Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Zoom Zoom at the Zooma Annapolis Races

6 week training group to be held in Crofton

This 6 week program is designed for every level of runner, from beginner to experienced, looking to improve their fitness and confidence by building up to, or racing your fastest, 10k or half marathon.  Depending upon individual capabilities and aspirations, you will be paired with runners of similar ability and train appropriately to meet your goals.   
You will receive a 6 week training schedule asking you to run at least 3 to 4 times a week.  There will be two plan options each for both the 10k and the half depending on your capabilities.  These can be tweaked individually with guidance from Coach Christine.  The group will officially meet once a week on Saturday mornings at 8:00am.  We can discuss mid week group runs as our individual schedules allow.  Each runner is expected to follow the 6 week daily training program on the days we do not meet as a group.  Email communication is encouraged between the coach and your fellow group members.

Participants should be in general good health and, (depending on the race distance you choose and your goals), be able to run at least 30 to 45 minutes continuously without difficulty for 10k or half marathon participation.  If you would like to join the group and need assistance in being prepared for our first group run, please contact Coach Christine for guidance.
A signed waiver will need to be signed prior to running with the group.

Start Date:  April 21, 2012 at 8:00am.  Plan on at least an hour (more as we progress).

Location:  The group will meet at Crofton Elementary School, 1405 Duke of Kent Dr., Crofton, MD 21114.
Runs will take us  in and around the Crofton Parkway area.   We will run outside under almost all weather conditions (it’s a lot of fun) so it will be important that you wear the proper clothing for the conditions.
**Location is subject to change.  You will be notified prior.

Goal race date: June 2, 2012 Zooma 10k or Half Marathon. 
Instead of the tradition finisher’s medal you will receive a beautiful charm necklace.  I love mine!

It is each runner’s responsibility to register for the race.  Make sure to include the discount code below to get $5 off the 10k fee and $10 off the Half fee.  I suggest you sign up as soon as possible to avoid increased fees and the possibility of it being sold out.

Link to register:

Cost for 6 weeks:   $60

What you also get:
Unlimited email access to a well known and published RRCA certified professional coach (Runner’s World, Women’s Health, Women’s Running, Train like a Mother plan contributor, as well as other local and regional publications) that is highly experienced with group and individual coaching as well as an athlete herself.
Mini information sessions mixed into the sessions that will cover various topics, such as nutrition, form, gear, hydration, stretching, race day prep, etc…
Ongoing Q&A to become an educated runner
Weekly email newsletters
Discount at Charm City when you mention your are training with Coach Christine Hinton
Various other running related goodies as they become available to me.

For more info on the coach see:  www.TheRunningCoach.com
Please contact Coach Christine Hinton at 410-562-2277 or TheRunningCoach@comcast.net if you are interested in participating. 
Stay in the Zooma loop:                                                       
Check out Zooma on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/ZOOMARun)   and Twitter at ZoomaRun as well as updates on Crofton Cuties Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/groups/128959450452230/)

Zooma Press Release:

ZOOMA Annapolis Provides Unique Racer Experience
Patriotism, Pride, and Scenic Course Fuel Runners

(March 19th, 2012, BALTIMORE, MARYLAND) – Combine a scenic, challenging race course, motivating ambassadors, free training programs and an opportunity to run for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and you get a memorable race experience at ZOOMA Annapolis, June 2, 2012. 
Registration is open for the Women’s Half-Marathon and 10K races and runners can enjoy a discounted rate between now and April 19th.  Come April 20th, fees for the half marathon increase.
ZOOMA was founded to encourage women to live full, healthy lives and take on challenges such as an endurance race.  For this reason, ZOOMA is even more thrilled to be charity partnering with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training. Runners can make their running experience an even greater accomplishment by helping cure cancer by raising funds for research.
In 2011, Competitor Magazine selected TNT as the Mid-Atlantic’s Best Charity Training Program. Since it’s inception, TNT has trained over 500,000 athletes who have raised over $1 billion for cancer research and patient programs. Those interested in participating can visit www.teamintraining.org/nca.

Half marathon and 10K courses start at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and cross the scenic Severn River on the Naval Academy Bridge. With the national anthem playing at the start of the race, racers feel a surge of patriotism and energy.
Race start time for the Half Marathon and 10K is 7:00 a.m.
ZOOMA Registration                   
March 12- April 19th:
$95 (half)                                 $55 (10K)
April 20-May 30:
$105 (half)                               $65 (10K)

About ZOOMA:
The ZOOMA Women’s Race Series is dedicated to promoting health and fitness by providing an encouraging, inspirational, healthful venue in which to run. Organizers welcome both men and women to participate in all ZOOMA events. For more information, please visit http://www.zoomarun.com

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Patuxent River Trail 10k: Feb. 25, 2011

Despite my desire, I am not as a huge of a trail runner as I'd like to be.  Most of my trail running has been done during races, mostly ultras.  The fact is, it's too easy to step out my door for a run than drive 30 or more minutes to a good trail.  I am hoping, as the kids get older, that will change.

We're off!

I jumped at the chance to run a 10k on the trails.  This would be my first non ultra distance trail race.  I was excited to try to run faster on the trails.  The weather had been wonderful the week leading up to the race, but that day was super windy and cold and rain the day before had made for some muddy footing on the course.  

The Quantico Orienteering Club put on the race for the second year.  Luckily, for me, I didn't have to use a compass to find my way, although the whole orienteering thing has me intrigued.  Described as mostly flat and non technical, I found it more challenging than expected.  

