Monday, November 12, 2012

Finger Lakes 50s

I think it was February when I signed up for this race.  When registering you select whether you think you will run the 50k (+), or the 50 miler, but you are allowed to change your mind anytime from then until when you finish 50k(+).  This race is part of the Western NY Ultra Series.  In the series you get points for your best 3 races, and your points are based on the winning time in your gender.  This race was my third for the series this year, and I was doing very well so far, 199.06 out of a possible 200 points.  The lady who beat me at the second race (and had run a 50 miler the weekend before that) had told me she was going to run the 50 miler and that there were some other fast ladies signed up for it.  That got me thinking, debating what was more important to me, was it more important to complete my 2nd 50 miler, or was it more important to possibly get more points by just  running the 50k(+).  I wasn't sure.

The weekend before the race was beautiful, the temps only got into the low 70s and the cool trend continued for a few more days.  Then the heat came back.  It got up into the 90s late in the week and that was the forecast for race day.  Stinker, running 50 miles on trails would be hard enough without extremely high temperatures.  So that was another reason to consider whether I wanted to just run the shorter distance.  But I had gotten in some good training for this race, the 42 mile run near the end of April, the 30 miles at Highland Forest, and a 35+ mile run 3 weeks before the race.  I could have put in a bit more time on trails, but I had gotten in some.    I was not decided.  I tapered like I usually do, did my depletion run the day before, then carb loaded and hydrated.  The night before I stayed at my friend Kathy's cottage with Kathy and John who were both planning to run their first 50 miler.  

My bin full of goodies I might need during the race.
On race morning, we all woke up at 3:30 to drink our Ultra Fuel.  Ultra Fuel is not very tasty, but it is a good way for me to get 700 calories of carbs in on race morning.  After the Ultra Fuel, I lay back down for a few minutes but got up not too much later, around 4.  I hadn't slept well, but I had done my best to get a good week of sleep leading into the race so I wasn't worried.  Race prep that morning included applying sunblock, layering body glide onto the parts that might chafe, putting my hair up so I wouldn't have to worry about it, filling both of my hand bottles with water and putting gels and shot blocks into the pockets, putting a small Ziploc holding salt pills, Imodium, and ibuprofen into the pocket in my shorts, making sure I had everything in my bin that I might need for the day and that it was organized...  I thought I was prepped.  We headed to out around 4:45 am.  Even with that early of a start, the road by the camp ground already had a long line of parked cars.  We all unloaded our stuff and headed up to the start to find a place to set up our gear.  We grabbed our bibs, set up our stuff and took care of any last minute prep.  Then it was time to head down to the start.  

We didn't have much chance to spread out by the first field.
6:30 am was race time, there was quite a crew milling about ready to hit the road (trail).  The count down happened and we were off.  The race started with about 1/2 mile of dirt road for us to get ourselves sorted out before turning onto some narrow single track.  I had opted to carry one 20 ounce hand bottle since there were quite a few water stops along the course. I did have my Camelbak in my bin in case I wanted it later in the day.  This race was a 16.5 mile loop that you could do 2 times for a 50k (+) finish or 3 times plus a 1/2 mile baby loop for the 50 mile finish.  I tried to start out at a comfortable pace, one that wouldn't keep me from being able to run the full 50 miles since I still hadn't decided how far I was running.  Not too far into each loop we turned off the trail for the longest stretch on dirt road of the course, 1.25 miles including a steep down hill that I was dreading in the 3rd loop.  I settled in with a couple guys for a little while, they were also trying to make sure they didn't start out too quickly.  At the bottom of the hill we got to the first of the aid stations.  I grabbed a chunk of banana and  had some Heed.  Then we headed into the section of the course which I think held the largest climb, it wasn't too steep, but continued most of the way to the second aid station.  

Jaime is in the pink
After the second aid station we passed by a pond then headed out on a small lollipop loop with gentle climbs and descents.  I think this was where I started running with Jaime, she was running her first 50 miler and had come up from NYC.  We ran most of the rest of the loop together.  There were a few different logs to step over and other things to be careful of.  We got back around to the 3rd aid station which was really just an extension of the 2nd station as we finished the lollipop.  I was feeling pretty good so far, power hiking the climbs, running the flats and downs.  I wanted to make sure I was taking in enough calories, so I tried to dig some shot blocks out of the pocket of my water bottle.  As I was doing so, I caught my toe on something and went down, doing a belly flop onto the trail.  Fortunately since I took most of the impact on my stomach and ribs, my knees and hands seemed to be fine, but I was covered with dirt and wood chips. I picked up the wrapper I had dropped when I fell and headed onward trying to brush off some of the mess.  A lady who had won the series a few years ago was running with me then, she made sure I was alright.  

Not too much farther along, we came to the one aid station that only had water, I took a cup to wash off my stomach.  Then we headed into my favorite field of the race, it has a lone tree just as you enter it and an amazing view of the valley.  I also noticed as we ran through some of the fields that the tall grasses had a wide range of colors:  yellow, green, lavender...  It was gorgeous.  On the far side of the field there was a little wooded section before the gate.

