Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bear Lake Monster! Well, sort of...

Yesterday was Memorial Day. And since I didn't have to go to work that day, I thought it would be a fine idea to spend my morning running a half marathon. So I went ahead and signed up for the Bear Lake Monster half marathon. Bear Lake is a gorgeous, natural lake on the northeastern border of Utah and Idaho. It's got some of the bluest water I have ever seen. What a perfect place to run a race, I thought, naively.

Gorgeous! Am I right?

 The race website lead me to believe I would get some really stunning views on this run. And perhaps I would have, if they could have kept the original course. Apparently, the forest service wouldn't allow us to run on a portion of the course that would have enabled us to complete a loop through the foot hills and back down into the minuscule town of St. Charles, Idaho. Instead, the course was altered so that it was two out and back runs on the 10K course. That meant that we had to run up the mountain for 3.1 miles, turn around and run right back down, get almost to the finish line, then turn around and do it all over again. Meh.

Before the start, irritated at the heat and course changes.

 Besides the course change, I really wasn't happy with the start time of the race. 9:00 in the morning, on a day that's predicted to reach 86 degrees, is far too late to start an event that you anticipate will last at least 3 hours. I would have loved a 7:00 a.m. start time. The temperature was an issue throughout the race. It was too warm when we started out and I knew that was going to sink me. By the time I reached the first aid station at mile 1.55, I was already desperately dumping water all over my head.

Me, during the race.

 The worst part was the miscommunication on the course. When I made it to the last aid station, I knew we were supposed to go a little farther up the road to get the proper mileage. The race director even said as much at the start. The folks at the aid station tried to give me my wrist band that showed I had made it to the turnaround and I asked them flat out about the half marathoners needing to go farther. They said no, just turn around now, we get a shorter course. But when I got to the turnaround for the second time, they then told me I had to go farther up the road to the cone, then come back, then go up to the cone and back again. Ugh. It was no fun to go run in tiny circles in the heat of the day on a dusty, shadeless dirt road because they messed up the first time.

Trudging... Uh, I mean, power hiking up the hot dirt road.

 I thought the 3.1 miles was pretty and all, but I got bored with it by my fourth time through. I'm not the biggest fan of out and back courses for the simple fact that I am a slower runner. And all those faster runners fly past me, heading for the finish, and I always feel slightly patronized when they tell me to "keep it up" and "you're doing great" because we all can see that I'm not exactly doing "great". I also hate the "you're almost there" when I'm getting close to the turnaround point. Yes, I am well aware of how far this race is, how long I've been running, and where half way actually is. Thanks though.

That's a PADDLIN'.

 At least there weren't hundreds or thousands of people passing me though. Most of the competitors were high school cross country stars, I knew exactly how it was going to play out. I think there was a grand total of 44 people in this race. I came in second to last, so I only had to put up with comments from 42 people (give or take, not everyone says something).

I swear I was running faster than this looks...

The man who finished last was a fellow Half Fanatic who has completed 8 back to back half marathons in 8 days. He closed down the race in style. As we saw each other out there on the course, knowing what place we both were, we just gave each other a knowing look and a smile. No words were needed. We may be slow, but we never quit and we knock out multiple races every month. We're not as concerned with PR's and course records. We care about moving up in the ranks of the Fanatics, lifetime stats, and enjoying the experience. It's a completely different approach than most people take to racing, but we love it.

We really are crazy.
The ultra countdown is now at less than 4 weeks. I need to pound out one more week of heavy training before the blissful taper weeks start. I was desperately searching for a race to run this weekend to help me log some nice miles but there's nary a one to be found. It looks like I'll be on my own in trying to get one more 20+ mile run in. Oh well. Maybe I'll go buy a shirt and a necklace  or some other medal substitute after, like my own little race reward. I'm sure you'll all be dying to hear how that goes.

Until next time, happy running!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

So many things!

There are so many things that go through my mind when I run. And I always wish I could remember them and use them later. I am so eloquent when there's no way to record my thoughts. I will try to pull out some of the deeper, more profound things from my grey matter and put them in this blog, you know, for posterity.

If I ever have a posterity, it will look something like this. (Yes, I know "have a posterity" isn't the correct way to put it, but this is my blog and I do what I want.) 
It looks like I need to pick up where I left off and talk about two races in this here bloggy blog. We'll go in chronological order, since it suits me. I do enjoy continuity and flow. I'm sure you've all picked up on that by now, what with my incredibly organized blogging.

At the beginning of the lovely month that is May, I ran my 41st half marathon, and favorite half marathon, the Dino Half. It was a perfect spring time day in Eastern Utah. The conditions were ideal. The canyon was in fine form. The bus that took us to the start had to stop at one point to let a small herd of deer cross the road.

This was my third time running this race. My younger brother was also running this one with me, as his third half marathon. He wasn't trained for this one as well as he would have liked to be, but he still did well.  I was similarly hoping to do well, and well I did! (For me, anyway.) I had stuck with the 2:30 pace group for the first 3 miles, but I knew that their pace was going to wipe me out and I had more to do that day than just the race. So I said my goodbyes and dropped behind. Even dropping off from the pace group, I was able to sail down the canyon on what felt like winged (I hope y'all are reading that in your heads as wing-ED. Because that sounds fancier.) feet and finish with a new best time for that course. Sure, that best time only applied to me and not the guy who won it by crossing the line an hour before me, but that was his race. I was running my own.
Mr. Mittens is the unofficial mascot of this race. He's testing the medal's tastiness. It tastes like victory.

