Monument Valley 50K: Race Report

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….and My Story Runs On…. Wow! Where to even begin?  I know I have to keep this succinct but very hard to do, especially for those of you that want to get a detailed report about the race and what … Continue reading

Black Canyon Race Report: 2017 Mud Run

….and My Story Runs On….

Where to even begin? One of the recent facebook posts about this event was something like “people will be talking about the 2017 Black Canyon Ultras for years to come.”  And the memories will probably not be pleasant for most of us.

First of all, I want to give a huge congratulations to everyone who participated. Whether you finished, dropped from the 100K to the 60K, or DNF’d (Did Not Finish).  The weather conditions were ridiculous and just being out there was an amazing feat!  Also a huge thank you to all the volunteers and Aravaipa staff who were out there taking care of all the runners!

This was supposed to be my first 100K race. I blogged last week about some of the changes that happened to the race course due to the upcoming weather conditions.  I was pretty bummed that everything was not going as planned with the weather but I finally got over it….

4:30 am: Alarm was set to go off but I woke up about an hour earlier and couldn’t fall back asleep.  I checked weather.com one more time hoping that a miracle might happen and the rain would not be in the forecast.  No such luck. (I had weather.com up on my computer all week and had been checking it at least 5x a day!)

6:20am: I arrived, picked up my packet, chit chatted with some friends and waited impatiently to just “get this party started!” (I say this almost every morning when I start my day).

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Before race start. Had to go visit the Altra booth. Love my Altra shoes!

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Quick selfie before race start…it was raining at the start..see below for note on yellow colored glasses 😉

7:00am: We are off! I always stay towards the end as I’m never in a hurry, especially with that many miles to go.  We did one loop around the high school track, ran through part of the town of Mayer and on the road to get us to the trail.  And here is where the “fun” began…

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Jeep road portions of the trail were a muddy mess!

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This is what were dealing with on the jeep road portions of the race…Photo credit: Jennifer Berry

It might’ve been at mile 2 or 3 or so that we encountered this and my first thought was doing this again on the way back at mile 60 in the middle of the night with my pacer. Yikes!

Then we hit the Black Canyon trail (I really do love this trail). It was better on the single track and things were starting to look just a little brighter!  On a side note, I highly recommend wearing yellow colored lenses in this type of weather (I have them in the start photo above).  Knowing there would be wind, and it would be too dark for sunglasses, I brought them and was so happy I did.  All of the sudden I was seeing the world through yellow colored glasses and it was so much brighter! Every once in awhile I would remove them from my face and then the world was all dreary again (literally and figuratively). Highly recommend them for running when it’s not sunny out.

I had created a race day strategy with my crew/pacers.  My plan was to skip the first aid station (although had to stop to give a quick hug to my friend Dan Pena who was volunteering).  The rain had stopped and the trail was getting better.  The downhill portions were a blast to run down and there was no mud on this part of the trail. Hallelujah! I was having a blast and happy that things seem to be going better than I expected with the weather…..until….

I’m almost at the 3rd aid station and was tracking exactly as I planned. I see my friend Senovia, who was also doing the 100K and she was heading back towards the start. I asked her if she was injured and she told me that the at the next aid station, they were recommending that the 100K people turn around (which is where the 60K turn around was) due to upcoming bad weather. Whhhhaaaat??  Although you could see black clouds all around the area, the weather seemed to have backed off.  I had about a half a mile to get there and now was trying to figure out what do with this information. So many thoughts started rushing through my head…”I am not a quitter”, “I trained months for this race”, “this was supposed to be my first 100K”, etc, etc…

I arrive to the aid station and check in.  Sure enough, they said that the race directors were recommending that 100K people turn around as the storm would be getting worse after 4pm.  They also said they would allow us to drop down so we could get credit for the 60K.  Dang it! I was feeling really good at this point (mile 20) and was not ready to make this split second decision!  I called my very supportive boyfriend first...poor guy, why I am calling him and adding this pressure on him? He doesn’t know what to say other than “I’ll support you in whatever you decide.”  I know several of my friends decided to keep going and I kept thinking, if they can do it, so can I….something in my gut was not feeling right though…I called my pacer/friend/trail wife Elaine because she is my rock when it comes to this stuff. She’s a great athlete, mentor, friend and I knew she would give me objective advice.  Sure enough, she knew all the right questions to ask me.  Within a few minutes, I knew what I had to do. This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in that short of time.  Elaine gave me my sanity check and I know I needed to respond logically to this situation rather than react emotionally.  As much as I really wanted to do the race I had trained for, I needed to trust the race directors advice.  I also had to take into consideration that there was a chance that my pacers could not get to me for the last 20ish miles due to the weather conditions.  I could be on that trail, in cold, wet, dark, muddy conditions all alone. One of the things she said to me was:  “you can have a good 60K race or a bad 100K”.  All of the sudden, everything was in perspective and I knew that I had to make the decision for my safety more than anything.  Do I think I could’ve finished the 100K? At that point I believed I could but after being in the horrible weather after 4pm, I believe I would’ve DNFd this race had I continued on.  So I did a quick facebook live video on my business page, told them I was choosing to drop to the 60K and back to Mayer High School I went.

One other important thing I took into consideration is that even though this was MY race (not coaching anyone else for it but me), as a running coach, I am setting an example for others.  My client and friend, Sharon, said it best in a text I received while still at the aid station “I know it must’ve been hard for you, but your decision gives other permission to make good decisions.” This really stuck with me and helped me feel better about the decision.

I ran into a few of my friends doing the 60K on the way back and shared the news. It was so weird because the weather seemed to be cooperating…as a matter of fact there were a few moments where a few sun rays came out. But you could clearly see the black clouds surrounding us. I was second guessing and feeling disappointed in myself. Did I make the right decision? I knew I had to let those thoughts go as I couldn’t go back now. So I got refocused and reminded myself that a 60K is still an amazing distance!  and this was still my 2nd longest distance ever…and it was my first 60K (I still have to keep reminding myself of these things as my ego can’t help but get in the way).

