Sunday, November 25, 2012

NCR Trail Marathon. Sparks, MD. 11/24/12

A few weeks ago I though about running the NCR again for time.   Last year, I ran it but to pace  friend.  I was not in marathon shape back then and had a lot trouble sticking with my friend for the first half at 8:00 minute pace.  She went on to run a BQ which was the plan.  I faded to a leisurely run/walk for a 3:55.

On Jan 1, 2012, I was able to focus on getting back into shape.  That is when I started doubling up my runs most days and started streaking.  I am now up to "Days: 329 Distance: 3,133.9 mi"according to my log.

In 2009, I was running super and it has taken me three years now to get out of shape and back into shape.  It is almost exactly three years later and I am either matching or besting all my lifetime PR's.  So when lining up for the NCR, my PR marathon course where I ran a 3:15:47 in 2009, I was hoping to crush that time today.

I knew it was supposed to be windy.  It was also a bit colder than the past NCR's since the start time was bumped up to 8:30 am instead of 9 am and the wind was kicking at gusts expected to hit 25 mph.  The temps were mid-30's with the wind making it feel sub-30. Brrr!  For me this is just outside of what I would consider my ideal marathon weather (little too windy and too chilly making me wear too many layers and that slows me down).  However, just two days earlier I ran a PR 8k in 6:25 pace so no matter what the weather was like today I was going for it!   Besides, I expected the trees along the rail trail to shield much of that wind (I hoped).

Before I continue with the report, I want to thank Jenn P. for coming down to the race, driving me and her husband John to the start and then taking great care of me after the race by dealing with getting my crap out of the hotel and taking me back to my car.  I couldn't park at the start and she helped us avoid the busses by dropping us off in the morning.  Thank you!

The Race:

I decided to wear my TEAM FIGHT shirt to show my support for the Ulman Cancer Fund that has helped me in many ways as a young adult diagnosed with Cancer.  It was great to see Team Fight shirts out there.  I was proud to represent a group that does so much good!

Gun goes off and I know we have a big down hill start that I plan to take full advantage of. M1 - 6:36.
This does not concern me at all.  I did not have to work for that pace and knew I would settle down once we hit the flats.   M2 - 7:08.

The tow path is about a 1% average incline to the turn around which is just past 13.5 miles out.  I feel the wind in my face for parts of this and actually feel good about the idea of a tail wind and a decline on the way in.  I am cruising along, not working very hard at all.  I am watching my Garmin for pacing, but the trees seemed to be messing up the data.  I was bouncing around between 6:50-8:00's the entire time and felt like the watch wasn't really giving me very helpful information. (It is not set for instantaneous pace, it was just having trouble picking up signals I guess).

I glanced at it during each mile, but made a point to not look at my splits at the mile mark because I knew I was running well, as fast as I could sustain without going too hard. It just didn't matter what the watch said.  So now is the first time I get to see my splits! :)

M3 -7:19  
M4 -7:13
M5 -7:15
M6 -7:07
M7 -7:17

I decide to gel every 6 miles. I had no trouble consuming the gels on the run.

The course is basically flat.  It is a hard packed rail trail making it more like a road race through the woods.  In fact, I wore my Brooks T7 Racers for this!  They were perfect!

It can become very lonely out there.  I am good at running solo, but it can be hard to sustain a race effort when there is so few people around to actually race.  I ran much of this race completely alone after we all spread out on trail.  Either I was passing men or they were passing me, but never once did I settle in to run with, behind, or near anyone else for any extended length of time.  Spectators are only present at places where the road intersects the trail.  These points were several miles apart.  Only groups of about 5-10 people made it out to cheer or volunteering.  I did a lot of thinking while out there and it felt just relaxing to simply run fast in complete silence.

I did notice some wind kicking up around Mile 8.  I believe the "steepest" part of this OUT occurs between mile 9 and the turn around.  As soon as I hit 8, I could feel myself working too hard this early so I back down.  I made a decision to try to just settle in and relax so I could maximize my effort on the way back when we get the decline and hopefully a tail wind!

M8 - 7:38  
M9 - 7:20
M10 - 7:33
M11 - 7:37
M12 - 7:17

When I ran the D&L Heritage marathon a few weeks ago, it was cold.  I didn't bring endurolytes with me, since I use those mostly in warmer conditions.  However, I felt so sluggish in the second half I wondered if some E-caps would have helped me feel more pep?  Today I stashed 4 E-caps on me and at 12.5 I figured I should take them since water should be at the half marathon mark (They had a relay exchange at that point.)

