Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Icarus 24 Hour

It's hard for me to write about this race, as I am still so disappointed.  I've had time to process things, and I've come to terms with it.  I went out exactly as planned, and that lasted well for the first 3 hours.  But then severe pain built up in my medial knee.  I've dealt with IT band pain before, but that's on the lateral side.  This was different, and I still don't know exactly what it was or what caused it.  Luckily there were two amazing massage therapists at the race, and I quickly took advantage.  That allowed me to return to the race, and at that point (around 4 hours in) I was only a few laps behind schedule.  

But then the pain came back.  It built up over time, and with it severe low back pain as well (that I believe stemmed from tight hamstrings).  Once again I was forced to stop for a massage treatment.  After that point, I had lost a solid hour off the course, but I was still hopeful I could at least PR, although 140 was likely out of reach.

But once again the pain relief didn't last.  At the 12 hour mark I wasn't even to 70 miles, and I knew any significant goal was impossible.  I honestly thought about quitting after that realization.  As I told Alec, I had come with certain goals, and what was the point of continuing when they were all out of reach?  But I had also taken a 7-hour road trip, and Alec had flown down, and I couldn't just stop.  

Massage treatment number 4 was with the other massage therapist, "Australian Michael" (both men were named Michael).  His technique was different, but also temporarily effective.  I kept going through the night, at this point just thinking maybe I could break 120 miles, which would technically be another national team qualification, although not even in the top 15 performances.  

Early in the morning I needed to stop again for a treatment, at this point exhausted and highly emotional due to my disappointment.  On top of everything, a very close family member had received a cancer diagnosis 3 days prior to the race, and I was hoping to run a great race "for them".  I felt as though I had let them down, despite knowing they would be proud of me no matter what.  I was crying pretty hard for a while, but continued running.

In the end, I did manage to complete all 24 hours- minus the 2 hours or so spent on the massage table- did not walk at all, and finished with just under 121 miles.  Aly Venti, an amazingly talented runner from Florida won and made the national team with just under 141 miles.  She was so encouraging to me all race, and definitely deserved her result- but I can't pretend it wasn't difficult to see someone else accomplishing what had been my goal, almost exactly.

So what's next?  Well, despite the cost and stress I've entered a "last chance" 24 hour race on January 3rd- Wildcat 24 hour in Pensacola, Florida.  It is USATF certified, and on a 400 meter track.  My last track ultra didn't go so well but I've learned a lot since then so hopefully this time will be better!  My friend Danielle from Tallahassee will be crewing me, and I have a few friends racing as well, which should hopefully help encourage me.  I feel a bit guilty spending so much money to fly down, but if I don't at least try one last time for 2015 I will always wonder "what if?". 

But I'm also trying to resign myself to being, at best, an alternate for the 2015 team.  Once I have the financial means I will hire a coach and get serious about getting on the team for 2017.  It's hard for me because I am very impatient, but I've only been running for less than 5 years, and racing 24 hours for less than one year.  I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but maybe if I say it enough times it'll sink in and I'll stop being so hard on myself!  In 2016 I will be turning 32- that's probably not even my peak yet as a runner, so I'm sure with the right training I can continue to improve.

Today I did a 50k training run in less than 5 hours.  I'm sore but my knee pain is gone.  So maybe I'll have a chance at Wildcat in 4 1/2 weeks.  And maybe I'll come away disappointed again, although I will almost certainly learn something new about running or about myself.  In any case, I'm trying to be grateful to have the ability God has given me, and remember the joy of running!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Countdown to Race Day

I've been so busy this fall, it's hard to believe it's almost here- only 2 days until Icarus 24 Hour.  I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself, but this is such an important race to me.  Right now it looks very unlikely that my 133 miles at GSEC in May will be enough for a place on the 24 team.  I am going for broke and trying for 140+ miles this weekend, which is scary and intimidating but also possible.  I don't feel ready, but then I never do.

After Chase the Sun I took a bit of a recovery week, then had 4 tough training weeks before tapering.  I ran 65, 70, 50, and 65 miles over those weeks, the last two of which also had me on my feet for 3 12-hour clinicals each week.  I had several 2-a-days, back-to-back 20 milers, and intense speedwork.  I did several short night runs after all-day clinicals, which will hopefully help me to run fatigued.  My last long run was on Monday October 27, and I've barely run since then.  I'm generally a believer in "over resting" instead of over training!  Unfortunately I haven't been sleeping well, but I hope the relaxation will be enough.

Alec will be crewing me again, and I plan on basically following the same strategy I've used in the past- eat something small every hour (real food if possible), alternate water and Tailwind, minimize aid time, start out at a moderately fast pace and slow down gradually after dark.  I shouldn't have to worry much about weather- forecast is 80 and partly sunny during the day, 60s and clear overnight.  I hope to reach 80 miles or close to it in the first half, to allow a decent buffer in the second half for slowing down.

I'm really, really nervous.  I'm trying to remind myself that I can sign up for another 24 hour race in early January if needed, for one last shot at the 2015 team.  I just hope it doesn't come to that.  This is the race I've been training for for months, and I think this is my best shot.  No matter what the outcome, I plan on leaving everything I have out on that course.  Wish me luck everyone...let's roll!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Chase the Sun 12 Hour

I went into this race wanting at least 60 miles, and preferably 100K.  I had a modified 1 week taper and wasn't sure how I'd feel.  Plus, the route is mainly on a rooty (although flat) trail, and forecast called for at least some rain off and on.  But I ended up with 72.93 miles, an overall win, and the new course record!  

I started out a bit too fast (8:00 pace) but figured I'd soon settle into whatever pace felt moderately fast that day.  That turned out to be about 8:45 overall for the first 4 hours, and then I slowed down a bit over time.  At the beginning I ran a few laps with Tom, the eventual male 12 hour winner.  He's a really nice guy, and I definitely enjoyed running and chatting with him.  After we stopped running together I didn't see him again until the finish, but we were on the same lap all day- I was just consistently a half lap ahead!  

