Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fred D'Elia Ridgewood 10k and 5k Double, Ridgewood NJ. 5/26/14

This shouldn't be a very long report, even though I ran two races and these were both large races for local road races. There was 970 runners in this 10k. 

Coming off my best marathon last week, I road a wave of adrenaline to a 90 mile week.  I haven't run a 90 mile week in a long time.  In fact, I actually tapered a bit for Run for the Red marathon by running only 30 miles the week prior.  But I think that was more out of feeling sluggish than from me planning a bona fide taper.  Run for the Red was not supposed to be a PR for me, but rather a race to see how much work I have to do to run a great marathon in the fall.

Going from a 30 mile to a 90 mile week left me feeling flat.  I still thought I had a shot at  some 6:45's.  My expectations were not crazy. I ran 6:43 pace here last year… but that was last year when circumstances were different. 

This felt like the most humid and warmest start to a race so far for me this year.  Each week I will only be reporting the same until at some point in Sept when I hope to be reporting the decline in temps.  Strolling Jim may have gotten up to 77 degrees, but it was cool at the start.  Today was the first day I was sweating while in my car getting prepared to race.  The humidity was thick and I knew it was going to be a struggle. 

At 8:15, I line up with Rich T. and declare that we will run a bunch of random splits. Of course I was hoping that those splits would come true because they were good ones. It did happen. Bummer.  I knew miles 3 and 4 were slow for me last year, so I expected something similar.   Three wasn't so bad, but mile 4 this year was much worse.  M1 6:43,  M2 6:41, M3 6:47, M4 7:12 (ugh, LOL!).

By mile 3.5 I had managed to pair up with a guy who's name I forgot, I want to say Mike, but I just can't recall. I sorry Guy I will refer to as Mike.  We ran side-by-side in silence for a while.  I think initially the instinct racers have is to race people nearby. Usually someone breaks and one pulls ahead.  But "Mike" and I just stayed steadily on the same pace until somehow the energy changed from competitors to companions in this together.  I was clearly the weakest link for most of this final third.  At a water stop, I managed to pull ahead, but looked back to see if he was coming back up.  He was.  He asked me once about pace. I gave him the data.  M5 7:08,  M6 6:50

I was hoping to have a shot a breaking 42, but as we hit the 6 mile clock and I saw the time already in 41:xx  I knew I wasn't going to be close to breaking 42.  My breathing was labored since my asthma is triggered by humidity (most other with asthma report the opposite). I decide to just hold my pace, not let anyone pass me, and hope to survive the 5k.   Last .2 1:25 (6:38 pace)

Time 42:49
OA 91/970
Gender 13th/426
AG 1st AG ($25 Gift Card)

As I finished the race, a guy on the medical staff looks at me, very concerned, and asked "Are you OK?".  I said "Yes" and he pointed at my stomach.  I looked down and I had blood and sweat streaming down my mid-section.  I can't wait to see my race photos. 

Since running the marathon last Sunday, I had suffered from chaffing from my sports bra band. I usually I do a few successful things to protect my skin, but I did none of those things race day morning before the marathon.  By the end of the marathon, I had a raw spot that remained sore for days.  During the week my mileage ramped up so fast that my skin was not able to heal.  The small blister bandage is usually all I need to protect my skin.  But, I had run out of bandages during the week my skin was not happy.  

Before today's races, I had prepped my skin, first with rubbing alcohol before applying the bandage, hoping the alcohol would help the bandages adhere firmly before the race.  The humidity was working against me and was much stronger than the adhesive on the bandage.  By mile 1, the bandage had fallen off. By the end, my skin was torn up and I was bleeding significantly with out even realizing it. 

I went to the med tent to ask if they had anything I could use to clean up the blood and then anything that I could use to lube up the area before the next race.  They did a good job coming up with creative solutions to try to figure out what I could do to not bleed all over myself in the next race. 

The 5k started at 10:15. There was 1706 runners in this race. I am pretty sure about 900 were under 15 years old and they were all in front of me. :)  I found my way towards the front but had trouble getting into the street.  The group was loud and rowdy.  I was feeling a bit dizzy and claustrophobic being packed firmly into the group of runners.  The starting Gun was a tired little air horn that was barely audible from my location (which wasn't that deep into the start, it is just that the crowd was loud and I was smushed into a dense pack of people).   

