Saturday, April 26, 2014

Clinton Country Run, USATF-NJ 15k Team Championship, Clinton NJ. 4/26/14

It's 5 days after racing Boston on Monday and I don't feel 100%. I skipped the track work with Dave L. this week because I was just too beat up to feel ready to run fast and I had a lot of work to catch up on.  Enzo and I met Alanna yesterday morning for a hilly but easy paced 8 miler and only after that run did I finally start to feel good, but the hills were hard.

I ran this race because it was a 700 pt Team Championship event.  Unfortunately there were not enough other Open Women present today from my team for us to field one.  I have to start recruiting. Who wants to join my team! :)

It was really nice to see so many other Boston Runners out there racing today.  I really like the group I run with in NJ.  There are some very tough runners here.

It was windy this morning, at 8:45am when I arrived for a 9:30 am start.  I knew it was supposed to warm up into the 50's by the time we were racing. I don't know why I am having such trouble with the "heat"… I guess if the temps are above 40, I feel like it is too warm for me.  I guess I am holding my breath, hoping the heat of summer holds off some because I am just not ready to get my butt kicked by mother nature again.  After all, winter was brutal, but I finally feel like I am putting that behind me a little.

Physically I am starting to feel well again.  I am sleeping better and other indicators of my health, that I pay attention to (like how brittle my hair or nails are or how my skin feels) are starting to look good again.  My racing is starting to feel better too.

Today I had no plan except to start fast and use that downhill, and then settle into 7:00 pace (or just under) and hold that for as long as I could.  This course climbs back uphill at Mile 4.5. At about Mile 6.5 it settles down again until we have one last obnoxious uphill mile.  I was a little concerned about the rollers back there as I wasn't sure if my legs were ready for more hills.

Mile 1 is super fast and I don't feel like I really need to hold back.  I don't want to get too far ahead of myself but sometimes it just feels like too much work to run with the breaks on just to nail some pre-planned race pace.  M1 6:29

I was happy with that start and was now fully ready to settle into hovering just about 7:00, ideally just under it.  At this point, I already felt like crap so I challenged myself to try to hold 7's until the hills start and then I would reset the goal.  M2 6:55

We run a few miles along a woodsy dirt trail which really more road like than trail like.  I don't think it was an actually bike path.  I think it was hard packed dirt, but I can't be sure I am remembering it fully. Mostly I just focused on trying to stay steady.  M3 6:59

At this point, I felt the need to regroup and prepare myself mentally for hills.  I knew they were coming and did not want to be devastated on them.  I was still moving well, but I just needed to recover a bit and feel ready to go.  I passed a female.  I got a few stride lengths ahead and then noticed her surge to regain her position a half stride ahead of me.  I wasn't interested in racing her on the flat trail out of the woods, when I knew what was coming.  She commented politely, "I hate running in no man's land… it is better to be with people." She seemed very nice.  I wanted to ask her if she knew the course, but I didn't.  I also wanted to tell her to try to not swing her arms across her body so much, but I am not a huge fan of people I am racing coaching me mid-race, so I didn't.  She pulled ahead of me and I suspected maybe she doesn't need any help today.  I continued to sit and wait for the hills.  M4 7:03

At 4.5 we pop out of the trail and turn right back on to the road, we get a little decline and then the rollers start. I try to get some momentum and pick up my pace, passing the girl back and leaving her behind at that point.  The climbing feels hard today and I know I am still tired. M5 7:02

I am grateful that in between the uphills we have lovely downs to work and I try so hard to take advantage of the declines before me.  I catch up to Joe and he pulls me. We really work a hard uphill section together for a good stretch, getting the pace back down under 7:00.  M6 6:56

I am now trying to focus on just the mile I am in. I am getting very tired. My legs are running out of pep, but I am trying to just stay steady and strong.  Luckily this miles is much kinder than the two before.  M7 6:56

Mile 8 isn't really that bad either, but Mile 9 is, so once I again I am trying to mentally prepare.  There is no one near enough to me for me to focus on catching or not being caught by.  I just want to hurry up and get to this done. M8 7:02

Finally the last mile, that I have been dreading.  I try to dig, but I am done.  I am actually grateful that I am not in battle to kick it to the finish. I am running as fast as I can and with the steep inclines towards the park, I feel like I am running in slow motion.  M9: 7:10

Because the park is on top of the hill, we get the wonderful wind for the final 0.30.  That 0.30 feels like an entire mile.  I am ready for this to be over.  I kick with whatever I have just to get the chance to stop sooner.  Last 0.34 in 2:15 (6:42 pace).

I can't explain how hard this race felt but I managed to do better than I expected to run today.  I am hoping that this is a sign that I am getting fitter and stronger and just healthier in general.

Time: 1:05:03 (6:59 pace)
OA Female: 12th
AG: 2nd

I would be remiss to not mention that the absolute best part of this race was at the end when Rich T. taught me about and then demonstrated the "skinny arms" pose for a team photo  … and of course I also have to give a shout out to Ben T. for being an awesome leader (I just needed an excuse to write about Ben so there it is and it is true).


Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Boston Marathon, April 21, 2014

photo by John Price

Pre-race Run to the Start:
Michele and Scott's children holding signs.
Mine has Anxiety in the background :).
Photo by Michele Hudak
Notice it says 21,657 Smoots to go…
 bonus points for those who can figure out why :) 
It was about 7:25 am on 4/21/14 and Michele just asked if I needed a hug before I set off on my way. She was only half joking because it was clear that I was having a little trouble quieting my anxiety after being present last year. (In short, I was at the finish line waiting for John, decided I was too cold stay, got on a bus and just after we left, the bombs exploded).

She reassured me that things will go much better than last year… and then Sheena, her little youngster (I think she is about 4 years old) proudly shared what she knew about the marathon, "There was a bomb at the marathon!"… I mumbled something about everyone being ok now and then whispered a quiet question to Michele, "Does she know what happened?" Michele shared that she had just learned about it and understood that not everyone was ok.  Shana then clarified for me, "People have new legs now."

I accepted that hug from Michele.  I stepped outside into the 41 degree air and began to make my way to the start.  Standing outside, next door,  were two guys already in full party mode! Music blasted from the house, the guys already had beers in hand.  One said, "You got the right idea!  Why run the whole way…when you can just jump in as they run by!"

