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!

39 Years, 39 Miles

This will be brief, but yesterday I accomplished something I have always wanted to do, but didn’t feel I had it in me…until now. I know if I have any aspiration to be an ultra-runner I need to experience it for myself in an unofficial setting, that way I can test myself to the limit. There is no course support, no friends or family, nothing but your own support system and a lot of mental digging…only YOU can make yourself move forward. And only you can decide to quit. There’s no one else but you to make that call. But the nice thing is: there’s no clocks, no cut-off points, no pressure to succeed, no fear of failure…

I was inspired to complete my age in miles on my birthday, and decided no matter what I was going to give it my best attempt.  Yesterday was warm, and I knew from the beginning I wouldn’t be able to run all 39 miles outside, as the high was to be 89 degrees and sunny; my goal was to complete 39 miles total for the day, even if it was broken up, but I really wanted to make sure I did at least an ultra distance outside (which is anything beyond a marathon).

I hit the trails with just my Nathan handheld bottle and some fuel and electrolyte tablets. I took it slow and easy the entire time, making sure to drink water often and incorporate walk breaks throughout, and not just in the final miles. I brought an applesauce squeeze pouch, dates and raisins for my fuel, and I have to say I’m learning more and more to love raisins! I also made sure to stay on trails with as much shade as possible, but by noon it was very tough. Any time I hit full sun it was like Krytonite, and I felt like I was draining pretty fast. There was a nice breeze in the early hours but that soon just felt like a blast from a furnace by midday.

I managed to run 28 miles pretty strong, but by this point the heat was starting to get to me, and I start incorporating walking much more than I had planned. But happily I had no joint, tendon or muscle pain. I actually felt pretty strong! I totally attribute that to my new orthotics and my awesome Hoka One One Kailua shows. Since I have adopted Hoka into my life, I never, ever have nagging injury issues. No wonder ultra runners swear by them! My main thing was I had a toe blister on my left foot that hadn’t quite healed from my marathon at Sugarloaf (that entry is coming soon), so even though it was bandaged up, it still was quite bothersome.

I finished 32 miles in around 6:20, but that also included all of my stops to fill water, fuel up, and stand there and contemplate if I could move another step. All I could think of was cold fluids in ice: orange juice, iced coffee (the urge was SO strong to find a Wawa and get a huge iced coffee WHILE on the run), cold soda. By the time I got back to my car, it was 89 degrees. I was doused in sweat, trail grit, salt and my ankles were absolutely filthy with dirt lines. I was completely done with running outdoors, and decided I could finish up my mileage inside.

I got home and grabbed a ginger ale, and then jumped on the treadmill to finish up the 7 miles. I was damned and determined to do this, it was all I had planned for my birthday, and I wanted more than anything to prove to myself I could do this (even if my mind kept insisting this was a silly goal in the final hours). I did a slow five miles and then walked the final two miles…the blister was really getting the best of me, and honestly, I thought about ultra running and that there is NO shame in walking or going slow. Why else do they give 12-14 hours to finish the JFK 50? 24+ hours to finish 100 miles? Because you need breaks, you walk, you do a brief self-assessment. Then you get your bearings and continue forward.

In the end, I finished and felt great, took a long shower and scrubbed the trail grit from myself. The only weird thing I noticed that my appetite was lacking for the day, plus I was dehydrated no matter how much fluid I took in, in fact I barely peed for the rest of the day, even though I drank LOTS of water. But I was proud of myself at the end of the day…I completed the distance and didn’t give up. I proved to myself I do have it in me to complete an ultra. I even woke up feeling pretty refreshed and well-rested. I’m a little sore but not hobbling about at all, so that is a good sign for future events down the road.

Now I just need to figure out a way to keep those blisters at bay!

State Recaps Lite and 2015 Goals!