When the boys behind me realized that the race had started, they started screaming and shoving and yelling for people to RUNNNNN!!!!  It was probably one of the most unpleasant starts I have ever had during a race, as I felt myself being forcefully pushed from behind.  Not pleasant at all.  This made me wonder if there was an effective way for RD's to share the idea that a runner's official time does not start until the start mat is cross so there is no reason to push or jostle in the starting corral when the gun goes off. 

As I started the race, my legs felt tingly and I felt surreal.  I am not sure if it was the humidity and heat increasing as it passed 10 am, or if I felt the impact of being smushed into a herd of people.  I knew this was going to be hard.

At .2 miles into the race, many over zealous youngsters were starting to peter out.  I thought it was adorable to hear a little girl encourage her friend by letting her know, "You know, it is really OK to walk some."  At this point, the crowds were thinned out and running was smooth.   

As I reached mile one I feel incredibly tired, but I am so grateful that there is only 2 miles left. M1 6:48

From here forward, I feel like I am on cruise control (set to not a very fast pace), not able to run any faster, but rather just trying to survive while hurrying to get to a place I could stop. The miles were hard. My legs were tired. But in comparison to the 10k, the 5k really does feel manageable. M2 7:12,  M3 7:02

I pass a few ladies in the last mile and decide that I really don't want to be passed back in the last tenth, so I dig a little for something more.  Last .1 37 (5:32 pace). 

Just after I cross the finish, I hear someone say "I tried to keep up with you this time, but I just couldn't catch up to you!" It was "Mike" from the first race.   

Time: 21:38
OA: 110/1706
Gender: 21/849
AG: 2/89 ($10 Gift Cert)

That was a great way to run a 15k! Not my fastest 10k/5k double.  I can't say that I am honestly thrilled with my performance, but I can't complain.  Considering both races cost me $40 and I won $35 in Gift Certificates, I am happy. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Guest Blogger: Enrique and the Art of Pacing for a PR at the Brooklyn Half Marathon, 5/17/14.

For several months now I have been working with Enrique.  I feel incredibly lucky to have a roster full of ambitious, dedicated people who truly enjoy putting in the work. 

For Enrique, primarily we are working on unlocking his inner marathon specialist, but along the way he likes to find races to challenge himself.  I was planning on witnessing him (even if just virtually online) set some new PR's one race at a time as we build up toward his Fall marathon goals, but Enrique apparently had other ideas. :)  The Brooklyn Half fell about a month after he ran Boston and I was sure he was going to have an amazing race based upon how hard he trained for Boston.    

Below you will find one the best paced races I have ever had a runner I coached run.  The splits are not perfectly even, but he thought about his race and his pace the entire time. He had a plan, he worked on progression training to prepare for a negative split, he knew how to use the terrain of the course to his advantage and his execution was inspiring.  He demonstrated self control and discipline and it paid off!  

Congratulations Enrique on running a fantastic Half and for setting many new PR's en route to a new half PR.   Thank you for allowing me to share your race report below with those who follow my blog! 


Photo provided by Enrique 
Brooklyn Marathon Report  
Official Time: 13.1 @ 1:52:46
Official race splits:
Overall Place: 8154
Gender Place: 5644
Age Place: 420
Net Time: 1:52:46
5K Split: 0:27:38 (new PR)
10K Split: 0:54:52 (new PR)
15K Split: 1:21:08 (new PR)
20K Split: 1:47:15 (new PR)
Pace per Mile: 08:37 (new PR)
AG Time: 1:40:35
AG Gender Place: 3444
AG %: 58.88 %

Splits (From Runkeeper):

1 mi 9:06 (climb: -13)
The strategy that Shannon devised for me was to run mile 1 as close as possible between 9:00 and 8:50 pace. This would ideally to set me up to break my previous PR without much pressure. But since my previous half-marathons PRs were by a few seconds, I needed to find a race where where I felt the new goal was possible, and I had more than just a lucky shot. But at this point in the race, most of the people that started the race with me in the corral were leaving me behind. I'm use to this by now. My legs need the first mile and sometimes even the second to adjust. Eventually they find a pace that will carry me for the rest of the race.

