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!