Monday, April 30, 2012

Oklahoma City Marathon - The Marathon That Wasn't On My Calendar

Oklahoma City Marathon - the race that wasn't on my race calendar. My sister-in-law was due to have her first baby right about then, so I needed to leave the spot open so we could visit them in Houston when the time came. And then the baby came 9 days early.

So I ran Garmin Marathon in the Land of Oz in Kansas on Saturday, April 21 (Race Report Here). Dear friend Elaine was there to be a little buzzing flying gnat in my ear about all the fun we could have in Oklahoma City the following weekend now that the baby came early. Swat, swat,
Me: "No, I shouldn't, 3 weekends in a row of traveling? 3 weekends in a row of marathons?!?"
Elaine: "You said that OKC would probably be the race you would want to use at some point for checking Oklahoma off your 50 states list for marathons."
Swat, swat.
Me: "Let's see how I feel after I run 10 trail miles the day after Oz Marathon PR, mkay? I know coach would assign long miles for OKC weekend anyway..."

By Tuesday, I was feeling recovered. Now that doesn't mean I was feeling good. I beat myself up in this training, that's what fatigue training is about. I was exhausted, fatigued, and sore, but I was as recovered as I was going to get from Oz Marathon.

Wednesday night I committed that I was in. Then the freakout because Kristi was going to get in earlier on Saturday and try to register me. What if they fill early? What if they won't let her register me? (By the way, huge shoutout to Kristi who ran her first marathon and rocked it!!!)

My goal was to keep the trip as short as possible. Quick in, quick out. Steve's super supportive, but that doesn't mean you should take advantage of someone who does that for you.

Luckily, Kristi was able to get me registered. I left Saturday at 4 pm, got to Oklahoma City about 7:30, went to Kristi's hotel to get my packet, then to my hotel to room with Elaine, Cassie, and Claudine by 8:45. Some chatting and laughing, and fell asleep about 10:30 to the loudest air conditioning unit ever.

Race Day Morning

Elaine and Cassie were doing the early start at 4:30, so they had gotten up at 3 am. I was up at 4 before they left the hotel, dolled up in costume to have a little fun. This so sums up who these girls are - they take on 26.2 miles with a smile and a laugh, and a mustache and a sombrero. It's easy to be somber about 26.2 miles. It takes a true warrior to laugh in its face while being prepared for the war ahead.
Work it, ladies!
Claudine and I took our time getting ready. I took my luggage to my car in the parking garage because I would finish and literally jump in the car to drive 3 1/2 hours home. Again, quick in and out.

We worked our way through the crowds and lined up in Corral B. Note that corrals were A, B, and C, but they aren't enforced. Kristi said they didn't even ask my finish time, but assigned me B. Shrug.
Claudine and I at the race start

How We Gonna Play This?

It had rained overnight, and it looked like it was going to rain again. Overcast, low clouds, and high humidity. And warm. 66 degrees at the start, and would be lingering there and rising to about 71 degrees over the course of the race. All week, as they updated the weather forecast, I kept backing down the pace. 15 seconds per mile at a time. You take what the race day gives you, and make your plan accordingly.

My goal was consistent and strong for about 20 miles based on the pace I set for myself. I decide 12:45 min/mi for the first 20, and then see what shook out. Around a 5:40 to 6:00 finish and I would be a happy camper.


This race has not been getting a reputation for good weather. 2008 I ran the half marathon with freezing rain before the race start and numb fingers the first 6 miles. 2009 was super hot and humid. And I know friends who dealt with the thunderstorms and hypothermia of 2011.
My OKC Medals - 2008, 2009, and 2012.


A Great Well-Supported Race

Waiting for the start
It was a fun time. Aid stations were done pretty well. The first aid station had probably not set up the way their diagram showed them too because it was a chaotic mess (water on one side of a 4 lane road, powerade on the other side with very little warning), so people almost ran each other over. I'll email the race to let them know. It's easy when you direct a race to not know what the reality was out there on the race course. The best you can do is tell the volunteers what you would like to see and hope they execute it to plan. :-)

I kept solid pacing around 12:30 min/mi, couldn't seem to slow myself to 12:45 min/mi. About mile 9, all that soreness from a week of speedwork and strength training and high midweek miles, started to escalate rapidly. I struggled to fight through the pain and just keep the pace.

