Monday, December 20, 2010

Seashore Nature Trail 50k 12/18/10

"How old are you?!!" A lady yelled at me as ran in the opposite direction on the last out/back section, she was nearly 1 mile ahead of me, I was at mile 21 and she was at about mile 22. I answered her question and just as quickly the interaction started it was over. That question meant she was worried about possibly one of two things 1) She thought I was in her age group and was going to pass her or 2) She was worried about her daughter or a friend that I might pass and I was in their age group. This brief interaction was very entertaining to me.

This race last year was the inaugural event, I had bailed on the race 1 week before it was scheduled due to achilles tendinitis, which I now know was from lack of proper stretching (i.e. none). Needless to say, this happened to also be the weekend of the first big crazy snow storm in Central Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic, which was heavy rain in the Virginia Beach area. The race was still held but with lots of standing water on the course. I just HAD to go back the next year to make things right and to complete the race.

I headed out for the 3 hour drive mid afternoon Friday so that I would be off the roads before nightfall and freezing temperatures, and a more exciting driving experience. I stopped halfway to have dinner at an Olive Garden and continued on, ended up a little lost in Virginia Beach as I had not read directions thoroughly and drove to the Convention Center not the the VA Beach Resort and Convention Center, each about 10 miles apart. I briefly pondered paying for the boardwalk Christmas light drive but did not have enough cash (it was cash only) and it was getting late (but the lights looked neat from what I could see from the road). Got checked into my hotel room, picked up my race stuff and got settled in for the night. I was tired and decided to wait until the morning to organize my gear. Up early as always, got dressed, headed out to a Starbucks to get coffee and breakfast, back to the hotel room to eat and keep warm, then the short drive to the starting area to check in (again) and get the timing chip.

Race morning view of the Atlantic from my hotel room

Starting area 15min until the Start

Overflow parking ended up being right at the start line, so I lucked out with that roll of the dice, especially since the ground was quite icy. 8am and we were off! Starting with about 1 mile on the road until we got onto the trails. First Landing State Park where the race was held is remniscint of Louisiana with the swamps, Cypress trees and Spanish Moss that I am amazed each time I am in the park, I feel like I was 1,000 miles away and not in Virginia. Weather was in the low 30's, overcast, with a dusting-1 inch of snow on the ground, perfect day for a long run. I had studied the map beforehand, but I got all turned around when the direction that we were taking on the trail did not match the map drawn out in my head, and I am pretty good in general with a strong sense of direction. Luckily the course was well marked with orange streamers, including wrong way side trails marked with yellow caution tape. Volunteers were stationed at any trail junction where there might be confusion, and the aid stations were well manned and stocked. I of course took no pictures the entire time, but the park was quite magical with the snow and ice.


My goal for this race was to finish in about 6 hours, that would be a previous 50k PR of 1 hour and a good strong pace. However, I started out at about 9:30 min/mile pace and held it without too much effort and as the morning went on, I realized that I could make 5.5 hours, then I realized if I could hold on I could flirt with breaking 5 hours, crazy!!! I felt good all day, spend minimal time at the aid stations, and cheered on almost every runner I saw in the out/back sections. Later in the race an older gentlemen responded to my cheers of encouragement with "hey cheerleader!" Nice.

I held on to my pace for a few minutes over 5 hours, picking up a guy walking towards the finish with a simple "come with me" comment. After the finish he thanked me for pulling him along. I finished 12th female overall and 51st (later results show me at the 52nd runner) overall out of 238 runners that finished.

 I hope to run this again next year and bring a group from our trail running club. The wild card in all of this was how my body was going to deal with being on Amoxicillin four times per day to prevent a dental infection after having a tooth pulled 2 days before the race and if the removal site was going to throb and be painful (or not). This was unplanned but due to the snow and subsequent appointment cancellations at the Dental office, I was able to get the procedure done. You see, due to genetics, I have 2 baby teeth as a 30 year old with no adult teeth behind them to grow in. So, once they either get a cavity or the roots dissolve, you need to have them removed and have either a bridge or an implant in it's place.

