Friday, October 26, 2012

It's hard to say no to 26.2

I am often asked why I love running organized marathons...especially when I could just put some shoes one and head out for 26+ miles by myself and not worry about expos, getting up extra early, waiting in a corral and battling crowds through the start. True, I could just run the distance on my own or with just a few friends. And on occasion, I do. But that's not the point. 

Yes, a marathon is about running (or somehow getting) from a start to a finish, which sometimes involves running in a circle from the start back to the finish. A little comical. Maybe. We often pay $100+ to spend hours transporting ourselves between these two makeshift locations. And it's often painful, tiresome and sometimes downright miserable. Makes sense, right?

But there is much more to an organized marathon than meets the eye. It's about the atmosphere. The conversations before, during and after the race. The people watching. Sometimes it's about a challenge to beat PRs. It's an experience. Like Disneyland, which costs about the same from what I hear...and it doesn't even have free water, gels or Gatorade.

So naturally, I get extremely excited about my upcoming marathons. Take this weekend for instance, when I was supposed to be running the Atlanta Marathon. As it happens, I never made it to the east coast and I will be missing out on the race. It was a really, really hard decision to make but sometimes I am forced to look at the big picture and just do the right thing for my own good. 

The injuries I collected during the last 10ish miles of my 100k 3 weeks ago decided to stick around a little longer than I would have liked. I've done no running since that race, but at least I no longer walk like a zombie. The pool and the bike have become my new favorite places, but I've obviously missed my running shoes. Up until 3 days before the marathon, I was hoping for a miracle and still convinced I would run, or at least start. It would just work out, somehow. Or...not. Sometimes, I have to listen to the little voice in my head and not my heart (or legs). If I have taken 3 steps forward in healing from the 100k, I'm pretty sure running this 26.2 would have made me take 5 steps back and I am not prepared to be sidelined for so long. Saying no to a marathon you've been looking forward to is tough - but the prospect of not running for weeks post-race is pretty unimaginable. 

Next up: Tucson Marathon on December 8th!!!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Rio del Lago 100k: Recap

I love new race distances. No matter what, it's a PR race. I PR'ed my 100k this weekend. Nevermind that I finished about 2 hours off my target time - but what was I really thinking?! I had no idea what I was getting into.

The 3:20am wake-up hurt a little. I was still incredibly full from eating my weight in pasta and sourdough the day before (even though I knew better) so breakfast wasn't really happening. Butterflies in my belly were, however, definitely happening.
With Peter and Laura. I procrastinated putting my bib # on...
That would mean it was really happening.
As we got to the start line and I watched the 100milers take off, stuff started getting very real. I force-fed myself a bagel and banana for good luck, drank some water, found a new BFF called Dagny (my crew, Peter's, adorable dog) and off I went to line up.

Still smiling @ the start
The first few miles were relatively uneventful. I got to know some fellow runners, we kept an easy pace and I tried not to think about the fact that I will be running from before sunrise until...past sunset. I was happy, my legs and stomach were cooperating and miles really flew by. I was approaching mile 10 when it occurred to me to eat something, so I had a few bites of a CLIF bar.

My strategy was to eat solid food for the first 20ish miles and then switch to liquid calories (Heed and Perpetuem by Hammer) exclusively to stay away from stomach problems. Peter was the most amazing and resourceful crew I could wish for and had my liquids pre-mixed and ready to go (along with a pep talk and ice to keep me cool) at each crew-accessible aid station.

Coming in to Horseshoe, mile 10.8

The people, energy and food at the aid stations were amazing - and they really helped to break the race down to mini-distances, so all I had to think about was running from one aid station to the next. But despite RDL being an out-n-back course, those same stations seemed much farther apart in the second half. "Who moved my aid station?" became the title of that chapter.

Once the sun came up, the most amazing scenery greeted me. I remembered (and was super thankful for) pre-running the course a few weeks ago but it blew me all over again.

