Fall Race Roundup

I realize I haven’t blogged in quite a while, I think race recaps can be tiresome and it’s tough to be motivated sometimes with a busy schedule, but I am going to try and break down in small recaps just exactly I’ve been up to since my Iowa marathon in September:

In September I ran the Bacon 5k challenge, my first 5k race in I don’t know how long, but decades come to mind. The Bacon 5k is simple: run 1.5 miles, eat a half pound of cooked bacon, and then another 1.6 miles. As I got started I didn’t see a whole lot of women ahead of me, so I figured why not race it and see how I do? While the bacon eating portion was a little difficult, it still wasn’t impossible. I finished in 25:03 and won 3rd overall female; I got a nice little medal and gift certificate that I could put toward some bacon swag, so I did. By the way, I realize I hate running fast; long slow distance is much more my thing.

156What better way to celebrate than by getting a bacon stufty?

October was what I termed as my Triple Crown of Insanity: two ultras and a marathon within 14 days.

First was the Blues Cruise 50k, which was a 31-mile trail run around Blue Marsh Lake. As you can see the pictures speak for themselves, but this was a beautiful race course.

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We got very lucky with the weather because we got hit with lots of wind and rain earlier in the week thanks to Hurricane Joachin, but by race day it was simply overcast and breezy, and the course was actually DRY. Whew. We really lucked out. The course was quite difficult at times. While not nearly as technical as other races I have done, the hills were killer and often. One hill was actually an old ski slope that seemed never ending. I also enjoyed getting to try real food during the race that was provided by the support staff, which included gluten-free vegetable broth, cold potatoes, Coca-Cola (HUGE hit for me, I loved it!)  and pickles. Not much was available for celiac runners, but I was more than happy with what I had!

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I learned to love cold, salted boiled potatoes REAL fast!

I finished in a little less than 7 hours. To be honest, I was OK with that. I really learned to respect the ultra that day! It took almost a full week for my quads to recover, I was seriously afraid that I tore something, but luckily was feeling much better by the next weekend, and thank goodness because I had another ultra on my plate!

Next was the Sloppy Cuckoo 12-hour the following Sunday. The Papal Visit moved the 12-hour from September to October, so it wasn’t ideal to have a 50k and a 12-hour a week apart, plus the sun was setting a little earlier this time of year. It was a 6.55 mile loop on trail, and while not super hilly or technical, it was still a good challenge. I took it very easy since my quads were still a little tender. I decided to call it a day after 5 loops since I had a marathon the weekend after this (sigh), and I was glad I made that decision. I didn’t fall, which was a first for a trail run, but I stubbed my one foot very badly on a root (snapped my big toe back quite violently and I had some ball of foot pain for several weeks after). So I earned a lovely German weather house and a bird whistle for running just around 33 miles in 8.5 hours or so.

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There was only ONE pic, taken by my husband, that shows me crossing over into the RIGHT finish line (you could either do another loop or finish, and I was ready to finish!)

NEXT I ran the Monster Mash Marathon in Dover, DE, literally the Saturday after the Sunday 12-hour. The main reason for doing this race was because the medal was awesome, it was all about Halloween and it was huge! You get to start at the Dover Speedway and the first mile is literally on the NASCAR track that is dubbed “The Monster Mile”…so there was a lot of camber that first mile! I ran a fairly strong race, while it was a flat road course the only issue I had was that it was quite windy, so for a majority of the race we ran on roads where there were a lot of open cornfields and nothing was able to block that wind. No matter what direction I was running, that wind was in my face and pushing me back. Despite my efforts, I wasn’t able to run a sub-4 and finished in 4:01. SO CLOSE. But the wind just wore me out that day.

1251That’s Miles the Monster in the background, holding a life-size NASCAR car!

Then I got a nice two week break, thank goodness. Put in some training but didn’t go nuts with mileage. Just tried to keep something of a base. Halloween was a total blast and I really enjoyed having some downtime.

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Downtime means plenty of time to carve some Nightmare Before Christmas pumpkins! Also had fun getting in the spirit of the season for handing out candy!

The first weekend of November I ran the DC Towpath marathon. I ran with my good friend J and kept pace with her for the duration of the race, and she PR’d the race that day, which was awesome! Only drawback is that the course was literally a four-time out and back, and the towpath was fairly muddy in spots. The course was very well-supported but was definitely one of the most no-frills events I’ve ever done. The start line was literally a line drawn on the ground and there was no chip timing, simply a guy holding a timer and yelling out your time as you finished. But you know what? I loved the fact that they had THREE fuel/hydration stops that were really well-stocked with good food! I learned to love Fritos that day! But seriously, after two out-and-backs I was just like “Ugh, I’m ready to be done already…” but J was determined to run the full marathon, so I figured why not? Let’s do it. And we totally did. It was my 30th marathon and I was happy to earn the medal. Also, it was nice to encourage people as we passed back and forth over and over, runners are seriously supportive people and it’s nice to be able to throw out praise and encouragement to one another.

Last but not least, I just ran the Bucky Challenge, which was a PA race based in Bucks County. You run a half marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday. So it was basically the Goofy Challenge but on a gorgeous canal towpath in PA. It was tough to take pictures because the sun made it very hard to see the screen, so my pics are slim to none. I did fairly well both days, the weather was really great (cold and breezy but DRY, which makes all the difference!) and the course was gorgeous. ALSO, I got to see a deer cross the water of the canal and shake itself dry right in front of me before it bounded off into the woods. It was pretty awesome, I had never seen a deer swim before, but there it was. It was a pleasant surprise, and I think I was the only one who had the pleasure of seeing it happen.

