Sunday, October 27, 2013

Great Swamp Devil 5k/15k Double. Basking Ridge, NJ. 10/27/13

So here we go again.  John Phelan and I play "race chicken"... where I basically call him up with something ridiculous, tell him I want to do it, he says me too, then we see who bails first.  Generally neither of us bail so we end up running stupid stuff for no reason.  In this case, I just ran a 50 miler and John has NYC next week.  Running two races in one event just seems excessive and unnecessary so we decide to do it. :)

Well, in this case two guys I am coaching wanted to run a local race.  My guys don't need me to go to their races with them, but they know if I show up I am going to race.  I had initially told them I would likely not race because I have a 50 mile run the Sunday before and I will be tired.  I also knew that I didn't really need the races for my USATF-NJ Grand Prix scorecard. Right now, I am leading the state-wide, year-long series, but that will all change in a few weeks.  Even if I won both of these races it would not make any difference at all and I will get dropped down the rankings as soon as a few better runners fill their cards.

Friday I ran with Joe and Andrew.  They were excited about the race and I just felt like I needed to be there.  It occurred to me that sometimes people just need a witness.  They need someone who has some understanding of what they are trying to accomplish to be present, attentive, and to watch them shine.  People need more than their Mom or their significant other (who cared but really doesn't get it) to stand there clapping and cheering out Good Job honey.  Dont get me wrong, that is all wonderful and necessary, but I think people sometimes need someone who understands things a bit more deeply to be present and to genuinely say "OMG, you really are amazing!" Sometimes this is person is a teacher, a coach, a mentor, a peer, etc... and it means something.

I didn't care how tired I felt and how "un-recovered" I was, I was going.  My guys also know I have "issues"so even if I go tired, that meant I was racing.  I think it meant more to them for me to race with them than only cheer anyway since I would get to see them out on the course more and witness the whole event along side them when possible.

John was apprised of this plan Friday night and by Saturday he decided he was IN for the double.  Well Great! Now I HAD to run the double.  Joe was planning on running both anyway.  Andrew is a smart guy and decided the 15k was enough for him.  Although Andrew has been training with me longer than Joe, Joe has been running longer and can easily handle that type of race mileage. Andrew wanted to see how fast he could run 9.3 miles and did not want to start it too tired.

The 5k
As often is the case with races that offer two options, the "better" runners usually register for the longer race.  So I lined up behind all the children running the 5k and hoped that maybe I could minimize the damage and try to hold off a few little girls by the finish.  I pointed at two youngsters and told Joe... I bet one of them win's this thing... they are so little and they are wearing racing flats!   Joe looked at his shoes and said he probably needs a new pair.  John asked "When did you get those?! Back in 9th grade?" LOL.  Joe says "No, they are only about 3 years old."  Oh Boy.  LOL.  Joe and I already talked about him getting some new sneaks when he started up with me but he really like his shoes and just hasn't had time yet. He laughed and said that he plays golf in them and wears them everywhere.  He says they are really comfortable. Clearly Joe doesn't need fast shoes to run well :)

The gun goes off and the children are gone.  There are many more adults in this race, but for some reason, like it tends to happen, all the kids line up at the front.  Thank goodness not many can pace themselves evenly so they all blast off the line.

Joe and I take off and soon he is pulling away. We pass all the kids by mile 1, but I can't help but wonder if my two runners are going to watch me get beat by some little girls today :).  I hit M1 6:17. It is slightly declined so I know I will be slower on the way back.   He pulls aways slowly and steadily until he has quite a lead on me.

At the turn around I tell him he looks good and to stay relaxed.  He looks fine and I am not sure I will be able to catch him.  By Mile 2 I am already feeling the fatigue in my quads.  This course is fast, but I simple don't feel very peppy today.  M2 - 6:30

I try as hard as I can to reel Joe in, but he is moving well.  He is passing all those near him and I am following his lead.  M3-6:32.  By the home stretch he is moving well and I simply don't have the speed to catch him. Last 0.13 - 0:48 (6:24 pace).   Joe beats me by 5 seconds. Good for him!

About a minute later John is finishing up too with a nice effort considering he is trying to be cautious today.

Time: 20:13
Gender: 1st Female
Overall: 8th Place

The 15k
By the time we catch our breath and get some drinks, we have about 30 minutes until the start of the 15k that started an hour after the 5k.  We go to our cars, get out 15k bibs and head back out.  John has the NYC Marathon and was a little worried about being a jackass here. He decided to take it easy which was very smart.  I tell Joe I want to run about 7 minute pace unless my legs just can't do it.   Joe has no idea what he can do.  I do know that Joe can run far with ease.  When I measure the routes he runs on his own, they are always miles longer than he guessed them to be.

The gun goes off and Joe starts with me.  He starts to pull ahead early.  Andrew comes cruising along side, saying he just wants to have fun. He looks great and like he is really enjoying racing fast.  He decides to settle down to his planned pace.  I pick it up and catch Joe.  We hit M1-6:57.  I can sense this is too slow for Joe so I tell him to just run his race and he doesn't need to stick with me if he wants to run faster.  He didn't even sound like he was working hard.  He pulls away.

