Thursday, December 7, 2017

Training and Racing Update - from Rainy Trail Runs to Fast, Fun 5Ks

It's been a busy few weeks of training and racing and I've been all over the place just enjoying the run again. Here's what I've been up to:

1) Bills Badass 50K

A week after the Made in America half marathon my husband Steve and I took on the famous Bills Badass 50K trail ultra in the CVNP trails of Peninsula. This is a not a race for the faint at heart. We had decided to run it together since we had both been nursing injuries (bad hip for me and ankles for him). It was a miserably rainy day and the 5 mile loop we had to run several times was a real doozy with multiple stream crossings (some deep enough to be level with my hip) and some gnarly, muddy uphills and downhills.  3+ hours of running and slipping and sliding was enough for us and we made the decision to just do 25K of the race and call it a day. It was lovely to see a couple of our favorite local RDs Wild Bill and Rich and all the crazy runners who came out to run on a tough day! Getting changed into dry clothes and refueling at Winking Lizard Peninsula after the run was glorious!


2) Home Run For the Homeless 4 Miler

We earned our turkey by racing the Akron Home Run for the Homeless 4 Miler! This was our first time running it and it is a tough course! I nearly died the last mile. I wanted to break 7-minute miles and I was barely able to do it finishing in 27 and change (6:58 pace). I was happy to place 3rd in my AG and win some Smuckers Jam since this is a bigger, competitive race and I did not feel too great during the run. Steve won his age group and won a big turkey so that was exciting!

Post race with my jam

3) Vertical Runner Trytophan 2 hour Run

Each year VR sponsors this run the weekend of Thanksgiving and I have wanted to make the event every year but have had things going on. This year Steve and I put it in the plan and went out to support VR since they are a sponsor of the Snakebite Racing team and some of our friends would be running there as well. Our plan was to get in an easy 12-14 miles and then grab a coffee with my friend Stephanie. I ended up running a little harder than I planned but I felt good. We decided to run the 4 mile loop as many times as we could and for each completed loop we would get 4 tickets for a chance to win prizes from VR after the run. The first loop we went out about a 7:15-30 pace slowing a little to 7:40ish second loop and then I kindof bonked and we averaged about an 8:30 for the last loop and finished with a cooldown mile for a total of 13 miles in 1:45. So it ended up being a nice training run and I won a hat in the drawing! After we had coffee with my friend Steph we headed over to Hudson's for breakfast with our friends Tracy and Paul and Hasani. That food hit the spot and no it did not involve adult beverages! That was later ;)

4) Miracle on Erie Street 5K

Last but not least Steve and I decided to run the Miracle on Erie Street 5K in downtown Willoughby last Saturday. With nice weather, an 11am start and a free beer from Willoughby Brewing after, this race was made for us. Plus it was nice to go "home" and see many of our friends from Northeast Running Club. I wanted to push myself and see what I could do but I was really sore from my first Barre class I had taken at Tru Barre in the Valley two days before so I was not sure how it would go. I lined up in the front of the pack and a couple other females were there too. Starting out two others were in front of me for about 1/2 mile but I thought the pace was too slow and passed them. I was shooting for 20:59 or 6:45 pace and I was pretty close. My first mile was a 6:46, second mile was a 6:50, last mile was a 6:47 and I just tried to hold on for the last .1. I was excited to break the tape as the first female finisher with my time of 21:07, 6:48 pace. I'm very close to my goal and think it will happen soon. For the win I received a stocking with "First Female Overall" on it and a mini Christmas tree to decorate but the best part was the free beer at Willoughby Brewing! It was nice to see our Snakebite Racing teammate Natalie and our friend and RD extraordinaire Rich.

Post race with Natalie and Steve

What's Next? 

Since then I've been running pretty well but cycling a good deal more and doing barre and strength work. I am trying to lean out now for vacation and spring marathon training so that I will be faster next season! I am excited for next season and looking forward to a long off-season. I may do another race or two if weather allows but after New Years Eve it's the off-season and I am not racing again until March! This is a much needed off season since I have run high mileage most of the year prepping for marathons and the 100 miler.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Made in America Half Marathon Race Report

Yesterday I raced the Second Sole Made in America Half Marathon in Massillon, OH. It ended up being a good day for me and I enjoyed the race. I would say this was a harder course than the Buckeye half that I ran a couple of weeks back. This course starts near the Massillon Rec Center on the roads. The first 4 miles are rolling hills with some good climbs and downhill. I went out pretty fast the first couple of miles with my first mile around a 6:40. I wish I could hold that pace for a half but that's more like a good 5K pace for me. Still, I wanted to start a little faster this time and see if I could hold on and improve on my time from two weeks ago.

