Tuesday, December 16, 2014

November/December race report

I, being the race addict that I am, managed to get three more half marathons in after the main racing season ended. If I had had a bit more money for travel, I could have fit in a few more. Curse my first world problems.

In November, I traveled to exotic Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the Route 66 half marathon. I decided to throw in the 5k the day before the half marathon. I really don't like the 5k distance. I never actually get warmed up before the race ends. But this one went pretty well, except for the mistake I made of starting at the very back. Turns out, I don't *totally* suck at 5Ks. I spent too long weaving around people to get free to run my pace. It was definitely nice to have that as a shake out run after the time spent traveling.

The next day was the main event. My friend Geof and I had been planning on running this race together for months. And then he had to go and get Plantar Fasciitis. He was a trooper though and didn't drop from the race. So the plan for the day changed from getting a shiny new PR to just getting through. It is nice not to worry about a finish time. It gave us a chance to really enjoy the scenery. There are some really gorgeous areas in Tulsa. And hills? Forget about 'em. There were some inclines, sure. But hills? Nah.

Having fun along the course.
It was a really well done race. I was happy with the course, the organization, the medal, and the company. There was a great group of runners out there, so many Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics. The weather cooperated and Geof finished strong. I might go back for the marathon one of these days.

The medal spins. I like spinner medals. I'm easily entertained. 
The next race in November was on Thanksgiving, my annual running of the Thankful 13. Now I love this race, which is why I come back every year. But this year was really rough on me. Not because the race is tough, it's a pretty nice one. It was mentally rough. Back in the early days of my running, I didn't know any other runners, really. I'd do my thing, nobody was watching. As long as I finished under 3 hours, I was pleased. Now that I've been doing this for a few years, I know quite a few runners. And many of these runners that I know are really good at running. And many of them were at this race. And they were all planning on sticking around at the finish line until I crossed. Ouch. I didn't realize that would affect me as much as it did. It made me very self conscious and quite frankly, I was embarrassed by my (what was an average time for me) finish time. And ever since that race I've been struggling with the mental aspect.

A nice medal can take the sting out of any disappointment. 
I know that a big source of unhappiness is comparing yourself to others. I know it; I understand it. But it doesn't really seem to matter that I know it. I still feel frustrated with myself and my abilities. With me, improvement comes slowly. So I just have to be patient. It took me years to break the 6 hour marathon mark but I got there. I just have to keep the right frame of mind and not get caught up in the comparison game. It's a daily struggle.

Alright, enough of the heavy stuff. My last race of the year was the Baker's Dozen half marathon down in Hurricane, Utah. This was a loop race, and you had to eat at least one treat per loop. I was nervous about that, since I really am not the biggest doughnut fan. Thankfully, they quartered the doughnuts so I only ended up eating one whole doughnut for the entire race. And it didn't bother my stomach much. I also had a little hot chocolate each lap, which helped warm me up on that chilly morning. At least the rain held off until after the race. My mom actually ran the 5k that was with this half. It was her first race and I am so proud of her for taking the plunge. She was so nervous but she did great.


I think this is the biggest medal I have ever received. 
So that's it for race reports this year. I may do a year in review in a couple of weeks, I'm sure y'all are waiting with baited breath for that. I've got some big stuff going down in 2015 so I'll make sure to keep up with the blogging. Until then, happy running!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A busy October

October was a busy running month for me. I scheduled myself five half marathons in one month. Really, it was more like three weeks. I started with the Mountain View Trail Half out on Antelope Island. This was my first ever trail half. And I have to say, it was pretty darned fantastic.

Running around with these guys? Very neat.
It was such a beautiful day out on the island. I was thrilled to see herds of bison just roaming around the trails. It turns out that the faster runners would have to break up a herd to continue on the trail. Being slower, I missed all that excitement. I took a very leisurely attitude towards this race. I carried my phone to make sure I could get pictures and I ended up stopping for a lot of photo ops.
Moving right along.

Bison herd! 