Both days the race was an out-and-back, very flat and scenic. When all was said and done, I earned two long-sleeved tech shirts, two nice medals, and a bright orange “Don’t Fear the Deer: 39.3” hoodie, which I wore with pride for the rest of the day. It was a lot of fun, overall. My friend M joined us for the half, and her and I kept pace for a 2:04 half (I wanted to stay nice and steady and not go all out so I could keep my legs fresh for Sunday’s full marathon. The next day I ran a 4:21 full and was so thrilled to be DONE for the year. Out of all that ran the Bucky, I was fourth overall time-wise, second female. Not bad!

086One down, one to go!

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Whoo hoo, last marathon of 2015! The Rudolph hat was a real hit with the support and spectators, figured I would make the best of the Bucky and have a little fun.

For the remainder of the year I plan on enjoying my recovery, the holidays, and some cross-training and low-mileage weeks. I am running a double marathon weekend in January (2 marathons in 2 days) but since I plan on walk/running both days I’m not very concerned about doing super high mileage training for the rest of the year. I’m there to just earn the states and not PR or do any kind of awesome time those days. Once that is all said and done, I will not have any races until April, and not even a full marathon until late May. Trust me, next year will be a lot lower in terms of scheduled races, and I think my body and wallet will appreciate the break!

Lastly, I want to give a shout out to J, who completed EVERY SINGLE race with me. Every single one. I am very very proud of her, and lucky to have her as a partner in crime for all of my race weekends. She has been a steadfast presence in my life, and a very valued, loved and treasured friend. Thank you for the laughter, strength and support you have given me. Also, thank you for sharing this amazing journey with me every step of the way!

State # 24: Iowa – a Marathon of Firsts

This weekend marks the start of my Triple Crown of Insanity: I have a 50k, a 12-hour endurance race, and a marathon all within 14 days. I’m sure some race recaps are coming for those, but I need to go back a few weeks to review my most recent marathon accomplishment, which is my 24th full marathon state: Iowa.

Chris and I LOVE the Midwest. So many people ask “Why the hell go to Iowa?” and we say “”Why NOT?” It’s beautiful, full of a lot of very awesome, down-to-earth people, great bars and eateries, and is just the kind of place we could see ourselves settling down if the weather wasn’t worse in the winter than it is back home.

So September 12 I ran the Wabash Trace Nature Trail Marathon, which was fantastic. Very small race, awesome people, beautiful course, and cornfields as far as the eye could see. It started in a small town about 2 hours west of Des Moines called Malvern, and finished in Shenendoah. The Wabash Trace Nature trail is a 63 mile rail trail, surrounded by trees on a nicely packed dirt and fine gravel trail; it was much like some of the trails I run back home, so it was perfect for my needs.

I won’t spend too much time talking about the race, only because it seriously felt like one straight line start to finish, a small section the the course was on paved road, but most was on the nature trail. I’ll let some of the pics do the talking for me. This was one of the first races where I brought a Camelbak so I could take pictures along the way, and I’m so glad I did. I definitely wasted a lot of time stopping and taking pictures for sure!

Here are some views of the race, and these are only a few pics that I took along the way, but as you can see, it was rural, quiet and ABSOLUTELY beautiful.

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Some shaky cam pics.

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LOTS of beautiful bridges during this race!

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One of my favorite shots, this REALLY captured the spirit of the race I think!

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If I wasn’t seeing cornfields, I was seeing silos.

 

 

 

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093 092 097All I kept thinking (in the tempo of Cha Cha Slide): COoooorn to the LEFT! Cooooorn to the RIGHT!

I know I mentioned this was a marathon of firsts, well here’s the first one: The course was very well-manned with awesome support stations from start to finish. I brought my Camelbak only to load it with food and kept the water bladder empty because there were WAY too many water stops. But Mile 20 had, wait for it:

107A BACON STOP! I was so excited. I wasted WAY too much time at this stop, but probably had three pieces of crispy, awesome bacon. Never in my life did I have bacon during a race, but it was good practice for a race to come (which I will get into in another entry!).

I felt like I ran a LOT of this race alone. I made a couple buddies along the way and ran with them for several miles, but I know when I approached the support stops I felt like I was totally alone, and felt like I was in last place, which was definitely not the case, but it can FEEL that way when you run a small race.

109By this point I was READY to see that finish line.

So after a LOT of picture taking and time wasted at the bacon stops (sigh), I finished my race in 4:11, and TRUST ME, I know I probably could have run a sub-4 that day because it really was a great course. But get this, it was surprisingly hilly! Check this out!

Image courtesy of Race Navigator.com

So I mentioned that this was a race of firsts. Well here is my SECOND first: Despite my time I won FIRST in my age group! WHUT?

parks and recreation animated GIF Image courtesy of giphy.com

Granted, it was a small race, there were only FIVE in my age group, but whatevs, I got first place and it was so exciting! I was also 8th overall female. Hey, and this is without even TRYING, so I was really stoked. I won a gift certificate that could be used at any store in Shenendoah, so what did we do with it? Bought beer of course! In hindsight I probably could have been a little smarter with my winnings, but at the time it seemed right.

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What other souvenir can one take from Iowa but a stuffed corn cob?

So that was my marathon adventure in Iowa, and I really loved it. We can’t wait to return to the Midwest, and I think we are definitely heading to Minnesota next year, as well as the Dakotas, so I’m sure I will have plenty more awesome pics to share with you!

My 50k is tomorrow and thank God Hurricane Joachin decided to piss off and help things dry out a little for my event. It will undoubtedly be a complete and total mudfest, but I am DETERMINED to earn the title of ultra runner, even if it takes me a LOT longer than planned due to the course. Wish me luck, and take care!

 

 

Playing Catch Up

Summer has been flying by pretty fast, hard to believe that it’s almost Labor Day already! But that also means race season has finally arrived for the majority of us who were sane enough to avoid summer races, and many runners are just starting their training for their respective events. There are only hundreds to choose from in any part of the country, and the Northeast is no exception.