I am hoping to just stay around 7's for this but I seem to pick it up as Joe pulls ahead. M2 -6:50.  I dont feel much like myself.  Everything feels sluggish. My legs feel very heavy and hard to move.  I try to get comfortable, to the best of my ability.  The ladies are spread out and I am in no man's land with a large gap already btw me and the ladies before and after me.  I feel unmotivated to work any harder than I have to today. M3-6:54

But by Mile 4, I already feel like I am working.  I have run fast 10 milers the week after an ultra, but today I just dont have it.  I was still very happy to be holding my pace. M4- 6:55

At 4.5 miles, I pass Joe and he says he has a cramp.  I tell him to slow down until it passes, and that he will get a second wind. I tell him to focus on relaxing and it will pass.  I pull ahead.  It didn't take him long to catch back up to me.  By mile 5 he was passing me again. M5-6:59

I start to hit the wall of fatigue. My legs have cried mutiny. I feel like I am running in quick sand. I just want to be done and it feels like there is so far to go.  The end gets to be into a light wind and up a mild incline but at that moment those minor challenges were so not welcomed. LOL M6- 6:59

We hit the turn around just after mile 6 and now we finish into the (light but annoyingly present) wind! Yay! (Sarcasm :)).  I am done. I fade hard.  But most around me do as well. I see John and Andrew at this point.  I tell Andrew that Joe is breaking the rules!  He is not supposed to beat me! ;)  Andrew tells me to go get him! LOL. (I am trying!). I feel some twinges in my calves that I dont like. I rarely get those.  I dont want another strain. I back down since there is no women near by for me to catch or be passed by.  M7-7:11

I just want this to be over.  Everyone is fading.  I could have possibly used a gel out there.  I was tired and only had a few shot glass sized cups of water on the course.  Maybe a gatorade could have helped? M8-7:12

The last mile hurt.  I worked hard to just stay even. I tried to reel in Joe. I was gaining on him, but he was making it hard for me. M9-7:14.  Last .3 was rough.  I did kick a little, felt my calves feeling odd and slowed. I caught up to Joe as much as I could. Last 0.37 -2:32 (6:56 pace).  And just like in the 5k, Joe beats me by 5 seconds!  LOL!

A few minutes later John comes through and shortly there after Andrew unleashed a full sprint to pass anyone between himself and the finish line.  If you are ever in a race with Andrew, you better beat him early b/c he will crush you in the last 50 meters.  Usually I yell "Kick!"  In this case I found myself yelling "Holy Crap!"

At the end of the day, John, Joe, Andrew and I all took home awards for our performances.  It was a great day and I was so glad get to be a witness to the greatness these guys demonstrated out there on the courses doing something new to them and something they are just figuring out.  Next time,  I will introduce them to some hilly trail racing. :)

Time: 1:05:50
Gender: 6th place Female
AG: 1st in Age.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Guest Blogger: Jim Plant, "When the Pain is Worth It" (Tussey Mountainback 50 Mile Race Report)

Almost weekly for many many years now (first as "meka"on Runner's World Online starting back in 2006 and now here on Creating Momentum!) I post race reports detailing where I ran and how I did, along with apparently any random detail that floods into my brain as I speedily tap out a stream-of-consciousness play-by-play account of the weekend's event. I recently decided that it might be fun to ask some of the runners I coach to share their experiences here on my blog as Guest Bloggers.

For the past few months I have been training several runners, one of whom is my good friend Jim Plant. Jim has his own blog called "So Far From Normal" (which probably explains why we are friends).  His header has a stick figure sketch of bald guy running just past a sign that says "100 miles" along with an arrow pointing the opposite direction.  I love that the stickman has a big smile with a thought bubble that says "Ha Ha! Normal. LOL. WTF"  I remember seeing this drawing and thinking "He is smiling and thinking LOL and WTF at the same time? Now that is funny."

Jim and I were both headed out to race Tussey.  We had worked closely together on his goal of running a qualifying time for the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run.  I asked him if he would consider contributing his own version of a Race Report here on my blog as my very first Guest Blogger.  I feel honored that he agreed to share his experience and I thank him for discussing our work together in his report.  Thank you Jim :)

So without further ado, I invite you to read "When the Pain is Worth It" cross-posted from So Far From Normal originally posted Monday October 21, 2013 by James Plant.

When the pain is worth it…..

Tussey MountainBack 50 mile race report.

I am sitting on a plane going back home to California from my former home state of Pennsylvania, my legs are totally trashed, I am sore from the neck down, but feeling smugly satisfied with the reward for my efforts over the weekend.
You see I qualified for the 5th year running for Western States 100. As a bonus, there was a 12 minute or so PR for 50 miles. YAY!


But wait, there is more….
Let’s go back in time. This year in general hasn’t been the best for running, and getting the WS qualifier was becoming elusive. Plan A was to run a sub 11 for 50 at Umstead in April. I did great until I fell apart at mile 42 – after which I just strolled it in.

Plan B was to finish 100 miles at the Tahoe Rim Trail. Nope, fell apart at mile 40 (again).

Pretty soon, August was about half way through, and I was running out of time, (the qualifying period ends in early November).

I was signed up for Dick Collins Firetrails 50, but anecdotal evidence from friends and reading previous results gave me the impression that this would be close to impossible for me to get in under 11 hours.

It came to a head sometime during the Run On The Sly 20 mile race on August 18th  – it was toward the end of that race that I decided that I needed help. I had already downgraded myself from the 50k to the 20, so was feeling bad about that, and then there was my minor melt down at about 15 miles or so into that run. I finished that run averaging a totally unspectacular 13:38 pace. Ugh. To get the WS qualifier, I would need to average 30 seconds per mile faster for 30 more miles. Impossible the way I was feeling at that point.

Ultimately, I decided to reach out to my friend Shannon (here is something I wrote about her several months ago) – she agreed to take me on and started putting a training plan together for me. She did however acknowledge that it was going to be a challenge to get ready for a sub 11 hour 50 mile run in just a couple of months. For my part, I promised that I would do everything in my power to complete the workouts that she prescribed, and in the manner that she prescribed.

Of the few WS qualifying runs that were practical that remained – we soon figured out that Tussey Mountain would be my best shot. Right time of year, a non technical running surface – and looking at the previous results, a huge percentage of runners came in under 11 hours.

Hills are my friend. Really.
Over the weeks – I mostly stayed off of the wonderful trails I have so close to me in favor of running the roads in my ‘hood. I really needed just about every mile to be better than 12 minute pace. There was simply no time to “build a base of long slow runs”. In my immediate vicinity, there are some nice hills – a couple of them, about 2 miles long. I became intimately familiar with them. Running hard down, power hiking up – eventually jogging up, and then finally running up them. The efforts were almost always medium to hard.