Making a joke I replied, "Don't think we didnt 't already discussed this last night… BUT I decided I would rather run to the start and see what happens" :)

They wished me luck and off I went, running the course backwards from Michele's house 3.8 miles away from the starting line.

I had a gel stuffed in each of the three pockets of my shorts.  My inhaler tucked in my sports bra.  A 12 oz bottle of Gatorade for before the start.  And then something I never use in racing -  A Nathan's Gel Waist Pack carrying things I would need in case of an emergency: my cell phone, my ID, a credit card, some cash, that small map from our "Runner's Passport" of the finish area with notes including Michele's phone number and how to take the train back to Michele's if I could not find the bus.

Running to the Start: I have run nothing, absolutely nothing, more awe-inspiringly peaceful than the Boston Marathon Course backwards just hours before the start (not the entire course).  I am incredibly grateful to Michele (and to John Phelan for knowing Michele) for giving me this gift.

At that time, I was the only runner on the road.  In just hours almost 40,000 runner would be  trampling down the street, but for now the road my mine with the exception of only a handful of spectators, the volunteer race staff at aid stations, and security presence.

The Elite Aid Station Tables were set up on their marks.  There is truly something special about running past elite aid tables, imagining the speed those runner will fly past... even if I was going the wrong way.

As I ran, I felt compelled to thank those officers I passed for being there.  I thanked the volunteers, who  were hard at work, setting up cups and cups of water.

Sherry and Me pre-race
And then I heard my name, as a question, called out at the 2 mile aid station… "Shannon?"  I was then pleasantly surprised to meet Sherry in person. She also a Brooks runner, who happen to be volunteering at the Aid Station.  Just a few weeks ago I was chatting with her on Facebook about her beautiful rescue dog Bear.  We talked for a minute, snapped a photo, and then I continued on my way.

I arrived about 8:10 am at the starting line. My start time was 10:25 am, so I made my way to the Athlete's Village which was almost exactly a mile from the starting line - as per my Garmin.  I wasn't sure what to do with myself for 2 hours but I knew I was hungry, despite eating a small snack before leaving Michele's.  Just as I wished I had been bright enough to bring something to eat with me, I passed a woman and some others sitting under a canopy with a sign that said "Everything Free"… and she had bananas.

I don't know what the heck is wrong with me but at that point, I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes… She offered me a banana and thanked her so much for being there.  I arrived at the Village, took off the "Throw Away" Short Sleeve shirt I wore (just so I could sit on it) which was over my Throw Away Long Sleeve shirt, that I had on for warmth.  I talked a bit with a man that sat on a cardboard box, which he claimed was his Best Find of the day so far. :)

I ate my banana, a gel, and drank my gatorade. My plan was to leave before my wave (Wave 2) was called to both use the portopotties on the way to the start because they had no line (yes, you read that correctly- the portopotties on the way to the start had NO LINE) and also to watch the elite ladies start in Wave 1.  I was sad to learn they would not let us out.

I waited at the gate, speaking with a man named Kevin, until our Wave 2 was called.  On the way over I ran into Zsuszana Carlson, Hung Ng, and Bill Allen all within a minute… causing my Wave 2 companion Kevin to exclaim "OMG, do you know Everyone!" LOL.

photo by Dave James, from John's photos of John and Me at the Expo
The Race:
At 10:20 am, I was standing in my corral when the announcer reported the temperature was 59 degrees.  It was getting warm too fast. Ugh.

Good weather is truly relative.  When coming out of winter, when training in the very cold, 60 degrees is very warm for a starting temperature and it would only get worse.  With my average training temperature being in the 40's, I was not acclimated at all to a 60+ degree marathon and I knew I was in trouble.

But, I had not planned on a fast race anyway.  I had told John Price the day before that I would be happy if I  finished in a 3:30. I had also chosen to wear my Brooks ST5 Racers which are heavier and less responsive than my T7 Racing Flats,  both because I didn't feel race ready and also because I would cover about 32 miles out there with the 6 miles of warm up miles prior to the race.  I wanted a little extra support.

Starting Corral.  Photo by John Price 
Gun Goes OFF and it takes me 45 seconds to cross the starting line. I find my pace and think to myself "These shoes feel nice!"… then about 5 minutes later I think "oh crap, why do my achilles hurt… I hope it is not these shoes!"  LOL.  It really wasn't the shoes. I was just really tense and after running up hill in the morning, then sitting in the cold grass, I think I just tightened up a bit. I try to settle down a little hoping that the tightness will pass.

By Mile 3,  I am very worried.  Everything feels hard. I feel tired, sore, achy, and dehydrated. I am not expecting this race to go well at all! Someone is handing out orange slices.  I take it.  That orange, in combination with pouring iced cold water over my head and slowing my pace a little, makes me feel 100% better…for a few minutes.  At that moment I decide that I am going to challenge myself to an Orange Eating Contest and anytime I see an orange nearby I will eat it!

M1 7:19 
M2 7:29
M3 7:34
M4 7:37
M5 7:40
M6 7:40
M7 7:41
M8 7:40

I have to mention that I never pay attention to my mile splits as I take them. I do look at the average pace on my watch for guidance and I do split the watch at each mile… but I don't look at the split while en route.  I don't like feeling like the watch is my boss.  I would rather use things like breathing rate, effort, sense of whether I can hold a pace.  I watch the average pace of the entire run, because that tells me how bad I am fading or not.  In this case I was so please to see 7:38 sitting on that screen for miles and miles.

Around mile 8, I met Tom.  Tom had his name on his shirt.  At first I though this was nice.  However within a mile or so, I believe I heard "Tom" about a gazillion times.  He cruised up next to me and I said, "I guess you are Tom?"  He said "I like to write it on my shirt because then people cheer for me.  There are always other Tom's in the races and they tend to run near me so they, too, can get cheered for. It works out well!"

I responded, "Funny you say that, because my name also happens to be Tom!" I gave him a quick smile so he would know I was joking.  We discussed race plans and he said he hoped to break 3:20 but wasn't sure if he could. I mentioned I would be happy with 3:30.

Because I did some math prior to the start, I knew 7:38 average pace would be a sub-3:20 with perfect tangents… but at mile 8, with a hard second half to go, we needed to be faster than 7:38s now to be able to have a chance to break 3:20.  I fully expected to fade in the hills, so 3:20 was not in my sites at that time.