Then my friend Elizabeth came out in the morning and ran 9 miles with me at about a 9:00-9:15 pace, which was faster than her normal pace.  I was worried I was going too fast for her but she did great!  I hit marathon at about 3:53 and 50K at 4:41.  At the 6 hour point I was actually a full lap (1.87 miles) ahead of my winning 6 hour race mileage from last year.  

I took a short break at that point, since it seemed like a nice stopping point- also I realized all I'd eaten the first 6 hours was 3 gels and 2 half cups of coke, and I was feeling a bit dizzy.  I drank some more soda and ate some bacon, which helped a lot.  After that  i still kept a sub-10:00 pace to reach 50 miles at 7:41 (a new PR).  I realized by about 4 hours in that I could probably get close to 70 miles, and once I reached 50 miles and still felt good I knew I could do even more, so I went for it!  

At 8 hours I took another little break, as I was starting to feel light headed again.  I had a Hammer bar and some more coke, and started carrying Tailwind for the rest of the race to make sure I kept taking in calories.  My friend Tina came out to do her long run with me, and we ran just under 3 hours together, which was really fun.  My GPS had died around 8 hours, but I was doing around 3 laps/hour at this point, around a 10:45 pace.  It was nice to have someone to whine to towards the end, when I was hitting that "I'm just sick of this" point :)

I actually slowed down a bit intentionally in the last hour, because I knew I wanted to stop at 39 laps and I didn't want to be in a position to have the time to do more!  As it was, I finished with 7 minutes to spare and was told I had time to start another response was not language used in polite company!  I was very happy to stop when I did.

I am very happy with this race...I would like to break 75 miles in the first half of Icarus 24 Hour in November, and if I can do 73 on a trail I should be able to do close to 80 on pavement.  I still have about 4 weeks of hard training, and then a 3-week taper to make sure I go in to that race fresh.  I know from experience that long tapers make me miserable, but they do work well for 24 hour races!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Summer Recap

A busy summer of racing is over!  I have really slacked on posting due to a variety of factors, but I'm back, and I'll try to keep on top of things this time.  After my big success at GSEC (which is now officially listed on the USATF website!), I completed 3 ultras over 6 weeks (Bad Marsh 50K, Merrill's Mile 24 Hour, and Double Cremator 50 Mile).  I definitely don't think I was at my best- I think I generally need 4-6 weeks between big races to recover.  But although I wasn't fully rested I still did pretty well at my summer racing.  Then 5 weeks after the 3rd race I ran Homestead 10x5K, which also went well.  Here are a few brief write-ups for each race:

Bad Marsh: This was the day after my 5 year wedding anniversary, so I ran it with my husband.  It was his second ultra (he ran the 6 Hour at GSEC), and he did great!  I may have held him back a bit at the beginning, as he's faster than me at short distances, but by lap 5 of 7 he was suffering.  We had vowed to stay together, so although it was slightly frustrating- for us both, probably- I stayed with him through walk breaks at that point.  He rallied in the final lap though, and we finished strong in 5:35.  It was a really cool experience to finish hand in hand with my husband!  And the time was good enough for 3rd female as well.

Merrill's Mile: My IT band was a bit sore after the uneven ground of Bad Marsh, and as this race was on gravel I was a bit concerned.  I raced hard for the first 12 hours, managed the heat well, and ended up with about 69 miles in the first half.  But overnight the uneven ground started hurting my knees and IT band.  Knowing this wasn't an "A" race, and I had another race in 2 weeks, I decided to take it easy, and primarily walk.  I knew I could have gotten around 120 miles had I pushed harder, but I think I made the right decision not to risk injury.  I stopped after about 23 hours, with just under 111 miles- good for 1st female and a new course record.  Alec did a great job crewing as always, and he was supportive of my decision to walk.  He also didn't hit me when I spent hours whining that I was lazy and terrible for walking, haha!

Cremator: I was very nervous about running back-to-back races, and expected that day 2 would be much slower no matter what.  So I went out pretty hard on day 1, but tried to keep a bit in the tank so day 2 wouldn't be a complete sufferfest!  I felt really good throughout the day, and finished in about 8:02- 2nd female on day 1.  That night I wore my compression sleeves and elevated my feet on a pillow, which I think helped a lot.  Day 2 was much harder- for starters, it rained heavily at the start so I was wearing wet clothes all day (the chaffing that night literally made me sob!).  Then it got super hot and humid in the 2nd half- I was refilling my water bottle every 2-3 miles just to stay hydrated.  I was pretty miserable by the end, but I still managed a decent finish of about 9:18- 1st female on day 2 and 1st female overall in the double.  Thank God for my crew at this race!  Alec crewed/paced me on day 1, and my friend Kara crewed while Emily paced on day 2- I don't think I could have done it without them!

Homestead: This was a very unique race!  There is a 5K trail loop, and you run it on the hour for 10 hours.  Each lap is timed individually, and they are added up at the end for the final result.  My plan was to run moderately hard but consistently, and count on people going out too fast early on to help me place high.  This worked out pretty well!  All my laps were within 2:30 of each other, and I was very pleased with the consistency given the brutal 102 degree heat (with a 126 heat index!).  Most people did slow down more as the heat worsened, and I found my overall standing rising after every lap.  I finished with around 4:22, good for 3rd female.

Next up is Chase the Sun 12 Hour this Saturday.  I'm trying to just view it as a good training run with friends, and not push myself too hard.  I'd still like to finish in the 60-70 mile range, but we'll see how it goes!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Great Savannah Endurance Challenge

I don't really know where to start with this race report.  My goal for months has been to break 120 miles in the 24 hour and qualify for the national team.  This weekend I broke 133 miles...national team spots go to the top performances so I'm not guaranteed a place, but I have a chance.  I also set a new GA state women's record, and hit new PRs in the 50 mile (7:59), 100K (9:59:15), and 100 mile (17:09).  I should be incredibly excited, but to be honest I'm just numb.  I'm exhausted, as I still haven't been sleeping or eating as much as I should since the race.  Also I'm half-convinced that this didn't really happen, or somehow doesn't really count.  I'll need official confirmation with USATF before I can believe it.  And of course then there's my normal post-race depression/emotional lability.  I'm tempted to wait until it all "sinks in" before writing a race report, but I probably should do it while it's pretty fresh in my here goes!

