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.