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.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Moebius Green Monster 50K Race Report

This race has been on my bucket list for a few years since I started focusing on longer distance running. It's generally in August, which has usually conflicted with my triathlon schedule. Since I am not racing any tris this season and I have leftover endurance from the Canal Corridor 100 I figured why not have a go at it this year. Still, this one hurt more than I thought it would - maybe still fatigued from all the long races this year. Either way it was a good course and I would like to do it again.

Sunny Lake - photo credit - Rob Irr
The course is a 10K loop that you complete five times. The loop consists of mostly trail and grass with some cinder and a bit of asphalt mixed in throughout Sunny Lake Park in Aurora, Ohio. I was feeling pretty good for the warm up loop and for the second loop until it started relentlessly pouring rain. Yuck! This caused me to slow down for a while because I was sliding around too much in the mud and grass and I didn't want to fall. Coming through the aid station to start my third loop I was feeling a little soggy and defeated. I headed to the ladies room and used the hand dryer to try and take some of the moisture out of my clothes.

The third loop went okay but I turned too soon off the cinder road into the trails and ended up repeating a mile+ loop, which set me back a good 10-15 minutes. I wasn't happy about it but it's easy to take a wrong turn in a trail race so I just moved on kind of annoyed with myself. It warmed up and I started to dry off but my legs felt tired. I thought to myself maybe just finish this loop and call it a day - that would give me a solid 18. But I couldn't just quit just because I felt blah! I signed up for a 50K - not an 18 miler. I reluctantly started the 4th loop and it was a real doozy and I walked quite a bit of this one so I lost some time for sure. I was just not feeling this loop at all and was pretty much in the pain cave until I saw the aid station.

Post race with my finisher wooden medal
Something about being on the fifth and last loop gave me a second wind and I was able to pick up the pace a little and then a little more. I was no longer soaking wet and I knew I would be done in about an hour if I pushed it. I had no idea what place I was in and honestly it didn't really matter. I was out there for a butt-kicking workout and I got it done. My finish time of 6:25 was a lot slower than I expected but slow is always better than quitting! Plus I did run an extra mile so maybe I would have finished in 6:10-6:15 without the extra loop. I did find out a bit later in the week when the results came that I was third female. My husband also ran this 3 weeks after his BR100 finish and finished in about 5:20 (7th male) on those tired BR legs!

 Race director Stephen Godale does a nice job with the race. It's low-key and the looped course with the aid station every 10K is convenient as well as having the second aid station about half way through the loop. Thanks to Stephen and all the volunteers who made the race a good experience!

Now it's back to marathon training for the Northern Ohio Marathon, which takes place on Oct 1 followed with some more trail 50Ks to end the season.

Close up of the wooden finisher medal!

Monday, August 28, 2017

11 Things Running 100 Miles Might Teach You

100 Miles gives you a lot of time to think. And to feel. And it's not just during the race. It's also the journey of getting to the start line. And then of course the finish line. Even then you may still think and feel things weeks later. At least that's how my experience was. It's hard to put into words what this accomplishment means. I finished something I worked hard for. It wasn't as fast or as glamorous as I had romanticized...but who freaking cares?! I did it! Here are some things I learned along the way that I hope may help you if you take on the 100:

1. Running 100 miles is physically hard - I know big surprise right? It is actually even more difficult than I imagined it to be. I don't mind physical suffering but this is a new level of discomfort. The longer you go the more things that may hurt along the way.

2. It's as much mentally difficult as physically difficult- Yep, the legs are fried long before 100 miles so the mind has to stay strong and tell the tired body to keep going.

3. Aid station volunteers are really angels in disguise - Without these volunteers these races would not be possible for most of us. They feed you, give you words of encouragement, fill your water bottles and sometimes even fix you so that you can continue on your journey. Running 100 miles will give you a deeper respect for the sacrifice these people are making so that you can succeed at achieving  your goal.

4. You can do it but you have to believe - Of course you hope you can do it when you sign up...but you don't really know for certain you can do it until you cross the finish line. Until that moment there is the belief that you can do it and the determination that you will do it.

5. Ultrarunners are good, caring people - You will meet some of the nicest, most supportive people on the planet during your race. Everyone cheers for each other and says good job or looking good, woohoo or whatever they can say to help you because they care and they know how you are feeling.