Rather than fumble at the water station, I took them out at about 12.8 and popped them in my mouth. (Bad move). As I approached 13, there was no water stop.  Oh crap!  I slowed down a lot and tried to swallow these pills with out water and almost threw up.  It was not pleasant! (Next time I will just carry a salt packet).   Swallowing those tabs was just not happening, so I tucked them under my tongue hoping my saliva would not eat through the gel coating releasing all that disgusting powder before I could get to water.  I finally got some fluids at the 13.5.

M13 - 7:43  (1:35:30 split)
M14 - 7:38

I was pleased with my 13 miles split, predicting about a 3:12, if I could match what I did on the way out.  This could be possible on the return on this course.

After we ran out to the 13.5-ish, turned back towards 14, I tried to focus on digging for speed where I could.  I took that second gel.  Just before 13, I saw Jessi leading (as expected) and she and I exchanged encouragement.  On my way back, I saw Dave L. looking strong.  And then I saw John who shared that I was 2nd woman!  I thought I was, but I was getting a bunch of mis-information b/c spectators did not realize that the relayers (yellow bib) were running with the marathoners (white bib) and were counting both.

M15 - 7:26
M16 - 7:27
M17 - 7:27
M18 - 7:25

Ok, so this wasn't going as planned!  Where was that speed?  LOL.  I realized by mile 18 that I was just incredibly tired and the stupid wind was not at my back.  I still felt like it was in my face again and I was kind of bummed about that. (I should have taken that final gel, but I failed myself there. I have to remember to do this next time).

It was getting hard to run with speedy form. I found myself settling back on my heels more and it seemed like my feet were just slamming into the ground rather than bouncing off.  I ran through a water stop and heard someone handing out water call out "Shannon! Is that you?!"  I grunted "Uh- huh" and he called out "Go McGinn!" (I found out later that was Christian.  I was too tired to turn to look as I ran past).  However, being cheered for by name unexpectedly gave me a mental boost. Thank you Christian!

M19 - 7:20
M20 - 7:25

Once hit 20, it was all about damage control. I was trying to run fast enough to not loose too much time,  while not also getting myself into deeper into a energy depleted hole that would stall me later when we tackled the hills in the last 2 miles.

I was really fighting to stay moving at this point.  It was very hard work.  I was looking at my watch too much.  It was taking forever to just cover a half mile.  I was struggling.

M21 - 7:28
M22 - 7:38
M23 - 7:33
M24 - 7:39

At 24, we leave the trail and get back on the roads where we have no shelter from the wind and have two significant long steep hills to deal with.  The worst of them in mile 26.  I was actually doing well out here.  Even though the pace was slow, based on the guys near by, I was moving the fastest on the road.  On the hill, I passed a few of men who passed me on the trail.  Sometimes it becomes clear that all those miles in training do make me stronger than I realize.

M25 - 7:50
M26 - 8:05

As we turned the final corner, I found myself in what felt like a slow motion kick to the finish against a man who started next to me at the beginning.  It was almost comical to try to hurry up into the strong wind. I think he said "Oh, you can have it!" and didn't even care to try to race me in.  We were both exhausted!

Last .2 - 1:50 (8:02 pace). 

I really love this race.  It is just hard ENOUGH.  I have to work out there and can get a great result.  I am so thrilled to have been less than 30 seconds off a PR for a race I did not specifically train for. Another gel could have made that difference, or maybe not.  Who knows? Who cares? ;)  I went for the PR today and maybe a less aggressive start would have resulted in a less significant fade, but I am not sure if my time would have been much better off for it.   All I can do is find another marathon and try again and ideally hold around a 7:15 longer.  But honestly, I could not be pleased had I run even faster.  What a great race!

Time: 3:16:11 (24 seconds short of a new PR).
OA:  29th place
Gender: 2nd place Female

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ashenfelter 8k, USATF-NJ Masters' Championship. Glen Ridge, NJ. 11/22/12

The Ashenfelter 8k is the second to last USATF-NJ Championship race left in the Grand Prix series.  It is a Category II race and a Masters Team Championship.  Anyone of any age can use this race to fill their Long Distance Running Series scorecard.  My Cat II score need some bolstering.  There is no better way to snag a high score than by running a huge race!  Today there were 2551 total runners, of which 1244 women.  