The day was warm, but not too humid and race updates had promised ice out on the course starting during the 2nd loop.  I was doing a good job eating and drinking, taking heed at each aid station, sometimes grabbing PB &J or banana.  I worked on the uphills but not too hard.  Occasionally I caught a glimpse of Nancy, the lady who had beaten me in the last race.  The course was really dry, only a little bit of mud in a few spots.  The first year I ran this race it had been really wet during June which had resulted in many areas of ankle deep mud.  So the course was much more runnable than in other years.  As Jaime and I were finishing the first loop we both decided to hit the bathroom before heading out for the next loop.  I think we came through the first lap in around 2:43.  I also decided to change out my socks and add some more body glide to my feet.  I grabbed my other bottle and headed out for lap 2.

I felt pretty good but still wasn't decided about whether I would be done after 2 laps or if I would go the whole distance.  Every once in a while I settled in with another runner for a little while, but much of the time was spent by myself.  I gratefully accepted ice in my bottle at the first aid station.  Then it was up the long climb again.  I think I passed people in this stretch each loop. I focused on a consistent pace, comfortable, running strong but loose.  I suppose I knew I wasn't going to let myself quit after 2 loops, since if that were going to be my choice, I really would have needed to be pushing harder, running faster.  I just kept going at the pace I thought would enable me to finish the full 50 miles.  I talked to others as we ran together, and quite a few of them were using the race as their last long run before the Vermont 100.  (I have started thinking about running a 100 at some point.  I think I would like to pace someone for the end of a 100 to get a little bit of a sense of the event.)  During the 2nd loop I passed some of the 25k competitors, they had started an hour and a half after us.  I think I may also have passed one or 2 people who were doing the 50k.

I never got around to picking up the pace during that loop, so I guess I had decided that I was going to do the full 50 miles.  I let one lady who I had swapped back and forth with a few times drop me as she was pushing to the finish.  As I came into the lap point I ran over the timing mat for those who were going on to the cheers of those camped out in chairs.  I tried to take care of any needs quickly, changed my socks again, applying some more lube to my feet in the process.  I grabbed a bit more food, made sure my water was full, and headed out for my last lap.  Not too far out into the lap, I looked around and it didn't look familiar to me, I didn't remember running under that low hanging tree...  Shoot, did I get off course?  I went a little farther and it still didn't look familiar.  I turned around and headed back down the trail.  Fortunately I saw a guy I had passed just a little bit before coming toward me, so I decided that I had been going the right way, turned back around and headed on my way.  I was still able to take in some food, I drank lots of Heed, did what I could to get calories and keep from overheating.  I felt a lot better than I had the year before during the third loop.  I ended up finishing in 9:06, more than 30 minutes faster than last year.  The day was a little warmer than last year, but the course was drier, less muddy, so much more runnable.  

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Fresh as a Daisy, 30 Mile Race Report

This past Saturday I returned to Fabius, New York to run Highland Forest 1, 2, 3 for my second time.  The race is a 10 mile trail loop that you can run 1, 2, or 3 times, hence the name.  Last year we had a very rainy May with a strong storm blowing through the night before the race, so the trail was a mess.  The mud was more than ankle deep over much of the course with water flowing down the trail in a number of places.  This May has been pretty dry in Upstate NY, so I was reasonably sure the trail would be much more runnable.  The weather, on the other hand, was looking a bit ominous, only getting down to 70 overnight and topping out in the mid 80s.  Hot weather definitely slows me down and can make a run a lot less enjoyable.  Oh well, nothing I can do about the weather other than make sure I go into the race well hydrated with decent electrolytes.

The weekend before the race I was signed up to run the Cleveland Marathon, but the weather was going to be in the 80s, so I opted for running a local 10k instead. I ran only a little slower than my PR, so it was a good strong effort.  I got in 10 miles for the day including warm up and cool down.  Monday I did 30 minutes of stair climbing and a 1 hour strength class.  Tuesday I ran 10 miles at a comfortable pace including a few hills.  Wednesday I went out for 1 hour of power walking, a little over 5 miles.  Thursday was a rest day, then Friday I ran a short depletion run to help with my carb loading for the race.  All I still needed to take care of was to pack my bin of race supplies and try to get a good night sleep.

5:15 race morning I was wide awake, so I got up and started my race prep.  32 ounces of Ultra Fuel to drink, man does that taste bad, and that is a lot of liquid in my belly, but it gave me 700 calories of easily digested carb to start my day.  I set out a little before 5:45 and arrived right around 7:30.  I got my bib, set up my chair, grabbed a couple things out of my bin for my last minute prep:  body glide, sun block, bug spray, contacts, garmin, road id, race belt to hold my bib.  

There were a lot more people at the race this year.  I figure part of that was due to the nicer weather.  It is hard to size up the competition at an event like this, where everyone starts together then chooses how far they will run.  I didn't see the lady who had won last year, but that didn't mean that she definitely wasn't there, sometimes I miss things...  For me running ultras isn't all about how I place, I really do enjoy being out there testing what my body is capable of, but since I have done well in the Western NY Ultra Series in the past, placement does come into it.

One thing that I try to focus on as I start an ultra is pacing.  I started out near the middle of the pack, not worrying about who was ahead or behind for the moment.  I know that if I want to run my best I need to run my own race for at least the first 2/3s, after that maybe I can start worrying about where others are. Very shortly after the start we got into single track running.  A gully slowed the line of people to a walk, but then it opened up again some.  The terrain rolls a lot on this course with few flat areas.  When we hit a long climb, it was easy to tell who was only intending to run 1 lap.  Those of us in it for the long haul walked or power hiked the climb.