Test #1 a month or so into the training, was the Sierra Nevada Endurance runs, a Marathon that starts at No Hands Bridge in the Auburn State Recreation Area. The goal – under 13 minute pace. I struggled the last few miles – but had enough energy left in me to throw down a 10:30 mile at the end. I succeeded – 12:51. I was a little hard on myself, and slightly disappointed with my run, as I struggled to hold it between miles 16-22. But Shannon was happy.

The training continues, my legs were feeling the punishment – just a recovery ruin or two and then it was back to business. Pounding the hills of Camino, and reporting to Shannon daily.

The next weekend was a return to Hinson Lake for the 5th time– unlike previous years where I showed up and had no idea how my run was going to go – whether I was just going to run and have fun, or hang out with friends; no this year, I had been set specific goals. 35 continuous miles, sub 13 minute pace. 50 miles total over the whole 24 hours. I didn’t spend much time socializing for the first 7.5 hours. I had a mission, and ultimately succeeded, (barely), average pace was 12:58. Through the night, I did 10 easy miles, and then Sunday morning, did a hard 5 on tired legs at 11 minute pace. Both Shannon and I were happy.

My final test the following weekend was a pretty tough 21 mile trail race. Knowing the terrain on this course (there are two really steep climbs both over 1000’, one of them in less than a mile), I knew this would be tough to get in under 13 minute pace, but gave it a shot. 13:06 min/mile average. I was happy.

The last 3 weeks had been pretty high mileage, with some pretty hard efforts. Taper time. I was looking forward to tapering. My legs had felt almost continually heavy for the last 3 weeks.

Final test was one of my favorite trail runs near home. I had used this 7.1 mile loop as a guide to “monitor” my progress. I would go maximum effort and see where I was. Week 1 of my training – 12:14 pace. 2 weeks later, 11:36. And finally, the last week of training, 10:37 pace. There was no doubt Shannon’s medicine had worked.

Race day execution.
I am a geek, so using the amazing amount of data on the Tussey Mountain website, I came up with a plan, it involved spreadsheets, some calculations taking into account fade, and elevation gain and descent. My plan was to finish in 10:43. This would be a PR. I pinned my race day plan to my water bottle and ending up referring to it often.

An uneventful journey to PA and early Sunday morning, I found myself lining up at the start line, it looked like the weather was going to be perfect; cool and sunny. Other friends were there too, as well as Shannon, Alanna, Jessi, and Joey were also there ready to go.

The first 3 miles or so, pretty much all up hill felt good, the long hill training was showing benefit. I came in to the first aid station a couple of minutes under plan. Next was a long downhill section – again, the long hills paid off, I gained a couple more minutes against the plan. I was liking the course, the surface was great, and the hills so far weren’t bad

And so it went – some climbs, some descents, some flat. Follow the plan. I passed Joey at around 16 miles. He was also aiming for a WS qualifier. He was injured and nursing a bad hamstring – he was running smart and just aiming for sub 11. (He succeeded, 10:47)

The biggest climb was 3 miles long at mile 20. Again, I didn’t find it too bad, I power hiked most of it, jogged some of it, and still came in under plan for that section.

Half way, I was under still 12 minute pace average, and I was starting to believe that I was going to pull this off.

I passed Alanna about mile 28, she was struggling unfortunately with stomach issues. It was great to get some encouragement from a friend. (She finished very respectably also under 11 hours)

At 30 miles, the belief kicked in – I was 20 minutes ahead of my plan – this was significant in that I could do every mile one minute slower than plan and still make my qualifier with a PR.

35 – I was still on a 12 minute average pace. Now it became a case of just keep moving and I would make it. It would take a complete and utter disaster for me to fail. At this point, my legs were beat up, I was tired and sore, but happy with how the day was progressing.   I now made a conscious decision to start ‘withdrawing’ the time I had deposited in the ‘bank’. My mantra was “Relax Jimbo, you’ve got this, relax”. And I did. I took the foot off the gas and started visualizing the finish.


One climb left somewhere around 43 miles, sure I was slow going up it, but by this point I didn’t care, my mission was all but accomplished. Relax Jimbo, relax.
The last 4.2 miles are a gentle descent to the finish. This was fabulous because if time was tight, and if I had needed to, I would be able to haul ass down the hill to make sure I got the time I needed. But I didn’t need to. I just relaxed, jogged some and walked some to the finish. At one point, I thought I could go for it, and shoot for a sub 10:30 finish. But I just LOL’d  and said WTF? to myself, I didn’t care, I was going to get what I came for.

10:36 – a 12 minute PR and 7 minutes under “The Plan”

Tussey is an awesome race, really awesome. The  level of detail on their website is incredible and also extremely accurate (distances between aid stations etc.), and the course is amazingly well marked, every mile has a mile marker, which really inspires confidence (it would have been no fun to think I was at 48 miles and then realize that there were 4 miles left, especially when chasing a time – distance is no guarantee at some trail races.) The relay runners and their crews give tons of support – cow bells and “WooHoo’s” may seem cheesy, but it helps!

I had no interest in the scenery or the views, this race for me was all business. I was happy though that once I relaxed a bit, that I could take in the views and enjoy my surroundings. The leaves were at their peak for color and some of the mountain vistas were spectacular.

Post race, my legs totally seized up, it took everything I had just to move one step! I wanted to lie down, but knew I wouldn’t be able to get up without help, I wanted to sit, I wanted to cry, I wanted a beer, I wanted water, I wanted coffee, I wanted a cheeseburger; I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do.


I caught up with Shannon soon after I was done (who had finished several hours earlier – fast enough to win prize money; AWESOME!) It was then I got a little emotional. The last two months have been hard, really hard, and Shannon has been an amazing mentor along the whole journey, we hugged and I got a bit of a lump in my throat and a tear or two in my eye. I DID IT! I DID IT! I DID IT! YEAH!!! I know it was me who put in the miles and the effort, but I couldn’t have, wouldn’t have got there without her plan, guidance and motivation. Thank you! Thank you! What an amazing journey it has been!