It started raining on us, which was so nice compared to the humidity. Spectators in the early miles were great, and separating from the half marathoners gave us a chance to breathe. Even overcast, Lake Hefner was a very pretty area.

Mile 15 I am sinking quick into "the vortex of pain" as I've termed it. I am able to hold on to a 12:45 total average pace for a few more miles. I tweet about the level of soreness I am in. But this is what fatigue training is about. And I knew I would learn more trying to fight through soreness than if I had an easy race. I had tweeted with Michelle about that the day before the race. I gave her back the good luck she gave me so she'd have extra for her half marathon PR attempt, and I told her I'd probably learn more from painful miles, LOL.

By mile 21 everything has seized up and I'm struggling. I stretch my calves and the tendon on the top of the foot seizes up. My shoulders and abs have been on fire so that every step hurts so much. Trainer Donnie had worked a lot of shoulders and abs on Friday, just 48 hours before the race.

I feel like the last 5 miles are at a crawl, but I keep my powerwalk form strong when I can't hobble a slow run, and I still do pass people who are also struggling. I cross the finish line, relieved and happy, in 5:54. I finished state #7 (CA, HI, IL, TX, OR, KS, OK) and marathon #6 (marathon/ultra #9).

My Hardest Training Ever

The numbers say it all. Before two weeks ago, my highest weekly mileage was 42 miles. In the last two weeks (and actually 12 days only because of the emergency trip to see the new nephew in Houston!), I ran 96 miles which included also 5 hours of strength training and included 2 marathons, one of which was an 11 minute PR. I finish the month with 35 miles more than my highest ever monthly mileage - I hit 168 miles for April.


Next Up

New Jersey Marathon on Sunday. Coach Jeremy just gave me my workouts, and I have a recovery week after 2 hard weeks. So Monday's strength training, Tuesday's easy 4 miles, Wednesday's strength training plus easy 5 miles, Thursday's easy 4 miles, then completely off Friday and Saturday to rest. I'm hoping Sunday's race will be less painful.

And I want to give it another day before I commit, but I might add another race, a 50K, to my calendar for May. Stay tuned.

Splits

Mile 1 - 12:22
Mile 2 - 12:27
Mile 3 - 12:28
Mile 4 - 12:14
Mile 5 - 12:22
Mile 6 - 12:23
Mile 7 - 12:37
Mile 8 - 12:22
Mile 9 - 12:43
Mile 10 - 12:45
Mile 11 - 12:47
Mile 12 - 12:48
Mile 13 - 12:34
Mile 14 - 12:32
Mile 15 - 12:57
Mile 16 - 13:38
Mile 17 - 13:08
Mile 18 - 13:54
Mile 19 - 13:27
Mile 20 - 13:41
Mile 21 - 16:22
Mile 22 - 14:57
Mile 23 - 16:03
Mile 24 - 16:12
Mile 25 - 16:11
Mile 26 - 14:56
Last 0.2 - 13:14



Monday, April 23, 2012

Clicked My Heels Three Times and Found a Marathon PR

Saturday, April 21, was the Garmin Marathon in the Land of Oz, in Olathe, Kansas. Sharon had mentioned the race to Elaine, who posted on Facebook about it, I jumped on it and posted about it. Before we knew it, we had 13 ladies ready to head to Olathe, a suburb of Kansas City, to run a half or full marathon. The $69 each way airfare Elaine found on American Airlines helped, as did the cute medals that were promised.

I've been in training for the Rock Creek Outfitters Chattanooga 3 Day Stage Race, so lots of fatigue training and strength training. But my last 4 weeks had also looked like this...

Lots of workouts, races, and some PRs to go with it. So my job from the coach for this weekend was to run easy and then, for more fatigue training, do 10 miles on trails the day after the marathon. And all this after midweek speedwork and hard strength training. This would also make my highest mileage week ever, with 47 miles.

Welcome to Kansas - Day Before The Race

Our flight landed Friday at 2 pm on this whirlwind adventure. We rented our car and headed straight to the host hotel in Olathe, 45 minutes away. Packet pickup was quick and easy, and the expo was small. They had cute cutouts from the Wizard of Oz movie.
Photo courtesy of Lucy
Then, stock up on water at Walgreen's. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Back to the expo to get a quick picture that Claudine really wanted with Bart Yasso before dinnertime.