Horace Ashenfelter himself was present to shake the hands of award winners at the end of the race. From the race website: "Horace Ashenfelter, the Olympic Gold Medalist that the race is named after, was one of America's premier distance runners during the 1950s, winning 17 national championships at a variety of distances. But his most remarkable achievement was winning the gold medal in the 1952 Olympic 3,000-meter steeplechase.  Ashenfelter was the first American since James Lightbody in 1904 to win the Olympic steeplechase beating the favorite, Vladimir Kazantsev of the Soviet Union. Horace Ashenfelter also won the 1952 Sullivan Award as the nation's outstanding amateur athlete.  Ashenfelter served in World War II and then attended Penn State. He won the NCAA 2-mile run in 1949, the IC4A outdoor 2-mile in 1948 and 1949, and the IC4A indoor 2-mile in 1948. He was also AAU national champion in cross-country, 1951, 1955 and 1956; the steeplechase, 1951, 1953, and 1956; the 3-mile run, 1954 and 1955; the 6-mile, 1950; and the indoor 3-mile, 1952 through 1956."

This course is my PR 8k course from 2009. I ran a 33:04 that day. In 2009, I was racing my best. In the month of November 2009, I set my 50 mile, 5k, 8k, (10k en route to my)15k and my marathon PRs all within 21 days. Two weeks later, I then raced my first 100 miler and 18 days after that, ran my best 24 hour race which ended on 1/1/10.  

Then I hit a rough patch with my health.  I suffered hives and was advised it was an autoimmune issue.  I took tons of medicines and gained weight. I had some foot pain, chronic plantar fasciitis and plantar fibromas.  Everything hurt all the time.  I had a very tough time racing.   

Since 2010, I have been recovering and now chasing down my 2009 times.  Only recently have I finally been able to run some of the fastest races of my life.  Regardless of racing well, I can't help but feel like at any moment my body will betray me again, like it has in 2005 when I fought cancer, in 2007 when I had my thyroid removed due to a tumor, in 2010 when my immune system crashed - each time with no warning or way to stop the undesired decline in my health.  

So each day I step up to the starting line, I truly have no idea what I can do, but I do know that I will try to run my best when it matters.  However, today I was going for a fast time.  I have been dropping fast 10k's and figured I could realistically run faster than 33:04 today.  The weather was perfect. The course was fast. If I was going to better my 8k time, today was the day. 

John P. and I met, warmed up and lined up towards the front.  He was concerned we may be too far front. I was sure we weren't up far enough.  Series races are scored by GUN time, not chip time and I hate giving away spots by starting too deep in the pack.  In smaller races, I am usually in the second row.  Today we were about 8 second back from the start mat. 

The course is basically flat and fast with some slight roll to it.  We start with a decline, then headed up an incline in the first mile. I tried to get a fast start, but I get stuck in traffic.  Weaving though is faster than being trapped behind much slower runners, so I weave when asking to please be let through doesn't work.  I hit M1 - 6:22.

I feel very good and after the incline, I work any declines I can find as hard as I can without getting to far ahead of myself.  The pack is spreading out by this point.  I feel like I am running just on my Red Line, where if I push a little harder I may blow up.  My quads feel tired from the hilly 50 miler last Saturday. I figure that I will run hard until they give out on me.  M2 - 6:27.  

My 2 mile time was 12:50.  I can't remember running a 2 mile split this fast ever, but I don't alway pay attention at the two mile mark.  I start to wonder if I can set a new 5k PR en route. 

My current 5k PR is 20:27 and I have been hoping to one day break 20 minutes.  I feel like I am ready to give that a shot, but I was not planning to do it in the middle of a 8k.  I see the mile 3 clock.  M3-6:23 (for 19:14).  I know that my last .1 of my 5k's are usually between 39-45 seconds and this tells me I am on sub-20 pace!  

photo by Karl Leitz
There is no 5k split, but the 6:24 pace for 3 miles is 5k PR pace for me by about 30 seconds or more. At this point I am feeling the pace, but I try to focus on just getting to the next mile.  

I hear Randy M. call out from the sidelines, "Go Shannon, you are 9th woman!"  I had no idea that I was doing that well.  Now it was about holding on and not losing any spots.  I dug a little as I approach mile 4, since we had a bit of an incline towards the last loop around a neighborhood.  M4 - 6:25.