M9 7:33
M10 7:39
M11 7:47
M12 7:40

Boston Marathon Elevation Chart

After a few miles of running with Tom, I drifted away. I don't think I could have tolerated hours and hours of people screaming "Go Tom" over and over and over and over so this was ok.

I noticed a Blind Runner (as per the sign on his back).  He was a bigger guy, for a runner.  He had a bouncy pacer… who was clearly very fast since the pacer stopped for a mid-course pit stop and then easily caught back up.  It was so interesting to watch how efficiently this blind guy ran.  I stayed behind him for many miles, so he was moving at my pace, untethered to his guide (suggesting he had some partial vision).  Someone noticed he was running the yellow line, so we assumed he might be able to see the color change.  He wasted no energy.  As his pacer bounced up and down and mildly twisted his torso with each arm swing (probably to help slow his natural speed down some), the blind runner glided forward without bounce or twists.  I was so impressed.  He was so efficient.

By mile 13, I started to realize the painful reality that could no longer be ignored.  The chafing that began miles ago was horribly painful now.  I was pretty sure I was bleeding.  Last week I wore a pain of shorts in a half marathon that chafed a tiny bit.  I chose shorts with bike shorts type liners for this race on purpose and it was not helping.  I was chafing under the bottom band of my sports bra, except for where I applied a bandage for protection.  I was also chafing where the interior of my biceps rubbed against the sides of my sports bra.  Everything hurt with every step and I had almost two hours to go!

I noticed someone handing out popsicle sticks of vaseline.  I don't see this much at races.  Boston may be the only race that I have run that does this. I remember someone telling me a story last year about a guy grabbing the popsicle stick, not knowing what it was, and sticking it right in his mouth!  LOL.  The vaseline was enough to help me through the rest of the race.

M13 7:44
M14 7:41
M15 7:47
M16 7:39

I started doing some math at mile 15… 10 minute per mile is 150 minutes… if I hold  8 minute pace, that is 2 minutes less per miles for 15 miles so I can subtract 30 minutes from that … which means I have about 2 hours left… and HOLY COW that means I will come in about 3:24 if I can only hold it together on the hills!  Every mile under 8 is a victory!!!

I started grabbing every thing I could to help me feel energized for those hills… any orange slice in my wing span, I grabbed… any random cup of water held out by a complete stranger (which honestly scared the crap out of me when I thought about it too hard... but I knew I needed it.  I admit, I did smell the water before dumping it on my head.  I did wait to drink at official aid stations).  I even grabbed an ice pop on the way up Heartbreak!

I cannot explain how surprised I am with how well I tolerated those hills.  I knew Heartbreak really isn't terrible, as it is only about a half mile long at about 4 percent grade.  Do that on your treadmill right now and you will find it runnable… do it at mile 21 and you will realize why it is called Heartbreak Hill.

On Monday, I crushed those hills!  I passed more runners than I expected to.  I watched my average pace barely drop as I climbed.  I used every downhill to make up anything I felt I lost on the way up and once over the top of the final climb, with screaming spectators yelling out exactly what I was thinking…"You DID IT!"  I felt rejuvenated and ready to take this race home!

M17 7:48
M18 7:49
M19 7:34
M20 7:49
M21 8:05

photo by Kino @kinofault
I tried with all my heart to actually pick up my pace after Heartbreak.  All the downhills helped.  I briefly had delusions of grandeur as I try to believe I could negative split Boston!  People kept calling out things like, it is all down hill from here and I thought that maybe I had a shot... but honestly this is not true.  At Mile 25 there is one more roller that is really hard after all the hard work in the hills.  That is the hill they should call Heartbreak… just when you think you are done with the ups, there is just the one more uphill to kick you in the gut.

M22 7:29
M23 7:38
M24 7:43
M25 7:50

But once that was over, I knew I was reaching the point where everyone stopped last year because of the explosion.  I guess this was where the "scream tunnel" was supposed to be… but in my head it was completely silent… I felt like I was on autopilot.  I was suddenly scared.   I was actually afraid of the finish line.  I felt like I was running directly into a burning building, but I knew I just needed to hurry up and get it done.

In the most ironic photo ever… it mile 25, while I was running in my mind completely alone… someone took this photo… and there in the midst of a 36,000 runner race, I am completely by myself.

photo by Mark Nyan and touch up by Jim Merrit

I dug for whatever I had left and as I turned the final corner, I knew I had about .5 miles to go.  I even found my kick in the last 0.2 miles getting down under 7 for the first time in the entire race.

M26 7:47
Last .2 1:43 (6:44 pace)

Once across the finish line, I was only concerned about one thing… get on the bus and get the heck out of there and that is just what I did.

Once back at Michele's I took a quick shower and promptly drove home to NJ, feeling the need to get home to Sidney where I knew I would feel most safe.

Final Stretch to the Finish. Photo by John Price

Time: 3:22:34 (7:43 pace)
OA place: 7105
Gender place: 1164
0-39 AG place: 912

I also want to add a special note of Thank you to all the people who made my weekend special.  Thank you again, to Michele and family for housing me.  Thank you again to John Price for spending a few hours with me Sunday traveling to the expo and back with me.  Thank you to John Phelan and Enrique Sallent  (and Michele again) for making me laugh so hard the night before at dinner and working with me for months while training hard for this event.  You guys are the best :) 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Why I won't run Unite Half Marathon again, New Brunswick, NJ. 4/13/14

I paid $120 for this race. I paid for the convenience of Race Day pick up.  I will not return to this race.

The race is too big and staff can't deal with runners kindly.  In general, the course was well-marked. The aid stations were well-stocked.  Parking seemed fine.  Porto-potties were plentiful.

The bulk of the course was incredibly boring and at times ran through streets with warehouses or highway ramps. It was absolutely not worth $120 or even the $100 original fee.  I only went because it was part of my race series and I thought I could collect some points to help my score.  There are many better ways to spend that kind of money.

My problem is not the boring course, but rather the fact that when interacting with staff at this race, my experience was terrible and because of that I will not return.  This just tells me that the race is too big for staff to be in control of their own emotions and frustration tolerances. When dealing with runners, it shows.