I probably should have tried a little harder in this race, I finished second to last... And my slow finish lead my mom to think that I had been trampled by a rogue bison. I didn't have any close calls, I was just enjoying my jaunt around the island. Next year, I'll step it up a bit.
Before the race, exited to be here!

After the race, still excited to be here!
My second race for the month was the SOJO half marathon. I ended up liking this race more than I thought I would. After enjoying the trails so much on Antelope Island, I was less than thrilled by the prospect of running though the suburbs. But the Daybreak area is filled with interesting architecture and I was pleased with the course. I ended up running a nice, strong race. I was trying to run conservatively, since the next day I would be running another half down in Moab. But sometimes, you just feel so good, you can't hold back. 

Finishing strong!

With my brother afterwards, he did the bike tour.
After I got cleaned  up from the SOJO, we hopped in the car and headed straight to Moab so I could get my packet for the Other Half the next day. The Other Half is a tough course, but I love it. This was my third year running it. I did all I could to recover my legs once we got to the hotel. I did an Epsom salt soak, foam rolling, and some yoga. It must have worked, since I was only three minutes slower than my time last year. The hills didn't seem as daunting this year. Maybe that's because I feel like I know the course now or maybe I'm just getting stronger as a runner. Either way, it's always phenomenal to run in Moab. 
Moaaaaaaaaabbbbb! Whoooo!
Then it was recovery time. I spent most of the next week on the spin bike at the gym to take it easy on the legs. I had a big weekend coming up since I scheduled two half marathons in one day. It seemed like a good idea at the time I signed up. I managed to convince my running friend, Jamie, to join in the madness with me. She jumped at the chance. We were both excited and I was still pretty optimistic when race day arrived. The first race was the Haunted Half. It was a nice run down Provo canyon. Since it was down a canyon, I ended up running faster than I had wanted to. But again, I was feeling really good, so it was difficult to dial it back. I just hoped that the 5 hours I had between races would be enough to make the second half go smoothly. 
Just a couple of spooky skeletons, running crazy miles.
I recovered with a Beto's breakfast burrito and an hour and a half nap. Perhaps the nap was a mistake... My legs had stiffened up during the nap. So I spent some more time with the foam roller and hoped for the best. 
Ready to run! Again.
As you can see, we used awesome gear to keep us motivated for this two-a-day. Our outfits got a great reaction from the other runners. Our spirits were high as we set out on our second half marathon of the day. I was a little stiff at first, but then I settled into a decent rhythm. The night was perfect for running. The temperature was ideal and the sunset was incredible. There were quite a lot of spectators out and the little kids were the best. They loved seeing all the costumes and they all wanted high fives. I actually felt pretty good until mile 9 (mile 22 for the day), so I counted that as a sign that I had trained well enough. I even found the strength to dig deep and have a nice sprint to the end. Although, after the race, I sat down and then had a difficult time getting back up again... I will say, it was worth it to take on this challenge. 
A gh-gh-gh-ghost!

In my opinion, two halves with a break in the middle is more difficult than just running a marathon all at once. The fatigue that settles into your legs in between the races is the big obstacle. But it was still such a blast! Plus, I got to level up in the Half Fanatics and we all know how much I love medals. Two in one day? That makes it the best day.

I have a nice bit of a break before I head to Tulsa for the Route 66 Half Marathon. And then training gets serious. I have two 12 hour races scheduled next year, with the first one being in February. That means my winter will be filled with much running. But hey, that's going to help burn off all that good holiday food! I eat, therefore I run. 

Until next time, happy running!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Behold! The power of the internet!

For the last two months, my internet has been unreliable at best. It hampered my blogging abilities and frustrated me on countless occasions. But the problem has been remedied and now you can all read about the last 6 races that I've run! Hooray!

Half marathon number 46 was the Park City half. Having sworn an oath never to run the full marathon in Park City again (and there was lots of actual swearing, the curse word kind), the half seemed like a nice option. I should have known that it would be a hilly beast anyway. That's all Park City knows how to do. I still had a nice race, and the shirt and medal were much better this year than when I ran the full.

I was going to beat that guy, so help me.

Very pretty medal.