Saturday morning I got to sleep until past 5am- benefits of actually getting to run an ultra in my own town!  Alec and I got out to Hutchinson Island by 6am and set up my things along with my Lowcountry Ultras buddies, Tim, Bren, and Sara.  Besides having Alec to crew, I also had my friend Katie, who would take over for Alec while he ran his 6-hour race during the night.  On top of that support I had quite a few other friends running and volunteering, which always helps!  I still started crying from nerves before the race started though.

I had a pretty good plan for the race, written down for Alec and Katie.  I knew the slowest part of the day should be from about noon to 6pm, as that would be the hottest time.  Each lap was 2.213 miles (although GPS showed it shorter, that's what USATF certified it at- so I defer to their measurement!), and my number 1 goal was 60 laps- 132.78 miles.  I would attempt 3 laps/hour from 8am-noon, then 2 laps/hour from noon-8pm, 3 laps/hour from 8pm-2am, and the remaining 14 laps in the last 6 hours.  I didn't think it would shape up exactly like that, and I thought it unlikely I'd make the 60 lap goal, but it would be something to shoot for.

I began the race running with Bren.  We started out a bit fast, first mile around a 8:00 pace, but I needed to burn off a bit of adrenaline anyway.  I was feeling good and moving consistently the first few hours, eating a gel every odd hour and some Ensure and bacon (and getting sprayed with sunscreen) at the 2 hour mark.  I even ended up getting an extra lap in those first 4 hours- 13 laps total.

At the 4 hour mark I was around 28 miles, and I hit my first low point of the race.  It had gotten hot and I wasn't able to get food down, and I panicked.  I started crying, convinced I was about to have a repeat of the SC ultra.  Alec talked me down a bit and helped me change into a white long-sleeved shirt and my wide-brimmed hat.  I got a bottle of Tailwind and headed out on a walking lap.  I was feeling nauseated and upset, but Andy walked with me a bit and he's always a welcome distraction!  By the next lap I was running again.

I was dealing well with the heat with my hat and an icy bandanna, and was able to keep eating and moving at a good pace- after 2 laps in hour 5 I was up to 5 laps every 2 hours.  I hit 50 miles at 7:59 in, which was about a 20 minute PR for me and gave me a bit of a boost.  This whole section is a bit of a blur for me- I mainly ran alone during this section, and I just kept moving, eating, applying sunscreen, and soaking my bandanna.  Throughout the day I also alternated a bottle of water with a bottle of Tailwind, drinking a half bottle per lap.

At 9:41 in I watched Bren hit his 100K split, setting a new state record!  At that point I was one lap behind and I decided to book it to try to get 100K under 10 hours.  No real reason but 9:59 sounds better than 10:01 or whatever!  I managed an 18-minute lap to hit the split at 9:59:15.  That was actually a female age group state record as well, although only by default as there was no time on the books for the 18-34 age group!  After that my quads felt a bit sore (the left one still is a little), so I took an easy lap to recover a bit.  

Alec did a spectacular job crewing for me all day, as always- making sure I was eating and drinking, and keeping me cool throughout the heat.  Katie was a great help as well, and she took over more crew duties as it got closer to 8pm.  Alec was running the 6 hour race from 8pm-2am, and as it was his first ultra he was getting a bit nervous as the start approached.

At the halfway point I was in the middle of lap 33, which was ahead of my schedule still, but I wasn't feeling energetic enough to up my pace to 3 laps per hour so I was happy to have a bit of a buffer.  I switched back to my singlet and visor at this point, and grabbed my headlamp as the sun went down.  I kept at my pace of about 5 laps every 2 hours during this section, and Alec zoomed by a few times as well- he burned himself out a little but ended up killing his race with over 37 miles! Katie walked with me a bit too, which was great company.

Keeping to my steady pace I hit my 100 mile split at 17:09, nearly a 2 hour improvement over Delirium- although to be fair I spent quite a few hours just straight walking during that race.  With nearly 7 hours left in the race it was looking more and more like I would make my goal of 120+ miles.  I got a little emotional thinking about that, crying a little and asking people if this was really happening...

With 6 hours to go I needed 14 more laps to make my 60 lap goal, so I needed to push myself just as I was tempted to slow down.  I whittled away at the laps until I only had to do 2 per hour for the last 2 1/2 hours...during the night I was taking occasional walking breaks and still making laps in under 25 minutes, so I was doing fine on time.

In the last few hours I was in a lot of pain.  I could feel a large blister on the ball of my right foot, and every step I took was killer.  Alec did some laps with me and kept me moving, so I kept powering through at a decent pace although I was also crying a little at the same time.  I held it together for a while, although at one point I just broke down at the aid station and let out a wail...I think some of the people around me were really concerned at that point!  I also started getting really hungry for the first time in hours, and enjoyed a warm pancake from the aid station every few laps.

Finally the sun came up, and I had less than 2 hours to go!  I just kept going, trying to block everything out.  At 7am I was mumbling, "just one more hour, 
one more hour" as I limped/jogged around the track.  Just around 7:30am I headed out on lap 60!  I picked up a bit of a posse at the end to get my partial lap after that- Alec, Sara and Katie came out, plus Verity who had come back to see the end of the race.  There were also some Savannah Striders who came out from the bridge run and cheered me on at the end!  I finished the lap and kept going until the end- Verity counted down the last few minutes as I tried to push up the pace to get as many additional meters as I could.  When she yelled "time" I stopped short and didn't move until Dan got there with the measuring wheel for my official distance.  It was finally over, and I knew I had done over 132 miles- I started sobbing as my friends hugged me.

Once the distance had been measured and documented, Bren drove his truck up and gave me a ride back to the start- I pretty much refused to walk any more!  After getting my buckle and getting ready to go I suddenly got really nauseated and lay down on the ground.  I think that freaked Dan out a bit since he had someone come over with a med kit to check my blood pressure and pulse!  But after a couple minutes I hobbled to the car with Sara's help, while Alec packed up the car.  After all that I went home and pretty much just laid down for the rest of the day.

