Monday, March 31, 2014

Big Sur International Marathon Training

Yesterday I went on my first long run post-Shamrock and have already jumped right into Big Sur International Marathon training.  Thankfully I don't have to start from scratch since I just ran a marathon as my long run but I still want to make sure I keep my mileage high. Plus, I'm using all races between now and May as training runs for my "big" race: Nanny Goat 24 hour / 100 miler.

Since I'm still concerned about my feet (my left foot specifically) I wanted to make sure that I ran a really easy pace so that I could pay attention to how my body felt. Sorry for sounding like a broken record but I really cannot afford a major injury and I refuse to push my body to far or fast despite how much it's killing me to restrain myself.  Thankfully, Michele had 12 miles on her training calendar for the day and Sarah had 16 miles scheduled so we all met up at 6:30 AM to do 12 miles together (Sarah ran her additional 4 miles before meeting up with us).

We started our run while it was still dark out and it was really cool to see the sun come up and watch as everything got lighter.  Between chatting and running into people that we knew along the way, the miles ticked by.  It really was a beautiful day out and I distracted myself by looking at the gorgeous view.  Here's a quick photo dump just so you can see what I'm talking about:

Before we knew it we were done! The great news was my feet held up just fine.  There was still some tightness in my arches but no pain at all.  WOOHOO!  There were high fives all around before we sped off to meet our friend Sandra a.k.a. The Foodie Affair for brunch at the Red House Cafe.  It was the perfect way to celebrate our long run and catch-up with good friends.

For the record, here are my splits (Yes, I realize my pace was all over the place. There was a lot of slowing down and stopping to say hi to friends we ran into along the way so it was an easy paced "social run"):

Final stats:
Distance: 12.01 miles
Total time: 2:11:01
Splits: 12:21, 11:18, 11:27. 11:01, 10:52, 10:23, 10:44, 10:32, 10:41, 9:54, 10:14, 11:05, 9:54 (.01 mile)
Average time: 10:55 min/mile

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Oh How I've Missed O'dark Thirty

After the Shamrock Marathon my left foot was a mess.  It was really swollen and I had pain on the top of my foot.  I was so freaked out that it might be a stress fracture that I took a full week off to rest and recover.  And I mean fully recover. No working out, no running.  Trust me when I say I was losing my mind!  When you take running away from a runner it's taking away a huge part of that person's identity.  For me, it was taking away the one thing that was keeping me sane during a really difficult time in my life.  Every day I would RICE and pray that I didn't have a stress fracture or anything similarly serious.

Yesterday I woke up and my feet felt pretty good so I decided to meet up with Michele and Sarah for our usual o'dark thirty run.  It was my first real run post-Shamrock so I wanted to take it really easy.  We kept the place slow and easy and I really paid attention to how my body was holding up, especially my feet.

Love running with these girls!

Typically my training runs are always dedicated to my I Run 4 buddy, Jason, but this run was special because it was also dedicated in memory of a dear friend's wife (Holly "Moe" Coolidge) who passed away from colon cancer 12 years to the day.  As we ran, the girls and I talked about our friend and the love he and his wife shared.  It made the miles tick by faster and made each step even more meaningful.

My brand spankin' new babies and a ribbon in memory of our honoree "Moe"

Before I knew it, we were headed back in the final stretch towards our cars and per usual I kicked up the pace just a little bit more.  This time though I erred on the side of caution and didn't do a full out sprint just to be on the safe side.  However, I definitely turned it up a notch just to see how my body would feel.  Thankfully other than some tightness in my right arch I felt great! I was so happy!

Hooray for no foot pain!

Final stats:
Distance: 5.32 miles
Total time: 00:56:32
Splits: 11:02, 11:00, 10:47, 10:42, 10:23, 9:17 (.32 mile)
Average pace: 10:38 min/mile

Once I got home I dunked my feet in an ice bath for 10 minutes.  Yikes that was cold!  I stood in the tub with my feet ankle deep in ice water while I was wrapped in my gray robe over my running clothes.  I should have taken a picture of that.  It was classic!  I also did some major foam rolling as well as Myrtl (hip girdle) and foot exercises.  What I didn't do (and it bit me in the butt later) was roll my foot.

