never set a foot upon in my lifetime.  

There has been no event I wished I was prepping myself for more than Kevin's Comrades Marathon!  (http://www.comrades.comThe approximately 89km (over 55 Mile) race in South Africa is one of my dream races. It was my pleasure to help prepare Kevin to run his best first ultra at this legendary event!

Here is Kevin's race report! 



******



Sunday, May 29, 2016


My Comrades Adventure 

Let’s begin at the beginning with this story.  Why did I want to run the Comrades Marathon?  In high school, I was a “distance” runner where distance meant the 800 meter, 1600, and 3200.  (About ½ mile, a mile, and two miles.)  I thought that the 5K cross country race was long as I only ran in the fall to keep ready for winter and spring.  I still like my track workouts but have begun a true “distance” runner as a grown up.

In 2006, I got back to running and originally had my sights set on getting back to a half marathon.  Did that by Labor Day 2007.  One thing led to another and I ran my first marathon in 2010.  I thought that the marathon distance would be all I’d ever want.  Then, I read an article in Runner’s World by Bart Yasso about Comrades and thought to myself, if there is ever a race to run that would be it.  I already had work colleagues in Durban where the race either begins or ends and I could combine it with a work trip.

Years went by and I ran more marathons and I traveled around the world.  A year ago when my colleagues in South Africa heard about my going a couple other places to lecture they said I must return to South Africa to lecture.  I agreed as long as we could schedule it in the week before Comrades.  That was the beginning of the planning.  I registered in September.  Ran a qualifying marathon with what seemed like a lot of challenging hills in October, and started officially training right after the first of the year with the same coach who had gotten me to achieve my goal in Philadelphia in 2014 of running a sub-3:10 marathon.  I’ve enjoyed worked with Shannon and we have a very good rapport.  

I dedicated this to my Grandmother.  When she passed a little over a year ago most of her resources were gone.  With what my mother received from her estate she shared some of with me and my sister.  That paid for my training and registration and a few other expenses along the way.  I may take my Comrades patch (received at the end along with my medal) and leave it at my Grandmother’s grave.

In any case, the preparation did not necessarily involve a lot more miles than marathon preparation.  Just more strategic use.  Particularly with respect to hills.  Lots of hard downhills before long runs. 

So, I arrived in Durban late Monday evening, six days before the race.  Spent three days working with colleagues and PhD students on research projects.  Ate a lot of curry meals and a dish called samp.  Felt fine Thursday night.

Woke up Friday morning, 48 hours before the race and something had gone wrong with my stomach.  Big time.  I won’t describe in detail, but let’s say, I could only eat a little, what I ate soon came out the other end, and it was not pleasant.  Having that two days before a race is not ideal.  I didn’t take anything as whatever I have ever take for that tends to make my stomach feel like crap.  But having small meals and probably not enough liquid that day was not good.

Saturday morning, I woke up and felt somewhat better.  Did my last shakeout run.  Bought some Powerades to drink to get the electrolytes back up.  Went to an early dinner which was spaghetti and meatballs (beef and lamb) with my closest colleague.  And got about 5 hours of sleep.

Woke up at 1:30 after about four hours sleep Sunday morning.  I was getting picked up at 3 for a drive of about an hour in light traffic for a race that began at 5:30.  Lots of people were driving early.  Not surprising given 20,000 registrants for the race and the 16,000+ who actual began it.

When I got there, I checked my bag with stuff for after the race (very little of which I ended up using), put the sticker to identify the bag on the back of one of my two race bibs, used the portable toilet, and eventually entered starting area B.  I’d worked hard to qualify for starting area B, running a marathon in just under 3:20 in the spring.

In area B, I hung toward the back.  I didn’t want to get swept up in a rush at the start.  When the organizers released the ropes separating areas everyone pushed forward.  I don’t think I have ever experienced such a rush of people at the start of a race.  Definitely a different sense of personal space than at the start of races in the United States.  

The starting line was by city hall in Pietermaritzburg.  The front of city hall was lit with signs for the major sponsor (Bonitas) and the Comrade symbol moving back and forth across the face of the building.  For much of the time there was very loud music.  Much of it dance versions of US hits from the 80’s.  High energy.  Lots of excitement.  

