Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ocean Drive Marathon, Cape May, NJ. 3/24/13

There is not a lot to say about this race. It was not a goal race. I have run it twice now and it never goes well, but that doesn't mean I am disappointed.  I returned to try to run a supported long run that I could use to jump start a bigger mileage week. For the next several weeks, race performances will be sacrificed for better training. This is part of my process.  I enjoy training through races so I will still be racing (cheaper events), but most of them will be tired runs until I taper again for the next goal.

Friday I ran a hard 7 miles. Yesterday, I ran 15.2 miles with Team in Training, almost as a reverse progression (not intentionally).  I started with some faster runners. Well, I should clarify.  I started with Alanna who forgot her watch and therefore ran freely.  Apparently Alanna likes to run a low 8 minute pace when she forgets her watch!   That felt ok and I knew we would slow it down.  Steve joined Alanna and me for 4 miles.  He is one of our speediest TNT runners.  We did slow it down, since both Alanna and I were going to run this marathon today.  Alanna left and I stayed with Steve. I talked him into an easier pace for the next 5 mile loop about 9:20's.  After Steve left, Maria stilled needed 5 more miles so I headed out with her, Sue and one more TNT runner at an easier pace.

My allergies and autoimmune system have been acting out lately.  I did not feel great yesterday, but the pace only averaged out to mid-9's so I didn't really feel horrible.  However, I was wiped out after the run and spent the day doing things around the house (made soup, tried to make gluten-free rice crispy bars with coconut and chocolate chips).

Usually I try to take Enzo out for his run after TNT's run, but I just didn't have the energy. Enzo has taught us a new trick.  When Enzo wants to run, he goes over to his leash on the wall and hits it with his nose so it swings.  We learned this means we are being asked to take him out.  It is irresistible and thankfully Sid complied with Enzo's request leaving me home to vegetate (and make soup).

Today, I got up at 4:30 am and headed down to the race.  I feel exhausted in the car and figured that was because I got up at 4:30 am to drive 2 hours.  Once at the bus pick up, I found Alanna and we took the bus another 30 minutes, maybe?, to the starting line.  We had about an hour wait until the start.

During that time, I had a lot of trouble figuring out what to wear from my gear bag.  The weather was in that odd state of being above 30, but feeling like sub-30.  Some people were in singlets and shorts. Others were in winter gear.  I thought about the last ultra I ran in sub-30 and dressed like that. (T7 racers, Dry Max sock, calf sleeves, capri pants, long sleeve tech shirt, sports bra, light jacket, winter hat, and throw away gloves). Before I checked my gear bag, I decided that I felt too warm, so I swapped my jacket for vest and put my hat and gloves in my drop bag. I should have worn less, but at times I was cold, so no matter what I wore it would likely not have felt ideal.

I was a little cold at the start, so it seemed perfect.  The wind was reported online to be 7 mph from the North so although we had to run in the entire way, 7 mph seemed ok.   I know from law school, when I used to study a lot on the beach in Key Biscayne in Miami, that if the winds were under 13 mph I could ride my bike to the beach because I could sit on my beach towel and my beach towel, books, and a snack fit in my bike baskets.  If the winds were 13 or more I had to drive my car to the beach because I needed to bring my beach chair since the winds would kick up sand into my books if I was sitting on the ground.  So I figured 7 mph wasn't even enough wind to kick up sand, how bad could it be.

Off we go and I figure a 7:15-7:25 pace to start is reasonable.  I expected a fade.  I did train for this to be  PR.  But, I just ran 12.4 miles at 6:53 and 31.06 miles at 7:50.  I have run a marathon at 7:27 and 7:29 paces at best, so I didn't feel this speed was too ambitious. However, because I started off feeling under the weather, any additional frustrations along the way just made me feel worse.

By mile two I was already getting frustrated from the noise of the constant wind blowing past my ears.  I realize that sounds crazy, but at one point I covered my ears because I just wanted to sound of the wind to stop.  We pretty much had to run into the wind the entire race so the force of it plus the noise was relentless. Next windy race, I have to wear something over my ears.

As we ran with the 10 milers, I remembered that the first 11-12 miles of the course is only stocked with water.  I tend to rely on course supplied sports drink as my fuel and carry only two gels on me.  I planned for my first gel at 9 miles (or nearest aid station). I don't think much of running the first 9-10 on just water, but in hindsight, my best 50k and marathons have always been fueled from 3 miles on and every 3 miles throughout on gatorade.  When gatorade was finally on the course, the powder mix seemed to be very dilute.  I do think that going so long without any calories and when I did get some it was watered down a lot simply added to how tough this race became for me at the end.  Of course we are all free to be carry our own stuff to meet our own needs and the race website said no gatorade until almost the second half.  I do feel that when a race charges about $100 per runner, it would be nice of them to get some sports drink on the course before mile 11, and if using a mix, make sure it is mixed properly at the stops that have it.