I take responsibility for leaving my ID in my car 1.5 miles away from where I needed to pick up my bib.  I run 40+ races per year and pick up my bib almost weekly, without ID.   Out of habit, I left my ID in my car, which was parked at the finish area. I jogged to the start 1.5 miles away.  As I saw the massive size of this race (a few 1000 instead of a few 100), I realized I may have a problem since I didn't have ID.  I proceeded to the pick up area.  I asked along the way if  staff checked their ID at bib pickup, some said YES, while others stated staff did NOT check ID at bib pickup the day before.  I had less than an hour to deal with this and hoped it might work out.

There was a chance I did not need my ID, but I expected to be told that I did.  That part did not upset me.  Instead I was frustrated by the extreme rudeness I encountered when dealing with staff.

I ran Boston last year.  I just left the finish area minutes before the Bombs went off.   Michele and I had to drive back into Boston to pick up John while the chaos was happening, during news reports of multiple devices being found and how the JFK library has also bomb and was now on fire.  We were terrified that more bombs were going to blow up while we were trying to find John to remove him from the city.  I understand security is now the norm.

When asked for ID, I said "My ID is in my car.  I am afraid I will miss the start if I have to run back. It is a 3 mile round trip to get it and I just ran 1.5 miles here.  Is there anything I can do here to get my bib?"  

I really wasn't sure what could be done, but in light of me listing a lot of personal information on my bib maybe I could tell them my address, my emergency contact person's name and phone number… anything to show them I am me… I know a lot of runners in my local community.  Maybe someone could vouch for me… I didn't know.  I was just exploring solutions before sprinting back to my car.

"NO ID, NO Exception! It is really not my problem if you miss the start. There is nothing I can do to help you."  (At this point, I understand Rules are Rules, but just s TINY bit of politeness would have been appreciated, even if it was only for the sake of being polite as a person representing the face of the race).

I asked about the advertised shuttles. "Do you think I could catch a shuttle back to the start?"  Trying to think of a solution.

The irritable response: "I have no idea.  I don't know what to tell you.  I can't help you!"

Ok. Now all that is fine, but the tone need not be so nasty.  I was simply asking a question and trying to find a resolution, even if it was MY fault my ID was in my car.

So off I go, racing back to my car.  I got there in less than 12 minutes.  I found some safety pins, was grateful my ID fit in my tiny pocket, I pinned it shut, and raced back to the starting area.

It was 7:40 now. Gun time was 8:00.  I walked to the wall that lists names and bib numbers.  I find my name and my number and got online. I still needed to pee and I was concerned that I would not get into the starting corral in time.

I stood behind a young guy and observed the person handing out the bib ask him for ID.

He pats his pockets, throws his hands in the air, shrugs and says "Don't have it"

He was then asked, "Ok, What is you first name?"

He tells her his first name and she says "OK, here you go!"

I admit, in less than a stellar moment and with a lack of self-restraint, after covering 4.5 miles with 3 at race pace, I exclaim "Ok, this is bull.... I just ran 3 miles to my car and back to comply with the very strict Security Rules that have NO EXCEPTIONS.  It is really frustrating to see that I really didn't need to do any of that."  

The response I got, "Well, I really don't care!" (And this response is the reason I won't come back).  This may sound petty but if she had said, "I am sorry that happened" I think I would feel a million times better about returning to this race … but at least she was honest.

Up until that point, I considered this problem my doing, for not thinking ahead and being unprepared.  I understood that some people feel they need to be firm and it can sound nasty.  So I even excused the first woman as just doing her job. I understood that my "punishment" for being unprepared was that I needed to run 3 miles to fix this.  I was grateful I had the time to do it.

I told person, who really didn't care, who was now giving me my bib that she doesn't need to do anything to fix my problem, but she should not be so rude. I told her that races are getting too big to be enjoyable.  Race staff seems only to care about the money and not about being considerate to the people who pay a lot to be here, who train train to race, and hope to have a good experience.

I asked for her name, not knowing why I wanted it, but mostly to address her by name when I planned to indicate that  kindness really does goes a long way, even if you don't really care about someone else's problem.

Rather than give me her name she said "Oh, I didn't mean I don't care about what happen.  I mean I don't care if people have ID or not. I just give out the bibs."  

Ugh. So really I ran 3 miles to comply with absolutely Make Believe security rule. Why do this to people?  Real rules, I can understand.  Fake rules makes me frustrated.

I showed them my ID explaining someone better check it since I ran to get it.  I got my bib and left for the port-o-potties.  Very annoyed.

I did manage to get into the starting corral and worked my way all the way to the 7 min pace group just before the gun.  I watched them drift away from me as I really was not in the best mind set to have a great race. I tried to focus, but by 7 miles into the run I was feeling a bit tired… and I new those extra three fast  miles really did take a little out of me. It didn't ruin my race. I am trained to run far.  I didn't want to sprint 3 miles before I tried to race a half marathon, but it happened.

In summary, I understand I caused this to happen by leaving my ID in my car.  I can do better next time.  But this is not an open invitation for people to be rude.  Race staff truly should have some consideration for the runners they interact with. They should realize that even if the race staff does not care whether one runner in 3000 gets their bib or gets to the race on time, that one runners does care and simple politeness really can make a huge difference.

Now whenever I think about the Unite Half… all I will remember is the staff's attitude of "I really don't care!"

This is why I like smaller races. People tend to be nicer when people know each other's names. And to be clear, when I say "nicer" I don't mean anything more than considerate and polite. I don't expect special treatment.  Just the absence of nastiness and extreme apathy.

AG Place: 3F

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Guest Blogger: Stephen Bandfield, Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run, April 5-6

I am quickly learning that main difference between training marathon runners and training ultra runners is the hazard … to my eyes!  I have yet to be sent photos of mangled toes by any of my marathon runners, yet Steve had no trouble clicking "Send" after attaching a lovely photo of the excellent work he did out there to his big toe and the neighbor along side.  This is likely retaliation for me showing him my bloody shoe at Two Rivers Marathon.  I am not saying that marathon runners or half marathon runners don't mess up their toes.  I know they do. I have. They just don't send me photos of them! ;)  (That reminds me… I have a few gnarly toe photos of my own to send back to Steve soon). :) Maybe if Steve allows me, I will include his photo at the end of this post.

