Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Good riddance January!

I miss the lung-burning climbs, my heart beating so strongly I can feel it pushing on my chest. I miss the lazy saunter of the Greenway boardwalks, the sun slipping beneath the horizon slowly. I miss the thrill of leaning into the curve of the track, ready to take flight at the straightaway. I miss that sweet spot of falling into a rhythm and losing time with my thoughts.

I miss the little things. The tightening of my shoelaces before I begin. The vibration of my watch indicating another mile. When the run is so good I don't want to stop at the traffic light. That unequivocal feeling of satisfied exhaustion.

Man, I'm addicted. Addicted to the pain. Addicted to the process. Addicted to finding those days, those days, of when it all comes together and I feel like I have found the elixir to life.

To say I miss it is an understatement. But there is no reason to pity, I'll be back again. Mentally, it will make me appreciate the unrelenting half marathon workouts at the height of summer and the unforgiving alarms that goes off earlier on weekends. Physically, I hope to be stronger and more balanced.

The sweat has been far from satisfying this month. Strava says I've logged an hour more working out that last January.


All those hours are squatting, lifting, and planking are incomparable to running though. I can only hope it leads to a faster recovery time and eventually, better running. Coupled with better nutrition and no booze, I might have found an ab muscle too!

In an attempt to do an experiment on my resting heart rate (RHR), I cute out booze from my life in January. I love a glass of wine (Oregon pinot please) or a hoppy IPA with dinner nearly nightly and my RHR has been high as long as I've been tracking it. I sleep really well, exercise (duh), limit my caffeine to no more than 2 cups of coffee per day (usually 1), and don't have any major stressors in my life. Of course, I've reduced my cardio this month, but other than that, my RHR stayed exactly the same. All that to say, SOMEONE BRING ME A BEER TOMORROW!

I also cleaned up my diet. No harsh restrictions, but I have really upped the good stuff and reduced the processed stuff. It purposefully coincided with the no booze experiment. I'll definitely stick with many of the habits - especially while I'm not running. But much like the booze experiement, I haven't noticed much in the way of physical changes.





Despite an hour more of activity hours in the month of January, I somehow gained a lot of free time this month. Some attributed to run commuting (running from my house limits my options and is not safe) and some attributed to just embracing other activities.

I did a lot of serious nerding - a giant crossword, a jigsaw puzzle, and finished 4 books. I cooked and baked a lot. I saw my nephew 3 times this month, went to dinner with friends, and actually spent 6 hours one Saturday cleaning and organizing my house. I went to a birthday party at a brewery (didn't have a beer, whaaaaaa???) and a birthday party at a Vietnamese restaurant.




It's been a good month for the soul. But now that stupid January is coming to an end, I'm ready to heal up, get back to big mile weeks, nachos, pints, and a messy house.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Resolution Run 6 Hour: The last PRs of 2017

After I raced the Jacksonville Marathon and came up with my 3rd fastest marathon on December 16th and the hurt-but-still-BQ'd Rehoboth Beach Marathon on December 2nd, I was definitely in recovery mode. I didn't even crack 20 miles the week before Christmas mostly because I was sore and tired. So I plodded along a few miles here and there, but it was all just slow and short. The top of my left foot felt bruised from JAX so I was also trying to be smart (ish).

The week of Christmas, I felt sluggish from all the cookies, steak, and wine. I asked Laurie & Jen on the 26th if they were doing the Resolution Run and they both were traveling. I did a 10 miler at MP +30 on the treadmill that evening and woke up the next day with a return of the sore foot and a head cold. Ugh. I took the 27th off running and decided to do an easy 5 mile progression Thursday.

On Friday, I woke up thinking I was just going to tell Matt I would skip the Resolution Run. But then he texted me a screenshot of his registration. Crap. I seriously wavered back and forth for hours about it all day when it popped into my mind. My sniffles were mostly subsided, but my stupid foot was still sore. I taped it up and told myself I would just wait until after work to decide.

It did actually feel much better with the tape and decided I would just sign up. The race fee was only $10 so even if I woke up feeling horrible, I could just either not go or hang out and volunteer.

