Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence Marathon, Rockland Park, NY. 8/24/12

With a name like the Self-Transcendence Marathon, how could I not run it :)?

I am very grateful for Alanna, who picked me up at 5 am on Friday so we could drive up together.  The ride was about an hour and drives are always easy at 5 am... when someone else is doing it ;).  (Thank you).

As we arrived, a bus load of primarily non-english speaking (or not native english speaking) people also did too.  It was a fantastic experience being part of a small event that had such an incredible international following.

As we walked towards to the start, the mist over Rockland Lake was beautiful.  The energy coming from the masses of runners was so friendly and inspiringly positive to me. People seemed happy.  I didn't sense a huge competitive energy... just a bunch of people preparing for a long run on a Friday morning.  Despite feeling sluggish the day before, I was starting to feel ready to try to run a little.

The course was 9 loops, nice and flat, with the first one a little shorter than the remaining eight 2.93 mile loops.  About 500 people lined up.  I had to pee..  I thought about going back to the potty line, but wasn't sure I would have enough time.  After a moment of (complete and utter peaceful) silence, I still had to pee.  The commands were give about 7:07 am and we were off.  (I still really had to pee). I was immediately swallowed up by the runners as I was stuck behind a few less aggressive at the start than myself.  (Hurry up people! I really really have to pee!)  I was hoping that I once I started to run and I would forget about having to pee, but after a mile that was not going to happen. (Oh boy did I have to pee!)

I made it around the course, ran as fast as I could right to the course side port-a-potty and then finally I felt like I could relax.  On the second or third loop, I saw Arpan, who I met and ran with at the BUS 6 hour Birthday run.   He tried to run a little with me, but I was moving well (about 7:45-7:50 pace) and Arpan had recently finished running over 2700 miles in 52 days and was a little tired still. Slacker! ;)   (Yeah, um... that was not a typo. Go look at your log for the year.  How many miles do you have?  Arpan ran 2700 miles in less than 2 months and technically DNF... but at that level of awesomeness there is no DNF)  He ran this distance while competing affiliated Self-Transcendence 3100 race (the World's Longest Ultra).  Arpan could see I was trying to stick to my pace and let me go.  Later he passed me on a bike :).  I give him credit for not just riding a bike everywhere... like to the fridge, the bathroom, from the bedroom to the living room.  After 2700 miles in 52 days, I don't think I would be able to walk. It was nice to catch up with him after the race for a little bit.

Oh wait, this is about me.... so as I ran, I was surprised at how good I felt.  I was not shooting for a PR. I know I stink it up in the summer.  I also had already logged over 77 miles in the 6 days before so I was surprised I was able to hold just sub-8's.

Although it seems the 3 mile loop might get boring, this race was so interesting that I did not get bored at all.  Around many bends, we could find small simple gatherings of people or individuals singing acapella, playing the sitar, or their violin.  There was someone drumming.  There was a four piece band with electric guitar and a flute.  People were cheerful, and positive.  There was not a big deal made about or by these musicians.  It was not a highlight feature of the race.  Mostly it felt like they just happened to decide to just be there and make music.  For someone who runs without my iPod, this was nice.

The Aid stations were plentiful.  I believe 3 per lap.  Water and Cytomax were provided.  I noticed fruit and other snacks on some tables.  I tried some Cytomax but all I could think of was how Cytomax was very close to the word Cytoxan and this made me queazy.  Cytoxan was the name of my chemo.  I couldn't drink more than one cup.  I am sure it is a fine choice of sports drink, but not so much for me.  I stuck to water for the rest of the race.

I had 2 gels pinned to my shorts and a few more in my cooler which was set right next to the course.  I love loop courses and small races because of these lovely conveniences.  Often in ultras, you can park right next to the course and crew yourself from your car.  So wonderful.  Big marathons make racing so much more complicated than this sports needs to be.  This marathon was a wonderful exception.

I took some salt before the start, actually 4 e-caps.  I didn't feel like stopping to grab more.  I am experimenting with getting by with less, so I wanted to see how things went on 4 e-caps and two gels.

I took my first gel early on, about 6 mile in.  I felt ok.  At about 16 miles I took the second gel.  By then I was still on an 8 minute mile pace, but feeling sick and queazy and my stomach was crampy.  I was trying to wait it out but with 6 miles to go, I threw the gel away and made another bathroom stop.  At this point, it was very hot, and I was feeling the effects of the sun when in the shadeless sections.

Although one of the most interesting parts of this race was the small cups of seaweed the volunteers were handing out, I just could not bear to try it on a unsettled stomach.  Maybe next year.

