Mind over matter...Never give up

Monday, May 28, 2012

Cary Road Race 10K and 5K April 14, 2012

Cary Road Race Course

I decided to do the Cary Road Race 10K this year as a lead in to the Biltmore 15K in May.  It's close by and a nice course that I am familiar with.  I had run it in 2009 and it was a good event.  Also Owen was interested in doing the 5K so I figured we could both run that together.  I drove separate from Keith to run the 10K and Keith would later meet me there with Owen so we could then do the 5K.  I was not sure what to expect as far as competition but expected the 5K to be more competitive than the 10K.  It turned out that I was wrong however.  I knew at the starting line that there was at least one faster woman and assumed that there would possibly be others as a race in Cary tends to draw a different group than the ones in Raleigh do.

As the race started I was in second place but wasn't sure if I would hold onto that.  The race is just two repeats of the same course and there is a fairly big hill early in the race and then you have to go back and do it again.  But after getting past the hill I felt better.  I ran the first mile in 6:25, so probably a bit fast.  My main goal was just to PR which should be doable since I don't often run 10Ks and the current PR was from the Cary Road Race in 2009 at was around 44 minutes.  Mile 2 was back down the hill so I did that much faster in 6:19 and felt pretty good.  Then the course evens out to be more flat but going out a bit fast in the first 2 miles caught up with me and I did mile 3 in 6:39, so not too bad but definitely slower than the first two.  

Mile 4 goes back up the hill and I was wishing by this time that I had done the 5K.  There was a younger girl in her 20s in a heavy sweatshirt who at this point had passed me, and then I'd pass her, and so on.  But I was basically running as fast as I really could at that point so was more focused on time and finishing than maintaining my place.  I ran mile 4 slower in 6:57.  Since mile 5 is downhill again, I was able to pick up the pace a bit at 6:24.  I was pretty spent by mile 6 and somewhere between 5 and 6 a bug decided to do a kamikaze flight into my throat.  Also another woman passed me around this time and I really felt I couldn't pick the pace back up so I did mile 6 in 6:55, slower than I'd hoped but still my average pace was way better than the last time I did this race 3 years ago.  To my surprise the finish line seemed to come quickly and in fact did because the course was short, by a lot actually.  According to my Garmin, it was 6.03 miles.  I finished in 39:46, 6:24 pace.  A PR by a lot but of course since the course was short it was likely that my time should have been around 41 minutes instead of sub 40.  
Owen right before the 5K start
Owen at the start, with me behind him in the IOS shirt (photo courtesy of Shannon Johnstone)
In the end I came in 4th overall but first masters female.  I quickly went to find Keith and Owen before the start of his race.  Due to the bug incident and pushing the pace, I was feeling quite nauseous but had to run the 5K with Owen and felt better after we started running.  Luckily he was in a very good mood and did a great job running the 5K, talking and having fun the entire way (not always the way it goes!).  He was quite impressed to see a barefoot runner (Shannon's husband Anthony) and also one of our neighbors running the race and he had lots of fun shushing me so he could "concentrate" on his race instead of me talking to him.   

Owen mid-race
Owen nearing the end
Owen ready to cross the finish line
Owen ended up with a huge PR as well, finishing in 34:41.  We got back just in time for the 10K awards for the masters category so I was able to get my gift card and Owen took a few pictures.  I was glad I ran the 10K but moreso glad that Owen had such a great race.  

10K Race Results
Me getting my award
Owen post race
Owen modeling the cool race shirt (after the race of course!)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Second Empire 5K March 25, 2012

Second Empire 5K Course
I am way behind in this race blog update, but since today is opening day at the pool and the wi-fi is actually working this year and it's too cold to go in the water (at least for me, not for the kids of course), I figured I'd try to catch up.

I decided not to run the Second Empire Spring Series because I wasn't really feeling up to committing to so many races in the early spring and I was more focused early in the year on Umstead training and injury recovery prior to Umstead.  But I do have two of the spring races that I enjoy so wanted to participate in those.  The Run for the Oaks was earlier in March, the weekend after Umstead.  Instead of running I volunteered with Owen since I wasn't sure I'd be ready to run quite yet.  We had a great time and got to cheer on a few friends.  In the end I probably would have been less sore if I ran it than volunteered.  Turns out pulling chips off shoes is quite strenuous!

The other spring race in the series that I really enjoy is the Second Empire 5K.  It was my first race in NC back in 2008 and it's a really well run event thanks to Kim Reynolds and her husband.  I have run it several times now and last year I realized that the prizes were really great for this race as well.  It was the day after a tornado hit the surrounding area so the race went on, but fewer people came than usual, which explained my surprise second place finish.  I hoped this year I would fair well but after injury and Umstead three weeks prior, I really just wanted to see if I could beat 20 minutes.  Of course I secretly hoped to place so I'd get the cool race bling.