So, now my name goes into the lottery for Western States 100 – My name will be on 5 separate lottery tickets, one for each year I have qualified and not been successful in getting in to the race. Maybe this year will be the year.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tussey Mountainback, USATF National 50 Mile Road Championship, State College PA. 10/20/13

Course Review:  As I stood near the finish line I could hear runners sharing a wide variety of opinions about the race as they came through the finish: "The best course ever!" "That just sucked!" "That was the hardest thing I ever did!"  "The hills were horrible!!!"  "The hills weren't as bad as I thought!"  "The views were pretty." etc...

I really liked the course.  For a ROAD 50 Mile National Championship race it was a great course.  (If you want a trail race, you may prefer the USATF 50 miIe Trail Championship that usually takes place in March.)  This course seemed to weed out the unprepared and allowed those who worked hard to shine.  Unfortunately, I was one of those under-prepared and I felt that this course just ate me up and spit me out.

The race is one single 50 mile lap that has more downs than it has ups, but the ups are long climbs.  For example Leg 6 contains an 3.7 mile stretch of continuous uphill at I believe about a 7% average grade.  Leg 11 has a stretch that reached about 11% grade.  If you are able to run hills like that, you will get rewarded with an extremely fast time due to the blazing descents on runnable terrain that follow each up.  Out of the 12 legs, only 5 are uphill, with the worst being leg 6.  Three of those 5 uphill legs are in the first half.  Once you get to 25 miles, there are more downhill legs than ups left!  But leg 11 has the steepest of the climbs just before the final descent. Once over the last crest, the last 4.2 miles to the finish can be as fast as your heart desires.

The terrain is mixture of mostly gravel and asphalt road. I found the gravel roads to have single track-like sections of dirt where car tires pushed away the gravel.  It was much easier on my feet than running continuously on thick gravel.  At some point the gravel, which was large gravel, could be felt through my shoes.

The Race Director and his crew did a fabulous job of marking every mile.  I wasn't sure if I wanted to know this much information but I found it absolutely motivating to know where I was on the course.  There were also markers indicating 1/2 mile to the Aid Station before each of the 12 well-stocked pit stops. My only minor complaint is that they only served HEED as the sports drink.  They did have water and Coke (no Mt. Dew) so I basically ran the entire race on Coke, water, 3 gels, a few potatoes and some chips.  Each Aid Station supplied Hammer gel, potatoes, sweet and salty snacks, lot of drinks. Runners need to carry very little for this event.  If you need anything not supplied, you could use drop bags.

The elevation chart:

The night before the race Alanna pulled up the race website on her phone while we waited for a table for dinner. I scribbled on the back of a gas receipt which legs were up (1, 4, 6, 9, 11) and which were down.  I put an asterisk next to the hardest legs (1, 6, 11) and then committed the up legs to memory.  Sometime between dinner and bedtime I misplaced that receipt.

What to wear?
I pretty much packed a backpack full of clothing I could wear for any permutation of weather.  I checked the weather just before bed and it predicted that the rain would pass over night and leave the morning 37 degrees feeling like 33 with windchill.  It was supposed to fell like 33 for a few hours.  Wow.  I have not run in weather that cold in a long time.  The temps were to rise into the mid-40's by the time I should finish.  The only thing I was certain of was that I would wear my capri pants. (I could have gotten by with shorts).

I never use drop bags in races but I packed one for this one, but ultimately deciding to not use it.  One lap ultras scare the crap out of me.  I actually have self-diagnosed myself as having some sort of revere claustrophobia.  I can feel perfectly comfortable inside an MRI (and get some of the best sleep of my life in them) but put me on a trail that is too long and the moment I realize that I wont be able to get out for hours and I start to feel trapped.

My main concern was actually  what shoes to wear? My last 50 miler in April started with me in racing flats.  I had assumed I would do that again.  But I was concerned I would feel the gravel through the thin light T7's and need to swap. But when? 25? 40?  Oh boy.  So I planned to leave a pair of Launch's in a drop bag somewhere between mile 30-35.  Then I decided to add a bottle of Gatorade. Then I added extra socks.  Then a zip lock of gels.

Then I realized this is stupid.  I know I am not going to stop for this stuff.  So I decided to just start in the Launch, forego the Gatorade, use the gels on the course but carry a few just in case they run out, and drink water and soda.  I grabbed my old Nathan's race vest and a 10 oz Nathan's quick shot bottle, to be filled with gatorade at the start, and put it in the pocket of my vest.  I grabbed 5 gels and dropped them in the other pocket.  That was it.  Done. No drop bag needed.

The Race:
Jim, Alanna, and I arrived early enough for me to decide that I did not need the hat and gloves I had on.  I wore a singlet under a long sleeve tech shirt and added my racing vest over the top.  Capris and my Brooks Launch completed the outfit and I was ready to run.  At 6:55 am, I got out of the car and headed to the starting line.  Just about 7 am we were running.

I ran the first 12-13 mile with a guy who was running his first 50.  He was moving well. We had the required conversations that runners have when the end up running together in ultras...  races, paces, goals, Born to Run, Vibrams,  how many races per year is too many, etc..  By leg 4 my stomach started to get upset and I decided I needed to walk the uphill on that section.  I let my running partner go, wondering if I would see him again or not.  I make a quick pit stop at the Aid Station just around 15 miles and just as I started heading back out I saw Christian.  He told me to hurry up and I took off with him.

Christian and I have run into each other at several races over the years, but never really spent much time running together. I was just starting to get into a negative place in my head when my stomach acted up, but seeing a familiar face perked me up.  We ran, we talked, and I started to have fun again.