With a 1:00 p.m. start in Greenville, SC, I had plenty of time to sleep in and pack up my gear in the morning. I made the 2 hour drive easily and ate some avocado wraps and granola I had packed about an hour before the race. It was definitely chilly just sitting around and I waited until about T-minus 15 to toss off my warm-ups before we got going. I popped a couple of ibuprofen, ate my traditional mini Snickers, and popped in my ear buds.

Matt got caught up at work and so I would be starting the race without really knowing anyone. Cool with a marathon, but kind of lonely in an ultra. The race director ran the first 1 mile lap with us so I just stuck to the front of the pack when we started. It was just under a 10:00 minute mile and while I was grateful for an easy start and conversation, it was nice to get moving after that first lap.

There was a teenager who leapt out in front and I watched his galloping, light strides as he slowly separated from me. He was built like a typical fast high school runner and immediately wondered how long he would hold that pace. I knew I was being a bit reckless with my own pace, but it felt comfortable and all my body parts seemed to actually being feeling good.

Each lap we ran, we had to grab a pebble from a 5 gallon bucket and place it into a cup. The first few times, it was kind of fun to stop and watch the pile grow. Admittedly, I got a bit annoyed with this system later in the race as other runners would take their time to choose a rock from the communal pile and drop it in their cup. Silly in retrospect as those few extra seconds didn't mean anything, but it was just one of the things breaking my rhythm every mile.

The course this year was less hilly than the prior year, but I still ended up with over 2,000' of gain for 40 miles. It was a mixture of paved sidewalk, concrete sidewalk, a smidgen of dirt, and a grassy soccer field. All of that in a mile. So just when I'd find my groove on the pavement, it would switch. And when I started to feel happy that the grass would be absorbing some shock, it would switch. So it really kind of was like an urban trail run in that you had to pay attention to your footing a good portion of the time.




I started blasting my music after the first mile, content to just put my head down and run until Matt got there. I was about 7 miles in when he arrived and we continued seeing each other in the same out-and-back section for many, many miles. It was kind of funny that we were running nearly the identical pace for about 15 miles or so. He stopped at the aid station at one point long enough that I was able to finally reach him when I was in my 20-something mile.

Somewhere in the late teens, I felt a twinge in the hamstring and started to panic. It wasn't acute like when it first happened, but rather the same residual soreness I had afterwards. Strangely enough, it dissipated after about 5 minutes and I never felt it again through the race. It kind of put me in a funk through those middle miles though as I was worried I was going to have to cut my run short.

When I did catch up to Matt, I was still in that funk. And really wasn't in any mood to talk. I kind of mumbled some words at him for about a mile and a half and then pushed him to go on ahead. Though I wasn't inherently feeling anything physically bad (wahoo!), I wanted to do quiet work by myself.

There was a 3 hour race that started at 4:00 p.m. and it was good to get some faster moving legs out on the course. The 12 hour runners were definitely into the zombie zone and the teenager who led the 6 hour for awhile had begun walking. About an hour into their race, I passed one of the 3 hour women and she must've thought I was in contention in her race because she immediately came blowing past me with a whole new gusto. Though I knew we weren't competing in the same race, it was good to kind of have someone be the pacemaker for at least a short while.

I had been pretty on top of my calories all day and was proud that side of the race was going really well. After I got into the double digits, I put my handheld on and kept hydrating until the final hour. I started with gels and then guzzled Tailwind in the middle miles. At some point, I grabbed a coconut bar and a handful of rosemary potatoes from the aid station and felt like a new person.

I drank an entire Coke from my stash as I was actually feeling sleepy in the second half. It seemed to be helping so I sought out another one from the aid station. I found one on the table, opened it, drank a quarter of it, and came back about 45 minutes later and drank the last quarter of it. Apparently I was sharing with someone, but these things somehow seem less gross when you've been running for 4 hours?

My marathon split was somewhere in the 3:40s and I was relieved when I hit that mark. Somewhere before I actually hit 50K, Matt and I were running together again and he asked if I had ever gone under 4:30 for a 50K. My 50K prior to this race was 4:47, but happy crossed over the line around 4:30 and Garmin beeped at 4:32:21. My GPS was losing about 2/100ths of a mile each lap so no official chip PR - just a Garmin one. But hey, a PR is a PR!

As it got close to 6:00 p.m. and the 5 hour mark, I noticed the waning sun and decreasing temperature. When I stopped to get my headlamp, I also tossed my gloves back on. I actually felt very comfortable temperature-wise the last hour so the gloves were a great choice!