2 mi 8:59 (climb: 12)
Stay with the plan. My cousin was still holding on close to me.

3 mi 8:26 (climb: -96)
The legs were feeling light. This was the first good sign for a solid race. Next was to pay attention to the breathing and heart rate. From the middle of mile 2 through most of mile 3 there is a nice downhill. Here was my chance to apply the lessons learned from Boston (thanks John Phelan for the tips). Just glide down the downhills and let gravity do the job. Short steps. Breathing was steady. My cousin was left behind in the dust.

4 mi 8:29 (climb: 7)
This is the beginning of the hardest part of this race. Inside Prospect Park are the toughest and only hills on the race. Once again, I adjusted my pace to short and quick steps. Randomly started to talk to people around me to make sure that I was breathing properly. If I could talk without breaking the pace was right.

5 mi 8:42 (climb:68)
This was the confidence booster moment of the race. All the training and lessons from Shannon were showing off. Everything Shannon had done to prepare me for Boston helped me conquer this mile-long hill with confidence. Never lose my pace or focus.

6 mi 8:46 (climb: 23)
10k mark - At this point knew I was running a possible PR race. I caught up with all the people that passed me on mile 1 and was running next to the people from the corrals further ahead. As per previous conversation with Shannon, she suggested to play things mile per mile. I knew that the rest of the race was a combination of rolling downhills. Decided to find a pace I could sustain for the rest of the race after the next big downhill.

7 mi 8:09 (climb: -96)
As I was leaving Prospect Park, took advantage of the steep road, so while people were slowing down, I was pushing faster (I think I saw my Garmin touching the 6s), so this was the best moment for a big push.

8 mi 8:21 (climb: -7)/9 mi 8:30 (climb: -17)/10 mi 8:19 (climb: -13)
For these 3 miles I was in cruise control. Let the legs just go at a speed that wasn't pushing but were not being held back. It was very zen-like running, was mainly focusing on the breathing. I call it 4x4 breathing. Four intakes synchronized with each step and four outtakes synchronized with each steps.

11 mi 8:21 (climb: -23)
This was the moment of truth, I saw the possibility of a 1:49 race (I really suck at math). According to the plan the last 5k of the race I was suppose to let it all out. And here I discovered a new pace/gear that I've had never used before. Without leaving the "cruise control" mode started to accelerate gradually and kept doing that for the next 2 miles. Of course the pace had to be adjusted to match the terrain, crowding and people seriously racing.

12 mi 8:15 (climb: -3)
13 mi 8:12 (climb: 9)
Last .1 mi - 8:08 pace (climb: -9)

End of the race, even though I wanted to push myself further for a strong finish, the finish line was already very dense with people and eased back into my new found comfort pace. The Garmin was reading 1:53 same as Runkeeper. PR!!!!!

I am fascinated with the idea negative splits. It takes so much discipline and self control. What comes naturally to me is to start slow and quick bursts of energy. A very important lesson I've learn from training with Shannon, is to be able to keep a steady pace is far more important than anything else.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

New Marathon PR at Run for the Red, Pocono Summit, PA. 5/18/14

9th Female, 3rd in Age Group
I was a little unsure if I made the right decision. Two weeks ago I ran Strolling Jim, a 41.2 mile road race through some very hilly terrain in Wartrace TN.

I ran well, through about 32 miles. And then the heat, the hills, my lack of hill training all caught up with me.  My quads felt like they were bruising from the inside out with every step beyond that 32 mile mark.  And even then, in the midst of the suffering, I knew that the crash and burn at the end of that race was exactly what I needed to prepare myself for a great marathon two weeks later.

I found my wall.  The beauty of finding the wall and continuing to plod on beyond it, even at a slow demoralizing pace, is that it can make you really really strong for the next well timed race. I know my body and two weeks later was perfect timing for me.  At the end of Strolling Jim I saw Laz. I thanked him for a great race and I told him right there that I knew I was going to have a really great marathon soon because of it. (I didn't expect a PR, but I thought I should be faster than my Boston time).  He laughed a bit and said, Strolling Jim was going to make that marathon seem pretty short. He was right!