After 4 miles the race moves onto the Towpath Trail. The first couple of miles on the trail I felt pretty good and was on autopilot running a 7:30 pace. Around mile 6 or 7 I started to feel a little fatigue and my left hip area was noticeably tender. I remember thinking to myself I wish this was a 15K. I knew it was going to be a painful second half. At mile 9 I took out my gel and it fell on the trail so this was not good. I thought about leaving it but felt like I wanted the boost so I stopped and looked for it and lost a little time her, ending up with my only 8-minute mile.  About four people passed me, a couple that I was able to repass later.

The last couple of miles were hard for me and I labored around 7:40-7:50, just trying to hold on for the finish. I had really hoped to end the day with a new 13.1 PR but came up a little short. Still I was very excited to break 1:40 after a long time. My finish was 1:39:50ish so I was able to win my AG in a tough race. There were some seriously fast ladies out there and I ended up being 13th of 181 females, which is good for me right now. I hope to knock a minute or two off next season with some focus.

There were plenty of snacks at the finish and they were giving out Coors Light beer but I was too cold and tired for that. Steve had raced too and also won his AG! We ended up just taking the shuttle back to our car and changing and then heading home to shower and make a hot brunch. I felt a little under the weather afterwards so I too it easy for a couple of hours. Later we headed out to have a post race celebratory beverage.

I am pretty pleased with my last few races this season and feel that I am getting back on track. This Saturday is the Bills Badass Trail 50K. I think I will attempt to run it. I originally planned to sit it out with my hip issue but I feel I am getting stronger and it will be an easy effort for me anyways as I can just run it and not worrying about racing. Just finishing this one would be a victory for me right now. Then we have a Turkey Trot in Akron on Thanksgiving day and maybe a holiday race or two around Christmas if I'm up for it.

I am excited about next season. I have some big goals and I will just chip away at them one by one. I will not be taking on anything super long next year. My body needs some time off from that so I likely will not do anything longer than a 50k.

Post race with my handsome hubby!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Buckeye Half Marathon Race Report

It's been a while since I raced a half marathon. I forgot how hard this distance can be and I don't think I am particularly good at the half. With this race I really just wanted to see what I can do given my current fitness level and despite nursing this nagging left hip issue. I'm pleased with how things went on race day and it's nice to run a race that's in our backyard now as well.

It was a chilly morning in the CVNP and Steve and I had picked up our bibs the day before the race so we arrived on site at Howe Meadow around 7:30 - enough time to use the bathroom and to get in a quick warm up. The race starts on Riverview Rd maybe a mile or 1.5 mile from W. Bath Road. I lined up towards the front with hopes of maybe breaking 1:40. Things started off well. I wanted to start fast but not too fast so my first mile was about 7:16, a good hard mile for me. My next couple miles were between 7:20-7:30 and I decided I liked this pace. I wanted to hold it for the first loop and maybe the second if I could stick with it.

Around mile 4 on Akron Peninsula Road my hip started to hurt and I was worried about even finishing the first loop (6.5ish miles). In my mind I had thought about calling it a day and waiting for Steve but I didn't want to quit. I wanted to see what I could do so despite being uncomfortable off and on for the rest of the race I pushed. The first loop went by and I started the second hoping that I could perservere. Fortunately the first few miles of the second loop felt okay and I was happy with my choice to stick with it. About mile 10 I started to see my pace slow a little to 7:50-8:00. At that point I consciously tried to just keep it under 8 minute miles. Not too hard, not too easy - kindof being mindful of the bad hip.

I was able to pass a couple of women the last mile or so only to be re-passed by a couple of younger ladies on the hill before the finish. I just didn't have the kick to try to go after them but I was hoping to come in sub 1:40. I forgot there's a dirt road stretch to run into the finish and I lost some speed there. I finished in 1:41:20 but on my Garmin it said 13.22 miles/7:40 pace versus the 7:44 pace the race recorded for 13.1 miles. I placed 3rd in my AG only a minute behind first and second. Steve also had a solid day - not his fastest effort but good enough to place 2nd in his age group.