I figured I would post a quick entry to sort of bring things up to date for me, as this fall will be INCREDIBLY challenging for me, but also exciting!

The Ultra that Wasn’t

A couple weeks ago I did my first timed event, a six-hour trail run on a 10k loop, as many as you could handle. My goal, initially, was a 50k, but after the first loop, which I found to be hilly, challenging and far more technical than I had anticipated, I only managed to run a 40k within the time limit. It was an absolutely beautiful course in the woods, with lots of ascents and descents, but also a lot of rocks, roots, and very few smooth running surfaces. The temperature was also quite humid and warm, so I had my Camelbak for the duration of the event. We were also able to set up a “base camp” of sorts, with food, water, Gatorade, chairs, anything we needed, so at each loop I took a few minutes to get my bearings, fuel up, and prepare for the next loop. My friend M also ran the event with me, and she did her longest run ever that day, a full three loops, which was close to 19 miles. I was very proud of her, and was happy that she did the final loop with me. I had taken a hard fall during the third loop (I swear I tripped over nothing and flew like Superman for half a second before landing with an oof! on the group) and I was feeling dirty, bruised and demoralized. I don’t think I could have done a fourth loop without some serious moral support from M, and she really came through for me. I swear I walked a good portion of that last loop…I felt like I walked more than 50% of the time anyway, I was just not taking risks with the terrain.

We finished at as the clock hit 5:36. I was so happy to strip the Camelbak from my aching shoulders and see Chris waiting for us at the finish line. It felt so good to be done; I couldn’t get over how much harder trail running was compared to roads. I felt slow, clumsy, and inadequate. But fortunately I found the trail runners to be kind, friendly and supportive. If (or in my case, WHEN) they passed, they always said kind words of encouragement, there was little arrogance to be found that day. I also saw a LOT of people were quite banged up and bloody at the finish line. One guy looked like he might have broken his nose. I can’t even imagine how he kept running and how lucky he was that he didn’t knock himself out cold in the woods. Trust me, you’re running around in a whole lotta nothin’, as beautiful as that may be, it’s still very, very isolated and could be a long time before another runner comes along if you suddenly are injured. I felt as if I ran a good portion of the event all on my lonesome.

We stuck around for a short while and I actually won a raffle prize (running socks I have yet to use!), and then the biggest surprise: M and I actually got age group awards. I was floored. I have to laugh a little in hindsight, as who knows if there were only three in my AG to begin with, but I think there were actually a few more. Hey, a medal is a medal and I was happy to receive one even if I felt like I performed terribly that day. I also was so happy to meet one of my supportive Twitter buddies, Beth, that day. It was so cool to finally meet her, and we exchanged info once we parted ways. I truly hope we can cross paths again!

I should say, too, recovery was ROUGH that week. It took me a good five days to feel I could run pain-free. Usually I bounce back from road races fast, but this time it was painful to even WALK the next day. I hurt in places I didn’t even know existed, since trail running uses muscles that road running totally ignores. All I could think all week was “OH. MY. QUADS.” It was like the Montana marathon recovery all over again.

Dietary Changes for the Better

I had been having a lot of GI issues the past few weeks, and rather than see the specialist right away I figured I would just sort of keep track of when I had distress and what possibly could have triggered it. I came to the conclusion that it was probably dairy through process of elimination and some detective work, so I decided to take dairy out of my diet. It wasn’t that incredibly hard, but I did love things like cheese and sour cream and it was somewhat hard to part with them.  I made some substitutes, and found that certain meal replacements (like a veggie and hummus sammy for breakfast instead of egg and cheese, or guacamole instead of cheese and sour cream) were actually still pretty substantial and satisfying. I even learned how to bake my chocolate chip blondies with vegan substitutes (yes, chia seed eggs are a thing).  So I’ll see if this does the trick with my GI issues and if things continue I may have to bite the bullet and see the specialist. But so far so good!

Race Challenges Ahead

While I am not an official ultrarunner yet, I soon will be come hell or high water. On my birthday in May I ran 39 miles, and that may technically define me as an ultrarunner, I have yet to complete an event that consists of an actual sanctioned ultra.  This fall, I will have a pretty hefty amount of events on my plate, and fortunately they will actually benefit my other events as training runs…so not too many ridiculous high mileage weekends if I can help it! And trust me, I love my rest days and down time like nobody’s business.

September: Full marathon (trail, but an “easy” rails-to-trails course like North Central Railroad Trail was in MD)

October: Trail 50k, 12-hour endurance trail run, full marathon (road). All in a three week time period. Because the Pope is visiting Philadelphia in late September (SO much more of a cluster than that sounds I promise), the 12-hour was moved to mid-October, right in between my 50k and marathon, so why not,  right? But that also means my goals for the 12-hour will probably shift a bit. I initially wanted to run 50 miles but think after my six-hour expectations were crushed, I need to be more realistic with my approach. My goal is now 40 miles, and anything after that is a bonus. I can see that being a very attainable goal over the course of 12 hours, and will just have to see what this course looks like before I can determine its difficulty and whether or not I need to adjust my mileage goal that day. I plan on not going full speed ahead but enjoying a little downtime between loops. Considering I have a 50k the weekend before, and need to recover for a full marathon for the weekend after, I HAVE to shorten my mileage goals a bit anyway. This is not a heart-breaking decision by any means.

November: A full marathon and then a 39.3 mile weekend with a half and full marathon in one weekend…a Goofy Challenge of sorts. These are all occurring over the course of 8 days. So…yeah.

After that, a much-needed holiday break is on tap until January, where I will be running two marathons in one weekend in early January. Or more like run/walking them…but earning the new state medals nonetheless. So December will be some back-to-back long run weekends to get myself prepared for that.