Last race of the year! Working on a review of 2010 and looking ahead to 2011 goals.

Happy Holidays everyone!!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

No Hellgate For Me

I came down with the start of a cold yesterday and took my name out of the race.

Seashore Nature Trail 50k in Virgina Beach next weekend.

Great book about Hellgate by Robert Sutton. Great running story and somewhat similar to Matt McCue's book except the ending had come to a different conclusion.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Seattle Marathon 11/28/10

Repeat of Washington State
Finish Time 4:29:02

Heading into this race I was not sure about how things would pan out 1 week after a 50 mile race, the JFK 50. I spent the first 2 days after JFK sleeping any minute of the day that I did not need to be at work, I was drained physically and certainly mentally. Either I would be really slow for this marathon or run about as I usually do, in the neighborhood of 4.5 hours. This was to be an experiment.

Now growing up in Seattle, a tradition of sorts was to run the Seattle Half Marathon, always the Sunday after Thanksgiving, it was a few weeks after cross country season had finished so I was still in shape but not having any upcoming races to train for, I had run the half 5-6 times previously, and it always rained on that day. One memorable half was in 2001, and like several other Americans took the call to donate blood after 9-11. I donated 1 week prior to the race at school, turns out you end up building lactic acid really quickly when you do this, lesson learned although I still donate blood but have not been able to in the last few years due to my trips to Haiti, and currently due to my sometimes excessive running.

Start of the Marathon

This is an interesting race as you get to run on the I-90 express lanes, go through the tunnel and an out and back on the floating bridge.  Despite living in the area for a while, I had never previously been to Seward Park, a little peninsula jutting out into Lake Washington. During the race I would be setting foot for the first time in the park during the race at about the half marathon mark. Weather is usually a factor in this race, but we ended up lucking out with the one day of no rain this week. It was in the upper 30’s to low 40’s, overcast with sun breaks, perfect for running.

This weekend was also a Marathon Maniac reunion of sorts, as they had the Quadzilla organized, wherein there are 4 marathons in the Seattle area in a row, starting Thursday and culminating with the Seattle Marathon on Sunday. Some people did all 4, others did 3 “Turkey Triple” or 2 “Seattle Double” in a row. I pondered doing the double but the JFK had drained me and the time change usually zaps my energy as well when I travel to Seattle, so I opted out and took a mid morning nap instead. So there were several Marathon Maniacs out running the Seattle Marathon, I heard 26 people attempted this feat, fitting number I felt.

A few good spectator signs along the course, with my favorites being “Cause 26.3 would be crazy,”  and “Chuck Norris never ran a marathon."  

The expo garnered a few good samples in the goody bags, a nice race shirt as always provided by the Seattle Marathon, a run in with a high school cross country teammate that I had not seen for over 10 years running her first marathon, and a talk by ultrarunning god Scott Jurek. He spoke Saturday afternoon and spent about 25 minutes talking about his amazing races over the last 10 years, then he spent about 20 minutes talking about his Vegan diet and racing diet in general terms, basically he was there to ultimately promote his sponsor Udo’s Oil an Omega 3-6-9 supplement. He emphasized several times that he is very picky about who he chooses to endorse and that Udo’s oil meets his standard, they also gave out samples and technical beanie hats and I learned they are based out of Lynden, WA. I ran within a few inches of him twice at White River 50 this past July (and his girlfriend only beat me by 50 minutes). He was very well spoken and has some very educated insight into trail running and nutrition.

Around mile 14 as we were leaving Seward Park, I start to chat with the lady running next to me, with her having to take out her headphones to hear me. “How was your Thanksgiving?” I start. We end up running together and chatting for the next 3-4 miles until I stop to visit my parents cheering with bright pink signs on the course, I also handed them my gloves that I had taken off about 10 miles earlier and my long sleeve shirt I had taken off 5 miles earlier. About 6 miles and an hour later I catch back up to her and I am slowly picking up my pace. I had felt strong on the hills leaving the lake and leaving the Arboretum, I tell her I am trying to break 4:30. She responds with an exasperated “that would be great if I broke 4:30,” “OK, stay with me.” I share with her what to expect with the route before we approach each section and she keeps up with me, this is her second marathon, the first being last month on 10-10-10 in Portland, OR. We take the turn that brings us to cross I-5 the 3rd and last time and head back to the Space Needle and the finish in the stadium, I lose her on the downhill and see her again after the finish line about 20-30 seconds back, I congratulate her and give her a hug, she thanks me. I never think to ask her name, oh well.