Then the South African national anthem in three parts—Afrikaans, English, and Zulu.  Then chariot of fire.  And finally the loud sound of a fun with streamers.  It took a little time to get to the starting line (probably a minute) and we were off into the relatively well-lit streets of Pietermaritzburg.  

One interesting thing about the race.  The official distance given in the final race instructions was 89.208 km.  In the official results the finish was listed as 89.13 km from the start.  Not sure what happened to the last 78 meters, but whatever.  But the key was the the signs indicating distances along the way did not indicate the distance traveled but the distance to go.  It was like a thermometer (kind of like fundraising goals are shown) that was dropping the whole way.  I kind of liked it that way.  It gave a sense of what was left to finish the very long race.  I missed the first one and was pleasantly surprised when my GPS watched beeped at the first mile.  (Yes, I left my watch in miles because it is just easier for me to think that way).  It had taken 10:18.  But since Comrades is gun to gun I wanted to know my time from the gun and not when I actually crossed the starting line.  (I would eventually find out that I did get a “net time” in my results.)

The early going was beautiful rolling hills.  It was warmer than much of the spring had been in the United States but not summer pre-dawn warm.  And it was dry.  It was a pleasant run and the miles passed.  9:11, 9:14, 9:04, 9:21, 9:05.  All sitting in that sweet spot for running between 8:30 and 9 hours total.  So far, on plan.

There had been a quick stop to pee along the side of the road in the first hour and then a stop at a portable toilet at the end of the first hour.  My stomach issues were not totally returning but I was concerned.

This was the first race where I used a run-walk approach.  My coach had suggested walking up the steepest hills and walking the refreshment stations.  I did minimal walking in the first couple of hours.  That may have been a mistake.  I’ll certainly have a different appreciation for the importance of walking if I ever do an ultramarathon again.  (The jury is out on that one but it won’t happen any time soon as I know just what it takes and it was too much.) 

Miles 8-13 were run at 9:12, 9:07, 10:00, 10:09, 9:22, and 11:27.  I believe there was another stop at a portable toilet in that mix.  There was also more deliberate walking through the refreshment stations.  I was still on track to run just under 9.

Let me describe the refreshments. Not much food early on but I used four of the six Stingers I was carrying.  (Little packets of a honey based mixture that provide 100 calories.)  I drank Coke because it was in cups.  Then they had sachets of water and Energade (the local equivalent of Gatorade of Powerade).  They were challenging to break open.  Sometimes, I used the water to keep cool.  Sometimes I drank it.  I drank a lot of Energade.  But I truly had to slow down to a walk to get the things open and consume them without wasting to keep hydrated and have enough calories in me.

The next seven miles were more favorable.  Stomach issues were beginning to subside.  (The foods once they started appearing at refreshment stations included banana, potato, orange slices (which I didn’t take), chocolate (which I took once and found it stuck to the roof of my mouth—bad move), and cookies.  I liked the bananas and potatoes as they were easy to consume.  Moist and soft.  And the bananas (from lesson one of child rearing) help to bind you up when you have stomach issues like I had.  Brilliant.  The times were 8:36 (took advantage of a downhill), 9:31, 9:17, 10:06, 8:48, 9:29, and 8:55.  That put me on track at mile 20 to finish solidly under 9 hours if I could hold it. 

The rest of the first marathon was also okay.  9:56, 9:20, 9:27, 9:19, 9:29, and 12:24.  That last mile reflected the first of what I considered to be the really big uphills.  I was still on track for at least 5 minutes under 9 hours.  And when I had passed the sign indicating 50 km remaining, I did think “only a HAT run to go.”  (A local, trail-based 50K back home.)

My legs at this point had started to feel tight.  I began to question.  And my watch would only have so much more time as the battery with the GPS going has only about five hours.  The next hour was 9:29, incredibly 8:35 for mile 28, then 11:49, and 11:18.  30 miles in I was still just under 9 hours for total, but it was beginning to occur to me that running the remaining almost marathon distance in the same time was going to be more of a challenge than I had expected.  

Also, it was warm.  I wouldn’t say “hot”.  And I don’t want to blame the weather for my performance.  It never got blistering hot.  There was shade in many places.  And the humidity was low.  But I had not done a lot of running at this temp in a while.