I was having trouble with the climbs.  I was simply just not prepared for those types in hills.  I am a very busy flatlander and simply do not have time travel to hills to train. My heart was pounding in my ears and I decided that I needed to walk more than I originally intended too.  We paced ourselves up the hills and ran hard on the downhills making up a lot of time.

When we go to the top of leg 6, the worst leg and hit mile 25 just under 4 hours we knew we had an outside shot at sub-8.  In theory, it wasn't an unrealistic thought to think we could even split this race. After all there were more uphills in the first half than the second.  I declared that we should count how many people we can pass in the second half. At Mile 25 I felt like a super hero!

But by the time we hit Mile 32, I was starting to fall apart. LOL! I was tired.  My fueling was less than ideal. Since I cant drink Heed I was winging it.  I did carry that small 10 oz bottle of Gatorade for way too many miles before I started topping it off with water. I would down cups of Coke and water at each stop.  I did take 3 gels while I was out there.  I ate a few chunks of potatoes, about 5 potato chips, and two pretzel sticks.  I don't eat or drink much of anything when training long slow distance runs of up to 20  milers and have found this very helpful in preparing me for long races.  The problem is sometimes I forget to fuel when racing but I have learned to recognize earlier than I used to when I need to take in some calories.

While quickly drinking a soda at the aid station, I glanced down at my shins and noticed both were swollen. It wasn't terrible but it was obvious and odd. I have never experienced this before during a race that I noticed and especially not one as a short as 32 miles.  I still had 18 more miles to go and now I was worried that something was going wrong.

At the 35 mile aid station, as I grabbed another coke, I noticed a small bruise starting to form on my left leg, just above the ankle. Oh Great!  I pressed around my leg and found that nothing actually hurt.  It made no sense at all?  Why am I swollen and bruising but nothing hurts?  It distracted and concerned me, but we just kept moving.  I whined to Christian about it and we both agreed that I would have been much better off if I had not noticed it at all.  I am sure this was just some odd reaction to all the pounding on the down hills.

Even though the course had less climbing in the first half, I was starting to run out of steam.  Christian and I continued onward together and although our pace faded we were still managing to pick off runners as we moved forward. Some of them got us back.  We reeled back in a few who blew past us early on.  But for a good part of the many many miles we ran together, it was as if Christian and I were just out together on some well-stocked extra long training run.  We simply ended up running miles and miles without another runner in sight.  Almost 180 ultra runners in this race and 110 relay teams and for large parts of this race we were simply alone out there for large chunks of mileage with maybe at most up to 4 others in sight.  It was peaceful and quite fun, especially when spotting beautiful views as we ran across the top of the ridge.

As we got closer to end of the race, Christian and I somehow managed to pass a few more people on the steepest incline. How that happened I cant explain. He was having some knee pain.  I was very worried about my cankles.  We were kind of a moving train wreck, but we were moving pretty fast on those descents!  I told Christian I don't know what place I am in but I want to try to hold it if possible. As we crested the last hill I wanted to run hard to ensure I didnt just give my position away. We really worked hard on that last descent.  At one point, I noticed my Garmin reading 7:17 pace!  We settled down and logged an 8 minute mile and settled in a little more for an 8:30. We continued to run and there was no one else in sight.

As we came around the final bend with less than a half mile to go, I notice a female runner ahead of a male runner. I started to pick up the pace and Christian called out, that's a chick go get her!  I started to pick up my pace and responded back to him that I think she is Relayer, but I kept pushing my pace trying to catch her, still not sure.  As we approached the finish area,  I pushed with all I had but there were cars in the road that I had to weave around a bit.  I just did not have enough time to catch her anyway.  She was an ultra runner and I was just too late.  She finished about 10 seconds ahead of me.

Although I know I ran as hard I could at this race, I am pretty sure if I train specifically for the hills I will be able to improve my time significantly. I am a little disappointed that I needed to walk as much of those uphills as I did.  But I understand that happened because I was simply under-prepared.  Now I know what to expect.

At the award ceremony I was very pleased to learn that despite my race being a lot slower than I had hoped to run, I still managed to place 5th Open USATF Female... which was good enough for prize money :)

Almost two months ago I got a message from my friend Jim P. asking if I have room on my roster for a new client.  I had just completed training two runners and I had room.  He asked if I could help him train for a Western States qualifier.  The window closes in November and he was running out of time.  He is living out in California now and had a few races planned out there, but when I looked at the results it seemed like Tussey was the best bet for a WSQ than any other option still available.

Jim wasn't even sure he was truly "coachable", reporting that his work life is too hectic, he can't plan regularly scheduled training weeks, sometimes he is on the road for days at a time, he likes to do his favorite run and that was important to him, he likes to makes decisions about his run while on the run based upon how he felt, etc...etc...  So he was going make things tough.  We only had 8 weeks!!!  So rather than give him a rigid day by day plan that he could not deviate from that would surely fail him, I instead devised a series of training RULES and EXCEPTIONS that he had to follow.  I sent him weekly plans that he could alter as long as he followed those rules.  The rules were complicated and devised to meet a criteria I needed him to meet and allowed him to move the less critical mileage around as needed. Jim loved this method and managed to complete every single thing I asked of him despite his unpredictable crazy schedule.  He was committed, dedicated and never once sent me a daily feedback email saying he skipped a workout.  He even did the obnoxiously horrific hill climbing treadmill workout I devised to mimic that ridiculously long climb ( more often than I actually did it... LOL).

After I finished I was a little panicked.  I knew there was a high percentage of WSQing finishers at this race, but as I stood at the finish line started to reflect on the fact that this course has a 12 hour cut-off.  This means that most who finish WILL WSQ, but many will get pulled and simply DNF.  The race results did not indicate how many starters DNFd so I had no idea what percentage of starters actually made the 11 hour cut-off.  I started to fear I may have misinterpreted the data and my mistake was going to fail him and there was nothing I could do about this now.