There were tons of muddy sections.  I have zero fear of getting down and dirty, but at 40 years of age the last thing I want to do (but often do do) is fall.  Slippery, squishy mud and my feet don't always mix well.  I stayed upright through all the mud, but of course tripped over a root or rock or something just as I was feeling confident.  I started to tumbled forward, but somehow managed to stay upright.  The lady behind me remarked that my core would be sore tomorrow.  I did roll my ankle a couple times, but all in all avoided kissing the dirt.

When I describe a course as flat, it's well, flat.  This course had some fairly steep, although on the shorter side, climbs that in the later stages had me power hiking. I didn't plan on doing any walking (which is par for the course in ultras) for this 10k, but  I was not the only one who decided to conserve some energy up the steep slopes that had fallen leaves covering a rocky terrain.  

Once on the open field, with the finish line in sight, I picked up the pace and finished strong.  Passed quite a few younger ladies.  Ultimately I didn't pass the lady that mattered.  I ended up getting 4th in my age group (40-49).  I hate to even share my time (61:45), which for road standards would be one of my slowest 10ks ever in my life!  But trail running is totally different.  Not only is each race course different, the trails are to be approached in a different way and with different outcomes.  Finishing time doesn't really prove or disprove anything about a the runner.  That's why I am pleased with the 4th place finish in a 10 year spread age group.

I hope to be lining up again next year.  Great race in a fun atmosphere.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

July 2011 to February 2012

I typically like to post fairly soon after races, as my memory ain't what she used to be.  If I don't spit it out in a day or two it gets lost forever in the back alleys of my brain.  With that said, here is a quick recap of what I can recall.

After Rosaryville, I got in weeks of good solid training with my mind focused on JFK 50 miler scheduled for November.  I was feeling pretty confident that I could run a similar time as last year, with a dream goal of going sub 10 hours.

But first........
October 29, 2011:  Marine Corps Marathon

This was my very first marathon back in 1998.  I felt a little nostalgic going back to run it again.  I was handling it as a training run for JFK and planned on pacing a friend who was shooting for 4:30ish.  Last year I made the mistake of running the Baltimore marathon too hard before the 50.  So, I was being super relaxed about the whole thing.  In fact, I was so relaxed I overslept by almost an hour, missed the meet up at the metro station, and had to sprint to the start!  Never found the friend I was suppose to pace.
I don't have an actual picture of me running,
so here's one  of Porter and me  at packet pickup.

Nevertheless, I tried to stay within the 4:30 range to hopefully meet up.  Didn't happened.  I felt really bad about that.  I ran along and came in around 4:23 (which included a emergency stop to deal with a colitis flare up right before the last bridge) .  Nice and comfy for me.  The real marathon started post race.  Good grief!  Getting back into the metro station and in an actual train took f-o-r-e-v-e-r!  One lady passed out!  Lucky her, she got carried through the crowds.  Another guy had the smarts to stop in at the McD's and got himself a large ice cream shake.  Why didn't I think of that?  I was drooling as I watched him enjoy the sweet coldness and inched my way to the turn stalls.

November 6, 2011:  Riley Race 5k in Annapolis

A cause dear to my heart, our wounded military, were to benefit from the proceeds of this race.  Only a week after the marathon, I planned to run alongside my 14 year old daughter.  The race started with tears as 4 young brave men told their stories of lost limbs and lost friends.  Watching them run and cross the finish line was an image that has been burned into my mind.

The race was great.  Nice swag too.  Addie, my daughter, started conservatively, with her dad and me.  It was a blast to run together, which we did until she found another gear towards the end.  Buh-Bye!  I'm so proud of her.

November 19, 2011:  JFK 50

My "A" race!  I had been nursing my son's strep throat that week before and vigilantly, ok, obsessively washing my hands and spraying Lysol.  Unfortunately, about 3 days before the race I started to feel "off", then achy.  I couldn't believe it!  All this training and I was getting sick a mere couple days before the race.  I tried to will myself well to no avail.  So, naturally I went into denial mode.

I traveled to the race alone.  Something not initially planned, but since my son, Thomas, was still sick, we thought it best this way.  Apparently some people find ultra sports not to be spectator friendly!

I thought I had left myself plenty of time to walk to the start from the school gymnasium, but the gun went off with me (and quite a few others) still a couple minutes from the start!  Some started to run.  Not me.  I wasn't going to start until I was officially over the start line.

The Rocky AT
I pretty much felt yucky right off the bat.  But I was determined to suck it up and run this thing no matter what.         I won't bore you with a play by play of the course (see my JFK 50 report from last year), but here are some highlights.

I started having problems breathing.  I could  not get a good lung full not matter my efforts to suck in that precious O2.  At this point I figured I had strep or a bad cold.  Nothing I couldn't suffer through.

TMI warning here.  I have exertional colitis.  That basically means that when I exert myself my digestive system and bowels go all to hell.   As predicted they did just that around mile 25 or so.  It's not pleasant and wipes me out.  But, I have learned to deal with it and carried on.

As I ran along, meeting and speaking with people, every time I laughed, I sounded like a 3 pack a day smoker.  My chest felt constricted.

This all resulted in a long and painful race.  The last 20 were torture and I knew a sub 10, or any PR, were out of reach.  Heck, I was now just worried about finishing in the 12 hour time limit.

