Wednesday, April 29, 2015

C&O Canal 100- DNF

Unfortunately despite a great start I ended up with a DNF at the C&O Canal 100 last weekend. On the plus side, other than slightly sore quads I seemed to have no issues stemming from my marathon only 5 days prior, which I think bodes well for my endurance capabilities at Spartathlon, my priority race in 2015.

I planned on starting the race with sub-10 minute miles and gradually slowing down. But I felt a lot better than I expected, so I just held a comfortable pace, which turned out to be around 8:30. I was having a really good time, listening to music and cruising through my first 50k in about 4 1/2 hours. After that I slowed down a little but still kept around a 9:30 pace.

The weather was cloudy and chilly, so I wore my gloves and fleece and never really warmed up. This would eventually cause problems but during the day it was nice, and I had no stomach issues as I sometimes do in the heat. I fueled consistently with Tailwind, with some salted potatoes or candy to supplement every other hour or so.

I passed through 50 miles in 7:36- a new pr for me and about an hour ahead of what I had expected. I was still feeling good, and after 8 hours I settled into a slower pace that I thought I could comfortably maintain until the end of the race- about 11:00. I made it up the one real climb and back to the start/finish for mile 59, then turned around to head back down, thinking happily that I would next see that hill on my last half mile to the finish. That didn't happen.

Around mile 65 I started feeling off. I was still maintaining my slow jog and moving well, but I began coughing a bit and it threw off my breathing. By time I made it to the mile 69 aid station and my drop bag, I was at a real low point and in tears. It had started to rain as well, which didn't help my mood. I was only 11 1/2 hours in and first lady by a significant margin, but I felt my race was going downhill. I changed my shirt and replaced my fleece with a lined windbreaker and grabbed my headlamp- it would be dark in the next hour or so.

I continued on toward the turnaround, telling myself to just keep moving for the last 50k. I put my headlamp around my chest instead of my forehead, and I found the light a lot less disorienting this way (I hate headlamps), so that was good. But the rain started coming down harder, and with the dark came a big drop in temperature- I could see my breath and my cough/breathing got worse. Around 75 miles in I had to switch to run/walk intervals- .3 mile run/.2 mile walk. I was able to keep around a 13:30 pace this way, but I found myself gasping for breath at the end of every run interval- not good!

I was really upset when I got to the turnaround at mile 80. At this point I was having no fun at all shuffling along in the cold rain, and I had felt too nauseated to eat for a couple of hours and was drinking less Tailwind, so I was getting lightheaded from lack of calories. I picked up some Swedish fish, which was about all that sounded appetizing at the time, knowing I would have over 6 miles until the next aid station. I started feeling a little confused- not able to speak quite coherently, and freaking out over losing my glove, having no memory of putting it in my pocket a minute earlier.

About 2 miles after leaving the turnaround things got really bad. I was gasping and coughing after my run intervals, and began shaking from cold. I still had a bit over 4 miles to the aid station, which seemed like forever. The heavy rain had created some nasty puddles by this time, and now I had wet feet on top of soaked everything else- it was freezing! I kept telling myself to just get to that aid station...I had no intention of dropping, but I figured once I was there something could be done to help- although I wasn't really sure what.

Finally (15:15 into the race) I arrived at the aid station in tears, yelling that I was freezing and needed help. The volunteers were great- they got me out of the rain, and gathered up some dry clothes amongst them and helped me change. I sat down and was wrapped up in 2 sleeping bags...but I was still shaking and unbearably cold. I was crying as I tried to decide what to do. I don't believe in DNFs as a rule, and I had enough time to walk the last 14 miles and still finish in under 20 hours. But I just couldn't warm up. I hadn't really been warm while running 8:30 pace miles while dry- what were the odds I could warm up run/walking 13:30 miles in the rain? One of the volunteers asked me a few questions and determined that I wasn't too confused to be pulled from the course, so it was my decision whether to continue. I just cried and begged someone to tell me what to do! I felt like I should keep going- I had been doing so well and I didn't want to quit now...but the thought of going back into the cold was unbearable, and I was scared of being alone on the trail if I got worse. If I became disoriented it could be an hour before I came across anyone. Finally I gave in- I told everyone I was done.