Despite all the good suffering I did on May 4th, I was torn because this race fell on 5/18. This is the Sunday of the same weekend Three Days at the Fair was happening.  So many friends were racing Three Days (a series of races from marathon through 72 hour timed races).  As a NJ ultra runner, it seemed like a requirement that I attend this amazing event in my state. People were traveling from all parts of the country, even other countries, to race Three Days and I was getting up at 4 am to go to the Poconos.

I had decided to register a few weeks ago, likely during the after glow of my decent performance at the Boston Marathon.  I felt that had the weather been cooler at Boston, my race would have been better even though that Boston (3:22) was one of my faster marathon times despite me still being heavier than my ideal racing weight.

A few days after Strolling Jim, I noticed my scale (the one that tells me many outright lies about my body composition) suddenly displayed a slight drop in Body Fat % accompanied by a slight increase in Muscle Percentage.  I believed the numbers had changed because my training suddenly started to feel easier and I felt stronger.  The Boston Marathon week seemed to mark a revival of good health and it has continued for some time now. I hope it lasts for a while.

It is a fast course. FAST. Very Fast. I was told it was fast by many people. I had no idea that they meant FAST!  It is the FASTEST marathon course I have ever run (clearly).  The elevation chart revealed this course is primarily a point-to-point downhill (with some minor ups in the middle) and with more significant rollers at the end, but nothing like Strolling Jim!

The first 6 miles seem to incline and decline but with no significant drop in elevation. Then at 6.5 miles, we hit an amazing stretch of descent that is just liberating.  If you love to run fast with wild abandon, faster than you know you have any right to be running in the middle of a marathon, so fast that delusion of grandeur flood your mind as you start to believe you may actually be a superhero, so fast that even you start to think about how stupid you must be to be running this fast, then this race is for you! 

But if you are the type who has trouble with downhill racing, who worries that their legs will not survive the constant pounding so they hold back, or who is just not trained to handle the descents and ends up so beat up that their legs have nothing to offer in the last 6 or so miles, then maybe you might not like this race.

In addition to the fast course, after a hot TN race, the ideal cool weather was the best gift I could have gotten.  As we drove into the mountains, the temperature dropped into the low 40s.  It was cool and dry with a slight breeze. There is not much better weather than this for a marathon.

Everything about this race seemed so easy and well organized.  Emails were responded to promptly in a friendly and helpful manner. For an extra $20 fee they allowed race day bib pick up.  I appreciated that option as it saved me a lot of money.  The Parking was plentiful at the school.  There was no stress or hassles with getting our bibs and getting ready to race.  The school was warm inside and we had access to the bathrooms, with very little wait, if any at all. The truck that brought gear to the finish area was sitting at the starting line. There were pacers available if needed.  The course was well marked.  It finished on a track, which I just love.  They announced your name as you run your final victory lap :).  Results were posted quickly. Gear Bag retrieval was next to the race results. A lot of food was available at the end, but mostly deli sandwiches and fruit.  Awards ceremony was fast and there was no wait to get on a bus back to the start. Truly, I just loved everything about this marathon.

First, it was a really nice surprise to get to meet Meghan at the starting line.  She is a member of my NJ Road Racing Team (Clifton Road Runners), but we have not yet had the chance to race together.  Funny to run into her at a marathon in PA.  She was able to share some information about the course since she ran it last year and we moved up towards the front just before the gun.

When asked what I thought I would do, I generally give the same answer each time.  "I will go out on pace to run a great race and see how long I can hold it."  That is pretty much what I always do. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it is not my day.

So I decided to start off hovering around my marathon PR pace for the first 6 miles and this is pretty much just what I did.

Before the start: I took a gel on the walk over to the starting line. Two more in my pockets for the ride
M1 7:15
M2 7:23
M3 7:25
M4 7:18
M5 7:24
M6 7:09

As we approached mile 5, another woman was near by asking about the course.  I shared what I knew, that at some point after 6 miles, we start heading DOWN.  She asked, so is everyone here pretty much just waiting for mile 6?  I said, "I don't know if everyone is, but I know I am!"  I felt truly amazing at this point, and much less stressed than I felt I should when averaging 7:20s.  I thought about Strolling Jim and how well it prepared me.

At mile 6, I decided to pass the 3:15 pace group and get ahead of them.  I was hovering a bit behind them, but reeling them it.  At the last aid station it was chaos.  About 20 guys in a pack, all trying to get water from 4 volunteers.  I was lucky I got a cup and decided I needed to get ahead of that for the next aid station.

