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! 



Thursday, June 29, 2017

Canal Corridor 100 Prep

Pre-run selfie with Stephanie
The last week and a half I have been winding down my training for the quickly approaching Canal Corridor 100 mile endurance run. I completed my last long run last Sunday on the Towpath. My friend Stephanie ran the first 15 with me and I did another 5.5 before calling it a day. It was a 50 mile week, which seemed light compared to the previous week which was about 85 miles with two long runs.

This week is lighter with probably less than 30 miles of running. I kicked off the week with a 90-minute recovery ride on my bike on the Towpath and have just been doing one short run a day of 4-5 miles. I got in an easy 30-minute spin at lunch today and plan to run a short one tomorrow along with some core work and maybe 8-9 miles of running Sat or Sunday.

Next week will be very light with just a couple easy shakeout runs and a couple of rest days before the race, which is Saturday, July 8. I have been so nervous about getting injured with the higher mileage of 75-100 miles week of running so I have kept all of my runs easier in effort and I feel pretty good aside from an occasional ache here or there.

Now I am focused on shopping for and packing up the gear I need to have with me during the race and for my drop bags. I am trying to get mentally prepared to take on this big challenge. I feel like I have done a good amount of physical prep for the race but I also know that a lot of the outcome will be not based on my physical strength but more on mental strength and my ability to stay strong and keep calm even if the shit hits the fan so to speak.

I am stalking the weather and of course worrying that it will be too hot (high 80s) and that they show thunderstorms. Still we are more than a week out so I am hoping for more favorable conditions!

I have to check in at the race start at Lock 3 next Friday after work then head home to eat a good meal and attempt to get some sleep. I need to be back at the start to check in around 4-4:30am and the race starts at 5am. It's going to be a long day at the races!

I have no idea what to expect from myself time wise. We get 30 hours to complete the race. Essentially you can power walk it if you want to. I would like to run as much as I can with scheduled walk breaks. The goal is really to survive this and cross the finish line as quickly as I can without injuring myself. I will be taking a longer break from running after this event - it may be two weeks before I am back out there. Only time will tell.

I'll be posting updates online as I can and I am sure Steve will be posting too. He is allowed to pace me from mile 66-100 so it will be nice to have his company in those later miles. I am sure I will need all the mental support I can get! Please send positive thoughts and energy my way next weekend! And if you happen to be on or near the Towpath Trail you may even see me!

Part of the beautiful Towpath Trail I will be running on for 100 miles!

Nothing to it now but to do it! Send me good vibes!



Monday, June 12, 2017

Green Jewel 50K Race Report & Training Update for Canal Corridor 100

Prerace selfie with the hubby!
Saturday I ran the Green Jewel 50K for the third time...although this time it was a much different race for me than the past two years. For starters, it moved to June instead of March as originally scheduled. As you can imagine this made for a much warmer race. Also, the course was reversed to start in Brecksville and end in Rocky River. This means most of the climbing is done before you hit the Emerald necklace. Finally, I have been training intently for the Canalway 100 next month and never really planned to race this so I ran my first ever 100 mile week last week and then only tapered for two days leading into this. A friend of mine suggested that I race the 50K and then run the next day early on tired legs to simulate how I will feel at the end of the 100. Okay, I thought that made sense so I listened. I decided to attempt to race this thing even thought I figured I would pay for this decision being as fatigued as I am.

Somewhere in my irrational mind I thought I might even be able to beat my time of 4:38 from last year. We started off in the park running straight up hill from Oak Grove at about an 8-8:15 mile pace. Ouch. This hurt. My legs were not happy and I was laboring from the start. Once you get off the trail you run some miles on Valley Parkway. There are some decent sized hills and I can recall my calves cramping up into painful little balls so I decided I would take a little walk break. I remember one of my splits being about 10 so I think I ran about 8 and then walked for 2 minutes. That helped. But this continued. It was the worst my calves have ever felt in a race and I debated dropping out and heading back to the car. Noway! I told myself you HAVE to run this race! What if this happens during your 100? You can't just give up! So onward I went. Fortunately I had a water bottle with Nuun with me as well because it was getting hot early on and without water and electrolytes the cramping in my calves probably would have been worse. Either way I knew this was going to be a long sufferfest!