Then there was the Top of Utah half marathon, half number 47. I was worried about the weather for this race, as the rain had been coming down in buckets the night before. It was a chilly, damp morning up the canyon, but the rain held off while the temperature remained nice and cool. I always run better when it's cool outside. I finished feeling really strong. Most of my races lately have been better the second half than the first. This bodes well for my future ultra aspirations.

I never look like I'm moving all that fast, but I was moving right along.

Moose swag is the best swag.
Half number 48 was the Murdock Half, along the new-ish Murdock Canal trail. It was a very small race, so I knew that I would be one of the last people across the line. And I was,but not the very last. I managed to beat 2 other people. But all of us finished in under 3 hours and we were all quite pleased with ourselves.

The shirt is cozy. I like cozy.
Half number 49 followed on Labor Day, with just one day of rest between half 48 and 49, I wasn't expecting a fantastic performance. This race had less than 30 people. I was by far the heaviest person there, and the course was straight up a mountain and then back down. But you know what? I wasn't last in this race either. Again, I beat two other people. And I finished in a much better time than I thought I would. I pushed hard on the uphill and flew back down. It turned out to be a nicer race than I had expected.

I have yet to see this "monster" they speak of.

The ever important watch stopping picture.
All of this jam packed racing was leading up to my 50th half marathon, the Nebo Half. I plotted and planned to have this one be my 50th, because it had been my very first. It's one of my favorite races. The course is gorgeous, the medals are stunning, and it's always been perfect on race day. This race was no exception. I finished in a very good time, only 4 minutes off my all time best. I had a nice support group with friends and family both running and waiting at the finish line. We had a little tail gate party afterwards to celebrate. The day was everything that I had hoped for.

Whee! Happy with this day/race/everything!

My friend Melissa, smashed her previous best time by nearly an hour! 

Hanging out with our trainer after, basking in the glory.

I'm sad this picture didn't turn out better...
All of these glorious half marathons were leading up to my last big race of the year, the Big Cottonwood Marathon. And when it came to the week of the race, I plain just didn't want to do it. I kept threatening to drop down to the half. I don't know why I had such a bad attitude towards this race. I really liked it last year. My training was just fine. I hadn't bombed any of my long runs, I was feeling healthy and fine. I just didn't want to run that far.

My friend Jamie and her husband were both running this race, and she had threatened me with a stern face that I needed to suck it up and run the full marathon. I'm glad I did. It turned into my best marathon experience ever. Like of all time, ever. There were so many Marathon Maniacs there one in particular really helped me through the last 10 miles. Cody became my marathon friend and it made all the difference. I don't really get to run with people much, since our paces are all so different. But Cody and I had the same pace and the same philosophy towards the race.

Feeling fine on one of our agreed upon walk breaks.
The last 10 miles went so well, I ended up beating my previous best time by 13 minutes. That's huge. I had no idea I was capable of a finish like that while still being able to walk the next day. I felt so good for the entire day even. I guess all that training really is paying off.

Look at my watch! Look at it! The time is amazing!


PR baby. Yeah.
So there you have it. If I could have blogged more regularly, there would have been much more detail. But pictures are more fun than my rambling. I have all kinds of craziness coming up this month and I'll try to keep up on it all. Until then, happy running!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The craziness continues.

It's that time again! Multiple race report time! You had to know this was coming, as it's been about a month since my last entry. I also need to apologize for the scant amount of pictures. A finicky internet is making uploads unbearable.

It took me a while to recover from the Trail Rail Run. I had developed some gnarly tightness in my right  IT band that really made things awful for a few weeks. It's starting to get with the program again, though, thanks to a knowledgeable massage therapist.

My comeback race after the ultra was the Star Valley Half Marathon in Wyoming. The race takes place in a little town called Thayne. The area is quite lovely; it reminded me of where I had run in Montana just three weeks before. And there was the same promise of maybe seeing a moose. (I did not see a moose, however. The search continues.)

The race started up a nice little canyon and continued into some bucolic farm land. I was actually feeling mostly okay for the first 9 miles and then my leg started to rebel. I decided to switch to a 2:1 run/walk interval and it got me through the last 4 miles without incident. After the race, we drove up to the Tetons. And while the trip was totally worth it, my leg didn't appreciate all the sitting in the car.