The other big thing is nutrition/ hydration.  I carried a 20 ounce hand held water bottle with a gel and some shot blocks tucked into it.  The first of 3 on course aid stations is about 1.9 miles into the loop.  There were plenty of cups of water and sports drink, but I bypass them since I am carrying what I need.  Shortly after that we hit a really rooty section of the trail where you had to pick your footing very carefully.  Even with the dry May, there were still a number of places where it is very hard to avoid the mud.  I had my gel a little before halfway through the loop.

For a couple miles in the middle of the loop, I settled in with another woman. We passed through the second aid station a little over midway through the loop.  She had just run a 50 miler the week before so was planning on taking the first couple of loops easy.  She had run seven 50 milers before and had broken 8 hours in some of them.  That was a bit intimidating, I have only run one 50 miler and wasn't much under 10 hours...  She was so smooth and effortless through challenging footing and quick on the down hills.  On the climb leading to mile 7 I pulled away from her as I was power hiking.

Once you get 7 miles into the loop, I think the trail gets a bit easier.  I ran with a guy from the Syracuse area for a little while, he had done 17 hours of hiking the previous weekend.  There was a downhill leading to a creek then another decent climb.  Not too long after that we get to the third aid station.  I remember from last year that there is less than 1 mile left in the loop from that point and it is pretty easy running. We passed and I greeted a family out for a walk with a couple dogs.  I made sure to finish the shot blocks before the end of the loop.  A little farther along one of the other runners, who was finished after one lap, was cheering us on telling us only 1/4 mile to the end.  "And then 2 more laps" is my response.  

As I finished the lap I traded out my empty bottle for the full bottle that had more shot blocks and another gel packed into it.  One cup of sports drink and I headed out for my second loop.  At the first aid station I caught up to another guy.  The people working the aid station ask us how it is going as we drink some sports drink.  The guy said not too well.  He followed me out of the aid station.  I warned him that I wouldn't be too quick through the rooty section, to which he responded that he probably should slow down anyway.  A little farther along, a friend of his caught up to us.  We had different paces on the climb, so we went our separate ways.  About 3.5 miles into the loop I had my second gel.  

At the second aid station I needed to refill my bottle, it had warmed up some so I was drinking more.  Mark, the guy I wad run much of the race with last year, was just heading out from the aid station with another guy.  I decided to try to keep up with them for a bit.  It was a bit of work, but nice to have company   for a few miles. We passed the family with the 2 dogs again, so I greeted them again. Mark's friend stumbled in one of the muddy sections but was able to wash off at one of the stream crossings.  On the hard climb leading to mile 7 I pulled away from them.  It was a beautiful day, and I really enjoyed being out for a nice long run.  I had my shot blocks before the end of the lap.  

At the end of the second lap they asked if I was finished.  When I responded that I was continuing, someone said I looked as fresh as a daisy, to which I responded "Don't come too close, I son't smell as fresh as a daisy."   I refilled my bottle and grabbed some garotaid blocks to go along with the gel I had picked up from one of the aid stations.  I asked if there were any other women already out on their 3rd loop and was told no.  So I knew there wasn't anyone I needed to catch, but I thought that other lady might still catch me.  

Off I went, trying to maintain a good pace.  Down across the first creek and up the other side.  Hey, there is the family again, I greet them for the final time.  The mother exclaimed that what I was doing was fantastic. Then there was a big climb, it was much harder work to power hike it that time.  At the first aid station I grabbed another cup of sports drink and continued on.  As I went through the rooty section I had to be a little more careful because my feet were threatening to cramp.  More climbs, more descents, I keep pushing on.  At the second aid station I paused to refill my bottle again.  As I drank a cup of sports drink, I heard someone say hi and run on through.  It was the lady who had run a 50 last week and she looked perky.  The drive and desire to follow her and fight for the lead just wasn't there.  I only wanted to not let her get more than 5 minutes ahead of me.  

I worked my way up the tough climb to mile 7 glad that I wouldn't have to do that again.  I couldn't see that lady anywhere ahead of me but kept pushing.  I picked my way carefully through some of the muddy parts trying to avoid foot cramps, then started running again.  I knew I was moving a little slower this loop, but I also knew that I could still possibly make it in 30 minutes faster than last year.  On the last big climb I caught up to another man.  "We can do it." I said.  He responded that his quads had never rebelled this much before.  Once we reached the top of the hill, I pushed on to try to reach my goal if possible. On the uneven footing my right foot rolled in and I could feel one blister really sharply, I just needed to push on even though it hurt.   Once I got past the third aid station I picked up the pace.  Out of the woods for the final time, just one little climb up the driveway.  The clock was in sight, I could make it.  Final push to a strong finish.  