Owen waiting to cheer us on at the start

We got there early and had some time to hang out a bit at Flying Saucer like we had done a few times in the past.  Then I headed over to warm up just a little.  I saw quite a few running friends that I chatted with, which is always fun and a good way to relax a bit before the race.  And this was the first race I was running as a part of the IOS running team, so a few of the IOS runners were there as well.  As we all lined up at the start, I wasn't feeling too nervous but not too confident either.  I just wanted to get through and beat 20 if I could.  As the race started, and we headed towards the capital building, I felt pretty good but knew I was probably going out too fast.  It turns out I was going a bit fast and the first mile split was 6:11.  That speediness was soon was over however as the second mile, which heads up Hillsborough towards the NC State Bell Tower, is a tough and hilly part of the course.  Surprisingly I didn't feel too bad during this part of the race and just focused on keeping an even pace and not giving into the temptation to really slow down a lot.  I did run that mile slower, in 6:36, but from what I counted at the turnaround at mile 2, I was in second place overall at that point.  So as long as I could maintain my pace I should be able to place.

Somewhere near the finish, looking about to die  :-)
Pretty close after the turnaround I started to feel really tired and just wanted to be done.  However I was able to convince myself that with less than 1 mile to go, I really should be able to hang in there.  Afterall I ran a full marathon only 3 weeks ago so this should  be easier.  I knew I wouldn't catch the first place woman, who was actually the 13 yr old girl who had been winning all the races in the spring series so far.  I wasn't too far behind, but far enough that I wouldn't catch her.  So I just tried to run as steady as possible and when I saw the finish, which you can see from fairly far away, I started to speed up.  I was surprised later when I checked my Garmin data that the last mile was actually 6:12, nearly the same as the first.  It is, according to Garmin, a down hill finish, but I wasn't expecting to be able to pull that off so was pretty happy.  Final results: 19:43, 6:21 average pace and 2nd female overall, 29th of 406 finishers.

Posted results
Keith and the kids were there to cheer me on, so that was pretty awesome. Keith then left to take Grace back home while I waited for the award ceremony and the 1 mile run that Owen was going to do.  But just as the 1 mile was about to start, the storms that had been threatening to come all day finally hit with lightening and thunder enough to cancel the 1 mile.  Owen was a little disappointed but a bit relieved as the lightening and thunder were really freaking him out.  The award ceremony took a little while to get going and Owen was getting impatient and wanted to leave but I told him we at least had to stay for the first part.  Normally I stay for the entire thing to see all my running friends get their awards too, but this time we did bail early due to Owen's crankiness and the storm.  It was really nice to receive a $75 gift card to Second Empire, an engraved glass, and a gift card to Capital Run Walk.  Some of the best race bling in the area....shhh don't tell anyone!
Some of the best local race "bling"!
On the way home, Owen fell asleep from a long and tiring day.  I was glad I ran the race again this year and was happy with my finish.  It was great to get out there to a 5K and see all my running friends again.

Snoozing after a long day

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Umstead Trail Marathon - Raleigh, NC - Mar 3, 2012 - Part II

