Race Report

McDowell Mountain Frenzy 50K Race Report: Success Redefined

….and My Story Runs On….

This is the 3rd year in a row that I do this 50K. It’s one of my favorites and perfect timing in my 100K Training Schedule to have a nice long training run.  This has been my 2nd, 5th and 9th 50K!   Still unbelievable to me that I swore I would never run more than a 5K when I started running!

McDowell Mountain Regional Park has some of my favorite trails and Aravaipa Running always puts on a great event.  This was meant to be a training run but since I was doing the same race for the 3rd year in a row, I did have it in the back of my mind that PRing (personal record) would be an added bonus. I went into the race with that idea but was also detached from it since technically this was supposed to be a training run.  I normally don’t have a race pace but I definitely get into a different mindset if I’m wanting to PR or “race” an event.  I also had to consider that I had run 20 miles the Sunday before so I didn’t taper for this race and I did a tough marathon downhill marathon 3 weeks before.  I was so close to PRing and made a “fatal” mistake which cost me the PR…but all good and that story is down below….

Miles 0-12.5

Rachel’s 2nd 50K and Joan’s first one! Waiting for the start….

The energy before a race is always exciting, especially when you realize how many friends you have out there!  Several of them were doing their first 50K.  It was great to start out the race after getting so many hugs from friends!  I love the Escondido trail as it’s rolly polly . I knew I could easily get started too fast here so I tried to keep a nice pace, walking the uphills and running flats and downhills.  The last third of the race is the hardest and I’ve struggled on this part the last few years.  My goal was to not let that happen again.  I immediately started focusing on my ChiRunning form. At about Mile 5, I decided to listen to some ChiSchool lessons so I could continue focusing on my form. I put this on shuffle and even though I listen to some of the same lessons, there are always some great aha moments.  This time it was with the lesson “The World’s Largest Treadmill” and some cueing from Danny (the founder of ChiRunning) about feeling your leg get swept back by the trail every time it hit the ground.  I’ve heard this lesson many times and it’s one of my favorites but something different clicked with me this time.  I skipped the first aid station strategically so I didn’t “waste” anytime as I had plenty of water and fuel. The 2nd aid station was at mile 12.5 and I knew there would be a 10 mile gap until the 3rd one and it would be during “the hill”.  Refueled and filled up water and was off again.  I knew I had to keep under a 14:58 min mile to PR and I was doing great!  At this point I was averaging a 13:23 min mile and I knew I would be hiking that hill.  My goal during the first third of the race was to run as much as I could without using up too much energy because I had that last third of the race always in the back of my head.

Miles 12.5-22.5

I had forgotten about the part of the course before “the hill”.  Pretty runnable and great scenery.  I was still feeling pretty good here. Ran into my friends Jennifer and Rachel and took this quick selfie.

The hardest part of wanting to PR is that you need to stay focused as any extra minute can add up.  I felt leaving them so quickly but I was on a mission.  It’s also hard for me to do this as a coach as I always like to give words of encouragement and hang with people but sometimes I have to run my race and I was determined since I was on track.   I had stopped listening to ChiSchool from the aid station and at mile 18 decided to listen to a few motivational TED talks I had downloaded. Sometimes I like to listen to stuff on long runs but I only listened to a few as I was truly enjoying being out there and present on the trail. The weather up to mile 15 was perfect. There was cloud coverage and we even had a few sprinkles. After my last Black Canyon experience (my character builder run) I was no longer worried about running in the rain but it didn’t happen. At about mile 15, the clouds were gone and the sun came out…I immediately stripped off my sleeves and the weather got hot really fast.  I think many of us were impacted by that change during this race.  I hiked the entire hill and ran the downhill more than last year…I remember it was rocky so I was careful but was still tracking to PR.  Even though I completely filled my hydration pack, I went through my water and couldn’t wait to get to the aid station. I was out of the water for the last 1.5 miles and it kept getting warmer.

Bottom of the hill…it’s not steep but a long hill…you can see runners on the other side of the trail

Beautiful chollas and Rockknob in the background

I think this is Rocknob..its the name of the trail but beautiful rock formations!