By the first aid station at Ridge Road I was feeling a little better about my chances of surviving the race - mainly because we were heading downhill then. Although it is not the easiest thing to run fast down Ridge Road either. Ouch! Onward I went after a gel and some Tailwind. Around that time I was still trying for sub 9 for a bit but by 13 or 14 I really wasn't feeling great. I was sore, hot and just kindof apathetic about my chance at having a great race. Onward I went just trying to walk a little as needed to rest my tired body. I remember thinking it was taking forever to get to the check point at Wallace Lake. I was pretty excited to get my drop bag and get my Smuckers Uncrustable for a snack along with my GU Rocktane gel. But when I got there my bag was not there and I think we were at about 16.5-17 miles not 14 since the course was reversed. This was not good for my psyche and I was again cursing my decision to race this thing and I decided I would just survive it.

My friend Tony ran by and motioned for me to run with him and his group as I was walking and I said "I'm not racing it, just gonna finish it." Part of me wanted to quit, part of me wanted to walk it in and part of me just wanted to get it done as fast as possible. So I ran as fast as I could and then took walk breaks when I wanted to. I reminded myself that this race is the best training run I would have before Canalway. I couldn't just give in. I drudged on in the heat, took in some gels and tailwind and eventually found myself at the mile 27 aid station. I was pretty excited then to be close to the finish and my friend Jim was working the aid station and gave me some cheers and energy to move on.

I was able to run most of the end but did walk some of the uphill as I was pretty exhausted and hot. I was trying to break 5 hours at least but came up a little short at 5:08 and change. I finished 4th female, 1st in my AG. But really I was just happy that I pushed myself through a very, very tough day for me physically and mentally. I assume this is how it will feel during the 100. I am sure I will hurt like hell and I will want to quit a million times but will need to dig deep and find the strength to continue on towards the finish. I hope that this training I am doing now will make me strong enough physically and mentally to remain as focused and strong as possible.

Steph L, me and Steph I post race
After the race I went to the bathroom to change into dry clothes and then walked back over to the finish to watch for my friends (and fellow Cleveland Marathon Ambassadors) Stephanie L and Stephanie I. Both of them were standing there when I walked up. I was excited to see that they had both done well! Stephanie L had run her first 50K and rocked it and came in not too far behind me placing 2nd in our AG! Stephanie I and her teammate were the 2nd place womens' relay team! Steve also had a good race considering that he too is very fatigued he still placed in the top 10 and in his AG!

Post race Steve and I headed over to Fatheads for some hard earned burgers and hoppy beers! Then it was time to go home, shower, sleep and get up early to run on tired legs. Our plan was to get up in the wee hours of Sunday am and head to the Towpath for 8-10 in the dark. But at 3am I just couldn't drag myself out of bed so we snoozed and instead ran around 8am. It was already hot and muggy and we did 9 slow miles before having a snack and heading out on the cross bikes for an hour of fun biking. The week wrapped up with 60 miles of running, 30 miles of biking. Today I am resting but got in a nice lunch walk on the Towpath. I will try to get in one last big week of 90+ miles and start my taper about 2 weeks out on Sunday.

hard-earned hoppy beers at Fatheads post-race!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cleveland Marathon Race Report

It was a very busy and exciting Cleveland Marathon race weekend this year! I finally got off the plane Friday from California around 7:15PM, hurried up to change into a dress and head downtown directly to the Marathon VIP Reception. It's always wonderful to see my fellow race ambassadors and their significant others as well as the marathon staffers. Although we were later to arrive than I hoped it was a fun and exciting night. Shortly after taking our annual group photos, my friend and fellow ambassador Melissa's boyfriend surprised us all and proposed right there in front of us!

The following day there was lots to get done including unpacking, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, hitting the race expo to pick up our bibs and goodies and then we had my Aunt Shelly's surprise 60th birthday party at 5:00. We got home around 8:00 and finished getting our stuff ready for an early race morning.

4:15am Sunday came early and we were up getting ready to race. I had been worried about the weather and how I would run all week. I had been pressuring myself to get the BQ again this season. The night before I decided if a BQ happened it happened but there is much more to running than that and certainly much more to life. There are the friends and family that make us feel special and inspire us so I decided to make my race about more than a BQ. I wrote down the names of my friends and family members that have had cancer and I dedicated the race to them. Perhaps that helped me to have a better race then I would have otherwise...

Prerace with fellow ambassadors
Steve had to be downtown by 6 to pace the 3:35 group so we got here early enough that I was able to see many friends before the race including most of my fellow race ambassadors. I even made the pre-race photo this year! Around 6:45 I ran over for one last potty break before lining up in the corral with the 3:35 group. Instead of worrying myself I tried to take in all the excitement.

The first couple of miles didn't seem too bad to me and then I started to feel hot and labor on some of the hills. I thought to myself this is not good. It's too early to work this hard...you're doomed! Then I told myself to just be quiet and steady. I got a pick me up around mile 8 or 10 when we saw our friend and Snakebite Racing team member Eric fanning in his speedo and cowboy hat!