No females pass me as we hit the only hill of the race. (However one more showed up in the online results). This hill is a steep incline that was not very long, but it took the wind out of me.  My lungs were hurting and I couldn't get in enough oxygen as I crested the top. My only consolation was that I knew we were going to head down a decline to the finish.

We popped out onto the straight away with about .6 to go. That last stretch was a fight.  My lungs were burning.  I was so glad to see that finish line in the distance.  
Last .97 - 6:18.

Time - 31:55 (6:25 pace)
Overall - 127/2551 total
Age Group - 1/307
Gender - 10th Female/ 1244

This was one of the best races of my life.  I have been trying to break 20 mins in the 5k knowing I would need a 6:26 to do it.  Here I ran almost 5 miles at 6:25 pace! :)  I am super thrilled about this. 

The nicest ending to the day was getting called up for my AG win, getting awarded the embroidered running jacket that reads "Award Winner 2012" and getting to shake Horace Ashenfelter's hand.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Stone Mill 50 Mile, Gaithersburg, MD. 11/17/12

A long time ago, Alanna told me about this really inexpensive 50 miler in MD in November.  So I immediately signed up.  It was $35.  I wasn't even sure if I could go, but I love RD's who put on inexpensive races and want to spend my money at those events. 

If not for Alanna planning everything for this race, I would never have gone.  She booked a hotel, she drove, she knew where to go and at what time we needed to be places.  I didnt finish packing until Friday morning, before work the day before we left. I felt like my head was not in this at all.  I have been really worn out from starting a new job, then dealing with the hurricane, then the blizzard, and then catching up at both jobs. Work has been extra busy and understaffed.  I feel like the last three weeks of my life have been tension-filled and I just needed a vacation.

I have an aversion to long single loop ultras. Mostly I am not a fan of carrying all the stuff I need on me. I don't use drop bags and never pack any when I have the option.  I have no idea what I am going to need at mile 29 of a 50 and I don't feel like loading up a bag with crap I wont need or use and then forgetting to collect half a day later. 

This was primarily a trail loop.  Because of my low energy this week, I imagined a rocky, rooty, autumn-leaved covered, ankle-breaking trail.  I imagined 50 miles of me cursing under my breath as I miss important dangling strips of surveyer's tape marking our course because I scan the ground inches ahead in fear of breaking my toes kicking rocks or knocking my teeth out tripping and falling on my face.  I already know I will never be as fast on trails as I am on road courses (not many are), but the idea of taking a long trip to run slow and fall down a lot always starts to lose it's appeal as it gets closer. 

Only last Thursday, I looked up the race so I could figure out what to pack.  I also found a race report about the elevation and course.  The race report happily shared that this race was flat, fast, and a combination of bridal paths, single track trails, and road and not something the purist mountain-trail runner would love.  I got excited and thought maybe a new 50 mile PR could be possible.  Alanna's husband, who lived in the area, shared that he thought that the report had to be completely inaccurate.  (Yes, he was correct.)  I decided I would make a game day decision about whether I would run with Alanna and have a fun relaxing day or go for a PR or blow up trying.

Race day morning offered up some cold weather.  32 degrees that felt like 28, with the possibility of it rising to the 50s through out the day.  We arrive about 5:15 for a 6:00 am start.  I decide to wear capris, a newer pair of trail shoes, a long sleeve tech shirt with a t-shirt over the tech shirt, gloves that convert to mitten and my head lamp. I had on a neck warmer, and a fleece hat.  I was so cold still.  Alanna suggested I slip my arm warmers on under my long sleeve shirt, when I said that I wish my shirt was thicker.  That was brilliant and it worked perfectly.

I wore my hydration pack with about 4 gluten free, dairy free bonk breaker bars, some endurolytes and a few tylenol if I needed them.  I was worried my feet would hurt and I was planning to wear the same shoes for the entire race.  I was worried that my plantar fasciitis would act up and I would be in pain with 30 miles to go.  (The shoes were awesome and my feet never hurt!).   I also wore my small nathan's waist pack to collect the items as I not longer needed them (like my headlamp, my gloves, wrappers from the bonk breaker bars. etc...  It was a good system.  I didn't even know I had it on.

