Sunday, July 29, 2012

BUS Pajama Romp, Astoria Park, Queens, NY. 7/28/12

Last night I participated in the Pajama Romp.  This was a 1.27 mile loop in Astoria Park in Queens.  There were about 70-75 participants running this 6 hour event.   I drove up with Alanna and John. Two other TNT participants (Ann and Carissa) came to cheer us on.

Friday night, I checked the weather and saw T-Storms predicted to hit pretty much between 5 pm and midnight with the most chance of making appearance around 7 pm.

I really wasn't sure what to do, but I knew I could not sit around all day waiting to run, only to have the run canceled or called off due to weather.  Training is more important than racing right now.  I knew that after last weekend's mountain 6 hour race, my legs were less likely to carry me 40 miles or more.  Since I did not feel like I was set up well for a great race, I decided that this race would best serve me as the second half of a double training run day.

Sat morning, I met the Team In Training Team I train with at 7 am and ran a comfortable 13.6 miles with a few of our runners training for various marathons.  Pace was easy and comfortable but I could feel by mile 12, that I was getting dehydrated.  I drank and ate more than usual at this training run, but the warmth and humidity left me soaked with sweat.

I drank an Ensure and a Chocolate Milk immediately giving me about 400 calories, carbs, protein, fat, vitamins, etc as soon as I stopped.  I can't really digest more than this in a hour, so I drove the half hour home and then had a big bowl of cereal, orange juice, and a banana for more carbs, protein, and potassium.   At 1 pm, I made a big bowl of salty mashed potatoes for more carbs and electrolytes.  I wanted to refuel my muscles as much as I could. I wanted to take a nap too, but I just didn't have time.

On the drive up, I drank a mango smoothie and was ready with macaroon, cantaloupe, and electrolyte-enhanced water.  I felt like I still had a chance to run well and was open to the idea that I might surprise myself if I just tried to run like I did in my last 6 hour race.

I checked the weather once more, and still the entire night was marred by the prediction of T-Storms.  As we sat in the car at 4:45 pm to avoid the hard rain, before our 5 pm start, I called Sid to have him check NOAA. He advised that we should be getting hit hard soon, if not already at that moment, but that the rain will blow over us.  However, more storms could hit us in about an hour or so that seemed like they could have T-storms.  It was hard to predict from the charts.

With this information, and the fact that I wanted to run at least 15 miles tonight, I decided that I was going to start out hard (at 8 minute pace), get a good 10 miles in, and then back off to see what I could do after a morning run. I knew this was not the best way to start a 6 hour run after having depleted myself of energy and fluids this morning. However, it was likely to represent a little of what I will feel like at 5 pm at my next 24 hour race.  I don't plan to run 8's at a 24 hour, but I do expect to feel like crap so this will be good practice.

The race started just as some heavy downpours became worse.  The gun went off and the pack started moving.  I started fast and was the 4th runner out, behind the top three eventual male winners.  I knew it would be minutes before I was passed by the women. I expected nothing less.

I ran the first loop at just sub-8.  This was not too fast in theory.  My last 50k started out at 7:50 pace and ended at 8:09 pace. My last 6 hour started at 7:50 pace and ended at 8:44 pace. My last marathon was 7:36 pace. When feeling good, 7:50 is a nice pace to start one of these runs.  However, I would have been happy a little slower considering I was a little dehydrated and depleted at the start.

I stayed with the men for one main reason, to figure out the course.  The rain was washing away all the white painted arrows and I was not sure how complicated the course would be.  After 1 loop, we only passed about two places where I could make a mistake, I backed down to 8-8:10 pace per lap.

I held that for about 5 laps, then started walking the up hills. First, just the first up hill and then I added that second up hill.  Once I started walking the ups, they seemed much steeper.  I noticed that my legs went from feeling incredibly peppy to suddenly depleted and dead.  I had been trying to fuel and hydrate from the start of the run, but I don't think I was able to keep up with my pace.  I am 100% certain a slower pace would have yielded more mileage and less discomfort, but I just didn't want to risk stopping after 2 hour because of weather, so I keep up my speed until I couldn't run any more... I slowed a lot after 10 miles. I stopped to change my shoes and then continued to run. I hit 20 miles in just a little over 3 hours and decided that if I needed to stop then I could be happy with a 34 mile training day.