This race was not a goal race for me, so training in a depleted state works out to be better training anyway for me.  I just didn't plan on it for today. I know that less than my preferred access to sports drink is not sole the cause of my crash, but it did become just one more straw for me today.

At one point, just past 13.1 I stepped on some crushed sea shells and a few shards became jammed in the sole of my shoes.  I had to stop to remove that.  That made me laugh so I thought I would share. :)

Last time I "ran" the ODM, it was by far the worst marathon of my life.  I pretty much walked in the last 10 miles, learning at that race that eating a bagel in the morning was the worst thing I could do.  It was the race I decided to experiment going Gluten Free with running fuel.  As I passed the halfway point, I tried to stay positive but I was already feeling terrible physically and knew it wasn't going to go well for me today, again. I felt like it was 2012 all over again.

If I was able to DNF at that point, there was no doubt in my mind that I would have walked off the course today.  Everything about me was achy.  I had no pep in my stride.  I felt completely exhausted and overly fatigued, more than I should at this distance. No pace felt comfortable.  My large muscle groups like my quads felt weak.  I was having trouble not slouching over.  Coming off another low mileage week and running a flat course, it was so very odd for me to feel so beat up.   I am not a fan of that feeling.

Just like the last time, at 16 miles, everything just fell apart for me.  Today, I had already slowed down to about 7:50-8:05.  After 16 miles it was just a matter of making to finish line so this could all be over. I cruised along at 9-10 minute pace, walking through water stops, stopping to use the porta-potty.

Over the next 10 miles, I hid my watch so I didn't have to look.  I slowed way down because I had to, not because I wanted to.  It would have been better for my body and mind to get it done faster, but I felt so weak and harder running made me feel dizzy and queazy.  It felt like I was out there for days and when I finally looked at my watch with 2 miles to go, I was happy to see that I was still going to finish around 3:45, which is what I did.

Admittedly, I am a little frustrated that in my 50k, my marathon split was about a 3:22 and felt easier than today's 3:45. At the 50k I even kept on going. That was 3 weeks ago. Here I wasnt prepared or planning to PR, but I did expect to be able to cruise in around a 3:30-ish without much suffering.  I suffered pretty much this whole race and I am not sure why, except to say sometimes these things just happen.  My body has been fighting off some allergies for a few weeks now and I suspect I am just really tired from it all.

I left before the results were posted so I have no official stats at this time.

I am not terribly disappointed.  I am bummed to not get that High from a job well done, but I know hard days are part of the process.  Any day spent running is a good day no matter how long it takes :)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Asheville Shamrock 10k, Asheville, NC. 3/16/17

Sid and Enzo in front of the Mooney from a prior trip
Sid and I spent a long weekend in Asheville 3 years ago.  We wanted to go back and do some of the things we did the last time (run trails, eat good food, run this 10k) and some new stuff (like fly ourselves in, take Enzo to Bent Creek, etc.).   In 2010, the weather was bad so we ended up driving down instead of flying.  This time the weather was nice so Sidney rented the Mooney and we flew down from NJ.

It was so beautiful flying in over the mountains, but mountains and wind equal a ton of turbulence.  As we descended towards the airport, the winds made a sudden shift.  We were the first to be diverted to a different runway.  This added a few more minutes for me to try not to puke as we bounced around.  I honestly don't know how Sidney does what he does.  Not much seems to phase him, at least in the air.

However, on the ground I can find ways to challenge his comfort zone ;).  On Saturday morning, as we walked into the school gym to pick up our packets, Sid exclaimed, "Hey! I didn't know there was a 5k option!"  I responded, "That's because I didn't tell you.  The 5k turns around before the big climb and I thought you would be disappointed to miss out on the challenge. ;)"

During my warm up, I ran right into Veronica (my old NYU roommate) and her baby nephew (who was truly a little genius at just over 1 years old).  V was coming to hang out with us for the day.  It was nice to see her after many years, but I was already getting pre-race nerves and was ready to start.   She asked me if I thought I was going to win.  I told her that would be unlikely since I don't train on hills and I fully expect some local runners to just crush the course while I suck wind on the climbs.

Sid met me at the starting line and commented how he was not looking forward to running up that mountain.  I told him that it is only fair that if he rattles me in the air, then I get to rattle him on the ground.  We both stood there knowing that we have done nothing specific to prepare for this course and accordingly there was now nothing we could do to make it not hurt.