I knew I would be power hiking quite a bit as now we are going up all those hills. I met a new friend, Pancho, from AK at about mile 28 or so.  We ended up staying together the rest of the way to keep ourselves motivated. We also ran into Lara who was from Canada and leap frogged with her a bit.  As if the uphills weren’t bad enough, the weather took the turn they were expecting it to.  It started raining harder (almost felt like hail at one point), the wind started blowing and it started getting colder. I am glad I switched my shirt out and the second to the last aid station as it helped keep me warm, although I was freezing a few miles after that.  We know what was coming…we had to get back through all that mud on the jeep road portion of the race.  Pancho helped me find the best paths to take on the mud so it wouldn’t be so bad.  At one point I realized that running where the water had pooled, was the easiest place as the mud had been compacted down. Unfortunately I couldn’t feel my feet already because they were so cold.  It was either struggle through the mud slower or get through this faster by running in the cold water puddles.

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More mud…(photo credit Jennifer Berry)

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And more mud…photo credit Melissa Ruse from Sweet M Images http://www.sweetmimages.com/

The last 5 miles were just ridiculously brutal between the rain, cold and mud. I was so ready for it be over at this point.  I don’t like road running but I remember telling Pancho I couldn’t wait to get to the road.  I kept thinking about how awful it would’ve been to be doing this segment after 20 more miles and way later at night with worse weather and reassured myself that dropping to the 60K was the right decision.  We finally got to the road and knew we only had a few more miles to go…felt like forever!  We turned at the high school and all of the sudden I could hear my name being yelled out. I could barely see and realized, there was my crew: Elaine, Lori and my honey!  So happy to see them and know that we were finally done with this! Best cheering section ever!

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Elaine & Greg hanging while waiting for us!

We crossed the finish line, high fived each other and I needed to get warmed up.  I was so cold that my teeth were chattering. So grateful that Mayer High school opened up their gym to us so we were able to get into the locker rooms. My clothes were soaked and stuck on me already but I barely recall getting into the hot shower with Lori and Elaine helping take my cold, wet clothes off while I heated up my body…warm broth and hot chocolate helped too! My first  thing when I cross most finish lines is having a beer..but I was too cold for one!

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This was a blur of a moment!

We waited for our other friends to come to repeat the hot shower process for everyone.  Everyone was hanging in the warm cafeteria.  Mayer Fire Department and the race EMTs were working like crazy…so many people with hypothermia.

Post race reflections

  • Outside of the crazy weather, I was ready for this race and have no doubts I would’ve finished it.  I have no regrets about making the decision to drop to the 60K as I don’t know I would’ve been able to finish it under the circumstances. And yes, I’m human so of course I’m disappointed that I didn’t do the 100K…after all the training and anticipation up to that day, it’s a bummer that I couldn’t get my first buckle.  However it was the right decision for me and I’m glad that I did.
  • Not going to lie, I am disappointed.  Three days have past and it feels very weird…like it’s all behind me and it’s over. I remember the amazing high I had after my first 50K and 50 miler for days!  Even though this was my first 60K, I don’t have the same feelings.  I had such high expectations for this race and the day didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to.  Was this race an amazing character builder?  Hell, yes!  Do I run to build character? Sure, one of the reasons I love ultra running is because it allows me to push a little bit further out of my comfort zone. This race made me a stronger runner and person for sure….but the reason I love ultra and trail running is because I love being out in nature for hours, taking pictures and soaking in the beautiful weather (this is why I live in AZ for crying out loud! 😉 ).  This race did not provide most of this for me this time. I could hardly take pictures because my phone was wrapped up so it wouldn’t get wet. I will admit the desert was still beautiful but once the weather turned, I was ready to be done.
  • Always thankful for Brooke, my nutritionist from Fuel To The Finish, because I never have issues and always feel great all day!
  • So grateful for ChiRunning and all that it has taught me. From a technique perspective, I stayed focused on what my body was doing and how I could move my body to meet what nature and elements were presenting to me moment by moment. Not surprised that very different body parts were sore the next day.  Hip flexors and ankles from peeling my shoes out of the mud and wiggling around trying not to fall in the slippery mud.  My neck was sorer than normal because I normally keep my head neutral on my body so my eyes are looking at the horizon and the trail. Due to the amount of mud, I had to keep my gaze down to my shoes which added pressure on my neck and upper back muscles.  My core is always sore which is great because I know I’m using it!

Sooooo no buckle for me this time.  People have asked me: what now?  I am trained for a 100K so why not find one and do it?  Well, I have the Monument Valley 50K on 3/25 and on the following weekend, Crown King 50K (I am one of the coaches for this race via Aravaipa’s Women’s Ultra Training Program and can’t wait to see them cross the finish line!  For several of them, it will be their first one!).  I have not made any decisions at this point but my gut feeling is that I’ll want to take revenge on this course next year. It’s around my birthday and I love this trail.

I’ll leave you with this quote…never knew this about the lotus flower!

“Whenever you should doubt your self-worth, remember the lotus flower. Even though it plunges to life from beneath the mud, it does not allow the dirt that surrounds it to affect its growth or beauty.” Suzy Kassem

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Pancho, Lara and I after finally warming up after our finish.

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Only took one photo of the views…just love this course..better with sunshine though! 😉

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Thanks to AZ Traileggers Aid station where I stopped for awhile on my way out and back! Great motivational signs!

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More good signs!

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

Cloudy with a Chance of Mudballs

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….and My Story Runs On…. Well, I was planning on writing a blog about my week of tapering before my 100K in 2 days…..but since there has been a major change in the weather forecast, and I hate running in … Continue reading

50 Miles of Gratitude: (12) Training & XTERRA Events

….and My Story Runs On….

Yesterday, I did the XTERRA White Tank 20K “race”. I put race in parenthesis as you know I normally use races as training runs for my bigger races (first 100K in 6 weeks!). I already blogged about Aravaipa races awhile back.

This race is no joke from an elevation profile. Their website describes it as:

“For those who prefer a course with pain and punishment, the long course is 20k of grueling single track with over 1500 feet of climbing. Starting from the group campground, runners wind their way up Ironwood to the Waddell trail. Once you reach the first aid station be prepared to go up, the next three miles are all climbing….”  You can see my Tom Tom results here.