Those last two laps were tough.  I slowed a lot (to about 8:30-8:40) and just tried to keep moving.  I was so happy to see that finish shoot on the final lap.

I crossed the line in 3:34, feeling over heated and needing to sit.  I staggered my tired legs over to the med tent and asked to simply just sit for a moment. Being one of the earlier finishers, there was not much for the med tent staff to do, so they gave me their undivided attention and had wet clothes and ice packs for me.  They had even filled a plastic pail large enough to climb into with cold water.  I climbed completely inside, dunking myself and feeling so amazingly refreshed (and grateful to have been one of the early female finishers so I got to dunk in fresh water).

I quickly felt cooler, got hosed off and went to look for Alanna.  While I walked around, my stomach just could not settle down.  I knew it was because I did not take in enough calories during the race and my body was all messed up from this.

While we drove back, I recall telling Alanna how I can't believe how easy running feels when things are going well.  It should seem that running faster should be harder, but sometimes it just feels easier to move quicker.  Sometimes when moving slower, the distance feels further therefore harder to deal with, but when moving fast, the miles sneak up and surprise you.  I love when I feel this way in a race.

It took a long time, but by the time we got home I finally started to feel a little better... just before I had to leave for my flight to South Florida so that I could spend the weekend with Tropical Storm Isaac.  LOL! Hey after a 50k and a marathon book ending my week, I needed some rest days.

I was incredibly happy to run a 3:34 at the end of 103.9 mile 7 day stretch.  I did not think I would be able to run so fast on such a tired body.

My time was good enough for 8th place female and 52 overall out of 499 runners.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Turkey Swamp 50k, Freehold NJ. 8/19/12

These last two weeks, my feet have been aggravating me... or I have been aggravating them (more like it).  I was getting frustrated and cutting runs short to try to recover.  After a week of this, I called the people I trust most about stuff like this for some ideas.  As usual, I talked to Ray who always gives me good advice.

I also gave John Price a call.  I like John.  He is a sweet man who makes me feel like a slacker.  When people tell me they think I run a lot, I think about John pushing his jogging stroller full of his own aid across the United States with no crew to help.  I think about him running, jogging, meandering through the UK on his own with a backpack full of gear.  This makes me feel like someday I really do need to stop squandering my time and start applying myself.

John, amongst a few others, inspired me to start streaking.  This happened when I decided to try to cover as much mileage in 2012 that John covered in the 87 days it took him to cross the country.  I knew I would need to run daily to do this (or quit my job, buy a baby stroller, and a one way ticket to San Francisco).

So I called John. He gives very well thought out advice.  What rang the most true to me were two points.  First that all the doubling, even at half the mileage was just not giving me enough rest anymore.  He also mentioned that all the other things in my life are likely disrupting my rest more than just my training.  Moret stress in life = less time to recover.

I had read an article about "over training" by Maffetone.  It concerned me.  I run so easy on most days, that I find it hard to believe that I could be "over-training." If so, the prognosis was so bleak (quit running, start walking, change diet, etc, etc, etc) that I was a sent off seeking confirmation that my slower training paces have protected me from crushing myself with hard-on-the-body mileage.  I know that if I asked most of the people I surround myself with, they would guffaw in my face and say "Oh, of course you are over-training!"  But I knew if John could transport himself on foot for over 3000 miles from California to Virginia, then he wouldn't "look" at my numbers and automatically tell me I am nuts... right?

Well he didn't, but he suggested I lay off the doubles and try to double up the mileage to get the same volume in. (That will be hard for me since my schedule is working so well night now and allowing two windows to train per day).  Ray agreed with me when I told him I thought I needed a rest week.  So I took it.  I ran about 40 miles last week.  That included a 12.25 miles on Saturday with a Steve M. with TNT who wanted a running buddy for his 20 miler.  I definitely tapped into some self-restraint when decided to call my run at 12 and not go for 20.  If Steve was slower, I would have likely stayed longer, but Steve's fast pace was tough so I called it early to save some energy for the next day's ultra. 

I woke up Sunday, on race day morning, and the weather was an absolute gift. I felt great. I ate well the night before. I was hydrated well.  I was ready to give it a shot.  I have a few lower mileage weeks and my confidence was lacking from this.  My last 6 hour included a lot of foot pain and my last 10.5 mile trail run ended with a lot of pain, just the week before.  I was not sure what was going to happen. I never really am. 

