Thursday, October 17, 2013

Firetrails 50

It was a dark and stormy night. Just kidding; it was a cool and foggy morning.  I arrived at the start early, and was chatting with some fellow runners when I saw...my Dad and Grandma! They had come to cheer me on! I gave them some good luck hugs, lubed up, went the the restroom, ate an apple (in that order, actually) and hit the road. Literally.

firetrails 50
Raring to go!

The first couple of miles were on pavement. I was trying not to go out to fast, as I know that is one of my weaknesses. In fact, speaking of weaknesses, after the race, a friend asked me what my challenges were for this race, and it got me thinking... instead of doing a mile by mile breakdown, as there are a lot of them, I am going to highlight some of the challenges, as they are really what defined this race for me.

This race was pretty much an out and back, with the only difference being that we went around the northeast side of the lake heading out and came back along the southwest side. This meant we went through most aid stations twice. I am going to recap this race mostly from aid station to aid station.

Start to Bort Meadow / mile 7.9: After the paved section, it started uphill on a dirt fire trail. I caught up with Kent, a guy that I have seen around at a bunch of races, and we actually stuck together for this entire section. He kept telling me that I was pacing at a faster pace than he normally starts out, and I was trying to slow down because I knew that starting out fast would come back to get me in the end. He also said that I would have to have salt, which I have never really trained with. Average pace = 9:00 / mile.

Bort Meadow to Big Bear / mile 10.5: After Bort Meadow, a high five from grandma, and some potatoes with salt, the majority of this section was downhill. Kent took off flying down the hill and I was back on my own again. Even though downhill is not my forte, I did pass a few people in this section.

Big Bear to Skyline / mile 15: When I ran the Skyline 50k, Skyline was the halfway/turnaround point and boy was I glad to see it. This time, I tried to get that thought out of my head, because it was only about a quarter of the way this time! This section was pretty unremarkable. I ran, sometimes near others, sometimes chatting with them, sometimes running silent. I kept slowly passing people, but was still trying not to go too fast. Average pace = 10:30/mile.

Skyline to Sibley to Steam Trains / 21.7 miles: I was still feeling great, which was strange because when I run 50k races, mile 19 - 25 tend to be my weak point. However, somewhere in the middle of this section, my sock started tightening up. I couldn't figure out how to fix it; I took my shoe off and adjusted it, hoping it would help, but I kept feeling it squeezing my toes inside my shoe. Another issue was that I was wearing fairly new shoes and I was kind of hating them. Instead of laces they have that zip tie thingy and it kept loosening up, which was probably why my sock was acting funny. In spite of that, I had a good time, as this was the point when I started to see the front of the pack heading back toward me.

Steam Trains to Lone Oak / 26 miles: This was a good section, with plenty of people to look at, due to the out and back. I saw my friend Kent, as well as many others who were in front of me. I counted the girls, as I always do in this situation, and knew I was not going to get any prizes for this race! However, the best part about this section was the Lone Oak aid station, which was not only the turn around point, but was also the giver of grilled cheese sandwiches! Never before has a white bread and American cheese sandwich tasted SO good! Average pace = 11:25/mile

Lone Oak to Steam Train / 30.3 miles: The worst part about this section was that it was mostly uphill, so it was pretty slow going. Also, it was devoid of trees, so it was a bit warm. However, I buddied up with a really nice Russian guy who was trying to qualify for the Western States (11 hours or less) and we hiked up the hill together and had a nice chat along the way. Also, I got to see who was behind me, as we were again on the out and back section.

Steam Trail to Sibley to Skyline / 37 miles: To be honest, at this point I started to just put one foot in front of the other. My left sock kept giving me trouble and I had to stop a few times to try to adjust my sock/shoe. I could feel a hot spot, which I had a feeling was going to end up as a blister. I remember a couple of rocky, root filled downhills and the fear that my feet were not going to hold up as long as I would like. They were not screaming, not even close, but the left one had the hot spot and I was favoring it a bit and was worried it would affect the right. The last two miles of this section, I was really, REALLY wanting to get to the aid station. I had to pee and I kind of just wanted to stop just for a minute. I kept thinking that I just have to get to 40 miles and then it would all be easy from there.

Skyline to Big Bear to Bort Meadows / 44.1 miles: After fueling up at the aid station and stopping for a potty break, I headed back down the Stream trail. Most of this section was run with a guy I had been talking with before, Matt, and his pacer. I didn't really talk to them much; at this point I was not very social, but it was kind of nice to just run behind them, or in front of them (we kept switching) and to listen to them chatting. I cannot tell you what they were talking about, but just having them "keeping me company" was nice. For this section, I walked the uphills, even if they were little or not steep. I just really wanted to save a bit of energy for the last few miles. After Big Bear, we headed up the big hill toward Bort. These miles up the hill were 16 minute and 18 minute miles. This hill made my legs pretty tired, but on the other hand, I was glad to not have to run.