I finish in 11:27.  Over an hour longer than last year.  I tried to eat something and enjoy the post race camaraderie of my fellow finishers, but I just wanted to get back to my hotel room and in bed with bags of ice for my legs.  But, in accordance with how my day had been going, I got on the wrong darn bus to get back to my car at the start.  Realizing this, as we crossed paths with the bus I should have been on, I begged the driver to stop.  I flagged down the right bus and hoped on.  In my defense there was one other guy who did the same thing.

Getting the Neb
On the bus (the right one) I started to hack.  I can't really call it coughing.  It was nasty.  Thank goodness I had the school bus seat to myself.  It was gross, what was coming up.  That's when I knew that I was sick.  Really sick.

The next day, after I got back into town, I went to my local minute clinic before even going home.  I was diagnosed with a severe case of bronchitis.  It would be a solid 6 weeks to fully recover.  The longest I have ever been sick.

February 11, 2012:  Valentine's Day 5k

Once well, I was able to get back into the swing of things by the new year.  I signed up for the Annapolis Strider's Champ Series.  The first race was the V-Day 5k at Kinderpark.  There was fear of it being canceled as a dusting of snow covered the ground from the night before.  With not much sticking to the roads or trail we were fine to go ahead.

I had no expectations going into this race.  Well, that's a lie.  I did have some conservative expectations that I am actually embarrassed to say out loud.  It is really hard to admit that I have slowed as much as I have since my hay days.  A combination of variables have conspired against me to slow my race times more than nature would normally allow.

I did finish faster than my hoped time so that was a plus.  But my finish time was blah.  I'm not going to tell you what my time was.  Feel free to Google search if you really want to know.  Nothing impressive.  But it was my first 5k in awhile and something to build on.

There you have it!  Up next is a trail 10k, more series races, the Zooma race, the 6 hour race at Quietwaters and hopefully another JFK50.  I have some unfinished business to take care of there.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rosaryville 25k July 17, 2011

You may have heard the saying that running is 80% mental and 20% physical.  I have seen many a runner be defeated in their heads before their bodies give out.  Letting their thoughts, pain or unexpected challenge end their run or race before it should.  I rarely consider dropping in a race, but for a moment I seriously did at the 25k Rosaryville Trail Race.

It was supposed to only be a training run as I prepare for the JFK 50 held in November.  Low key and no pressure.  Just for fun.  I am pretty much a roadie, mostly the result of ease and location than preference.  This race provided a great way to substitute my planned long run with the Annapolis Striders and get some needed trail experience.

I hadn’t planned on warming up, since I never do for long runs, and was going to take the first 5 miles very easy and then pick it up depending on how I felt.  But, the excitement of the start took hold.  My intended slow pace was replaced with lively conversation and a quickening of my feet.  As we entered the single track, I knew I should slow.  But on a narrow trail, in a long line of runners, slowing down messes up everyone’s momentum.  In hindsight I should have just pulled off into the trees and let that wave go by.  But, I didn’t.  I hung on.

The trail was awesome.  A beautiful twisty, rooty, roller coaster ride of a trail.  A couple hops over some streams and a couple bigger hills, but in general a lot of ups and downs, lefts and rights on runable, hard packed surface.  And thank goodness for the shade.  It was hot and the canopy of trees overhead took the bite out of the heat.

After 4 miles, yes a mere 4 miles, I felt like poop.  I had gone out too fast and, considering I still had 11 ½ miles to go, I needed to figure something out if I was going to make it to the finish.  I slowed a lot, drank from my handheld and relaxed for the next mile.  At the 5 mile aid station I was hurting.  What the heck?  Took in some Heed and seriously considered taking a right to the 10k finish line.
But, off I went thinking if things got worse, I could opt for the 10 mile distance a few more miles down the trail.  Every uphill became an unexplainable torture.  It was as if my body was rejecting what I was telling it to do.  My legs felt weak, like Jell-O, and stung deep within.  All the muscle fibers ached in pain as I lifted my knees.  With things obviously getting worse, I opted (which is a nice way to say I had no choice) to add in walk breaks.  I felt like such a loser.  Defeated.  Was I actually considering DNFing (did not finish) in a 25k?  I had never DNFed.  Ever.  I resolved that would not be an option and I would finish walking if I had too.
I restructured my thinking at about mile 8.  In ultras, there are always times when you feel like giving up and you may have 10, 20 or 30 miles yet to go.  I would use this race as a way to keep myself going despite feeling bad less than 40 minutes into the darn thing.  With that approach in mind, I added in walk segments as I would in an ultra with the idea of just getting it done.  The 10 mile runners took off to the right, and I focused on the trail ahead.

My legs continued their lament at my decision to go forward.  Getting a good breath in became an issue (I have a lung thingy).  It was hard to lift my knees to clear the roots and rocks and I tumbled a couple times, but did not fall.  A few other runners did fall and almost caused a chain reaction early in the race.  Like a pile up on the highway.  I hate the idea of falling, but when I do, the scars are worn proudly.

This race became a battle of my mind over my body.  I always tell my runners you can do more than you think you can.  And you almost always can.  Though my pace slowed and the walks became more frequent, I was going to finish.   