I wander into the fieldhouse after a short uphill, got some delicious soup, a banana and Gatorade. I almost crash the Quadzilla Marathon Maniac photo, but the president approached me a minute later to get a picture of me, there are maniacs everywhere, nice to see.
Vashon Island. Traffic is light and we make good time to the ferry and home. Straight to the shower, compression socks on, sit in a lazy boy chair and dive into a bag of salt and vinegar chips. To keep with my East Coast sleep schedule, I head to bed at 6pm local time and wake up at 3am local time without an alarm. At the airport the next morning I partake in an Ivar’s white clam chowder bread bowl for breakfast, yummy! Long delay in Atlanta, then eventually home to my own bed.

Recovery Meal in the Seattle Airport
Lesson Learned: While marathons are mentally tough, compared to 50 milers they require significantly less mental energy to stay present and get to the finish line with a decent time, one could say they are easy in comparison, but not as easy as sitting in the lazyboy at home. But, I would rather be out running.

Enjoying a cup of soup after the finish (Credit:Steven Yee's Facebook Page)

Up next: To Hellgate or Not to Hellgate. That is the question.

Friday, December 3, 2010

NYC Race Report 11/7/10 Part Two

 So after playing tourist in NYC, walking around Central Park and 5th AVE, Times Square and lunch at Junior's, Born on the Run talk with Christopher McDougall and other barefoot running characters.

Saturday; a run in Central Park with Skinny Runner and Matt McCue (reading his book now).

Lunch at Patsy's with desert at Magnolia Bakery (Black Velvet cupcake).

For dinner, Laura's Mom and another Marathon Maniac (who's name escapes me right now) went to dinner at a cafe that was serving an all you can eat pasta dinner. Laura went to Justin Gimelstob's hotel room to meet up with his team and talk pacing plans. To bed early as we all needed to be up about 5am for our 9:40a and 10:10a starting times.
Race day: Sunday
I took the subway to downtown to catch the Staten Island Ferry. It was entertaining for all those runners to be on the subway at 5am, wide awake, and striking up typical runner talk but can sound very strange from afar I would imagine.
Staten Island Ferry terminal with my throwaway clothes.

Lots of people camped out waiting for the next ferry or just because they got there early.
I rode the ferry over to Staten Island and had cold but great views from the boat.
Brooklyn Bridge

Downtown/Financial District/Ground Zero

Statue of Liberty
Start staging area with Verrazano Bridge looming

Ferry packed with runners

So I hung out in the ferry terminal for a while on both sides to kill time, stay warm and to use flushing toilets. I eventually left to catch one of the buses they had lined up from the start. They would have 7-8 buses open their doors, fill up, then the whole line of them move forward together. Pretty efficient stuff. On Staten Island there were cops at each intersection so we went through each light regardless of the light being red or green. Staten Island looked like your typical American Suburb, yet everyone that lived in the area sort of mocked Staten Island as if it weren't "really" New York or something along those lines. Arriving at the start area we go by several security checkpoints where we had to show our race numbers to get in, which is a little challenging when it is cold out and you are wearing several layers of clothing. Wandered towards the green village but stopped to get coffee from Dunkin Donuts, a bagel, and gatorade in a pouch to get fueled up for the race, now only 1.5 hours from my start time. Sitting on the curb, the elite men walk by just on the other side of the fence to their starting area on the bridge, the Verrazano Bridge looming in the background.

Due to my lollygagging, I ended up having no time to ready my throwaway newspaper and magazines. I headed over to my starting corral that was within my color starting group, they have a total of 3 colors, with 3 starts 30 min apart, I was starting in the second wave at 10:10am. The gun was sounded and we were off! up the bridge. I kept my throw away clothes on, discarding them once we were on land again on the other side. The UPS trucks were for dropping off bags of your stuff at the start and it would be trucked to the finish at central park. The entire 2 miles on the bridge I never saw the end of this line of trucks, crazy!