The gun goes off. We start off downhill, turn a corner and head uphill until we finally start cruising down towards mile 1.  The 5k and 10ks start together.  It was hard to figure out who was racing what and with a crowded start I wasn't sure where I was in the field once we spread out and started making turns where I lost sight of the lead runners.

I wore my Garmin, but I did not look at my splits when I saved them.  I knew they didn't matter.  This race was about beating the course, not beating the clock.   M1: 7:02

I knew we would start really climbing before I hit mile 2.  I was torn between trying to run as fast as I could to the uphill, knowing that I would likely be power hiking at least the steepest part or trying to save myself  for the climb so I could stay strong on the way up.  As the 5k runners turned off, I was informed that I was the first female. That was unexpected but I assumed the local runners would just overtake me on the climb.  I wondered how long it would take. I saved a little strength for the climb. M2: 6:53

As we turned into the hill and started the climb, I could feel the pressure change inside my entire body.   I felt my heart beat in my ears.  The climb varied in steepness and I just tried to stay moving as my pace slowed to a crawl. M3: 9:01

Knowing that the we have to go down and remember that from 4-5 was a steep downhill mile, I just tried to focus on getting to mile 4.  Any chance now that I could run fast I took it. The climb was almost over so I didn't need to hold back.  I was surprised to not have been passed in mile 3 and could not help but take advantage of the twisting roads that allowed me to glance down to earlier parts of the course.  Even with a few peaks back, I noticed one female but couldn't tell if she was the closest one behind me.  If she was, there was no way to tell how fast she was going in relation to me.

Rather than worry about what is happening behind me, I decided to focused on the four guys I could see ahead of me and try to keep them in sight as I hit mile 4.  I was so tired and everything was burning but I was moving.  At the very steepest part, it seemed straight up, I was slowed to a power-walk for just a few steps. I realized walking would not slow my pace, but rather allow me to catch my breath a bit as I reached the summit.  I am glad I made this decision because once I crested the steepest part, I was ready to run hard and fast.  M4: 8:01

(Despite all those ups and downs in the Garmin data, in reality it was primarily up from 1.7 through 4 miles with flatter sections between ups.  There seemed to be only one noticeable downhill section during those uphill miles).

Once we hit mile 4, we got to go DOWN and make up all the time we lost.  The only trouble is that at points it gets so steep, that it makes me worry my feet are going to slip out from under me. I actually start gaining on the guys in front of me. M5 6:23.

I catch up to one guy who tells me that I am 1st female.  I tell him I have been waiting to be passed this entire race.  He asks me how old I am.  I tell him I am 37 and he said "I knew you were a youngster!" (LOL. Young!).  He says he is 47 and lives in the neighborhood.  I ask him what the rest of the course looks like.  He mentions one or two more little hills to go.  He asks me where I am from.  I tell him NJ and explain that I don't live in the mountains so I never expected to be doing this well.  I just keep pushing my pace and I pulled ahead of him, briefly.

We turned a corner and merge with the 5k runners. We hit a short uphill, where he flew past me.  We had caught up to some of the other guys and I pass one as I get passed back by the local guy I just met.   I stop paying attention to the men and just keep running hard.  I feel a little dizzy and it is becoming hard to focus M6: 6:22

We have a short downhill then and a final up hill sprint to the finish.  It is now that I begin to believe that I am actually going to win this race.  I can't believe it.  I can't wait to tell Sidney... if he is still speaking to me.

I see Veronica at the finish.  She is happy to see me finish.  She asks how I did.  I tell her I won.  She is surprised.  It can be hard to tell when the 5ks and the 10ks are coming in the same finish.  I head down to cheer on Sidney and a few minutes later I see him.  I ask him, "Do you hate me now?" He answers,  "Um, I am not speaking to you right now (with a smile)."  He ran well, but times and places don't matter to him.  Regardless, I am proud of him.

Time: 44:37 (7:11)
Overall place: 9th
Gender place: 1st

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Miles for Music 20k. USA-TF NJ State Championship. 3/10/13

Photo by Elaine Acosta
So here I am again.  Just like last year.  Standing at the starting line of a 20k road race just one week after a 50k PR at Nationals and a 100 mile week of running unsure of what I am capable of doing. There are no guarantees after the guns goes off, except that I am going to try to do my best.

No rest.  Tired legs.  All that I can think of is "30k less than last weekend!" and that makes it sound reasonable for me to be here.

This morning, I woke up with the skin around my eyes swollen and raw.  It feels like I have a bad sunburn, that I somehow got while sleeping.  This happens a few times each year, and most consistently in the first week of March.  After months of test and many doctors visits, it was concluded that I have a faulty immune system (that could be related to the damage done by my chemotherapy).  My body gets confused and attacks itself at random.  It used to be worse.  I used to become covered in hives and have trouble breathing.  Once my throat started closing up.  At least once per year I am getting shot up in the ER with steroids.  I am not in pursuit of a more conclusive diagnosis.  I have had over 200+ needles to try to find what I am reacting to and nothing was identified.  So, I consider my faulty autoimmune system the price I have to pay to be alive and that price in my mine is quiet small.