Runner math was not really on the table until I had about 45 minutes left in the race. I was content to just get to a marathon, a 50K, then 35 miles. Once I got to 35 miles, I realized that I could hit 40 if I stayed within a reasonable pace. It was definitely getting harder and the miles were wearing on me. But with the finish nearing, I kept going. Just 3 more laps, just 2 more laps, just 1 more lap.

I knew I'd have 39.5ish on my Garmin when I stopped and really wanted it to say 40. But when I stopped after my 40th lap - the lap time became good enough. I was pooped. Happy, but pooped. I counted all my rocks, recorded my laps, and waited for Matt to come through on his final lap. He ended up with 33 laps - we basically did the same pace for 5 of the 6 hours - and he came in second!

40 miles in the 6 hour is a PR for me. Coming off 2 marathons and on a less-than-ideal course makes me feel good about where my fitness is even if my body parts are randomly uncooperative. There is always the what if factor of an ideal course and a rested body, but a couple of extra miles in the 6 hour is one I'm okay to leave on the table for now.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Recap: Choosing Happiness

2017, 2017, 2017.....

Full of highest highs and lowest lows, one long blog post about it just touches the surface. I set a boatload of running PRs. I traveled to 9 countries and 9 US states. I volunteered at 3 races and completed 2 pacing gigs. I watched Adam give everything he had on Boylston Street and felt my heart break when he couldn't go on. I felt ashamed and broken with my job loss at the end of June. I spent the summer chasing course records - finding a new sense of grit and determination. I started a new career and happily found myself less stressed and more balanced. My body aches a bit more than it used to, but my mind is the strongest it has every been.
Shoutout to Megan for the awesome racing nail art!

Strava stats - 2,600 running miles, 2,828 including walking/hiking miles.
Race stats
GUTS Fatass 50K - 5:16:24, 1st female, 4th overall
Miami Marathon - 3:20:34, 10th female, 4th AG
Mercedes Birmingham Marathon - 3:19:15, PR, 9th female, 3rd AG
Snickers Albany Marathon - 3:13:58, PR, 7th female, 1st AG
Rock 'n' Raleigh Marathon - 3:43:56, 24th female, 6th AG, pacing the 3:45 group
BAA 5K - DNF*

Boston Marathon - 3:13:54, PR, 373rd female, 327th AG
Midsummer's Night Dream 6 hour - 39.3 miles, PR, course record, 1st overall, 5th in North America in 2017
Merrill's Mile 12 hour -70.3 miles, PR, 100K PR of 10:13:45, female course record, 1st overall, 5th in North America in 2017
Hinson Lake 24 hour - 115.917, PR, 100 mile PR of 19:07:??, female course record, 1st female, 3rd overall, 17th in North America in 2017
Sphinx Greenville Marathon - 3:54:12, 26th female, 4th AG
Rehoboth Marathon - 3:27:47, 19th female, 7th AG
Ameris Bank JAX Marathon - 3:17:35, 8th female, 1st AG
Resolution Run 6 hour - 40 miles, PR, 50K PR of 4:32:21, 1st overall

*Adam has a recorded time of 1:12:19, but I'm not listed as a finisher?


January

I returned to run the G.U.T.S. (Georgia Ultrarunning & Trailrunning Society) 50K a week after I had completed a 6-hour race. It was 16°F at the start and I spent a good bit of the race in the mental pain cave. But, I ended up 1st female, 4th overall, and improved on my time from 2016 completing the race in 5:16:24.
A few weeks later, I got a terrible sinus infection and actually took a few days off running. Adam & I flew to Miami to visit his parents that weekend and I naturally jumped on the chance to run the Miami Marathon (again). The extra taper must have helped because I had a huge negative split - a 1:42:01/1:38:33 with a finish of 3:20:34. I felt so good that second half!




February

Feeling pretty good about my fitness, I decided to run the Mercedes Birmingham Marathon 2 weeks later. Typically it is cool and while the course is a bit hilly, it is still reasonably fast. However, it was humid on race day and I ended up feeling the complete opposite of Miami in the second half. But going out fast paid off with a 7 second PR - 3:19:15!

The best part was the mini road trip with Megan & Frank. They let me crash in their hotel room, drove me to the start, and came to cheer me on at the finish! Plus, we took a mini tour of where I used to live in Vestavia Hills and filled up on Milo's before we left town.