Dinner just down the road at Zio's, where I could safely handle bread, pasta, grilled chicken, and meatballs, since I have such a nervous tummy for races. We couldn't end the night without grabbing a pre-race cupcake, and one to save for post-race, from Small Cakes nearby, which Lisa and Lucy had discovered before dinner.
Photo courtesy of Elaine
Finally, an early bedtime of 9:30 pm.

Perfect Race Day Conditions

A 4:30 am wakeup. Yawn. It was a 7 am race start, so that's a super early wakeup for this night owl. It was 35 degrees outside, with a light breeze. Total score! During the race it would be 40 degrees at the start, with a clear blue sky and breeze, going up to 60 degrees by the finish, with a few puffy white clouds. Just a completely beautiful, perfectly race-able day!

We dressed and drove to the start, which was at the headquarters for Garmin International and only 2 minutes from the host hotel by car. Parking for getting there an hour before the start was very plentiful, and we were just a 2 minute walk from the start line. You can't beat that! Maybe 3000 total in this race, we would find out it broke down into 580 finishers in the marathon, 1200 in the half (the "Wickedly Fast Half"), and the rest in the 5K (the "Dorothy Dash 5K"). We met up with friends, stayed warm in Luis and Amanda's truck, took a picture or two, and lined up.
Photo taken by Lucy's camera, thanks to Luis for taking it!

And We're Off!

Lucy and I lined up together. It was her third marathon. And we had around the same goal paces. I told her I needed to keep heart rate low (coach Jeremy said to run easy) and stick to my paces, knowing I tend to be chatty. And I did talk, a lot. Because Lucy, who said she was chatty, was kinda the quiet one on race day. Plus we talked with a lot of runners we would meet along the way.

The early miles we wound and wound like a serpent around the blocks, the way some races do where you can look to one side and see a block down the folks run by that are a mile ahead of you. We wound through a section of undeveloped future commercial areas it seemed, that were currently grassy fields. 

The worst part was then going completely around the very empty Great Mall of the Great Plains, a very big shopping mall. Very boring.
So glad we saw Elaine and Sharon around mile 4 of the course - they ran the half marathon
but discovered the potty lines at aid stations are atrocious.
After that, it improved greatly when we hit a residential neighborhood for several miles. Pretty picket fences and house with freshly painted siding. This section, with its many turns at every residential intersection, brought to light that they had so many great volunteers for this event. They directed everyone so well, having no problem repeating their assigned phrase for every single runner, and did it with a smile. In between that, they cheered us all on. We thanked as many of them as we could.

Mile 11ish and time to bid farewell to our half marathon brethren. And wow, there were a lot of half marathoners because by contrast, it seemed very alone. Then we got on a trail, off a trail, by a soccer field where a kids' league game was going on, and back onto the trail. This was the Indian Creek Trail. After running along a street and a creek for a very short bit, it was like we went back into the woods. We would spent 12 miles total out-and-back on this trail. Every once in a while it would peek back out to a road, and then head back into the trees. The trees gave nice shade (which helped just a little since I had forgotten sunscreen - not good!), and it was very pretty. We had a lot of pretty arched wooden bridges over creek tributaries. Those arched bridges didn't feel as good on the way back - I may have grunted at a few of those.
Lucy captured a pic of me on the trail! Look at that beautiful sky.
All through these miles, Lucy and I rocked a solid 12 minute per mile pace. Lucy said she has a tendency to go out too fast, and I would have to rein her in a couple times each mile when she'd start inching ahead. I had planned to take a walk break every 2 miles starting at the end of mile 3, but I knew Lucy didn't want to walk, and it was nice running with someone who was good company and gave me an additional purpose to stay on pace. My heart rate stayed in the target zones, except for the last half mile or so.

On the out portion of the trail, we cheer some runners coming back, some runners coming back cheer us. Good camaraderie. Little kids are stationed with their families and are holding up motivating signs. One aid station has a lion, tin man, and Glinda. There was a young high school age boy playing the saxophone who we saw 4 different times as he moved around on this trail. Along the way, I chatted for a brief moment with Larry Macon when I found him at mile 14. He had capped off running 114 marathons in 2011 by running the New Year's Eve race at my New Years Double event. He was all smiles out there - he's 67 and a 14-time completer of running a marathon in all 50 states! A mile later I saw friend Jon Walk who does a lot of this and much of that in the running community in Texas. He's in the Houston area and can be found announcing at a lot of those races as one of his many hats he dons.