This race has the BEST medals. BEST MEDALS. BEST. B.E.S.T. Bessssssssst. Now that word sounds weird, huh. You're welcome.

I felt fresh and happy, which is always an accomplishment after 13.1 miles. And it was fortuitous that I felt so fine, since I actually had to run 9 more miles afterwards at the hotel. When the schedule says 22 miles, you run 22 miles. So, being the obedient, non-resistant gal I can be every now and again, I hopped on the hotel treadmill and did 5 of the remaining 9 miles. I had to take a break to make the most out of my time in Vernal. You guys, there are dinosaur bones aplenty there. And I needed to spend some quality time with them. Also, I really needed to eat something, as I almost passed out in the shower...

Mr. Mittens was also quite thirsty after his busy morning at the race.
I'm wearing a dinosaur tee-shirt, a dinosaur medal, while holding a plush representation of a dinosaur, in front of a giant wall of dinosaur bones. That is why I have the look in my eye of someone completely deranged. I get that look when I'm overly excited.  We all have our things, no judging. 
Also, maybe I look a little crazy, because I still had to run another 4 miles after my dinosaur adventuring. It took nearly everything I had to lace back up and head to the hotel gym for 4 more miles. But I did it. I actually did it. I forced my lazy, tired body back down there and I got it done. I am still amazed at the fact that it happened. I think I have reached a new level of awareness. The level that knows that if I skimp on my training now, in the last month before my ultra, I will DIE. The race that should be my focus race, what I've spent the last 4 months working toward, would end in a horrific, running career ending, utter disaster of a failure. I believe this is what they call "foresight". Something I rarely have, just so you know.

This is what happens when you skimp on your training. DON'T SKIMP.
So now that I was able to get that 22 miler in, I was feeling pretty good about the Ogden Marathon. Until the week of the marathon. Then the panic and the general freaking out ensued. It doesn't matter how well my training is going, the marathon distance always causes emotional distress. I figure that will go away someday, when the marathon distance becomes "only" 26.2 miles. After I conquer this 33 miler coming up, I believe some of that anxiety will dissipate.

I finally got myself calmed down and actually looking forward to the marathon. Except for one thing. It was going to be HOT that day. The weather forecast was not looking good. And those weather people were right on the money. It was hot. Crazy stupid hot to be running that far as slowly as I run. It didn't help that the race start time was at 7:15 a.m. when it should have been at least an hour earlier. I have heard this is a deviation from what they have done in the past. Let's hope that they choose to go back to an earlier start next year...

The race went well for me overall, despite the heat. I decided to stick with the 5:30 pace group, since that was the last pace group there was. (If anyone from the Ogden Marathon organization is reading this, please consider adding in a 5:45 and 6:00 pacer. It would really help out the back of the packers, many of whom are running their first marathons.) The pacer was really great. She kept my mind off of the heat, the distance, and all the other negative stuff that can come up in a race. That is, until mile 10 when my favorite running tights came apart at the thigh seam and the worst chafing of my life began to take place.
Here's a picture of an adorable puppy, because a picture of my chafed thighs is way too gross for me to put up. I would lose all my friends. It's really not a pleasant sight. But this puppy, now that's pleasant. 

I had already figured that a 5:30 finish was way out of my reach, that would have been a PR by 23 minutes and I just wasn't trained for that. And when my pants went, I knew it would be a struggle to to hit the goal that had been bouncing around in my head of a new PR, even if it was just by a minute or two. Between trying to rig my pants in various ways to keep the chafing down, to slathering copious amounts of Vaseline on my legs at EVERY aid station, and at one point having a tiny bit of a melt down in a port-a-potty, I lost about 10 minutes.

Even with the 10 minute time loss to deal with my wardrobe malfunction, I finished with my second best finish time! I was pretty happy with that, almost as happy as I was to stop running and let my thighs begin to recover from the 16 miles of damage that had been done. I'll tell you, the post race shower was a new level of pain. I believe it would be an effective method of torture. Just make people run in the heat till they're all good and raw, then stick 'em in a shower. They'll tell you everything you want to know. And more.

I'm not only grimacing due to the chafing, my calf also decided to cramp and seize as I fought my way to the finish. At one point, I thought I was going to just fall down. But I made it!
The medal is huge. Which is important. Medals matter. 
I am sore today from this race, but not as sore as I've been after other marathons. This is a good sign that I'm not going to end up dying on my ultra adventure. I was able to complete my hour and a half run today, getting that much needed back-to-back-long-runs/time-on-my-feet thing that appears to be key to living through these longer distances. I will say, I'm quite looking forward to my rest day tomorrow. Also, I will most likely be eating everything in sight as my body realizes just what has been done to it over the last two days. Runger takes a couple of days to catch up to me, but when it does, look out.

So all in all, things are going well. Let's hope I can keep this streak going and finish out this season healthy and happy. I was going to write down all that stuff that my brain comes up with, all that deep emotional, zen like stuff. But all I can think about right now is how much I'd really like a burrito... Oh well, maybe next time.

Until then, happy running!