Throughout the day at work I kept a close eye on how my body was feeling and I was really happy for the most part with the lack of soreness or pain.  I was, however, a little concerned about the very slight tightness in my right arch and the tenderness on top of my left foot. I *may* have gone into a little panic and thoughts of  "OMG it's a stress fracture and I'm never gonna be able to run another race this year" may have flashed through my brain.  So guess what I did as soon as I got home?  Yup, went straight to Google and WebMD.  'Cuz you know that's the best way to diagnose any possible runner injury right?! RIIIIGHT?!

After doing many of the self tests for stress fractures posted on YouTube and going through other foot pain possiblilities (tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, bone spurs, metatarsalgia, ganglion cyst, Morton's neuroma, soft tissue damage, etc.), I convinced myself that I had every foot injury known to man. Runners: If you ever have any twinges or pain please save yourself from some serious psychological distress and DO NOT check out Google or WebMD.  Seriously. Bad idea.

So what did I do? I iced my feet again. Then proceeded to roll each foot on my Trigger Point X-Factor massage ball.  YEOWWW!  Holy hell did that hurt!  I was literally crying at some points because rolling my feet out, even with the lightest bit of pressure, hurt really badly.  And guess what happened when I was done?  Both feet felt infinitely better.  No more tightness on my right arch.  No more tenderness on top of my left foot. Huh. Imagine that.  Although thrilled at the results I was cautiously optimistic.  But I woke up this morning and felt completely fine so I'm guessing that rolling session (albeit torturously painful) was all my little footsies needed.

Moral of the story: Take care of your feet! Don't neglect them and always remember to stretch and roll them out just like you would any other part of your body.  And never consult with Google or WebMD unless you want to have a nervous breakdown. The End.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

2014 Yuengling Shamrock Marathon - Race Report

This race report is long overdue but a part of me was so disappointed with how it all went down that I really didn't want to relive it. Short version: my race sucked, my body rebelled like there was no tomorrow and I mentally checked out early. I was over it by mile 10. Had things been different I think I really would have done well on this race coourse but it is what it is.  Instead, I'll focus on all the fun I had over race weekend.

The shenanigans started with a super, duper early flight out of Monterey.  I met up with The Pink Hat Runner at the Monterey Airport and we got ready for a really long day of traveling.  Twelve hours and 2 layovers later we made it to the East Coast.

Do I get a medal for getting all that in my carry-on?

The Pink Hat Runner and Rungry Runner headed to VA

We schelpped ourselves over to our hotel to check in then immediately turned around and headed out to meet our friend Katie for dinner.  There's nothing like a night of girl talk and laughter over good food (and beer)!  Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the hotel and attempt to get in some zzz's.  I have been struggling with insomnia for the past several weeks so as soon as we got back to the hotel room I popped a couple of melatonin pills and conked out.  Unfortunately, I fell asleep so fast that I missed our friend Danielle's arrival to the room.  Oops!

The next day the last member of our little group, Betsy (a.k.a. BBB), arrived and we headed out to the race expo which was conveniently located across the hotel parking lot.  The bib pick-up was fast and easy and we got to run into some of our Red Felt Running Club family members.  RFRC is the East Coast based running group that I joined when I signed up to run the Marine Corps Marathon for the first time.  Since then it's grown to include members throughout the USA as well as other countries.  Always fun times with this group!

Some RFRC'ers at the Expo

Bib is ready!

After the expo the four of us went out for lunch.  After a super long wait in which we imbibed some mimosas, bloody mary's and beers (hooray dollar drinks!) we scarfed down some food then headed back to the hotel room for some nap time.  Pretty soon it was time to meet up with RFRC for our pre-race carbo loading dinner.

We had 50+ runners from RFRC taking over Giovanni's Pasta Pizza Place.  I swear the biggest reason I even agreed to run this race was because of this group.  I mean, look at all of those beautiful faces!  It really is amazing how great friendships can develop over the love of running even when you don't see each other very often.  After lots of catching up, laughter and shenanigans we all called it a night to get ready for race day.