Cheryl Miller from Miller Endurance Coaching is one of their sponsors and she hosted a preview run a few weeks ago that I was able to attend. I actually did this race back in 2012 when I was training for my first marathon but I can’t find my results anywhere. At any rate, I knew what I was getting myself into…

Which is why I wanted to do it!  Hills are part of most trail races and I love to train on them to keep improving my ChiRunning technique.  White Tanks are also a great change of scenery for me so I was excited to do this one.

First I want to thank XTERRA because a portion of their race proceeds go to my favorite local charity Girls On The Run Maricopa County (GOTR-I’m currently on their board of directors serving as Secretary). If I’m not racing their events, I’m volunteering because I really appreciate their support!

Now on to my learning lessons from this race!

The more running story develops year after year, I have found that I prefer to preview runs if I have a chance. This gives me a chance to get familiar with the course and know what to expect vs the element of surprise that I used to like more before. Even though I did part of the course backwards on the preview run, I knew what I was getting into!

Even though this was a “training” run, I wanted to race it…my version of racing it 😉 My race strategy was:

  • Bring my hydration pack so I wouldn’t need to stop at any of the aid stations.
  • Power hike the uphills and run as much of the runnable part as possible
  • Focus/improve upon on my ChiRunning hill technique (runnable/non runnable hills, uphill and downhill. I just taught a ChiHills class yesterday so it was all fresh)
  • Continue to get more out of my comfort zone on rockier trails and improve my technique there
  • Get myself mentally psyched up and excited for this race no matter what (this has become a regular strategy for me. Why got all worked up and nervous?  I start thinking about the friends I will see, that I’m getting to spend a “few” hours in nature, getting some ME time, burning some calories, etc.  Literally think of as many positive things as I can to get pumped up for the race to get positive energy flowing)
  • Last but not least, as much as I don’t like always setting time goals for races, since I did the preview run in 3:17 and I wasn’t as racing, I was shooting for a 3 hour finish.

It was a beautiful day! I got there in plenty of time to pick up my packet and run into many friends including GOTR volunteers/board members.

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Holly is our Vice President and was racing as well!

I started running right away knowing that the grueling part would be around Mile 2. I had to stop momentarily at the first aid station to get this selfie with Bob and Cindy Hansen who are huge supporters of GOTR and I love seeing their smiling faces!

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Bob & Cindy Hansen, GOTR volunteer superstars! Love the rays of sun shining on us!

Then it was all uphill so I started power hiking and using my arms, core and obliques more (which are all sorer than my legs are today!) I knew I was at the back of the pack already but OK with that. Every time there was a wee bit of level terrain or not too many rocks, I ran a bit…however if I know I can power hike it faster and use less energy, that is my strategy. (one of the many things I love about trail running as it’s more “acceptable” to walk due to the hills.) I had several more friends at aid stations that called my name out as I ran by which is always motivating!

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We are pretty high up there! Pictures don’t do it justice for sure!

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If you look closely, you can see the trail on the other mountain going down hill…

It was finally time to come downhill!  Was cruising in several locations but the trail was rocky so this slowed me down more than I wanted.  I was really trying to focus on relaxing as much as possible as I know any tension mentally or physically slows me down (which is why I get pumped up before a race too…to keep from having mental stress!). I almost tripped a few times but never fell.

I hate looking at my watch to reach a time goal (again more mental tension) but at this point I could tell that I was close to my time goal. I had conserved my energy so I knew the last 2 miles should be pretty easy. I didn’t realize mile 11 was a wee bit of an uphill and I started walking a bit.  I knew I was cutting it close on the time goal so I decided to put my playlist on speaker just to change up my energy and get some motivation.  Funniest thing was that I turned it off in less than 2 minutes!  The music was too distracting. I was in a really good zone (had been for the entire race between my ChiRunning/ChiWalking form focusing, being present and truly enjoying the beauty of the trail.) On a side note, I find it interesting that as my running story continues to develop, I used to only be a social runner. I couldn’t run unless I had company and someone to talk to.  Now, my solo runs hold a special place. I can’t describe it but there is something to be said about being alone with yourself for hours in nature, running on a trail.  Time flies by somehow…Mile 11 was my hardest mile of the entire race and I started thinking I wanted it to be over with.  With 1.5 miles to go, I got it together and started really focusing more on my form and breathing. Before I knew it, I could see the finish line and was getting excited. I was at 2:52 and knew I would make it on time if I kept my pace…..and I did! My official time was a 2:57:37! (and my fastest mile was my last one!)

I felt amazing and was so dang proud of myself when I finished!….

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Thanks to my friend Diane for taking this awesome photo of me finishing! It truly describes how I felt!

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The GOTR Executive Team..2 of us running and 2 volunteering!

…..Until I started comparing myself to other runner friends….that is another blog post…for now, you can watch my 5 minute facebook live video from yesterday here.

All in all, this was one of my best races from strategy to how amazing I felt at the end.

Do you use races as training runs? Share your comments below!

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My badass friend Diane who is an Ironman and did her first 8K trail race!

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Selfie with Terry who is an amazing athlete who will be 60 this year and placed first in her age group and 13th woman overall!

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You know it’s going to be a great day with this sunrise!

Click here50 Miles of Gratitude: 50 Posts about my first 50 Miler

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

Across The Years: Race Report & 6th 50K

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….and My Story Runs On….

Where do I even begin? First I have to try and explain how this type of event works. Across The Years is described on the Aravaipa website as:

“the original fixed-time multiday running event celebrating the New Year. Runners have 24, 48, 72 hours or 6 days to cover as much distance as possible.  Each runner is free to walk, stop, eat, and sleep whenever they wish, but the clock is always running!”

What does this mean?  It’s basically you against the clock. You can sign up for minimum of 24 hours to a maximum of 6 days and log as many miles as you want or your body/mind will allow you.

I’ll be honest, I have very mixed feelings about this event. In 2014, my boyfriend and I volunteered during the midnight shift at New Year’s Eve and we had a blast!  We decided to do it again this year and The Running University sponsored two volunteer shifts on New Year’s Eve so I received a free entry for filling those spots.