For now, I would like to brag a little about the amazing work Steve did over the past many months in preparation for what would be his first serious 100 mile attempt. He was the epitome of commitment. He was committed to working with me.  He was committed to his training.  But most of all it was clear he was committed to himself.  Before I was even awake and having coffee at 5 am before my earliest training runs, Steven had already been up hours earlier training alone in the dark in the middle of the night before heading off to work.  Steve did everything I asked of him, not just the running part of the plan, but also the communication with me about his training part and the logging of his workouts part.  I ask for A LOT of communication because I want to make sure I am able to make fast, yet seemingly minor, interventions if needed so my runners don't get hurt.  But Steve is a machine. He needed very little beside a clear plan.  He made things really easy and he should be incredibly proud of what he was able to accomplish in training and then on race day.

Congratulations Steve! What a great run!

Without further delay, I would like to share Steve's race report from Umstead (also posted on his own blog at

Umstead 100 race report

The Umstead 100 mile race was one I had been training for since the end of last year. I hired a coach who trained me harder for this race then I ever had. I Pushed myself beyond what thought was doable. 100 + mile training weeks with a PR marathon run at the end. It was to be my first big deal 100 miler ( a Western States Qualifier). It had all the elements I was looking for ..non-technical trails, some elevation ( I think it was like 10,000 feet of incline for the whole course) in fairly decent weather and one My girlfriend and I could make a bit of a destination journey of it. She as a dear friend who lives just 20 minutes away from race course, this just worked out perfectly.

I got to the race site The William B. Umstead State Park on Friday Night for registration. Saw a few familar smiling faces and felt at home. At the pre-race briefing given by the outgoing RD Blake Norwood I heard these words “ Our job, is to get you to the finish..” and I knew I was going to be taken care of by the aide crews ( I wanted for nothing during the entire race..they even had SNOW CONES. ) Jackie ( My girlfriend, crew,Support team..who kept yelling at me each lap “Get out there !!! Hurry up!!..while bringing me stuff from my a love a woman like and I got on line for the pasta dinner and by the way they served the 150 or so people quickly and efficiently it was obvious, they had their system down pat.

“It was the best of times,it was the worst of times…… We were all going to Heaven,We are all going direct the other way.” Charles Dickens

So after getting a reasonable night sleep, we head out to the park . We get there as the gates open, 4;45 am and drive with a long dusty caravan to the race HQ and the start of the race. I leave a drop bag with few Items ( shirts, Ensure,hats.MT Dew…) on the Drop bag truck ..setup my stuff just a few steps off the course. The race started at 6:00am. It was still dark, so I used a small headlamp for the start ( there was so much light from everyone else headlamps ..I wound up turning mine off after the first mile.) Jackie and I wandered around a bit. I got into the starting area and thought “ Oh my god..what Have I gotten myself into..” Boom ..and we are off.

The course consists of eight 12.5 mile loops.the first few miles are fairly flat..little inclines ( which seem to get much bigger as the race wore and a couple of good descents. After about mile 3.5, is where the course begins to roll. Fairly long downhills followed by long uphills ( all my hill training came in handy) after about mile 5 you get off wider bridle trails and head into the interior of the park. Lots of shorter rolling sections . Mostly up and down between 5 and 6.5, where you have a second aide station.fully stocked..more food then you could want, along with drop bags ( full compliment of medicines..some of which I used later.) From here, you return to the interior of the park..with more big long up hills and down some longer downhills for about 3.5 miles. Then, you return to a section you started off with some more bigger up and down hills ( get the and travel back to the start. the last half mile in fairly large gravel downhill section, where many of the runners set up there stuff and crews await their arrival. it was definitely a party spot all night long. The cheers from the crews has I came down that hill each time definitely brightened my spirits. when you finally climbed the dozen steps to the end of the were rewarded with cheers from more crews and and aide station that wanted for nothing ( They even had SNOW CONES !!!)

I had 2 goals for this race; One is a sub 24 hr 100 miler or 2nd is to simlpy finish in 30 hours.I had a plan. First, I was going to try to run as much of the first loop as possible..get real feel for the course. Second, no music till after first loop (I’m a distracted runner and feed off the beat) and Third to shoot for 10:30 50 miler and then hang on. One of the reason I chose this race was the runnability of the”s packed or slightly loose gravel. makes for fast times and little worries about footing ( didn’t fall once during the race). So off I go..feeling good..running comfortably, not really looking at my pace. Thinking , “Am I breathing hard? , No, okay..keep it up.” got to the first long down hill. , then the first long uphill..ran that, got up a on steady pace. The next few sections had some more bigger hill sections and decided , maybe I should walk a little and did. I tried to run the next big hill, found out I was breathing too hard and said “ that was a mistake” and backed off . Got to Aide station 2 felt great.. took a gel ( I also planned no solid food till at least the 50 mile mark,,so it was Gu’s Ensure Water and Gatorade for the first half). After that, the course is more up then down for a while..ran most of it, walk a little but still cruising..There is one long downhill from mile 9 to 10 ( Downhills are my friend) and I hit it hard. this leads to another long up hill ( up and down,,up and down..that’s the and to a rolling section. finish up the loop and feel great. I look at my time and think way fast. 2Hours 6 min..

So I decided it’s time to take it easy..Walk the hills..attack the downhills.. Put on some Tunes ( Stevie Ray Vaughn ) and just cruise . I’m using a hand held water bottle at this point..The weather is about 60 degrees..I’ve taken off my arms sleeves that I started with and ready to run. So the second loop just feels great. Easy, but pushing on those down hills. it was pretty uneventful just I nice run in the woods. I’m still moving faster than I should be, but it feels good. I’m about to finish my 2nd loop when I feel this twinge in my knee.I think oh ,a little will pass, but it doesn’t but I finish my loop, take and Ensure and get back out…..This lap was about the same as my first..with way more walking. 2hrs 7min.