Umstead Trail Marathon course map from my Garmin
As the race started I felt pretty good.  I felt like I was going at a nice easy pace.  But as I also have experienced with 5Ks, an "easy pace" feeling is always relative to how fast the other runners are going.  I started to look around and notice that there were all guys around me, pretty fast looking guys.  Whoops, my pace was in the low sevens.  I tried to slow down but it felt really slow.  So I decided it was ok if the first 2 miles, which are on the fire road, were faster because having that time "in the bank" was going to be needed once I hit the single track, which is not my forte.  I enjoy running single track in general but am pretty slow in comparison to my road speed and prefer to not have anyone on my heels for fear of taking them down if I fall.  A few people shouted "first female" to me but my reply was "yep let's see how long that lasts" because I knew it would not.  If I had been better trained or not had the injuries or better weather or actually all 3, then maybe it would be feasible (and even then only if all the fast people stayed home).  But I knew it was only a matter of time because I didn't plan to go at break neck (literally) speed on the single track and risk getting injured before the race had even really started.  My second mile at 7:29 pace was on Old Reedy Creek Road and was even faster than the first (7:41 pace).
Not sure what mile this was but likely early in the race because I am smiling (photo borrowed from Shannon)
Right around the 2 mi mark there is a left turn onto Company Mill Trail, the first of 2 single track portions in the race.  My first run on that trail that I can recall resulted in a badly twisted ankle that swelled and turned a lovely shade of purple and black once I took my shoe off.  I've run on it several times since but I try to respect that it's a hilly, very rooty trail.  So I slowed a bit but not as much as I usually do in a regular run.  I let anyone who was close on my heels pass however as it was more stressful to hear them behind me.  Around mile 3, I'd guess, I heard a man and woman chatting as they ran so I knew my "first place" status was soon to be history and was totally fine with that.  Mile 3 and 4 were a respectable 9 mm pace.  Two other women running together passed me on Company Mill as well, so I was now in 4th place.  Still pretty good after the first section of single track.
I didn't even see this sign while I was running, but I did see the "tree of death" and walked through those roots (photo borrowed from Shannon)
Around mile 4 you turn back on Old Reedy Creek for a quick bit, up Graylyn, and then back onto the single track, this time the Sycamore loop.  On Old Reedy Creek was when I saw my RTR friends who came out to cheer me on (Scott, Ryan, Mariana).  I was surprised to really see them so looked around only briefly and wasn't even sure who all was there but just heard my name being called.  At some of the water stops, people I didn't even know were calling my name since I guess in a race this size, they maybe had a list of all the runners by their bib numbers.  So whenever someone called my name in the race I wasn't sure if it was someone I really knew or not.
Me again (in the pink shoes and Zensah sock), still looking fairly cheerful (photo borrowed from Shannon)
As I turned onto Sycamore, I thought about how much I really like this trail, with the creek flowing along side it.  It's very quiet and peaceful and the creek was really full from the rain so the sound of the water rushing by was nice.  Mile 5, which was on Sycamore, was slower at around 10 mm pace, due to the hills and lots of mud.  The next mile was faster and was the part of the course that was the change for 2012.  Usually, according to the race map, the course turns off of Sycamore, goes left onto Graylyn and continues up to the Graylyn gate.  But due to some reason that I can't remember, the course instead this year turns left on Graylyn and then another left into an area where they are constructing a new parking lot.  I had only just recently been to that area of the park on the 10 mi early weekday runs with Daren but that was in the dark so it really didn't look the same during the race.  There was an aid station there so I grabbed some gatorade before turning around.  But this section was a huge mud pit on race day, even more than it was the second day that I ran with Daren and slid on the mud a few feet like I was on ice skates.  This time the mud was so thick your shoes just sunk into it.  There really wasn't any way to run around it, especially since this is one of the turn around points so runners are on the trail in both directions.  So you just run through it and hope your shoes don't come off.

Once you get back on Graylyn, you turn right and then left onto Sycamore to finish the loop.  I knew at this point this was the last bit of single track.  I was thankful because I assumed after this I could speed up a little (which was, it turns out, not the case).  But I also just tried to enjoy it because I discovered that this part of the course is actually refreshingly different.  By this time everyone was fairly spread out and it felt more like going through a nice leisurely run in the woods rather than a race.  No pressure of who is ahead or behind you.  During this part, there were only a few guys here and there who passed me or who I passed.  Somehow I had managed to keep my feet fairly dry until about mile 7 or so, when I zigged instead of zagged and went directly into a huge puddle and my left shoe was then full of water.  In fact it was so wet I actually stopped after about 1/4 mile and took my other foot and stepped on the left one to try to squeeze out some water.  But the damage was done so I just hoped it didn't turn into a blister situation.  Ever since switching to Balega and Zensah socks, I haven't really had any blisters so would not know how to deal with that in such a long race with so far left to go.  Turns out my Zensah compression socks did just fine so there were no blister issues.
Just a sampling of the mud on the trails that day (photo borrowed from Shannon)
Although I was almost wishing away the single track part, the second half of the Sycamore loop in particular was really fun and was the best part of the race for me, though I probably wouldn't have predicted that at time.  The course here is either down hill or flat and miles 7 and 8 were a decent pace for me for single track at 9:18 and 9:04.  After leaving Sycamore, the course turns left back onto Graylyn and then left back onto Old Reedy Creek.  I was back on the bridle trails which I am most familiar with and I can usually hang an 8 to 8:30 pace on these or sometimes faster.  Mile 9 and 10 were where I picked up speed (splits were 8:05 and 8:01).  I remember passing mile marker 9 and thinking, why yes, I can do another 17!  I felt pretty good.  Somewhere around here I also passed one of the women who had passed me on the single track early on.  So I was now the 3rd woman.  I also saw the RTR crew again around this time.  Also at this point was when the rain, which had really been misting or non existent, really started to pick up.  But it actually felt good and I was glad in the end that I wore my hat, which I really don't like wearing but will do so reluctantly when it's raining hard.  But the rain slowed down after about another mile or so.  In the end I was also glad I chose to wear shorts and a tank top.  I would have been way too warm with a LS shirt, jacket or even arm warmers.  Even with the temps dropping, I felt fine temperature-wise the whole way.  At the water stop at the Trenton gate I saw some other familiar faces from RTR (Brandy and Kristine) and I turned onto Turkey Creek.