My RFRC Family

Some of the RFRC ladies

Carbo loading! WOOT WOOT!

Flat runner

Oh race day!  What can I say.  It started off great.  I got up early to walk over with the girls to meet up with the rest of the RFRC half marathon runners (the half marathon started 1 1/2 hours before the full).  After that I headed over to meet the RFRC full marathoners.  Before we knew it we were off!  My body felt good for the first 6 miles and I was keeping pace with the 4:30 pace group without feeling like I was working too hard but then the wheels fell off at mile 7.  My tummy got really pissed (AGAIN!) and I couldn't recover.  Add to that the brutal wind and cold (I had thrown away my gloves and zip-up hoodie at mile 3 because I was getting hot and instantly regretted it at mile 5) and it was just one hot mess of a race.  Nevertheless, I was glad I flew out to experience it.  Getting to hang out at the finishers tent drinking beer and laughing with my RFRC family made it all worth it.  Huge shout out to Jay and Nick at the RFRC Mile 20 cheer/support table.  You guys saved me with the bag of chips!

RFRC Full Marathoners

Oh lovely salty chips how I love you!

One of my favorite signs on the course

Beer and bling make me happy!

Race swag

I made a lot of mistakes this time around and I have a lot of room for improvement:

1) Make sure I eat enough.  I had my normal bagel and peanut butter plus a banana for breakfast but since I ate aboout 3 hours before the start of the race I was already hungry at mile 2.  Not a goood way to start the race!  I also think running while hungry aggravates the tummy issue.  I may be wrong but that's the only common denominator I can think of between my last two races where my tummy acted up.

2) Sleep, rest and recovery is important!  I had ran a 50 mile ultra two weeks prior to Shamrock and my body never fully recovered thanks to a busy work and personal schedule and horrible insomnia.  I know my body was fatigued during race weekend so I need to manage that better the next time around.

3) Real food during marathons is AMAZING!  I love real food during ultras but have always relied on shot bloks or honey stingers during marathons.  That bag of chips that I ate gave me renewed energy and allowed me to get to that finish line.

Overall, the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon course is flat and fast with huge potential for a massive PR. But along with that comes wicked winds that zap your energy and really batter you for much of the race. The course support was awesome although spectator support was lacking in some of the middle miles along the boardwalk.  The beer tent (with 3 free Yuengling beers!) and post-race beef stew/broth hit the spot and the swag was AMAZING! I would recommend this race for someone looking to PR.  I would come back again but probably for the half marathon versus the full.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Last O'dark Thirty Run

It's almost race day! Yesterday morning was my last scheduled o'dark thirty run with the ladies (Michele, Sarah and Heather) before I left for the weekend.  Why is the time change so hard this time around?  I was struggling to get up when my stupid alarm went off at 4:30 AM.  If my sole sisters weren't waiting for me, I wouldn't have even bothered.

Michele had 6 miles of speed intervals (90 secs hard sprint/60 secs recovery) on her training calendar for the day so we all agreed to run along with her.  That was the plan anyway.  My legs and feet apparently didn't get that memo. I stuck with the girls for the first mile chatting away and catching up but before I knew it my legs kept getting faster and faster. Apparently they wanted to do a progressive run more than they wanted to do intervals! I did slow down considerably during a dark section of the bike trail where I was too scared to get too far in front of the ladies just in case some crazy person jumped out at me.  As soon as I hit that turnaround point though, my legs went into autopilot and I started speeding up again until I got back to the cars. That last 1/2 mile almost killed me! Trying to kick it in on an uphill with only one functioning nostril is not so easy!

Look at those happy, sweaty faces!

The good news is that my legs and feet felt great!  The bad news was that my splits weren't where they needed to be for the PR time I was hoping for. Whomp, whomp! That's ok though.  I just need to keep in mind that I just ran a 50 miler, my body is fighting fatigue and stress and I currently have the worst allergies and jacked up sinuses in the world.  Re-adjusting my finish time goal isn't a bad thing.  It just means I'll have to work a bit harder to hit that PR time in the Fall!