I was excited to have the opportunity to try this type of event out.  The course is a 1.04 mile loop at Camelback Ranch and you basically go around the loop as many times as you want or your body/mind will allow you. I’ve done an event before that was looped but it was a 4 mile course so this was a first experience for me.  Every 4 hours they change the direction so you go around the opposite way.

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I can’t wait to get my official bib number. It’s yours for the lifetime of the event. Apparently once you get to 1,000 miles you get a jacket! not sure I’ll ever shoot for this goal!

I ran this mostly with my friend Heather and we decided that we were “just” going to follow our training plan for the weekend and our plan was to do a 50K (31.1 miles). I also had dinner plans that night so I was on a bit of time crunch. We started at 9am (the 24 hour clock is from 9am-9am).  The first several loops felt great…actually most of it wasn’t bad at all..as a matter of fact at one point I was thinking, maybe I can do 48 hours next year and do my first 100 miles…break it up in four 25 miles segments over 48 hours…that sounds doable, right? Well…..by the time I was done, I was done with those loops.  Heather and I spent most of the time chatting together and with other people on the course. At one point she needed to make a stop so I kept going knowing we find each other on that loop at some point. I started listening to one of my new favorite Running Deep playlists that I purchased awhile ago and had not had chance to get into (guided meditation for runners).  It was perfect timing to be zoned out and zoned in at the same time.  I was also hoping to PR my 50K time. Doesn’t really mean a whole lot as this type of event is much different than running a 50K on a trail with an actual elevation profile. But still, I was running a lot more than I would’ve on a trail so that had to count for something.  I did set another PR and I found my results from my Tom Tom amusing. Mostly the elevation profile and the map of my run. 😉

It might be easiest to break this up to pros and cons (of course just my opinion!). Would love to hear comments from anyone who has done these events!

Pros:

  • The course is a 1.04 mile loop so there is no way to get lost. It’s probably one of the safest ways to get rack up mileage.
  • You set your own goals and it’s just you against the clock. This will also be a Con.  For me, I liked that my plan was to stick to my training plan and I purposely scheduled dinner plans later because I knew that I could be convinced to keep going since I technically had many more hours to go. But if someone was “afraid” to do a marathon because there are normally cut offs, you can sign up for 24 hours here and finish a marathon no problem in 24 hours…you could crawl it!
  • I’ve never eaten so much at a race! LOL  There is a main aid station with lots of goodies. We purposely skipped it many times.  I’ve taught my body to go for longer periods of time with little fueling but it’s so hard not to stop by and visit at the aid station…and maybe grab a few M & M’s or piece of pizza or peanut butter pretzels (my main trail staple). I’ve heard people say they actually gain weight on this event.
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Should’ve got a better picture but this is the main aid station…lots of goodies here!

  • No need to carry anything.  There is also another water station half way through which means you really don’t have to worry about carrying anything with you on this race as you have it all right there.
  • Seeing lots of friends!  It was fun to see so many people I knew. Unfortunately because I was on a mission to get done by a certain time, I couldn’t stop and slow down much to talk with them as most of them were going longer so moving slower that I wanted to at that point. But there are a lot of local runners along with people who come internationally for this event so a great place to listen to people’s running stories and goals.
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Heather and I at the start line getting ready for the 9am start 😉

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Had to get a selfie with the pretty “lake” behind us. There were some scenic spots on this loop!

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Hanging with Ed The Jester. I found out today that he placed 1st with 451 miles completed in 6 days! Just google “ed the jester” and you’ll find out some amazing things about this guy!

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Sharill! Her and her husband used to own Solemates which was a racing company that only did these type of timed events but shorter starting with 6 miles up to 24 hours.

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Ron! I see this guy volunteering everywhere! And you can’t help but love that shirt!

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Ila! Still waiting to hear on her finish as of right now. She is an inspiration and I blogged about her too: https://myownrunningstory.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/running-marathons-at-70/

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We reached our goal of a 50K! 31.8 miles on my watch 😉

  • Relaxed atmosphere.  People are all just doing the same thing going around this loop…some running, some walking, some talking, some listening to music or whatever.  There didn’t seem to be much “race” pressure that you can normally feel in a race.  You get to do whatever you want when you want.
  • Strategy.  You basically create your own race strategy. I met people who were planning X amount miles in X amount of hours, some people were just going with the flow and people like me were using it as a training run.  Your time, your strategy.
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My strategy was to complete a 50K but my mantra is the same thing I have on the back of my The Running University shirts 😉

Cons 

  • The course is a 1.04 mile loop and all you do all day and night is go around in the same circle for hours even though they change the direction every 4 hours.  One of the things I love most about ultra running is being out on a trail and seeing places I’ve never seen before. I don’t know how people do 6 days of this but all power to them!
  • You set your own goals and it’s just you against the clock.  As a running coach, this type of race can really push people to a level that I believe is not healthy.  Don’t get me wrong, I am all for people pushing outside their comfort zone mentally and physically!  However, to be smart about doing that, training your mind and body really helps too. I know several ultra runners that were out there and used to do this kind of mileage…however this race brings some people out that have not been spending the time training and it’s an injury or many waiting to happen. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your goal and I can’t tell you the number of times I heard people complaining about body parts hurting (there is a difference in knowing when you can push through “hurt” or “injury”) and when you are mentally exhausted, you are not always making the wisest decisions. It was painful for me to watch some of these people limping along (there is a medical tent on site and they do an amazing job…but I know people who wouldn’t go in there in fear of hearing they needed to stop). As much as it’s an inspiration to watch an 82 year old with a walking stick or a 10 year old achieve a 100 mile goal,  it’s still begs the questions, when is too much too much?

So, 4 days later, do I still want to do 100 miles in 48 hours next year?

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Will I do the event again next year?  Hell yes!  My plan would be sign up for the same 24 hours with friends, hopefully convince some people to do their first marathon, and have a walking/running party and just have fun with it!

Have you ever done a timed event? What’s your experience? Would love to hear your opinion!

 

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

Race Report: McDowell Mountain Frenzy-5th 50K & a PR!

….and My Story Runs On….

I still can’t believe this was my 5th 50K!  Last year this was my 2nd one and I blogged about that one too.