I added more walking just to keep moving and started to notice just how much my feet hurt.  This makes me sad.  I am tired of foot pain.  I am avoiding pain killers and just kept going.  Walking hurt, but  running showed me just how depleted my quads were of energy.  I tried to spit (to track my hydration) and it was way too thick to be productive.  I realized that even with my efforts to drink a little almost every lap, I was very dehydrated. I grabbed gatorade, coke, water with electrolytes, plain water and it wasn't enough. Pretty much everything was wrong and my morale suffered.

After walking a bit, at mile 22 I met up with Alanna and John, and declared with a forced smile "I am done! Now it is just about getting to 30 miles for the day."  The deficit of everything, I manage to get myself into, made me incredibly nauseated. If I tried to force calories or liquids I sensed I would throw up.  Acid type liquids (coke, juice, gatorade) were not appealing so I could not drink them.  High sugar drinks, like my mango juice made me queasy.  I grabbed a chocolate milk and ended up carrying it for a lap, not able to drink it.  I ate a few pretzels and that seemed to help.  Salty, dry, non-sweet, gluten free pretzels (thank you Ann) were the only thing I was able to tolerated.  I ate a few and kept walking.

At about 26 miles in, I realized I had stopped having fun for the last hour and I was approaching 40 miles for the day.  I walked with Alanna, who looked great, was moving well, and really supported me as we moved along.  I rationalized to her. I was in pain. I was not accomplishing anything impressive. I was disappointed. I could be doing damage to feet by pushing on.  I want to train tomorrow and it is not worth missing tomorrow's run for a low mileage 6 hour tonight.  27 miles is really just as good as 30 miles. An injury free-27 is better than hurting myself for 3 more...etc.  I had tons of "good" reasons to stop.  The reality is I wanted to stop, I wasn't having fun, and things hurt.  I decided I was done.

I completed the lap the was 27+ miles and walked to my car.  I called Sid and told him that I suck.  That I was done and my feet hurt too much to make it fun to move.  He tried to encourage me, but then settled on telling me he was proud of me no matter what I did.  I gave Ray a call and waited to hear him press me to get back out there.  I had just under an hour left. That is not a lot of time.  I was surprised to hear him tell me that I did good and that a good 20 mile run after almost 14 this morning was good Hinson Lakes Training.  It made me feel less like a quitter to get the support of Sid and Ray.

I walked back to the race, ate a few more pretzels and saw John run through, looking pretty beat up but moving and smiling (or wincing).  He forced out the words, with so much pride, ... "I am past the marathon distance! I am past the marathon!" This is awesome considering this is his first ultra.  We had a  few minutes to go before they let us do the short loop.  John said he wanted, needed to sit.  He sat, I handed him some pretzels, and told him that if he is going to just sit, we should just walk until it is over. We could walk 1 big loop and then do the small loop until we can stop.  A few seconds later we were moving again.

As we started our walk, John realized that after this big loop, he was going to be close to 30 miles. I was at about 28+ at that point.  He found some strength and we added some jogging.  We got the short loop and he realized he was going to make 30 miles if he just could run.  He started running...then running faster... then faster... and exclaimed "I don't know where this is coming from!!!"  He had 0.4 miles to go and 6 minutes to do it.  He was getting his 30!  My feet hurt less running.  I felt a little better after sitting and eating pretzels.  Running with John, running to help someone else,  renewed my motivation to be out there again.  I would not have gone out just for me.