So much has happened in the past few months, and I really wouldn’t mind getting back into the blogging just a tad. But I find race recaps to be very time consuming, and honestly, it can be tough to just say “mile after mile passed” with very little in between. I find it difficult to recall a lot of what happened during a race well after the fact, especially when smaller races tend to have mile after mile that just sort of blur together! But with the new year coming I wouldn’t mind getting back into the swing of things. I actually have a lot of goals and milestones I want to reach next year, so here is a quick recap of the states I finished up in 2014 before I get into my 2015 aspirations:

I ran five new states since my Memorial Day race in Massachusetts: two were slightly disastrous and painful, one was a brand new PR, one was a TON of fun, even if it was my slowest full, and the last one was probably one of my very favorite marathon memories:

IMG_2306I returned to run the Hatfield McCoy Reunion Marathon which spanned Kentucky and West Virginia; it was a great weekend but I was running on Asics well past their prime and suffered a calf strain that lasted 2 weeks. I finished, but it was a painful recovery! It was great running one of my favorite courses again, and seeing my name on a sign welcoming me back! There was a huge Marathon Maniac presence and I think this race is only going to grow in popularity! If you ever have any doubts about Hatfield-McCoy, drop them, this is seriously one of my favorite marathons!
Finish Time: 4:28

 

IMG_2076I ran one of the most difficult and hilly marathons of my life, the Heart of America Marathon in Columbia, Missouri. Easley Hill is notorious and very few people successfully run up it without walking. The course was VERY difficult indeed and I couldn’t even believe I finished in less than 5 hours. I had some pretty bad hip tendon pain due to a slipped heel lift in my orthotics, and I had a very painful time. It was also my very first marathon running in Hokas, and I wasn’t sure how that was going to go. Ultimately this was a finisher medal and a new state in my pocket, no fanfare or anything to note except that I finished. I will also say that this officially wins for the most roadkill on any course, putting Ann Arbor in second place!
Finish Time: 4:52

 

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Wineglass Marathon in Corning, New York was by far my fastest marathon, and it was fantastic! I absolutely loved this race, even though it was cold and a little windy, but the autumn splendor made it entirely enjoyable.  Getting to finally beat my PR from Harrisburg in 2011 was one of the best running moments of the year for me! I would highly recommend this one if you’re looking for a PR or Boston qualify! The swag was also quite memorable, as you get a wineglass, small bottle of champagne, and a beautiful glass medal.
Finish Time: 3:51

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The Manchester City Marathon was one I ran with a friend, and I promised that I had no intention of running for a fast time, I just wanted to earn the state. We had a BLAST and took our time, and I had by far the slowest finish time of any of my races, but damn was it a fun time! Granted it was cold, damp and windy, and I think I may have suffered slight hypothermia by the race’s end, but I will also say that it was great to enjoy real food and beverages on the course rather than Gu and Gatorade. It was truly one for the record books on many levels!
Finish Time: 6:08

 

IMG_2304The St. Jude Marathon in Memphis was probably my very favorite event next to my first time ever running Disney, all because it was for a good cause and the awesome crowd support, not to mention running through the St. Jude campus TWICE, was incredible. I had a fantastic time running as a St. Jude Hero, having exceeded my fundraising goal by almost double, plus I ran another sub-4 (my fourth out of 24 marathons) without even trying too hard, so that was very exciting! I had the absolute best time and must have high-fived over 150 people! I don’t think I’ve ever run a race with better spectator presence, and that really made a difference. I will also say getting to visit Graceland and Sun Studio was just the very best way to reward myself the next day. I swear that visiting Graceland was life-changing for me! It was a fantastic trip.
Finish Time: 3:58

Two half marathons for fun: I ran two local half marathons this past fall, and they were both with friends. I have to say they were fantastic, weather was great for both, and we did pretty well with our pacing and times. One of the halfs I even won an age group award, which really was a nice surprise!