The spectators began on the other side of the bridge, and for the next 24.2 miles I felt like a rockstar and that all those people were out cheering for me. Pretty amazing. Aid stations were great, the renegade aid stations were great too, got me a banana from one of those stations. I went into this run planning to run slow and take a million pictures, play tourist and take in the whole experience. But a weird thing happened, as the entrants are 50% foreign, I tried and failed on 3 occasions to strike up a conversation with the runner next to me. Nothing in response each time, weird. So I kept quiet and at the 16 mile mark I was feeling good and figured out that if I kept under 10 min/mile from there to the finish that I would break 4:20 which I have never done, my previous best was 4:24.

Mile 19 I come up on a group of slow runners in the middle of the road and get a little annoyed for a minute, but then I see a camera trained in on a runner and I pass by this guy while snapping a photo.

The Chilean Miner, walking, handlers on both sides with a camera crew in front of him filming his every move. While I missed seeing all the other celebrities on race day, I did get to see (and beat, come on this is a race!) at least one of them! At the end of the race we start to get funneled into a tighter space heading into Central Park combined with runners that are very fatigued and tired and sometimes walking, I had to do a lot of weaving in and out of people but figured out that if I hugged the crowd on the far right side that I could get through.
Finished! 4:17:54 and new PR by 7 minutes!
Certainly a must do for all marathon runners at least once!!!!!
Monday - More Playing Tourist
Didn't do too much today with the rain and the freezing rain falling from the sky, but better for this weather on a non-race day!

Today Show

View of Central Park from top of Rockafeller Center

On top of Rockafeller Center looking towards Empire State Building

Story Corps display at the Ground Zero Museum

The end.

Finished Matt McCue's book on the plane ride home from Seattle Turkey Day celebrations and it is a great running story! You can order direct from him or through Amazon.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

JFK 50 Mile 11/20/10

JFK 50 Mile 11/21/10
48th Annual
7am Start Boonsboro, MD
State #13

The JFK 50 started out as a decreed from JFK 48 years ago that US Soldiers should be fit enough to be able to traverse on foot by running or walking 50 miles in one day, that would be the measure of who was fit enough to be a commissioned officer. For the next several years there were JFK 50 mile races all over the country, not just in Boonsboro, MD.  But after a few years the races slowly started to disappear and left only 1 race standing, the JFK 50 from Boonsboro to Williamsport, MD. This was the original course that 3 soldiers took 48 years ago in just over 16 hours (current course time limit is 14 hours for early start and 12 for the regular start). With this being one of the oldest and largest ultramarathon, there is great emphasis on multiyear streaks with the race’s pasta dinner also being that of a recognition ceremony for repeat offenders (500-2,000 mile club members, 10-41 finishes).

Race Packet Pick-up location in Boonsboro, MD

4:20am Mandatory Meeting for 5am Starters

5am Start Downtown Boonsboro, MD (I did the 7am start)

OK, so enough about history here is my race report. We awoke at 2:30am to begin our day picking up all the crew and runners in town. I was an honorary member of the local running club, the “Y Rats.” There were 3 runners in the 5 am start and 2 of us in the 7am start. We sent off the 5am runners then drove up to the Washington Monument to cheer them on. It was dark, and several porta potties lined the race course at the parking lot. As the early starters ran by several runners though we were in line in which we redirected them letting them know that there were several open ones. One crazy looking guy running away from the porta potties asked us where they were, “um right there,” “oh ok thanks,” they were hard to miss, oh well. It was fun cheering the runners on, “Good Morning” got more responses than “looking good,” and several runners thanked us for being out there, that felt good to cheer them on, something I need to do more of. So we hang out at the gap since there are bathrooms there but none at the start and we get ready. We drive back into town minutes to the start.

