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?  :)


  1. Great run, great write up. Congratulations :)

    1. Nice job. Caumsatt is not an easy course, even if the wind could stay away. Knock another seven minutes off your time next year.

  2. Love it! Everything seems to be coming together!

    1. Thank you Frank! I worked hard for this and I was so glad to see that the training did matter :) Staying healthy helps too.

  3. I am really really impressed! Getting in the low 4 hour, sub 4 hour is also a goal of mine. I will likely pick your brain for fueling strategies as the time comes. It seems that you've got it nailed! Way to go, Shannon. YOU ROCK!

    1. You can go sub-4 right now! You just need a road 50k to do it on! Fast 50k are mostly about finding fast courses b/c so many are on trails. Although a lot of fun and extremely challenging, trails are slower for the most part. I need to pick your brain on low-3, sub-3 marathoning :)

  4. Awesome race, Shannon. You keep killing it. :)