This was a training run for my first 100K.  My training plan called for 20 miles on Saturday and 10 on Sunday so I combined them in one day (although these were “Aravaipa” miles so it was actually 32.2 on my TomTom).

Since I had some trouble with this one last year (you can’t really try to PR (personal record) different trail races due to the variety in the terrain) and I was redoing the same one, I decided I really wanted to do better than last year. As I set this goal in my head, I was also detached from it.  If I did PR, great but if I didn’t, I knew there would be lessons to learn (always!) so that took some of the pressure off.

One of the hardest things for me to do is run my own race. I tell people to do this all the time but as a coach and someone who knows a lot of runners, it’s hard not to get caught up in hanging with friends and helping them out.  So I had to make a decision that this was going to be MY RACE.

This is what I have on the back of my The Running University shirts ;)

This is what I have on the back of my The Running University shirts 😉

Leading up to the race, I did a lot of mental preparation.  Since I knew the course, I reviewed it again, reread my blog from last year and started making a strategy. Thankfully I didn’t have the “girlie” issues from last year so that would shave some time off for sure.  I also looked at the aid station locations and I remember running out of water on the toughest part of the course. I decided I wasn’t going to stop at the first aid station and I would run as much as possible on the easier part of the course so I could hike the big hill. I took the day off before the race and relaxed and got mentally psyched up (McDowell Mountains are one of my favorite places to trail run).

I started the race with my friends Katie and Mitzi (it was their first 50K!) and Will. We had nice pace going and it was fun to start out relaxed with friends!  I told them that I had a plan though and that I wouldn’t be stopping at the first aid station. We split off at mile 7.

They finished their first 50K! They are now ultra runners!

They finished their first 50K! They are now ultra runners!

I remember staying very focused on my ChiRunning form a lot (as always!) so I could be as efficient as possible. I made sure to refill  my water so I wouldn’t make the same mistake as last year since there was an 11 mile gap between aid stations and it was the hardest part of the course.

The one thing I don’t like about trying to PR, is that I tend to be much more tied to my watch.  I’ve had some of my best runs when I’m not paying attention to it as it can be mental stress added on that keeps you from relaxing. Knowing this, I tried not to be too focused on it but I had an average mile that I wanted to keep to reach my goal so I was more engaged with it than usual.  I knew I had to stay ahead of the game because the hill was coming. The trail started getting rockier and I remember this from last year. Not my favorite terrain to be running on as it’s harder but I know I need to keep practicing this for my 100K race.  I ChiWalked the entire hill with a few spurts of running when there was a little flat area or a little downhill.  I used my arms so much to help me up the hill that my biceps were sore the next day! I’ve never had this from a race before but this is part of the ChiRunning strategy. Use the arms more and legs less. The downhill was rocky so I wasn’t able to go as fast as I normally like to.

Hills...

Hills…

More hills...

More hills…

I got to the aid station at mile 24 where I got so see my friends. I love our local running community and there are always so many familiar faces either running or volunteering! I was still pacing to PR but I was definitely getting tired at this point.  More rocky uphill and then some good downhill that was rocky on and off. My pace was slowing down between the rocks and being tired.   I always go back to my ChiRunning form as soon as I start feeling tired. Outside of always checking in on my postural alignment (first thing to go when you are doing long distance running is your posture), my cadence is what really helped me out.  Every time I felt my legs get heavy, I would increase my cadence (strides per minute or foot turnover) and I immediately felt a relief.  There is a magic number of 170-180 (not unique to ChiRunning but recommended by just about every running form) and harder to maintain on trail. Most people run at lower cadence and this wastes a lot of energy because you are holding your body weight on each leg for longer periods of time which is inefficient.

I finally texted my friends that were at the finish line and told them I had 3 miles to go and someone please make sure I had a beer at the finish line 😉  I get to the last aid station and the guy said I had 3.2 more to go! What?! That was one more mile than a 50K.  I forgot to put this in my blog last year so I forgot about this…I was a bit irritated and it made that last few miles harder mentally.  I don’t normally listen to music but I put my playlist on my phone on speaker so I would be a bit distracted.  At about mile 30 you can hear the finish line and it’s a mind f%$k because you just want to be done at this point.  This part of the trail was up and down and it finished with a nasty steep hill.  My friend Bill was at the top yelling “hammer it” which really helped me push through it!

I could hear my friends cheering me on and I crossed the finish line (Chris, thanks for the Koffee Kolsch!) with a huge smile on my face. I didn’t have the official results but I knew I had PR’d. It was about a 34 minute PR which translates to a minute a mile for 32 miles of improvement!  Pretty proud of that! I will say that I was hoping to do better but I will take it!

One of the coolest things is that my friend Jenni even made me a medal!  She was making one for Katie and Mitzi. Some people run for bling and I normally don’t but I knew she was making a few for them and I wanted in on it too.  At Aravaipa races you get a pint glass when you finish (I have a bunch of them) but getting a homemade medal from Jenni was the icing on the cake! (and she isn’t crafty either!)

Love my medal! The only one I've received for a 50K ;)

Love my medal! The only one I’ve received for a 50K 😉

Running never ceases to amaze me! So much to keep learning about myself and the sport.  Having a plan doesn’t always pay off but I feel the mental preparation ahead of time was crucial to my success. As always, ChiRunning and the advice my nutritionist gave me for my 50 miler were two key components to my success.

What is your strategy when you want to try and PR a race?

These are the results from my TomTom.

3rd aid station with more friends!

3rd aid station with more friends!

Terry and Raul at the 2nd aid station!

Terry and Raul at the 2nd aid station!

Ila!  She is 70 years old and I've blogged about her before.  After this 50K she was driving to Santa Monica to do a half marathon the next day!

Ila! She is 70 years old and I’ve blogged about her before. After this 50K she was driving to Santa Monica to do a half marathon the next day!

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

My Next Big Running Goal on my Birthday Weekend!

….and My Story Runs On….