I'm still just exhausted and emotional and confused about the whole race.  I can't believe it happened, and that I did so well.  I have a hard time thinking of myself as a really good runner, but this race result puts me in the top 10-15 women in the country in the 24-hour.  I have a decent chance at making the national team in 2015.  I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around that.  I recognize I'm in a weird emotional place right now, but hopefully I'll be overjoyed about the race once everything settles back to normal...

I am so thankful to have such amazingly supportive runner friends- there is no way I would have run so well without their help.  I definitely don't think it's a coincidence that I've had my best races while surrounded by my Lowcountry Ultras family.  And of course I am so grateful for my amazing husband...he's gotten really good at this whole crewing thing!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Crewing Fort Clinch

On April 26th I was crew chief for my good friend Sara while she ran the Fort Clinch 100 Mile on Amelia Island in Florida.  It wasn't my first time crewing- I had crewed and paced for my friend Kara at the Mad Marsh 50K.  Not to take anything away from racing a 50K, but a 100 mile is a whole new ultrarunning beast, and crewing for a race that lasts over 24 hours is also a whole new experience!  It helped that my husband Alec was there as well, crewing our friend Bren...since Alec is quite experienced crewing me he was able to impart some of his "crewing rules".  Also at our crewing base camp were Katie (crewing Masumi), and Robert (just generally helping out).

Sara and Bren had planned on running a similar pace, and they actually ended up running the entire race together (all 25 1/2 hours of it!).  This ended up being very convenient- not only were Alec and I able to spend time together between crew duties, it allowed him to pace both Sara and Bren at night.  I was all ready to pace Sara, but within a few miles on the trail I began getting horrible shin splints in my left leg.  I had been feeling fine all week, but I guess the uneven terrain 5 days post-Boston was a bit too much.  I still managed to pace about 13 miles, but I felt guilty I couldn't do more.  But Alec stepped up and paced 35 miles with our friends- a good 8 miles more than he had ever covered before.  So it all worked out.

Basically I saw Sara every 10 miles, filled her bottle (Tailwind at first, and Gatorade later on), gave her several gels, and sprayed her with sunscreen.  When needed I made sure she was eating more food, gave her a icy bandanna, and helped her change clothes.  I also tried to encourage her and keep her spirits up during the tough times.  Afterwards Sara said I really helped her, but honestly I didn't feel like I had to do all that much!  In general, things went very smoothly, and Sara had a great race.  She had a few low points but was never as whiny as I know I've been during ultras ;)

In the end, Sara and Bren crossed the finish line hand-in-hand, which really says so much about the wonderful attitude you see in ultrarunning!  Sara was the 1st female, and Bren was 5th male.  Having gotten in one full lap of the course I can say it was not an easy race!  It also got very hot during the day, and much of the course was exposed to the sun.  I was so proud of how well Sara did- as I said, I didn't have to do much to keep her going!  Obviously I still prefer running ultras to crewing them, but I had a great time, and would definitely do it again.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Boston Marathon

It's been a busy past few weeks, so I'm just now getting the chance to write this post.  To sum it up: Boston was an incredible experience, and I don't think I could have run a better race!  I finished in 3:19:13- a marathon PR by over 5 minutes, my fastest and slowest 5k splits were only 1:05 apart, and the second half was a half marathon PR.  This on a warm sunny day, on a hilly course, having raced 2 24-hour races in the past 2 1/2 months.  I'm normally super hard on myself, but I am stoked about my performance- the fact that it was the 2014 Boston Marathon makes it even more special!

If you have the time to read it, here's the detailed recap:

I woke early Sunday morning for my flight to Boston and arrived there around noon.  My parents met me at the airport and I headed to packet pickup.  It was really crowded and overwhelming- when the number of people at a race scares you more than the actual race, you might be an ultrarunner!  Since it was the last day of the race expo, most small sizes of clothes were gone, and they were out of XS race shirts (even though I had registered for that size, people had been allowed to trade, so I was stuck with a S).  A very small issue in the scheme of things, although given the small size of your typical marathoner I think the BAA should have seen this coming!

By the time I had my race number and met back up with my parents it was mid-afternoon, and I just wanted to figure out dinner plans, do an easy 3-mile run, and settle down in our hotel.  I had my first race-induced meltdown when I realized every Chipotle in Boston was closed for Easter.  With all the traffic in Boston I was super stressed so I asked that we just go to the hotel in Braintree, where I could calm myself down with a treadmill run, and worry about food

later.  I'm sorry to say my nerves made me snap at my parents a few times pre-race, despite their awesome support.  After my run I was much more relaxed, and my parents found a Brasilian steakhouse nearby that had carry out.  I picked up several cuts of beef, ham, turkey, bacon, and some tasty veg- this paleo runner could not have been happier!

I got a decent night's sleep, and after a brief Dunkin stop we headed for the bus pickup in Boston.  I had another meltdown when my dad, who was driving, got a little lost on the way...once again, so sorry Dadums!  When we got downtown, I asked a policeman if we were close.  When he said we were, I said goodbye to my parents, got out of the car and started walking.  I wasn't exactly sure where I was going, and meltdown #3 occurred when the volunteer I questioned was even less informed about the buses than I was.  Luckily I bumped into a couple
 of runners and followed them to the buses before my tears got too out of control.

I boarded my bus at 7:30, and sat down next to a woman named Claire from Ottawa, Canada.  I enjoyed talking to her on the hour long ride, and she invited me to wait with her two friends until we entered the corrals around 10.  I had a great time just hanging out with them, and I think it helped me relax more too.  It was just that kind of atmosphere- we were all soon-to-be friends, and no one was really alone!  It definitely made the crowd of thousands at Hopkinton less overwhelming.  

When it was time to go, I discarded my Goodwill fleece, shoved a bunch of gels in my sports bra (the plan was one every 5 miles), and lined up with Claire in corral 5 of wave 2.  We were packed in tight and it still didn't quite seem like I was finally about to run the Boston Marathon, 16 months after qualifying.  When
 the signal came for our wave to start it took about three minutes for me to cross the starting timing pad, but then I was off!  I had heard that people go out too fast in the first few downhill miles, but being in the middle of my wave I feared the opposite.  I think many people came to enjoy themselves, not to race, so I 
had to stick to the outer edges of the road and pass a lot of runners to keep to my goal pace.  I tried not to bump into anyone, but there were a few times 
I needed to make some pretty sharp cuts to avoid getting stuck (thanks rugby training!).