It was nice to be done.  Man was I warm.  Fortunately there was a hose available to wash off the mud and cool off.  When I took my shoes off, I found one popped blister on the outside of my right big toe.  That was the only blister, so my feet were so much better off than they had been after BPAC.  My legs were tired, but not too sore, so second guessing started to set in.  Maybe I could have kept up with the other woman, maybe I could have been faster on the third lap...  But still I was very happy to have finished over 30 minutes faster than last year with much more even splits.  Here are my stats: 5th place overall of 19 30 mile finishers, lap 1   1:40:31, lap 2  1:44:59 for a cumulative 3:25:30, lap 3   1:49:03 for a finish time of 5:14:32.  32 people ran 20 miles, 82 people ran 10 miles.  

Monday, April 30, 2012

The 6 Hour Race

Yesterday I tried a new challenge, a race that was about seeing how far you could go in a given time rather than one where you see how fast you can cover a certain distance.  The race was 6 hours long circling a 3.25 mile loop.  Well, the course was more of a P shape with an overlap for a little over .6 miles in each direction as one finishes one lap then starts the next.  I really liked that layout because it allowed me to pay attention to the other female runners to know my place and whether we were getting farther away or closer to each other.  I also saw a number of the same guys lap after lap and was able to gauge how I was doing relative to a number of other runners.  

Yes, I know I only ran Boston just under 2 weeks ago, but the heat kept me from pushing too hard.  I took the time between races fairly easy, maybe 4 runs, 2 lifting classes, 2 times on the stairs, so I was feeling ready to go.  My friend Chris also decided to take this challenge.  The race was scheduled to start at 8 and packet pickup was supposed to be done by 7:30, so we started driving at 5:30.  We arrived a little before packet pickup started and they were running late, so we kept warm in the car.  The weather was amazing, frosty to start with, little wind, clear blue skies, so many people showed up for day of registration.  I set out a chair and my bin of supplies, decided that with the sunshine warming me, I was probably fine to run in just shorts and my singlet.  A couple port o potty stops and we were ready to go.  

A couple minutes after 8am 99 people set off on this adventure.  I was hoping to run 40 miles, which averages out to 9 minute miles, but I knew there would be some stops to refuel, potty, check my feet, so I thought 8:40s might be a good pace.  Chris and I set off together, I was watching as the group settled into their paces, trying to note where the lead women were.  I was pretty sure there were 2 women in front of me, also one who looked like she would be a strong runner settled in a little behind me at what I was guessing was a 9 minute pace.  Chris and I were a little faster than 8:40s but not by much, so I decided not to worry, the pace felt really slow.  The course rolls gently through some fields, beside a golf course, along a creek, past some memorials, and by numerous benches.  There was a spot where you could see the field of runners for a distance in front of you as they made the left hand turn to run along the creek.  We were running along a paved bike path that had the mileage marked out on the ground every .1 of a mile.  There were other people out enjoying the day walking their dogs, riding their bikes, doing a training run.  All in all, I thought it was a good course.  

Chris and I made it through the first lap in about 28 minutes, seemed doable.  I grabbed a chunk of banana, a glass of Heed, and off we headed for the second lap.  In that out and back section, I confirmed that there were 2 women in front of us.  It was good information to know, but at that point, it wasn't going to influence how I was running.  I knew I needed to run my own race, try to start out conservatively enough that I would have gas left in the tank at the end.  There was a little breeze to keep us cool, the sun was rising higher in the cloudless sky, very pleasant running weather. We passed an older couple who I think were also participants in the race about half way through that lap. That lap was also right around 28 minutes, good stuff, but lots farther to go.  

At the beginning of the 4th lap I took a quick potty break.  The lead female was looking strong and extending her lead by a little bit each lap.  The second female wasn't too far ahead.  During this lap, Chris's left foot was starting to hurt him.  He decided to change into more rugged shoes after that lap and see if it helped.  I went through the lap point a headed out as he changed his shoe.  I'm pretty sure the second female was refueling right by the lap point when I went by, so I moved into 2nd.  The first place male lapped me very shortly after I started my 5th lap. I kept looking over my shoulder for Chris, I didn't see him when I made the left hand turn and could see runners for 1/2 mile or so behind me.  Ok, I guess the other shoes didn't feel any better, I need to get comfortable running on my own.  Shortly into that lap I had noticed that I was starting to get some hot spots on my right foot, so I decided to attend to that next time I went by my stuff.  As I sat down in my chair to switch out my sock and add more baby powder to my foot Chris went racing by.  Yay, I would still have company.  

We started out on our 6th lap.  I was still feeling pretty good, taking in some calories every lap.  I had brought pb & j on a flour tortilla, I used that to supplement the fare offered at the aid station.  Chris said his foot felt good during his speedy lap chasing me down, but that it was hurting again at my pace.  It was getting a little warmer, but still quite reasonable.  It looked like the guy who had been running with the lead woman wasn't with her any more.  She was still running strong.  When we finished that lap, I needed another potty stop.  Unfortunately it was occupied and another woman was waiting...  very slow start to my 7th lap.  At least it gave Chris time to put in his orthotics. One mile into lap 7 marked 20 miles into the day!  I told Chris we were halfway there.  He said no, since we were still a bit under 3 hours.  In my mind I was halfway done.  Just a little later, Chris decided he needed to walk it in.  I supported his choice to listen to his body and headed on my way.  