As we start in the freezing cold, I can already tell I am not motivated to run for a PR.  I decided that it would make this whole race a billion times more enjoyable for me if I just stayed with Alanna and spent the day with her.  She is probably my most favorite person to run with.  It is always a nice run with her.  We are not competitive with each other and are always supportive.  Alanna's strategy always seem to be to run a steady consistent effort that gets her to the finish line every single time.  My strategy is generally to run as hard I can from the gun leaving me to either snag a fast race or to blow up trying.  

After the first hour, we took so long to hit 5 miles (mostly because a crowd moving through single track trails in the dark is not often incredibly speedy), that I knew getting sub-10 hours was going to be hard unless we started running 11 min miles.

Then by 6 miles in I really needed to find a real bathroom.  Yes, I understand that for trail runners, the world is the bathroom, but I actually prefer a real one when possible. By mile, 13 we were out of the woods and running across a highway to another trail system.  Alanna spotted a Starbucks and we made a pit stop. (Clearly we were in a huge rush :) ). There is nothing like stopping in a coffee shop in the middle of a race!

By the time we hit 18 miles our pace had dropped to 13:00 per mile. I had no idea what 13 minutes per mile x 50 miles equalled so I dediced that shooting 12 min pace was better anyway.  Alanna and I started alternating leading on the single track as we ran along.  We tried to knock time off our pace and managed to drop about 14 seconds off our average pace before things got hard.  At that point we decided 12 hour finish would be acceptible.

By the time we hit mile 24, we had a lovely flat tow path to cruise along but all the ups and down beat us up so we ended up hiking along this section discussing how nice a 13 hour finish would be since 13 hour was the cut-off.   We added a few running breaks in to our hiking (Alanna is the faster walker I have ever met.  I had to jog at times to keep up).  We met a few people along the way and had a lot of fun.

At mile 33 we reached an aid station. Someone asked how far into the race we were, and we were told 35! My watch was about 2 miles off ... in our favor!  I had renewed energy from that lovely news, or from the Mt Dew.  We left the Aid Station and continued onward.

Alanna started to get rejuvenated!  Suddenly she was taking downhills in low 9 minute mile paces and we were hauling for long stretches of trail. When we hit 9 miles to go and had just under 1:40 minutes until 11 hours I started to think we could run sub-11 hours if we could average 11 min miles on the way in.

Alanna and I started pushing the pace and working hard. We hit the next Aid Station and someone said we were at mile 42, but we had calculated that we should be at mile 43.   With about 77 minutes left, I was sure we could crank out 7 more miles, but not 8 miles.  I asked another Aid Station worker who stated with authority that we were in fact at mile 43! I knew it!

I started rushing Alanna and declaring that we can make 7 miles in time, when another runner stated "You have 8 miles left not 7, the course is 51 miles".  What? Alanna looked defeated and releived at the same time.  We cant make it.  We need to run sub-10's.  I refused to believe him and said that I think we should try.  I thought I could go for sub-10 pace for 77 minutes while hoping there was only 7 miles left, not 8.  Alanna told me to give it a shot.  I took off.

I was running fast and it felt like I just started.  I felt fresh and it was awesome.  But then I started to get concerned that I was missing marks.  The tape was spread so far apart that it seemed I had made a wrong turn. The last thing I wanted to do was to be cruising sub-9 in the wrong direction. I would slow down to conserve energy in case I needed to back track and it was slowing my pace to greater than 10's just to make sure I wan't going the wrong way.

As I slowed I got cold since the temps were dropping.  Finally with about 4 miles to go, I stopped to get my winter gear from my pack.  This was the deal breaker.  A man caught up to me as I dug through my pack and confirmed that the course was 51 or more miles.  At that point, I knew I could't make it. I put on my hat and gloves and slowed down.  We hit the last aid station. I hung around and had soup and a few sweets.   I then ran/walked it in slowly finishing in 11:46. 

I was cold, tired, and ready to go home.  I didnt check results.  Alanna was a few minutes behind me. We left to head home shortly after her finish.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Giralda Farms 10k, USATF-NJ Championship, Madison, NJ. 11/11/12

Giralda Farms 10k is one of the last 700 pt Championship races of the season.  All age groups can count 700 point races despite that fact that this one was the Men's Masters Championship.  I need two of these 700 pts to fill my scorecard.  I would like to do that by the end of the season.