The awards ceremony was announced at 5 pm (at 10 hours into the race) and Jim wasn't in yet.  I was jumping out of my skin.  I was watching the finish area from the bottom of the hill where the pavilion was while also trying to listen for my name.  6 pm would be the 11 hour cut off, so at 5:45 I started walking up the hill to wait for Jim and Alanna.  I was hoping they would be together.

But as I walked towards the finish area, I saw him... walking down the hill towards me... exhausted! He did it!!!  He got his WSQ and a new PR!  I was so happy for him!  He worked so hard and he did it!  Shortly, thereafter Alanna was done too.

Time: 8:21
Gender : 7th Overall Female
Open Women 5th (for prize money that paid for the trip).

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Long Beach Island, 18 miler, LBI, NJ. 10/13/13

HOLY COW that was hard! I really wanted to stay positive.  The weather report predicted winds coming steadily from the NE at 20-22 mph all morning. The race pretty much runs NE the entire way.  UGH.  I hate wind.

Race Review:
This race is one of the best values in the area.  If you are a USATF-NJ member and register before the very generous 10/1 cut-off, you get a bib for this 18 mile run for a whopping $28 bucks! We park at St. Francis Community Center, or side streets, close to the 7.5 marker.  We pick up our bibs, and tech t-shirts in the gym. We have access to indoor bathrooms. Busses transport us to the start on one side of Long Beach Island.  At the starting area there are an enormous number of port-o-potties, a table of water and the gear bag truck that brings our stuff to the finish.  You can walk to the end of the island and see the ocean. There is no shelter besides a small little bath house with a small overhang that many us of crammed under last year in the rain.  However today it was in the 60's and windy at the start.

The race starts at 10:30 am.  The course is a point-to-point flat 18 mile run across the entire length of Long Beach Island.  People can be overheard saying it is the most boring course they have ever run. Personally I don't feel that way, but have run over 110 miles on a one mile loop.  Sometimes I can entertain myself out there. It is one straight flat road for about 17.5 miles, until you turn left, then make two quick right turns ending up an incline to the finish at the Barnegat Light House.  Although the website states that the winds generally come from the South, that is not my experience.  I have run this 4 times now and every time there has been a head wind of some significance to contend with. This year it was by far the worst!  Once (the year the Chicago Marathon ran out of water due to extreme heat) we also had extreme heat at about 88 degrees.  Last year it was 50 degrees with cold rain and wind. There is no shade or shelter on this course so what ever elements are thrown at you, you need to be prepared to accept them and cope with them for the entire run.

For me all those negatives are not enough to keep me away.  Once you accept the challenges of the weather and understand that you will have to be ok with a straight shot, you then realize that this race still can provide a phenomenal opportunity to run fast.  Aid is about every 2 miles and spectators do come out to cheer.  The streets are not lined with them, but they are spread out throughout the course in small groups and that helps.

After you finish you get handed an index card with your place on it. There are a lot of snacks at the end: bagels, cookies, bananas, birch beer, and a lot of other things to pick from.  The volunteer who handle the gear bags are the best.  The are so attentive that as you walk towards their spot, if they can see your number they will grab your bag before you even get to them!

Finally after the race you get bussed back to the Community Center.  There is usually a post race buffet of cold cuts and tuna or chicken salad. Last year I thought there was a lot more non-meat options but maybe I missed them this year.  There are coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and tons of desserts.  Results are available online immediately if you have a smartphone on you.  Awards are presented in the gym.  Only first place male and female OA get acknowledged with trophies. Age Group award winners get medals.

Although this race does not cater to runners' every whim like some of the much more expensive races may, I cant imagine finding a race of this length that provides so much for such a reasonable price.

My Race (and Sidney's):
Oh boy.  First, I don't have splits b/c I missed so many that the data is useless. Basically I ran this whole race by feel.  Last year I ran 7:09 pace.  I have run a little faster this year so I felt 7:09 in the wind was still possible.  I started off last year with a woman named Maggie who was just phenomenal. It was colder and rainy with wind but much less than today.  I do my best in the rain.

After Sid and I met up with John, Sue, Maria, Jackie, Steve, Martin and Bill at the start, I left them so I could go up front. Most of the group were running this simply as a long run.

Sidney was running this as a spur of the moment decision he made two weeks ago on really no genuine training at all. Sid's training consist of 4 milers he runs with our dog.  Sid has screws in his knee and a achilles tendon that had to be replaced years ago.  He doesn't like to make things too complicated, so he decided he wanted to run this race using jelly beans.  Not "sports beans" but Jelly Belly Jelly Beans.  (Sugar is sugar so why not!) When we looked for them we found Jelly Belly also made Candy Corn.  He likes candy corn and it was easy to carry.

I will admit, I was a little worried he was going to have a tough time out there. I didn't want to discourage him, but I also didn't want him to have a miserable day and do too much damage to his knee. I let him know that if he felt that things were not going well for him he could easily bail at the Community Center as he passed it and then meet me at the finish.  I was 50/50 on whether I thought he would actually bail out.  He later said so was he.

Sidney hung back and I moved up, lining up right next to Maggie from last year! I was thrilled.  Maggie is awesome and very strong smart runner.  We rambled a bit about expectations. We tried to figure out how this wind was going to alter our plans.  A guy behind us said he had calculated 15 seconds per mile, Maggie said she had figured 12.  I had planned to aim for 7:05's for the first few miles, then fade as it happened like last year.  If I ran a 7:09 pace last year, when I was running just as well, I figured 7:20-7:25 would be realistic pace by the end of today based up on the wind.  I still wanted to start at 7:00-7:05 pace if possible because I expected a hard fade.

I have no splits but I know I was faster than 7:00-7:05 pace for the first four miles.   My pacing was sloppy but it really had a lot more to do with trying to make the best decisions I could to manage the wind than it did with having no discipline.