I pre-registered for this race.  Had I not, I would have likely stayed home because the last time I had a puffy face and ran it did get worse.  However, the time before that running made it better.  The time before that I was not running at all and I had a reaction.  My running and my autoimmune disorder simply co-exist and do not seem to bother each other.  Regardless, I called John Phelan on the way to the race and told him that if I start to feel bad, then I may need him to take me to the ER.   However, on the drive over the swelling seemed to be calming down somewhat since I first woke up and that made me feel better.  The raw, burning skin sensation around my eyes and eye lids was still present, but at least I no longer looked like a monster.

I knew this was could go either way.  My plan was to hover just sub-7:00 and see how that felt.  My last 10 miler was 6:53 and I wanted to hit that pace for the 20k, but I did just race a 50k hard last weekend. I could very easily crash.  I needed to see how long I could hang on!

Weather said low 30s but I still felt cold.  I wore way too much to the starting line and ditched half of it before lining up.  I broke out a new pair of Brooks T7's and opted to go with my now lucky (as opposed to geeky) capri pants and calve sleeves in lieu of tights.  I had a long sleeve tech shirt and knew it was going to be too warm for me as the temps rose.

Gun goes off. I try to settle in with a pack of guys I know run about my pace when I am running really great.  We made our way up the incline, heading out towards the first turn around. M1-6:51

I was surprised that I felt so comfortable.  I found I was bouncing down below 6:40 at times, but knew I would not hold that for 12.4. I would rather speed up than fade, so I settled down.  Someone commented about my capri pants, stating that she had the same pair. She did. She made a few more comments about how she loved Brooks gear. A guys ahead said how much he loved the shoes.  I thought it was funny to be caught up in the middle of a Brooks love fest and I really did not say much at all.  I was trying to stay focused and in tune with my body.  I wasn't sure if my throat would start to swell or my legs would suddenly become jello.  Also, a sub-7 pace tends to be a little bit to fast for me to hold up my end of a conversation.  I felt good and just did not want to waste any energy.  M2-6:53

I sat on a pack of runners for many of the middle miles.  Actually I was just out of reach of them but moving close to their speed.  I could see they were slowly creeping away from me, but I knew that if I pushed a little harder this early, it would be too fast.  I planned to just run MY pace and feel comfortable until last 15k.  M3-6:53, M4-6:51, M5-6:50, M6-6:52.

I still had the pack in range and felt pretty good.  I saw my 5k split at 20:58 and my 10k split at 42:10. Just a small fade, but pretty close!  I wanted to see about getting to the 15k in under 1:04 (which I believe is still my 15k PR).   I had a gel tucked in my sports bra and decided I might as well take it.  M7-6:55.

As we started to round the turn around I realized I was gaining on the small pack I was trailing.  Again, I did not alter my comfortable pace because felt good and knew I was running well.  I just ran MY race and since I was not fading, I was reeling in those who started to fade a bit.  I passed some of that pack while a few pulled ahead. M8-6:56

As the temperature began to warm slightly I could feel I was sweating a lot. I decided with just under a half hour to go, I would ditch my long sleeve near the start finish line.  It was the best move I could have made.  I felt so much better and ready to try to finish fast.   You can't decided to run in a sports bra in the cold and not run fast (without getting cold, and/or simply looking a bit like an idiot ;) LOL).  So to not look like an idiot, I tried to run fast. :)  M9-6:53 (15k was sub-1:04)

I felt strong and took advantage of any fast parts of the course.  I wanted to get this over with fast.  I started counting down the mileage, ignoring that 0.4.  Ten miles done, 2 to go!  I knew there was a small uphill just after the downhill after the turn around. After that uphill I hoped to have something to offer.   M10-6:46, M11-65:55, M12-6:53

I realize that I actually did not have as much of a kick as I had hoped.  I was tired and just happy to still be running sub-7's.  I got my speed up as I got closer to the finish, running that last .4 the fastest of the day.  Last 0.4 - 2:52 

Time: 1:25:22 (6:53 pace)
OA Place: 93
Gender: 11
AG: 2

I can't end this without saying Congratulations to John Phelan, who ran a 50k PR last weekend and joined me today to run pretty close to his half marathon PR today!  Great job John!