March

Albany had been in my back pocket for awhile. A lot of the local tri people I run with had touted it as fast and flat. So I did a couple of tune-up workouts and 3 weeks later, I was racing my 3rd marathon of 2017. This time I was nervous, but confident that I could pull off a sub-3:15 marathon if it was my day. I had recently found out that I didn't get into the lottery for the NYC marathon so I was extra-motivated to get a time qualifier. Everything went perfect. 3:13:58!
While there were other silly challenges I partook in, my favorite Muskrat Challenge Event involved eating a pie (1/3 per mile) and running 3.14 miles. I'm proud (??) to say I ate an entire pumpkin pie AND ran 3.14 miles in 27:40. And I didn't puke!


April

I did my version of a girls weekend in early April. Jenster hosted myself, Angie, and Caitlin in Raleigh. We spent 5 hours Saturday helping at one of the Umstead 50/100 mile aid stations and paced/raced the Rock 'n' Roll Raleigh marathon Sunday. I was lucky and saw both Casey and Jay while we were doing a short run at Umstead! Then I got to see John (running) & Casey (spectating) at RNR. I paced the 3:45 group and we came in a little fast at 3:43:56! There was lots of beer, food, and laughing and I was super sad when I had to leave Sunday afternoon.




After Raleigh, there was BOSTON! We traveled north on my 35th birthday and I celebrated the day with 35 selfies.


Saturday, Adam and I walked the BAA 5K. I still haven't posted my blog about it yet - it's been 8 months, but it still hits me in the feels when I think about it. We covered 2.62 miles before he collapsed for the final time just beyond the marathon finish line on Boylston. You know when you love someone so much and all you want for them is to be happy & healthy? And you are so insanely proud of them for having the courage to try? I'm not crying, you're crying.

The following Monday was my 3rd Boston Marathon. It was warm, but there was a tailwind. I raced hard from the beginning and the Newton hills chewed me up at bit. But I pushed hard again the final 10K and ended up with a 4 second PR - 3:13:54!




May

After years of taking vacations that centered around running, we celebrated Adam's (belated) 40th birthday by taking a trip of a lifetime. We traveled to Amsterdam via London and spent the night in a tiny little town near the airport. I shook off jet lag with a run of course.
We then traveled to Copenhagen where we hopped on a cruise ship and traveled to Latvia, Estonia, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Lithuania, and back to Denmark. We spent a few days in Copenhagen before returning home and I got in a few land runs after nearly 2 weeks of the ship treadmill. Highlights were crossing off a bucket list item (seeing the Hermitage Museum!) and meeting a fantastic group of people that we shared dinner with each night.







Keeping my marathon-or-more streak alive for one more month, I somehow managed to run a solo 26.2 on the Greenway a week after returning from our trip.




June

I went on a solo camping trip for about 36 hours in early June. I ran/hiked 50 horizontal miles and 2 vertical miles. It was definitely one of my year highlights (aside from losing my bear vault) - falling asleep exhausted just after sunset on the side of Tray Mountain was truly awesome.


I entered the Midsummer's Night Dream 6 hour race in hopes to grab some mileage and get some overnight running in as a kickoff to my buildup to Hinson. I felt better than the prior year and ended up with 39.3 miles total, a first place overall, and beat my own course record!

July



After losing my job in late June, I was having a hard time figuring out what running need to be in my life. An outlet? A pain reliever? A way to control something? It kind of took the brunt of all of that which was fortunate because I was all signed up for the 12 hour race at Merrill's Mile. Cooler temperatures and a new sense of grit made it possible to complete 70.3 miles, beating my own female course record and taking another overall win. I set a 100K PR in the process - 10:13:45.



August

I started my new job in late July so I just racked up the miles in August. I was running half marathons on Tuesdays as training runs and loading up my weekends with back-to-back long runs. The point was to get myself used to feeling exhausted for Hinson. It worked. The weekends on the trails were tough, but I had a lot of fun too.





September

I went to Chattanooga early in the month to watch Jamie compete at the World's 70.3 Championship. I also managed to see Gary and hang out with some of the local tri people as well. I am kind of obsessed with watching Ironman's (sp?) on YouTube as motivation when I run so it was extra awesome to watch a world class event in person.