I made various adjustments at the lap point, one time I switched out the left sock, another I grabbed some immodium, I reapplied body glide...  I should have thought to add sunblock to my lower back when I tucked my shirt up into my sports bra, but I didn't.  Around 4 hours in, I was about halfway through my 9th lap and I could tell I was getting to the point in the race where it doesn't feel easy anymore.  I chatted with one of the other runners about how it would be nice to push the fast forward button and have only 15 more minutes to run.  There were only a couple men who had lapped me, I was still watching for the lead man to lap me again.  I had been consistently picking people off, lapping some, also passing some who had been staying just a little ahead of me for the rest of the race.  As I came in at the end of the lap I was still watching where the lead woman was.  I realized that she wasn't increasing her lead, in fact I had started making up a little distance on her.  Stink, that meant I needed to stay focused and working hard to see if I could keep cutting into her lead.  

The breeze had picked up so there were some stretches where we were fighting the wind.  Sometimes I would have someone to run with for a mile or so.  I would chat, sometimes they had something to say back.  I was really impressed by the perseverance of so many of the runners and walkers out there.  They just kept going even though the distance was wearing on all of us.  As I approached the end of my 10th lap I was only about 3/4 of a mile behind the lead woman.  Ok, gotta keep working, need to dig deep.  Got another full bottle of Heed, ate a Honey stinger waffle, needed to keep fueling, still more than 7 miles left.  At the end of the 11th lap, I was only about 1/2 mile back.  No rest for the weary, stay strong, stay focused.  Off I go, less than 5 miles until 6 hours are finished.  I can do it.  End of the 12th lap, she is about .3 ahead, still gaining on her.  Only 15 minutes of time left, I'll definitely make it past 40 miles, don't think there is enough time left to catch her.  

As I went through the lap point I asked what the deal was with the next partial lap.  They said we had to finish the whole lap and then they would prorate the distance we would have gotten in before the 6 hour make.  Ugh, I had thought I only needed to run 15 minutes more, now I find out I need to cover another 3.25 miles.  Nothing to be done but get out there and do it.  I passed the 1 mile mark, yay 40 miles!  Right about then I caught the first place man (he was still 2 laps ahead of me), he was walking.  I said come on, and he joined me running.  He asked me if I had caught the first place woman yet.  I said no and pointed her out ahead of us.  I said I could sprint to catch her, but didn't want it that bad/ that way.  Then I realized how much ground we were making up on her by just running a steady pace.  We made the left hand turn and were by her, 5:55 into the race.  On we went, at 6 hours my Garmin read 40.84 miles.  We kept going since they were going to base our distance on how quickly we finished the whole lap.  I kept glancing behind to see where she was, I really wanted to walk it in rather than keep running.  She wasn't close, but we only had 1 1/4 miles left, keep going.  So far I had only walked through the aid station, I hadn't walked out on the loop, why change that now (because I had already finished the 6 hours, that's why), keep going.  I watched the tenths tick by on the path, counting down.  I tried to keep encouraging others as we went by.  Less than 5 minutes left, you can do it.  Only .4, .3, .2, it is getting so close.  Finally crossed the finish just under 6:13.  They prorated my distance to 40.785.  The lead man ended up with a new course record by .05 miles, I can't help but feel like I helped him get there in the end.  I am so pleased with how I ran.  

I had some gnarly blisters on each toe next to my little toe on the top side toward my middle toe.  Not quite sure how I managed that. I also ended up with a little chafing, sun burn on my lower back, sore knees, and a sore lower back, but it was all worth it.  Such a good day.  

The stats:

6 hr Endurance

40.785     Danielson, Heather Rochester NY Overall Female
Distance Name City State Category

6:00:00        End Lap 12 1418
Time Last Location Bib

1st Female  5th overall

Location Overall Time, Place at location   Segment Time,   Rank Segment Pace

End Lap 1 0:27:58 26 0:27:58 27       08:36
End Lap 2    0:56:02 23 0:28:04 22       08:38
End Lap 3 1:24:19 22 0:28:17 24       08:42
End Lap 4    1:52:32           23 0:28:13 22       08:41
End Lap 5   2:20:29 21 0:27:57 19       08:36
End Lap 6    2:47:56 17 0:27:27 12       08:27
End Lap 7    3:17:44 15 0:29:48 16       09:10
End Lap 8 3:46:58 14 0:29:14               6       09:00
End Lap 9 4:15:43 12 0:28:45              5       08:51
End Lap 10 4:45:01            8 0:29:18 6       09:01
End Lap 11 5:14:18 8 0:29:17 4       09:01
End Lap 12 5:44:12           6 0:29:54 4       09:12
End Lap 13  6:12:58 5 0:28:46 1       08:51

The swag:

Thanks for reading.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Boston Experience

This past weekend I finished the Boston Marathon for the 5th time.  In the days leading up to the race the forecasted  temperature kept rising.  On Saturday the BAA (race organizers) sent out an e-mail offering the option to defer your race entry if you were not in top fitness and warning us that 'speed kills'.  On Sunday the BAA sent out another e-mail which included this:   For the overwhelming majority of those who have entered to participate in the 2012 Boston Marathon, you should adopt the attitude that THIS IS NOT A RACE. It is an experience.  I was not deterred.  I had run a few hot races before including a hot and humid marathon where I was sweating before the start gun.  I adjusted my goals,  hydrated well with sports drink the day before, slathered on sun block, tucked my ice towel into the back of my shirt (an expo purchase, claimed to stay 20 degrees cooler than ambient temp when kept wet), and headed to the start with 2 friends.  I opted to carry my hand held water bottle with me and had a few different things in the pocket:  electrolyte tablets, triple sodium shot blocks, and in case things got really bad I had a $10 Dunkin Donut gift card and $5 cash.  If the heat really got bad, I figured a Coolata might be just the trick.