This was a good effort for me right now and I am happy with it - especially with this stupid, nagging hip injury. I am running a half on Nov 12 in Massillon and hope to break 1:40 there assuming the body holds up. Next season I have set a goal to try and run 1:38. I think when I am healthy I can do it. For now I am just happy to be running and able to push myself at all! Plus we earned a couple of hoppy post race beers...Green Flash West Coast IPAs...cheers!

Post race with awards, Stave was 2nd in AG, 3rd in AG for me

Post race rewards! So good! Hard earned!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Want to Run Faster Again? Me too!

If you read my last blog post you already know that I've been in a little running slump. For a couple of months things just haven't been easy for me and running. I've had some okay days and some crappy days. I ran an okay 9 miler in early Sept and was hoping for a good marathon Oct 1 but with hip/low back issues with my left side I was forced to back off and just finish that one as a training run. Then I sat out my planned trail 25K/50K. I just didn't have it in me to do it. When a last minute free 5K entry came along for the Beechbrook 5K I just signed up without even really thinking about it. I decided not to take myself too seriously. I figured it would be a small, low-key race and I could just run my hardest and force myself to get in some "speed work". This plan worked out well for me.

My husband Steve was also racing so we arrived early to get our packets and did a mile warm up followed by a few quick strides. The weather was pretty mild so I just raced in shorts and my Snakebite Racing singlet. I wasn't sure how it was going to go but that almost made it more fun. When the race started I just ran hard. Not overly hard to the point where I thought I was going to die just hard enough to feel the burn in my lungs, about a 6:40 mile. Mile two was in the low 7s and then I was able to run about a 7 flat for the last mile coming in at 21:43 (6:59 pace). Usually I am between 21-22 so this is good time for me right now. Last year when I felt a little faster I ran a 21:06 and a 21:09 about (6:48-6:50 pace).

With it being a small race I was able to win and take home a $25 fleet feet gift card. My friend and fellow Cleveland Marathon ambassador Stephanie came in second place so that was fun with us both doing well. Steve had a great race until the end he was in the lead and finished with a 19:01, good for 1st in AG, 4th male. Last year he ran an 18:05 as his fastest time so he is about 45-60 secs off his goal.

Steve and I have decided to include some more short stuff next year and work on our speed again versus just taking on long distance all the time. I'd like to run a 5K time of at least 20:45 next season and I think I can get there with some work. Steve would like to run a sub 18 and I think he can do that as well. This will be a fun challenge. For now I am focusing on getting healthy and strong and seeing what I can accomplish with 13.1 and under for the rest of the year.

So, if you find yourself in a running slump like I did - maybe the answer is really just to pick a shorter race and just limit your expectations and see what you can do. You might just surprise yourself!

Post race with the hubby and friends!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Permission to Just Run - Working Through a Slump

Last weekend I blew off a race. I had really wanted to run it to support my friend who is the race director and to see all the friendly faces of people I like to see at races and to cheer for my husband that was running the race too. But I did not show up. I stayed in bed and drank my coffee. I made myself breakfast and took my time heading out the door for a fun workout without any expectations except to enjoy myself.  To just be able to enjoy a Saturday at my own pace. And my body is thanking for me it today. I have fought through an auto immune flare up since July and my left hip/SI joint has been aggravated for a couple of months as well. I think I earned the break. Plus I have beat myself up emotionally this year. I have allowed myself to feel like a failure as an athlete. I don't feel as fast or as strong as I was a year or two ago and it's frustrating and depressing that sometimes my body will not allow me to push my limits as much as I want to.

When I first headed to the Towpath Saturday I reluctantly made myself run even though I really just wanted to bike. At times running can feel like a chore these days. But I gave it a go. No expectations. I started and ended when I wanted. I went from feeling sorry for myself when I started to feeling blessed that I could even still run. I was reminded that I sill love running - I just need to allow myself to come back to my stride when the time is right. I gave myself permission to just run. Maybe this is what I need to do for a little while. Nothing too long and not any harder than I think I can handle. If I feel like pushing myself physically I will and if not I can just run my remaining races for fun or sit them out. That's the beauty of being an amateur. The only expectations I have to meet are my own. Although my expectations can be pretty intense. I need to learn to listen to my body and to take time off when it's needed. Maybe then I will not wind up in a running slump.