It’s a bit daunting to see this all on paper, but I will say I have been continuing my steadfast training and making sure I get plenty of rest and downtime with friends and family when I have free time. I haven’t felt too burnt out just yet, and made sure to schedule some time off so I don’t have to jump right back to work the day after an event.

New Blog to Bring Out my Snarky Side

Lastly, as previously announced, I am working on a second blog with one of my girlfriends, which you can check out here. It’s finally almost up and running, and we can also be followed on Twitter as well. It’s kind of tough to separate my gluten-free/celiac/runner side from the “self-loathing hipster book and video game nerd” side, but I am doing my best to keep these things separate with the Twitter accounts and blogs. I’m really hoping to see it grow as time goes on. Reading is a huge passion of mine, as much as running, and it’s fun to be able to share my thoughts with readers on things I’ve been “forced” to read.

I will be sure to post updates once these races are complete, and in the meantime, I am very much ready to bid farewell to summer and welcome autumn with open arms.

Branching out into the Blogosphere

I find blogging to be a pretty tiresome thing at times, but at the same time it can be a fun way to share interests and express yourself. I don’t always find race recaps to be especially interesting or fun by any means…

but I definitely have a very good sense of humor and completely different side to me that aren’t often seen in this blog.

Recently I decided to bite the bullet and start another blog, and I would love for you to check it out. I am a huge bookworm, and have been since I was very young. I more or less read anything…but as an adult I found my standards to be a little more stringent. There are some books that I staunchly refused to read based on principle, and Chris always said I was such an incredible book snob because of my attitude toward certain authors and works of fiction. To break it down in simple terms, this blog will involve me going out of my comfort zone and forcing myself into reading books I would never, ever read, and giving an honest review, otherwise known as the Bizarro Book Club. On the other side of the spectrum, my good friend Sam will also be going out of her comfort zone (case in point, she just bought the new Grey book) and reading books that I consider to be great works  of literature and providing her own reviews. Gee, who do you think comes out on top in this scenario?

I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for us both to grow a little, expand our horizons, and who knows, I might learn a thing or too about true love…or BDSM….errr, whatever.

Please feel free to bookmark and subscribe to the blog, leave comments, and contact me if you have an interest in being a guest blogger. I am also considering a bi-weekly “Bizarro Book Club Goes to the Movies” when my husband, who is by no means a reader, watches and provides commentary on movies he would never watch on his own.

Fair Warning Disclaimer: This blog is meant to be humorous and fun, so I don’t want any of you Twihards getting all butthurt over my snarkiness, or super-critical over-analytical English major jerkasses critiquing Sam’s reviews.  It should never be taken seriously, we are not academics or Mensa candidates here; we’re just reading for fun, being open-minded and trying new things.


Lastly, I will still be running and training (a lot, I have three ultras for the remainder of 2015 alone, and this doesn’t include marathons ), but I also have other interests and this is a fun way to branch out and show the humorous, snarky side I don’t often get to show in this blog. I hope you have time to check it out!

P.S. I am looking for lists of books that would include the worst of the worst but in popular fiction, if you can provide suggestions or links that would be awesomely helpful!

The Funny, Stupid Things That Go Through Your Head During a Run

I swear sometimes the strangest things come to mind while running. The other day I was running on one of my usual trails, and in one section there are usually a LOT of geese just grazing and watching over the goslings, which I’ve had the pleasure of watching them grow from little balls of yellow fluff to awkward adolescent geese, fluffy and not quite fully grown.

                        Yeah you’re cute for now…

So I’ll admit, I really dislike geese. Dislike is a kind way to put it. I find geese to be MEAN and very overprotective of their young to the point of neuroticism. Plenty of stories have circulated about geese attacking a hapless passerby with their strong wings to keep them from getting too close to a nest or their hatched young. Or they are just being mean for fun.

The other day I was running through the usual trail section when I saw probably around 50 geese surrounding the trail, and they looked menacing. Instantly my blood ran cold, and I knew I would have to run, and run quickly through the herd. What immediately flashed into my mind is the scene in The Neverending Story where Atryeu has to run through the first trial (the Riddle Gate, or Sphinxes) in order to reach the Southern Oracle without being obliterated by the bolts of energy that shoot from their half-lidded eyes once the wayfarer’s self-doubts are detected; they are no longer worthy of the quest and must be destroyed.

I approached the geese with trepidation, and they were all frozen in place and watching warily, beady eyes zeroing in on me.


So unassuming…

There was NO getting around this flock and I knew I had to just pass through with fingers crossed and my breath held.

As I got closer, one opened its beak in a menacing hiss, then another, and another, and they started to shamble toward me…

Enough to make your blood run cold isn’t it?

and I ran as fast as I could through the throng of creatures as they hissed and lunged forward…managed to bolt through, and wasn’t incinerated by lightning…errr, angry geese ready to give chase in full attack mode. I’m surprised I didn’t do a tuck and roll like Atreyu but I don’t think it would have been so pleasant on asphalt.

Whew. It was a teeny tiny little adventure that made me laugh in hindsight. The things that go through one’s mind on a run…it can ramble endlessly and who knows where the mind will lead while your legs take you elsewhere. I was in Atreyu’s moccasins for 7 seconds… I managed to feel my own worth, and pass through The Gate unscathed.

That is, until next time!  Let’s hope my first trail ultra doesn’t bring the Swamps of Sadness to mind…

Sometimes you just have to play it safe: My Keystone State Goofy Challenge

In order to prepare for ultra-running, I decided it was important to do back-to-back long runs and get myself used to the idea of running on tired legs. Recently  I was supposed to run a back-to-back race weekend: a full marathon on Saturday (the ½ Sauer ½ Kraut Marathon) and a half marathon (the ODDyssey Half Marathon) on Sunday. I was pretty excited, and felt ready. I wanted to take it super easy for the full, maybe a 5 to 5:30 finish in order to toe the start line on Sunday with somewhat fresh legs. But in the end, I had to change those plans in order to safely cross the finish line both days.