Once I made a move to pass, the descent started so I just keep up my pace.  It felt amazing to run so freely and easily.  Mile after mile, the terrain was fast and runnable.  My biggest issue was the camber of the road and this caused me to try to find the most level location to run while still being mindful of the tangents.

With every steep decline, I pushed myself.  I passed people faster than I have ever passed anyone in a marathon.  I heard one guy comment about The LESSON he learned last year about being too aggressive to early and how it would all come back at the end in those hills.  I didn't care.  I was Stupid Aggressive… and it felt awesome.

M7 6:43
M8 6:35 (yeah, that's right…a 6:35 split at mile 8 in a marathon! Stupid Fast! Who does this!?) :)
M9 6:50  (took a gel here, even though I didn't think I needed one)

And that little block of miles right there is what I know attributed to my final time being what it was.  Sometimes it just pays off to do what other people think is stupid.  But Stupid is truly relative. I am pretty confident that there were very few people that ran a 6:35 41.2 mile long run through hot and hilly Tennessee as the peak long run, so maybe for them sub-7 paced miles were too much to handle.  But for me, I knew I could deal with it or I would take my beating when it came. 

At mile 10 we started to hit an uphill but I was having so much fun I just worked it the best I could. It was hard but I wasn't falling apart.  I did feel impacted by the ascent and knew I was in for some pain in the last 10k.  I decided that there was nothing I could do to make those hills at the end be kind to me, so instead I was going to bank a little time (despite this normally being a bad idea… but you need to run the course and take advantage of what you can)… I would spend those minutes as needed in the last 10k.

M10 7:16
M11 7:09
M12 7:14
M13 7:02  (1:34:02 half marathon split… one of my fastest half marathon times ever)
M14 7:15
M15 7:16
M16 7:05 (second gel)

At this point most of the crazy fast stuff was over and I was starting to settle down.  I can't say that I was falling apart yet. But the terrain was slower and I was tired.  I wanted to regroup because I knew Miles 21-23 were going to be very hard.  That little elevation photo suggested it was going to be challenging. I grabbed a gel at 16 and tried to stop thinking about the impending fade.

M17 7:20
M18 7:22

It was starting to warm up some and I was feeling it.  My entire body was covered in salt (a sign that I am not yet heat acclimated).

The uphills were here now and all I could was try to survive.  Some people were already walking but I refused to walk.  I passed as many people as I could in this section, even though we were all moving slow.  I noticed that my fade was not as significant or any worse at all than any one around me at the time.  In fact, I was running when many were not. This was all the proof I needed to know that my aggressive pace early on what the right choice.  I know I would have slowed anyway on these hills.  That stretch of sub-7 miles simple gave me a cushion and time to spend as needed.  It may not have been pretty but it worked!

M 19 7:34
M 20 7:37
M 21 7:40
M 22 7:47
M 23 7:50
M 24 7:47

By mile 24, I was toast.  The hills did take a lot out of me, but they are hills and that is what they do. They were not as bad as I imagined they would be.  I think I may be able to handle them better if I go back.  The temperature was up at this point and we only had a little left to go.

Some woman at the top of the last hill was handing out High Fives. She slapped my hand so hard I called out, "Man you are strong!" and the guy ahead of me thought I was talking to him. He thanked me and then encouraged me to get up with him, but I just couldn't catch him. :)  

I had to fight for these two miles. I tried to pick up the pace, but I was having a little trouble. I knew that I had worked this course to a new PR, but I just needed to say strong and finish it off.

M25 7:36
M26 7:31

At 26 miles we enter the stadium and we get to run our final lap around the track.  There were no ladies ahead.  No ladies behind me.  No men in range or threatening to pass me.  I had no more gears to dig into but tried my best to give a strong finish.  The announcer called out my name.  The crowd the stadium seats cheered as if they knew how awesome this time was for me. 

It was everything a PR Marathon Finish Should Be! 

Last .2 2:16.