Focused on the finish!
Around the halfway I just started running out of steam. I am not sure why. I decided to allow myself to slow down a little. I thought who cares if you can't hold onto the pace group you can just run alone at your pace. That's not that bad. So that's what I did. I held on and worked quietly at the pace that felt right for me. Before I knew it I was on mile 19 and I was working through the fatigue. I never really bonked. I never walked - just stopped for a quick drink or gel as needed. Most of my late miles were 8:40ish versus the 8:10 I hoped for but I did what I could do. There were more Snakebite, CTC and other friends out on the course cheering so it really helped me stick with it. I want to say thank you to everyone that volunteered at the race or came out to cheer. The crowd support was really solid this year!

The last few miles I thought I still had a chance to BQ so I ran my heart out and came up a little shy with a 3:41:21 - less than a minute and a half off. I finished with mixed emotions over doing my best but not succeeding at the BQ. In the end this was still a Cleveland course PR for me and it's the second fastest 26.2 I've run out of about 15 now so I am happy with my effort.

The weekend went so fast and there was so much excitement. After the marathon my friend Dan and fellow ambassador Stephanie got engaged also! You may have seen the video. It was super cute. He waited for her at the finish line and proposed right there! Even if she didn't have a PR this year I know she'll never be able to forget this year's race! And it brings me back to my point that there is more to running than just the numbers and the goals. It's the people we meet that become our friends and sometimes significant others that really make these events special. In fact when Steve and I first met our first official date was on my birthday several years ago at the Perfect 10 Miler race. Who would have known that running would bring me my very best friend and husband?!

I'm sure I will be back next year for another Cleveland Marathon - and with the extra 5 minutes I'll have to qualify for 2019 maybe I can actually BQ. Or maybe I will just run it for fun. I guess we'll see. I'm not giving up on that second BQ. I know it will come but now I have to switch my focus entirely to training for the Canal Corridor 100, which is only about 6 weeks away...eek! I have the Green Jewel 50K next, which I will likely use as a training race versus racing it. I need to practice my 25 minute run/5 minute walk approach for the big race! Plus I will have to get in another long run on Sunday.



The hard earned 40th anniversary medal! The race started just before I was born in 1978!






Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Hall of Fame Marathon Race Report - Hall of Fame 1, Pam 0

Sunday was a big day for me. I was ready to accomplish a couple of big goals including my second BQ and a shiny, new marathon PR. I have trained with determination for months. Through ups and downs, health concerns, foreign business trips. There were many obstacles this year that threatened to get in the way of my big goals - but I got through each of them. I never gave in. I never skipped my training - when I could control it.  Most weeks of the year I have run 50+ miles - sometimes reaching 70. I added in more cross training to avoid injury. I've biked hundreds of miles to keep my legs strong. I went to the gym all winter - lifting heavy a couple of times each week to avoid injuries mid season. I feel I did everything I could to achieve my goal. Yet, I didn't.

Prerace photo with my cute pacer!
I lined up at the Hall of Fame Marathon ready to give everything I had. Even after I knew the weather forecast wasn't ideal I could not bring myself to back down from my goals. My brain just doesn't work this way. I instead tried to acclimate to the heat as much as I could - running hot tempo runs at lunch and hydrating more than usual. I thought maybe if I ran a smart race with even splits I could beat the heat. This worked for a while. But then the heat and lack of water on the course got to me. Going two or three miles after 13 miles of running around an average of 8:08 without water caught up to me. Thank goodness my husband snagged a Gatorade bottle for me that I was able to refill and run with for the rest of the race. If not, I don't think I would have made it much longer.

The heat was heavy, my body sweaty, stomach sick from Gatorade, calves cramping and I just gave in a little around mile 19-20. Not a complete "I don't give an F" give in but an "I can't keep going this hard or I am going to pay for this" give in. So I walked a little. Then a little more. I did what I could do. I let my big goals go around mile 21 or 22. I negotiated with myself. Just break 3:45 I told myself. At least you will get in a good training run for Cleveland I told myself. You can try again. It's okay. Everyone is hurting. Not just you. Just do what you can do today. So I listened to my inner voice. I tried to run slower and steadier and just bring it home. I finished in 3:46:07. My husband was cramping and wanted to sit down for a few minutes. I couldn't. I just walked for a little bit and then stopped. And cried. Tears of frustration, exhaustion, disappointment, relief. The pressure that I put on myself temporarily removed. Until I try again. Soon. In less than three weeks - in Cleveland.