From the very beginning there were spectators lining the streets- whole families, the children with their arms out to get high fives from as many runners as they could.  And looking downhill a sea of runners filling the road as far as I could see.  It was a bit scary, but incredibly moving as well!  I hit the first 5k 
mark at just under 24 minutes- perfect for my goal of sub-8 with a bit of buffer. Immediately after I had to skid off the course to tie my shoe- luckily they stayed tied after that, although I glanced down periodically to check.  Around mile 8 (I
think...the race is a bit of a blur) we passed through the main street of Natlick- one of the most moving parts of the race for me.  It was a tunnel of noisy, 
joyous spectators, some holding signs saying "Today, you're the heroes!"...and at that moment, it felt like I was.  I got a bit choked up there.

I maintained my splits, and passed the halfway mark at just over 1:40, which was almost the same as Jacksonville, and perfect for my goals.  But I was starting to feel a little fatigued, and it was now past noon, and getting hot.  I also knew there were some big hills coming up, and I didn't know how much they might slow me down.  I had been sticking to my plan of a gel every 5 miles, and water at each station, but now I began drinking a few sips and 
pouring what was left over my head and the back of my neck.  That felt great!

The hills began around mile 15, and I reminded myself to take small quick steps on the uphill, and relax into the downhill to use it as a bit of a recovery.  
Glancing at my Garmin showed I was keeping to my sub-8 pace even going uphill, and seeing all the runners I was passing gave me a morale boost as well. Just before 25k I looked ahead and saw my good friend Kelly- she has a prosthetic leg and races in the mobility impaired division (which starts early), so I knew there was a chance I would see her as I passed by.  That gave me a huge boost as I yelled "Kelllllllyyyy!", while she turned and we raised our hands to each other :)

Throughout the second half I just kept taking it one mile at a time, and once I passed Heartbreak Hill (which was honestly not that bad and kind of anti-climatic
) I knew I could start counting down to the end.  I actually enjoyed the second half more despite the heat and hills- the hills switched up the course and kept things interesting, and the runners had spread out enough where I didn't feel overwhelmed.  

Once I got to 35k I realized there was a very good chance I would PR- the hills had barely slowed me down.  I had scented the barn and was hauling my butt home!  The 35-40k was my fastest 5k of the race, 22:57.  By 40k, I knew I had a shot at breaking 3:20, if I could maintain my pace.  By this point the crowd was bigger than ever, and although I blocked them out a bit to stay focused, all the energy pushed me even harder through my fatigue.  At the 25 mile mark I rounded the corner and heard "Lara!!!!!" mom isn't exactly known for being quiet, and her voice cut right through the crowd!  I couldn't slow down enough to see my parents, but I did turn slightly and wave.  It made me so happy to know they were there cheering for me.

At 1k to go we passed under a little overpass- at that point nothing was going to stop me.  I turned onto the home stretch and I could see the finish line!  My legs were definitely feeling the burn but I pushed as hard as I could until I crossed the finish.  I started gasping and crying a bit then, it was such an emotional time.  I saw a stranger crying and yelling as he finished...I don't even know if he spoke English, but I put my arm around him, said "You did great", and we hugged.  I don't know if I've ever experienced such a feeling of coming together with thousands of "strangers", who weren't really strangers at all.  At that point I still wasn't sure of my finish time; since I crossed the timing mat after the start of the wave, the clock wasn't accurate for my chip time.  But I knew I had PR'd, run a great race, and been part of an amazing experience.

After the race I met up with my parents and we walked to their car.  I had my medal on and was wrapped in a Boston Marathon space blanket, so almost everyone who we passed congratulated me.  It was pretty surreal.  I was hoping to meet up with an old college friend who lived downtown (and use his shower!), but the road blocks made everything so complicated that I ended up just going straight to the airport.  I did at least change clothes in the bathroom, but it still wasn't too pleasant.  With a little time to kill I treated myself to a beer at the airport bar, and chatted with a few people there.  One of them then bought me a second drink, so I was feeling pretty good by time I boarded my flight!  

I didn't get home until after midnight Monday- I had only been in Boston for about 30 hours, but it was more than worth it.  I had thought I would only run the Boston Marathon once, but after such a great experience, and since I'm already re-qualified, I'm pretty sure I'll be back next year.  Plus, my brother just ran a 3:03 marathon, so it looks my parents can go cheer for both their children next year!  I definitely plan to schedule things so I have a good 3-4 days to enjoy Boston next time though :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Boston Training

In 6 days I will be running the Boston Marathon!  I recovered from the South Carolina track race quicker than expected- I feel like every 100+ mile race I run I bounce back faster.  Physically, at least- I was able to run 5 miles the day after the race but I was an emotional mess for days after!  After that first week I ran 50+ miles the next two weeks.  I incorporated speedwork, lactic threshold runs, and hill work (in the Low Country, that means bridge repeats!).  This past week I tapered down to about 40 miles, and I started back at Bikram yoga for crosstraining.  I only plan to run about 10-15 miles this last week, so I can go into the marathon with fresh legs.  Right now I am feeling pretty good, although my back's been a bit sore, and I've been having trouble sleeping- I have chronic insomnia that comes and goes, and unfortunately it's on an upswing.  But my legs feel good, and I haven't had any trouble hitting the paces I want on my runs.  I'm not expecting anything spectacular next week; it's only my third road marathon and I haven't been specifically training for it.  Looking at my "3-tier" goals, my A goal for this race is to finish sub-3:30, B is to re-qualify for Boston (under 3:35), and C is just enjoy the experience of running such an historic race!  I know plenty of people who train for years to qualify for Boston, and I'm very lucky to have the opportunity to run there- I plan on making the most of it however I can.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

South Carolina 24 Hour: Sometimes it Just Isn't Your Day

Well.  This is difficult for me to write, as I'm still really emotional about the race.  I got off plan within a few hours, and my race was pretty much shot at that point.  The first couple of hours felt great- I was running well and racking up the miles.  But after about 3 hours (1 pm) it started getting hot.  Very hot.  I'm guessing high 70s, which combined with bright sun on a blacktop track started doing a number on me.  First I got a stitch in my side that wouldn't go away.  I kept running but it was painful.  Then the pain moved higher up, just under my left ribcage, and I could feel the pulsation of my heart which really freaked me out and made it difficult to breathe deeply.  Kelley Wells and Joe Fejes were there to help, and gave me a wet towel and helped calm me down.  So that crisis was averted, but then things got worse...