When he hit 30, I saw that I was a little over 29 miles myself.  I wasn't sure how much time I had left, but just figured I would run as fast as I could to get as close as I could to my 30 mile goal.  I was running a low 7 minute pace for the last .7 miles and stopped at about 29.75 miles on my Garmin   That is close enough to 30 to bring me joy.  Thank you John :)

I am not sure what my official distance really is.  We all know Garmins can be off.  I did not count my laps, big or small, and I have no idea what the cone I stopped at measured.  However, 29.75 + 13.6 is 43.35 miles for the day.

That is a good day and I am happy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Downtown Westfield 5k, Westfield, NJ. 7/25/12

So 4 days after Running with the Devil, 6hr, I find myself at the start of a 5k. I can't believe how nervous I feel.

My recovery has been slow and although I have no injury type pains, DOMS from running up and down a black diamond mountain for 6 hours has been rough.  Only yesterday I was able to take stairs like a grown-up, facing forward, with both feet taking turns, rather than side-stepping while holding the railing like a really large toddler.

I haven't run this race in a few years, and forgot what the course was like.  I did recall a mildly rolling course and was scared that trying to run hills on jello legs was going to push me over the edge of something bad.

I met John P. at just after I got my bib. He, Sid, and I tried to get a warm-up in.  It was just shy of a mile and a little short for me. I am finding I do well on at least 2 miles. Oh well.   We ran into more TNT runners and friends, including Bill, Margo, John R. and some new faces.   I spent a few minutes chatting, but got right to focusing on what I needed to do.

5k's scare me.  I have to run so fast, my lungs feel like they are pushing out my chest, my heart pounds hard, my asthma makes me wheeze, and I feel odd sensations in my body as I try to push myself as fast as I can.  I don't think I will ever run much faster than I do now unless I can get into great shape by winter.  I run better in the cold.  My asthma seems worse in the summer and I whoop uncontrollably while running anything under 7 minutes per mile when my chest tightens.

Even though this race has a starting mat, I decided I still wanted to be up front.  Over 2300 5k runners is a big race and I didn't want to get trapped.  John and I were about 2 rows back from the start when the gun fired.

I wore my Garmin again for data.  I was surprised at how fast so many runners got down to sub-6 pace.  I immediately mentioned to John... "5:53, let 'em go"...  I watched my pace settle down to 6:05, 6:11, then 6:45 instantaneous pace.   We hit mile 1 with John a few meters ahead.  I watched him do a double take as he saw the clock read Sub-6:30 for him. That was so cool to witness!  My M1 = 6:31.

The course had already gone down then up some. We still had some uphills to run and I felt my quads rebelling.  My asthma was winning and I just sat back, watching John move steadily ahead of me.  I wondered if he would beat me today.  I know he will someday.  It could be today and when it happens I am going to be so happy for him.

I looked at my pace and was not too surprised to see the pace for the M2 = 7:00.  I didn't feel spent, I just felt sore.  I wanted to regroup and get ready for Mile 3.

Once I started Mile 3, I was ready to see what I could do.  I opened my stride and realized nothing really hurt.  I passed several people, some passed me back.  Some I passed back again.  I felt I was steadily speeding up as I approached the finish.  I looked at my Garmin and saw I had .35 to go.

At this moment, I felt her behind me.  I had more left to give so I pushed the pace.  She was breathing down my neck.  Trying to pass.  I pressed forward, never letting her get even with me.  We continued to speed up. I was sure if I pressed harder, she would fall back, but she stayed right in my peripheral.  I wasn't sure I could hold it, but knew I couldn't let up until she passed me.  I was not going to just give it her if I had something left in my legs.  I pressed harder and finally I felt her slip off pace.  I could no longer see her from the corner of my eye.  M3 = 6:32

Ah ha! I have this.. or do I.  Is this a set up?  Is she backing off so I will too and then she will fly past me at the finish, before I have to respond?  Only .1 to go. No way.  Not today.  She let up and I knew I had to take the advantage she gave me and widen the gap, just to shake her of any ideas she may have of taking me at the line...  I kicked in as hard as I could.  She did not come with me.  My last .14 read as a 5:22 pace.  According to the results, I finished 5 seconds ahead of her. We shook hands, thanked each over for the motivation.