6. You will make friends - If you talk to people during the race you will have an instant friendship because seriously where else can you make friends as freaking crazy as you are that are obviously as addicted to running as you are?!

7. No, it's not boring - Seriously people there is too much to think about, people to talk with, food to eat, things to see, aid stations to visit and then of course aches and pains to keep your mind occupied. I don't recall boredom really ever being an issue.

8. Walking is okay and expected even - I mean it's 100 miles! You will need to take some breaks to drink, eat, change up the muscles working and conserve some energy. Walking in an ultra, especially 100 miles, is normal and encouraged. In fact many of the training plans out there and experienced ultra runners will tell you to practice your power walking skills too because it helps during the race.

9. Training is important but will only take you so far - a lot of things can go wrong during a race that lasts as long as 100 miles. You can't always train for every circumstance but you should try to get in a decent amount of running as per any beginner to intermediate 100 mile plan, figure out what fuels work best for you, gear, etc in advance of race day. Still it will be your utter determination that will carry you across that finish line because if everything falls apart you will still keep moving forward because you said you would.

10. It takes a village - Maybe some people can train alone for 100 miles or without anyone's support but I would day they are probably few and far between. For most of us it takes running friends, family support, understanding from your work, etc to see this thing to fruition. You need that support network to be successful.

11. Run often, run long, listen to your body and slow down - It's good to have a training plan but let's face it life happens. And aches and pains happen during training. It's okay to take a day or two off especially if something feels icky. Cross train or rest - it will only help you. But when you feel fine do not skip out on the training. Those double long runs really prepare your body (and mind) for what's coming. It build your strength and confidence. Also, most of your running should be easy, conversational pace running.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Crewing & Pacing Burning River 100 For the Hubby

I've always admired people who take on the Burning River 100 Endurance Run. This year my husband Steve happens to be one of them! We trained mostly together as I completed the Canal Corridor 100 a few weeks earlier. So as I was recovering he was starting to taper and get ready for his little journey of 100 miles through the forests of Northeast Ohio.

Prerace in front of the Castle!
The race starts at Squire's Castle in North Chagrin Reservation in Willoughby Hills, OH. This is a park we spent many miles running in when we lived in Lake County. The 100 mile start is at we had to be up pretty early as in 1:30am to get ready and make the close to an hour drive. We were out the door by 2:30, arriving at the start at 3:30 with plenty of time to get Steve ready for the long day and night ahead. We ran into some friends Brandon and Mel that were parked next to us. Mel has done BR numerous times and is one of the fast ultra ladies out on the course.

Steve and I headed up to the start about 10-15 minutes before the event started. I could tell he was excited and anxious to get this thing started. It was fun watching these 250 or so runners take off in the dark with their headlamps and dreams of first time or maybe PR finishes. Once he started I spent a few minutes in the car mapping out the route to the Polo Fields aid station where he expected to come in around 5:45am. I chatted with some people and waited to see Steve and have some of his requested items like chocolate milk ready for him. Next i met up with him at Shadow Lake where he was able to change into his new trail shoes.

After that I had some time to kill since I wouldn't see him again for 2 or 3 hours so I headed to Panera to grab breakfast and a bagel for Steve and I also stopped at Heinens to get some lunch for us later in the day. I arrived at Meadows aid station where I was able to get in about a 30-minute nap before setting up to cheer and crew for Steve. When he came in he was hungry and had a blister we took care of. He was still in good spirits when he took off. Again I had some time before I would see him again at Boston Mills (mile 50) so I headed over to the aid station and took a second cat nap before setting up my crew stuff. I ran into some Cleveland Tri Club friends, which was a nice pick me up and I ate lunch and cheered on some of the 50 mile finishers. Finally Steve came in and was able to eat his lunch I made him and change his shirt before heading on.

Ledges before our run together!
Our next place to meet up was 16 miles away so I had a lot of time to kill. I ended up stopping at the grocery store and going home to make dinner and take care of the dogs before meeting up with Steve later at Ledges Shelter. I had heard from friends that he was having a hard time and I was growing worried about him since he was a good amount off his goal pace. Finally as I started to head out on the course I saw him coming in! He looked pretty tired and I knew he was hurting. I agreed to pace him in the rest of the race, which was 34 miles for the 100 plus the bonus 3 miles at the end since BR 100 is actually BR 103. He ate and I put all the crewing stuff away, locked up my car and off we went to the Ledges to start our long and memorable journey together.