Have you ever been in a running slump? If so, what was it and how did you work through it?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Northern Ohio Marathon Race Report - A Tale of Two Races

Some races just don't go as planned, which was the case with this year's Northern Ohio Marathon. This can happen for several reasons: weather conditions, illness or injury. For me, it's a combination of late season fatigue and injury. I've been dealing with a hip and lower back problem for the last few months. It's actually an injury that affected me late last season as well. I was able to do some rehab and correct it last fall/winter but in truth it is something that was still there (just not as bad).

According to my chiropractor and the x-rays taken this August, my left hip is rotated in about 20 degrees. While I am able to run okay for a while at times when I run long or fast I sometimes get a pinched nerve from the hip that feels awful - almost like sciatica. My left low back gets tight and the hip presses on a nerve that also affects my piriformis. This makes is pretty painful to run at times.

At Northern Ohio I had no ambitions of a PR but I did think I could run between a 3:35-3:45 without
These splits say it all!
too much trouble. And the race started out pretty well. In fact my splits through the first half were perfect. Even through 16 I was on track but the hip was not cooperating and I had to slow down in order to keep going - even walk at times.

This made for a very boring, frustrating and long second half of the race. Between 17-20 I could hardly run but I could walk pretty well. I had made up my mind that I would walk it in if I needed to.

My friend Brenda saw me walking and checked in on me a couple of times. The second time I saw her she gave me some ibuprofen, which I am sure got me through the final 10K. By mile 22 I was able to run again and run it in with some miles in the low to mid 8's, which helped me to bring my finish time down a little more than I thought it was going to be.

While this was a personal worst for me in the road marathon I am happy with the effort and the fact that I was able to finish even if it was a bad second half. Some days things just go wrong and all you can do is try to hang on and finish. Who knows maybe this race will make me stronger for the next one. It certainly has reminded me that I need a break too sometimes and that I am not super human as I wish I could be.

Following the race I went in to my chiropractor and I have started lifting a few days a week. I think this coupled with lower running mileage and more cross training will get me back to fighting shape for next season. For now I have altered my late season running plans. Instead of running Doan Creek 50K this weekend I bumped down to the 25K, which I think I can handle. I also signed up for a couple of half marathons and will likely sit out the Bills Badass 50k in November as well. My body just doesn't want the high mileage right now and I need to listen to it. For the rest of the year I will run for fun and not be too hard on myself with expectations.

I leave you now with the tale of two races:

First half:

Feeling good early on in the race!

Second half:

Monday, September 11, 2017

Potato Stomp 9 Miler Race Report & Season Check-in

This was a last minute race-day registration for me. I had planned to race a half marathon the weekend before in Millerburg but my dog broke his foot and had to be taken to the animal hospital for a last minute surgery the Friday before so the race was a no go.

I have not raced anything shorter than a marathon since May so this was my first time attempting to be speedy in a while. I have done some uptempo runs but was unsure how I would fare on race day. Since my 100 miler in July it's been an uphill battle trying to get back on track with my fitness - in part because I've been suffering from an autoimmune disorder since then, which is the same as what I experienced during my last Ironman training cycle. Some days I feel fine and other days I can hardly get out of bed let alone run. I think I am on the mend now and this race was proof to me that I am getting stronger and that I can still push myself physically. I am really looking forward to next season once I have a chance to properly rest and recover.

9 miles can seem both short and long I suppose depending on who you ask. I thought of it as short - maybe too short in the sense that I went out too fast with my first few miles at 5K pace. This made for a tougher 10K to finish it up. My fastest mile was 6:45, slowest was 8:05 for a time of 1:08 and change, which averaged out to a 7:39 pace. Honestly, I was pretty happy with this time for me right now. I figured I had a shot at placing in my AG being 9th female but I was 5th in my AG (30-39). I would have won the 40-49 AG. Since I will be 40 next summer I think I will fare better at some of these more competitive races - or at least I hope so!

The real silver lining in this race for me is that I now have more confidence going into the Northern Ohio Marathon on October 1. I hope to BQ there and with an extra 5 minutes in my qualifying time (since I age up for the 2019 race) I think I can get it done despite a little fatigue late in the season. While I haven't raced as much, I've done 3 - marathons, 2 - 50ks, a 100 miler and few shorter races like this one to date so I feel more tired than I have in previous seasons. After Northern Ohio I am signed up for a couple of Trail 50Ks but honestly whether I try to race, just participate or sit them out will depend on how I feel physically and mentally about pushing myself any harder this year. I have to be realistic about how much I can do and stay healthy enough to do well and more importantly to take care of my health. No matter what, I plan to recover and rebuild and go for a big marathon PR in the spring to start things off.