Friday, March 8, 2013

My Guest Blogger Article: Running as Therapy, 3/8/13

Running as Therapy by Shannon McGinn
running_cheaper_thanRunning as Therapy
by Shannon McGinn
“Running. Cheaper Than Therapy.” I can’t remember where I first saw that slogan, but it made me laugh. As a runner, I recognize that I run because it makes me happy. I do much of my training alone. My running, sometimes, offers me space to think. I can cover miles while contemplating the mysteries of my life.
As a therapist, I spend countless hours invested in the struggles of others. To de-clutter my mind, I often need peace, quiet, and time for myself. Sometimes I think about nothing at all. Anyone who knows me can attest to how challenging it is for me to quiet my thoughts. Once in a while, on a great run, I can do it. I will look down at my watch and realize a significant amount of time has passed and I can’t remember thinking about a single thing. Those days are amazing!
But most days, my running is simply mathematics in motion. Lots of math. Hours of math. Math relevant to the run that I am doing. Math relevant to the runs I have done. Math relevant to the runs I want to do in the future. I am good at math, but not as good as I should be after the amount of time I spend practicing it.
For me, the days that I think about nothing or distract myself with math are better than those days when my runs are spent processing the stressors of my life. Maybe math is the secret? “Math. Cheaper Than Therapy.” Hmm, I probably wont sell a lot of those T-shirts.
I recognize that there is a difference between “something that is therapeutic” and “therapy”. But first, it is important to note that there has been success with using exercise to manage symptoms of clinical level anxiety, depression or other mood disorders. It is an excellent intervention, used in conjunction with other types of treatment, when the source of the problem is unknown or cannot be remedied and therefore managing symptoms is the ultimate goal.
Many runners, even those without a clinically diagnosable disorder, would likely agree that running is therapeutic because it helps us cope with stress. However, coping with stress or managing symptoms often does not solve underlying problems. In most cases, unless our biggest stressor is not being a good-enough runner, then running, on its own, is really not the solution. Running, whether it be through the woods, on the roads, at some destination race, or even on a treadmill, will always drop us off in the same place we started. The relief of symptoms after a run is real, but it is temporary. Symptoms will likely return until we can run again or resolve a conflict. Longer lasting change does not generally happen unless we are able to implement some of the ideas we spent hours developing while on the run. Therefore, it is often the actions we take (or decide to not take) after the run that resolves our conflicts.
Or is it the act of running that changes us? From a cognitive behavioral perspective, I do believe the act of running, on its own, may have tremendous value as an agent for intrapersonal change.
Not without its critics, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is considered a highly effective evidence-based psychotherapeutic intervention for a wide range of conditions. Under CBT theory, our behavior is shaped by our beliefs (or constructs) about ourselves and the world we live in. When maladaptive beliefs shape our behaviors, they act to perpetuate conflict, stress, and/or dysfunction. Because how we behave impacts how we are received, perceived, and reacted to by others, our beliefs get reinforced as accurate and factual, even if they are simply misperceptions. In other words, we create self-fulfilling prophecies that keep us stuck. By challenging our constructs, maladaptive beliefs are uncovered. Once we realize that what we believe to be truths are actually inaccurate opinions, our behaviors change and our world is experienced differently. As a result, conflicts, distress, and/or dysfunction resolve.
But what does this have to do with running? In actual practice, effective CBT interventions are carefully crafted to address maladaptive beliefs that perpetuate specific disorders. We already discussed that being a successful runner is not a solution to non-running problems. However measurable success as a runner has the power to reshape the beliefs we hold about ourselves as people.
For those who care to track data (and it seems most runners do track the data that is important to them), running offers us clear and concrete measurable goals and results. If it is truly important to us, we will know if we actually ran a mile (or 100 miles) and just how long we took to do it. Even without a watch, we know if we ran “better” than last time. If we run further, faster, more frequently, or cover more challenging terrain with more ease than we ever thought possible, we know it. In time, it becomes clear that running changes our beliefs about how strong we are, how much we can endure, and how much heart we have. This is a significant cognitive shift that not only shapes how we perceive ourselves as runners but also how we perceive ourselves as people.
Running truly has no finish line. Because the experience of completing a challenging run is incredibly rewarding, runners are easily compelled to challenge themselves repeatedly. As a result, it is no surprise that ultrarunning is a fast growing sport. Hundred mile races are now more popular than ever. People who never imagined they could complete a marathon are now daydreaming about multi-day racing.
Beside offering concrete measurable goals and the opportunity to manage stress, running, just like a good therapy session, teaches us how to use metaphors to make sense of our world. We learn how the climbs always seem worse from the bottom. We learn that every great run starts with the courage to take the first step. We learn that if we fall down, we have to get up, dust ourselves off, and get back at it. Running teaches us that if we plan well, work hard, stay focused, fight through challenges, take care of our basic needs, and have gear that works, then we have a good chance at discovering we are capable of amazing things. Running ultimately teaches us that we are only as weak as we believe we are. All these lessons ring true for life as well.
The cognitive shift running creates within us is often life-altering. Our confidence builds. Challenges scare us less. Suddenly ridiculous things become reasonable goals. As a result, people treat us differently because we act differently. We begin to discover “new” opportunities that likely have always been present. Most importantly, if our conflicts or stressors were a product of our own insecurities about ourselves, the increase in self-confidence running brings can result in solutions in our non-running world.
This is all wonderful stuff, but not everyone is good at self-discovery and change. Some people will simply run in circles, never really challenging their constructs, never solving problems, or never breaking old patterns. Some people need more than just a therapeutic activity to help them through their pain. Unfortunately, there is still a great resistance towards asking a therapist for help, even within a group of people who will so proudly declare “Running is my therapy!”
I don’t believe that everyone who finds therapeutic value in running needs to sit down and discuss their experience with a professional. A good test to determine whether you need more than just running to help resolve a conflict is to reflect upon how long you have been stuck on the same problem. Have you been able to significantly change or overcome any part of your struggle on your own? If not, then running may be a wonderful therapeutic activity for coping with stress, but a therapist may be necessary to give you the support and guidance you need while you wrestle with the hard parts of life.
Finally, is running cheaper than therapy? I am sure it used to be back when running around for no reason was considered abnormal. Now the secret is out. People are rapidly discovering the therapeutic life-altering value of distance running. Thanks to supply and demand, running and racing is getting more expensive. It is now becoming a race to secure a bib for ultras. That used to be a marathon problem. As I look at the rising costs of ultras, where my personal therapy most often takes place, I am starting to think that I may need to print up a new T-shirt. “Therapy. Cheaper Than Running.” Hmm, I don’t think that would sell very well either. It is almost as bad at the one about math.
Shannon McGinn is a running coach based in and around Woodbridge, NJ. Checkout Shannon’s blog,Creating Momentum for more ideas and thoughts that inspired “High Mileage And Low Injury Rate”.

