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!)

Race report: MASS Gathering Memorial Day Marathon

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….and My Story Runs On….

I guess I’m more likely to blog while I’m on “vacation” since this is my 2nd blog in a week!
About a month ago, I realized I needed to get in 20 miles on Sat and 10 on Sun during Memorial weekend for my next 50K race (Capitol Reef, UT on 7/9/16).  I knew it would be hard to get this is in MA by myself.  My trip consisted of: being in my friend’s wedding in Boston last weekend, 5 days at Kripalu assisting Danny Dreyer, the founder of ChiRunning for 5 days and then a weekend in Pittsfield MA to visit family (my home town). I knew I wouldn’t get any long runs in the weekend of the wedding so I started googling races…lo and behold I found this marathon: MASS Gathering Memorial Day Marathon.
I started looking into it and figured: it’s 30 min from Pittsfield, 26 miles in one day is close enough to 30 in 2 days, it would be my first marathon out of state (7th one), first marathon in my home state and the icing on the cake was that it was benefiting Team RWB (I’m a member of the Phoenix Chapter) and Soldier On. I thought about it for a few days and then decided to go for it.
This past week I tried to follow my training plan but also was on my feet a lot due to teaching and coaching.  Even though I took Thu and Sat “off” of running, I went into the race with some mileage on my legs (61.2 according to my Jawbone but that’s including all my steps so a bit exaggerated…still a lot though).

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I was on tired legs already!

The eve of the marathon, my head starting messing with me a bit.  It was my first marathon where I didn’t have any friends or people that I knew.  I couldn’t find any information about the course and elevation (I used to not care about this but as my running story evolves, I realize knowing this information really helps me prepare for the race and strategize).  I knew it would be a hilly course so that made me feel better since I love hills due to the unique way we go up and down them with ChiRunning technique.  I was also worried about the weather as it was supposed to rain (I’m too used to perfect weather conditions in AZ) and it was going to be humid (I’m used to a dry heat.) I even started googling ‘running in dry heat vs humidity’! Then I started thinking, do I want to “race” this? Could I possibly PR (have a personal record) on this course with the hills (my best time for a full is in Sedona with a 4:58 and it was because of my hill strategy). Then I realized, I was wasting too much valuable energy  so I decided to go run it as the training run it was meant to be. I knew the cutoff was 7 hours (race director said they wouldn’t leave anyone on the course anyways) so I had plenty of time.

My aunt drove me the morning of the race and I was there in plenty of time which is rare for me.  I had 50 minutes to kill so I did my ChiRunning body looseners and found a seat to relax in.  IMG_8642

I noticed a guy from afar doing the body looseners and I knew he was a ChiRunner as we are the only ones who do this sequence (later I talked to him and he had been in the Kripalu class I assisted with last year!)  He was doing the half though. The race started 10 minutes late and I felt good right away going down the gentle downhill.  The race started with 80% humidity which I was not used to.

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My biggest goal in a long race is pacing myself. I had to slow myself down as I knew I was going faster than I should, especially knowing there would be some uphills and I had several miles to go. The course was beautiful!  I was bummed that I couldn’t find a trail race as I prefer that over the road but this race was hilly and nice enough scenery where I felt I could’ve been on a trail.

Roses:

  • Mentioned already in paragraph 3 above 😉
  • Loved the hilly course!  I know this is not normal but I was fresh from teaching ChiRunning.  I worked on my form quite so I could be as efficient as possible and maintain my energy throughout the miles.  I practiced active and passive pelvic rotation on the uphills and downhills; had some great aha moments when my legs felt heavy by allowing my ankles to lift behind me and could feel my legs be more relaxed;  I used my arm swing to help me on the hills and headwind we had on the last 3 miles of the race; focused on nose breathing as much as I could.
  • The scenery was beautiful!  I love all the green and it’s one of the things I miss from MA that we don’t have in Phoenix.  Here are some photos:
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Added to the humidity I’m sure!

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Lots of pretty flowers along the course!

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Honoring Memorial Day

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Love New England scenery!

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Hills….

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More hills…

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Settled in 1750!

  • They said there would be aid stations at every 2-3 miles and there were! This was necessary for me as the day got hotter and hotter and more humid. I poured more water over my head than down my throat! I also kept imagining the scenery with lots of snow on the ground just to keep cool thoughts.
  • RAIN at mile 21 was AMAZING!  I will say I was ready for the race to be over due to the heat and humidity and that rain definitely helped out.
Thank God for the rain!

Thank God for the rain!

  • The Mom/boyfriend team cheering squad!  These guys kept moving along and cheering us on. Past the half way point, she had a cooler with wet cloths and ice that really helped. I even stuck some ice down my bra to stay cool for a while. I found out later that she was cheering on her 2 daughters (we were leap frogging) who were doing their first marathon together! I love this!  I was able to get a photo of them at the end of the race.
Great running stalkers!

Great running stalkers!