Somewhere between mile 10 and 11, just after turning onto Turkey Creek, was when I felt the first signs of trouble with muscle cramps.  This varied throughout the rest of the race as to location but I really struggled with it for the remainder of the race.  I usually have this problem in my calves or quads in a marathon, but not so early in the race.  Not sure if it was poor nutrition leading up to the race, lack of rest that prior week, electrolyte issues, being undertrained or just the fact that I ran so much single track and then was trying to run Turkey Creek which is really hard and something I never had done before.  I spent the rest of the race focused on managing this issue.  The good news I guess is that I wasn't as worried about my "behind knee/calf/hamstring injury" but rather about the cramping getting worse and forcing me to drop or slow down and not meet my 4 hour goal.  So I began to fill my water bottles with gatorade at every water stop and drank a lot of it.  So much in fact that I don't think I can look at Gatorade for a while.  I guess it helped but did not eliminate the issue.  I had to adjust my speed and stride to cater to where the cramps were at the time.  They were everywhere from my toes and feet, to my calves, to my quads and inner thighs.  Miles 11 and 12 were still pretty fast at 8:22 and 8:11, despite the cramping.  Of course they were also downhill.  Miles 13 to 15 were slower, ranging from 8:45 to 9:04, but still not too bad considering they were uphill.  I felt better after reaching the end of Turkey Creek and turning right onto Graylyn for my second trip to the muddy turnaround.  I filled my water bottle again with Gatorade and headed back down Graylyn and a left back onto Turkey Creek going in the opposite direction.

I usually don't like road races with turn arounds.  In a 5K in particular it's very distracting.  But in a trail marathon it turns out it's really nice to see friendly familiar faces along the way several times.  Each time I saw Heiko who was very close by, he had a big smile on his face.  That really helped me feel better.  I am sure I had a smile also, at first, but I think it got smaller at each turnaround, with each new leg cramp.  Shannon was snapping pictures along the way and was very cheerful and encouraging.  Carolyn and Jim came soon after.  Carolyn was also looking fairly cheerful despite her own struggles with some injuries.  Jim looked refreshed as if he was out for a 3 mile jog.  I believe shouted something like "holy shit Mary, your in 3rd place!" when I saw him around mile 16 or 17.  By that time I was glad to be past the 16 mile mark, which was where I started to have trouble in Boston.  I just hoped I could maintain a pace to keep me under 4 hours and that not too many women would pass me in the last 9 miles.  I knew that a few were close (the down side of the turnaround at mile 15).  A woman did in fact pass me around this time but my focus was on managing the cramps and I didn't want to try to speed up and make things worse and risk not finishing, so I resolved to let her go without too much concern (ok well part of it was a bummer, but I mostly let it go since I knew I didn't have a choice under the conditions).  Miles 16 to 18 were between 8:55 and 9:10 but since this is fairly downhill, it was much slower than I'd normally run this part of the course if it wasn't for the cramping.  Mile 19 was hilly so my pace dropped to 9:28.  Mile 20 was a bit better at 8:56.  I caught up to the woman who passed me earlier at the rest stop around mile 20 but only because she stopped for a drink.  After this I didn't really try to keep up with her and her lead grew as my cramping continued.

I remember I commented to Brandy at that point that if this was a 20 mile race it would be awesome right now!  Once hitting the 20 mile mark, while I know it's here that the real race is supposed to begin, I felt at least the end was in sight.  I knew the rest of the course very well.  I headed up Old Reedy Creek Rd knowing that there were 3 hard sections still to run.  Corkscrew Hill, which is a tough one for me usually, was first.  Just before Corkscrew, mile 21 goes downhill, passing Reedy Creek Lake. The cramping was getting worse so I did that mile slower at 9:17 despite the downhill.  Mile 22 was only rivaled by mile 24 for the hardest mile on the course.  Mile 22 (9:40) included Corkscrew Hill and the flat part of Cedar Ridge.  I often hate Corkscrew but I usually love Cedar Ridge.  On this particular day, however, I did not.  Even the downhill at mile 23 was hard.  Every leg muscle was cramping now, so the downhill was particularly hard on my quads and hips and I finished mile 23 in 10:29, wondering how in the world I was going to get back up Cedar Ridge.  Mile 24 was where I did the most walking.  I hate walking and usually don't do it because it makes it worse and my muscles seize up.  But I couldn't help at least a few times slowing to a walk and probably letting out a few grunts and perhaps some not so pleasant words under my breath.  A guy passed me and offered words of encouragement which helped a bit.  I was watching the clock now because my current pace (not average mile pace but current) was slowing to 11 and 12 and higher at some points.  I was getting nervous that I'd miss my 4 hour goal.  So I willed myself to run despite the cramping.  Mile 24, at 10:48, was my slowest in the race, much slower even than the single track, which I wasn't expecting.