Monday, March 4, 2013

USA-TF 50k Nationals: Caumsett Park, LI, NY 3/3/13

Jessi Kennedy, John Price, Me, Alanna Garrison-Kast,
 John Phelan, and Dave Lettieri
For the months leading up to the 50k Nationals, this race has dominated my training focus.  I race often. Not all of those races are goal races. Sometimes I fumble, especially when I race too beat up from training or too soon after recently racing.  However, I know that even those races have value to me and that is why I keep doing it.

After running a 4:10 at the BUS Fat Ass 50k in December, I wanted to try to go sub-4:10 at Caumsett. In the last week of January through first two days of February, I logged a 90 mile week.  I knew I wanted to reach 100 miles for the week one month out from Nationals. In February, I started tracking my "rolling 7 days" mileage (i.e. not just calendar weeks, but rather what I was running in every new 7 day period).

On Monday, February 4, I hit 100 miles in the last 7 days.  From February 4 through February 17, I worked harder than I ever had before to maintain 100-110 miles in every 7 day period, giving me two more calendar weeks of 100 miles per week.

I noticed that I was STARVING all the time (not really a surprise).  Rather than stick to my regular eating habits, I ate more of the healthier foods I normally eat at home. I also lost the will to turn down sweets if they happen to cross my path out in the world. :)  I found that eating to fuel my trainings made it easier and easier to maintain the 14+ miles per day average that I needed (for 20 days in a row) to keep my rolling 7 day mileage at 100 + from Feb 4 - Feb 17.  I didn't feel like I was overeating, but I did notice that my weight was going up.  I didn't have any over use issues, I wasn't too fatigued, and nothing hurt. People were commenting that I looked thinner. By February 17, I had gained back all of the 5 lbs I worked hard to drop last year.  I was a little concerned that maybe I inadvertently ate too much junk and somehow managed to blow high mileage training by getting fat during the process!

My last long run was a winter marathon in Albany. I ran this marathon as my "Run for Jenny" run and chose it because it was going to be tough.  I was hoping to finish, but knew it was more likely I would not.  You will see from my last race report, that I DNF'd that race at 21 miles mostly due to running extremely tired with no rest, but also due it being extremely windy and bitter cold.   I went to Albany, knowing the elements I would be exposed to would likely be so much worse than anything I would face at Caumsett Park at the 50k Nationals.  It was a race to give me perspective and it did it's job.