One final port o potty stop, then we filed into the back of our corral.  The sun was blazing, the volunteers were handing out water to us as we walked to the start line.  Finally about 10 minutes after the gun we crossed the start.  Our plan was to start right around 8 minute miles and see how it felt.  

myself, Ron, and Dan near the 1 mile mark

In the first few miles I reigned us in a few times, trying to make sure we weren't too far under the pace we were shooting for.  Starting out too fast in a marathon can ruin your race, especially on a hot day. We watched so many people pull away, but I was pretty sure we would be seeing many of them later. The miles were slipping by easily, but it was warm.  We hit each water stop and ran through hoses and sprinklers.  Sometimes one of us would move to the side to give the kids high 5s, it would both take some energy, but the energy the crowd gave back was great.  Somehow I didn't notice the biker bar when we ran by.  I did see Santa, the reflective window where we are encouraged to check ourselves out, the kids bouncing on trampolines (Ron ran by them giving high 5s).  I didn't see that many people in costume, but we were running by a joggler for quite a while. My main focus was looking down the road to see where the hoses and sprinklers were.   At one point, looking in front of me, there were almost no runners in the road.  They had all veered left onto the sidewalk to go through a little piece of heaven, the first misting station, a 10 foot long tunnel with many different spray heads raining down blissfully cool water.  I think there ended up being 3 of these along the course, a-mazing!  Also fabulous were the ice cubes some people had.  Whenever I got some ice, most of it went in my sports bra, both front and back.  If I still had more, it went into my water bottle.

I think we all felt pretty good through 10 miles.  Right around that point we caught up with our friend Mike who was eating his way through the course.  At that point he was consuming a popsicle, which he said was his 11th food item.  He stayed with us for a little bit, but had already adopted a run walk strategy, so let us go.  I was starting to feel like I was working to maintain the pace, which isn't good when I hadn't even reached the half way point.  Oh well, at least we were starting to hear Wellesley.  We crested the hill to masses of Wellesley girls, screaming, cheering, holding up all varieties of kiss me signs.  In my past 4 runnings of Boston I had stuck to the left side of the road through Wellesley to avoid the runners slowing for kisses.  I hadn't really thought about it before reaching this point, but I realized I had no real time goals (I was pretty sure 3:30 was being tossed out the window, maybe I could still hold on for 3:40 my qualifying time), the day was going to be tough, why not get my first Wellesley kiss.  I darted right with an exclamation of 'why not' to Ron and Dan.  I'm pretty sure I took the girl by surprise, but I got a kiss on the cheek and was on my way.  

Very shortly after Wellesley, Dan said he would need to slow down.  I knew I was feeling the effort too, I considered shifting into walk run with Dan, but Ron was continuing onward.  I didn't feel that bad, so on I went.  A little after mile 14 I decided to let Ron go and caught up with another friend, Chad, who does not run well in heat.  I walked a little with him and saw a local friend, Laura, just up ahead.  The 3 of us ran and walked together until around mile 16.  We commiserated about the conditions, hit the sprinklers, hit the water stops, and Chad said he would take the T back from mile 17.  

Laura took off ahead and Chad dropped off behind and it was just me heading into the hills.  When I first started to feel the fatigue and the heat, I told myself that I could walk the hills.  Other than while I was drinking, I didn't walk on the hills.  I guess I really wasn't as bad off as many runners out there that day.  I felt hot, but not terrible, my breathing was fine, no dizziness, no cramping, I couldn't tell if I was sweating or not since I kept pouring so much water over myself, no random chills.  I don't think I was really in heat distress, so I kept on trucking.  On the other hand, I also had let go of goals and didn't have the desire to push hard enough to possibly end up in heat distress, so it was a casually moving truck. 

30k, still trying to smile for the cameras
My cousin and her family live in the area and had told me that they would be on the hill between mile 19-20 on the right hand side, so I moved right well before that point and started scanning the crowd.  I kept worrying that I had missed them as I got farther into the mile, but then I heard her voice and saw her boys.  Her husband had a cold wet sponge for me, it was fabulous.  Ok, 3 hills done, only one to go.  This is going to happen.  

I was amazed at how many people were walking, not just on the hills, but wherever.  And I had been seeing many walking from pretty early in the race.  That meant that even with my slow run and walking through water stops, I was passing a lot of people.  One thing that kept playing in the back of my mind was the thought how high can I place.  I knew I wasn't running what I had set out to run, but I also knew I was still running while many others weren't.  At the top of Heartbreak I was pretty sure it should be fairly clear sailing to the finish.  I was debating how much I cared about my finish place.  Caution ended up winning out, I continued casually trucking.  Running down the hill hurt, but not terribly.  The crowd at Boston College was loud and fun.  There were a few people passing me, ones who had a hunger for doing well.  I just watched them go by as I kept moving comfortably.  Still, there were many more people being passed by me than I was passing.  I offered a few of them electrolyte tablets if they looked like they were cramping, but no one took me up on the offer.