I sometimes get jealous of the people who always seem to be able to pull out an amazing performance despite some adversity, like being sick, lack of training or whatever.  The ones who complain before the start that they haven’t slept in three days or have a nagging sprained ankle, yet somehow manage a PR (personal record).  I’m not one of those runners.  I have races that fall along all points of the continuum from amazing to downright horrible.   Upon reflection though, I think I may be the lucky one.  The struggle is a huge part of the attraction for me.  If it were easy and the outcome always predictable, I probably wouldn’t do it. 

Yes, I would have preferred a faster run over the roots and hills, but this day came down to just finishing.  And that was good enough.  

Saturday, November 27, 2010

JFK 50 Miler November 20, 2010

JFK was my third ultra and second 50. As was the case in the last two, saying I covered a certain distance just doesn’t accurately describe the race. Yes, I covered 50 miles, actually probably more like 51 or 2. (My Garmin watch died when it read about 45 miles, so I can’t be sure). The race is more than just the distance; it is also what those miles contain. Yes, 50 miles is a lot, but that’s only part of what makes these ultras hard.

The week leading up to the race was stressful. I was PMS-ing horribly. I was bloated and tender as well as irritable. A joy for my husband I am sure. I also have a weird condition called catamenial pneumothorax. To make a really long explanation short, I run the risk of lung collapse around the start of my monthly menses. Obviously this is something I want to avoid. The greatest risk seems to be about 2 days before and after day I start. I was right in the target zone.

Friday I made the roughly 2 hour drive up to the Hagerstown area in Washington County Maryland. The area is a rural one. I saw many farms, wide open spaces and small mountains in the backdrop. I picked up my race number and enjoyed the small expo with excited runners buzzing about.

I checked into my hotel, which was closer to the finish, and started to fret about the weather. My friend Connie Gardner, on her way from Ohio, would be coming in later than planned. She wouldn’t get in till 9:30 pm. Connie did make it and gave me some of her elite and veteran advice as we laid out our stuff for the morning.

5am came quickly and we were up and at ‘em. We got on the road quickly and made it to the high school in Boonsboro by 6:15am. One of the small joys of ultra running is the smaller percentage of women that do these events. Fewer ladies equal shorter bathroom lines than at shorter distance races. I made my final decision on what to wear and carry and handed the remaining items off to be recollected at the finish.

Still PSMing, I took 800mg of Ibuprophen and hoped it would help. I strapped on my Nathan hydration vest, loaded with lots of stuff I may want. I probably didn’t need to lug all that extra weight around but it provides me a sort of security blanket. We walked the 1000 meters to the start line and at 7am sharp ascended up the 2 ½ mile climb to the Appalachian Trail head.

The initial 2 ½ miles up took me about 30 minutes and was a combo of running and lots of walking up the steeper inclines. It’s frustrating to walk so early, but I heeded the words of many ultra veterans to let people go this early on and just take it easy. I entered the trail in 615th place overall.

The Appalachian Trail (AT) was tougher than I thought it would be. But honestly, I am glad I didn’t know. I was told it was rocky. And it is, but somehow “rocky” doesn’t fully capture the conditions. Connie told me to take it as a fast hike. I am not a good technical trail runner if for only the lack of experience on them. My goal was to stay vertical and not twist my bad ankle. That was accomplished. Others were not as lucky. One runner face planted on the trail, broke his nose, lost a tooth and otherwise was a bloody mess. I came across several runners who had also kissed the rocky terrain. One with a nice gash above his nose, another with bloody knees, many with twisted ankles and one poor guy wiped out right in front of me yards from the AT exit.

I grew weary of the rocks those last couple miles on the AT. I cannot tell you how much concentration it takes to make sure you cover the ground in such a pattern as to avoid your own collapse. My eyes were always looking down, looking at the runner’s feet ahead of me, eyeing for the next solid footing. If my mind strayed for even a second, I would stumble. I was in awe of any runner who pranced lightly past me, more dancing than running. They had a special skill indeed.

There was a segment that was asphalt between sections of the AT. I looked forward to this and thought I would be able to actually run more here. But, the road section was up, up and more up! Steep and long the mountain climb continued.

Towards the end of the AT came the switchbacks. In addition to the rocks you now have steep twists and turns with a substantial drop off the side should you misstep. So close to the end I opted to be careful and get off in one piece.

As I exited the AT, in about 3:45 (almost 16 miles), I was relieved to have made it through, what I thought would be the toughest part, injury free. I grabbed a couple cookies, refilled my hydration bladder and ran off to the C&O towpath.

The loose plan here was to alternate running 8 minutes walking 2 minutes. But I felt really good so I decided to walk when I felt like it and not stick to any structured plan. I did take my time at each aid station, which looking back probably cost me more time than I would have liked. I held on to a nice pace while running the next 27 miles or so, averaging 10-11 min/miles with the walk breaks and aid station stops. My goal going into this was a 12 min/m average, so I knew I needed to run faster than that now to make up for any lost time on the AT.

The Baltimore marathon gave out neon yellow shirts as their official swag for marathon runners. In 2009 I got a similar shirt at the Boston marathon. Neon yellow seems to have made a comeback from the 80s and appears to be the new black in the running community. I do not particularly care for this color and started playing a game of picking off as many yellows as I could. I’d focus in one a yellow and reel them in.

The C&O was my kind of running. What many runners call boring and flat, I call fantastic. I was mowing people down for more than a marathon. I looked for any neon yellow shirt to pass, and then looked for any women. Female and in a yellow shirt? Double points. I think I passed a couple hundred people on this section. I was feeling good, enjoying the themed aid stations, like Miracle on 34th Street at mile 34 with Santa.

