Sunday, April 20, 2014

Another timely blog?! I'm winning at life.

It's almost like this blogging thing has become a priority! I have two weekends of racing to talk about instead of 5 or 6. Hopefully that means I will be able to put in more detail and my special random ramblings that I'm sure you're all so fond of.

Last weekend, I ran my 39th half marathon, the Wonder Woman Half out in Saratoga Springs. I got quite lost trying to find the tiny park that would serve as the start and finish because the map that they had of how to get there didn't show the newer Pioneer Crossing road, which caused me to think I was in the wrong area completely. Then I remembered that I own a phone that is considered "smart", so I made the magic of the interwebs and Google maps guide me to my destination.

I finally arrived at the park and even though it was about 20 minutes to start time, there were surprisingly few people there. When I went to the pavilion to pick up my race packet, the lady checked my name off of the list. The list that only had about twenty runners on it. Eep. Twenty runners?! In a race that size, I am bound to be the slowest. My strength is in numbers, not in speed.

Mmmm. Peanut butter.
Before the race started, the race director gave us the rundown on the course. It was a simple out and back, so I wasn't sure why we needed to be reminded of where it went. It was on the Jordan River Parkway Trail, I didn't really think that it required all that much explanation. Turns out, people are very talented when it comes to screwing up simple things. I followed her instructions, I stayed to the left, I stayed on the trail. I knew I was on course because my Garmin mileage kept matching with the mile markers on the course. Basically everyone else didn't listen, didn't stay to the left, and they didn't stay on the course.

I watched the pack peel away from me within the first mile. I started getting a little upset, because it's frustrating to be the slowest. But then I reminded myself that this was only a training run and it didn't matter when I finished, just that I finished. Besides, I had to come home and run more miles after to get my total for the day. Anywho, back to group stupidity. It turns out that being at the back helped me not get swept up into the mob mentality of following the leader when the leader is wrong. The people in the front of the race decided that they were going to take a loop of the trail that went off course for about a mile. This loop was on the right. STAY TO THE LEFT, PEOPLE!

I'm sure that many of the people who followed those in the lead started to question if that was the right thing to do, but they didn't want to appear silly by arguing about it, so they just kept going the wrong way. I didn't see them take the loop, but I saw them coming out of it. These people had all passed me in the beginning, and then they got to pass me again. Much to their dismay, I might add. It seemed that once they saw me, it dawned on them that something was wrong. I know that one or two probably thought I was the one that took a wrong turn, but their watches confirmed the truth.

The only thing that really irked me about them getting lost, is that even though they all ran an extra mile, they all still beat me. Well, I wasn't last... I was second to last. When I came through the finish, I made a point of telling them that there was one more lady out on the course. I didn't want them to shut it down and leave her without a medal. Because that would be awful. That's not something I would wish on anyone, being the medal fiend that I am. I did see my friend Greg out on the course, getting some training in for his marathon. That was a nice bonus. The more I run, the more people I know who run. (Imagine that!)

Half #39, in the bag.
My 40th half marathon was yesterday, the Salt Lake City Half Marathon. I stayed up at my friend Krista's house, since she lives pretty close to the starting line. I was a little concerned about the quality of sleep I would get on the couch, but it was just fine. She even put mints on my pillow, making everything that much more special.

It was a beautiful day for a race. I didn't even bother to take my jacket with me to the start. The temperature stayed pleasant throughout the race. These perfect conditions won't last long, as the desert summer creeps in, so I made an effort to really enjoy being out there. This race was much larger than my last one, 6500 in total between the half and full marathons. The marathoners stayed with us until they split off at mile 9 and rejoined us around their mile 24. 

The course was just challenging enough, there weren't insane amounts of hills, but the hills that were there were steep beasts. There was some very nice downhill, not enough to beat your quads to death, but enough to speed me along at a sub 10 min/mile. I lost five minutes waiting for a porta-potty around mile 8, but I'm still happy with my finish time. It was right in the window that I was planning on, leaving myself some energy for the nearly 7 more miles I had to run afterwards to get my 20 for the day.  At the finish line, Krista was there with a sign, cheering me on. 

Will run for cookies.
It's always nice to have a familiar face at the end of a race. And cookies are just the cherry on top. I survived my hour long drive home without my legs stiffening up much. Hooray! So it wasn't too bad to coax myself on to the treadmill to log the remaining 6.67 miles needed for my long run weekend. I made sure to just take it easy, since the miles mattered more than the time. I completed my 20 in a total of 4:18:07, which is actually the fastest that I have ever run that distance. And I even felt pretty good afterwards! I went out on a date that evening and was able to walk around all night, tackling flights of stairs and everything. The legs are a little sore today, but not as much as I had been anticipating. I must be making progress! 