I went out for My 3rd loop , changed music, GreenDay and this little knee problem got bad really fast. This happened to me at my first 100 miler at mile 87 and I had to walk in the last 13 miles...THIS WAS MILE 25!!. All I could do was walk .Any kind of running was incredible I just started walking. I kept walking..a few miles of pretty flat trail. I thought to myself. “ So this is how all the training ends..With a walk,.....a long walk . I don’t to be walking another 70 + miles. Maybe, I should just bag it. I keep walking.I know from past experience that Ultra have Highs and lows,,BIG SWINGS. I figured out that 100 milers have a moment ..whether you quit or finish, just wasn’t expecting mine so early. So I say to myself..” What Can I do.,,Not What can’t I do.” I know this is going to hurt alot..but you have to try something. So I come a upon a downhill sectiom around mile 3, and I start to Jog and It hurts like hell..but I can to do it and the longer the downhill lasts,,the less it hurts.So I keep up this strategy..and I’m finding I can run the downhills ( painfully…) pretty quick and survive the ups and a little painfull running on the flats at the the 2nd aide station I get something to drink and a couple of Ibuprofen ( lifesavers), an Ensure and go on. (Another Strategy I followed..know what you want before you get to the aide station..get it and be gone).I got through the second half of the loop which has much more up hills and couple of long down hills. I continue to struggle,hurting but moving. Just finish this lap. I’m walking a lot..but still moving. Finish the lap..put on a knee brace that I had ( Thank GOD) grab some Ensure and Gatorade ( not everyone tastes,,but it works) and off I go walking through the next lap. 2hrs 31 min.

I'm going out on my 4th loop and I’m hurting,,,but I’m moving. and I looking at my Garmin and it’s telling me that I’m almost an Hour ahead of my goal 50 mile split time, So I keep up with the same strategy.. run the downhills,walk the ups and do what I can on the flats. I’m definitely slowing. but I’m moving and I’m not falling off the pace by that much. I’m doing this..I finish lap 4. I see Jackie , who has just come back to the course. she ask What I need, I tell her my knee is killing me. She gets my stuff, I grab a Mountain Dew ( a treat I’ve been saving up with a week long caffeine fast,) She give me my stuff..Tells me “Get out there,,Hurry Up..” and kisses me goodbye, Ain’t love Grand…………………….. lap 2Hrs;50Min , 50 mile split 9hrs34min

So laps 5 and 6 were pretty similar.This was the hottest part of the day,temps in the high 60’s maybe low 70’s but it never really bothered me. At one point I tried putting Ice in my cap as a cooling was just more annoying than anything else ( I’ve used the technique in another desert race,,but that’s another story, ) I just stuck with Plan,,I just kept trying to keept at that 12:30 per mile cumulative pace. Run the downhills , Walk the up. It was nice to see some of the same face on each loop, this told me I was on the same constant pace they were. Sometime ahead, sometimes a little behind,,but always around them. I had switched to a race vest with two water bottles that I was having filled at each of the two manned aide stations and was eating a liitle bit ( peanut butter and jelly sandwichs,,simple easy food)at each of the aide stations.My knee was actually begining to clear up a little bit on the 6th loop and I had some period when running wasn’t a painful chore..and lap 6 was faster then laps 4 and 5. Laps 2Hrs53Min and 2Hrs47mins

So lap 7 is when things begin to slow up a lot.It’s night. I’m running ( walking limping,...) in the dark which by itself will slows me down. My knee pain returns,I had take some Tylenol at the begining of the loop.Still eating. (As I left,each loop Jackie would make Sure of but the run to walk ratio is less less run and more walk. My garmin is saying I’m still slightly ahead of a 21 hour pace for the 100..if I can keep hanging on.I’m thinking I’m going to fade but maybe 22 hours is possible. I just about get to end of my loop when My garmin battery dies. I set the chrono on my watch at the start so I know my elapsed time. I'm pretty sure I’m going to beat my sub 24 goal but hoping for that Sub 22..I walk my way to the top of the last loop, grab an Ensure .some more MT DEW,a turkey sandwich. a kiss from Jackie and I’m off think of a line told to me by a friend “ Suck it up Buttercup”.......lap 3HRS23mins.

A famous Ultra runner once said that ” A 100 miles is not that Far..” what he didn’t say was that The last 10 miles when your dying can take forever. My mp3 dies..bummer. My knee is screaming at me every time I try to run now. Of the first couple of miles I might have only run a ½ mile . Then I was mentally screaming whila couple of te running the longer downhills..but still really slowly, By mile 5 I began to develop some sever pain in my right arm and I couldn’t move to swing for a run stride. Probabaly a result of using a handheld bottle for too long. ( In my slight delirium, I was thinking I might be having a heart attack due to all the caffeine I was ingesting after going on caffeine taper for a week..LOL) So, here is the picture.. My left knee won’t bend to run and My right arm won’t move to swing..Sad shape..but I know I can finish this.So I do what I can. I walk side up hills almost dragging my leg to get it up the hill. I keep going. I’m losing Perspective of time..I’m thinking. “ Oh my god..I only have 2 ½ hours to go 6 miles..will I make it?” The hills that were easy are now mountains that go on forever. Downhills stopped being a friend and became just taunting areas to my falling apart body ( Okay..getting a liitle Melodramatic,,but that’s what I was like at 94 miles,,lol) I’m getting passed ( I ‘m glad didn’t know I was third in my age group at start of loop , it would have made the suffering worse.) I just think, keep moving. Walking down the last big hill..almost there. last ½ mile walk down the hill . A woman who I’ve been running around me all day passes me..Oh well, I’m almost done. Last few stair steps to the top. I call out my # ...“ 88” the RD come out and shakes my hand, gives me My silver Belt Buckle 100 miles ..One day. I let a scream “YEAH!!!!!... Lap 4hrs10min ..

Finish: 22hrs 47min 9 sec. 
45th place … 
5th in age group 50-59

And this is what feet that traveled 100 miles look like :) 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How NOT to run a 10k, Cherry Blossom 10k, Branch Brook Park, Belleville, NJ. 4/6/14

"Cherry Blossom"
Stained Glass by Lettieri
Original Art by Quinn
Sunday was the Cherry Blossom 10k in Belleville, NJ.  This race took place in Branch Brook Park.

This race, this park, brings up some significant feelings for me.  When I was 9 years old, my father almost died there. I always wonder where exactly.  He is alive and well now, but back then he was working as a police officer. He was shot while trying to apprehend a car thief.  I remember my mom, being no-nonsense sometimes, telling me in the morning, "Time to get up. Your father's been shot. He is ok. Go to school. I will take you to see him later." He was very lucky. Two bullets. Point blank. Criminal trying to shoot him in the head.  He got his arm up in time. One bullet hit his wrist bone and somehow ricocheted up and out the top. The second bullet simply stopped dead in it's tracks, lodged in his arm.  What are the chances?  So every time I run at this park, I remember that morning and then sitting all day in school, not being able to concentrate on anything else but when I will get to see my dad.  It is hard to believe that was almost 30 years ago.