As good as the aid stations were, the food was pretty much the same station to station. I was craving a salty boiled potato forever and never found one. (I did here later that they did offer some around mile 45). A couple nice guys were cooking Chicken Noodle soup on their driveway, and that was good. Funny what you will accept in such situations. The dry pretzel sticks were like chalk in my mouth. Thank goodness for the coke they offered. I was trying Hammer’s new Perpetum tablets as my main source of fuel. But those darn things turned to powder halfway through from all the bouncing around in the tube. I think this ended up being part of the reason I hit the wall later. I was not properly fueling.

The towpath was fairly uneventful. Picturesque and perfect temperatures. I kept buzzing by people. One lady used me as her human Garmin for a little while, continually asking me our pace and how far we had gone. Made me a little crazy so I sped up to get away from her. I saw some chickens running around, campers, and people with loaded bikes going on a weekend adventure.

Of course things were getting sore. I thought I felt something in my shoe. A pebble maybe had found a way through my gaiters? But, it didn’t move when I wiggled my toes. Maybe it was the band aids I used to tape up common trouble spots irritating me. Later I find that I was developing some huge blisters.

The outside of my knees started to really scream, right where the ITB inserts. My left calf had an ‘almost cramp’ which I somehow willed away before it turned into a Charlie horse. My back started to ache, most likely from my pack hitting it. I took another 800mg of Advil and chugged along.

I passed many inspiring people who had started with the 5am group. One gentleman really stood out and put my effort into prospective. I am not sure what his physical challenges were, but he leaned heavily to one side, his legs were rail thin, eaten up looking, veins bulging. Not a young man, his body looked like a trap to me. Yet, there he was. There he was. What I was doing was easy comparatively.

As the towpath was coming to an end I thought to myself that I would much rather be finishing the last 8 miles on this than hopping back onto the unforgiving asphalt of the roads. Off the C&O and guess what? A big ‘ole hill. Up I climbed. This is where I got that nice cup of chicken noodle soup from two guys on their driveway.

The roads were rolling and I walked just about anything that vaguely qualified as an uphill. Of course, NOW I had to pee. In the wide open farm lands, I had to pee. My radar was up for a semi-private area but none was found. Luckily the next aid station had a porta potty that I almost fell into b/c of my weary legs. More coke and a couple very dry pretzels. Bleh.

These seemed like the longest 8 miles of my life. I hugged the side of the road. Each mile marker seemed to take forever to get too. I had two side goals going into the JFK. One was to finish before the sun set and one was to finish before my Garmin died. The fact that I was given a mandatory reflective vest leaving the C&O didn’t make the beating the sunset goal seem as doable. Then at 45 miles (about 44 on the course) my watch called it quits.

The miles seemed to drag at this point. Up and down, rolling along, more walking than running. I recall passing a sign stating “4 miles to Williamsport”, our destination. It seemed so far still to go.

I was running with a group about this time. We were all quietly battling our own personal demons. I swear I smelled pot. A strong odor that didn’t seem to pass as I continued. Finally I asked if I was the only one who smelled the weed. Everyone started laughing. I wasn’t alone. Apparently someone was having themselves a good time.

With about 2 miles to go, it was getting dark and cold. I struggled for a moment out of my reflective and hydration vest to put my long sleeve shirt back on. Every attempt I made at running ended quickly with a wave of nausea. I can run through pain. Everything hurt to some degree. But it’s really hard to run when you feel like throwing up. In my mind I also knew that I was on my own that night. I had to be well enough to care for my post race needs. With about 1 ½ or so to go I walked it in. It was frustrating but I am sure the smarter thing to do. Somewhere along the way I didn’t get my race nutrition right. I am pretty sure that’s what the problem was.

Of course, I mustered up enough energy with about 200 meters from the finish, to run in through the finish shoot. Thank God I was D-O-N-E! Medal around my neck, tag removed from my bib and I was heading to the warmth of the school. I wanted to cry. I wanted to hug someone and collapse into a friend or family. But, teary eyed, I snapped a quick picture of myself holding my medal.

I was already worried about how I would get some decent dinner. Major props to Moe’s for showing up with the nicest people and serving the finishers a wonderful dinner. It was heaven sent. I inhaled it and headed to the locker rooms for a quick change. The locker room was equipped with showers, and actually sort of reminded me of a Porky’s movie. I guess many ultra ladies are not self conscious. I opted for the privacy of my hotel room.

Thankfully the buses that were transporting us back to the start line didn’t take too long to arrive. Half an hour later or so, I was wobbling around the school at the start looking for my car. It was a funny sight watching everyone shuffle to their cars. Once in my car it was another ½ hour to the hotel. I did not plan this very well, as you can see.

The tub stopper was broken in my shower but I took it as a sort of blessing. My plans to sit in a cold tub were thwarted. A hot shower it was with bags of ice rotating around various achy body parts as I ate some choc chip cookies, drank some recovery drink and watched reruns of House.

On Monday I feel alright. I was a bit swollen all over and especially my knees. I tend to gain a few pounds during these events as well. My biggest concern is a numb toe and corresponding pain on the ball of my foot. May be neuroma. The soreness already seems to be getting better.

And so ended the adventure! I am learning more with each of these. I learned that I am not a technical trail runner and will never be unless I get out on the trails a whole lot more. I like the flat, even, boring stuff.