That type of finish is what racing is all about.  What a thrill!

20:53 chip time.
147 / 2358 Overall
14 / 1186 Females
1st Age Group.

Complete Results:

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Running with the Devil 6 hour, Mt Creek Ski Resort, Vernon, NJ. 7/21

New Jersey Trail Series puts on my favorite New Jersey race:  Running with the Devil.

There are many unique things about this race that makes it so much fun (as long as you are resigned to the fact that you will be doing a lot of hiking in order to make it up the hills).

This race takes place on a ski slope at Mt. Creek in Vernon NJ.  We actually start inside the building and run out the doors and up the mountain.  NJ Trail Series, first teases us with a short steep uphill that leads to a runnable trail that leads us to the Devil of a hill.

At about .7 miles into the race, we hit the kind of UP that makes time moving forward feeling like it is going backwards.  It creates a burn in my quads and calves that I only get to feel one time per year.   This section of the course travels up the steepest hill I have ever climbed in a race.  According to my Garmin data, I see that we travel from the base of the hill that begin at 845.7 ft and reach the top of the complete climb at 1154.3 ft before we get relief as we travel a runnable .3 mile ATV trail through the cool woods.   That works out us running up 308.6 feet while covering only 354 meters (1,161.42 ft) of ground.  It is intense.  Painful. Absolutely crazy.  According to rise/run, that works out to about a .30 slope... now I don't know what that really means... but it is steep!

I have been wearing night splints to help me loosen up tight calves and achilles so help reduce some plantar fascia pain.  I was shocked by just how much this hill hurt my calves on the first trip.  I only got about half way up before I needed to stop moving due to the burn.  I was sure that the next lap would be accompanied by fatigue that would make the pain worse.  I was hoping to get to 12 miles before I was unable to continue on.

As I slowly moved forward, my friend Diane caught me and we continued on together.  She is recovering from knee surgery and this was going to be her longest hardest effort since being able to run again some time ago.  We moved along together enjoying anything runnable, laughing at how chicken we both are on downhills, and cursing together under our breathes while propelling ourselves up the Ups.

At about 1.65 miles, we reached the summit.  I stopped to tighten my laces, as my feet were slipping out of my loosely tied Grits.  Once snugged up, my calves felt a lot better.

The total lap was a 5k.  Much of the return trip was incredibly runnable, if you do not mind the possibility of falling forward down a hill.  I seem to have too much fear to be good at this race, so I basically try to get momentum and keep moving, while also holding myself back from a face plant or a butt slide.  I think heel strikers may have an advantage over my "up on my toes" foot plant when running down steep steep hills.  I end up running like I am skipping with one leg being braver than the other.

The last section of the trail is a steep decline into a small loop under a walkway and back up into the lodge.  We run through the building, back out on to the porch, down the stairs, and out onto the loop.

I placed my cooler right next to the door to the porch which saved me tons of time refueling.  Actually I wasted very little time between loops.  I stopped to pee just once after loop 2.  After loop 4 I had to get a rock from my shoe and I filled an ice bandana that I wore for the last two laps.  Otherwise, I was just filling and grabbing a 10 oz handheld each lap.  I did eat a 3 cookies and took a few swigs of juice every 2 laps, but otherwise I ran this whole race on a water and a little sodium.  I felt great and actually ran my last lap faster the the ones before. I didn't plan to go low on fuel, it just felt right.  I ate a banana and 15 oz of juice before the start.

Diane and I stayed together for 3 full laps, where Diane veered off for the short loop.  She was in the 3 hour race and did not have enough time for 4 big ones.  I was so happy to see that she crushed her two lap goal.  The nice cooler weather helped us move faster than we thought we could.

I went out for lap 4 which was a bit lonely without a partner to commiserate with.  I managed to keep moving and find motivation in the fact that once I finished loop 4, I was over half way done with the crazy race.  A few more laps and the pain would stop.