A pack of men were running just sub-7.  Maggie and I tucked in.  We talked a bit about strategy. She is  a faster runner than me so this 6:55 pace was likely ok for her.  One guy said he felt the pace was too slow.  However, it was slightly too fast for me. But if I dropped back to 7:05's then I would be running alone in that wind with no pack to work with.  In 20+ mile per hour winds with gust to over 30 mph, a decision that would have me running alone would leave me fighting too hard the entire way.  I decided I would rather be faster at the start and get some shelter working within a pack then go at it alone.  Maggie and I tucked in and the pace felt good, but fast.

As we approach mile 4, I noticed we were collectively fading.  When I noticed a 7:16 on my watch, I looked ahead and saw another pack a little bit ahead.  I thought for a minute and then told Maggie, I want to try to move up. Maybe catch that pack just ahead and settle in with them.  They looked within range, I moved up towards the front of my pack, and then tried to work up towards them.  The only trouble was just as I made that decision, it seemed like that pack ahead picked up their pace too. Maggie made the break with me.  We were out fighting the wind. Our pace was only back down to 6:55. It felt much faster due to the effort. She advised that we take out time to catch them. I didn't feel like I had much of a choice. Dropping a 6:30 right now was not happening for me.  However, after a few minutes out there without much progress, I noticed the wind plus the pace was too much for me.  I had to drop back. I wished Maggie luck, told her to go for it and I slowed.  It was just too early to fight that hard.  My original pace group caught back up to me and I was so tired from a failed break away by then that I had trouble staying with them so I let them go too.  6:55-7:00 was too much for me today.  Soon I found myself running alone, the very thing I was trying to avoid doing.  This was going to be a long day!

I hit 6 miles, grabbed a gel and decided to simply take this one mile at a time.  I stopped paying attention to my mile splits but I was watching my pace periodically.  I found that a 7:25 pace felt comfortable and I felt confident that I could hold that for a while.  Yet when gusts of wind would pummel me, I dropped to as low as 7:45s at times.  I was able to fight it back down to 7:15s if I worked hard.

Running passed the Community Center, I wondered if Sid would take the bail out or whether he would go on. I figured I would find out by the end.  I got to half way a 1:04 which would be awesome if I could run even splits, but I was already slowing down.  Now it became a race for place. I really wanted to be able to see Sidney after it was over and tell him I was 3rd.  I knew first and second place were going to hold their positions.  I just needed to hold mine.  I was not confident I could. I still had half the race left.

By 7 miles in, I started to look behind me.  I just knew I couldn't let those I could see catch me.  I did my best, but the wind was too much and by 5 miles to go, I was getting passed.  Two men, only.  Phew.  I glanced back and saw no one close.  I did see someone in a florescent green vest a bit back. I wondered if that person was a chick, but I couldn't tell.  It completely realistic for me to get passed by that person by the end.  I tried to plan some strategy like to sit at the pace I was holding until 3 to go and then try to kick it in. But a gust of wind would blow me around the street and I knew I had no ability to control my pace.  My new strategy was to run hard whenever the wind was weaker and tolerate the wind when stronger.   It was all I could do to survive the last few miles.

Although my pace was not getting much faster, I was able to catch a few guys in the last mile. By the time I hit 17, I started to believe that there was a real possibility that I could hold 3rd.  But behind me there was someone really turning it on.  I couldn't tell if this was a man or a woman.  I tried to pick up my pace but I had so very little left. I was back down to low 7's and I was holding this person off.  I glanced back and realized this was a younger guy and it didn't matter if he caught me.  With 0.3 to go and no one visible behind him, I was going to get my 3rd.  Just as we hit the finishing stretch, the guy caught me and blew past.  He said "Sorry, I just had to catch you!"  I responded, "As long as you are not a chick, you can do anything you want".  I had nothing left.

I look around at the finish for Sidney. If I didn't see him, I knew that meant he was still running.  I was so happy to not see him there.  About a half hour later, Sidney came cruising in looking like he was working but he was moving well!  He ended up just sub-2:50 and ran the whole way pretty evenly at 9:27 pace.  I am so very proud of him.

Time: 2:12:35 (7:21 pace)
OA: 34 / 716 runners
Gender: 3rd OA
AG: 1st

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ted Corbitt 24 hour (or my 6 hour), Queen, NY. 10/5/13

I had to go out to the Ted Corbitt 24 hour mostly because this is a race that takes place once every 10 years. It seemed like a honor to be a part of this event.  It is also a Broadway Ultra Society event and I feel like this organization does such a great job putting on races that I am compelled to support the effort by trying to attend as many as I can.  I wasn't sure if I could actually make it out until the week before.

The race was a nice 1.2 mile loop a lot of Aid at the Start Finish line and a smaller liquid only Aid Station on the back side of the loop.  The course was all paved multipurpose path.  There were real bathrooms right next to the course, really really close.  I did not stay in the race long enough to have any complaints about anything.  I can say that the honeydew melon that was available at the aid station was just awesome!

This race was never good timing for me and a last minute commitment, so this was a train wreck for me from the start. First, I did not even send in my entry until the Sat before because I was not sure if I could or should actually go.  Back in July, when I heard about this race, I had decided that if I went I should only run for 6 hours in order to not be too broken down while tapering for a different race.  I have other races on the calendar that I would like to run well, and a 24 hour effort in early Oct would be bad timing.  I knew this since July.  But ultra runners is dramatic so of course as the race got closer I lost my ability to make reasonable decisions like a normal person.

Although the training I had planned for myself did not include a 24 hour run at this point, I did want a long long run by the end of this year.  For the past month or so, I had planned to run a longer race in December but that fell through so one part of my brain thought, "Well I might as well try to run as far as I can at this race to just get a long race done and I am in it anyway. If I am out there and feeling ok, I might as well just stay in it."   But the other part of my brain reminded me that running a 24 hour right now is really not in the plan so doing it is probably a bad decision.

Still, my plan up until Friday was to just go and run as a decent pace until I decided I was either doing too much damage and should stop or I was on pace for a good run to continue on. A big part of how far I would stay in it depended upon whether I could get someone to pick me up in the morning.