486/1014 finishers

34/75 age group

10:22:58 12:28 pace

2/4 Crofton runners

top 20 local finisher

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Baltimore Marathon 2010 (and a quick blog on the B&A trail marathon 2010)

heading to the starting line
 The 2010 Baltimore Marathon was held in the windy city this year.  Wait...  not that windy city, Baltimore just borrowed the term for the day.  The series of events held on Saturday October 16th welcomed about 23,000 runners.

 I woke up early with the goal if getting into town and finding a parking spot situated between the start and finish.  I scored a nice spot right on Russell not far from the start and near the runner's finishing area. 

Close to the 8am start I made my way up Russell looking for the 3:50 pace group.  My plan was to run a consistent race as a fairly comfortable pace, yet pushing some, but easy enough to recover quickly.  My ultimate goal is to run well at the JFK 50 miler, still a few weeks out.  I have never run a marathon strictly as a training run, but I recommend it!  All pressure is lost and enjoying the race was my main goal.  Now, I would be lying that anything over 4 hours would not sit well with me, so that time was lingering in the back of my mind.

The Geico pacers, who have won praises by many, were pretty darn good.  Having had experience pacing myself, it ain't easy and even if the pace is easy for you, maintaining it is not.  They did a good job, a bit faster, but okay.  I did lose them every once in a while after water stations, but stuck with them most of the run.
As we sung the National Anthem, a sky diver landed perfectly among the tall buildings in front of the finish line.  Then a cannon sounded sending confetti on all as we crossed the starting line.  The first 4 miles, or so, are up.  We climbed about 350 feet in elevation those first 4 miles, but it bothered me little if at all thanks to all the adrenaline and excitement.  I hit the 4 mile mark clocking an 8:41 min/mile average.  A bit faster than planned, but I was feeling good. 

Around Montibello Lake
We lost all that elevation from miles 4 to 10, but in a rolling manner.  The streets are not in the best shape in Baltimore, so eyes were often down watching for pot holes and uneven pavement.  Much of the course was actually on concrete, or similar material, rather than the more forgiving tar of the roads.  This ultimately beat my knees up pretty bad. Miles 10 to about 16 were rolling but manageable.  Aid stations were placed quite consistently throughout the course and I was never thirsty for long.  I did learn that I do have a problem with over hydrating which is kind of ironic for me.  I always thought it was nearly impossible to over hydrate and quite honestly never paid that much attention to it until ultras peeked my interest earlier this year.  Then properly fueling was essential.  As a result I believe I started taking in more fluids than needed.  Once again this was the case and caused my hands to swell in the later stages.  This was confirmed with a couple pound wait gain once I was home.

The course was crowded the entire way.  Narrow, it never really allowed for much opening up.  And just when you thought perhaps you would have some breathing room the 1/2 marathoners joined us at about mile 16.  I did run into my friend who was running the half and we briefly ran together.  But mostly I felt like I was weaving through slower 1/2ers and relay runners.  I know this expended energy, but I tried to make up for it hugging corners and turns and running tangents as much as possible.  Around 16 our pace leader said to get ready for the onslaught of hills to come.  From 16 to about 23 you look to gain about 250 feet.  Not as much as those first few miles, but more painful because you already have 16 on the legs.  Plus, a few of these hills were steep.  Up and up we went.   About this time, the wind, which had be fairly calm to breezy, decided to pick up.  Some sections were down right gusty.  Wind is an enemy to the runner above all other running conditions (at least in my book). 

Spilled a little something
 We hit Montebello Lake around mile 20 for the one mile loop.  Though it was a relief not to have hills to contend with, the wide open area allowed winds to have their way with us.  I tried to focus on the positive and looked forward to seeing my neighbor who was  manning the Annapolis Striders Station at 21.  About this time I was drenched with a cup of Gatorade from a passing runner.  Don't people look before tossing their cups?

Entering mile 22 I thought the hills were pretty much done.  And if I believed the well-meaning spectators, I would have cruised downhill to the finish.  Not so!  We did have a net loss in elevation, but the hills still erupted along the way.  I no longer trusted those on the side lines yelling that this was indeed the last hill.  Yeah right!  I knew better now.

I  was feeling a little rough but no rougher than any other longer run.  I started passing people left and right.  That always feels good.  The problem was the amount of people.  Weaving in and out of the ever present crowds became a mission.  I was scoping out a bit ahead for the shortest path to the next hole in the crowds. 
I took mile 25 a bit easier with the intent of pushing it in that last mile a bit faster than what I had been running.  Finish strong so to speak.  At the top of what eventually was the last hill, was a guy standing on his car, dressed as a tiger, with "Eye of the Tiger" blaring from his car stereo.  Good stuff.

Approaching mile 21

I ran that last mile, cruising past quite a few runners, in about an 8 min/mile pace.  Good for me for the 26th mile.  I intently checked my watch as we neared 26 miles.  My watched read "26" but I saw no mile marker.  Maybe they didn't put out a 26?  Then I saw it, way ahead.  My watch read almost 26.2 when I got to that sign.  Bummer!  Still .2 to go.  My watch officially clocked 26.31 miles, which is to be expected.  It's almost impossible to run a course exactly as measured.  And given all the weaving I was doing, I wasn't that far off.  Nonetheless, the garmin watch has added a new element to these longer races.  I often think back to my dad's marathoning days and wonder how far he actually ran and how fast in those pre-chip days.  I am sure he could take a couple minutes off his 2:59 Marine Corps Marathon PR.