We did pretty well running through the Ledges and Pine Hollow but Steve was fading at Covered Bridge with about 20 miles left to go - including some tough ones! Special thanks to our friend Trevor for lending Steve his running jacket because it had gotten chilly and he was cold. By the second time through the Covered Bridge aid station he was doing better and we were power walking and light jogging and in better spirits. From Covered Bridge II to Botzum seemed to take a long time as well. We ran into our friend Rich in O'Neal Woods and he had some words of wisdom to share with us 100-mile newbies. Finally we reached Botzum! And then it took forever to reach Memorial Parkway but this was our last aid station! We still had about 4-5 miles to the finish including the Gorge in Cuyahoga Falls where you have some serious stairs to climb after 100 miles. Oye! Even I did not like the stairs so I can only imagine how Steve felt!

Hardest earned medal ever!
Leaving the Gorge I was excited for Steve to finish and I was excited to be done because I had been out there with him for many hours through the night and was growing tired and cranky! He was able to run the finish and then immediately needed to sit down for a few minutes and just soak everything in. He was a 100 mile finisher! He finished Burning River 100 like a badass! The only issue is that his right calve was swollen and of course his ankles and feet were swollen too, which of course made walking not fun.

After the race we went home to eat a quick bowl of cereal, shower and sleep for about 5 hours. Then we got up and went to the Ledges to pick up my car and headed over to the Winking Lizard Peninsula for a proper post race dinner and hoppy beers! Of course Steve had to put his hard-earned BR100 sticker on his car too! He sure earned it! And I am proud of him because I know that he struggled for more than half of the race and especially the last 20 miles. It was not the time he had in mind but he finished and that is all that counts in my book. I don't know if he will run this one again but you never know and for me I would rather run the 50 or 4-person relay next year. I don't know that I will put this one on my bucket list but only time will tell.

Congrats to all the 100 mile finishers - you are all amazing! And to all the 50 milers and relayers - way to go! BR is a tough course. My 37 miles was tough after a day of crewing - also very hard work! Thanks to Western Reserve Racing for putting on an excellent, well-organized event. Most of all thank you to the volunteers. You guys make the race! Without you noone could do this race. Your generosity and support are appreciated!

Until next year BR!

Hardest earned sticker ever!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Canal Corridor 100 Mile Race Report

This may be the first of several posts about a little race I ran last weekend in Akron called the Canal Corridor 100 Mile Endurance Run. Last week was bittersweet for me. I trained for months for my first attempt at the big 100. I thought I had it in me but I wasn't sure. After all before last Saturday I had never run more than a 50K. My attempt to run the 100K last year resulted in a DNF albeit more related to a lingering hip/lower back injury. So this was a bug jump for me mentally and physically to take on a 100 mile event.

I had been feeling run down the week leading into the race and noticeably going to the bathroom more. I thought it might just be prepace nerves but finally Thursday I made the decision to go in and get checked out. Wouldn't you know I had a freaking UTI (urinary tract infection). I was pretty upset. I had trained so hard for this event. I didn't want to miss out. So I decided to see how I felt after a couple of days on antibitoics. The first day and a half was pretty brutal as I had a lot of nasty side effects from Macrobid such as nausea, loss of appetite and probably one of the worst headaches I've ever had.

Since my drop bags were already packed I decided to check in Friday at Lock 3 and just see how I felt Saturday morning knowing that I could always back out of the race if I didn't think I was up for it. I took it easy Friday and had a good meal, hydrated well and went to sleep around 8:30PM. When the alarm went off at 3:30 Saturday I didn't even think about anything. I knew it was go time. Since I was feeling well enough to hit to the start I told myself I would just give it my best. If I had to drop after 25, 50, 75 or whatever that's what I would do.

prerace with Steve
I got down to Lock 3 to check in for the start right around 4:30am. Steve and I snapped a couple of pictures and I used the bathroom and lined up with excitement among the other 60 or so runners ready to take on what the day might bring. After a couple announcements from the RDs we were off at 5am sharp. The first leg of the race starts at Lock 3 and head south on the Towpath headed towards Canal Fulton where we turn around about 20 miles out. It was dark when we started for about an hour or so and I enjoyed chatting with some of the other runners and learning about them.