At mile 18.25, we turn around to head back 6 miles the way we just came. I really didn't mind the out and back because it was such a nice trail, the aid stations were well done, and the spectators were great. Now don't go thinking they have the spectators of the Chicago Marathon - but they had a great amount of spectators for this size of race in this size of suburb. And I'm happy with that. Some people want wall-to-wall spectators all 26.2 miles so I wanted to add this disclaimer.

Mile 21 I start to have a meltdown. Heart rate is still good. But my abs and my legs hurt. Now remember, I have been running miles this week, I've done speedwork, and my personal trainer hasn't taken it easy on me. Luckily, since I've done some 50Ks, I'm feeling thankful at mile 21 that, instead of completely walking it in, I can still will myself to slog along at a slow run most of the rest of the way.

About a half mile away, I hear the announcer call my friend Elizabeth's name as she crosses, and it makes me smile. Although hearing the race announcer starting about a mile yet definitely raises the "are we there yet?" panic in my mind that whole time.

Then, the finish is in sight. I have 0.1 miles to go. I am SO there. I can hear Elaine, Sharon, Lisa all shouting my name! But I can't see them, because instead I feel this girl in my periphery, although I won't turn and look at her. And she's come out of nowhere, I can hear her footsteps, and she's trying to move in on my finish line. 

I am not going to let this girl pass me. One major reason: I know from them saying Elizabeth's name that the announcer mat is there and they are calling out names. If the other girl's foot gets to that mat first, they might not call my name as can happen when multiple people cross. And this had to just happened to me already at Big D last weekend when the top female marathoners finished at the same time as me. I'll be honest - it's nice to hear your name called out!

So I speed up, and she speeds up. WHAAA?? What are you doing, girl? You are not beating me 100 feet from the Finish scaffolding! Now we're both in an all-out sprint. And I get there first by a few steps, and I hear my name called out. YES!!! I looked at my Garmin later and saw I ran an 8:59 minute per mile pace for this segment - I don't even run that fast on 200m repeats!

And I see the clock that confirms what I knew. I had set a new Personal Record, besting my 5:34:10 time from the San Francisco Marathon by 11 minutes and 7 seconds! I finished in 5:23:06 chip time officially.

By the way, I did go over to the girl after leaving the finish corral and gave her a pat on the back. I told her, "Good job, but there was no way I was letting you beat me to the finish line." We both smiled.

The race medal was great. Solid, heavy, and about 3.5" by 4". It features the Scarecrow. I've heard now it is the first in a 4 year series of medals where you'll get Dorothy's friends she encounters in the order she meets them, and I'm guessing she must be the last one you get then. They also gave us a yellow race with the race name and year stamped on one of the petals. That was unique. And we got a (white) technical finishers shirt that says "had a Wicked good time at Garmin Marathon" - cute.



Next up: More beat-me-up training by my personal trainer Donnie and my running coach Jeremy. Oh, and New Jersey Marathon in 2 weeks!

Splits

Mile 1 - 12:01
Mile 2 - 11:56
Mile 3 - 11:53
Mile 4 - 11:50
Mile 5 - 11:56
Mile 6 - 11:50
Mile 7 - 11:35
Mile 8 - 11:59
Mile 9 - 11:53
Mile 10 - 12:06
Mile 11 - 12:10
Mile 12 - 11:48
Mile 13 - 11:45
Mile 14 - 11:59
Mile 15 - 12:04
Mile 16 - 12:00
Mile 17 - 12:39
Mile 18 - 11:59
Mile 19 - 12:12
Mile 20 - 12:01
Mile 21 - 12:42
Mile 22 - 13:03
Mile 23 - 12:55
Mile 24 - 13:57
Mile 25 - 13:33
Mile 26 - 12:51
26.0 to 26.28 - per my Garmin's measuring of the course - 12:04 pace
The last 0.13 per my Garmin - 8:59 pace

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Learning My Limits

Today I ran the Big D Half Marathon...for the sixth time! It was my first half marathon (2005). It was my first half marathon after my first baby was born (2008). It was a PR race (2009). It was the first half marathon I ran pregnant (2010). It was a hot and humid half marathon (2011, and 2010 also for that matter). So the race has a special meaning for me, but the race director is also a friend.
In order, left to right: 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012.
This was a beat-me-up week. My coach loaded me down with workouts I think to see what I was capable of. Coming off a 31 mile weekend with a new 25K trail race PR in it, I immediately jumped into:

  • Monday: 1 hour strength training with my trainer, Donnie
  • Tuesday: 200m and 400m speedwork repeats adding up to 5 miles
  • Wednesday: 3 miles, then 1 hour strength training with my trainer, then took my gumby legs out for another 5 miles
  • Thursday: stood 9 hours supervising Big D Marathon packet pickup (my 4th year to do this for the race director) and then 4.3 miles of 1000m speedwork repeats
  • Friday: stood 9 hours supervising Big D Marathon packet pickup - I never eat or drink well during these busy few days of packet pickup
  • Saturday: pushed back and told my coach I needed sleep over the run assigned. He agreed, but I still had 8 hours on feet at packet pickup. I went straight from packet pickup to Steve's company outing at the Dr. Pepper Ballpark, where dinner was BBQ, a hot dog, and nachos. Not my usual hydration or nutrition leading up to a race where you are trying to PR.
Sunday, I was exhausted and still sore. Packet pickup involves a lot of bending and kneeling and moving boxes and a whole lot of standing. Add 17.3 midweek miles when I normally do about 11-12, and I felt like a bus ran me over. My coach had told me Friday that he thought I was capable of a fast pace and said to try for 11:00-11:15 min/mi pace and so when it came to a PR "go for it." But then go do 7 miles at whatever pace I could muster after this PR attempt half marathon. Yeah, I was shocked at this assignment.

My pre-baby PR, when I ran and raced half marathons all the time, was 2:26:17 (11:06 pace), set in February 2010 at Cowtown Half right before I got pregnant. My post-baby PR was a 2:44. I came back from Sophie's birth and the C-section to work on getting base miles and then on running marathons and 50Ks, not on racing half marathons. 
Hanging out with friends before the race. Left to right: Cheryl, me, Elaine, and Sharon
Saturday I came to understand what I think coach's goals were with Sunday's assignment. I wasn't tapering, I wasn't eating right, I was beating up my body pretty royally with weights and speedwork and standing. 
He was assigning me basically 13.1 miles of speedwork. You don't do crazy prep for speedwork, you do that for a goal race to PR at. Wrapping my head around that different perspective helped a lot. Coach wanted to see what was the limit he could push me to.
We start the race, and I like where I am in the corral. Around the 9-10 minute-mile folks. It's 70 degrees out and about 85% humidity. While others were freaking out about the potential severe weather in the forecast, I was just dreading the humidity if we didn't have rain. It is my kryptonite. I was sweating a half-mile into the race.

I kept it VERY conservative the first two miles and reminded myself that it would probably keep me from an actual PR but it was better than combusting early on the course. 11:47 for mile 1, 11:34 for mile 2.

I can run this course in my sleep after doing it 5 times previously. I know every hill, where to just chug along and where to push for the downhill. That comfortability allows me to ignore my usual strict consistent pacing and try to hold the goal paces on the flats and let the up- and downhills be what they will. The early miles are hilly - people think only of the miles 7-8 with Lakewood for the hills and forget these - mile 3 is 11:10, mile 4 has a big downhill that I use to my advantage as my quads are stronger than my hamstrings and I hit 10:39 on this mile. I've never had a 10:XX on a mile in a half marathon. That tells me a lot.

I'm sick to my stomach at this point and it only gets worse through the race. Humidity isn't helping that. Aid stations are running very low of supplies and struggling to get more cups filled and out to the runners. That costs a little time at basically EVER aid station. Mile 5 is 11:28, mile 6 is 11:19. We're on the west side of White Rock Lake. It is now starting to rain. It's so lovely. It helps my pace in mile 6 and the next mile. Mile 7 11:13. 

My stomach is really turning over and over in my torso, mile 8 12:12. I run into Kristen on the course, she grabs me, and we run along Swiss Avenue. Mile 9 is an 11:05. Yippee! Mile 10 I tell her I can't talk or I will die. Mile 10 is a 10:56. Mile 11 going down Haskell Avenue now is 11:11. 

Mile 12, it stops raining, and it's steamy again, and my stomach is filing for emancipation from my body. I run an 11:59 as I recover late in the mile when the rain starts up again and I come along Melissa out there who is rocking a PR pace (previous PR was high 2:30).