At times I wish I could just not care. Why can't I just do this for fun? Why do I need to compete? What makes me push myself so hard? So often? Maybe the need to control my environment? Maybe to prove to myself that I am good enough? Maybe something else? I can't say exactly what drives me. As long as I am competing I will compete against myself. I will set bigger goals.  And I guess that's okay. I just want to achieve things so I set big goals and then I work hard for them. I take them seriously. I make them part of me. It's not right or wrong. That's just how it is. Thank goodness I am an amateur - I can't imagine the pressure of being an elite and having my paycheck depend on meeting my goals.

So now, I rest and recover. I prepare for the Cleveland Marathon, Green Jewel 50K and the Canal Corridor 100. One day at a time. One run at a time. One mile at a time. Who knows what the future holds. Maybe bigger things than I can even imagine in this moment. Maybe more disappointment. No matter what, the journey won't be boring. And I will learn something new - even if it is something as simple as accepting myself and my failures. At least I earned a sweet finisher medal, right? I also earned my hoppy beer at R. Shea Brewing after the race!

Best part of this race is the medal for sure!

Post race at R. Shea enjoying an IPA!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Training Update for HOF, Cleveland and Fundraiser for Mom

I have not been writing as much as I want to lately but I am running...a lot. I am back on the bike pretty regularly also. The swim is non-existent at this point but I am sure I will get back to it after my long races.

I raced a 5K a couple weeks back called Run to the Beach 5K. It was a tough course with much of it being on trails and some on the beach. Needless to say I did not PR but was able to get in some good speed work and came away with 3rd place female.

We are five days out from the Hall of Fame Marathon this Sunday! I am in full, cranky taper mode. The weather forecast looks hot, which I am not excited about! My plan is to run a 3:35. Hopefully it doesn't get too hot too soon or else this could be a training run for Cleveland.

The Cleveland Marathon is three weeks from Sunday (25 days out) so I am excited about running one of my favorite races of the season! I am hoping for better weather there this year! The Green Jewel 50K is few weeks after that.

Then it's the Canalway Corridor 100 mile run in 73 days! This is exciting and scary!!

My goal is to finish the 100 mile run in one piece! This is my first very long ultra and I am doing this to raise money for the lung association. This is an organization near and dear to my heart. My mother-in-law Barb was diagnosed with lung cancer this year. It has spread to her brain. This 100 mile race is for her - to encourage her to keep fighting! My husband is running the Burning River 100 as well. We have setup a fundraiser page for Mom here. Please consider making a small donation.

Also, as some of you might know my mother has COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), also a disease of the lungs, mainly caused from years of smoking. So unofficially this race will honor her as well.




Monday, March 13, 2017

Shamrock 15K Race Report

I did not have high expectations for the Shamrock 15K race yesterday. Leading into it I still felt a little fatigue from Austin and had not gotten in any speedwork. Plus it's "that time of the month" for me as well as suffering through some pretty bad GI issues that I now think may have been food poisoning from Saturday night since the hubby and I both felt pretty bad yesterday. Thank god for Pepto is all I can say! 

It was cold low 20s and there were some light flurries during the race at times but nothing too crazy. The Shamrock course is full of hills. The first 4 miles go pretty fast since there is a lot of good downhill. I probably ran a bit faster than intended early on with some miles at 6:50 pace and then I suffered for it later when mile 5 and "the big hill" came where I clocked my slowest mile at 8:45. Miles 5 and 6 were my slowest and I was able to get back on track with a 7:30ish pace to wrap it up with a 1:09:36 (7:29 pace). Given how crappy I felt yesterday I am very happy with the result. I ended up 5th female, 1st in the 35-39AG. I would like to give this one another go on a better day for me to see what I am truly capable of when feeling 100%.

This is a great and competitive little race with really nice swag including a nice 3/4 sleeve race shirt, a finisher towel and a nice glass mug for the AG winners. SARC does a nice job with their races and had plenty of food inside Woodridge Middle School after the race. I would put this one on your bucket list if you are looking for a challenging middle distance race. 

Fortunately we felt good enough post race to have a beer at R. Shea Brewing and then it was home to battle the GI troubles for the rest of the night. Today I am feeling much better albeit tired.

Next up is the Spring in Your Step 10K in Massillon on the 25th, which is supposed to be a mix of rolling hills and flat towpath. I am also planning to run a 5K a couple weeks out from the HOF Marathon. Scheduling these races helps me to get in some high quality speedwork, which I hope will toughen me up for a BQ marathon this spring at either HOF or the Cleveland Marathon!

Cheers to another successful race! Maybe the luck of the Irish?!