I was fortunate to have my hubby Steve crewing for me at the allowed aid stops so I could have specific items that I wanted throughout the race such as chocolate almond milk and of course cranberry juice to keep my system flushed out. There were also race aid stations either full service or self serve (water) stops about every 5 miles, which made staying hydrated easy.

around mile 35 going strong!
I felt pretty good 20 miles in around 3:45. The next big stop was mile 30 followed by mile 40 at Lock 3. I was still feeling pretty decent here but did take a longer aid stop break to change socks, tape up my left hip and get something more substantive to eat like grilled cheese. Mmm! The next stop at Portage Path/Second Sole I tried to eat part of a Subway sandwhich but it was not happening. I had to fix a blister and also tape up my left arch, which was starting to bug me. Off I went towards Botzum, Hunt Farm and finally Boston Store at mile 57 where there was a bigger aid stop. Along this stretch I talked for a bit with other runners and ran into my friend Margie who was riding on the Towpath before Winking Lizard. That helped pass the time. Making it to Boston Store was mentally good for me as I started to struggle more after 50-55 miles.

I was so happy to have Steve crewing and at Canal Exploration to pace me. He had brought me a Melt Grilled Cheese, which tasted like a slice of heaven after running that long! Not to mention that he paced me the last long 34 miles. Getting to the turn-around wasn't too bad with him (mile 70) but then I started feeling pretty bad with cramping (GI and bladder) and when we made it back to Canal at mile 74 I thought that I might have to call it a day. I wanted to finish, but I also did not want to permanently damage my body. So I stopped here and lied down in the backseat of my car for a while. Like an hour. This was good and bad. As I layed there my body felt good. To good. I throbbed and rested. I wanted to be done like nothing more. Texts and calls from family and friends urging me to keep moving kept me thinking and then I decided to just try it. I was 75% done. I changed clothes, taped up some blisters, grabbed some food at the aid station and then off we went toward Station Road.

Mile 71ish with Steve
It was dark on the trail but the moon was full. The sounds of bull frogs and even coyotes howling in the distance filled the night air and made me want to keep moving fast. It was mostly a power walk at this point. Once we made it to the Boston Store again at mile 82 or so and had some food and a much needed bathroom break (GI was pretty bad) I was able to run a few miles. Then the GI started acting up again and I had to stop a couple more times including Botzum and Big Bend. It seemed like an eternity until we made it to the final aid stop at Portage Path/Second Sole at mile 94. At this point it was morning although still a chill in the air. I felt wasted but was in decent spirits knowing I was going to make the cutoff. After some cold macaroni and cheese, which was divine we were off to do the last miles including the hills leading to downtown Akron including that detour, Cascade finally making it close enough to see downtown. What a feeling. I was finishing. I was exhausted. I was able to muster up a little jog for the last 1/2 mile or so to the finish line. It was a long day/night and I finished in 27 hours and 23 minutes - longer than I expected but who cares. I did it!! The real goal of a 100 is to finish the damn thing and I DID IT!! Wow!

The finish!
Lock 3 was hopping with race staff and runners and family members. I was beyond happy to be done and have Wild Bill hand me that very hard-earned belt buckle! I chugged a smoothie and sat down for a while taking it all in and cheering for other finishers including some first timers like my friend Brian I met. It was pretty emotional. Finishing 100 miles is not an easy feat. Some of us suffered out there for a long time but the joy of the finish is worth it. After a while I got changed and then headed home. My awesome husband cooked me eggs and bacon and we celebrated with an IPA. That may have been the best breakfast and beer ever. A long, hot shower and then a long nap were up next. Later that night we went to dinner with my daughter to celebrate. I was done. It was really over. What a great race!!

Getting up and walking really sucked for the first couple of days! But I forced myself to keep moving. Monday I walked 2 miles, Tuesday I walked 3 miles and cleaned the house, Wednesday I walked 2 miles and biked for 20 minutes. Yesterday I ran 4 miles (slow with some walking). I am happy that my recovery is going well. And of course now I am sad that it's over. Next up is the hubby's first 100 at Burning River where I get the honor of crewing and pacing. Then who knows. I may run another 100 for time at some point. Probably not this season as I want to stick to 50K and under but you never know. Now I know that I am strong enough to run 100 miles. That opens up a lot of possibilities and curiosities in a person I think.

I'll have to dedicate a whole post just to the emotional side of the race. I feel like it reawakened something in me. More to come on that!

The blimp was out on race day!

My hard-earned finisher buckle!