The next big milestone for most people is the Citgo sign which is 1 mile from the finish.  For me the Citgo sign was just and indicator that I needed to be running on the left hand side of the road. Not many people were running on this side of the road since there was a little shade on the other side.  I gave high 5s to a bunch of rowdy college kids and they screamed.  I was looking ahead, scanning the crowd.  The thing that we had been talking about for weeks, years even, was just ahead.  I hoped I wouldn't miss my opportunity. I knew i was getting fairly close to a 3:40 finishing time, but this was more important that my time. Then the joy as I spotted him, I had found the right location.  I saw Troy, Ashley, Meg, Rick, our contingent at cannoli corner.  But they weren't looking at the road, so I said (maybe it sounded like a demand) 'Where's my cannoli?'  One was taken out of the ice chest for ma and I was off.  
Where's my cannoli?

Ok, I had my cannoli, I should eat it right?  I took a bite and almost choked, took my last swallow of water from my bottle and proceeded onward periodically raising up the cannoli to the crowd.  Down and up the underpass, lots of people were struggling.  Then the right hand turn was in sight, right on Hereford.  Last year I was flying at this point and quickly on the the Left hand turn for Boyelston.  Not so this year, I was still running, but I really noticed that it was uphill on that section.   Finally, the left hand turn, one long straight away to the finish.  The cannoli was eliciting cheers, I had only lost one glob of ricotta filling.  When I passed the 26 mile mark, I realized I could possibly still get in under 3:40 so I picked it up.  With the cannoli upraised in celebration I finished in 3:39:57 according to my watch (3:39:50 according to my chip.)  I was so glad to be done with that.  Amazingly enough that is my 2nd fastest Boston and I finished in the mid 4000s.  Quite a move up from my bib number.  

Other than running I got to hang out with my cousin and her family, a friend who had moved away, lots of my imaginary running friends, and some of my local crew.  I also spoke to a few people about establishing contacts for selling my prints, delivered some custom t-shirts, delivered many Boston RWOL shirts, and sold a few prints.  All in all, a fabulous weekend with an interesting running experience.  I think this year's Boston colors were a predictor of the weather, not to self:  do not plan on a fast Boston on years with red or orange gear.  


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Houston Marathon, another race report and a bit about the weekend

This past weekend I headed to Houston to hang out with friends, to watch the Olympic Marathon Trials, and to run another marathon.  When I landed in the Houston airport, I started playing my favorite marathon weekend game:  who is here to run the marathon? One of the guys on my Super Shuttle looked like he was here to run, but it turned out that he was there to watch friends.

The expo wasn't too far from the hotel, so I walked over.  I didn't realize that convention hall B was a separate entrance from convention hall E, so I went into the first entrance I found.  Convention hall E had many people walking around with elite tags on, I rapidly realized that I wasn't quite where I should be.  I was redirected to the correct entrance. The expo wasn't too big but there were a decent number of free samples.  I picked up my bib, 2,076, and the event shirt.  The shirt was kind of lame, white cotton, but we would also be getting an Under Armor tech shirt when we finished and a glass beer mug.

That evening I got to start hanging out with my friends as they began coming into town.  I had dinner with a few friends at a great Tex Mex place, then went back to the hotel to wait for Amy and Kristina to get in.  When they got in, we chatted for a little while then crashed for the night.  Kristina and I had agreed to get up at 6 something to do our depletion run.  We were both awake before the alarm and ready to hit the streets.  We got in 2 easy miles then kicked it up for a few minutes.  Than we had a little time to clean up and get ready to watch the trials.

We headed out to a spot not too far from our hotel where we could get between 2 spots on the loop course by only going back and forth a block.  Probably not the best thing to be doing the day before a marathon, standing, rushing back and forth from one spot to another...  but it was pretty cool to see all of those amazing runners.

During the first two laps, there was a good enough size lead pack in each race that you couldn't guess who was going to take it.  The back half of the third lap was where things got sorted out.  Once the lead women had finished it was time to try to get off my feet, but friends still needed to head to the expo, so a bit more walking and standing.  After that, some lunch then time to relax.  That evening included a good pasta dinner and getting everything ready for race morning.  I slept moderately well for a bit, but then something beeped at 3:30 which brought me wide awake.  Since my alarm would have gone off at 4 for me to drink the Ultra Fuel, I just decided to do it then.  Ultra Fuel is not my favorite thing, but I think it helps me in the later miles of the race, so I drink it.  Afterward, I lay back down to try to get a bit more rest.  Trying to sleep with 32 ounces of liquid in my belly isn't the easiest thing, but I did get a bit more rest.