Bort Meadows to Clyde Wood to Finish / 50 miles: I ate a potato, which I was not hungry for in the least, but I knew I was running out of energy. I also had some Gu Brew, which tasted like medicine. It was gross. Dad caught up with me and together we headed out for the final section. I told him he needed to just talk so I wouldn't have to and he did a good job of keeping me entertained. I was feeling a little gross at this point. The Gu Brew was threatening to come back up and my legs were pretty tired. I think Dad was surprised when I walked the little hills. I did get a burst (if you can call it that) of energy around mile 47 or 48 (my Garmin had died by then) and I even started participating in the conversation a little. However, I felt like a drunk person, where you can't control what does or doesn't come out of your mouth. My brain was like a marshmallow. The last section was on pavement again, and there were regular people hanging out and walking and they all looked so fresh and so happy! I rounded the corner next to the finish and the clock read 9:54:xx. I sprinted (term used loosely) to the finish and crossed it in just under 9:55!

Afterward I felt pretty good. My legs were a bit tired and my feet were pretty excited to get out of those shoes, but otherwise, it was not too bad. I scarfed down a hamburger and some ice cream and put on my new fleece (bonus) because believe it or not, I was kind of chilly!

finish dick collins
My loyal fans!


Just for reference, here are a few of the stats: #1 guy came in at 6:27. #1 girl was 7:43. She is 50 years old. The Russian from the Steam Trail section came in at 10:17, which means he qualified for Western States (nice job buddy!). I came in 103/287 overall and 19/94 females. I think there were actually about 380 registered runners in the beginning. Another pretty cool thing that I didn't learn until I saw a camera on the side of the trail is that it was all being broadcast live! My Mom went online to watch me finish but her bandwidth ran out right before I came in (bummer). I wish I would have known in advance. Next time, I guess. They did put the start online HERE.

So, the big question is: Would I do it again? Yes. Am I ready for a 100 miler? Not quite.

But maybe 100k.

Do you talk to other runners when you are racing? Have you ever been so tired you feel like you are drunk? Who is YOUR most loyal fan?

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Points Guy's Pointers

Check out The Points Guy's blog today as he gives an overview and valuable details about his recent Chicago Seminars.  If you weren't able to attend the seminars in person, this is the next best thing!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Going The Distance

Yup, it's that time again. Cue the music. It's The Taper.

On Saturday, I will run my longest race (or distance in general) EVER. The Firetrails 50 mile.

You know, I am actually ready. I am sure you have done something for the first time and been kind of nervous about the entire thing because you aren't really sure what you are getting yourself into. I am like that. However, I remember my first marathon and how I felt and how the actual race was not as bad as I thought it would be. I did NOT come in last. I DID finish. I did NOT die, injure myself, starve to death or hit the wall that hard. All the things I worried about...did not happen.

This race is the same. It's just a race, albeit a bit longer than normal. I know I can finish. I don't know if I can finish without walking (probably not). I don't know if I will be super sore by the end (probably). I don't know how long it will take me (hopefully less than 13 hours)!

Do I have a strategy? Of course. Will it work? Who knows!

The strategy is this:

1. Run, unless there is a big hill in the way. Then I will hike as fast as I can.

2. Eat whenever I can. I will eat at each aid station and will carry snacks, just like any other race.

3. Slow and Low is the Tempo. I am going to TRY to remember not to go too fast, which will be hard. However, I don't want to end up pooping out for the last 20 miles! So slow it will be!

4. Talk to people. Company on the trail makes the time go by a lot faster. And it will be nice to have 13 hours feel like 8, right? 

So, here's to finishing, not last, and before 13 hours (the cutoff).

Also, I want to say a huge GOOD LUCK to everyone who is running Chicago this weekend! I know you are all in taper mode as well and I hope that it is going well and is not making you too "mad"! A friend of mine who is running Chicago this weekend (kick some butt, Jill!) sent me this and I thought it was funny, becuase I know exactly how this feels!



I bet you know what this feels like too! Here is hoping that Stage 8 comes as fast as possible!

How do you cope with nerves when it comes to doing something for the first time? What is your strategy for getting through a challenging event?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Shangri-La? It's Just North of Philly!


Scenes like this border many roads in Bucks County.
It's not named after a famous writer, although Pearl S. Buck did live here, or after the deer you'll see in the protected green spaces lining the road, or even after the bushels of "bucks" it takes to be able to afford a house here.  This idyllic spot in Pennsylvania is called Bucks County after William Penn's home county in England--Buckinghamshire.