Pretending to cross the finish line, after it was missed the first time.
A really nice shirt and medal, and the race was fairly inexpensive. 

The next weekend I ran the Timp Half Marathon. My leg gave me fits from the start of that race. All the driving from the weekend before had tightened my IT band right back up. I have loved this race in the past, but this year, there was an element of panic associated with it. The problem was, the Timp people didn't get the same permits as they have in previous executions of this race. This year they had to impose a strict cutoff of 7:30 a.m. to be out of the canyon, which is just over 7 miles. Now, on a good day, this is no problem. But with my leg restricting my movement the way it was, I was terrified that they were going to end up picking me up with the sweep vehicle. I managed to make it out with time to spare, but it made for an unpleasant amount of worry and stress. I finished with a decent time overall and as usual, the shirt and medal is very nice.

Their medals are always so shiny!

Just this week, I did a charity 5K, the Potter Run. It was a fun little Harry Potter themed run up in Liberty Park. It was nice to get the chance to run there, even though a race at 6 p.m. at the end of July is stupid hot... And it was stupid hot out there, making for a very slow finish time for me. But it was still a nice way to spend a Thursday evening.

A medal for a 5K is always nice. 

I have also finally (finally!) dipped my toes into the dusty/muddy world of single track trail running. There is a trail running series here that goes on up in the Wasatch mountains, where once a week, a race is held on the various trails. That sentence seems awkward, but I really don't know how to change it, so enjoy its awkwardness. Anyway, this trail series is really nice. They offer two course lengths so I can choose the short course and not be the last person out on the trail.

Let me just put this out there. Single track trail running is difficult. Crazy difficult. As in my pace per mile went up 4 minutes difficult. But while it is so challenging, it is also a great experience. I don't like the steep climbs. I walk them with a disgruntled look on my face. But on the flats and the downs, I have a blast! There's a certain level  of decline that I can comfortably cruise down while picking my way over rocks and roots that really stimulates my mind. When it gets too steep on the downs, I start to panic and have to slow down. But when conditions are just right, I've never had so much fun while running. I appreciate this race series for helping me to get out there and get dirty. I have had a lot of trepidation about it, getting lost, getting hurt, etc. etc. But this gives me other people to help if something happens and a set course. I'm feeling better about trying to tackle some trails on my own in the future.

And that's what's been going on. Hopefully, I will be able to blog more entertainingly about my next races. Until then, happy running!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Long Awaited Ultra Recap

Well, here goes nothing. I have spent the last week trying to figure out how to talk about my first ultra marathon experience. I've felt overly conflicted about the entire thing. I didn't have the experience I was hoping to have, but I learned so much more than I could have ever imagined.

It's been so difficult to process because crossing that finish line was the single greatest thing I have ever accomplished while simultaneously being a crushing, embarrassing failure. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

I felt ready and excited as we packed the car and headed out on our epic trek to Montana. The day was beautiful and cool. A storm had rolled through, bringing with it the promise of cooler temperatures for race day. The drive went smoothly and we had entered Big Sky Country without incident. The western Montana landscape is gorgeous. I knew I had chosen the perfect place to tackle my first ultra.

Pretty darn gorgeous. 
We arrived in Montana on Thursday; I knew I would need all day Friday to recover from the long drive. This was a lesson I learned from the Rock n' Roll Denver back in 2012. Getting in a day early allowed us to rest, relax, and explore the area. We even found a little dirt track that I could do a little shake out run on to loosen up my legs after the drive. The weather was still pleasantly cool when we arrived, and stayed pretty nice through Friday. But of course, it wouldn't stay that way for race day.

Thanks for being there, little dirt track.
I didn't even get nervous when I picked up my packet on Friday. That's usually where the panic starts to set it. But I was just excited and looking forward to the next day's adventure. We had checked out the surrounding areas for a place that had something besides diner food and I was able to have some pasta as my pre-race meal. As much as I dig a big juicy burger and a shake, it's not the best pre-race meal.