  • There were several home owners along the course that came out with water, oranges, etc which was great (although I think there could’ve been more)
  • My aunts at the end of the race cheering me in!
  • My dog tag medal and local craft beer which is a must at the end of any race for me 😉
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Finisher showing off the dog tag and my Team RWB shirt!

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Great craft beer from Big Elm Brewing. Had the stout…yummy!

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Souvenirs from my training run 😉

Thorns:

  • I could deal with the heat but the humidity sucked!  I wish the race would’ve started earlier but I chatted with a guy before the race who said he did it a few years ago and it was snowing.  The frequent aid stations really helped though!
  • Not too crazy about the cant in the road. I had to move from left to the right side of the road frequently as I could tell my legs were not even with the pavement.  I could feel this in my hips the next day.
  • I was disappointed in the lack of representation from Team RWB folks.  Although I think in Phoenix we have an abnormally active chapter so I am used to seeing at least 20 other RWB shirts and running through the finish line with an American flag.  I think I saw one other person with a shirt. (Although still happy to know that proceeds benefited this awesome charity!)

At the beginning of the race, my pace was good and I started thinking I could PR until the humidity got to me.  I am still happy with my results. It’s my 4th best time out of 7 marathons and considering the amount of running I had done the week before, the humidity, etc. I was happy.

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Placed 56th out of 98 total and 18th out of 38 women.

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Dark blue is the elevation change

I normally judge my “success” on how I feel when I am done and how I feel the next day or two after a big race. I finished strong, I was a bit sore the day after and felt great 2 days after.  My abs and obliques were sorer than my legs which is always a good sign that my ChiRunning form is good 😉

Overall, I would recommend this race! Not sure I would take a special trip for it as I like to experience new scenery and prefer trails… but if I happen to be up there and I’m trained, I would do it again.

What is your favorite race that you’ve done out of state?

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

2nd 50K: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

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….and My Story Runs On….

My 2nd 50K is in the books! I finished the McDowell Mountain Frenzy put on by Aravaipa Running. Not sure where to start but will try and make this as short and sweet as possible.  I’ll start in reverse with the Ugly and saved my biggest aha moments for the end…….

The Ugly
WARNING: this part contains some material that might gross you out.
The worst part about the whole race which impacted me more than I wanted or expected it to was being on my period (feel free to skip down if you aren’t interested in this 😉 ). Sorry, I know this might be TMI but seriously, this is a real issue for women.  I realized too late in the week that it was happening so had no way around it.  I don’t eat until I’m hungry when I run in the morning and I can’t take Motrin until I eat so I started out the first few hours dealing with cramping.  I hate taking Motrin anyways but knew it would help me.  I also couldn’t get control of my heart rate for those first few hours. In addition to dealing with the cramping until I could take some Motrin, I had to deal with no bathrooms.  Therefore I had to get off the course so no one would see me.  Only women will understand this but I didn’t bring enough products and was torn between not going to the bathroom and holding it OR going and not having a tampon to handle it..this impacted my ability to run so I had to walk more than I wanted to.
Lesson #1: Be more prepared.

The Bad

  • I wasn’t attached to any results for this race as it was a training run but I still wanted to do better than my last one. I finished at 8:19 and my last one was an 8:24. So it’s better but I was really hoping to do it in 7 hours.  Issue above impacted me and I’m over it.
  • I trained on part of this course but couldn’t do the whole thing. I wish I had.  Even though I’ve been doing quite a bit of trail running, the 3 mile climb at about mile 20 did me in.  I pretty much hiked most of this way and was hoping to catch up on the downhill…I did a bit but it was a rocky downhill and my knees were starting to bug me.
    Elevation profile

    Elevation profile

    Lesson #2:  Try to run the entire course or talk to more people that have completed it or just be better prepared.
    ChiRunning:  
    As my knees started bugging me, I realized that I was over striding which was causing the pain. As soon as I realized I was doing this, I immediately shortened my stride and the pain when away. (In ChiRunning you learn what causes pain and how to address it. You become your own detective).  Every time I felt myself getting tired uphill, I realized I wasn’t being efficient and I would start using my upper body.  This is one of my favorite techniques for ChiRunning hills.

The Good
So much to say here and trying to summarize:

  • Before I left for the race, I had a chance to see many of my good friends, my sister, niece and nephew.  I was creating the conditions for Chi to flow by relaxing and doing my body looseners but being surrounded by my family and friends was a great way to start! (They started counting down for the start and I had to rush to the start line…this frazzled me a bit but I tried to get back into my “mode”).
    Pre Race photo with some of my friends and sister!

    Pre Race photo with some of my friends and sister!

    ChiRunning:  Make sure you are relaxed before you start and get together mentally and physically. Nervous energy serves no purpose and doesn’t help with relaxing your body.