This is my "Why the hell was that so hard?" face

Final stats:
Distance: 6.52 miles
Total time: 1:04:06
Splits: 11:02, 9:23, 9:11, 10:19, 10:04, 9:28, 8:56
Average pace: 9:49 min/mile

Who else is running a race this weekend?  Do you have a time goal in mind?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Back on the Marathon Training Train

Whelp, I took a bit of a longer hiatus from running after my 50 miler than I intended to.  I was scheduled to run the LA Marathon this past weekend but for once I decided to do the "smart" thing and skip the race to allow my body to fully rest/recover so that I can race the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon this coming weekend. Instead, I spent the weekend with my sister and future brother-in-law checking out wedding venues and doing some wedding planning. WHEW! This wedding planning business is no joke! I was exhausted.  Needless to say, I got no running in at all.

Thankfully I got a text from my friend Heather letting me know that she was going to be in town for a few days and would love to get a run in if possible. Score! Nothing motivates me to run more than knowing I have a friend meeting up with me.

Heather and I met up after work yesterday at our normal meeting spot on our local coastal beach trail and we both agreed that we wanted to do an easy run.  As usual, we started chatting away the second we took our first steps and before I knew it we were already at the halfway turnaround point!  Here's my thing...I always have to have negative splits if I can help it. Always! And Heather is a chaser just like me so we both started speeding up while still chatting a mile a minute (it's a talent I tell ya!).  I think the only time we didn't talk was when we hit the corkscrew because I'm not quite talented enough to carry-on a conversation while charging up a hill.  I kinda need to focus on breathing at that point. HA! Once we both reached the summit, we resumed talking and sped up even more to get that final quarter mile back to our cars under a 9:00 min/mile.

Me and Heather

Final stats:
Distance: 4.02 miles
Total time: 39:56
Splits: 10:03, 9:56, 9:56, 9:53, 8:24 (for the .02)
Average Pace: 9:56 min/mile
Gotta love the Cali weather! Yes, I know I'm spoiled.

It was a great run, my legs felt fresh and I loved catching up with my friend.  It's taper week this week so tomorrow will be my last scheduled training run day before I head off to Virginia Beach.  I'm so not ready for this race! EEK!

Do you like running with friends or are you more of a solo runner? What's the next race on your schedule?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Life sucks sometimes

I have to be honest here, life has been giving me a hell of a beating lately.  Without going into too much detail, it's been a domino effect of one bad thing after another and I just can't seem to catch a break or come up for air.  My days of late have been filled with stress, frustration, anger, a heavy heart and a generous amount of crying thrown in.  All I want to do sometimes is lock myself in my room and curl up in a ball on my bed.

Today I just felt so weighed down by it all.  My body felt so heavy with the burden of everything and I felt like I couldn't breathe.  Usually, a good crying session helps get it all off my chest but I am so, so tired of crying. I just didn't have the strength for it anymore. I needed air.  I needed to feel strong again.  I needed to feel free. So I laced up my running shoes and headed down my hill to the track.

My first lap was slow. My legs and feet were understandably heavy given the 50+ miles I logged on them this past weekend.  But I pushed forward, one foot in front of the other.  My mind was going into overdrive thinking about anything and everything, some thoughts welcome and some not so much. By the third lap my pace picked up, my stride found a rhythm and mind started to go into my running "zone".  After the first mile my mind was zoned in and my thoughts were in the blissful "white noise" stage where my focus was on nothing but moving forward.  My music was the sound of my breathing and my footsteps hitting the track.  I continued on like this, lap after lap, my body moving forward, one foot in front of the other. Four miles later I stopped with a smile on my face.  It was a small smile, but it was a smile nonetheless.