Recently, my friend and training partner Dave Lettieri has posted some art online.  In the spirit of the Cherry Blossom theme, I wanted to share my favorite stained glass creation made by him.  He has been turning artwork submission made by children into stained glass keepsakes. This one is my favorites, most likely because it looks like it is made with candy. This piece is called Cherry Blossom. It is a stained glass replication of a drawing created by Quinn, age 6, who also happens to be the son of Rick and Jennifer McNulty, the RD's NJ Trail Series. Visit Lettieri Glass to see his amazing work.  As soon as I signed up for the Cherry Blossom 10k, I knew I wanted to use the race as an excuse to share this picture, since I really do love it.

Ok, now back to our regularly scheduled programming. Racing...

So this race would have been a wicked success in perfect pacing… had I run the splits in reverse.  :) Unfortunately this was not what happened and instead I present to you the picture of a perfect crash and burn!

I wish I could blame the course, but the truth is this was primarily uphill on the way out and then downhill on the way back.  It rolled through out so there were some inclines to deal with both ways.  The only real obnoxious part of this race was that the wind kicked up on the way back and I am not good at holding my pace in wind.  But even the wind wasn't too bad.

The reality is I showed up tired.  I ran a triple training run on Saturday. The first run was 11.2 miles with Lettieri, where we ran the first half easy and then crushed the return - at paces ending in the low 7's.  I generally do not train that fast before a race, but this race was not a goal race and I need to work a little harder right now.  After that 11.2, I drove to another park where I met a new client to train with. We ran a lovely 4 mile run together, sorting out all the details of our future work together.  THEN as soon as I got home,  Enzo started begging me to take him out.  He was right.  It was a gorgeous day and the pup needs his miles, so off we went for about 3.5 more.  I ended up with close to 18 for the day, but I feel like all the starts and stops made those 18 mile extra exhausting.

In addition to showing up tired, I am still carrying extra weight. And despite "the Guy in Blue" (from a prior race report) running up behind me, and commenting that I don't look like I am carrying any extra pounds  (LOL, you are lucky I like you "Guy In Blue") I still know I am and I feel it.  But I am not too concerned because training is getting better and I am already seeing a small drop in my Body Fat.

I started tracking all the lovely lies, I mean data, my new GoWise Scale provides.  I don't believe a word it says but I am tracking it anyway.  According to my scale I weigh 120.4 lbs, I am 20.4% body fat, I am comprised of 57.6% water, I am 33.6% muscle, and I have 10.4 lbs of bone.   When I add up all the percentages and pounds, that adds up to 144 lbs.  I am sure the BF%. the Hydration%, and the muscle% a have some overlap, but I still would like to think that I am carrying less than 24 lbs of body fat.  But this gives me hope.  Imagine how fast I could be if I lost just a few of those useless pounds?  Since I am barely  5' 2", 120 pounds is clearly not my ideal racing weight.  I am going to try to lose a few pounds of body fat in the next few months and see what happens.

For now, this is what a 10k looks like when I am racing heavy:

Here is a link to the start (video taken by Ben Teixeira): 

I have to say the weather was absolutely gorgeous.  It was chilly at packet pick up, but by the time the race started, I was down to a sports bra and shorts.  I had already got rid of my arm sleeves and regretting wearing the calf sleeves.

We start going uphill and I recall getting lulled into a false sense of security as I looked at my watch, notice the pace was mid-6 minutes per mile and thought, "This really doesn't fell bad… I can't go faster and hold this, but this is not killing me."  Lies… all Lies… :) M1 - 6:36

Maybe this was because I had not raced a 10k in a while and I forgot what I am doing.  6:36 on an uphill start is clearly too fast for me right now.  But man is it funny how it doesn't ever feel too fast when you have only covered .5 of the first mile.

I tried to settle down in mile 2, hoping to run under 6:50 for the day and knowing that the steepest hills were to come in mile 2.5-3.5.  I tried to remind myself that this race is set up for a negative split, with more downhill in the second half than in the first.  But the truth is, the course is just rolling so we do have hills in the second half as well, just not as steep as what we see in mile 3.  M2 - 6:45

The worst of the course is here, as we go up to a bizarre, double-coned turn around where everyone but Jim O took the first cone, with Jim taking the second, further cone.  Why put two cones (appearing to possibly create a lane that runners need to run between or possibly demarcating which side runners should stay on before running around the second cone???).  Next time it would be very helpful to simply place a course marshall there to give instruction.  Jim gets extra credit.  He said he new the course and that the second cone was it.  Personally, I followed the crowd assuming Jim was just a lunatic ;).  It was only a matter of feet, but still it would be nice to know what the cones were suppose to mean?   M3 - 6:58

As Jim comes back past me, getting a little crap from others for running "too far", he made me laugh when he called out "Yeah, I am going to stop in the Church next." :)   Jim had a great run out there and I wish I had the pep to try to stay with him.  But today was not my day.   After the final significant uphill section and the last turn around, we got what could have been a blazing fast descent if I had anything in my legs at all.  I was toast and just happy to hold my pace.  M4. 6:58

The last two miles were not terrible, but all I can remember thinking is "Wind… Ugh." It was as if I just petered out and ran out of Umph… Two miles to go and I just wanted to be done.  My legs felt heavy and in general I was just tired.  I did what I could to hold my position.  I had nothing to dig into today for any thing resembling a kick except for what I mustered up in the last .23… M5 7:11, M6 7:10, and Last .23 1:26 (6:22 pace).

Last .2.  photo by Ben Teixeira

So not my best race, but I am still happy.  I ran hard the day before. I showed up tired.  I ran 31 miles last Sunday.  I started track work this week. And still managed to get a sub-7 minute 10k done.   I have no complaints.

Time: 43:03 (6:55)
Place: 12th OA Female
AG: 2nd 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

BUS 6 Hour, Alley Pond Park, Bayside NY. 3/30/14

photo by Yuri Esperson
Overall I am starting to feel better and working hard to find a way back to better racing fitness.  This weekend I was hoping to build mileage and have a great time simply running, but the weather was against me.