My hotel was right next to where the bus would be picking us up, so I was able to just walk over without having to wake anyone up to drive me. I was ready to go sooner than expected, so I was about 10 minutes early for the bus. I wasn't the only one though, and that gave me a chance to get to chat with some of the other runners. I met a very nice man named Jeff who was running this race as his 199th ultra. Sheesh. Everyone (all 17 of them) were  very kind people. Ultra runners are a different breed. It's not like people are mean to me at other races, but this was a different feel all together. They treated everyone there as if we were all friends and had been for some time. There was no air of competition, just camaraderie. Another thing I noticed is that most of the people there were quite a bit older than I was. That helped me feel optimistic about my future as an ultra runner. My best years are still ahead. I've got time. (Those are some of the things that were said to me at the start. And they're right.)

I have to go how far?!
I finally got butterflies in my stomach when they announced that it was 5 minutes to the start time. The reality of what I was about to attempt finally hit me. I still felt ready, however. Silly me.

When the gun went off and we started on our way, there was a marked difference in the pace at this race versus all the other races I have been in. No one took off like a jack rabbit. Everyone was content to cruise along and enjoy the scenery. Within the first three miles, we came to my favorite places on the course. The Dominion Tressel and the railroad tunnel.

Seriously, this was my favorite. 

And running through a cool tunnel, second favorite.
 The weather was staying nice and cool, the trail was shady because of the time of day. I enjoyed it while it lasted because it didn't stay that way for long. The high for the day was supposed to be 86 degrees. And it delivered.

If it would have been like this the whole day, things might have gone a little better for me.
The trail was pretty smooth for the first 13 miles or so. No huge rocks to dodge or obstacles to deal with. So I cruised along really well for that portion. I was still feeling really good about being out there, enjoying the day. But when mile 14 rolled around, the trail conditions changed. For over 2 miles, the trail was covered with what looked like river rocks. Rocks that big are very difficult to run on. So I spent those two miles picking my way through to find the best sections to run on. These conditions continued to pop up later on as well. It was unfortunate. Also, the sun had gotten high enough and the trees had thinned out enough that the sun was starting to be a factor.

That's still a lot of miles...
With the aid stations being about 5-6 miles apart, I wasn't able to get the relief of dumping cold water on my head at regular, life saving intervals, like I do when I get hot in other races. I was carrying water with me in my Camelbak, but it was starting to get warm from the heat too.

At this point, the struggle really started. 
At each of the aid stations, I lingered too long, just trying to cool down. They didn't have any ice that I could put in my water to cool it down. That made me very sad. But the water they had was cool enough that I could drench myself and have some relief from the heat for the next two miles. But that's about as long as it lasted. After each stop and drench, I felt much better and would proceed down the trail at a good clip. But as the miles wore on and the water evaporated, the heat would creep in and sink me. I kept trying to follow intervals of walking and running to keep moving forward, but eventually, the heat would reduce me to a walk without fail.

By the time I reached mile 22 (Only 11 more miles to go! Hooray?) all I could think about was how badly I wanted to be at the finish line. The heat was taking a toll and I was beginning to hallucinate. My brain decided that it wanted to hallucinate a cow. So it did. That was unsettling.

Here are some actual, non-hallucinated cows. This was at mile 32.5 and I was using every excuse to stop and take pictures. 
I could tell I had stopped sweating and I was going to be in big trouble if I didn't get cooled off. I ended up finding a shady spot and just sitting. And drinking. And trying to get a gel to go down. One thing I learned during this race is that I actually want real food. In all my previous races, I haven't wanted to eat real food. Gels and shot blocks have always been fine and the thought of trying to eat something more substantial always made me nauseous. So now I know how to fuel differently during these types of events. Learning is good.

