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!

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My Journey into Ultra-Running Begins!

For years I have wanted to dabble in the world of ultrarunners, there was just so much that appealed to me about it:

  • Long slow runs (I’ve always considered myself a Husky rather than a Greyhound)
  • Relaxed, non-competitive  atmosphere full of comradery rather than ego
  • Races on trails more than roads, I find they are SO friendly on the body, plus you really have to slow down in order to successfully traverse the terrain, so there’s less pressure to run fast
  • REAL FOOD on the course, plus you can really take your time at the stations to refuel and get a second (or sixth) wind

But then there are things about it that sort of scared me from it:

  • Blisters
  • Possible injury that would prevent me from running/training for future events
  • Losing a shoe in mud (this almost happened to me during a ten miler), plus the idea of river crossings (running in wet shoes sound horrible and very unappealing)
  • Blisters (Yes, I really have an issue with them)!

I personally approach running long distance very cautiously; I think it’s important to have experience, and if you ran a marathon…run another…and another…and ANOTHER until running a marathon is “easy” and it doesn’t take you a week to recover. I recover in usually 24-48 hours and get right back into training, but also approach it sensibly with walk/run intervals for at least a week.

I personally don’t think it’s good practice to jump from marathon distance to 50 miler. Start with a 50k or a timed endurance challenge (the ones local to me are 6-12 hours, and I know they can go to 24 but, again, NOT ready for that just yet, if ever) before trying to run a 50 miler. I will say I don’t think I will ever run a 100 miler, I think the most I would want to run is a 50 miler or 100k…but that’s probably the most I would ever want to do in my lifetime. My main reason is that I really don’t like the idea of running in the dark, during “off” hours, etc. My body is very specific as to sleep schedules, etc. and I have yet to even register for a night race (like a Halloween 10k) because I think my body will protest big-time. But my bucket list race is, by far, the JFK 50 Miler…someday!

I feel like my body is finally ready to tackle one this year, so I have several on my calendar for the fall, as well as other endurance challenges. Here is what my year is looking like, and yes, these ARE paid for so, in my mind, there’s no turning back. I’m committed! I also have friends joining me for a majority of these races, and with friends coming along for the ride, I’d never want to back out! We’re in this together!

May:

Two marathons in one week (one being a new state, Maine, and another in DE); I plan on doing the first pretty conservatively for fast recovery, like a 4:30 or 4:45 finish time. I’m hoping the second is faster, as the Maine course is a lot of downhill and is known for fast times.

I’m also hoping to do birthday run at the end of the month. My goal is a mile per year, but realistically I think a 39k is more possible for me at this point. I will see how my body fares, but I would like to finish 39 miles in 8 hours. If I feel it’s too much, I may just stick to a 39k. Another thing I may try to do is split the mileage up throughout the day, so it’s a little easier than trying to tackle all at once. THAT, I think, makes 39 miles possible for me.

June:

A full marathon on Saturday and a half marathon that Sunday. The half is a very fun local race called The ODDyssey, and a lot of people dress in costume. Since I plan on running very conservatively, I will also be in costume! I’m pretty sure dressing in my Ramona Flowers (from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) will be a pretty easy costume for running, the wig isn’t heavy and I can wear tights with shorts, etc. I’m hoping I can make a huge mallet, her weapon of choice, to run with as well! I never run in costume but I think in the spirit of the event it’s worth it. Several friends will be running this one as well, but I warned them I would be SLOW and I’d see them at the finish line to celebrate!

August:

My first timed endurance challenge, a local 6-hour trail run. I am hoping to run a 50k distance that day, but being that it’s August in PA, I have my reservations. It’s sure to be humid, but luckily will be OVER by 1 PM!

September:
A new marathon state, Iowa, for mid-month. It will be a small trail race, which is really more my thing. I think it will be fairly no frills, if the $50 registration fee is any indication.
Another timed endurance race at the end of the month, a 12-hour. My goal is 40 or 50 miles for that one. I’ll be running that one with my friend J.

There is also another timed race over Labor Day weekend that I am 50/50 decided upon, which is also a 12-hour. I think I want to see how I fare for the 6-hr in August before committing to TWO 12-hr races in one month. Plus I don’t have any running buddies that can join me for this one, and I think it would be tough to do without support on the course. But maybe it would be good to try to see how I do.