Mile 13, I tell Melissa to leave me and go for it. I struggle to keep a pace and manage an 11:39. The last 0.2 mi I do have a kick to give into the finish, where they don't say my name because a few of the top men and women in the marathon are finishing at the same time. :-( The last 0.2 mi  on the Garmin is a 9:33 pace!

I'm done. 2:30:35! I have set a huge post-baby PR, and am only 4 minutes from a new pre-baby PR for a woman who took this on as speedwork and not a goal race! I walk around for a while trying to get my stomach to settle before I head home.

On the way home, I am just cold and chilled to the bone. I have a couple uncomfy chafing spots. I take a hot bath and starting nodding off in it. I head to bed for 2 hours. The 7 miles coach wanted did not happen.

BUT, with a finish of an 11:23 pace, I think coach now knows what I'm made of, and I kinda do too. I was able to stay in a high Zone 2 and low Zone 3 heart rate for 2 1/2 hours and not die. I was able to do some good miles at a good speed for a beat-up body (great fatigue training). And now I know on a good day training as if it was a goal race, I should be able to one day defeat my pre-baby PR! I hope he forgives the 7 miles I didn't run in favor of achieving pretty close to his goal paces for the half!

Next up: Oz Marathon in Olathe, Kansas on Saturday - yes, this Saturday! Then, May 6 I'll be running the NJ Marathon!


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hells Hills 25K - First Trail Running Anniversary

Actually, Grasslands Half Marathon (race report) a year and a couple weeks ago was my very first trail race. But that's a race a lot of road half and full marathoners go off to do because it's relatively mild terrain (although I *hate* the sand) and convenient. I thought it was a trail race, until I went to other trail races. And it is one, don't get me wrong, but my initiation in trail running, complete with an out of town trip, felt more real at the Hells Hills race one year ago (race report from 2011).


My background of how I wasn't supposed to even be running this race, how I had just done a 50k two weeks ago, how I had lost major weight with illness last week, is all in my last blog post. Yet here I was, running the Hells Hills 25K again in Smithville, Texas (outside Bastrop). My whirlwind in-and-out 24-hour tour-de-trail-race started Friday afternoon at 3:30 pm. A 4 1/2 hour drive later, and I was in the land of Austin area trail running and settled into my hotel for the night.

4:20 am wakeup call. Yawn. I wanted to be there early because 1) I wasn't even registered yet, 2) I knew several people running the 50K and wanted to see their start and hopefully run into a friend or two. Right after getting registered, I ran into Fawn and Kerry. Fawn ran the 50M at Hells Hills last year. This year, she was running with Kerry for Kerry's first 50K! Then a woman came over and asked, "Are you Libby?" Uh, yeah? Well, I got to meet Rhonda, who had found this blog a few weeks ago and is a new blog follower! Fun! A weird moment when you realize people really do read this thing sometimes. I truly think of it more as my own Dear Diary and a way to update friends on the stories of my experiences when I can't rant, rave, and exclaim over coffee or drinks! Hey, Rhonda, if you are reading this, hit me up on Facebook so we can keep up with each other if we're running any of the same races in the future!

50K started at 6 am. I clapped and cheered their start, then I hung around until 7 am for our 25K start. Low 60s for the temperate with 97% humidity, which would later turn into hot, humid, and not a cloud in the sky. BLECH! Although this would prove kinda useful to me mentally since it was exactly the weather we had at this race last year!

I try to stay to the very back at the start. I'm keeping the pace conservative but it's so funny that rush at the start line. Now that I'm wearing my heart rate monitor, I could see the instant 15 bpm jump from resting rate when they yelled "Go". And I could see that the first mile I could not keep my heart rate in what I felt should have been a "warmup". The line of runners started to sort itself out, but then I get really annoyed at the 20 or so runners who had obviously shown up late and were way faster than me. Since I was at the race site an hour and 20 minutes before the start, I'm kinda feeling no sympathy for those folks and wish a single track trail race had a rule of no starts 2 minutes after the gun, or something equally strict. I practice my usually sweet demeanor for passing and getting passed on the trails, but it's messing with my rhythm and frustrating me!