Pumpkins lighting the entrance to the AT for the 5 am starters

About 6 am, 1 hour to start time near the Washington Monument

Section 1 – Start Downtown Boonsboro, MD to the Appalachian Trail (Mile 0-2.5)
At 7am the gun went off and we started. I wasn’t sure if there was a timing mat right at the start so I hesitated for a moment to hit start on my watch. This section is on road and mostly uphill, sometimes gradual and sometimes steep enough to switch to walking.

Section 2 - Appalachian Trail (Mile 2.5-16)
The Appalachian Trail (AT) is a continuous hiking trail reaching 2,179 miles from Mt Katahdin Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia, most people take 5-6 months to hike the entire path. It was originally created around the time of the railroad development to be an escape from the growing cities of that time. Luckily this path became protected as a National Scenic Trail where it exists as it began. I enjoy running on the AT in Central Virginia.

There is a little road running in this section but it is mostly semi-technical rocky single track. A little frustrating at first to get around the people that got up the hill before I did but aren’t exactly good at dancing around the rocks, we all have our forte’s. Once I got into a group of runners at the same speed the running was absolutely delicious, I also got to pass a lot of runners, in which a few would pass me on the towpath, but not many. At one point I went off trail for a bio break and got this overwhelming urge to lay day and just rest. One minute I was feeling great and the next I just wanted to lay down and relax. Instant change, but I talked myself out of lying down and once I got moving again on the trail I returned to normal. A few aid stations in the section at the road crossings with the 2nd and 3rd aid stations at Gathland State Park and Weaverton Cliffs were a gauntlet of cheering people as there is overall limited access for spectators on the course. Down the steep switchbacks of Weaverton Cliffs without much fanfare, actually chatting with a Marathon Maniac from NYC the whole way down. The 4th aid station at the railroad tracks was the first electrolyte tabs that I took as it was the first station to have them, I had forgotten mine at home. Before I knew it I was at the C&O towpath at mile 16.

Section 3 - C&O Towpath (Mile 16-42)
The towpath was created in the early to mid 1800’s to allow for transit of goods up river, adjacent to the river was a towpath that the mules would walk on towing boats up through the canal and a series of locks. This became obsolete in the 1920’s when the railroad came to the area, ironically enough they are right next to each other for several miles. Luckily again someone had the insight to preserve the area as a National Park, where it remains protected today.

The transition to this section was difficult for muscles going from dancing through rocks to flat dirt and gravel road, but a few miles in my muscles finally adapted to the change and got back into my steady pace. Aid stations were every 3-4 miles, although with the towpath being gorgeous but very similar mile after mile, 4 miles came to feel a little long at times. I chatted with various people, sometimes for just a minute and sometimes for a few miles, lots of leap frogging too with the same people over and over. Ran past Harper’s Ferry across the river, saw a few kayakers out, saw some chickens a person’s house, saw 2 groups of scouts doing some overnight bike riding too. This is the section where we hit the halfway point, where we hit a marathon and get into the 40’s for mileage, this section is where the fatigue sets in. We also passed several older folks that had started at 5 am as they had on the yellow race numbers standing them apart from the 7am starters with the white bibs. I congratulated most of them as I passed, they were all quite gracious and returned the encouragement.

Section 4 – Country Road into downtown Williamsport, MD (Mile 42-50)
As we approached the last aid station on the towpath you could see they were putting reflective vests on all the runners, it was still early in the day but they were anticipating dark before we would reach the finish line. Nausea had started to knock on the door but it was not a problem just yet. I grabbed some Gatorade and pretzels to munch on to the next aid station. Leading up to this aid station I had tried to eat a little bit of a flavored gu but the flavor was quite dull, this was a first time for me and luckily my sense of taste returned after the finish. The road was windy and a little hilly, a nice change for my muscles. I still continued to walk only when going though aid stations to allow for digestion but otherwise my legs felt strong, in fact it felt better to run than to walk as I stiffened up while walking. Once on the road there were mileage markers, the only ones that we had seen all day except at aid stations. Eventually we made our last turn into town with the finish line eventually showed itself, I passed a few people at the end to make a good show for the crowd.