I ran it before and recalled it being a hilly course.  Jim O. reminded me that it was "butterfly" shaped.  We run it like a figure 8.  We start in the middle, run down the body, then do one wing, run down the middle run around a cone and back up the middle, then do the other wing, come back up the middle and finish.  I could not recall the extent of the hills, but I knew it wasn't going to be flat.  If I run a hilly loop course well, it should have some ability to balance out since the ups should equal the downs.  I hoped to have a shot at a new PR, but like always I am never really sure how things are going to go when the guns goes off.

This is a big race with 5k runners and 10k runners starting together.  In the 10k race alone, there was about 580 runners.  I move up to the front of the race behind Jim. For the record: I LOVE racing when Jim O. is there.  Like I said to him at some point today, he is a true Racer. When he is on the course and calls out something, it is always more than the always appreciated positive support (i.e. "Looking Good").  Instead Jim's advice is alway fact-based, race-related intelligence that is helpful for strategizing.  He will simply call out what place I am in, where the other women ahead of me are, and maybe what the up-coming terrain is going to look like.  I like this type of information.  It gives me something to focus on and answers questions I have.

The race starts and Mile 1 is pretty much a down hill.  I don't want to go crazy fast, but I don't want to give away the gravity assist, so I try to find a comfortable speed that doesn't feel like work. I know I am going fast because the pack of guys around me are all faster than me.  I don't care at that point, but I do plan to settle down on the first uphill that we will face shortly after the first turn.

Up the hill we go and I see a few women ahead of me that I know I can run faster than.  The only way this can make sense, considering the men around me are faster than me, is if these women are in the 5k.  We pass M1 (at 6:25) and I figure I will soon find out who my competition is.

At the turnoff for the 5k, those women ahead take the turn and the 10ker head onward.  At this point I just try to find a rhythm by thinking about getting to the 3 mile mark feeling strong.  In Mile 2 some of the faster runners begin to overtake me, as they should.  I just try to settle in.  I cant recall whether we were still going uphill for part of mile 2, but my split suggests it!  M2 6:50

The third mile included running down the center of the course where I made some good time and got my pace back down. I hit M3 in 6:30.   I was still feeling good, but then everything fell apart in the next mile.

As we came back through the main road, we turn at a cone and headed back up the center of the course.  I am not sure how long this uphill stretch was but it felt like a mile.  After we exited the center of the course and headed out to the last "wing", we still went up after turning left.

At that point, I realized my shoe was coming untied.  I hoped it would be ok, but it worked itself completely loose.  I just stopped and tied it, probably giving away 4-5 seconds, but saving myself the distraction.  I hit M4 in 7:16

As we start to head downhill, I get passed by a girl in a yellow singlet.  My team wears yellow singlets. I don't, because I usually race in a sport bra.  If it was cold enough for me to wear a singlet, I would wear ours, but it was too hot today reaching 60 if I had to guess.  As this female hauls downhill, I just can seems to find my legs.  I am trying to take advantage of the down hill, but I feel like I am in quick sand.  She pulls away and I cant help but wonder who this fast chick is on my team that I don't know.  Although I am always trying to beat my own times, I am also always aware of who my competition is and what they can do.  I was stumped.  I hit M5 in 6:54.

In the last mile, we have to go back uphill, then up the center of the course to the short downhill to the shoot.  I decide I just have to try to catch her.  I catch back up to the guy I was running with when I stopped to tie my shoe.  We played leapfrog in this last mile more so than I have with anyone the entire race.  Every time I would get a step up on him, he would surge back ahead.  I would return a surge.  He would too.  We did this almost the entire way in.  As we came up to the last turn he encouraged me by saying "We are almost there!"  Because of our effort to duke it out on the incline, by the time I hit mile 6, I had caught the girl in yellow.  M6 6:42

After doing such hard work to get back up to here I had to try to pass her.  I wasn't sure how I wanted to do it.  I thought for a moment.  I could sit, wait, then surge hard at the end.  That seemed reasonable except I couldn't even surge on the downhill with gravity assisting me. What if I got no surge in me?