I got home from Albany knowing how tired I was at 13 miles and realizing I NEEDED to taper smartly for Nationals or I am going to blow it.  Tapering sounds simple but if you spend any time researching the best way to develop a taper, you will find a lot of variation.  The one common denominator is that almost everyone with credibility recognizes a taper works.   So I wrote out my taper plan.  In general I wanted to cut back from 100 mpw to 75-80 mile per week, then down to 50-60 mpw for the last week.  (I ran 78 miles and 55.5 miles in reality). I timed when I should be running my last fast runs.  I tried to NOT continue to eat the way I was when I was running 100 mpw.  I also made an effort to carb load the few days prior by shifting percentages for my meals that used to be higher protein to higher carbs. All I know is the night before the race I felt sluggish and fat. :)

I had, for the first time in my running career, executed as close to a "textbook training plan" as possible, then tapered, had remained healthy and carb-loaded before the race.  It was because I did everything "right" that I was TERRIFIED!  If I didnt' run well, the only reason I would have, besides possibly crappy weather, was that I screwed up the pacing and blew up trying to run too fast, or I was just too mentally weak to handle race stress.  I know what I have been through in life and I know I can be tough when it matters.  But after recently DNF'ing Albany and also blowing up at some longer races,  my confidence was a little shaky.

I am thankful for John and Alanna who made me laugh the entire drive up... with random statements like (Alanna (in serious matter-of-fact tone): "I love old houses... but they are all haunted") LOL!

Weather was not terrible, but not perfect either.  It was more chilly than the previous years due a heavier wind off the water.  I really dislike wind.  I knew the wind was not going to be a factor around the entire course but there was definitely sections that we were going to face it.  It was no Albany!

I was planning on wearing shorts but once I got out of the car and realized it was a little more bitter than I had hoped, I was glad I had brought my capri pants too. Of course this meant I was going to be rocking a very geeky calf sleeve / capri pants look and one person said, "Um, why didnt you just wear pants."  I actually prefer the fit of my capris vs my tights and wanted more support for my calves.

As for shoes, I was debating what shoes to wear for about a week.  I had brand new Pure Connect 2 (and all my 50k PR's were set in Pure Connect originals).  I wore the Connect 2's on Friday and  decided I needed more time to break them in.  I had Pure Drifts, which are my lightest shoe but have a very wide and comfy toe box.  I wore them for a half and in Albany.  I noticed a little slippage in them and was concerned that  over 4 hours of running the slippage could equal blistering.  These may be better for shorter races.  We will find out later.  I had a pair of T7 racing flats which I decided that I would wear because I raced a fast marathon in them.  Despite them being heavier than my drifts and having a higher drop, I knew the fit was perfect and they had enough life left in them to carry me the distance.  I am so pleased with my shoe choice.  It was a great decision for me and I had 0 shoe issues.

I could feel the tension building as I waited for the start.  I fueled up with Gatorade Prime, something I never tried before (yep, I did something new on race day! LOL).  I took a gel.  I even took four endurolytes in the cold, just for a little electrolyte insurance.  John Phelan and I jogged about 1 minute and then I kind of jumped around in place at the start just to stay warm. It is hard to warm up for a 31.1 mile race.  I saw John Price gave him a big hug.  Then I lined up behind Tim, who I ran a chunk of miles with at the BUS Fat Ass 50k.  He asked my plan and I told him "I want 7:40-7:45's for a long as possible." (I didn't tell him I wanted that for the entire race) :)

Math is easy on a 5k loop.  240 minutes is 4 hours.  24 minutes per 5k is 4 hours for 50k. 7:44 pace is sub-4. I wanted to sneak in just under 24 for as long as possible and try to hold on for 10 laps.  I knew if I had a shot at sub-4, it had to be as even as possible or I would risk blowing up.

Lap 1 - Litte bit of a fast start, but I got it down to 7:28 for M1.  I settled in to my goal pace after mile 1 and rounded out the start/finish mat in 23:45.  On the spur before the finish, I counted 9 women ahead of me.  I felt good, but not great.  I still felt tired.  (I had run 8.5 easy miles the day before. After reviewing my log and finding that I have run between 5-16 miles the day before PR races with my best race having a 8.5 mile run the day before.  Next time, I think I'll run only 4-5 the day before.  I think 8.5 may have been too much for no real reason).

Lap 2 - I noticed on the windy part, my legs felt very tired.  It was too early to work hard.  I remembered something that Beau Atwater had said to me years ago in casual conversation at a 5k. He was sharing about when he trained hard using the Hanson plan for a sub-3 marathon. He had said his mileage was the highest he ever trained and when he got to mile 4 of his marathon, his leads felt tired and this made him nervous.  But, they never got worse and he ran strong the entire way and even walked off the course stronger than ever.  That thought helped me because my legs were a little tired it was about mile 4. Thank you Beau!  I came through just seconds under my goal time for the 10k split.  Lap time: 24:13.