I ate a piece of bacon and sweet potato at around 2 hours in, but that was the last solid food I could keep down for a very long time.  I lost my appetite and could only take in ginger ale and slushee.  At first I was able to keep going, but before long the lack of calories started catching up to me.  I kept walking but I just couldn't get running again.  I knew I had lost my chance at the team so I was really emotional...I kept crying and apologizing to everyone for letting them down.  I talked to Alec and Ray K and decided to at least give it until dark to see if I could pull it together a bit once it was cooler.  At about 9-10 hours in the sun went down and I did start running again.  But as I still wasn't eating I could only keep that up for about an hour.  At 11 hours in I was only at around 50 miles- I was supposed to be at 70!  I came very close to leaving, but at Ray's suggestion I decided to lay down for a little over an hour, then try to eat and run again- at least that way I might get a 2nd "training run" in in the morning, avoiding the experience being a total waste.

I laid down from 11 hours in until 12.5 hours in, then attempted to eat a chik-fil-a sandwich...and suddenly I could!  It was almost miraculous.  I put on some warmer clothes and headed back out for the last 11.5 hours.  I continued to run at close to a 5mph pace the rest of the race, which made it the fastest "back half" of a 24 hour I've done yet.  I managed to keep my emotions at bay while running, just trying to enjoy a strong 2nd half and think of it as a "100 mile training run" as opposed to a disappointing race.  I tried to concentrate on the positives.  I got to meet and talk to some amazing runners, and see incredible performances- new 200k records for male and female, plus 2 women and one man made the national team.  Although I was disappointed in my own performance, those runners were a joy to watch and they deserved all the accolades!

When all was said and done I ran about 52.5 miles in the first 11 hours, and 56 miles in the last 11.5 hours, with a total of 108.819 miles.  I am trying not to be too hard on myself, as I am still learning this whole 24-hour thing, and I am at least proud of myself for coming back strong in the 2nd half.  I know even the best runners have a bad race, but it's hard knowing that if I had been able to run my first half like I did at Delirium I would be on the team right now.  I also can't help wondering if I had tried laying down earlier in the race, whether I would have had time to come back and salvage my performance...but there's no way to know.  In any case I learned something that could be valuable in the future, and I proved to myself I can finish a race strongly, running consistently even in the last hours.  That was my "attainable" goal going in, so at least I made one of my 3 goals!

I know my endocrine system is highly screwy right now thanks to running for 24 hours, so I'm very up and down emotionally.  Intellectually I know I have a few chances this year to make the 2015 team, and as I'm still young and new to running I'll have many more chances after that as well...but I'm really paranoid that I lost out on my best chance.  What if next time I would need 133 miles to make the team instead of 123?  What if I never improve enough to get to that level?  I know I'm being silly, that my training has been haphazard and with good coaching I have a lot of potential to improve.  But it's one thing to know something in your head and another to believe it in your heart.  All I can do right now is remind myself that it's my screwy hormones making me feel this way, not reality.  And once my body recovers my number one priority is training to make the 24 hour team in 2015- I am far too stubborn to give up on my dream after one disappointment!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pre-Race Jitters

Oops, I haven't posted since my Delirium recap!  It's been crazy over the last few weeks with schoolwork, but I expect things to ease up a little now.  Two weeks after Delirium I raced a local 5k, which didn't go too well.  I went out faster than I'm used to only to be forced to stop and stretch when my calves cramped up.  I ended up with a time of 22:43, although I know I should be capable of a much faster time.  Once again, proof that I need to focus more on speed!

This weekend is the South Carolina 24H track race, and I am more nervous than I've ever been before race day.  The race is certified, and intended to be a last chance qualifier for the national team.  So although I'm one of only about 20 competitors, the quality of runner is incredible.  One woman has already qualified for the team, and the rest are all capable of it on a good day.  I looked them all up when I saw the entrants list, which may have been a mistake, since I'm so intimidated...then again, I always prefer to be prepared.  As far as the men go, they're not my competition but it's still crazy to think I'll be running in the same race as the US 100-mile record holder!

Basically, I look at the list of women with myself included and think, "one of these things is not like the others".  I don't feel as if I belong with runners of that caliber, although I'm trying to become more confident in my abilities.  As always, I'm trying to just focus on my own race strategy and not worry about the other runners.  It's also important to keep reminding myself that this race isn't my last opportunity.  I will be running as many as 3 more certified 24-hour races in 2014, so if nothing else I hope to learn from this weekend in order to improve in future races!  

I've heard it's smart to go into a race with 3 goals: one that is attainable no matter what, one that is challenging but quite possible, and one that reaches for the stars.  So my goals for this weekend are: 1- reduce walking time and continue running, at least in short bursts, even at the final hours of the race. 2- cover 120+ miles to reach women's qualifying standard. and 3- beat enough of the women to be selected for the national team...since goal 3 depends on the performances of others and isn't within my control, I will add: or cover 125+ miles (which, on current results, would be sufficient to make the team).  So, good, better, and best- I'll see in just a few days which of these goals will be met!  And I'll keep reminding myself there's always a next time...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Delirium 24 Hour

On February 8th I ran the Delirium 24 Hour race in Ridgeland, South Carolina.  I went in feeling undertrained and unprepared, as I feel before all my races.  I've been called a "sandbagger" as I usually predict a worse race result than I actually get.  But really it's just in my nature to worry, and I would rather be pleasantly surprised than disappointed.  Also, my taper combined with an annoying virus sapped my confidence a bit, and the end result was I was unsure I could make my goal of 110+ miles.  

As it turns out, I needn't have worried- I ended up with 115.26 miles, placing me at 1st female and 3rd overall!