Time: 3:12:56  (7:21 pace) (New PR by 3 minutes!)
OA Place: 67th 
Gender Place: 9th
AG Place 3rd.
Shoes: Brooks T7 Racing Flats, brand new right out of the box that morning
Fuel: 3 Roctane Gel and all the course supplied Power-Aid I could spill on myself.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Cross Country Flying with Enzo and Strolling Jim "40 Mile", Wartrace, TN, 5/3/14

photo from the Mooney at Take off.
Sidney and I have been wanting to check out Tennessee for sometime now.  We decided to use this race as an excuse to take a little vacation.  Well that is not entirely true… it has something to so with tomato sauce but that is a long story.

Sidney is a commercially licensed pilot, soon to be looking for official commercial work. To remain current and build his experience, several times per year we take cross country flights.  I find a race I have always wanted to run.  Sidney rents a small plane.  We load up our dog, Enzo, and take our time stopping wherever we want.  We had hoped to leave NJ on Wednesday, but whenever you fly a plane with a cabin rivaling the size of a smart car, flexibility with the schedule is important. Weather is a huge factor determining when we can leave. We were hit with some really bad rain and wind Tuesday through Wednesday.  Unfortunately that set our trip one day behind schedule.

We departed Thursday late morning.  The winds were flyable but not cooperative, as we basically flew directly in to a head wind that slowed our speed to under 100 knots… for almost 4 hours.  100 knots is like driving at 115 miles per hour.  Sure this is still faster than driving car and we get a more direct route in the sky, but generally the Mooney flies between 150-200 knots if the winds are in our favor.

Flying slower meant we were in the air for much longer and this meant we needed make a stop for fuel. I think when Sidney says "we need to stop for fuel", it really means, in part, that he needs to pee, but that's only fair because when I say "It looks like it is too bumpy for Enzo" that really means I am not appreciating the turbulence. :)

Sidney picked a random airport that he knew had fuel and we made our descent.  As he approached the airport, he checked the winds by listening to the automated weather report.  The first words I hear in the report are…"Hazard… Winds at (some speed) Coming form the (some direction) …. etc)".  I have never heard the automatic weather provide a warning before and was wondering what that meant.  Sidney wasn't concerned and I don't ask questions when he is in the middle of doing something important, like landing the airplane.

Somewhere over Kentucky

Once we landed decided we wanted to get food and see a bit of wherever we just landed.  The rolling green hills were beautiful from the sky and I was curious about what the area was like.  Often at small airports, when you purchase fuel (which can be quiet costly), the airports sometimes provides you with a free courtesy car so you can leave the airport for a short time (like to get something to eat).  Not all airports have this, but many do.  Since we were hungry Sidney asked if they had a car.  The employee said he sure does and gave Sidney a set of keys.  As we got in the car, it was immediately apparent that this man just gave us the keys to his personal car.  This is amazing and a refreshing trustworthy contrast to our experience that morning when we stepped of our house to view our neighbor's car up on cinderblocks because someone had stolen two of his tire over the course of the windy rainy evening.

The airport in Hazard, Kentucky.
Once back at the airport, I asked a guy what town this was.  That is when I discovered that we had landed in Hazard, Kentucky. Ahhhhh…. "Hazard" was the location of the weather not a warning that we were in danger. Phew! :)

Off to Nashville.  We didn't get to spend much time in Nashville but what we saw was really nice.  We stay in the Opryland section. There is a really pretty greenway that starts or ends at a dam nearby. It was a lovely trail. The weather was cool, so Enzo got a run in.  The city was a CITY and the food there was really good.  We were only there one day.  I look forward to returning for longer.

Off to Shelbyville.  On Friday, we drove an hour to Shelbyville to get my race packet and have dinner with John Price.

Strolling Jim 40 Mile
Strolling Jim is really a special race.  I really just love road ultras.  They tend to be quite the opposite of most road marathons for many many wonderful reasons.  They are small events where everyone is friendly.  When you get your bib, it feels like the RD's are now your friends and they remember you by your name for the rest of the event.

Everything is very informal and low key.  No one pretends like the event is built to cater to every runners' every needs. You need to be able to care of yourself.  If you are interested in things like exactly measured race distances, or frequent aid stations stocked to satisfy your every single need and provide stuff like cold drinks… then you may not enjoy big loop road ultras.