During the week before the race, I received an email informing me that they were going to cut the course time limit to 5 hours due to possible inclement weather and heat/humidity warnings. The course for ½ Sauer was a double-out and back course (kind of like a needle actually), so the full marathoners always had the option to cross the finish line early if they wanted to just end it at the halfway point. The medals and shirt are the same regardless of the event you decide to run. But with a five hour limit in place and heat warnings that would get us close to a 90 degree heat index by noon, I had a feeling there would be a lot of marathoners that were going to downgrade, or just completely DNF.

Rather than DNF (which is something I absolutely REFUSE to do), I decided to just flat-out downgrade. Why not? I know that I could easily run a sub-5, but had no idea how the heat might affect me during the second out-and-back, and God forbid I get stuck out on the racecourse past the 5 hour point because I’m suddenly falling apart from the heat. My intentions were to run an extremely slow full to begin with, but now I was just going to stress having to push myself more than I planned in order to finish under the cut-off time.
There were also two other factors that led me to easily come to this conclusion to downgrade:

1. This race was in PA, by no means a new state medal. I didn’t have to travel far for it and I had a few PA medals already.

2. I had a half marathon the next morning and needed to feel like my legs could handle it. If I pushed past what I planned, pace-wise, I might have suffered a little unnecessarily on Sunday.

So, all in all, easy decision, and I’m so glad I came to this conclusion! I had a fantastic weekend and a total blast both days! I even managed to run a decent half on Saturday, despite the heat!

Race 1: ½ Sauer ½ Kraut

This was a German-themed race that was to take place in Pennypack Park in Philadelphia, and the best part about it was that it was 95% shaded, and even had a fun trail section. It was an out-and-back course and had some fun water stops with people dressed in Leiderhosen, not to mention my very favorite aspect of all, the accordion music of UberHans, my temporary weekend crush. Sorry, I can’t help it, I’m a sucker for a guy with an accordion and leather shorts.

This was the first real race where I wore my CalmelBak, and I’m so glad I did. I managed to drink from it every mile and carry my own fuel, as well as my phone to take a few pics along the way. I was wondering if the CamelBak would slow me down? Not in the least, if anything, the extra hydration really helped push me to the finish.

The first few miles I definitely felt slow and sluggish, and a LOT of runners passed me. I didn’t even care, I really wanted to be conservative with the heat. It was actually a somewhat pleasant morning as long as there was a breeze and we stayed out of the sun. There were only a few small sections with full sun, and good LORD was it warm. If I had to run a race in full sun like this, I don’t think I would have done well at ALL.

Having the CamelBak allowed me to blaze through the water stops, and honestly I liked not contributing to the waste with cups (and being able to drink as much as I wanted rather than just a small cup). Being as warm as it was I definitely drank more than a water stop would be able to provide.

The best part of the course was definitely the trail section. What a blast! I’m really learning to love trails. Sure you run slower, and it can get a little dicey with the terrain, but they are SO much more fun than road. The ONLY thing about trails I get frustrated with is when I feel like someone is breathing down my neck and wants to pass on a single track. Luckily that doesn’t happen often, we all sort of respect each other’s pace and just run single file. And personally, I don’t mind applying the brakes if there is someone in front of me that’s slower…with trail you have to just take it a little more carefully and watch your step and respect your fellow runners.  It was fun to be able to run this part of the trail, as it will be part of an ultra course I will be running later this year.

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So heading back I was feeling good, and decided to pick up the pace a little. This is when I noticed that all the people that flew past me in the very early miles were suddenly running a lot slower, some walking, and I was passing THEM. I’ve learned from past mistakes, and know that starting off too fast sometimes equals a crash and burn later, especially if the temperatures are rising. So I’ve learned to slow my role a little.

Approaching the finish line I was happy to see I managed a 2:02 finish. It was funny, the race director was trying to direct me to the turn-around for the marathoners, but I just shook my head and finished the half with a smile. I was fine with that accomplishment for the day!

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Pros of 1/2Sauer ½ Kraut Marathon (and half)

  • Ample parking at a nearby German Club where you can be bussed to the start line (and there are actual bathrooms with soap and running water)
  • Packet pick-up the morning of the race! Always a plus for out of towners!
  • Nice race shirt and medal
  • Nice shaded course in a beautiful park setting with rolling hills and a mile or so of trail for some adventuring
  • Super easy bag drop and no lines to grab your stuff when you’re done
  • Waterstops manned by girls and gals alike in Lederhosen and German barmaid dresses
  • Amazing finish line spread! You get a little bit of food at the finish, which for me was just watermelon (but I love watermelon at a race so no complaints here!), but you also get two tickets to get a meal back at the German Club where you park…and they had a full spread, burgers, bratwurst and sauerkraut, sausage, soft pretzels, French fries, the list goes on. The other ticket is for a beer of your choice, though if you can’t have beer like me, they have a full bar to make one drink of your choice. Probably one of the best post-race spreads I could enjoy!
  • UBERHANS! He played before the race start, and also on the course, and it was: THE. BEST. I made sure to tell him so.
  • Small enough field to possibly earn an AG award, though I was 9th out of 44 or so for mine. Oh well!