My race plan was based on my "reach goal" of 120 miles.  I'm still new to 24 hour races, so I knew I needed to expect a significant slowdown overnight.  With each lap being 1.695 miles, I would try for 7 laps every 2 hours for the first 12 hours, then move to 5 laps every 2 hours in the last 12 hours.  That would give me just over 122 miles.  I started out in a group with Sara, Emily, and Bren, running just under a 9:00 pace- a bit faster than I had planned.  The end result was 8 laps in the first 2 hours instead of 7, which gave me a bit of a buffer.  I slowed down a bit after that, but still kept to an overall 10:00 pace, reaching 50 miles at 8:20 (a new pr for me!).

Everything was going well.  Although parts of the trail were very muddy, the rain stopped after about 4 hours and the sun came out and made everything more pleasant.  I had a bit of I.T. band pain early on, but I took an ibuprofen and had Alec roll my leg out with my stick, and was able to get past it.  For the first time in several races I had no stomach issues either.  I was drinking water or coke every few laps, and eating some bacon or occasional vanilla Ensure.

At the 12 hour point I had completed 41 laps, just over 69 miles.  I took a slightly longer break to enjoy a carrot cake cupcake my friend Kara had brought me for my birthday, and asked Alec to join me for a lap or two.  That's when I hit the low point of my race.  During that lap, I suddenly got a sharp stabbing pain on the top of my right foot.  I had never felt anything like it, and it was bad enough to make me cry out.  I slowed to a walk and was okay, but as soon as I tried to run again the pain stopped me in my tracks.  I didn't want to push through the pain in case it was a stress fracture- I have some important races coming up and I can't afford to be sidelined long-term.

Power-walking with Alec I was still able to get 2 laps per hour, which meant I could still get 105-110 miles by the end, but I hated the idea of just walking all night.  Plus I had been having such an amazing race up til then.  My muscles weren't too fatigued and I had plenty of energy to run, so it was awful to be held back- I was so angry and frustrated I cried!  After 3 hours of walking we came across Ray "the K" and I told him the situation.  He recommended I re-lace my shoe to skip the area that was hurting.  It wasn't anything I would have ever thought of, but I was definitely going to give it a try.  Immediately, it was like night and day- for the next four hours I was back to running the 3 laps per hour I had done 10 hours ago!  My race was back on.

I reached 100 miles at 19:02 (huge pr for me!).  Although my foot was worlds better after the re-lacing, it began to ache again.  I knew I could walk the last 5 hours and still break 115 miles, so I decided to stick to that and avoid aggravating whatever soft tissue issue was happening with my foot.  Kara walked with me for the next few hours, and I really enjoyed the company at that hour.  Once the sky started to lighten I went back to walking the last few laps on my own.  I finished lap 68, 115.26 miles with over 23 minutes to go.  I knew I had time for one more lap, but I was 15 miles ahead of the next female, and I was ready to call it a day!

In the end, there were 70 24-hour runners, 12 of whom got their 100-mile buckle.  This includes some great Lowcountry friends of mine who reached their first-ever 100- so proud of Sara, Bren, Andrew, and Masumi!  In addition, this was overall winner Robert's first 24-hour race, and he finished with just over 120 miles!  And although they didn't all buckle, almost all of my other friends reached new distance PRs as well!  Given the rain and mud, that says so much about their determination.

I ran Delirium on my birthday, and I couldn't ask for a better celebration.  I got to spend all day and night with some of my favorite people!  I can't even explain how much it means to me to be part of this amazing running community.  Between volunteers, runners, and crewers, everyone is so incredibly supportive.  Special thanks to my husband, Alec, for crewing and walking with me, and my friend Kara who did the same.  On top of the super fun time, I ended up with an amazing race as well.  Despite 7 solid hours of just walking, I passed 115 miles in just under 23:37.  Under better conditions, such as pavement or a track, I have no doubt I could run an additional 5-10 miles.  

Due to my pessimism and fear of "jinxing" myself, I tend to be hesitant to really talk about my running goals.  But I have a bit more confidence after this race, so I will now admit my major goal is to qualify for the national 24-hour team.  For women, this requires a minimum of 120 miles in a certified 24-hour race, and the top 6 overall performances are chosen for the team.  I really believe I'm capable of this- it's a matter of time and experience, but I think it's a result I can get in the next few years!  Going forward, I plan to focus on speedwork and running while fatigued.  I think this will allow me to maintain more even splits for the second half of a 24-hour race.  I'm not sure exactly what results I'm capable of, but I believe I've been given a certain amount of talent, and it's my job to live up to that potential.  Right now I'm dealing with a certain amount of soft tissue pain so I'll be taking it easy for the next 1-2 weeks, but I can't wait to see what I can accomplish in the future!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Altra Ambassador

I'm proud to say I was chosen to be an ambassador for Altra Zero Drop shoes in 2014!  I had never heard of the brand before winning a pair at Iron Horse Endurance Runs 100K last February.  I delayed a bit in ordering them, but finally got my Altra Intuition 1.5 in May.  They felt comfortable right out of the box for a 6 mile run, although I was still a bit skeptical.  The zero drop didn't stand out too much to me, as my previous shoes were only a 4mm drop, but the wide toe box felt a bit odd on my relatively narrow feet.  However, the next week I was doing a 24-hour run to raise money for the Challenged Athlete's Foundation, and I thought the Altras would feel great after my feet began to swell.  I wore them for 11 hours/38 miles and was very happy with them, so I decided to keep running in Altras.  Over time, rather than feeling odd, I realized how much more natural and comfortable it felt to actually be able to spread my toes in my shoes as I ran!  Although Altras have a relatively high stack height compared to other zero drop shoes, they are thin enough to give you some ground feel with your toes.  I think it's the perfect balance!  Last summer I bought a pair of Lone Peaks to use for my trail races, and I have been running solely- no pun intended- in Altras ever since!  I'd highly recommend the brand to any runner, although people coming from a more traditional shoe should transition slowly to any zero drop to avoid straining the calves and achilles.  For anyone reading, I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have about running in Altras :)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sickness and Taper

The past few weeks have been crazy.  I started a new semester of school which really kept me busy, and although I got a few good night runs and speedwork in, I had to scale back my training a bit.  Hopefully as I adjust to my new classes and schedule I can commit more time to training.  On the plus side, I've started going to Bikram yoga regularly, and I'm really enjoying it.  It's got to be good conditioning for hot-weather running, and I think it's helping my strength and recovery as well.  I'm not sure if I can afford it once my intro rates expire, but perhaps I can swing it as a once-a-week type thing!