Also, in most cases, when a marathon says a course is "hilly" (like Boston, for example, which runners will refer to as hilly), you can expect to slow your pace some as you run the hills. A "hilly marathon" generally means, I may not PR, I you should be able to run the whole race.  When an ultra says "rolling hills through country roads", most can expect to spend some time power hiking up a mountainside that feels like you are going backwards in time and often results in your projected finish time to rapidly fading from your grasp, especially if you are not prepared for the "hills" (or at least that was my experience).

However, when you finish an ultra and realize just how much you can endure, relentlessly pounding the road for almost the duration of a full work day, with minimal aid and pampering, the feeling of accomplishment is unmatched.

Elevation Chart.  

Race Description
Strolling Jim 40 Mile is a 41.2 mile road race that travels along a figure 8 shaped, one-loop course through the scenic rolling hills of Wartrace and Bell Buckle TN.  The race also offers a 20 miler which is 19.3 miles and a 10k which is 7.2.  I believe there were about 150 runners present for all three events, but this is just a guess. Although there are some aid stations, it seemed there may have been about 5-6 manned aid stations, with some cool water or iced down sports drink that I never heard of, during the entire 40 mile race. There were unmanned water stops which consisted of only gallons of water set in the grass on the side of the these country roads.  There was a sufficient number of  port-o-potties at the start and a set of 2 at mile 28.  The course was marked with arrows on the pavement.  Runners could have a crew drive the course and provide support along the way if the wanted. I did not.   Runners were given an option to leave drop bags at three location, mile13/35 mile (where the course met itself), 21, and 28. Again, I did do that either.  I never use drop bags.

My Race Summary
I had a really great run at Strolling Jim … for the first 32 miles. :)  My last 9+ concluded with the worst crash and burn I have experienced at an ultra in a while, but it was to be expected and it was quite amazing.  I am not sure how to explain this, but sometimes it feels really really good for me to find the point where I reach exhaustion.  (Ideally that happens much closer to the end of the race).  I am still feeling the repercussions of a hard cold long winter where my body got used to training in cold weather. In fact, I am still training in colder weather than TN weather, even though the weather was awesome.  In addition, I was simply extremely unprepared for the hills.  There is not much I can do to train for the rolling terrain of SJ, since where I live does not have what SJ offers.  I just wanted to go down, do my best, and spend time with my family.

Right from the start I felt like I found a nice rhythm.  It helped to hook up with a really wonderful woman named Lisa who shared many early miles with me.  Conversation flowed as miles passed.  We rolled through hills that were quite significant to me, but together we did well.  She turned off just around 14 as she was in the 20 miler and for the rest of the race I was mostly on my own.

The second half of the race was much more challenging for me that the first 20+.  I passed the halfway point feeling smooth and strong.  I just tried to focus on one mile at a time.  I was already salt crusted.  As I approached the marathon, had a little fluid left in one bottle and thought I had fluid in my second.  I passed the gallon jugs of water, which were now sitting in full sun.  I had no desire to drink hot water, so I decided to wait until the next manned aid station to fill my bottles with something cold…

By Mile 28, I realized I was completely out of fluid as my other bottle was empty and I was really thirsty.  I really should have filled up when I had the chance.  There was a older man on the side of the road in a pick up truck.  I wasn't sure if he was part of the race aid or not.  Some of the aid stations were manned pick up trucks with coolers in the back.  He was not part of the race aid but he offered me whatever I wanted from the cooler. I took only about 2 oz of a sports drink since an aid station had to be soon.  I didn't want to take someone else aid, but I was really thirsty.  He insisted I fill up my bottle but I assured him I would be ok.  I did pass an aid station shortly thereafter and they had some cool water.

At that aid station, I took an orange slice, a shot of coca cola, and a gel I could not consume.  I took off running with 11 miles to go, truly thinking I was going to have a great run… but eventually my world imploded and I am remarkably ok with this.

I did overheat a lot at the end.  It seemed that right after that last hill, where I felt like I was going backwards in time trying to walk as fast as I could, which was still pretty slow.  There I just hit a wall and my legs were done. It came on suddenly, on the decline after the hill.  Imagine being so tired that descent become hard.  I felt dizzy and easily confused.  I felt like every running step was pounding the life from my legs and walking steps were much more tolerable.

The last 4 miles were flat but without shade and that was my final straw.  I was simply done.  Now it was just about survival.  Time goals slipped away and I was ok with that.  I was doing my best and I knew it.  I did whatever I could to keep moving.