I finally felt warm when I got into a heated car to head back to the start/finish, but I felt numb from exhaustion and disappointment. It felt like a failure, although I thought (and still think) I made the smart decision. Maybe I would have been fine had I continued- but I could have become severely hypothermic as well, and there was no way to know which it would be. After I got back I found out my friend Stephanie had dropped at mile 66 for similar reasons, and there were multiple people being driven back all night after DNFing. As it turned out, only 69 people finished, while well over 100 started. And had I not dropped, I would have been the top female finisher by hours even at a walking pace- that was a bit of a bitter pill. 

In the end, although I feel a bit like a failure for getting a DNF, I'm glad no damage was done. I picked up a little chest congestion overnight, but it is possible I could have become really sick had I continued. I now know I can easily run a sub-8 hour 50 mile even on tired legs, so I shouldn't have too much trouble with the Spartathlon cutoffs. With better weather I know I could win a 100 mile race, and I know I can race well without a crew or pacer. Three days later, my legs are heavy but I'm able to get back to training. Next up is Old Dominion 100- I'll need to put in a lot of hill/trail training for that one, but at least the chance of hypothermia in June is pretty low!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Boston Marathon

Well it wasn't quite the race I wanted, but I'm pretty happy given the circumstances! I wanted to break 3:15, but I ended up with 3:17:58- still a PR by 1 minute 15 seconds, and given the lousy weather, I'm pretty sure I could go under 3:15 on a nice day :)

When I saw the weather forecast I was really upset- rain, 25mph wind, and highs in the low 40s- I thought my race was over before it began. I tried to remind myself that I couldn't change the weather, so I should just give it my best and not be too concerned with the result. Easier said than done, of course! I was still feeling depressed about it.

On race morning I ate my protein bar and some coffee, then my brother and I took the T to Boston Common. We split up when he went to bag check- he would be in wave 1 while I was in wave 2, so we wouldn't see each other again until after the race. I was wearing a few throwaway layers over my race clothes but I was still freezing! After the bus took me to Hopkinton I still had hours to wait, so I huddled under the tent with hundreds of others as it began to rain :(

Finally it was time to get to the corrals! I was nervous but looking forward to running- at least then I could warm up. I tossed my layers- I'd be running in a racing skirt, singlet, visor, arm sleeves, and fingerless gloves I jury-rigged from a pair of socks. I knew I'd be freezing after I finished (and perhaps during), but I figured I could suck it up for a few hours.

I started out a bit under pace, but made sure not to push my legs too much on the early downhills. This was my strategy last year and it paid off with even splits and a negative split overall- however this year would be much different! I was trying for 23 minute 5k splits, and came through the first one in 22:44 feeling good! The rain was still light at that point, and not too windy. The crowds were much thinner than last year, and although I kept my pace even through the 10k mark I was feeling a little let down. But I certainly don't blame the locals for staying inside as the rain and wind started to pick up! 

Around 10 miles in I started feeling tired. My legs felt a little heavy, and it was just a bit of a low point for me. I knew I had begun to slow down, although 3:15 was still within reach. I tried to remind myself to enjoy the race, so even if my time wasn't good I'd still have a good experience. Again, easier said than done!

I came through the half in 1:36:15- about 1 minute ahead of schedule but still slowing down slightly. However, my mood improved as that was a big half marathon split PR for me- I told myself that even if nothing else went well at least I'd have that new PR! 

Then I got to Newton and the hills. Last year I powered up them, a little slower but not terribly so. This year, the weather battered me back. By this point I was drenched, and the headwind was made worse by the way the course opened up in the second half. Later on I checked my splits to find mile 21 was the slowest of the race, and I was not surprised. However, once I got past Heartbreak Hill I knew the worst was behind me, so I was able to pick my pace back up a little. I reminded myself I still had about 5 miles to go, so I needed to hold a good pace but not go all out just yet. My legs felt right on the edge and I doubted I could break 3:15, but a PR was still possible if I could keep 7:30s for the last few miles.