This is one of the many things I love about running.  Of course everyone has their own running story and you should NEVER compare yourself to any other runner.  But for me, I love the idea of continuously pushing myself to the next level.  As they say, life begins at the end of your comfort zone and I can attest to this!  Earlier this year I did my first 50 Miler at Antelope Canyon the day after my birthday.  Even though I finished dead last, I felt strong and really enjoyed it (I know, crazy talk)…so of course the next goal is to push myself to the next distance level…sooooooo

I’m excited to announce that I will be doing the Black Canyon Ultra 100K!
Why did I pick this one? In no particular order…

  • 100K is 62 miles so it’s the next step after a 50 miler.
  • It’s on 2/18/17 which is the day before my birthday and I love doing crazy things on my birthday to remind myself how grateful I am for every year I am on this Earth.
  • It’s an Aravaipa event and they are one of our local ultra/trail racing company. I’ve been doing their events since 2011 and they know how put on a good race!
  • I get a buckle! I’ll admit to feeling a bit weird about this because usually you get a buckle for a 100 miler…the other funny thing is that I really don’t wear belt buckles at all (I spend most of my days in workout gear!) but a buckle is like a rite of passage in some strange way.

bucklebc100k

  • It’s a point to point race which means I get to cover 62 miles of our beautiful AZ landscape. One of the reasons I love ultra running is the ability to visit places I’ve never seen before and enjoy Mother Nature.
  • Aravaipa is hosting training runs on the entire course over 3 months which means I’ll get to preview the entire course before running it.  Last Sunday I got to run the first 19 miles and loved it.  It was mostly single track downhill.  The hardest part for me is being afraid of heights. Some parts of the single track were very close to the edge of the canyon but the more I practice, the easier that will get….I hope!
  • There is some cool history about this trail:  “This historic trail is of national significance, following a route used since the times of pre-historic Native American travelers and traders.  The Department of the Interior officially established the route as a livestock driveway in 1919, when it was used by wool growers from the Phoenix area to herd sheep to and from their summer ranges in the Bradshaw and Mingus Mountains. The Black Canyon National Recreation Trail was originally designed as a livestock driveway. Many segments of the trail roughly parallel the old Black Canyon stagecoach road between Phoenix and Prescott.”

I still can’t believe I am doing it but as crazy as it seems, I’m very excited. I’ve already started training and have already changed a few things from my 50 mile training:

  • I’m spending even more time stretching and foam rolling.  I’ve added more strength training to my weekly routine.
  • I’m also varying my running workouts more than I did last year.  This course has a net downhill elevation profile with about the first half being downhill and the 2nd half will include uphill climbing as well as several river crossings (which I used to be afraid of before but having done this several times now, I’m much more comfortable with it).  So I am doing more speedwork and hill training. I’m also planning on doing more night trail running as I know I’ll be out there at night time.
  • I still take 2-3 runs a week and listen to ChiSchool on shuffle so I can continue to improve on my ChiRunning form (my running form had the biggest improvement last year when I did this for the 50 miler). And I will continue to use the same nutrition advice I got for my 50 miler.

One of the other big motivators for me is that I’ll be raising money for Girls On The Run Maricopa County again via their SoleMates program. Last year, I raised $2100 so I want to bump that up to $2300 at least.  I am on the Board of Directors and this organization means so much to me.  If I only had this program when I was in elementary or junior high school! I want to help as many young girls as possible be part of the program so they can learn to dream big and activate their limitless potential!

What is the next challenge you are taking to get out of your comfort zone?

IMG_9189

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

Pass Mountain 25K Race or training run?

….and My Story Runs On….

This morning, I did Aravaipa Running’s Pass Mountain 25K (15.5 miles).
I picked it for a few reasons:

  • I needed mileage as I train for my next big race (another blog on that later)
  • I happened to be available on this Saturday to do it
  • Most importantly, this race was my inaugural debut into trail races back on 11/19/2011 and I haven’t done it since.

I remember back in 2011 how scared I was to do it. I was training for my first marathon (Lost Dutchman, it fell on 41st birthday 5 years ago) but I had also just come back from my first ever ChiRunning Instructor weekend.  It was my first time meeting Danny & Katherine Dreyer and the first time I got to meet a bunch of other ChiRunning instructors from all over the world.  Needless to say, I was geeked out on ChiRunning and was excited/nervous about my first trail race. (I honestly can’t remember if I did any training on trails at this point. I want to say I had but I was not as experienced as a runner or coach at this point so not sure!)  I remember how hard it was…but my favorite part was getting to the last 1/2 mile that was on road and seeing my Dad there with his bike as he rode by my side for that last little bit!

dad

My Daddy and I!

Fast forward to this year.  Not sure why I haven’t done this more often since 2011 but this year was my first time back.  The course was slightly different (it was a 26K in 2011) but most of it was the same.

So my first dilemma was:  do I go and preview the course in advance or not?  I decided to do it and here is a quick 2 min video about that experience:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSzErOhN2Wg]

I am so glad that I did it now!

I didn’t preview the first half of the course because I knew it would be easier but grateful that I did the 2nd half as it proved to help me a lot today.  Not so much physically but mentally.  

  • I knew when the hard parts would be so I conserved my energy on those by ChiWalking more. (yes, I have no problem walking in races either!)
  • I knew one of my bigger challenges would be part of the end of the course because the single track trail was very close to the edge and I am afraid of heights.
  • I also knew that the last 2-3 miles were runnable downhill miles and I was ready to crank on those as soon as I could.  Ironically, my fastest mile was my last one!

As a running coach, I hear people get nervous about races all the time.  I remember I used to do this a lot more…I’m sure some of it comes with experience.  For me it was my frame of mind….I never felt I was actually racing when I did this run today.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDzE-12ONk4]

I was hanging out with my friend Heather, got to chit chat with a few other people along the way, took some pics (see below) and we just took our time knowing we had plenty of it before the cutoff.

The great thing about treating a race like a training run is that there is no pressure. I also love races as training runs because there are other people out on the course (instead of running alone), they are supported so I know I will have aid stations with water and food (best aid stations ever!) and I get a shirt and pint glass! (50 Miles of Gratitude: (9) Training & Aravaipa Running) I didn’t have to pay for this race because I volunteer with Aravaipa quite a bit so I get race credits…so for me, it was a win-win for sure today.

I didn’t go back to see how I performed in 2011 because it was a different course and really didn’t care.