In the final mile, I ended up taking a wrong turn which is comical. LOL.  I was so tired, not thinking clearly, saw a bunch of arrows on the other side of the highway I was on, and since I was following arrows all day long, I figured they must be telling me to turn back b/c I missed the turn, so I did.   When I turned back to get back on track, I then noticed the words Wrong Way written on the highway with arrows pointing to turn off the highway.  I guess it just wasn't clear to me at that time why there was a bunch of arrows pointing down a side street if we weren't supposed to go that way, since all day long the arrows mean "go that way"… the words Wrong Way were on the highway, not not the side street. But the arrows indicating we need to turn were coming from the opposite direction.  This made my head hurt.  The only sense I could make of this in my tired state of mind was that the arrows were there for people like me who accidentally missed the turn and needed to back track.   All I can say is I was very tired, dehydrated and ready to stop. I saw some arrows pointing back to a turn, thought I missed that turn so I followed them.  I noticed my mistake by going slow and watching behind me to see what the guys behind me did… three guys passed turn and I immediately turned back.  Oh well.  It didn't add much

Things that worked for me:

Weather (yes and no):  Even though the race for me ended at 77 degrees and this was entirely too hot for me to tolerate, the race started in the low 50s, possible high 40's and the humidity seemed quiet low all day.  I am sure this low humidity is what saved my race.  When I finished the race, I noticed how my clothing was not sweat soaked at all. I was even able to tolerate wearing a singlet under my race vest without overheating much during the bulk of the race.

My Gear/Fuel: Nathan's Race Vest (not a hydration pack) with two 10 oz quick shot bottles (one in the vest pocket, one in my hand) and 3 gels in the other vest pocket.  This set up worked  really well for me.  I prefer to not carry anything, but I wasn't sure what to expect.  I knew this was  a one loop course with spaced out aid and I wanted to make sure I had what I needed to get by. I would like use the same set up again.  I started with 20 oz of Gatorade and added water to my bottles as I ran.  I took my first gel at 14 miles, then another at 23, and one more at  33.  I did grab a 4th gel but was not able to get that down.

Sunglasses: I bought a pair of sunglasses last year because I need to do more to protect my eyes.  Again I really dislike running with things on me, so this was a big deal.  I bought a pair of Oakleys because they are made for sports and I really like them. They don't move around, and really did a great job helping me stay focused. I even suspect I felt a bit cooler too (placebo effect) since my view of my world was dimmer than it would have been had I had nothing protecting my eyes.

Shorts: At Boston, I experienced really terrible chafing, where the seems of the shorts I wore rubbed my thighs relentlessly.  This time I chose tights that looked like bike shorts.  They were just perfect. 41+ miles and not one raw spot.  Again, I think this is also a product of low humidity.

ST 5 Racer - My new favorite Road Ultra shoe… a Stability Racing Flat!

Shoes: The best thing I did was choice the ST5 Racers.  These are now my favorite road ultra shoe. I still will use the T7 for 50k and under, but over 50k the ST5s are my shoe.  The ST5 are a stability racing flat.  They weigh in a 8.6 oz, but I believe this is for the Men's sizing since this is a unisex shoe.  I believe it is closer to 7 oz for an average sized women's shoe.  The extra support under the arch did more for me that I thought it would. I normally have arch pain due to chronic plantar fasciitis. I manage it well with taping and my pain is minimal now, however after an ultra there is alway some soreness.  But not this time.  I was surprised at how perfect my feet felt after this race.  I didn't have any blisters, hot spots or any toe nail issues either.  It was very impressive.

The Shirts:  The best part of SJ for me is the Finishers Shirts.  Depending upon how many hours it takes, you will be given a shirt of a different color if you finish under 8 hours.  Blue is sub-6, Red is sub-7 and Yellow is Sub-8.  I was so proud to earn a sub-7 shirt.  I think if I work really really hard, I may have an outside chance at a sub-6 next year… but this will required low humidity again and that I can't control.  All I can say, is this race is going on my calendar and I hope to find some hills to help me be better prepared next year!

Very simple but very meaningful to me.

Distance: 41.2 (plus some extra for me)
Time 6:35:58
Overall Place 29th OA
Gender: 5th