As I walked back up to my apartment from the track, my thoughts turned to a feeling of gratefulness for what I do have in my life.  I am grateful for amazing friends and family who support and encourage me though good times and bad.  I am grateful for the people that I have met and the impact that they have made.  I am grateful for the amazing running community that has become my family.  I am grateful for love and my heart is filled with happiness to see so many in my life who love openly and unselfishly. I am grateful for the roof over my head, the food in my belly and for the amazing area that I'm blessed to live in.  I am grateful for my health and a body that is strong.  But most of all, I am grateful for running and everything that it has given me.  It is my joy, my therapy, my release, my zen.  No matter what else may happen and whatever other curveballs life may throw my way, that will always be my constant for as long as I am able.  I will always run.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Razorback 50 miler - Race Report

Get comfy y'all. This is gonna be a long one!

Razorback is held at Harvey Bear Park in San Martin, CA.  It's a 2.01 mile loop of paved trail with 2 gravel trails on either side so that you have the option of surfaces to run on.  Razorback offered half marathon, marathon, 50k, 50 mile, 100k, 100 mile and 125 mile distances.  Since I have two marathons coming up in the next two weekends I opted to run the 50 miler and treat it as a training run for Nanny Goat 100 miler.

San Martin is approximately an hour drive away from where I live so I decided to wake up early and drive up on race day instead of camping out there the night before.  Boy am I glad that I made that decision!  It was storming pretty badly on Friday night and all could do was pray that the weather would clear up for the race.

  Race gear all set up and ready to go

I woke up bright and early on Saturday morning. 3:00 AM to be exact! I technically could have gotten up a little later but I wanted to ensure I gave myself enough of a time buffer just in case I got lost.  I had my typical pre-race breakfast (a plain bagel with peanut butter and a banana), double checked my race bags, then headed out the door to San Martin.  I got to Harvey Bear Park aroound 4:45 AM to see several cars already there.  Packet pick-up was supposed to start at 5:15 AM but because of the storm the race crew was having problems setting up the tents.  Since I was early I decided to lend a helping hand and helped sort the race shirts and hold the tents down.  By this time it really started raining and the wind had picked up.  It took six people to hold down a tent so that it could be staked down! Craziness!  Pretty soon they were up and running and packet pick-up was quick and easy.

So glad I finally got to meet Shrina

Once I got my bib on and my bags were set up along the course path, I huddled up with fellow runners under the aid tents making the usual pre-race small talk about weather conditions, fueling plans, and distances everyone was aiming for.  Before we knew it, it was time for the race to start and without much fanfare we were off! Holy guacamole was it cold! The rain was just dumping down on us and the wind was ruthlessly blowing into our faces.  Within a few feet of fighting to run into the wind up the first incline I was laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation.  It was the most inclement weather the area had seen all year and yet here were all these runners charging into it and chatting it up like it was a normal sunshiney day.

Surprisingly, despite the weather those first several miles went by quickly. It's always fun to pass the miles getting to know fellow runners and sharing race stories.  It sure does make everything go faster that's for sure!  At some point the poncho I was wearing tore in the wind and did nothing but make me look like an awkward ghost flapping about so I ditched it.  About four hours in, the rain stopped (even though the wind didn't) and we were greeted with a beautiful double rainbow.   

For the rest of the race it stayed fairly clear with the rain showing up every other hour to remind us what we had gone through earlier in the morning.  The wind, however, never ended.  It was absolutely relentless and it was starting to exhaust me. No matter which direction on the loop we were running we ran into a headwind. How does that happen?  The only exception was during a 1/2 mile downhill section of the loop. So, I had decided early on in the race to charge down that section as fast as I could to balance out the section where we turn right into the worst of the headwind (I found that trying to run into that section was fruitless so I pretty much power walked it for most of the race).  My little strategy was working out well and I was feeling a million times better than I had the previous year at my first ultramarathon, Run-de-Vous 100k (which ironically had been held at the exact same course location).  I was having so much fun and loved sharing miles with my runner friends (both old and new ones I met on the course) including Shrina, Leigh Anne, Sophie, Charlyann, Bill, Raman, Reshu, Danni, Catra, Ed and so many more. I was aiming for a 12 hour finish and was thrilled to see that at the 50k mark I was right on pace for an 11:20 finish time.  And then...the wheels started to come off.