I came across the line and needed a drink!  My lips were painfully chapped from the wind.  But Mylar blankets and the enormous medal were handed out first.  The crowd moved slowly and eventually I had a bottle of water in my hand.  I headed into the finishers area and briefly looked around.  The winds had seriously picked up (almost knocked me sideways that last stretch into Camden Yards) and I was getting cold in my wet clothes. 

The lines for food (general fare:  chips, fruit) was long. I snuck in line and grabbed a banana.  The beer line was long too as was the soup line (which was what I most wanted at that point).  I am just not one to wait in line.  Call it lack of patience, but getting home was suddenly more appealing then shivering in the wind, beer and soup in hand. 

I ended up walking about a mile, looking for my car I had so carefully parked before the race.  I wandered off in the opposite direction quite a ways before realizing that nothing looked familiar.  Good grief!  I turned around and ambled back eventually spotting my car.  A quick clean up and change and I was headed home.  Running the marathon without my family was a bummer, but each of my kids had activities planned for the day that I was not going to ask them to give up.  The JFK 50 will be for that!
Almost done!

So, all on all, I think Baltimore did a good job.  It was well organized.  They have a ton of races going on and it seemed to all run pretty smoothly.  The course itself is quite challenging.  Probably the toughest road marathon I have ever run.  Really beat up my joints (knees, hips) because of the bad street conditions and concrete surfaces.  It was super crowded.  I know some runners enjoy the energy from a larger group.  Not me so much. I don't mind running with others, but I enjoy finding my own space, not having to have a strategic plan to pass someone and just room to get in a groove.  That said, I did get to run and meet some neat people.

And if I am being picky, the shirts are a bit loud.  They are made of a wonderful recycled material that is butter soft but the color!  Good Lord.  Remember the neon yellow of the 80s?  Yeah, that loud.

Today, the first day post race, I feel good expect for my knees and a few other sore spots.  I am very happy with the effort as it puts me in a good place for the upcoming ultra.

Here are the stats according to my Garmin watch:
26.31 miles in 3:49:25 (8:43 min/mile average).
Official time was 3:51.  I believe my watch.  :)
I placed 26 out of 185 in the 35-39 age group (top 14%) and 174 out of 1,234 women (top 14%).  Out of the 3,353 marathoners, I came in 782 (top 23%).

B&A Trail
2010 B&A Trail Marathon March 7, 2010
I never blogged about my marathon earlier this year, mostly because it was fairly uneventful.  I was running it as a way to ensure my readiness to pace a runner during the last 40 miles of the famed Western States 100 during the summer.

I enjoyed the marathon a lot and this will be one of the few I would consider running more than once.  It's a smaller event, and cold conditions prevail, but the weather was nice that day (despite a snow storm the week before).  I started way to slow with the halfers, my fault.  But ended up with the following stats:
26.33 miles in 3:50:32 (8:45 avg pace)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Gunpowder Keg 50k at Gunpowder State Park Maryland 9-18-2010

on the trail

As of September 2010, I have one 50 miler to my name (as well as several pacing experiences at some high profile ultras).  As part of my training for the JFK 50 miler, to be held in November, I planned on running at least two 30 mile training runs.  I heard the Baltimore Road Runners were hosting a Fat Ass event on the trails at Gunpowder State Park, and thought this was the perfect way to not only get in a 30+ mile run, but also get myself out in the trails in prep for the 50 miler.  Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

The Fast Ass event basically requested a $5 donation to the state park and a gallon of water to share with fellow runners.  Nothing fancy, just come and run.  I packed up my car's trunk with some food, various Gus and other "ultra" stuff thinking I was going way overboard for a measly 30 miler that was solely functioning as a training run.

There were maybe 75 people there, if that ( I am horrible at eyeballing numbers), lined up in the parking lot.  The course would consist of 3 loops of about 10 miles each, with options of stopping after each.  I was debating whether to wear my hydration vest and carrying Gus since a simple aid station had been set up around mile 5.  Luckily decided to strap it on.  That 5 miles would take me much longer than planned.

In my Leopard print Moeben dress I headed off with the group into the forest.  We were reduced to a walk as we fell in line on the single track trail.  I felt some pressure to keep up my pace to not slow those behind me!  Gradually we all spread out and had plenty of room to navigate.  After one mile I knew my goal of a sub 6 hour finish was no longer reasonable.  This trail was more technical then I had predicted and, as I would soon find out, this early portion was the most runnable.

One of a couple sets of stairs
 I took that first loop to get to know the course.  I struggled to find a rhythm.  I was continually surprised at what was thrown at us and how much it varied mile after mile.  Rocks, boulders, roots, streams, large tree trunks to hop, mud, tall grass where the trail wasn't even visible and the steepest hills I have ever climbed in a race situation.  The steepest hill, as recorded by my garmin, was 65% grade!  Is that even possible?  The amount of climbing per loop was unexpected (for me anyway).

I am not a good technical trail runner, if only for the fact that I don't run on them often enough.  The last 50 miler I ran (North Face DC), I fell hard.  I was nervous there would be a repeat performance today and I was determined to stay sure footed.  However, I had a bad feeling, after a dozen stumbles and quick saves from face plants, that I would inevitably kiss the trail below my feet.  I told a runner, Charlie, behind me to watch out so I don't take him down too.  My toes started to hurt from all the toe jamming I was doing.  I start to envision creating a trail shoe with a steel tip.