Mile 31 was the last one that my watch captured fully at 9:46 and in the midst of mile 32, 5:09 in, my watch shut down.

It didn’t mean that I was without a watch.  I had borrowed a watch from my most frequent training partner and dear friend, Lauren, to bring with me.  In the end, I don’t have all the rest of the lap times as it seems to only show me the first 30 laps.  But it did allow me to track and plan as I continued.  At mile 31, I was just within holding 9 hours total.  But I was fading.

Most of the early miles were on back roads.  Kovin (my colleague in South Africa) had told me that much of the course was the old way from Durban to Pietermaritzburg before the “interstate” was built.  So, it’s kind of like PA 320 instead of I 476 near where I grew up.  But as we got closer and closer to Durban we moved to more urban streets and in several cases ran the on or off ramps and the “interstate”.  

While I was still a long way from having 25 km to go, I had read about Fields Hill the night before.  It sounded like a grueling downhill.

With 31 miles down, I had about 39 km to go.  I thought of it as four 10K’s.  My only indication of splits at this point comes from the report I got from the race.  Each runner wore a chip device and had to cross over mats at numerous points along the way.  I ran the first 16.52 km at 6:02/km.  That was just about what would get me to Durban in 9 hours.  I ran the distance from there to 31.55 km at 5:55/km.  Enough faster to make me comfortable with getting to Durban in 9.  I ran to 45.57 km in 6:06.  Then to 59.04 km in 7:05.  

I’d stopped one last time at a portable toilet.  The lack of toilet paper at a stop earlier was no longer an issue.  Apparently fewer people used them further along. And now I was ready to push.  

That is where I truly faded.  While the course is called “down,” every account notes that the first half doesn’t really seem down.  As I described it was rolling hills.  With the ups never seeming that challenging and the downs just nice.  The second half is definitely down but it can be punishing on the quads and there are plenty of ups that precede the downs. 

With 59.04 km done, I had about 30 to go—or 18.6 miles.  It was clear that I was not going to be able go for the 9 hours.  My legs were tired.  But I still had the goal of finishing.  And finish I would.  And while I would not get the Bill Rowan medal for finishing under 9, I could still get a bronze for finishing under 11.  And under 10 would be great.  In fact, some of the locals said that finishing under 10 on a first try is considered very good.

The idea of a 50/50 run-walk for 18.6 miles seemed crazy.  I’ll never have the data to know what I was doing but I do know this.   I walked a lot of those last 18.6 miles.  But covered the distance in about 3:40.  What the human body can do is amazing.

When I got down to 25 km (15.5 miles), I thought to myself, now it just five 5K races linked together.  I can do that.  And so I continued.  

I did feel a bit hot.  I could tell I’d gotten a bit too much sun.  The direction I was facing most of the day protected my tattoo.  The visor that came in the goodie back protected my forehead.  I’d had sunglasses on most of the morning since the sun rose.  But I got some extra sun on my neck.

One thing that was in the back of my mind the whole race was that a colleague had suffered cardiac arrest on an ultramarathon run almost a year to the day earlier.  That was sobering.  But clearly, I survived to tell my story.

I tried a nutrition bar at one point.  Bad idea.  It was too hard to consume.  I tossed it.

I stopped at two physiotherapy stations.  They rubbed in a local version of icy hot.

Several people along the way had handfuls or chunks of ice to offer.  I rubbed that on my head and neck and arms. It is hard to say how good that felt.

At several points along the way I crossed paths with some runners who changed “Keep running.  Keep working.” A call and response approach. These guys also sang a song that Kovin told me was a traditional mining song about a train.

As I realized I would not hit 9 but could hit 10, I thought of a few things.  First, it could have been mental toughness. Second, there was nothing that Shannon could have done to get me more prepared.  Third, the number of factors that determined how I ran—stomach, weather, first time consuming considerable amounts of food and liquid during a race, first time with a run/walk combo, and hills that one cannot truly appreciate from the map but that are daunting—is large and I just have to accept.  Fourth, I complete and that was what it was mostly about.  My honor to my grandmother is complete.  And finally, I did feel joy.  I was reminded of joy when there were some ice cream salespeople along the course with their coolers that said “taste joy.”  I thought to myself, “feel joy”.  And despite the tightness, despite not meeting my time goal, I could feel joy.  Why?  Because I had the ability to have a dream, pursue a dream, and put down on paper why it is important to me to pursue my dream.