Finish 10:18:01
Average pace per mile 12:22

Me about 20 minutes after I finished

They had food and massages inside the school gym, I partook in both.

The next morning most of the runners and our crew met at Cracker Barrel in Chambersberg, PA along with a blogger who I met for the first time, Abbi from Higher Miles. After a full belly and the first real solids that I consumed since the race, on to the 3 hour drive home with fairly empty roads for I-81 though, weird.

Finisher's Medal
Post Race: I am just today (Tuesday 11/23 - 3 days later) feeling back to normal energy levels again. I crashed after the drive home Sunday and after work Monday and just layed in bed, something I never do.

Up next: Turkey day in Seattle and the Seattle Marathon 11/28/10.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New York City Marathon 11/7/10 Part One

Short Race Report

One of the greatest sporting events ever.
(Granted, I have never been to the Olympics which could possibly be more amazing).

Self photo after the finish

Long Race Report  PART ONE: Friday

With my gracious host Laura allowing me to stay several nights, I jumped at the chance to fly into NYC 2 days early to play tourist having never been to NYC.  With Laura’s great instructions, I made my way from Laguardia on Friday morning via bus then subway to the Expo. 

Subway Lines above ground

Just outside the Expo at the Javits Convention Center

Everything was pretty smooth at the expo, with the most entertaining being that you couldn’t try your shirt on as it was sealed in plastic, but there was a “girl” standing near packet pickup with a small shirt that you could hold up to your body, but not try on, to see if it was your size.

Once completing the rounds I head out, hop a hotel shuttle bringing me closer to Laura’s apartment, I then walked the rest of the way. I head back out to wander around as she lives not too far from Central Park. A bite to eat at Starbucks and wander the rest of the way into the park. Central Park is such a neat green space, good job for the planners of this amazing space. 

Finish Line set-up 2 days prior to the marathon

I was told I had to try these

The Mall, in several movies

Central Park

Mile 25

Watched the set up of the finish line, banner hung for mile 25, ice rink, and then 5th Avenue. Wait, 5th Avenue, isn’t that where the famous stores are located? 

Apple Store on 5th AVE

FAO Swartz on 5th AVE

Why yes, so I continue to walk and explore. Seeing that I was close to Rockefeller Center and home of the taping of the Today Show, I wander over to check out that area. The skating rink was small but there was a great Lego store nearby. 

Today Show

Next up, famous NY Cheesecake, and from a Food Network show, I seek out Junior’s. Not realizing it is near time square I stumble upon that area, then eventually into Junior’s for dinner and cheesecake to go. The cheesecake was nothing that you couldn’t buy at the grocery store, but at least it was authentic right?

Times Square, probably more dramatic at night

Walked back to the apartment, I hear that Laura’s mom is stuck in traffic and will be running late for the Barefoot Running talk by Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run. At this point, Laura will fly back into NYC halfway into the presentation. So I walk a few blocks over to the NYC Ethical Cultural Center on Central Park West and settle in to my seat. They start with a lady and a little girl hula dancers, which turn out to be McDougall’s wife and daughter. 

There are several other speakers during this presentation, including barefoot ted who rambled on for a bit (each speaker had 10-15 minutes); Dr Daniel Lieberman a professor in evolutionary Biologist from Harvard (excellent speaker); 
Dr Lieberman in Suit/Tie and barefoot

John Durant and NYC resident working on a book about getting back to living like our ancestors but without moving back to nature to accomplish this task (not too far from the Paleo diet from Crossfit but the term crossfit was never mentioned); Eric Orton, McDougall’s coach before the race in the Copper Canyon;  and Peter Sarsgaard, a well known Hollywood Actor (whom I do not recognize as I do not watch very many movies) spoke as well about running in his life and how he met McDougall and that Eric Horton is now his running coach.

Peter Sarsgaard

Christopher McDougall also spoke at the end and then he had a passage from his book sung by a Ironman athlete and professional opera singer. 

Christopher McDougall, Born to Run Author

This was an amazing performance and show all around, however there was not any new information presented but nice to see the people behind the characters in the book.

Part TWO: Saturday to follow….