After the first loop I stopped at my car for 5 minutes to apply bandaids where I could already feel blisters developing.  I guess the movement of my feet in my shoes going up and down such extreme inclines was rubbing some areas raw.  I also threw some Heed into my pack and took a few extra Gus along. 

stream crossing
Loop two actually felt a ton better than loop one.  Although I stumbled along, my ability to catch myself and spare eating dirt, amazed me.  I had fun on this loop.  I was mostly alone, which I enjoyed.  Me intertwined with nature.  Just the two of us.  I did worry a bit about the foliage that was constantly in contact with my bare skin.  "Leaves of three, stay away from me" kept running through my head.  I have never been good at identifying poison ivy or oak.  I saw many leaves of three.  I started singing "leaves of three are all over me"!

Some of the hills were a bitty.  There was no way I could run up these suckers.  And a few of the declines were so steep I wish I had skis to just slide down them.  Knowing you had to do it once again (for loop 3) was hard mentally.  The stream crossings were not bad.  I dipped my hands in the cool water to freshen up.  I finished the 2nd loop 10 minutes slower than the first, which surprised me.  I felt so much stronger and better that loop.  I was now 4:35 into this thing!  A sub six was out, so I set my sights on a sub 7 hour. 

see the man way up ahead?
up, up and away
I spent 5 min at my car again and assessed my body.  I added a few more bandaids and ate a rice crispie treat.  At this point I wished I had packed my ankle brace.  A while back my ankle was severely damaged in an accident.  As a result I have what's called a floppy ankle.  I have worked hard to rebuild strength and have only recently stopped wearing my brace religiously.  But my ankle was hurting now.  The technical trail was making mush out of it.

I was eager to start the third loop.  It looked like most of the runners had already called it quits.  I am not sure how many did the full 50k, but will post results when I get them.  I had a great mental attitude going in for my final dance with this forest.  I felt like I had gotten to know the trail enough to successfully navigate this last loop and get in under 7 hours.  I would run all the runnable parts at a good clip, and did just that for the first 3 1/2 miles.  As I was feeling like maybe I had this trail whipped, my foot caught a root or rock, and I hit the ground hard.  Left side again (as at NorthFace), but no rolling this time.  Just a solid thud to the earth.  Should a 39 year old woman be falling like this?  I was alone and there I lay for a moment figuring out the damage.  My knee hurt and quickly developed a swollen knot.  A couple scratches and a bruised hand was all I saw. I dipped my hands and knee into a stream to clean it up.  I was coming up on a portion of the trail that was within a quarter mile of the finish line and my car.  I seriously contemplated heading in.  Twenty-five miles is good enough, right?

As I crested the hill at which the decision to go home was to be made, a volunteer was standing there.  I told him I had fallen.  He said it looked fine to him and to keep going.  As simple as that, I did.  As I ran I realized that my left side was hurting.  I later find bruises on my clavicle, shoulder, arm and butt.  Not bad though.

in true ultra fashion:  a sharing of
the battle wounds
I'll spare you pics of
my bruised bum
Another 6 1/2 to go and into the woods I head for the last time to battle that damn 65% grade hill.  I saw runners coming back home and knew I still had the hardest part ahead of me.  Determined not to fall, I did slow some and was more cautious.  I started to notice things I had not before.  Was that a snake I heard slithering through the grass?  Did those happy boy scouts tubing down the river know I was 25 miles into this thing?  Why are there so many worms on the trail and why are they so big?  I mean baby-snake big.

I prayed, as I always do, for a safe finish as well as family and friends.  I started to get lonely.  I texted my husband and eventually talked to him.  I was ready to be done but knew I had at least an hour to go.  One step forward at a time.  Just keep moving.
Something snapped in me with about 4 miles to go.  I would run as much as I could, falling be damned, and get my ass done with this Fat Ass 50k.  I caught up with a couple runners, with whom I hiked up our last major hill.  Then it was down that super steep hill.  I don't know what I was thinking, but I let lose and barrelled down that thing like I was being chased by a cougar. As I came to more level ground, I kept up the pace.  This seemed like a good plan, and was going well, until that final climb the finish line.  The distance was maybe 1/2 a mile, maybe shorter, but the zigzag to the top reduced me to a walk right at the end!  I swore out loud and got going again.  Then walked again.  Damn.  One more run attempt and I ran into the finish area where one person clapped. 

felt worse than it looked
prettier as the days
went on

I had just run the toughest 50k, really any race, of my life and no one was there.  There were a couple race volunteers and a couple runners.  I felt like the last to finish, but a couple more dragged in after me.

That night my body had fits, reacting as if in mid fall. I dreamed I was still running the race.  Seeing the trail under me.  I would feel myself stumble and jolt awake just as my body hit the ground.  Do other runners have these dreams post race?

This race was a lot more than I bargained for.  But it also gave me a lot.  Who knew I could throw down 30 miles under these conditions?  I have no doubt that I can handle the JFK 50 miler after this.  And the Baltimore marathon, which I am also using as a training run, will feel like a freaking gift.

The day after I am sore but also thankful for the experience.  My quads are beat up after my downhill blitz.  My entire body aches from the effort.  But I welcome the pain and enjoy it.  Few people understand this.  Ultra running and trail running has taking me to places I would normally never venture.  The mental strength I gained, the drive to persist, makes me feel strong and able.  My only wish is that I cannot share it with my love ones more directly.