I volunteered at an aid station at the Georgia Jewel for about 8 hours - a really fun way to be a part of the race without having to run!


I went into the year thinking I could touch 125 at Hinson, but I reset my goals over the summer and decided to just focus on a PR instead. The weather was a zillion times better than the previous year and I was actually really calm and really relaxed through most of the race. It did get hard and painful as these things do, but my ability to cope was far stronger in 2017. I ended up setting a female course record and came in 1st female, 3rd overall with 115.917. Though it was only my second time hitting 100 miles, I did also set a PR of 19:07 in that distance.

October

I knew I wasn't going to be in any capacity to run the week after Hinson so I decided to take part in the inaugural Bull Mountain run by volunteering. Anthony and I spent the morning and early afternoon swapping stories as runners came into Booger Holler. He brought his 2 BT mixes with him which naturally made us insta-friends.

Adam and I celebrated our 9th anniversary by forgoing the usual fancy-but-forgetful steakhouse dinner and visiting 9 Taco Bells. Ridiculous? Yes. Ridiculously memorable? Also yes.
Thanks to my good pal Matt, I dropped into the Greenville Marathon at the end of the month. Still feeling pooped from Hinson, I donned a beer stein costume and ran with the 4:00 hour pace group for about half the race. I found my groove and ended up finishing in 3:54:12.


November






I joined Sam and Dan at Pinhoti 100 to pace & crew John. I started the pacing at mile 55, Adams Gap and took him 10 miles through Clairmont Gap and traded off with Dan at mile 65, Chandler Springs. In a few hours, I jumped back into pace at mile 79, Wormy's Pulpit and brought him to the last aid station at mile 93. I was supposed to be done for the day, but I ended up pacing the very last finisher 7 miles to her first 100 mile finish with just 6 minutes to spare. Truly a day to remember!




December

For the 5th December in a row, I made the trek to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware to run and drink beer with my favorite internet hooligans. I had pulled my hamstring so badly on the Wednesday prior that I left November with 197 miles. By race day, I felt like I could run again, but I was totally psyched out. The first 10 miles were good, the middle 10 were horrible, the last 10K was great! I finished in 3:27:47 and earned myself a BQ for 2019!



2 weeks later, I was toeing the line with a much happier hamstring and a little bit of extra pressure as I was running in my company's marathon! The Ameris Bank Jacksonville Marathon was super duper flat - flatter than Shamrock, flatter than Myrtle Beach! Race day temps were perfect and I was ready to push the pace hard. I felt really, really strong through 20 miles and then held onto in the last 10K for a 3:17:35 finish. My 3rd fastest marathon ever!

The last race of the year was yesterday - a very last minute decision to run the 6 hour Resolution Run in Greenville. The top of my foot had felt bruised from the JAX marathon so I laced my shoes super weird and taped it up. I actually had zero pain in my foot the whole race, but my hamstring acted up from miles 15 to 20?? I was thisclose to calling it a day when the pain just kind of disappeared. Aside from that, I felt pretty good the whole race. My biggest issue was boredom and as Angie reminded me at Hinson, boredom is good - that means nothing hurts! I was super smart about my caloric intake and hovered in the high 8s for the most of the race. I ended up with a 50K PR of 4:32:21 and a 6 hour PR of 40 miles.



I have no huge goals currently for 2018 by comparison. Sure, I'm racing - I'm committed to Boston, Hinson Lake 24, NYC (assuming I get in with my time qualifier), and Rehoboth. I'm quite certain I will fill in the gaps with new running adventures. I'd like to volunteer and pace a few times, go on a 2+ night camping/running/hiking adventure, run a "real" 100 mile race, strength and stretch 30 minutes a week (baby steps, baby steps), and prepare financially and physically for running the Everest 2019 Marathon.




If I've shared miles, races, "liked" your FB posts, double-tapped your Instagram pic, gave you kudos on Strava, or bantered with you about running via text, thanks for sharing this silly sport with me. Thank you for sharing your stories and inspiring me to not only be a better runner, but a better human. Despite a few woes, 2017 was outstanding and I am lucky to have so many incredible people in my life.

For 2018, let's be in the moment. Choose to be happy. If you woke up healthy with a roof over your head and no worries about where your next meal will come from, remember just how lucky you are!