And then mile 17 happened...and I rolled my left ankle. Badly. Ouch. A few tears and a few minutes spent hardly moving, waiting for adrenaline to kick in and the pain to subside a little. I took some ibuprofen (my kidneys will thank me later) and chose to suck it up. I would roll the same ankle again around mile 40 and then the right ankle around mile 55 (even worse)...just because, clearly, all good things comes in threes.

Getting to the turnaround point at around mile 31, I was still (generally) all smiles. I talked to some friends, stretched and was on my merry way in a few minutes. The climbs were a little tiresome, but I had enough energy to give them a good powerhike so I was still on pace. In my head, I was going to negative split the race and I was on a mission.

I'm not even sure when, but a little after ankle trouble #2, the proverbial poop hit the fan. My pace slowed, but I was still moving forward. When I got to the aid station with about 10.8 miles to go, I was crying hard (making boys around me a little uncomfortable) for no apparent reason. I refueled and wobbled on...

The sun set soon thereafter and I was alone in the woods. I was hoping someone would catch up to me, but the next person was about half an hour behind. Just me, darkness and all kinds of animals, who, in my mind, were all out there to eat me. Note to self: I really need to practice night-time trail running. 

So, there is a section called meat-grinder. It's about 4-5 miles long and the nickname is very fitting. In daylight it's manageable, but still slows you down. At nighttime...not only do the rocks talk to you and morph into the shape of animals (I swear that happened) but they really get in the way of forward motion. Despite a second wind of energy a few miles leading into that section, I averaged a 21min/mi pace between miles 51-57. So that negative split thing went out the At mile 55, my right ankle went out..with a crack and pop. I fell down into a bush and sobbed for a minute. The only thing that got me up and going was a strong desire to get the heck out of this "enchanted forest". With only about 3 miles to go, I pulled something behind my left knee. But by this point, nothing really mattered. I was determined to finish, no matter what.

the finish!
So I did. I finished! I don't know my official time, but it was somewhere over 16 hours. I was the 4th woman to cross the line, which is a fun number. (edit: that's what I was told when I finished. Official results put me 6th. Strange but I truly don't care.) And I got my first pretty buckle!

Needless to say, I would have never finished (and 80% enjoyed) a race like this if it wasn't for my amazingly supportive friends, training partners and my race-day crew. So thank you, all. And no, I am definitely not done.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pre-Race Syndrome

I'm actively working on not freaking out about my first 100k in less than 1.5 days. Between school, work and life in general, these race jitters have been very distracting. But staying in my comfort zone and not signing up for races that challenge me would just be boring. So technically, I choose to be freaking out. Yeah, I'm so smart.

Overall, I guess my nervousness is a good thing because it means I am not taking the race and my success for granted. And how could's 62 miles worth of fun, but I have never ever run this long before.

If you have a race coming up soon, you probably know what I'm talking about. Pre-race syndrome, or PRS for short, presents with a variety of symptoms, including (but by no means limited to): strange dreams that seems to center around missing race start, showing up without shoes, getting lost on the course or forgetting how to run; a desire to eat every carbohydrate source (and other things) in sight; frequent mention of the words "taper" and "sucks" in the same sentence; a heightened affinity toward talking about two or three-letter phrases such as BQ, PR, LSD, DNF, HR, XT, ITB etc as well as an almost uncontrollable desire to say "screw it, I'm going for a run. Now."

I have an acute form of PRS. I have spent countless hours coming up with the perfect race strategy, calculating distances and projected paces between aid stations, as well as the number of calories I should be eating at each point of the course. Naturally, I expect to throw my plan out the proverbial window by about mile 10, maybe even before that.

You can do all the mental preparation in the world, but at the end of the day, the best plan is to start running...and if problems arise, to suck it up and keep running. So, that's plan B. And plan C. And D, E, F...

Dear Rio del Lago 100k, I'm coming to get you.
Good luck to everyone racing this weekend!!!