2nd half of mile 2 was equally frustrating when the very fast 10K runners caught my pack of the back-end of 25K runners. Lots of stopping in narrow areas to let these fast guys pass. Again, don't mind and even enjoy the leapfrogging at times with people around my pace. But when you can hear the fast feet of a 9-minute-miler behind you, it's unsettling and unfocuses you as you prepare to scoot aside.

Right before the first aid station at mile 5.7, a gal in front of me said she wasn't wearing a GPS and had no clue how far we had gone. I asked her if she wanted to know. When she said yes, I said, "I think about half a mile." We round a bend suddenly, and boom, there's the aid station. This year, unlike last year, I laughed - GPS distance is a guideline, not a guarantee out on the trail. I've learned too that I don't pay attention to mile by mile pace anymore because those numbers just aren't real. So I had done some quick math and figured out what total time I hoped would elapse when I got to the aid station. So imagine my joy when I was 5 minutes ahead of schedule!

Coach Jeremy had told me to work on getting in and out of the aid stations at this race. Max of 2 minutes per station. So I walked into there, shoved my open water bottle at the volunteer for refilling. I thanked him furiously while grabbing about 10 M&Ms. I heard, "Libby!" Elizabeth, who is local to the Austin area and had run Gorge Waterfalls 50K also 2 weeks ago (which is where we'd finally met) was working the aid station. Totally tripped me up - I spat out, "Coach says get in and out quick here so can't talk but great to see you!!!" I took my refilled water bottle, shoved the pile of M&Ms into my mouth, and snatched an orange slice.

Verdict: 25 seconds!! I had passed the first attempt at speediness in refueling!

The next couple miles I kept with the "slow mile then fast mile" I was practicing based off heart rate readings. I had leapfrogged for a while with a woman named Dorothy. At mile 8, she stuck with me for about a mile. We enjoyed each other's company, but I did have to remind myself to talk less since it will make my heart rate climb. Even so, the "fast then slow" goals went out the window. The heat, humidity, and number of miles had caught up with me, and I wouldn't find that lower heart rate zone again for the rest of the race.

At almost 10 miles in, you come out to a couple beautiful meadows. I smiled so big. I even stopped and snapped a couple pictures.

Last year, Corina had said for a month leading up to this race that she better see bluebonnets. The picture on the race website at the time and stories told of bluebonnets in this meadow. We thought it would be a well-earned reward. But with the drought and heat of last year, the meadow was dry and brittle then with no flowers. This year: wildflowers of lots of colors. I didn't specifically note bluebonnets, but it was all very pretty. And while the cloudless sky but for a few wisps would make it hot in the late miles, it was so gorgeous right then.

Mile 10.8 aid station. I was still a few minutes ahead of my hoped pace from my quick calculations. One volunteer filled my water. I had to ask for Coke since none was out right then, and the girl fumbled. Her dad came over to fill half a cup for me. I did it like a shot of tequila and grabbed 5 pretzels and hit the road again.

Verdict: 50 seconds in and out! I beamed and knew Jeremy would be happy. I may not be fast but I had finally mastered anticipating what I would need at the aid station, getting it quickly, and not getting sucked into the happy place of the aid station environment so that you get back out on the course.

From here we hit a wider old Jeep road for a while and have some slow long climbs. Not a steep grade, especially compared to Gorge a couple weeks ago, but enough that everyone in my pace range was walking it. I passed several people over these miles and actually felt like all that powerwalking is finally making a dent on my pace.

Lost a minute around mile 12 trying to get water out of two empty coolers that had been set out. Mile 13 lost a minute refilling my water bottle. Didn't really need it, but I knew how hot the last 30 minutes would be, and it was a safety net.

Mile 14, I went off course. It looks like we intersected a farm road for a second. Somehow instead of reentering the woods, I took the road. I ran along this hot unshaded road for many minutes, and while I was worried I hadn't seen a marker, I knew there were less markers on road segments, and I could hear voices behind me. Then 4 ladies passed me. A barbed wire fence ran along my left side and suddenly I saw runners pop in and out of those trees. I was off course! And those stupid ladies weren't even with the race. Or maybe they had run the 10K and come out to this farm road for extra miles. I don't know what they were up to. I panicked! When did I get off? I was on PR pace!!! How far back would I have to go? There's a guy 100 feet back and I start yelling to him that we're off course. He wants to climb the barb wire fence where we see the runners on the other side. He's desperate and that's where his mind went to in his panic. I say, "That's barb wire! You'd get seriously hurt!" and I just keep high-tailing it back. I never looked back to see what he did. 