I started my Saturday run at 7 am, planning to get in as many miles of my 14-15 mile run before the rains came.  At 8:30 am, the rain that was predicted to linger through Monday started and this meant that my Sunday 6 hour race was going to be extra challenging.  I was not looking forward to running for 6 hours in the rain.

A few days ago,  I invited John P to come along… well, really I challenged him to another round of Race Chicken. Race Chicken is a ridiculous game where I find races that challenges most peoples' common sense and physical comfort and then "invite" John to join me on little-to-no notice.  Once we both agree to race, if one of us then bails out before the other, the Chicken is then subjected to mockery and name calling forever… or something like that.  We aren't sure. We are still working out the rules, developing some type of a scoring system, and there was also some talk about a chicken suit that the loser needs to wear. John was all for a rewards system, but I was planning to keep Race Chicken a purely punitive game. :)

John was promptly at my house at 6:45 am.  Despite the deluge we experienced all day Saturday and the fact that it was supposed to rain all day Sunday, he did not cancel on me.  I was impressed!

photo by Yuri Esperson
The BUS 6 Hour is a wonderful event. I am particularly fond of 6 hour races, especially the BUS 6 hours.  This one kindly started at "approximately 8:45" as per the instructional email.  (This is the first sign that a race will be awesome, is when the start time is given as an approximation).

A few other reasons to run a Broadway Ultra Society Event are (1) the courses are certified, with aid, and they are generally fast! (2) The RD does a great job organizing the events so they feel like friendly group runs complete with amazing performances. (3) The RD offers to provide rides for those runners taking the train (who does this?!).  (4) While the scores are tallied, the runners were offered a warm dry field house, lots of pizza, pans of warm food like pasta with vegetables, eggplant parmesan, salad, hot chocolate, coffee, etc...  (5) Every runner that ran over a marathon was presented with a very unique award. (6) Tech shirts were included in the packet, at least for those pre-registered in actual men's and women's cuts. (7) Finally, the cost was $37 for BUS members and $45 for non-members.  This just cannot be beat and even when I know I am not in great shape or if I have to leave an event early or if I am certain it will be a tough day, I still try to make it to as many BUS Races as my schedule allows.

Everyone who ran over a marathon got one!
Today was one of those races that I knew was not going to be awesome but I knew I could get a good training day out of it.  Since February, I have been feeling like crap and have been reporting how I cut back training to feel better.  The last few weeks now I have slowly started to feel better.  I was ready to give this a shot and see how long I could hold on if I went out solid.

I ran this course in December 2012, when I won the BUS Fat Ass 50k at just sub- 8:00 pace.  I knew the course and I knew it was hilly. I knew when I ran there before, I was much better trained and a lot leaner and lighter.  So day I went out at 8:15. :)

Did I mention that this course is hilly, mostly at the start with a step uphill for about .4 of a mile.  Once up the steep part, we roll upwards still for a few more tenths.  Once past a gate, we are offered a long middle stretch that is comfortably down. This was the stretch of the course where you can catch your breath and regain some confidence that the entire loop is not going to be complete torture.  After another short uphill just past the half way part of the loop, we get another fast decline and loop around the bottom of the park and head back up the hill, out the end of dead end road, and down a .7 mile decline back to the start/finish for a 5k lap.  There was one aid station at the S/F line. We do this for 6 hours… well in my case just under 5 hours.

I had a great start and was comfortable early on.  I was happy to see the weather was holding off and despite some light misting, we did not get pummeled by bad weather.  In small races, I end up running a lot myself.  I am always surprised, still, by how much faster I can run in a race setting and feel like it is easy, even when running alone, than I can in training.  Lap after lap, I was slowly fading from my original 8:15 pace.  I knew I wasn't going hold an even pace this time and hoped the fade would not be too bad.

By lap 5 I started to walk the uphill at the start because I clearly getting tired.  I was grabbing gatorade and Coca Cola at that start/finish area, but I failed to bring gels with me.  Thinking back now, I know I took gels when I ran my 4:10 (two gels).  I should have brought some but I thought I heard there would be gels at the aid station.  I didn't see any. I don't spend a lot of time at aid stations.  I almost try to not even stop. I also don't ask a lot of questions so I never asked for any.

I was feeling good until about mile 23, when suddenly I realized "Oh man, I am hungry!"  I had grabbed some cantaloupe on the lap before but it was just no as satisfying as cantaloupe has been in the past for me.  I keep running hoping to find a gel the next time I finished a lap.  I thought I had pack some but I thought I left the in the car and I was not going all the way to the parking lot.  As I passed the aid station at the end of lap 8, I didn't see any, grabbed a chunk of chopped up chocolate power bar instead and it was not working out for me at all.  I couldn't chew it well enough to get it down, ended up spitting it out, and on that 9th lap, I hit the wall incredibly hard.  I was walking more and running less.

I managed to catch up to John and realized that, at that time, I done for the day.  My achilles were starting to get tired and it was not worth the risk today.  I was completely and utterly depleted.  I felt that I ran enough for the day and was ok with stopping.  John needed one more lap for his "more than a marathon" finish and I needed one more for a 50k.  We decided to take a leisurely cool down loop and call it a day.

Final lap with John, photo by Donna Sajulga-Tabios  
We ended up finishing just under 5 hours and despite not having a great race, I was so very happy with my performance.  Sure I messed up fueling, but honestly I don't think there was a lot I could do to have a great race, except feel better and train more.  I am working on that.  I wanted to stop running at a point in which I new I could continue to train well this next week and that is exactly what I did.

I also wanted to try out a new pair of racing flats, the ST5 Racer.  I have to say they were awesome.  My achilles were a little achy, but they have been angry with me for some time now.  I think they are begging for more training and for me to lose about 3-5 lbs. Once that happens I know I will feel awesome.  I can tell that I am coming out of my funk and headed in the right direction.

After the race, I was planning to stay for awards ceremony for the NYUR series where I won an award for 1st in my age group.  It was nice to show up for a decent day of training and take home a few awards :)
Age Group Award for New York Ultra Series, photo by Yuri Esperson

50k - 4:56
Place 5th Female