Getting back to the race, I also played leap frog with any number of other runners seeing them pass me and then passing them time and again throughout the race as we each took our own approaches.  

To 70.58 km (from 59), I sped up a bit averaging 6:57.  To 82.67 km I averaged 7:21.  That left just a little over 6 km.

When I got to five I had to think about what I wanted to do.  I would try to job the whole thing.  I could run-walk-run-walk-run or I could just see.  If nothing else, I wanted to make sure to run into the stadium at the end.

So, I thought I would run from 5 to 3.  However, there was the last refreshment area and I slowed during the 4-3 km.  I picked it up and jogged from three to two.  While walking from two to one, I felt chatty.  I asked on gentlemen how he was doing.  And there was a woman named Amelia with whom I had been playing leap frog.  She had one previous finish (you could tell from the bib).  We talked about finishing under 10.  She was one of those who told me that was good.  When we got to the 1 km mark, she said “Go for it.”  She didn’t have it in her.  I did.  The closing took runners to the stadium, about ¼ of the way around the outside, and then a good portion of a lap inside.  

And I was done.

Throughout, people had greeted me warmly.  Names were on the bibs so runners and fans could call me by name. Many did.  Several, seeing the blue indicating international runner and that I had zero medals welcomed me to South Africa.  Several runners struck up brief conversations along the way.

I received my bronze medal and patch.  And a flower.  And there were pictures taken like at the end of every big event.  

Afterwards, I went to the International Runners tent.  I must have looked a little dazed.  I asked someone from the organizers where the bags were.  I got my bag, got a cup of tea, and waited for Kovin.  I wasn’t ready to eat so we went out of the stadium.  Runners had to go up and down steps to get out.  A cruel joke. 

I waited while Kovin got his car.  Went back to the hotel and showered.  My pee was a color indicating moderate to a little worse dehydration despite all I’d pushed into myself.  

Kovin came back and took me to dinner.  I had taken just a few extra moments to get ready.  I was moving slowly.  Dinner was Italian.  A camembert wrapped in phyllo with cranberries on the side and a 30 cm flat bread focaccia with greens, parmesan, pecorino, a little pesto, and Parma Ham.  I polished off the whole thing and drank about a liter of sparking water.  While we were sitting at dinner we could see other Comrades runners in the parking lot.  The gingerness of the footsteps was a dead giveaway.  

I was more energetic at dinner than I had been any other night during the week.  Even Kovin noticed.  We talked about how “marathon” is a bit of misnomer for Comrades since every other “marathon” is usually the standard 42 km distance.  So be it.

My net time was 9:46:53.

My muscles still hurt like after my very first marathon.  

My 20-year-old sent me a message that my commitment to achieving a goal is inspiring.  Perhaps I helped him to set his sights with a laser focus on his goal of becoming a musician.  

Not much more to say.  A wonderful experience on a course that does take runners through the Land of 1000 Hills.

The race is advertised as “Comrades—it will humble you.”  

Yes, it did.

But the humility has so many lessons with it.  How to push onward.  How to adapt. How to make the most of a situation.  


All these will be things I take with me for a lifetime.  Along with the joy of the training and preparation and anticipation and all the great friend, family, and fellow runners who supported me along the way. 

Quick afterthought--the old expression for brides in marriage goes "Something old/Something new/Something borrowed/Something blue."  Well, I'm not a bride, but this was a transformational experience.  I wore old socks.  But they have brought me through many of my marathons and remain my best pair of running socks by far.  The new was the visor.  The watch that was on the whole time was borrowed.  And the blue--my international number.  (Can you tell I like symbolism?)

And my Romans 12:12 from before the race--I rejoiced in hope.  The hope of finding more important goals and dreams and being able to chase them.  I endured in affliction--the affliction of very tired muscles.  And I persevered in prayer of being able to finish and get on with all the other important things in life.

And a final post-script--no chafing, all toenails in tact, no blisters.  One victory.

Absolutely final--always keep moving ahead.