I kept hoping the aid stations would have something to sate my growing hunger. Sadly, I was spoiled when I went to the Umstead 100 and I had unrealistic expectations of aid station fare during an ultra. There was everything and anything you could possibly want at Umstead. Here, there wasn't much choice. I did enjoy the dried apricots and ate copious amounts of them, but what I really wanted was salty, crunchy things. I would have loved to have some potato chips. Or salted potato chunks. A hard boiled egg with salt. I was taking electrolyte tablets, but the salt craving was intense. Another thing I really wanted was some flat soda, like Coke. I felt an intense need for that sugar and caffeine. These are all things I could have carried with me, if I had known how badly I was going to want them. And now I know. Knowing is half the battle. LEARNING.

I could tell by mile 24 that my seven and a half hour time goal (goal A) wasn't going to happen. So I settled for my B goal (sub 8 hour). When it became apparent that was not happening, the C goal filled my brain (8.5 hours, because there was no way in hell I was going to finish in 9 hours. That was unacceptable.) When I had a total breakdown and cried for all of mile 31, the D goal of just finishing was all that was left.
I knew I was the last 50K person out there, the 50 milers had started passing me some time before.

The breakdown at mile 31 was interesting because it followed a strange surge of speed and awesomeness that happened when I hit mile 30. When my Garmin told me I had gone 30 miles, I was filled with overwhelming excitement. It was a milestone I had never hit before in my life. And it just so happened that that mile of the trail was shaded. I took off running and I ran that mile in about 10.5 minutes. Which is a fast mile for me on any regular day; it was a bonafide miracle after having already logged so many miles on my poor legs. And then the breakdown. It was a dizzying high, followed by the soul crushing low. Ah, running. You do know how to toy with my emotions. LEARNING.

By mile 32, I had stopped crying. Now my effort had devolved into a death march. I just kept trudging along, not even bothering to try running anymore. There was nothing left to give. It seemed that everything I had in me had been sucked out by the heat, distance, and time on my swollen feet that for some reason wouldn't just go numb already! People running the 50 miler had been passing me since about 16 miles in. And they continued to pass me in that last mile. But at least many of them were also death marching at this point. We were all miserable, together. That helps, it really does.

32.5 miles. I hurt most everywhere. LEARNING.
I slowly wound my way down the streets of St. Regis. I was to the point where I could see the turn into the park where I would get to stop moving and end my suffering. And yet, I still couldn't run. The death march continued until I rounded the final corner and initiated Zombie Shuffle Mode. ZSM is not much faster than a walk, but it looks a little more like running.
I AM moving. Just very, very slowly.

When I crossed that finish line, I was thrilled. 33.25 miles and I was still alive. But my Garmin also told me that it took me 9:09:48 to manage that distance. And that hurt. It embarrassed me and shamed me, even though no one else was mocking me or shaming me, just good old me, my own worst enemy. Jeff, the 199th ultra guy, was there at the finish line and gave me a hug. Everyone was happy that I made it. My mom was proud of me and took a ton of pictures (thanks, Mom!).
Something I need to remember here. 
As I sat there and tried to process everything that had happened, one of the race officials brought me over an envelope. The envelope contained a certificate for getting third in my age group. That has never happened to me before. There have always been more than 3 people in my age group. And this time, there wasn't. This added to my excitement and my shame. Please enjoy this dialogue excerpt from my brain: "I placed in my age group! Hooray!"  "But you only placed because there were only 3 people in your age group. Boo."  "But a certificate is cool! Hooray! And look at this sweet railroad spike! It means I didn't quit!" "Yeah, you only didn't quit because they'd never find your body out there until it was too late."  It was a tough, confusing day, to put it mildly.
I somehow managed a real smile!
Even though this experience wasn't the one I wanted. I think it was the one I needed. I've not been deterred from the ultra distance. Instead, I have been filled with the desire to take what I have learned and do better next time. Because there is going to be a next time. I am going back next year and I am going to show this distance that I can conquer it in a way that won't confuse and upset me. I'm still sorting through the emotions and disappointment but I'm already stronger for it. There's been a shift in my thinking, a shift in my plans. But this is good. This is exciting. And I'm ready to continue to push forward and out of this comfort zone. Nothing neat happens there anyway.

And this is pretty neat.
In the end, one quote has kept coming back into my mind. I'll leave you with that.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly... who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly." -Theodore Roosevelt

I dared greatly.

Happy running.