Cons

  • The medal you earn is for the half AND full. I realize WHY they do this, because they won’t know how many people decide last minute to downgrade to the half. After all, this is something you can do as you’re approaching the finish line! So basically I didn’t miss out on anything swag-wise.
  • The race takes place in mid-June, so it’s a guarantee to be hot and have a risk of thunderstorms.
  • The course is mainly an out and back, try doing it twice for the marathon. Might not appeal to some.
  • Spectators are minimal, if any

Race # 2 The ODDyssey Half Marathon

So the next morning it was Round 2, the ODDyssey Half Marathon in Philadelphia. This one was going to be very conservative pace-wise, as I would be in costume (like a lot of the other runners, it’s part of the race’s charm) plus I already committed to sticking with my friend J as much as possible and keeping her pace.  My friend M decided to join us, and the three of us made sure to get there early in order to find street parking, and it was a piece of cake!

We all made sure to dress in costume, and I decided to dress as Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, a costume I have worn to several Halloween parties in years past. Chris even made me a mallet to carry, and considering we made it out of stuff we found around the house and didn’t have to spend a dime, I’d say he did a great job!

23352336This is about as legit as I could get to make it a running costume. No way I could run in my knee high Hot Topic combat boots.

Because of the heat warnings, it seemed like a lot of people bailed on wearing costumes, which was a huge disappointment; I was just really into it I guess! And, as expected, only a few people knew who I was dressed as, which was fine. I assumed only video game/comic book nerds would know who I was anyway. But the ones who did LOVED the costume and said it was definitely the best one they had ever seen, so that was nice to hear. I do like to go the extra mile when it comes to things like that, I’ve always been that way.

The race was fun, and went through areas I was familiar with from parts of the Philly Marathon and from Team in Training practices. The main issue was the heat, there wasn’t a lot of shade on the course, and it wasn’t especially breezy to help cool us off. But to help that, almost every water stop had a sprinkler to run through! Whoo hoo, it was awesome and very refreshing!

ODDyssey boasts games and obstacles along the course, but I saw very few. They had gigantic beer pong (basically throwing a volleyball in a bin), a ring toss, and throwing a softball at a milk bottle pyramid. I actually got the beer pong on the first try! But I was a little disappointed that the games weren’t better.

The water stops were also a problem. Because we were taking it a lot slower, one of the first stops already had run out of Gatorade. The stops were kind of disappointing as well. I found myself grabbing a lot of my own water. I left my CamelBak at home since I assumed there would be plenty of stops on the course, but the stops seemed to be sorely lacking in volunteers. They just couldn’t seem to keep up with the steady stream of thirsty runners. Though the ones they had were friendly and cheerful, on a whole.

I stuck with J until around mile 12.5. I did a lot of walking, and running intervals, and by the time we got to the last .7 miles, which was uphill in full sun, she told me to go on since she knew I wanted to finish. The sun was pretty brutal and I was glad to get this one over with!
It was great to approach the finish line; as I did there was a group in the stands that shouted “GO RAMONA!” and REALLY cheered me on…it was pretty awesome! I still managed to have my mallet on me the entire time, which got a lot of props from people. I didn’t strip a single part of my costume off, and trust me it was tempting, but it was also nice to keep my skin protected from the sun.

I finished in 2:53, and honestly, despite my finish time, I had a great time! Met a lot of nice people, even some really cool ultra runners, and was able to get some good insight and advice on training and events. I found the experience to be very laid back and fun.
Although the race definitely had some small cons, I still would to run it again another year. And BRING IT even harder, costume-wise! The wheels in my head have been turning (a dangerous pastime, I know!)

Pros of the ODDyssey Half Marathon

  • GREAT Swag! Nice shirts (you can choose from two different colors), a pint glass, and a medal that is also a bottle opener. Cool AND Functional!
  • Fun atmosphere! I loved seeing people run in costume, especially since it wasn’t just Disney costumes, as I am used to seeing when I ran my Disney races years ago. They even have a costume contest, but since it’s heavily swayed by Facebook, I am a huge loser in this regard because I am Facebook-less (and have no regrets) and can’t promote myself.
  • Flat course with very few hills (take this as you will, I like hills, but many people don’t)
    Games along the course, which I think were sorely disregarded by many runners, which is a shame. Take 60 seconds to play a game and have some fun!
  • Sprinklers at every water stop, which REALLY comes in handy for June
  • KIND bars and fruit were available at the finish line! I was actually able to eat!

Cons

  • OK, this is a big one, but packet pick-up, rather than being the weekend of the event, is the weekend BEFORE. They may think this is doing us a favor, but a LOT of runners grumbled about it, and while they have limited pick up the Saturday before, they really only wanted out of town runners to be there. Morning  of race packet pick-up? Only in VERY EXTREME circumstances. On the flipside, if you don’t feel like dealing with it at ALL, just pay a small fee and have the bib shipped to your house, but I think that means no shirt.
  • Not a lot of shade on a hot course. You know my feelings on that. And really, for a city race not a lot can be done about that.
  • Stops seemed to run out of Gatorade early. It really seemed like it was mainly available for the faster runners, and trust me, the longer you are out there, the more crucial the electrolyte drinks will be!
  • No GF beer for this celiac, but who am I kidding? I only was given that golden opportunity ONCE at Myrtle Beach’s Marathon. But dammit, I am so tired of being promised free beer, and never a drop can I drink. That’s just my little gripe.
  • Spectators are sparse except at the start and finish line.
  • No fuel provided on the course, but I don’t know how common that is for a half marathon anyway. I could swear they usually have at least one.
    In the end, I had a great weekend with friends, and would love to run ODDyssey again!

So my next big thing will be my trail ultra in August, though who knows if it will even be a true ultra. It’s a 6 hour challenge on a 6.5 mile loop on trails. My goal is a 50k (which is 5 loops), but considering the terrain and the time of year (translation: heat) I just may NOT be able to pull it off. But I will do my very best to try!

Until next time!

Two Marathons in One Week? Check.

Hell yeah it can be done. Here’s how I pulled it off.

I realize I am a lousy blogger, I can’t seem to keep up at all with race recaps, but wanted to get this posted even though it’s a month late!