Once I passed mile marker 23 I pushed a little harder going into the final 5K. Just past mile 25 I heard my mom yell and was able to quickly turn and wave toward her, and my dad got a picture of me. It's a bit blurred you can see my grin- the one and only time I think I smiled all race- I knew I would be done in just over a mile!

Right after passing the sign "1 mile to go" I glanced at my watch and figured I'd only need a 9:00 final mile to PR. Then I started feeling weird. My throat felt tight, breathing got tougher, and I felt dizzy. I told myself, "oh, hell no!"- I was not about to stop so close to finishing my second Boston Marathon with a new PR! I would push through, but unlike last year I didn't have much left to kick with at the end. The wind was awful downtown, and when I turned onto Boylston Street it felt like I was running forever but not getting any closer to the finish!

Finally I made it! I was so happy to be done, and although I ran a +5:30 second half split I believe it was the weather rather than my pacing that caused that result, so I was quite pleased to have PR'd at all in the end. But I was still feeling weird- kind of dizzy and my legs didn't want to move properly. I was stumbling a bit as I got my water, medal, and blanket, and although I kept telling the volunteers I was okay, eventually a medical volunteer insisted I get in a wheelchair and go to the medical tent.

That was probably a good call, cause as soon as I sat down I began having really painful muscle spasms in my feet and calves. Every time they locked up I started crying. In the medical tent, a nurse took my vitals while a physical therapist massaged my cramping calves. Everyone there was so great- I can't thank them enough! They helped me get my wet singlet and arm sleeves off and wrapped me in more heat blankets. Unfortunately I just kept getting colder, even with a heat pad and warm broth I couldn't stop shaking. However once my legs were recovered enough to walk I decided to go to the family meeting area. i knew my parents would start to worry if I wasn't there soon, and I didn't think I'd warm up until I could change into the dry clothes my dad had ready for me.

Walking back outside was the worst- I braved the wind in my burrito blanket outfit, half crying. Finally I reached my dad, waiting outside a bar and grill, I was so happy to see him! I went in where it was warm and changed into dry clothes, which made me feel a million times better. My mom was there too, as was my brother- he had managed to PR as well, breaking 3 hours for the first time! 

Overall it was kind of a crazy race, but I'm proud I was able to push through some really trying conditions! My quads were super sore after the race, but I took a Bikram yoga class yesterday which loosened them up significantly. I've only got 2 more days until my 100 miler, so although I definitely won't be 100%, I hope I will be recovered enough to get a decent time- preferably without too much suffering along the way!

Race stats: 761/6011 females 18-39, 888/12022 females, 6461/26610 total finishers- not too shabby :)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Spring Training

Just a little update on my training over the last month or so...I haven't raced since my February 8 50K, but I've been running more training miles than ever. In this training cycle I set a new weekly record, 83 miles, only to break it with a 90 mile week a few weeks later. I've gotten back into doing hill work, speed work, and two-a-day runs, and I've done a 50K training run and multiple back-to-back 20 milers. Most of my long runs have been with my friend Stephanie on the Mount Vernon Trail, although in bad weather I've done up to 24 miles on the treadmill. Thank goodness for books on tape- I'm halfway through book 2 of "A Song of Ice and Fire"! With all these higher mileage weeks I set a new monthly record of 310 miles in March :)

I'm now officially registered for Spartathlon in September (even bought my plane tickets!), so that's my long-term focus for 2015. I want to do well in my upcoming marathon and 100 milers, but I'm also trying to build up my mileage base so I can top out at 100+ mile weeks this summer. At the moment I'm tapering for the Boston Marathon on April 20 and C&O Canal 100 on April 25, so that's on hold for now, but May should be another high-mileage training month! After that it's Old Dominion 100 in June, then exclusively Spartathlon training all summer. A month after that I'll be running the Marine Corps Marathon for TeamRWB- that one's mainly just to do a fun race for a good cause. I don't anticipate a PR, but then again, you never know. (If you want to donate, the link is

That's about it for now...but I'll have not one, but two, race reports to write in just a few weeks :)