photo by Paul DeNunzio
So with about .15 to go I just decided to suck it up and race her in.  I made my move, passing the leap frog guy.  I pass her and she responds. I could see her in my peripheral.  Then I realized that we had much further to go than I thought.  Oh no!  I keep running hard and I don't feel her near me, but I felt I was running out of speed.  Crap!  Then I heard a spectator call out my name, yell for me to kick and warns "She is coming up on you!" At that point I just dug for everything I had left and while I ran as fast I could, in my mind I waited. I waited to see the silhouette of my competition in my peripheral... I waited for her surge past me. I waited to, this time, be the victim of the "Sit, Wait, and Surge" ending.  The only defense to the "sit, wait and surge" that is about to be dropped upon you by your competition is for you to run you ass off and beat them to the surge.  To pre-surge?  Pre-emptively Surge? LOL.  So ran harder,  while I waited for her to blow past me... but it never happened.  We hit the decline to the shoot. I saw the clock, the line, and I ran as hard as I could through it and then I almost threw up... but I didn't.  Last .2(4) - 1:21 (at 5:43 pace).  

I turn back and see the girl in the singlet and she is from a different team completely, but with the same singlet color! LOL!

Time: 41:58 (6:46 pace)
Overall: 79 of 581
Female: 8th of 249
Age Group: 1st 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Delaware & Lehigh Heritage Marathon, Northampton, PA. 11/4/12

First, no I was not registered to run the NYC Marathon.

Actually as of Friday, I was not planning to run a marathon this weekend.  I initially wanted to run the Friend2Friend Thunder Run, a trail half marathon in North Jersey that raises money for free mastectomies.   In light of the damage from Hurricane Sandy and the shortage of gas here in NJ  (especially North Jersey) I decided to look for other races that made practical sense.  Only today did I discover that the RD of the Thunder Run decided on Thursday that she was post-poning it two weeks since the park is not open.

I knew there was a marathon in PA, but I really wasn't sure I felt ready to run it.  After a very stressful week of dealing with the storm and then the road conditions and now the gas rationing, I have been on edge and anxious.  I have eaten like crap and not trained as much as I need to.  I feel sluggish.  But since there is gas in PA and I had friends carpooling out there, I thought I could help ease my own mind by bringing home fuel and getting in a long run.  I am an evened number licensed plate, and today is an evened numbered day, but there are better things to do with a Sunday morning than sit in a gas line for a few hours.

Clearly, I am somewhat traumatized by the storm, as evidenced by my constant search for gas when I actually have some gas in my car and two cans in my garage.  Power is being restored daily and more stations are opening to pump theirs.  However, I just don't feel safe enough right now since another storm is coming this week. I don't want to be caught with a flooding basement and a gas-less generator.  I know many people are less concerned about this than me.  But this is where I am mentally right now.

I called Dave L. and asked him if I could get a ride out to PA with him.  He was traveling with Jessi K. and he checked with her and she was happy to have me join her.  Dave's girlfriend, Jennisse, was so awesome as to come with her diesel Jetta and drive us all out to the race.  She wanted to run the half, but the night before there was a confusing email that said the race was full but there would be last minute registration in the morning.  If you clinked on the race website, they posted there that they were not longer accepting race day registration.  The quick email could have easily been misunderstood, as it was.   Jennisse ended up taking the drive and being a good sport about not racing.

Last weekend, it was between 40-50 degrees and I was in a sports bra and shorts.  Today was 35 and rising to 40-50 degrees and I was confused as to what to wear.  I thought back to March when I ran a 6 hour race at 37 degrees in a long sleeve, a t-shirt, shorts and calf sleeves.  I decided to do the same.  I actually felt hot about halfway through and wished I had dumped the T-shirt (but it was not a throwaway).

The last long fast race I ran was one month ago.  It was a PR 18 miler.  It came on the heels of two back to back half marathon PR's.  Based upon those races, I was hoping to PR today as well.   The last marathon I ran was two months ago, also in PA.  It was a point to point course then, but mostly downhill.  The weather was warmish. I ran a 3:27.  I was surely faster than that now!

I decided to got out hard and see what happened.  I though I'd try 7:15s for while and see how that goes.  At first, the cooler weather felt helpful.  I was running 7:00s or under and it felt easy.   But within a short period of time,  I was feeling the extra work I was doing by running into the wind. The wind wasn't horrendous.  It was just present and on this point to point course, it was going to be in my face the whole way.

As we hit the trail along the river, I could feel the slight incline. We were running upstream.  Again it wasn't horrendous. It was present and it was going to be this way the whole way.  I was slowing down to 7:20s and it was ok.  I still had a chance at a PR if I could just settle in and get comfy.