Then about a week ago I got sick.  Nothing super serious, and at least it coincided with my taper for Delirium- but with only 6 days pre-race I'm worried I won't be recovered enough to run my best at Delirium.  It started with a sore throat, then progressed to chest congestion, and now chest congestion and a cough.  I'm hoping this virus is on its way out, since when I get sick a cough is often the final symptom before I recover.  In any case I've been drinking a lot of tea and generally being lazy, which makes me feel bad about my training but is probably for the best.  I've mainly just been walking, doing core work, and an occasional Bikram class.  I think I'm taking all the right steps to recover, so it's really out of my hands.  I'll just hope for the best, and do what I can at Delirium.  After all, it's only February, and I've got plenty of races coming up this year where I can really bring my A-game!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Charleston Fatass 50

Well, January is off to a strong start!  On New Year's Day I finished up my vacation with a great 20 miler in DC- a steady 9:00 pace for 15 miles and a speedier 8:15 pace for the last five.  After driving home on the 2nd, I ran a three-mile progression on the 3rd before heading up to Charleston for the Fatass 50 Mile on January 4th.  I stayed over with my friend Masumi and his girlfriend Katie, who live only four miles from the start of the run.  Masumi would be running with me, while Katie was kind enough to offer us aid from her car as she met up with us at different points.

We headed out at 5:30 am, waiting in the car until nearly 6 as it was windy and barely more than 20 degrees- actually far worse than the weather in DC while I was there!  My plan was to maintain about a 10:00 overall pace for as long as I could, hopefully all 50 miles.  There were probably about 20 runners, but only a handful of us were planning on running the full 50 miles.  At 6 am we were off!  I began running with Masumi and Robert, a very fast local who only had time for an easy 20 mile training run.  The first few miles took us into a trail in the dark, where our overall pace was about 10:00, but we soon sped up.  Next came the first (and biggest) of many bridges that day- it was horribly windy and cold, and I was grateful to be wearing my fleece, hat, and gloves.  I was having a good time chatting with Masumi and Robert, who was pushing the pace a bit closer to 9:00 than 10:00, but I felt great so I rolled with it!

After heading back across the bridge we got back to the start and met up with Katie at about 14.5 miles.  I dropped off my headlamp and took a quick bathroom stop.  We also came across the run organizer, Brett, who was driving around with his daughter offering aid as well- the Honey Stingers he gave me over the next few hours were a huge help!

As this was only the second time I'd been to Charleston, my sense of direction wasn't the best.  I mainly just followed the arrows painted on the road, so I can't describe the route very well.  We headed over another bridge, and I waited for Masumi at a bathroom stop.  After 20 miles Robert had to leave, and I continued on with Masumi.  Around 25 miles in, I started pulling ahead of Masumi, although I hadn't increased my ~9:30 pace.  I slowed down a bit and found out his I.T. band was beginning to hurt.  We met up with Katie around 27 miles, and took a short break so Masumi could use my stick to roll out his leg a bit.  The next stretch would be a long, low bridge up to the 50k point, and Masumi decided to see how he felt at that point, to decide whether to continue.

I pulled ahead of Masumi on the bridge (which seemed to last forever), and met up with Katie and Brett on the other side.  I waited a few minutes for Masumi, but as I suspected he would be stopping at 50k I made the turn around and headed back.  When I passed him he confirmed he would be stopping, and with that I was apparently the only person running 50 miles!  I knew once I got back over the bridge I'd only have about 16 miles left, so I felt pretty good about the situation.  I had been pausing my Garmin at stops, and with my overall running time was on track to finish in under 8 hours.

Brett had given me some basic directions, but I was glad to see him and his daughter every few miles to confirm I had it right- after 6+ hours of running in a strange city I couldn't trust my ability to stay on course!  I was told that due to the high tide a small section of beach running was cut off, so I'd probably have to make up a bit of distance at the end to make it an even 50 miles.  After a few more miles (maybe around the 40 mile mark), I saw Katie and Masumi again.  He had showered and changed, and they were now both supporting me to the finish.  Around 44 miles in I suddenly started to feel light headed.  I had been hydrating and eating so I still don't know exactly what the issue was. I stopped to talk to Katie, Masumi, and Brett, who told me the next few miles would take me out onto a causeway and back.  Given the wind on the causeway and my dizziness, I decided to modify the course a bit, just in case that combination pushed me into traffic!  Brett was fine with this as no one else was running the 50 mile course.  In any case with less than 6 miles to go I was absolutely not stopping.

The next few miles were pretty funny.  We were on side streets with almost no traffic, so Katie drove along with me- looking like a bit of a creeper at 6 mph!  But I really appreciated her concern and wanting to look out for me.  At about 47 miles I told Katie and Masumi the route I would take around the neighborhood for the last three miles, and they drove off to wait for me there.  I was still feeling a bit dizzy, but having no trouble running the same ~9:30 pace as before!

As I came up on Katie and Masumi, I realized I was short a few tenths of a mile, so I turned around to re-run the last block (as Masumi was about to take a picture of me finishing- must have looked pretty silly!).  Finally I sprinted in to stop my watch at exactly 50 miles- just over 7:51 on my watch.  However, to count this as an "event" rather than just training, I'm calling the time 8:43, which was the elapsed time since the 6 am start.  After all, in a race no one will call a time out so I can take a break! The elapsed time was a bit past my goal of 10:00 pace, but I'm not concerned.  I was able to run consistently throughout the day, and while in a race I would have also stopped for a bathroom break, I would not have stopped to wait for a friend, so the breaks would have been shorter and less frequent. Overall I was super happy with this run!  I had a great time despite the cold and wind, and I felt great and ran consistently.  Definitely feeling confident with less than a month until Delirium!