Half #40! Over the hill!
I just have to knock out some recovery miles today and another decent week of training is over. Some weeks leave me feeling quite optimistic about my 50K. Other weeks leave me feeling terrified. But I guess that's just how life goes. I was in a bit of a funk a few weeks back, but a few good runs brought me out of it. June 21 is going to be here before I know it. Right now, I'm just trying to focus on getting through the Ogden Marathon here in a few weeks. Once I get that out of the way, I should feel confident enough to survive the 33 miles in June.

Until next time, happy running!

Monday, April 7, 2014

A race and then some.

Check this out!  A timely blogging! Don't get used to it though, I'm sure it's just a fluke.

So a few weeks ago, I conquered half marathon #38, the Riverton Half. It was so great this year! From start to finish, it was a wonderful experience. The race day packet pick-up saved me hours of drive time and was quick and easy. The race started on time and the new course was a huge improvement from what it was in 2012 when I last ran this race. I love getting to run on the Jordan River Parkway Trail, and they kept the majority of the race on it this time. The weather couldn't have been better either. The conditions made for a really strong race for me. I finished with a time I haven't seen since last summer. And I was able to come home and run one more mile, since I had 14 on the schedule for that day.

So after I had this really great race, I then proceeded to spend the next full week, and part of the week following, being incredibly sick. Some foul bug had been making the rounds in my house and it finally caught up to me. It ruined two weeks of training and left me feeling completely wrecked. I thought I would be back to 100% in time for my pacing duties at the Umstead 100 this weekend. Turns out I was very wrong about that.

It was the perfect storm of lack of proper sleep, dehydration, being on my feet too long that morning, and not really running for the two weeks prior that brought me down on my pacing lap. I ended up having to have Rachel leave me behind because I couldn't keep up with the pace she needed to maintain. It's a good thing we had doubled up on pacing duty so Amy could stay with her and finish out that lap.

But let's not dwell on the few hours of failure that I had during this weekend. Let's focus on all the good stuff that went on instead!

100 miles?! All at once?!
I got into Raleigh early enough to help Rachel finish up her pre-race preparations, getting all the gear together, organizing the crash cart, getting detailed instructions on how to charge the Garmin while running, what nutrition we should force on her when she didn't feel like eating, getting the drop bag ready, and finding somewhere to put the cases of Nutter Butter's she had bought for the event.

I've never seen so many Nutter Butter's in one person's possession before...
We had shirts that said "Rachel's Crew" on the front and within a few hours of hanging around the race course the night before, Rachel was a celebrity of sorts. People would spy our red shirts and hoot and holler for us and for her. Apparently, a crew of the size she had assembled is rarely seen.

Only about half of us are in this picture.

We had plenty of time to get our aid station set up and all ready for the long days ahead. People mocked her for staking out her place on the course Thursday night, but by the time they'd done a few loops on Saturday, they realized the brilliance of that strategic placement. We were very close to the turn around point, which meant that Rachel got to pass us twice in a short period of time. She could pass by, tell us what she needed, and we'd have it ready to go by the time she got back around to us. The system worked beautifully. We also made sure to have someone meet her about a half mile from the station to find out vital things like did she pee? What did she eat? How much did she drink? What does she need? These questions are basic, but extremely important to ask. We had to know how much she had taken in, how much was coming out, and also keeping an eye on her electrolyte intake. These things are what will make or break you in an ultra.

And they made her. She was smart. She stuck to her plan. She didn't get caught up in the excitement of the first few loops and go out too fast. She nailed her paces, kept her heart rate in check, and smiled her face off for basically the entire 100 miles. I've never seen anything like it.

100 miles? Sure, that's easy!
It was such a great experience to be a part of something like this. It was a weekend that I'll never forget . I loved the chance to get to help out all of the runners by being on kitchen duty in the morning, then manning our aid station, helping out not just our runner, but anyone in need. And to be able to be out there on a loop with Rachel, seeing how strong she was even after logging over 50 miles, it was truly inspiring. There were so many amazing people there, giving every thing they had to keep going. I get all goose pimply thinking about what was accomplished out there in the woods of North Carolina. An epic number of people came out to help Rachel obtain her goal, and I made many new friends because of it.

This isn't even her whole crew! She had supporters from all over the U.S. that came to help.
I could go on and on about how much it meant to me to be a part of this huge event, but I won't babble anymore than I already have. If you really want to know what it's like, go hang out and volunteer for an event and experience it first hand. You won't be sorry. And until then, happy running!