I was so glad to turn off Cedar Ridge but that was short-lived because Cemetery Hill was soon to follow.  I walked once on Cemetery but knew the end was soon and knew also that I needed to run that mile in less that 11 minutes to feel comfortable that I'd meet my 4 hours.  I ran it in 10:26 even with the bit of walking.  Mile 25!  While my leg cramping was continuing and I was feeling a bit nauseous from all the Gatorade, I was looking forward to the end of the race.  I swear mile 25 felt like it was 2 miles long.  Once I turned right off Old Reedy Creek to head back to Camp Lapihio where the start/finish is, I tried to speed up and was desperately looking for the finish line.  That also seemed like it took forever and I was afraid I'd taken a wrong turn.  I passed the marker for mile 26 and really did my best to run faster.  I ran that last 0.2 mi at 7:38 pace and crossed the finish in 3:56:43.  I was 29 of 169 finishers overall, 4th female overall.  I was so glad to be done and to have finished in under 4 hours, despite my injury (which wasn't really a factor during the race it turned out), the weather, undertraining, or the leg cramps.  I was handed my 4th place female finisher wooden bat plaque (awesome!).  I was also offered Gatorade which I couldn't even look at, got my bat pint glass (love it!) and picked my door prize ticket from the basket, which was membership to Godiva Track Club for 1 year (pretty cool).
Wooden bat
2012 Finishers Pint Glass, complete with bat of course
I wasn't feeling so great stomach-wise from the overload of Gatorade, so I grabbed my clothes and quickly headed to the car to change, wondering how I'd do that, being as cramped up as I was.  Fortunately a woman had "accessed" an empty cabin that was on the way to the parking lot, so she could wait there with her two sons while her husband finished the race.  I asked if I could use it to change and she agreed.  It seemed to take forever to change, as I was moving very slowly.  But I felt much better once I was changed and then I headed to the car to drop off my dirty stuff and get some food/drink.  I called Keith to let him know I had survived and headed back to the lodge to hopefully say hi and thanks to folks who had cheered me on along the way.  I also tried to eat one of the Moe's burritos but after one bite I knew that wasn't going to happen, so I just ate some of the snacks I brought instead.  I left after having a chance to say thanks and goodbye to most folks and thankfully was able to get out of the mud pit of a parking lot without much trouble.  Others who needed a tow truck to get out were not as fortunate.  I was tired, a bit sore and just thankful to have met my goal.  I left thinking, yep, I'd do this race again!

It's over 24 hours later and I really have to say this was a truly great race.  I loved the NYC marathon, I was proud to have made it to Boston, and enjoyed the experience of Marine Corp, but this was completely different than NY, Boston and Marine Corp.  It was really nice to run it in a place that I think of as home, with so many words of encouragement from other local runners as well as the wonderful volunteers.  My sincere thanks goes to the many volunteers who really did a spectacular job.  The race was one of the best organized and most well run that I've been to and I have no doubt I'll run it again. 