So my lesson for this race was that I was glad that I choose to do it as a training run rather than race it.  This may not always be my choice but I’m really glad that I did because I had a blast …AND I felt amazing at the end which is always one of my goals: to finish strong and feeling good!

Do you race or use them as training runs? Would love to read your comments below!

Gorgeous views on this course!

Gorgeous views on this course!

Heather and I before we started. Running with friends is always a good way to go!

Heather and I before we started. Running with friends is always a good way to go!

Cholla forest!

Cholla forest!

This was one of the steep uphill parts (I took the pic looking down after I got up it)

This was one of the steep uphill parts (I took the pic looking down after I got up it)

 

 

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

Running Marathons at 70?!

….and My Story Runs On….

Why are you limiting yourself?  These are the words that struck Ila Brandli one day and turned her into a marathon maniacShe heard these words at 62 years old and hasn’t looked back since.  Today, at the amazing age of 70, she has completed 150 marathons/ultras (8 of them are Ultras)! This number keeps changing as I write this blog…I can’t even keep up with her! She’s completed a marathon in each state twice! In February of 2015 she completed 8 marathons on 7 continents in 11 days in a row! (was supposed to be 7 but Antartica was fogged in)

When we started the interview, I asked her about the number of marathons she completed.   She said “Hold on, let me look at my spreadsheets. “ She pulls out her iPhone and has 3 different spreadsheets:

  1. to track her half marathons in different states
  2. to track her full marathons in different states
  3. to track her upcoming events.

I love this lady!

I met Ila at a free ChiRunning clinic I had at REI in Tempe several years ago. Then she reappeared at Running For Brews Tempe (I’m the Organizer).  I summarized the answers from the interview I had with her about a month ago.

Why did you start running?
First time she started running, she was challenged by her boss around the age of 42.  She couldn’t walk a mile without a side ache.  She never did any exercise through most of my adult life.  Second time around, she did it to look and feel better.

When did you start running?
First time: she was challenged by her boss to do her first half marathon (13.1 miles) in November of 1998. She did two 5ks, a 10K and a 12K before that half so she knew what to expect.  Her boss did the half marathon too but she beat him. Her knees starting hurting her and she quit running for awhile.  In 2000, she completed multiple 5Ks, 10K and a 1 half marathon.  By this time, she had found out about orthotics which helped her knee issue…so no more knee pain.
In 2007 she signed up for Team in Training and did first marathon  in Anchorage, AK.  She dedicated it to her dad and swore she would never do one again (because it hurt, she was sore, and had injuries including IT band issues).
A friend from Seattle called and wanted to do a marathon with her daughter before she got pregnant. She called Ila because she wanted an “experienced” marathoner. She survived that one at the age of 62.
2013 was turning the point to “craziness”.  A lady had a jacket that said Titanium 100 miles and asked Ila: “Why are you limiting yourself?”  She looked at her schedule and did 35 marathons that year!  She completed several series including 5 in 5 days.
Her problem is that if there is a challenge out there, she’ll take it. 

How did ChiRunning help you?
She took the ChiRunning workshop in 2013 with Mark Wallis (he was my mentor when I became an instructor!) and told her she was doing everything wrong.  She’s been practicing ever since.  ChiRunning keeps her from getting injured and allows her the additional stamina to do what she does.

What are some of your major accomplishments?
She’s completed 100 half marathons (4 more states and she will have completed 2 in every state. This may have changed since the interview..as I said, I can’t keep up!).
She’s completed 152 marathons (I have to keep checking her record on the Marathon Maniac page because this number is literally changing daily!).  She completed a marathon in each state twice and 11 out of the country.   Her 100th was in Antartica (was supposed to be the Phoenix Marathon).  The one in Chili was 98 and Antartica was supposed to be 99.  She did a 2nd one in Chili to make it 99 so Antartica was 100 and Phoenix was 101.
In February of 2015, she tackled 8 marathons, on 7 continents in 11 days. (knew she could do this already because she had in the US). But the stress is very different, you are flying overnight, then running, then flying overnight again fly at night, etc.
She completed 8 ultra marathons (an ultra is more than a 26.2 marathon). 212 miles in 4.5 days at Across The Years.  ATY was training for the 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days.  She had injured her toe in mid December 2 weeks before ATY. She didn’t go to the doctor because she knew they would put her in a boot (I don’t recommend this!) Her goal was 300 miles but she knew she couldn’t do 50 miles a day with the foot injury and didn’t want to jeopardize the 7 continents marathon tour! She “settled”  for 212 miles which is her longest to date back to back.  She was very proud of this because in 4.5 days she had accomplished 7 marathons within that time with less than desired sleep.  She purposely went over 7 hours to prove you can do it and don’t have to be elite athlete to complete marathons and ultras.

What is your favorite race?
The most emotional was the Baton Memorial Death March because of WW Vets and the units running together.
Antartica has to have a special spot because of the trouble getting there and camping overnight….and it’s Antartica!

What are your obstacles?
She’s currently dealing with some shoulder issues due to a fall in May. She has issues with heat and doesn’t perspire.  She has to be careful with her feet but doesn’t need the orthotics as much due to ChiRunning and her favorite shoes, Altras. (mine too!)

What’s your advice for anyone wanting to start running?
Find enjoyment in it!  It’s about the accomplishment.  You do it because you enjoy it.  You don’t need to love it because there is a love/hate relationship with running.  There are things you can control and things you can’t and you work on what you can—

How do you plan out your races?
It depends on what her goal is—looks at different websites, will contact race directors to check cutoff times, looks at race results and to make sure there are slower people.  She gets excited when she can do two back to back, she tries to double up when she can to save on travel expenses.

What do you think about when you’re running?
Majority of the time she is working on her form and relaxing. She finds a target: could be a time or a person that she wants to shoot for.  She is constantly looking at the scenery. When she is doing loops like ATY she uses them as speed intervals. Sometimes she is with people.  She loves meeting unique people who have different stories (met youngest gal who did all 7 continents in Antartica. )

What is your nutrition like?
She uses Tailwind but can’t take it full strength. A cold beer at the end is always a good thing! She uses Arnica when flying/driving for swelling.