I knew I wasn't going to run low 4 hours, but I thought maybe 4:30-4:45 might be possible. However, what I really needed most was weekly mileage.  I threw on my Garmin, which is now becoming a habit in races, and 6 minutes before the gun was to go off it died.  I had my trusty timex in my car.  Ultras are great b/c you park feet from the start.  I grabbed my timex and still had time to pee before the start :) 

The race was tiny....  but a race is a race and when the gun went off I took off hard.  No idea what pace I was running, but I would guess 7:45-8:00 for the first mile.  At 4 miles in, I asked a runner with a garmin what pace he had us at and it was 8:15 pace.  I ran the 2.6 mile loops for the first 6 in a row in about 22-23 minutes.  I felt great until suddenly it hit me that i was tired. 

I recall clicking off laps and it feeling easy. I love cooler to cold weather (as do most people).  Once the humidity kicks in I am a slug.  I was drinking my fuel, running happy.  Lap after lap, it was like a game... get to my special checkpoints by a certain times and keep going.  No problem.. until lap 8... then there was a problem.  I was leading and had no idea where #2 was.

I ran past our mini-headquarters where John, Alanna, Bill, Margo, Patty and I left our stuff.  Carissa and Tricia had made it for support.  I saw Alanna and asked her to come with me.  She came out and I told her then that I could feel myself falling apart.  I just didn't feel "right", like when things click for me in races.  My energy was gone and it hit me like a ton of bricks, with 4 laps to go.  She encouraged me to just keep running and I tried.  At this point, all I could think of was 4 laps seemed so far.  My back, neck, and arms felt odd and tingly with pain and pressure.  I did not like that part.  My feet were achy but really not too bad yet.  

I didn't like the way I felt and knew I was falling off pace for a good race.  I decided I needed to just back off and make sure I got it done.  The most important thing I have planned this week is big mileage.  So feeling a little disappointed that I was backing down, I still did.  I already expected to be passed by number 2 at some point.  At the start of lap 9 I was now in 2nd.  I thought for a moment about responding to the challenge and fighting for 1st.  I was very low energy at that point and decided to just stick to my plan and complete the distance at a pace that would allow me to continue training the rest of this week.  

I have been reading Noakes' "Waterlogged".  I have not gotten to the part yet where he discusses salt.  Summaries and reviews discuss his conclusion that no salt is required during ultras, so today's race was a test.  No E-caps. No sodium (that was not part of an aid station drink).  I am not sure how I feel about this.  I may still stick with my E-caps.  I'll take the placebo effect if it makes me feel peppy.  I definitely was not covered in as much salt as in past races.  I did feel a lot more sluggish with about 11 miles to go than I expected.  However, so did a lot of people by that point.  The 8 am start placed us close to noon at that point and it did get more humid and warmer.  I am a terrible summer racer and I know this.  I accept this and train for winter time :)   

For this race,  I packed (6) 10oz bottles and extra juice.  I calculated about 5-6 hour of running at 10-20 oz per hour for 60-120 oz at 6 hours.  Four I filled with half juice / half water.  Two were plain water.  I carried fluid from the start and emptied about 4 of my bottles (2 juice and 2 water).  I got tired of my juice so I also grabbed cups from the aid station during the last few laps.  I must have consumed about 50, maybe 60 oz max during the 5:15 hour run.  Although I definitely drank to thirst, this still seems to be on the lower end of what is an ideal amount of hydration per hour.  However, I was sloshing at some points so I will not be forcing more fluids into me (first I will add back some E-caps).

I weighed in at 117.0 before I left my house and was 113.4 when I got home (after a BBQ) so I really did loose a lot.  However, I don't think I could have consumed more fluid and not threw up or had stomach issues.  I am not sure what to do about this amount of weight loss. I don't think I will do anything.  I don't think I need to worry until I start creeping towards 110 (if I start at 117).  I expect to lose weight in summer ultras, as well as any race.  Rarely, will people not lose something since we all tend to sweat more than we drink. 

At my lowest point with 10 laps done, I drank half an Ensure and this helped quickly.  I should have had this at 8 laps in.  This is a good thing to remember.

After I was passed, I was able to relax and simply enjoy the rest of the laps.  With each lap my feet hurt more and I was looking forward to icing them down when I stopped.  Finally, when I got to stop at 5:15, I was happy to have still held 2nd place.  The race emptied out and I believe many people dropped down to shorter races when they learned the course was long.  

I ended up with 32.7 miles for the day which gets me about a 9:36 pace for the run.  Not too bad for a Sunday and not so hard that couldn't train today.  The sting of letting a race go before my eyes was eased a bit by my 4.75 mile run today at 8:36. (I haven't been able to resume training so quickly after a race of a marathon or longer that fast ever. I am sure the rest week and the slower pace at the end helped.)  I'll take the slower time for higher mileage... this week. :)

Thank you for reading!