Today just wasn't my day.  I could not find a place that I was happy with the speed while feeling physically comfortable.  My back was getting tight, with some pain radiating down my arms.  My legs felt good, but I could not hold my head in a comfortable position with out feeling the tension and pulling on my spine.  Before even 10 miles in, I was not having fun.  I slowed down a little more and realized if I just give up the idea of a PR maybe I can make this more tolerable.

I had caught up the half marathoners at this point who had abt a 10 minute head start. I  considered just veering off with them and calling it a 13 mile training run... but I got up a 4:00 am  to do this and I need a long run, even if it turns out to be slow. I know I got a good 10 done, so 16 more to go.  16 just doesn't sound very long... except after you have just run 10 miles feeling stressed out and cranky.

I was directed to turn left as the halfer's went right and there my decision was made, at least for a while.   We are routed to an out and back on a asphalt path.  It felt a little better than the river side.  With the idea of the out and back, there was some chance of relief from the wind.  Just passed 15 miles we turned back and were routed back toward where the half marathoners were finishing up.

Again I pondered stopping once I hit the half marathon finish line.  My back and spine were not getting any better.  I ran past a spectator who called out form instructions to me "Drop your Arms... Try to Relax."  Oh boy, I thought I must look horrible if a spectator feels compelled to help me.  Aren't they briefed to say "Looking Good!" when you are not?

I see that half marathon finish line and just can't bring myself to turn in.  I continue on, since I have about 7 miles left.  I can do 7 miles.  Then I end up on this even steeper, yet still not horrendous, incline and my pace finally slows to beyond 8:00.  Can I do 7 more miles?  I feel like a slug, but I am pulling away from those behind me.  All I can do is run the course in front of me.  I settling in to about 8:20-8:30 and just plod along.  This is a nice Long Run pace.  Too bad this is a race.

I get close to 20 miles and see Mike Arnstein flying down towards his finish. I was wondering where the leaders were.  Mike had left the entire field in the dust.  I call out some words of encouragement and think, "I wonder if I can finish in less than an hour after Mike does?" :)  I wasn't sure.

I had heard that there was some super steep hill.  We were at 20 miles, with 6.2 left.  I started to wonder if that incline that slowed me down was "the hill."  It just couldn't be since no one would call what we were on "a hill", but I could see mile markers 26 and 25 as I passed them on the out.  Where the heck is it?

And then there it was.  I just had to laugh.  I caught the guy ahead of me just before the start of the hill.  He tried to run up it.  I just walked.  I walked right past him as he cramped up and tried to walk up it.  He tried to run a few step, then walked more, then stopped walking.  I tried to encourage him to just hike it to the top with me because his running isn't any faster than my walking and we can start running again at the top.  He waived me on and I did not see him again.

I hit the top and a volunteer reported "The worst it over, all down hill now." I really wanted to ask him if he was lying to me b/c I don't think I could take much more.

By this point my back was hurting more than ever and I slowed my efforts even more.  I just wanted to stop.  I pondered just turning back, but then saw the (misplaced) 21 mile marker and felt I had to just finish off the last 5, knowing 3 of them would be back down.  It was the only thing that kept me going- knowing that once I hit the last turn around it was literally all down hill to the finish.

I got passed by 3 women in these last 4 miles.  It made me sad to have no ability to stay with them.  I think at this point, I just no longer felt this was my day and accepted it.  I just wanted to be done.  On the last turn around, I saw Dave L. and knew he was having a phenomenal race, despite all the things I found hard about this race today.  I had seen Jessi earlier and she looked great as well.  This was just not my day.  On a good day, I probably would not have even notice the things causing me distress today.

I picked up the pace a bit in the final miles as I approached the finish. I saw the clock read 3:26:30 as I crossed the line.  I was so happy to be able to stop moving.  I sat.  My back got so tight I could not even speak clearly. It hurt.  I am sure this is stress related and hopefully it will pass.

Time: 3:26:32
OA: 38/263
Female:  13th place
AG: 7/50

With this all said and done, I am glad I went.  I had a hard race today and it was a 3:26.  I used to have to wish for a perfect race to be sub-3:30, now this is what a bad race looks like for me.  I will gladly accept that.

We got our gas cans filled on the ride home and I made it back without blowing up my car.  I anticipate my distress diminishing over the next few days as normalcy returns.