What do you do in your spare time?
She volunteers for Aravaipa and different races, at the Mesa Art Center, and does taxes for AARP during the tax season. She has raised money for some of her events: she was a Solemate for Girls On The Run when she did ATY and 7 continents.  She is heading to St. George and raising money for GOTR again.

What is your next big goal?
By January 2017, she is planning to have completed 40 marathons and 40 half marathons  in 2016.

So are you really to old to run and achieve goals? Not according to Ila…or me!  I mean I can’t even keep up with her, I just checked her Marathon Maniacs page and as of today (9/22/16) she is at #152!

Here are a few great quotes from AZcentral.com (2014):
She took up running marathons at 62 and recently ran seven full marathons in seven days. Why? “Because I can,” she said with a sly smile, adding, “Sometimes I win the age group because I’m the only one out there.” AZcentral.com

Ironically, this was her original plan when she was interviewed by AZCentral.com on 3/2/2015:
“I plan to run marathons in my 60s, and I won’t be 70 until December,” she said. “I’ll run half marathons in my 70s, 10Ks in my 80s, 5Ks in my 90s and after that, I’ll run in anything they’ll let me into with a walker.”

For some strange reason, I don’t think she’s giving up marathons at 70!

If you’d like to support her: you can make a donation to her fundraising page or come to Running for Brews on Tuesday, 9/27/16 as we host a 50/50 raffle for her.

ila

Found this on her facebook page…”only” 50?? LOL

ila1

You will also find Ila dressed in various themes when running. I think Wonder Woman is very appropriate for her!

ila4

8 marathons on 7 continents in 11 days (Antartica got fogged in)

ila2

We got to hang out while volunteering at Javelina Jundred last year on the night shift!

ila3

When she is not out of state running a half or full marathon on Tuesday nights, she is at Running for Brews!

 

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

“That’s our running coach!”

….and My Story Runs On….

Yep, first time ever lying in a cot getting help from the medics…..

Not my typical post race beer photo opp!

Not my typical post race beer photo opp!

Clearly not doing too bad as I’m smiling here but never had this experience before.  Of course, I need to share my learning lessons. I wish I could’ve taken the picture of my peeps all hovering over me, teasing me, “this is our running coach!.”  It was a pretty comical moment…but grateful that I can have these moments so I can be a better runner and coach.  There is always a lesson to learn!

This (Aravaipa’s Javelina Jangover) was my best race last year, I had a great blog/vlog about it too. I hadn’t really been training for this race but I was definitely prepared to do the mileage.  What I didn’t prepare for though, was the plan to PR (personal record) my time from last year.  My little sister, who is a great athlete, decided to switch from the 7K to the 25K to pace me and help me (this was her first 25K trail race!)

It was her first 25K race and at night too!

It was her first 25K race and at night too!

My plan for longer distances is to always take it easier for the first half so I conserve energy…then kick it up during the 2nd half which on this course tends to be downhill. I was mentally prepared to follow this plan but I always know that when I’m trying to keep a specific pace (to PR), I tend to be slave to my watch (some of my best runs happen when I’m not doing this...) and keep checking my pace. I still ChiWalked on the uphills because I conserve more energy and can do it just as fast so might as well be walking.

I did notice that I was thirstier than normal so I kept drinking.  We got to the aid station at mile 8.5 and put more water in my hydration pack. Had a few pieces of potato/salt and a shot of coke and ginger ale (this usually helps with a bit of energy/caffeine boost).  A lot of Team RWB peeps were there volunteering so it’s always great to see your friends and get some energy from them!

The course was now mainly downhill so I started trying to get my average pace up as I monitored my watch.  I was averaging an 11:40 for a bit. One thing I know about myself is that I don’t like being uncomfortable when I run…I know I could probably push myself more (I prefer to use my ChiRunning technique to improve my performance not muscling through it).  And I was very focused on my form: I continued to use the mantra Align & Relax, use by arms for the uphills as well as to counterbalance my forward lean and did as much active and passive pelvic rotation as possible to keep my legs from working harder. This was working great until…..

I started realizing I just couldn’t drink enough water to quench my thirst. My poor sister kept saying “come on, we only have a 5K left” “you can push harder” and all of the sudden my legs weren’t feeling it anymore and my stomach starting bugging me. I felt like I needed to throw up but couldn’t do it. When I realized there was no way I was beating my time, I decided I needed to stop running. At this point I just wanted it to be over.  I was grateful to have my sister there with me and we walked the last mile.

Those of you that know me, know that one of the things I enjoy most after a run/race is a nice cold beer.  You know I wasn’t not myself when the thought of a beer made me want to throw up!

We got to the medics who were amazing.  Checked my pulse and my blood pressure (all good there!)…they lay me down on a cot and elevated my legs so the blood could flow back to my stomach. Thanks to all my friends that came by to check in on me…at least I wasn’t one of the runners getting an IV and being taken away with an ambulance.

So, what happened?  I had to think about my last few days and here is my assessment:

  • In retrospect, I didn’t hydrate the way I normally do a few days before a race.  I was at a Toastmaster contest from 8am-1pm yesterday and only drank half a bottle of water but drank double the amount of coffee that I normally do.  The night before, I was hanging with some friends, had a few beers (not a big deal but probably didn’t help with the hydration issue) and ate a lot of salty foods.
  • I tried pushing too much at the beginning. My fastest mile was the 2nd one and I remember not being able to get my heart rate down until we stopped at the aid station for awhile. (I also had a double espresso a few hours before the race which probably didn’t help either). It was also hotter than I was expecting.
  • Basically I pushed my body more than I should’ve and wasn’t prepared for it physically.

I have no regrets….running is always a way to learn more about your body and yourself and last night was just another learning lesson for next time!  I finished with a 3:32 (last year was a 3:16).

1st half of the race..didn't realize until I looked at this as I'm writing that my 2nd mile was my fastest

1st half of the race..didn’t realize until I looked at this that my 2nd mile was my fastest

 

2nd half or the race..clearly faster than the first..

2nd half or the race..clearly faster than the first..except the last mile!

Any big learning lessons you’ve had from a run recently?

 

 

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)