In races like this, unless you have a crew with you to provide you with some intelligence, it is very hard to figure out what place you are in and where you competition is in relation to you.  A good crew will be able to tell you how fast your competition is moving and where they are on the course.   When alone in a race that starts with two races together, you can't recognize who you are racing against.  It is hard to know whether your competition has dropped out, took rest breaks, or ran to the bathroom while you ran by.

When I completed 5 laps I began to think about strategy.  In the last hour we can run the short loop.  The short loop is .5 miles, but I know nothing about it.  I know what the big loop looks like and it is isn't pretty.  I know Rick is unlikely to make a small loop easy, but he can't make it as hard as 306 feet up over 354 meters?  If I can run 7 short laps in 56 minutes, I would get more mileage than if I did 1 big one in the last 50 minutes.  If my nearest competition was on the same lap as me but less than .4 miles ahead of me, I could possible end up with more mileage by doing the short loop instead of the big.

However, my quads felt shredded and my body ached.  I wasn't sure I could do the short loop in 7 times in 8 minutes each since partial loops don't count.  I had no clue, except that part of the small loop down hill merged with part of the big loop's down hill and that steep down was a slow part of the run for me.  To help me strategize, I asked Rick if he had a choice 1 big or 7 little what would he do (since he marked the course).  He commented that I couldn't do 7 littles. This made me want to try to, but I knew since he knew the loop, he was probably right.

I made a decision to go for mileage since I had no idea if I was even competitive with anyone.  My guess was that I was probably in 3rd place or worse.  So just as I reached the fork requiring a choice between big or small, I headed out to the big. If it took me too long and my last lap didn't count, I would still get 21.7 miles run and that had more value to me than 20 miles and quitting.

Off I went to say goodbye to the big loop until next year, but that steep hill would not let me say goodbye.  I held me there on it side, stuck in time, frozen.  I tried switch-backing over the steep double wide track. It worked to take the pressure off my aching muscles but it too way too long to go up.  But when I tried to go straight up, my legs burned so bad that I would have to stop.  I could feel the time ticking away and feared my delay would cost me the lap.  I dug deep, started grunting my way up and made it to the top. I knew there was two more up hills to face before I hit the down.  Running was hard.  The burning was distracting but I was proud to still be running.  I was winning this fight against myself! I felt strong and weak at the same time.  Up that last hill I went knowing that if I hit the top with over 15 minutes to go, I was sure I had it.

I got to the top of the ski lift, refilled my bottle for the first time at the summit and saw that I have over 20 minutes to get down.  I kept moving, trying to decide if I would have enough time for a small loop too.  My body was burning and it would be close.  If I had 10 minutes left, I would try for 1 loop.  Less than that and I would call it a day.  I don't know what I could do a short loop in, but at this point I was breaking down and mentally was satisfied with my effort.

I crossed the mat with 8 minutes to go and decided I was done.  It felt good to stop.

Turns out I was 3 short laps behind second place and 1 big lap behind first.  It was a really nice surprise to be 3rd woman, and 8th Overall.

Now to take the year to recover and forget.... Good Bye Mountain, I will see you next year. :)

Time: 6 hours
Distance: 21.7 with 14000 ft elevation change (1000 up, 1000 down per 5k loop)
Female Place: 3rd
Overall Place: 8th

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Woodbridge Run for Pizza 4 Miler, Woodbridge, NJ. 7/11/12

I haven't raced, truly, since I blew up my foot in a 15k in late April.  I did go out to Ice Age 50 Miler in Wisconsin, but I knew before I even left New Jersey that I was not ready for the distance.

I have spent time recovering, rebuilding, and recently hitting the track for speed work.  Wednesdays are speed work days.  However, when I discovered my town had a 4 miler 2 miles from my house, I had to make this my "base-line"speed test run and see where I stand.  

The last fast race I ran was a 5k in early April, where I hit a 6:35 pace. I was a little lighter and a lot more confident then.  I hesitated about this race all day, because I did not want to put on those same racing flats I wore when I tore up my foot at the 4 mile mark of a 15k and do it all over again.  Also, I was pleased with my last 5k and I did not want to go out and discover that I lost to much speed.  I could not believe how anxious this race made me.  I decided to wear my Garmin so I can have data to help me pace.  That was a comfort.