Another angle of Rocknob

Miles 22.5 to 31

I knew I had to stay focused on the aid station.  A friend of mine, Suzanne was there and she hooked me up right away. Helped fill my pack, put some ice in my buff and hat, I grabbed some munchies and I was off again.  At this point, due to the hiking, I was averaging a 13:58 mile so I knew the PR was closing in on me.  I did something I don’t advise people to do but decided to take two ibuprofen.  I figured even though my legs weren’t too bad, they were a bit achy and I knew this would help me run more.  Unfortunately my TomTom died at mile 24 so now I had no idea how I was doing.  There is an uphill after the aid station but then a nice steady downhill, although a bit rocky.  My goal at this point was to keep running as much I could. I was doing a lot of body sensing since I didn’t have a watch to tell me how I was doing (this is truly a better way as the GPS watch can be a distraction and play into the ego more than listening to your body)  I listened to music for a bit but my MP3 player died.  I just keep running as much as I could until I reached the last aid station.  My first question was how much longer do I have to go. They said 3.4 miles,  I looked at my phone and it was 3pm.  I had to be done by 3:44 to PR and this was cutting it pretty close but doable.  I usually don’t do much sugar until the last aid station (thanks to my nutritionist)  I drank some Coke, had a piece of potato with salt, and handful of peanut M + M’s.  I left and took my phone out to text a few friends that were waiting at the finish line for me.  Here is where I made my mistake.  I wasn’t paying attention as I was texting and walking…Before you know it, a guy yelled out “What distance are you doing?” I said the 50K and he said, “You’re on the wrong trail”.  So grateful for this guy as I would’ve kept on that wrong trail for who knows how long!  I was 4-5 min in so I turned around right away but I knew this set me back and I would’ve been cutting it even closer.  Even though I ran as much as I could towards the end, I knew it wasn’t happening.  I could start hearing the finish line (they have a DJ!) and knew I was almost there.

One of the several hills on the last 3.4 miles on the technical trail..

It’s a great feeling when people could say they recognized my running form from far away.  As I finished through the last section on the technical trail, I was getting excited to be done.  Always great to finish and see friends cheering you on at the finish line…even though it was my 9th 50K, finish lines never get old!

Biggest Learning Moment

So how do you define a successful race?  Everyone has their own definition. I think it depends on the race too.  Although I didn’t make my PR on this race, it was a great success for me. First of all, it was the first time doing this race that I felt strong on the last third even though I ran into some challenges.  I crossed the finish line feeling really good!  And considering I didn’t taper last weekend and have been building mileage, I was very happy with how I felt at the end!  I attribute this to my race strategy and more importantly my ChiRunning technique. As I was by myself for this whole race so it was easier for me to focus on my form and adjusting it as needed to the environment coming at me.  I may have conserved to much energy since I finished strong but I’ll take that over being miserable and injured any day!  As mentioned, I follow my fueling plan that I learned from my nutritionist and that makes a big difference too!

The After Party

Much like the beginning of the race, at the end of the race there were so many friends around. There is always a beer garden for people to hang out and it’s right by the finish line so you get to watch people coming in. I for wanted to wait for Joan as I had been training her for the last 3 months for her first 50K.  She finished strong as well and we shared a celebratory beer (ha, she drank the koolaid and is already talking about her next 50K! She done 20 marathons but moving on to the ultra/trail world 😉 )
This year, Aravaipa added night races and I love the fact that several women from my recent Ladies Training Program, had decided to either do the day or night race!  I missed the morning ladies but had a chance to see those at night time as they got ready.  Is it bad when your running coaching is encouraging you to do a Fireball shot before you go?  Even worse that they listened to you?!  Ultimately this is about enjoying the experience!  I/we (my peeps) are never going to win the race because that’s not our goal…the goal is making friends and having fun, while staying in shape and doing some crazy things along the way! This is how we roll…….

Gorgeous sunset!

Joan finishes her first 50K! So proud of her!

Oh no….here comes the Fireball 😉 LOL

And encouraging others? Bad coach, bad coach!

It didn’t take them long to succumb to the peer pressure…although this was pre race!

One of my proudest coach moments?!

Part of the Ladies Training Program reunited! Thanks for volunteering Kisha! I better have good finish line pics 😉

 

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

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!)