My heart rate has shot up, which means I know I'm burning precious glycogen. I worry my new Personal Record is slipping through my fingers. I get back to where the farm road joined up to the trail and jump back in. Now I'm looking at my watch and trying to guess how much time I've lost. Trying to guess how many tenths of a mile I had additionally done. Trying to do the math of "At mile 10.8 aid station, the Garmin said 9 miles, so if it says X now, am I at Y miles?" Foggy brain. And it's HOT which isn't helping it.

I later dug through the Garmin data to isolate this incident. I was off course for about 0.5-0.6 miles and I lost 8 minutes.

I enjoy the Hells Hills course, but I hate the last mile of it. You keep feeling like you are almost there, but you're not. Oh, there's the campground and all the tents. Oh, here's a farm road. Oh, here's a storage building. Until finally, you turn and you can see the long fence area of flags to point you to the finish. I finished strong with a 3:46, taking 10 minutes off my time from last year, setting a new personal record.

My paces are important as my training for Chattanooga means I'll have to get faster in the next 10 weeks. When I take out the 8 minute time loss, my timing broke down as the following...
13:58 for first 5.7 miles (to aid station 1), 
13:15 for next 5.1 miles (to aid station 2), 
15:10 for last 4.7 miles (ignoring the 8 min spent off the course).

Since I had those two stops for water in the last 5 miles, and the heart rate spike for getting off course, I'm happy with that 15:10 in the last section. I did a good job of consistent pacing.

And always a great part? Getting a pretty race medal. They had a great logo this year!

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Full and Crazy Last 2 Weeks

It's now been almost 2 weeks since my last big race. I was feeling pretty good after the race. Wednesday, I let you all in on the next BIG race goal I have planned and the 12 weeks of training that lay ahead. Thursday I got hit with a bad stomach flu. I mean B.A.D. I lost 5 pounds in one day.

No Road Trip For Me


It also means I sadly wasn't able to go to the Texas Independence Relay with the team I was captaining, the Queens of the Road. I love all these ladies, so not getting to spend all weekend with them left me so sad. I spent some of my time sick in bed getting everything set up for them, but I did have to be there when they picked up the rental vans since they were in my name. I almost lost it and started crying. It was good I didn't go because I was badly dehydrated and was sick off and on the rest of the weekend.
Before they left on their adventure - love these girls!
I was finally better enough Monday to run and do an hour of strength training with my trainer. And then on Wednesday, I did some heart rate training with a midday run. I tried to stay at a high Heart Rate Zone 2. And my mile splits reflected why I need to train at this heart rate zone. The first 3 miles had fairly consistent splits. And then the next 3 miles I was about 30 seconds per mile slower. Serious cardiac drift. Also showed me I can't maintain Zone 2 for very long runs in training right now.

Another Race As Training


Today I leave for Hells Hills 25K. Last year it was 2 weeks after my first trail race, and this was my first trail 25K. I finished in 3:56 and learned a lot about trailrunning. I wasn't planning on running it this year, but after having to stay home last weekend and being a sad Sally about it, Steve suggested I go to Hells Hills. Such a sweet husband!


I decided to run it and use it in my training to practice that HR Zone 2 more. Since we saw Wednesday that my pace suffers after just 3 miles at a high Zone 2 range, my plan for Hells Hills is this...

  • 1st mile is the only real uphill and we're all sorting ourselves out in the line through the single track switchbacks, so I'll stay back and take mile 1 super easy.
  • Mile 2 (by Garmin which isn't entirely accurate) at Zone 1.
  • Mile 3 at mid- to high-Zone 2.
  • Then alternate Zone 1 and Zone 2 miles through the rest of the race.
So my goals again are
  1. to practice Zone 2 and hopefully get some more Zone 2 miles out by doing intervals with easier Zone 1 miles.
  2. to get some trail time.
  3. to gather some data about what my trail paces tend to be in each of the Zones.
Now it would be nice if I also have a shiny new PR with my second ever trail 25K and on the same course! But last year I was more trained to run harder at that distance. Since then I concentrate so much on marathon or 50K distances that I think I have lost a lot of speed at the half marathon or 25K distance.

And of course, I'll pick up a pretty medal. That's not all bad! Not bad at all (I actually really love this year's logo!).