I thought about running over to the race, but I wanted a few warm up miles in my trainers before swapping into my racing flats.  I also did not want to be stuck having to hobble home, if I blew up my foot again.  Once there, I learned that miss racing local runs.  This race had about 300 runners and I did not see a lot of familiar faces.  I have been out the local racing scene a little too long.  I need to do this more.

I met my friend Martin, who I haven't seen since the 15k.  We did our warm up together.  I always love hanging out with Martin at races.  

I wasn't sure where to line up.  At the start, I saw Ross, who calls me "Asthma" since he met me in a race while my asthma was so bad he thought I was going to need help.   I got in the second row, behind Martin, who is good at clearing the way.   Ross asked what my goal was.  I said I wasn't sure and he said "Really, YOU have no idea?"  :)   I confessed that I had a range... any where from sub-8 through sub-7 pace.   Secretly, I did want to break 7 but I wasn't really sure I could. 

I was grateful for the cooler temperatures, in the mid-80's today. It was still a little humid but not too bad at all.  The race started and I filed in behind the first place woman.  Just like last year, in the same place, I pulled up next to Esly whom I haven't seen since last year.   I asked how he felt (noticing the one calf sleeve) and he said "Good".  He asked me how I was, and I said "So, so".  Then he dropped a little psychological grenade which I can only assume was him trying to give me an edge.  He asked "So, you gonna break 25 today?"  I smiled and said "Not today.  Today I am playing."  He said, "We are on pace for 25?"  I said, "Yes, well, you know me.  This is how it starts.  This is how they all start. Then I fade."  First place woman pulled a little bit away and Esly whispered, "Just sit on her til the end"... I whispered back, "That's the plan." Then I pulled away from Esly. 

We hit the overpass and I looked at my pace and it had dropped too slow.  Sitting wasn't going to be a good idea if running easy would allow me to pass her.   I made a move, but settled back into 6:45 pace.  

I grabbed a cup of water at the mile 1 stop.  I usually wear my Garmin on the inside of my wrist, but I moved it to the top of my wrist today.  Don't know why.  When I saw the Mile 1 mark and needed to split the watch, I had just got handed water.  In a move of sheer brilliance, I grabbed the water in my left hand and proceeded to instantly DUMP out almost all of it as I turned my wrist so I could tap the split buttons.  I am sure the cup lady was either LOL or WTF as she watched my excellent decision making skills.  I hit split, salvaging a small swig of water.  I immediately recalled why I wear  the watch "upside down" and vowed to never wear the Garmin the right way again.  Mile 1 was 6:38. 

First place woman made a move back and passed me.  I decided to try the "Sit and Wait" strategy again.  I kept her in range as we moved along.  I ran a pace that felt like I was almost running too fast.  I made an effort to feel challenged but comfortable.  My middle two miles were 6:51 and 6:52 and very relaxed. First place woman would pull further ahead, then I would make up ground, and she would pull ahead again.  But as the minutes passed, I could sense her drifting out of range.

Mile 3 was clicked off at the top of the return trip over the overpass. As we hit that last mile, we both picked up a bit. It was here my asthma finally made an appearance. I felt tingly and uncomfortable.  I knew I could not kick the entire way in.  I decided that when I had a half mile to go, I would try to catch her.  At a half mile to go, I caught the guy ahead of me, who then battled me back and beat me by a second.  However, first place woman was a wonderful competitor and dropped the hammer in that last mile, taking the lead by 11 seconds.  My last mile was 6:43.  I looked back and Esly was just 1 second behind.  

It was a fun race. Having her there always 5-10 seconds ahead of me really motivated me.  Having my Garmin did help me run an evenly paced race.  I love the feeling of a good road race and I think I need to pop into a few more of these! :)

16 OA/ 303 runner
2nd F
6:46 pace