IMG_2307Finish Time: 1:52 (3rd place age group award…lost by .3 seconds for 2nd place…yes…POINT THREE)

IMG_2308Finish Time: 2:05

So what does this bring me up to?
21 states out of 50 states plus DC
24 full marathons
4 sub-4 hr marathons

My 50 states goal thus far (and as you can see, New England will be coming to a close soon!):

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I have to say too, after all of these races I will say this: I am officially a Hoka One One believer.

I have ONE new pair of Asics Gel Nimbus yet to be worn that I will use for shorter mileage training, but I am DONE with running in anything else but Hokas. I love them so much, and since Running Warehouse has been running an amazing sale on Hokas for quite some time, I am also turning into a Hoka hoarder. Hell, if I can get them cheap I’m stocking up, especially since I have some high mileage goals for 2015. I will say this: with Hokas my marathon recovery time has been AMAZINGLY fast. I felt almost fully recovered from my PR in Winegless in maybe 48 hours. This is what makes me come to realize that I can exceed marathon distances as long as I have the right shoe support. Hoka One One is IT. So this brings me to my next point, which are the goals I have for 2015.

So what will 2015 bring? This is the year I am damned and determined to reach the running goals I have wanted to reach for YEARS. I can’t say for sure if I will achieve them all, as they are lofty as usual, but I will list them regardless as a reminder to myself. I definitely still have my health struggles…fatigue, arthritis and other issues related to my celiac disease and Sjogrens syndrome have been plaguing me quite a bit, but at the same time I refuse to surrender myself to these damned auto-immune diseases. As I have said many times before, I just need to fight a little harder to prove myself and accomplish my dreams.  Some people may just allow these diseases to keep them from living, but I use these diseases as a way to prove my strength (body and mind), if that makes ANY sense.

While I am still wanting to work toward my 50-state goal, I have a big interest in trail running and doing more events closer to home, so I may only get 4 or 5 new states for 2015, which is absolutely fine by me, only because I want to work on prepping myself for a pretty decent 2016 goal.

Goal # 1: Birthday run: I am very, very inspired by the ultrarunner Catra Corbett in this regard, but I want to do a very long run on my birthday, and the final talley will be my age in miles. I will say this much, it’s higher than a 50k and lower than 50 miles, heh heh. But I would love to tackle this. I don’t think I would run it all in one shot, but break it up into 2-3 runs for the day. I don’t think I am quite ready to handle that amount of mileage in one shot just yet.

Goal # 2: 100 miles in one week. I say this EVERY year and I still have yet to accomplish this. I’d like to attempt this, and so far my training calendar has me going for this goal in August (which is convenient because the days are longer, but not so much because training in PA in August can be brutal), all to prepare for…

Goal 3: First official ultra race (one by hour and one by distance): I am going to register for two ultra races next fall: a 12-hour endurance race and my first official 50k. I don’t really have a goal in mind for the 12-hour ultra, but I would really love to see what my body can handle. Plus I love the idea of running, eating, resting, repeat…in 12 hours. I think much can be accomplished if I don’t take myself too seriously! I would love to see 50 miles but we’ll see how much my feet can handle that, as blisters are my downfall.

All of these goals will eventually bring me to January 2016, where I want to run the Back 2 Back Challenge in the South: 2 full marathons in 2 days in 2 different states: the Mississippi Blues Marathon in Jackson, MS and the First Light Marathon in Mobile, AL. I have never run more miles in one weekend than the Goofy Challenge in 2011, but I think with solid training (I do plan on running a half and full in one weekend of June, and then some 20+ back to back long runs later that summer) I can easily accomplish this. The Back2Back challenge is something that needs to be approached sensibly, and each race has a 7 hr limit, so I can easily take my time with both. It’s all about earning the state, plus getting Iridium Level Maniac status is a very nice bonus. I think this is why I don’t mind having less states on my race calendar for 2015, as I will be earning two states in one weekend in January 2016 if all goes according to plan.

So let’s end this post on a high note. As I lift my glass of Cabernet in a toast to saying goodbye to 2014, I lift it even higher for a prosperous, exciting and eventful 2015 full of milestones! Cheers!