Umstead Trail Marathon - Raleigh, NC - March 3, 2012 - Part I

Umstead Trail Marathon course map from my Garmin
I wasn't sure I'd make it to the starting line, let alone the finish line of the Umstead Trail Marathon.  Last fall I was thinking that I'd like to run this race someday and so put it on my 2013 list.  But in late November as the race registration was about to open, I had this crazy idea to sign up for this year's race, despite not having been training up to that point for a race of this distance.  So that probably was strike 1.  But I was excited at the idea of a race that was more for the fun and challenge rather than for a PR or to qualify for Boston.  I was also interested because it was a small race, looked like lots of fun and was on "home turf" where I run every weekend.  Plus the cool t-shirts, pint glass and the possibility of "getting wood" (aka the hand carved wooden plaque that goes to the top 15 male and female finishers) was pretty cool too.
Pint glasses for prior years (borrowed from Umstead Marathon website)
So in December I started to ramp up my running, running more often during the weekdays in the mornings and running longer on the weekends.  That was going well until I felt my upper left calf was pretty sore after a typical 4 mile run on the road just before Christmas.  Then, instead of resting it, I figured I'd just run through it, as I had planned to run Jimbo's Boxing Day Bad Ass Mad Ass Dumb Ass Fat Ass Fun Run (which had a great t-shirt that I can only wear to bed after the kids are asleep!).  Jim really put on a great event.  The goal was to run as many laps as you wanted of a 1 mile loop at a park in Sanford NC.  Turns out I barely made it 2 laps before my calf "popped".  This is a signal to stop, right?  Well, my signal was delayed and I limped through another 4 loops before waving the white flag.  I then was forced to take several days off but when I ran again, things seemed much better.  So the training recommenced.
Best t-shirt that I can't wear around the kids
I ramped up the long runs and did them all in Umstead as training for the race.  Lots of running on Turkey Creek and Cedar Ridge (very hilly) and a little single track here and there.  I ran my longest run, a 22 miler that started out as a 20 miler but I was feeling good so upped it to 22.  At the end I still felt good but made the worst mistake of sitting on the couch with the kids the rest of the day.  I started to have a tendon/muscle soreness behind the left knee after that, likely related to the original calf issue and to not stretching after that long run, but it wasn't bad enough to not run.  So run on it I did.  Until the one day I had another bright idea that I'd better practice some single track running mixed in with bridle trail running.  So I got up early in the pouring rain one Saturday to run 10 miles before joining RTR for their regular single track Saturday run. Well I got about 3.5 miles out, just to the bottom of Cedar Ridge where the water crossing is.  I am a wuss so I turned around at that crossing and was heading back up when again my calf snapped, this time I am sure it was an audible snap (at least in my head it was), followed by a curse word or two from me.  Crap, now I had to limp back to the car another 3.5 miles.  That was painful but I hoped to run it off because walking back would take even longer.  I was at least smart enough to skip the single track run that day and to look into sports med docs the next day.

I made an appointment for later that week and his advice was "do not run on it if you want to be able to run the race".  Strike 2.  Well that was new for me, I never got that advice before.  So of course I followed it...oh wait, no I didn't.  The race was just about 6 weeks away at that point and I planned to follow the advice, but one day as I was heading out to the gym to do spin class or the elliptical or something else that I like much less than running, I saw how warm it was out and decided to just run anyway.  And it didn't feel bad, so I ran again a few more times, short runs of 3 to 5 miles.  That gave me a false sense of security however because when I went to the Inside Out Sports Chase the Grape Run (a run followed by free wine tasting at Sip across the parking lot, first Wed of every month) in early February, they decided to do a hillier than usual route and my behind the knee thing was hurting again.  Also my hamstring had been sore over the past few weeks and wasn't improving.  Uggh, guessed I should follow the docs advice afterall.  I tried water jogging classes a few times.  It was mentally painful for me because I have no patience (that is why I run, because it's fast).  Water running was slow and boring to me and when they mixed in some water aerobics I really felt I was being tortured as I am not a group class kind of girl.  Not that water running is easy, it's not.  I was the last one across the pool each time and women and men much older and much heavier than me were lapping me.  It was a good alternative to running, but one that I'd only do if I was forced to again due to injury.  Same with the elliptical.  I am not a fan.  But I was heading out for a week long business trip and so did the elliptical every day before my meetings.  By the time I returned home, I couldn't stand it anymore and after 1.5 weeks of this I decided to try to run again.  The race was less than 5 weeks away and if things weren't better I'd rather know and drop now.  I was not comfortable just doing water running and elliptical and then showing up on the starting line as my doctor indicated some of his patients had successfully done.

I was also going to PT 2x per week and that seemed to help.  I decided to try a short run one chilly but sunny Saturday, sticking to the ATT which is softer than the road and flatter than Umstead.  That was a great run.  I did 6 miles (probably more than I should have) at sub 8 mm pace (faster than I should have) because I was so happy to be running again I just couldn't help it.  I did 10 miles at Umstead the next day and it went well.  Things seemed to be on the mend.  I ran a 6 mile and 4 mile run that week on the road but this only aggravated the injury again.  So the next weekend I went back to ATT on Saturday and did 10 miles and to Umstead on Sunday and did 18.  Both felt pretty good.  I didn't want to risk running on the road at all now, so I joined Daren and his group for the earliest Umstead runs I've ever done.  5:30 am start (so I got up at 4:30 am) in the dark with headlamps, 2 days in a row, 10 miles each day, around 10 mm pace.  Those runs really helped to finish off my training.  They were followed by a Saturday 10 mile single track run of Company Mill and Sycamore (part of the race course) with Stephane and then a 10 mile Sunday run at Old Reedy Creek, to round out the weekend before the race.  I had my last PT appointment on Monday and I ran only once during the week before the race, 4 miles on the road on Wednesday.  That was pretty much it for my training and either I was ready or not.  I decided I'd rather DNF than DNS, so made up my mind that I'd just do my best and see what happened.