Then on Friday I got a call from my first job, while I was working at my second job asking me to come into on Sunday. This made me crazy.  Tuesday my car broke down and I needed to miss work, lose pay, and then pay to get it fixed, plus pay for the rental car.  The opportunity to work extra would mitigate some of that loss, but it would also make it impossible for me to stay up all night.

I also was trying to coordinate a plan with Sidney to see if there was a way for him to pick me up from Queens if I was too tired to drive myself home.  But was since he "on call" at work, he could not guarantee he could get me and would not know until the last minute.  There is no way I would attempt to drive myself home if I stayed up the entire night running, b/c I know how tired I get.  I knew there was no way I could function at work after not sleeping.

This meant it made the most sense for me to go to Queens to run 6 hours or so like I planned and then go home at a reasonable time.  But a big part of me really wanted to try to stay in it,  then sleep in my car until morning and then drive home, then go to work.  But the more I ran, the more that sounded like a horrible plan.

Having no settled plan was very unsettling for me. Sid told me in the morning that if I needed him he could probably get me. John P agreed to help me if I needed someone to drive Sid to me so Sid could drive my car.  I know had some back up if I was running great.  But still (1)  the idea of having to go to work Sunday was weighing on me and (2) I knew breaking myself down would be bad timing and made running too far less desirable.

I havent looked at my Garmin, but I ran around 10 minute pace for about 5 hours and 30 minutes before I made my decision that I was calling it at 6 hours.  I did not feel as comfortable and smooth as I wanted to feel so early in to the race. I knew it was because I was not focused on what I was doing.  I was not thrilled with the idea of going to work exhausted.  So I reverted to my original training plan, ran 35 miles in 6 hours and went home.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Newark Corporate Run, 5k, Newark, NJ 10/2/13.

This past Wednesday Integrity House held the Corporate 5k in downtown Newark NJ.   This race was a 500 point 5k but I already had scored 500 points back on New Years so I felt free to play around with aggressive pacing here.  In the last few races I was very focused on PRing and running well-executed negative split races with strong finishes. However, whenever I negative split there is always that little voice that says "but I wonder if I could have run faster had I started out harder?" Today I could test this without giving away points.

The hardest thing about today's race was the fact that it was a 12:15 pm start and 85 degrees after some cooler weather.  Racing at noon is weird.  I ended up not actually eating anything before the race.  I did run my usually morning miles with Sidney and Enzo, but I took it easy.  We did 4 in 10 minute pace.  I scrambled around all morning discharging nervous energy, regretting a little bit that I had signed up for this because it was messing up my routine. I dont like change. I do so much during that week that I need to stick to a schedule, just GO and not think about things.  Now my schedule was all screwed up and it was making me feel OFF. 

I left for Newark at 10:45 planning to get to the park by 11:15.  I was there by 11:20 pm, but it took me a lot longer than I had planned to find parking.  I ended up jogging over to the location by 11:45 pm.  I warm up a bit and decide to just start hard and see what happens.

Gun goes off and I start off fast. The crowd is very fast. This is interesting because most of the runners leading this pack were not regular road racers that I tend to see.  In fact, the ones I usually see ahead of we were behind me. This is clearly a sign that I was moving.  I look at my Garmin and I am deep sub-6.  And you know what?... It didn't hurt. It was awesome! Glorious! Incredibly worth the suffering that followed!  I assumed low 6's but not sub-6.  I was really pleased to discover that a sub-6 felt hard but not impossible.  Still I knew that was too fast so I reign it in a bit.  I end up sitting at 6:00. M1: 6:01 

Ok, so there is it.  I laid down a fast first mile and new I was now going to pay.  I realize that I had banked enough to go sub-20 if I could just hold myself together.  I have been watching video after video about running form, not necessarily instructions about form but rather I have been watching fast runners and observing their form.  My form when running fast is sloppy and awkward and wastes a lot of energy.  I do not believe I need to force myself to run in any certain way, but I do want to be mindful of how I move and what direction my energy is being directed.  During mile 2, I tried to remember what I have been watching and to be mindful of moving everything forward smoothly.  It was a nice distraction, but it did not stop the inevitable fade M2: 6:25

I know I can fade more and still be on pace for sub-20:00.  But the fact that I was concerned about how much I could fade showed me just how much I was falling apart. There was a little wind on the way back but mostly I was winded from my asthma and the hotter weather.  I was running out of steam.

I actually felt stuck in a bizarre place.  Nothing was hurting so bad that I could not run faster right then and there but I knew if I pushed harder I could really fall apart harder in the next few minutes. I felt stuck in a battle between my present and future.  My present self was trying to figure out how fast I could run in the moment without taking away time from myself later on in the mile.  I was trying find the ideal balance between being aggressive and being able to endure.  As I worked to push each step I could feel how each step was harder to take.  It was a bit surreal.  I was running out of speed, but still hoping to find something at the end. 

However as the finish got closer, I got slower and I was losing my ability to dig.  I saw the clock and it was high 19's.  I tried my best to get in under 20, but I was under half a second too slow!  Last 1.1 7:34 (6:41 pace). 

Do I think I could have run faster with a slower start?  I could not fight the fade and that was hard.  My sense is that a few seconds slower at the start may have allowed me to finish faster at the end in a way that would yield a faster time for the entire race.

Am I upset that I did not break 20? Nope.  As nice as it would be to run a 19:59 vs a 20:00 the reality is that the pace is still 6:25 for either and that pace represents my second fastest 5k of my life.

For me there was something glorious about approaching mile 1 at sub-6.  I felt invincible, until I hit mile 1.2 ;)  I have never seen a 5:xx on the clock in a race and approaching the clock feeling functional at that pace gives me hope that with a cooler day and a slightly slower start, I should be capable of running a new 5k PR someday in the near future. 

Time: 20:00.46 
Gender: 2nd Female OA