I decided that the first step toward running an ultra was to tackle two marathons within a one week time-frame. By Maniac standards, this is still pretty tame, but to me I thought it was a pretty good challenge, and would serve as one of many for the year. In the weeks leading up to Marathon #1, I made sure to put in some high mileage weeks and back-to-back long runs on weekends. My maximum mileage for the week was 70, and it wasn’t easy getting in those double-digit runs on a weekday, but nonetheless I was dedicated to the training and made sure to stick to my self-made training plan as much as I could.

I also had traveled and taken a couple weeks off from serious training in April (it was totally worth it too), so I had SOME concerns about being able to pull this off successfully. I never managed a 20 mile training run during this time, but I personally think 18 is all one needs to run a marathon after they have several under their belt already. Sometimes between fulls the most I can do is maybe 14 miles…but trust me, the body remembers (or was it Pepperidge Farm?).

So enough jibber-jabber, here we go…

Marathon 1: Delaware Marathon (Marathon #26)


I went into this race telling myself over and over, I am only doing this as a training run, this is going to be a “fun run”, and take it slow and easy; besides, the medal and swag were pretty damned sweet (thus a huge incentive…what else is there I ask ya?).

And it’s exactly what I did. It was a very humid day, 100% humidity for the duration of the race, but luckily it stayed overcast and 60 degrees for the morning. It was a double loop course, something I swore I would never do years ago, but since a lot of ultras are on loop courses like this, I figured it would be good practice. And in the end, it was not nearly as bad as I expected, it was actually kind of nice! Plus you pass the finish line area where the halfers split off, and the crowd support was pretty great. There were a LOT of halfers and relay runners, and only around 400 or so marathoners, so I have to admit it felt a little badass to tough out the entire 26.2 when everyone else was running 4, 8.5(ish) or 13.1 miles.  I had to control the urge not to shove someone out of the way as they pranced by clean, fresh-faced and full of purpose at Mile .01 and I was at Mile 22. DON’T demoralize me.

My body felt great for the duration of the race; I only had some issues that had nothing to do with running: basically I was undergoing severe GI distress and had to stop several times during the race. I was seriously in pain, it was like my Anne Arbor Marathon all over again. I had pain, cramping, and even chills. Ugh. It sucked. A lot. But after the final PortaJon stop with only 5 or 6 miles left, I finally felt a little better and was able to pick it up. I also had some chafing from the humidity, but had put a portable sunscreen stick in my Spi-Belt and it worked well as pseudo-Bodyglide. In fact, it saved me I think.

Considering all the starting and stopping I had to do, plus a short walk break or two, I finished in 4:16, and looking back feel that it was a pretty respectable time. I kept my pace VERY conversational and comfortable throughout, and my pace never really changed throughout the morning. There is a decent hill section at Mile 5.5 and 18.5, and that second loop almost made me hit the wall, but I managed to push through. All in all it was actually a pretty enjoyable race, and the sun came out just as I hit Mile 26. Thank GAWD. If I had to run in full sun with that humidity it would have been horrific.

The finish line had plenty of food, but one of the BEST things was a beer and champagne garden, and you were free to enjoy your beer anywhere in the finish area, not just a designated beer tent.I had brought a couple cold ciders and even had a couple cold mimosas. Food? Eventually I had real food, but was content with a bag of Old Bay Kettle Chips. In fact, I am discovering that kettle chips are turning into my favorite junk food, and some ultra-runners swear by them as fuel! That’s giving me some ideas for my ultras this year!

DE Marathon Pros:

  • A lot of Maniacs and 50-Staters run this one, as DE is a state with few marathons.
  • Tons of parking and easy race day logistics
  • Course was actually quite scenic for the most part
  • Very good course support and finish line spread
  • Swag was fantastic – a pint glass, hat, gender-specific shirt, and a really nice quality medal
  • Finish line was really great, good spectator support at certain points
  • Packet pick-up available on race day without a fee
  • Beer AND champagne garden, and you could sit anywhere in the grass to enjoy, not just a roped off area/beer tent
  • Early morning start to avoid the heat

Cons

  • Double-loop course (you can take this as you will, I prefer point to point, but didn’t mind this so much)
  • This time of year is hit or miss for weather, and it can be very warm and humid in May
  • Some sections of the course are slightly ugly in terms of scenery, but nothing super industrial (Harrisburg Marathon, I’m looking at you)
  • A bit pricy but the cost doesn’t change, $100 without a running club discount, which for a small marathon is pretty expensive

The Week Between Two Fulls

The Sugarloaf Marathon in Maine was exactly a week after the DE marathon. For the Monday after the race, I rested. Completely. And I actually felt pretty good, I was hardly at all sore…it honestly felt like I had completed a long run that Sunday, but regardless I didn’t jump into a high mileage week at all. I made sure I rested, took naps, and ate carbs – mainly simple carbs like rice or toast with breakfast.

But I digress, Tuesday and Wednesday I did walk/run intervals for 4 miles, Thursday I only had time for 2 miles. That’s it. Just maintenance and shaking out the soreness. Nothing more.

Friday and Saturday involved the drive to Maine and relaxing at the Sugarloaf Hotel. The day before a race I tend to do absolutely nothing. I like to stay off my feet, eat a little more, drink a little cider, play Final Fantasy: Crisis Core on my PSP (in the words of Patton Oswalt: My geekiness is getting in the way of my nerdiness.)…and just have the laziest day I can possibly imagine before hitting the racecourse again.

Marathon 2: Sugarloaf, Maine : Marathon 27, State 23


Race morning I had to take a shuttle to the start at 5:45 AM. In all honesty, I felt pretty good, no leftover soreness, no phantom joint or tendon pain, everything felt good and I felt ready to go. I had NO idea how I would fare, but this race was known as the fastest race in Maine and was a great Boston qualifier and PR course. Precipitation-wise, we lucked out with the weather too, as it had threatened to rain off and on in the forecast…and on race day, the rain was definitely no longer in the forecast. So I had a feeling I would do well, but the idea of a ridiculous PR sounded way too good to be true.