Work was crazy busy that week as were kid activities (tae kwon do, swimming, book fair, etc) so I didn't get much rest that week and didn't eat very smartly (chili, burritos, sushi, chick fil a, etc).  So this would be strike 3 and 4 I guess.  But wait, there's more...

My marathon experience is quite limited relative to many runners I know.  I had run 3 of them before this one, Marine Corp in DC, NYC and Boston.  All three were very large road races that had water/gatorade stops at every mile and the weather turned out to be perfect for all 3 of them (probably because John Williamson did not enter them!).  Well I suspect that John secretly did enter the Umstead Marathon at some point because as the week wore on the weather forecast got more grim.  Lightening, thunder, strong winds, heavy rain, etc.  Strike 5 (I think I lost count now).  And it went from 50%, to 70%, down to 60% and back up to 80% chance of rain in a few days.  Hmm, looks like I'd better learn to swim.  I feared (and a small part of me, just a small part, hoped for) a cancellation.  I was at Myrtle Beach in 2010 for the half marathon when they cancelled for snow and I was not prepared for that race so was totally ok with it being cancelled.  Plus my inlaws live there so it's not like I shelled out a bunch of cash to travel there only to have the race cancelled.  But this time I really did want to run, so figured I'd do it anyway if it was cancelled but others would unofficially run it (depending on the lightening situation).

On Friday late afternoon I picked up the kids from school and we went to pick up my race packet.  We were all excited to see what the Umstead mascot would be this year.  That's another pretty fun thing about this race.  The mascot, which is on the t-shirt, pint glass and award plaque, is kept a secret until the race packet pick up time.  I had put in my guess a few months prior, coyote.  I have never seen one there but know others have seen and heard them.  Other cool choices, as mentioned on the Running Down blog, were copperhead, opossum, bat, and of course the elusive stegosaurus (well just because you haven't seen one yet doesn't mean there isn't one!)  Duck, while kind of lame, would have actually been most appropriate given the weather conditions.  Well that or whale, which was my daughter Grace's guess.  But now she says she was only kidding.  As we sat in the car outside the Great Outdoor Company, my son Owen's final choices were coyote or water snake (also appropriate) and Grace chose bat or deer.  I stuck with coyote.  And the winner....bat!  A totally cool t-shirt and the blue color was awesome too.
Cool bat shirt!
After a trip to chick fil a for dinner (in retrospect not the smartest move pre-race), I spent time prepping my stuff for the race the next day (clothes, food, etc).  I finally went to bed, later than I hoped, with no rain in sight.  Ah, see those weather folks clearly got it wrong, afterall 80% chance of rain means 20% chance of not rain, right?  This happens a lot for our RTR Sunday runs, most folks will cancel when bad weather is predicted and then by the time we start running the weather turns out perfect and these are some of the best runs for those of us who do show up.  And then...at 2:58am, KABOOM!  Huge thunder clap followed by lightening, gusting winds and pouring rain.  Ok, well looks like my "perfect weather for marathons" streak is clearly over.  I slept on and off for the next few hours but kept checking the weather and the Umstead website (not sure what I expected to see there, hopefully the race directors were not up at 4am, but perhaps they were).  I got up at 5:30am and started to get ready and pack all the running gear I had just because I couldn't decide what to wear or bring for after the race.  It was raining but not much thunder so the race was likely still on.

I am sure I was nervous for my other marathons and half marathons, but I was actually physically feeling sick a little about this one on and leading up to race morning.  I woke up at 5am most mornings feeling anxious that week before.  And even on the drive to the park that morning, I think my hands were shaking.  I felt under prepared already but with the weather conditions combined with not being a really savvy single track runner, I was pretty scared.  Once I got there and parked (in a mud pit that I wasn't sure I'd be able to get back out of), saw a few familiar faces (Jim, Shannon, Heiko, Michael, Charles, etc) and was introduced to some other runners I knew of but had never formally met, I felt a bit better.  In fact I almost lost track of time and then realized I'd better figure out what I was wearing (I settled on tank top and shorts, no long sleeves or arm warmers) and do a last minute potty stop.  I did that (ah the beauty of Umstead is you don't really need to wait on the potty line) and was on the starting line just in time.  It was the calmest starting line area of a marathon ever.  No one clammering to get up front, no one jumping into faster corrals (there were none of course) and everyone was still chatting calmly until the start.  This was no NYC or Boston, for sure.