October:

A local trail 50k that is a full loop course with no repeating loops or out-and-backs. It is one that has been on my radar for YEARS and I finally think I can commit to it.

Another marathon in DE with a monster theme! I’m mainly doing it for the medal alone.

November:

Mid-month I will be doing another half/full marathon challenge weekend in PA in Bucks County, PA. The challenge is called The BUCKY challenge and you get an extra incentive for finishing both the half and full. Challenge accepted!

To summarize for 2015: 3 new states, and 10 official marathon+ races. By this point I will be at 24 states for my 50 states and DC marathon goal, and 35 marathons total (if I count the ultra races, which I think count).

January

J and I are going to do a B2B (Back to Back) challenge in Mississippi and Alabama (meaning: two marathons in two days), so a lot of my events and training from 2015 will prepare me for this. It’s something we’re both SUPER excited about!

I’m also really and truly hoping to run my first 50 miler in 2016, but I want to see how the training goes for this year. There is a local trail run that has a marathon, 50k and 50 miler in May, and I definitely would like to commit to that! I know more states will be added as well, as I think Chris and I will be touring the Badlands in the fall and I can actually knock out North and South Dakota in one week, so that would be a great way to get in some travel as well as earn some new states.

So how WILL my training look to prepare myself for these distance events?

Lots of back to back long run weekends and high mileage weeks in July and August. My ultimate goal is a 100-mile week in August. My max mileage in past years for training hovered around 70 for the week. This usually means doubles on weekdays, but it’s totally doable.

I am going to start incorporating a new BeachBody program into my training, called PiYo, which is a Pilates/Yoga hybrid that is low impact and involves no weights. I just started PiYo and  have sore abs two days later! It also looks like it will take some time to adjust to, as some of the moves are a little advanced for this extremely inflexible and uncoordinated gal, but I am determined to keep up with the program, even if for now I am spending half the workout just trying to watch and get the moves right.

Training runs with REAL food and smart hydration. I oftentimes in the past would do long runs with no fuel, and sips of water when I could find a fountain. I oftentimes felt awful and extremely tired by the end of it all. For any run 10 miles or more, I plan on eating at least 60-100 calories every 5 miles, and taking an electrolyte tablet every hour while carrying a handheld Nathan bottle with water. With summer looming, running in heat is NO JOKE, and I plan on training smart this year. Sample fuel will include:

  • Raisins
  • Dates ( I really dislike dates, but they are SO great for a fast carb shot!)
  • Sugary fruit that’s easily portable like grapes
  • Salted Onigiri (these are simply cold formed balls of rice, I ate this a LOT when I went to Tokyo, and I think these would make excellent fuel for training)
  • GoGo Squeeze applesauce pouches; other runners attest to the portable pouches of baby food, but I just can’t stomach the idea of strained sweet potatoes
  • Cold, salted, cubed potatoes (sound appetizing? LOL)
  • Trail mix made of peanuts, raisins and chocolate chips (OMG so good)
  • For longer races like my timed endurance runs I probably will have gluten-free pretzels and paleo cookies at my fuel stops, but I am trying to stick to a modified paleo diet for most training days.

Make sure I incorporate walk breaks into my runs. I know some people may think: Walk breaks? Isn’t that counter-productive? I beg to differ. For ultras, I feel it’s the only way for mere mortals such as myself to have stamina and keep going.  Ultras aren’t the same as marathons, you need to be able to keep moving, so going a little slower and allowing yourself walk breaks is a way to give yourself a little extra energy.

Believe it or not, I actually incorporate a lot of walk-breaks in my current training and can still manage sub-2 halfs and sub-4 full marathons without pushing myself super hard and I recover fast. I realize that yes, I can probably Boston qualify, but I really enjoy running a fun and conversational pace…I can still run a 3:51 full while chatting and laughing with other runners. That sort of thing is more important to me than a BQ, so to each his or her own!

So that essentially will be my approach, and if any current ultrarunners have any suggestions, please feel free to comment below! I will keep you all posted as these events happen, and I am SO incredibly excited to see how I fare for this year.