My friend Josam caught this shot when the rain stopped. So happy!

All throughout the race I had been fueling and hydrating like a champ.  I carried my handheld water bottle to ensure I consistently drank on the course and I grabbed food every 2 miles, starting with a Banana Blueberry PowerBar Performance pack each lap for the first 3 laps and then switching to solid food for the rest of the race.  The race food was AH-MAZING and I indulged in peanut butter stuffed pretzels, fruit, boiled potatoes, crackers, dates, grilled cheese sandwiches, quesadillas, black bean vegan burgers, pizza, and soup. Unfortunately, I think I may have lapsed at some point after the 50k and allowed my tummy to get a little too hungry before eating and after that my stomach was never the same. At mile 38 it decided to become really, really angry and made some really loud noises to let me know as such. Awesome! We all know that making potty stops along the race course is never ideal but can you imagine trying to hurry to a porta-john but not being able to run because it made things worse? Yeah. Not fun.  Thankfully, the RD had porta-johns near the starting line and two other portajohns about 3/4 mile out from each other on the course.  But I was in trouble. After that I literally had to stop every 1.5-2 miles for a potty break. Talk about killing the time I had banked! At that point, I didn't even care anymore.  I just wanted to be done in one piece without hurting myself or having an "accident" on the course.

On my last loop, I managed to find my friend Charlyann who was gunning for her first 100 miler.  She was struggling a bit as the wind had really zapped her energy and her feet were just raw and in pain.  So I made her a promise that once I finished I'd continue to walk with her until she was allowed pacers at the 50 mile mark.  So I did just that. I crossed that fnished line, grabbed my medal, and headed back out on the course with Charly.  For anyone who has never ran an ultra, it really is the biggest mental and emotional rollercoaster you will ever experience.  You go through bouts of the happiest highs and the lowest lows while trying to battle fatigue and pain.  Last year, I was completely unprepared for the waves of emotions that would hit seemingly out of nowhere for no reason and I literally had a full on meltdown on the course complete with ugly crying.  If it wasn't for my crew supporting me and encouraging me, I don't know what I would have done.  This year, I had the honor and privilege to be that support for my friend.  And this is where the beauty of ultramarathoning lies. During the dark of night, when the miles seem longest and hardest, runners band together to support, encourage and motivate each other to keep putting one foot in front of other.  Everyone wants every runner to succeed.  And I am always awed and inspired by the strength and determination of those who, like Charly, are battling not only physical pain, fatigue, nausea, etc. but also those mental demons that so often end races earlier than any physical issue would otherwise.  Charly ended up dropping down to the 100k distance but I cannot tell you how proud I am of her for pushing through to the finish. Given the condition of her feet as well as the nausea she was fighting, I don't know if I would have had the strength to do what she did.  She's my inspiration!   

WOOHOO! 50 miles DONE!

At the end of the day, I am proud of how I did at Razorback.  I may not have finished within the timeframe I wanted (stupid tummy!) but overall I performed the very best that I could given the conditions and I never allowed those mental demons to get the better of me.  Recovery so far has been going surprisingly well.  Sunday was a bit of a challenge in the morning as my hips were a little tight and I had pain in my ankles and shins from power walking into the wind (shin pain is totally new to me!) but otherwise I felt pretty good!  Since it was raining outside and I had more than my fill of walking in the rain during the race, I walked laps around my apartment to keep my muscles loose. My gait was a little stiff at first but loosened up pretty quickly.  Monday I was walking around normally with some residual stiffness/pain in my ankle/shin area.  Today I'm back to normal!  My legs are obviously still fatigued but there's no pain/stiffness/tightness.  It's apparent that I'm in no condition to race the LA Marathon this coming weekend, especially if I plan on racing the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon the weekend afterwards, so I'm skipping LAM and focusing on rest and recovery for Shamrock.  Gotta love tapering! HA!

Oh and this whole ultramarathoning thing isn't over yet.  I'll be gunning for my very first hundo at Nanny Goat in May so stay tuned!

Have you ever ran or thought of running an ultramarathon?  If so, which one?