My Umstead race experience - continued in part II.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

2012 Race Calendar and 2011 Year End Summary

Happy 2012!  I usually reserve my blogging for race reports, but in the spirit of setting some goals for 2012, since that’s the thing to do as we end one year and begin another, I thought I’d do a recap on 2011 and a preview to 2012.

2011, let’s review….

I had a few running goals in 2011.  One was to PR, and maybe even run a sub 20, for the 5K.  And the other was to do a half marathon in under 1:35.  I achieved the half marathon goal in March, at the Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon.  A great race and a great mini vacation, a PR and sub 1:35 half.  The 5K goal took a bit longer to achieve, mainly because of the lack of 5Ks in the summer.  I ran a few in the spring and did well but had to wait until the fall 5Ks came around to refocus on this goal.  In the meantime, while I not only didn’t PR but actually ran my worst half marathon in recent history, I had an excellent vacation in California at the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon.  Great location and great event, I’d like to try it again sometime when I am more prepared.  I refocused on the 5K goal and entered my favorite fall 5K, the Run for Healthier Babies.  But just so I would have a “practice” race, I also entered the Run for Autism.  Turns out I pulled off the sub 20 in the autism race.  I think running more often in the mornings combined with losing a few pounds, the right racing shoes and Zensah socks really helped me to make the leap from a 20:34 PR (Mar 2011) to a 19:55 PR in October.  After similar sub 20 success in the Healthier Babies race I decided to do the Second Empire Series and ran all but one of my fall 5K races in under 20 minutes, proving it wasn’t a fluke afterall.  My current PR is 19:29 in the Jingle Bell 5K.  Another goal I added later in 2011 was to run under 33:30 in the Turkey Trot.  I did better than expected and finished in 32:16.   

Looking ahead to 2012…

I set out with an aggressive race calendar for 2012 when I was originally thinking about it a few months ago, but had to cut back on it some since it was obviously too much to do in one year.  As of when I am writing this, Dec 29, 2011, the only races I am formally registered for are the Umstead Marathon on Mar 3rd and the Biltmore 15K on May 20th.  Unfortunately due to what I really believe was a non-running related Christmas present wrapping calf injury, I am a bit worried about my ability to be ready for Umstead Marathon in time.   I’ll just have to take it easy and see how it goes.  I wasn’t even able to do 6 miles without lots of pain and stopping earlier this week, but rested 2 days and did 3 today with some, but considerably less, pain.  But I was able to do 18 with no trouble in Umstead including Turkey Creek only a few weeks ago, so hoping that this calf thing doesn’t set me back too much.  I would like to run Umstead in under 4 hours but we’ll see how it goes.  It’s not a BQ race and I’d be doing it for just the fun of doing it.  But I don’t want to suffer through it either, so hopefully this injury will heal fast and I’ll be back out there soon.  As for the Biltmore race, I am also excited about that one.  It’s a great course and a fun trip to Asheville and Biltmore.  So far that’s all that is officially on tap for 2012.

Umstead Marathon

Biltmore 15K

Still of course there are some other races I am pondering…
  • March – Run for the Oaks and Second Empire 5Ks.  I’ve done both of these for several years now and I like them but I’ll have to see how I feel after the Umstead Marathon.
  • September – Provided I am in town this time, I’d really like to run the Magnificent Mile, which I’ve never run before.  I’d like to get some speed work in over the summer to train for it.  I'd also like to do the Friesen Run with the Canes again.
  • October – Either the Army 10 miler if we can get an RTR crew to go, or the ATT 10 miler locally.
  • November – City of Oaks Relay, again if we can get an RTR relay team together it would be fun.  And of course the Turkey Trot, maybe the Surfside Beach one this year instead of the Grand Strand Myrtle Beach one. 
  • December – This one really will depend on funding to be able to travel to another race, but I’d like to do the Kiawah Island Half, if not this year, maybe the following year.  

Looking REALLY far ahead to 2013 and beyond some other races I’d like to do are:  
  • Big Sur Marathon in California
  • Covered Bridges Half Marathon in Vermont
  • Oregon Wine Country Half
  • Chicago Marathon
  • Outer Banks Half 

Well that is enough dreaming about cool races for now.  Happy New Year to you!  I wish you a 2012 filled with beautiful trail runs, exciting road races and an injury free year of achieving your goals, whatever they may be! 

P.S. - Update as of Jan 8th, 2012 – I did a 22 mile run today, and felt pretty good so I am feeling better about the Umstead Marathon.  I also have a new mantra to use, thanks to my son Owen’s Tae Kwon Do instructor.  “Goals I set (sir) are goals I get (sir)!”.  I’ll probably leave out the “sir” part but it got me through the last few miles today!