But a more accurate name for this place might be Eden.  Forget Mexican beach hotels or Costa Rican mountain resorts; if you want to get away, a much more accessible Shangri-La can be found right here in the United States.

Although just an hour's or so drive from Philadelphia and New York, it might as well be on another continent--it's that far removed from those bustling cities.  Here, nature reigns with Monet-like backdrops of lush greenery with deer loping across the fields, and quaint towns with gingerbread houses hugging the sides of the twisting roads. 
Even the bridges are so narrow that Tom tucked the side view mirror against the car before we started across.  I don't think signs posted a speed limit, but no one was foolish to drive faster than five miles an hour on this bridge crossing the Delaware River.
It is here, where the Delaware River divides Pennsylvania from New Jersey that you finally understand why New Jersey has the moniker, The Garden State.  As difficult as it is to believe gardens exist anywhere in the state when you are on the turnpike approaching Newark, this area adjoining Bucks County makes you a believer in miracles.  It is as lush as Newark is industrial.

This two-county area straddling the river (Bucks County in Pennsylvania and Hunterdon County in New Jersey) is ripe with possibilities for exploration--to name only a few, there are the Doylestown Mercer Museum, a six-story castle housing American artifacts; the eclectic shops and restaurants in the charming little towns of New Hope, PA, and Lambertville, NJ, (Actually, most any town in this area is worthy of your time.); Washington Crossing Historic Park; and tubing trips down the Delaware River.

Two Buttons
For those with a literary bent, the Pearl S. Buck house is a must-see.  And, if you're a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of The Last American Man and Eat, Pray, Love, to name only two of her books, you will want to visit the store she and her husband opened in Frenchtown, New Jersey.   
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Looking Back: September

September was a month with no races, which was a big change from August (2 races) and October (2 races). However, I was ramping up for my biggest race ever, the Firetrails 50, so it was not a month without running! Here are some of the highlights of September:

Running: This was one of my highest mileage months ever; I ran 225 miles. Even with being sick and not being able to run as much as my schedule required, I still managed to log a lot of foot time. This was good, yet it also caused me to be pretty exhausted in September. It's amazing how much time is required for heavy training. It left me with little time to do much else. My total running time in September was about 40 hours. My longest run was a 23 mile run with Broski in the rain, which was definitely a challenge but was actually quite fun in the end!

Softball: Even with all the running, I am glad that I made time for the weekly softball team at work. We lost our last few games, leaving us with a final record of 2 - 6. I guess there is nowhere to go next year but up! The season is now over and it will be nice to have my Thursday nights back! I have to admit, joining the softball team while training for a fifty mile race was probably not my brightest idea ever, but it was really fun to get to know some people at work who are in different departments. It makes me realize how little I interact with anyone outside my immediate vicinity at work!

Books: I actually read a few books this month! They were just random books that I had on my Kindle, so they were nothing new. I read Jackdaws by Ken Follet, which was about the French resistance in WWII. It was entertaining, but wasn't too deep. I also started the Percy Jackson series, which is fun, but it's definitely no Harry Potter! I also read Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang, which was another book that was okay, but not great.

Travel: For Labor Day, I went to see my parents, which was really good. It was nice to be home and to see my family and to gaze at my favorite mountains and river and trees. Going home always makes me feel a sense of belonging. I had a great time running on my favorite trails, taking a bike ride/run with my parents and hanging out with the cat and the neighbors.

Friends: I met up with Broski and the Lady for some horse races and wiener dog racing,  which was a blast. Have you ever seen a wiener dog run? Its funny. Now picture 20 of them running at the same time; its even better! I also took the puppy (Emi) up to Broski's house and she got to get hassled by his two Jack Russel terriers. It was definitely interesting. We ended up having to muzzle one of his dogs for a few minutes because he kept trying to bite Emi. After they established who was boss, they got along just fine. The next day we had a nice run and had a "make your own pizza" dinner with the in-laws. Good times. I also had some great times joining up with work friends for happy hour. Work is so busy that we don't often have time to hang out, so it was nice to unwind and have a drink and get to know each other better.

Food: I did some canning! I canned tomato sauce and hot pepper sauce. This year we didn't get so many veggies that we couldn't keep up, so I really didn't have as much to can as I had hoped.

Other randoms from September: I cut off my black toenail, the new Bay Bridge opened, I taught the dog how to use the doggie door, I fell off my bike, I went to yoga twice and I watched Midnight in Paris.

The end.

How was your September? Have you ever been/would you ever go to a wiener dog race?