Kristina and I headed to her friends' hotel to meet up with her friends who wanted to run with us.  We headed toward the start area.  One of the guys needed to check a bag, so we waited while he went inside to do that. We headed to the corral, it was crowded getting there and the port-o-potty lines were long.  We kept passing  the long lines hoping that the ones farther in would be shorter, but they didn't seem to be.  When we got to the edge of the corral, we decided to use the ones right before the corral.  The wait was long, time was running low, but that last potty stop before the race is key.  Finally at 6:55 we were all out of the potties, then we needed to try to get into the corral near people of our pace.  We were by the sign for 9 minute pace, the race would be starting in just a few minutes, everyone was packed so close together.  We managed to squirm a little way into the crowd, but we were still behind the 4:00 pace group when the gun went off.  At that point I was pretty certain that this was not going to be a PR day.  We were walking to the start line, there were masses of people still walking in front of us.  We were getting closer to this archway that looked like the start, all I could see was people walking in front of that archway.  As we got a little closer to the archway, we realized it was just decorative, there was still a long way before the start line.  It took quite a few minutes to get to the start, but finally we were off.

The five of us worked our way through the crowd trying to run close to our planned pace.  Sometimes we went up on the median, sometimes over onto the side walk just trying to get around people.  The first mile was 8:15 or so, had been intending to start out at 7:40 pace.  Shortly after the first mile I lost Kristy and her friends, I just couldn't get through some of the tight spaces.  I knew they were ahead of me, so I just worked on passing people and trying to catch them, I think it took around a half mile.  We kept weaving through the masses for the first 10k it was humid, I was sweating pretty well, this was taking a lot of effort to be not quite hitting our paces.  Weaving through the crowd was taking so much focus I really wasn't paying attention to the course and I wasn't chatting.  I really enjoy talking to people during marathons but I think I talked to 4 people during the course of this race, only one or 2 statements each, bummer.

At 10k I wasn't too far behind pace, so I decided to try to stick to my plan and drop my pace to 7:30s.  Things were starting to clear out a little so I was able to do that.  We were in a section of the course where the lead 1/2 marathoners were starting to come back at us.  I heard someone yell out to one of them and realized I should be looking for my friends.  Right then Jay ran by so I shouted to him.  Shortly after that I saw Chad and thought I saw Erin, didn't manage to see anyone else.  That meant that soon the road would be much less crowded since I would reach the 1/2 marathon turn off, yay!  I did look at some of the signs people were holding.  A couple that I liked were "you trained longer for this than Kim Kardashian was married" and "run total stranger run."

The 7:30s were clicking off, but I still thought that this was taking a bit too much effort.  Still kept at it, what else was there to do. Around mile 11 I passed Ilana, she was having a good race so far.   Around mile 12 I caught up with my friend Harry, he was shooting for a time at least 5 minutes slower than what I was hoping to run.  It looked like he was running well, but he said his garmin had died.  Just after mile 13 Amy was spectating, let her know Harry wasn't too far behind me (she was going to hand a bottle off to him) and that Kristy and I had been stuck at the back.  She told me I was looking strong and smooth.

Ok, halfway through, guess I should try to drop the pace down a bit more.  I was still feeling alright, but not as fresh as I had in my last 2 PRs.  I think mile 8 was the first time I managed to get a drink from one of the aid stations, a cup of gatoraid I still enjoy letting myself walk for a few seconds while I drink from a cup.  I had my hand bottle, so I had been drinking from it all along.  I also took a gel around mile 5 and mile 10.  Continuing to work, trying to keep the pace where I wanted it.  I've been passing people consistently since I had started so far back in the pack.  Around mile 13 I started eating some of my shot blocks, wanted to make sure I got through at least 6 of them before the finish.   I was starting to count down the miles, 10 to go, 9, 8...  only about an hour of running left.

20 mile mark!  Only 10k left, do I have anything left to pick up the pace again?  Not sure, I will give it what I have.  I say to one of the guys near me, "only 45 minutes left", he said, he hoped so.  Only 5 miles left, you've got this, not that much longer.  Hmm 7:30, if I can just keep this I can still pull off a PR.  Only 4 miles left, less than 40 minutes, keep working.  Mile 23!  Just over a 5k left, keep working.  It is kind of sunny, wonder if Rich is finished yet, what about Jeff and John.  7:45, not what I want to see, but only 2.2 miles left.  You have worked hard for 3 hours, don't throw it away in the last 15 minutes.  Focus, you can do it, keep working.  8:00, not even looking at the watch that much other than to see how much farther I have to go.  I will push hard enough to finish under 3:20, I will, keep working.  I see a whole bunch of mu friends who had run the half cheering right around mile 25.  I try to smile for a picture and continue to give it what I have.  I run by my friend Joe from Rochester who tells me that I am running a great race, then I run by Amy.  It is so nice to have friends there cheering me on but I have nothing left to kick it up with.  Where is that 26 mile marker, it has to be here soon?  An older guy flies by and I can do nothing about it.  Finally the 26 mile marker, 8:15.  I give it what I have left, push for those last .2 (garmin said the pace for the final bit was just a little over 7 so I guess I sis have a little left to give).  3:19:10, not my A goal, but my second fastest race.  Considering the day, I will take that and think I did well.

Things to remember:
Spectating the Olympic trials is probably not ideal the day before a goal marathon.
If you are not familiar with a race, show up earlier than you think you need to.
Don't give up hope if things don't start the way you want them to.
Bobbing and weaving takes a lot of effort.
Give what you have and be happy with what you accomplished.
Being on a team helps with motivation when you aren't going to get a PR.

Kristy managed to get a new PR even with how our race started!  I can't wait to see what she can do with a better race start.