It was.

The problem with Sugarloaf is it’s on roads that aren’t shaded, so even if you’re running at a good clip, having to run in full sun on a warmer day (to me, warm is anything above 70 degrees) can devastate you in the second half. I don’t do well at all in full sun, and really felt like I was starting to fall apart in the final ten miles.

All I could keep thinking was:

I actually WALKED at mile 25 (I NEVER EVER WALK AT MILE 25!!!) and that is usually when I really push myself to the finish.  Instead I felt as if I was just done…I had to REALLY dig deep mentally to finish. I felt pretty defeated in those final miles.

The first 5 miles were great, it was a nice easy morning, still felt a tad cool outside, rolling hills and beautiful scenery. Miles 5-10 were slowly uphill, and while nothing ever brought me to a walk, they were fairly long hills and a decent climb. At this point the sun was also starting to beat down on me just a little. Once we got to the top of the hill section, the last sixteen miles were either downhill, flat or slightly uphill. The main problem, again, was sun.  I felt like I could never get any shade, and it was draining me fast.

I also decided after this race to never bother with another energy gel AGAIN. I’d rather starve and rely on my own body fat. Bottom line, they’re gross, and during the Sugarloaf marathon I had a very hard time using them. I actually was gagging trying to get them down. From now on it’s real food or nothing, the way ultra-runners do it, I’m DONE with them! Bam!

Here was another issue: the race wasn’t closed to traffic, and there were cars and exhaust almost constantly during the second half. A lot of the family and spectators were driving along the course (sometimes I saw the same cluster of people four or five times, it was great because they were SO encouraging) and heading toward the finish line. But this is where it got complicated. The final half mile was just bottle-necked with cars, and I actually had to SQUEEZE past traffic to continue on the course into what felt like a cattle chute to the finish line. It actually was VERY anti-climactic, and also annoying. I wasn’t the only one who was very disappointed by this. Your final .5 miles should be victorious, and instead I felt as if we were elbowing our way through a traffic jam!  I was literally inches from brushing up against a hot car waiting in traffic!

I’m sorry if I sound like a Little Miss Complainy Complainerson, but the last thing I will say about Sugarloaf, is while I loved the shirts, the medals were the same ones that the 15k runners got, and even said “Marathon and  15k” on the medal. I shouldn’t care about the medals, but I feel like I worked pretty hard and deserved one that proved I ran a marathon. I could easily have just run the 15k, got the same medal, and no one would be the wiser. But cheating is NOT my way! Nor should it be ANY respectable runner’s way (you know who you are!), but that’s…another story (cue Limahl and the Neverending Story theme music!)

In the end, I finished in 4:06, and was VERY disappointed with my time. I felt like the race just flat-out sucked, and was really bummed I couldn’t even manage a sub-4 when in the past few marathons they came so easily. In hindsight, I feel like I did pretty well for two marathons in one week, and I know now that I can do this again, no problem. I just really struggle with weather conditions, and there’s no controlling that.

Sugarloaf Marathon Pros

  • Small race field, great for 50 Staters and Maniacs (and everyone was super friendly)
  • PR course WHEN CONDITIONS ALLOW, like Wineglass there’s a lot of downhill, which helps to make up for any of the uphill in the early stages of the race
  • Great tech shirt, long-sleeved (my favorite for maximum ink protection! Gotta protect that investment!) for the marathoners
  • Lovely host hotel with good transportation to and from the race, and the rates were also very reasonable
  • Beautiful scenery through a point-to-point course, some of the prettier scenery I’ve seen during a race
  • Good support stations and volunteers, and there seemed to be a lot more in the second half (which was needed, as it got pretty warm)

Cons

  • HARDLY ANY SHADE. Obviously nothing can be done about this, but it really sucked. A LOT.
  • Roads open to traffic, and in the final miles I felt like I was really sucking down a lot of exhaust
  • Roads were pitted and cambered, and that was pretty tough at times
  • Sorry, I’m still a tiny bit annoyed about the medal. I would have liked something to mark the year or race to separate me from the 15k, but trust me, I’ve gotten MUCH worse medals. Ones that can’t even spell marathon right. At least the design itself was very nice and really captured what the Sugarloaf Marathon was about.
  • The finish line bottle-neck was very frustrating, as we really had to squeeze past traffic to get to the finish.
  • Not really much in terms of finish line food for this celiac…but I didn’t even care. I was too wiped out to care.

One thing I took away from all this: I bought a CamelBak Marathoner in order to keep myself well-hydrated during long, warm races. Sometimes smaller marathons don’t have enough support to keep you well-hydrated, unless you’re a totally kickass marathon like Hatfield McCoy and have one EVERY FREAKIN’ MILE. So in smaller races, especially with trail sections, it’s nice to be able to just hydrate when you feel the need, bypass the support stops and not contribute to wasting plastic/paper cups. PLUS the CamelBak holds all I need in terms of fuel, tissues, and anything else I’d need; it’s come in so handy on training runs this time of year, and I absolutely love it!

Final note: I will say when I researched the CamelBak online I saw a lot of message forums where people asked about them, and some runners just ripped into them for “not being a real runner if you need one” or “you’re obviously a slow runner if you are on the course long enough to need one”. Way to be supportive and informative while sounding like a total dickbag.

It’s runners like you that I hope I never have the pleasure to meet. Obviously you’ve never run trail races where support is minimal or you’d never be so dismissive. I’d love to see you during an ultra someday, especially one in August.

Have a nice day and keep up the good work by supporting the running community.