Lap 3 - I noticed I was not getting more tired and my pace was solid.  I started to thinking about the 386 miles I ran in 30 days 2 weeks before my taper.  It had to mean something.  It had to matter.  I tapered, I was healthy, and there is no reason, except stress or poor pacing, that was going to cause me fail now.  I visualize dumping the weight off my shoulders.  I imagined dumping pounds of stress and pressure I put on myself while reminding myself that stress cannot help me now.  (Stress is good if it makes me train more.  But on race day, stress seems useless.)  I actually did feel better.  Lap time: 23:54 (perfect).

Lap 4 - I reminded myself that I just needed to get to lap 5 and then I start counting down. In the past, if I was going to blow up, I generally know it by the half way mark.  I usually stick it out until 2/3 of the race then I drop if it is really over.  If I can get to 5 laps and feel ok, I usually can suck it up and hold on for the other half.   In this lap, I took my first gel. Lap time: 23:44.  Good!

Lap 5 -  Here we go!  I knew that I should be lapping some of my friends on this lap b/c I had a few people planning to run 5-6 hours.  As I came around towards the finish, I saw my people and the encouragement was motivating!  Half way: 1:59:10!  Lap Time: 23:41.   If I stayed steady and held on sub-4 was possible!

Lap 6 - Here I was starting to get tired and began to play mind games with myself on purpose.  I would think lap 6, 4 to go!  But that is actually not true.  I was working lap 6, and had 4 full ones after that. It was nice to start over with the math, and I knew I needed to come in under 2:24 to be on sub-4 pace. Lap Time: 23:46. Still on pace!

Lap 7 - I was getting tired, but I had my second gel planned for this lap.  I was supplementing my fuel with cups of gatorade on both sides of the course, so I did not need a lot of gels.  In all my best 50k I used only 2 gels,  plus one at the starting line, as long as I could get at least abt 6 oz of gatorade per lap.   I was grabbing cups, drinking a mouthful, dumping the rest.  I was likely getting about 3 oz of gatorade 2 x per lap.   I took my gel, convincing myself that it was liquid energy and it was going to be rejunevating! Lap Time: 24:18.

Lap 8 - Ok. That gel wasn't super rejuvenating, but it did it's job.  I new I had 3 laps left, but I kept repeating to myself, just 2 to go!  Here I was at about the point where if I am going to drop, it is going to happen.  My legs were getting heavy and I was getting concerned that I was going to crash.  I started questioning my pace plan?  Was sub-4 too ambitious?  Should I have started at 7:50?  Then I shook these thoughts away and knew, I should be shooting for sub-4 because I worked hard for it.  I also knew that if I didn't make it, I was still going to be happy because I tried and I set myself up nice for a substantial PR.  I knew I was also starting to get too warm and tried to get my jacket off, but had to take off my Garmin and that was a pain to do. I lost a few second dealing with that train fiasco.  Lap Time: 24:47

Lap 9 - Here is where the suffering begins!  With my head down, eyes on the road, trying to not waste any energy at all, I moved forward.  I knew my pace was slowing a bit beyond what I needed and I still had a 10k left.  The wind was feeling harder than ever.  People gave me encouragement. I couldn't even lift my head. My legs were starting to get very tired.  Thoughts of walking began to creep into my thought.  I started to think: "I don't care what happens now.  I know I tried.  I went for it and it is what it is."  Then I got mad at myself for thinking like that because I know that I do care!  I worked hard and I care what happens!  I dont care whether I tried. I always try. This time, I cared whether I succeed.  I knew sub-4 would be awesome but it was not going to happen today.  A low- 4 hour time would be a awesome too!  I knew running every single step non-stop is a what I wanted to do again.  I wanted success not just a good effort.  So I ran up those hills as best I could.  Lap time: 25:13.  (Sub-4 was gone, but sub-4:05 was still possible).

Lap 10 -  Just like last year, I was getting a little light headed and wobbly on the way out.  I couldn't talk.  I couldn't smile.  John Phelan said I looked like I was either very angry or about to cry.  I know I was inside myself and it hurt in there.  I was worried I was going to pass out.  My legs were now concrete but I knew the first half of the lap is good to me.  We get some down hills that feels good.  I worked those the best I could.  Once I got over the hills I knew I was going to complete this without walking and that is meaningful to me.  The last out and back spur was the last windy part and it was hard.  I tried to dig for anything, but I had nothing left.  I felt proud to have given my all.  Lap Time: 26:03

Time: 4:03:28 (7:50 pace)
OA place 18th
Gender place: 7th Female!
39-under division - 6th

I was 10 minutes faster than last year, but still 7th Female. I will take it!  

I can't express how happy I am.  I trained hard. I tried to be smart. I managed the stress.  The last 10k of this race was incredibly hard and I am so proud that it did not break me.   Training works! Who knew?  :)