  • Shane!  He seriously helped me get through several rough spots during the race. He was doing his first 50K. We met earlier this year as his wife used to take boot camps from me at her work. We ran a bit before together in the Javelina Jangover race. We carry a very similar pace so we started together.  Unfortunately he had to deal with me griping about my “girlie” issues.  We made a deal though.  I told him not to wait for me when I had to get off the beaten path to take care of my business.  So we ran probably about half the race together in total.  We ran the first 6 miles together then we split up…then we found each other at an aid station at mile 12 and ran until I had to go again…then the hardest part of the race came (hilly part) This was the hardest part for me mentally and physically. I was sooo happy to see Shane at the next aid station at mile 22.  We fueled up and he carried a great pace downhill and we made up some good time.  At the end, my legs were tired and there were some steep up and downhills so he went ahead and finished a bit ahead of me.
    Lesson #3 Make a deal if you are running with someone on what you are doing.  I wouldn’t have wanted him to wait for me as this was his race too.  This could go either way..either stay together no matter what happens or decide it’s your own races and it’s OK to separate if necessary. But have no regrets…if you want to finish the race, do it, with or without your friend. These take a lot of training and time and you have take ownership for your race.

    Shane and I nice and fresh at the beginning of the race!

    Shane and I… nice and fresh at the beginning of the race!

  • The trail!  McDowell Mountains are one of my favorite spots to trail run.  I love our Arizona desert.  The trail had a lot of variety.
    ChiRunning:  One of the many things I love about ChiRunning is keeping my mind occupied with form focuses.  Not only is focusing on my form a good way to be as efficient as possible (and injury-free) but when you have a long way to go, being in the present moment helps time go by.  I also love doing a running meditation where I am focusing on each sense one a time for a few minutes.  So great to hear, smell, see and feel the desert.
  • My amazing friends!  I could hear people cheering as we approached the finish line. My legs were pretty tired and the last few miles were the technical part of the trail. I told Shane to go ahead! I could hear cheers for him and realized these were my friends!  Several of them had done the shorter distances and they waited for HOURS to see me finish!  My boyfriend also drove up to see me finish too.  The last few hills sucked and I was cursing at this point (well, I had cursed more than once before this point 😉 ).  As soon as I crawled over the hill, I could see my friends who were all cheering for me.  Elaine was leaning over the fence and handed me a beer….I ran through the finish line, cold beer in hand getting hugs from all my friends. Couldn’t think of a better way to end a race!
    Last hill to get to the finish line..really?!

    Last hill to get to the finish line..really?!

    Post Race with my friends!

    Post Race with my friends!

    Grabbed and beer and ran through the finish line! I love how happy I am here! I did it!

    Grabbed and beer and ran through the finish line! I love how happy I am here! I did it!

    I did it!

    I did it!

Other AHA moments:

  • #NeverSayNever this is my new favorite hashtag. I remember saying I would never do a half marathon!  I have discovered the art form of running.  I love that I can run short or long distances, on road or trail, etc. There is so much to this sport that people don’t realize.  I want to enjoy it for the rest of my life and the possibilities are endless..but always remember, it’s your running story! You choose where you want to take your running journey (and coaxing from friends doesn’t hurt either sometimes!)
  • I had this thought SEVERAL times….and I signed up for a 50 miler?  How the hell am I going to do 20 more miles?  As I’ve been told, you just don’t think about this…this is true regardless of distance….I remember wandering this same thing after a half marathon while in preparation for  a full marathon…but somehow, and sometimes you just can’t even remember how you do it, you just do it.
  • Biggest AHA moment:  Don’t downplay your mileage!  Up until midweek, I kept thinking, “this is just a training run”.  I said that to myself and others several times. Maybe I kept saying it so I wouldn’t get nervous and waste energy…or didn’t want to make it a big deal…but dang it, I finished my 2nd 50K and that’s the 2nd longest distance I have ever ran in my life…so yes, it is a big freaking deal! So don’t downplay your mileage (whatever it is) and celebrate that heck out your finish line!

Thanks to Aravaipa for putting on an amazing event as always and all the volunteers!

Antelope Canyon 50 Miles, here I come!

(P.S. I am raising money for Girls On The Run for my 50 miler.  I’m on the Board of Directors of this amazing organization. The 50 mile run is the day after my 45th birthday. I wish I had this program when I was a kid as I would’ve started running much earlier in my life.  Running has changed my life and I want to help as many young girls as possible realize their full potential.  Any donation is greatly appreciated!)

One of my new favorites!

One of my new favorites!

Life is short! Do It!

Life is short! Do 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!)

How I shaved 13 minutes off my marathon time…

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This gallery contains 9 photos.

….and My Story Runs On…. I’m on cloud 9 right now!  I can’t believe my time for the Sedona marathon.  I’m not a bragger and this is a bit uncomfortable for me but feeling pretty proud of myself considering the … Continue reading

4 Reasons NOT to PR a race

….and My Story Runs On….

PR or PB are words you will here in the running community all the time.  PR is a Personal Record and PB is a Personal Best.  I remember getting wrapped up in this idea until the last few years.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about setting, achieving and surpassing goals… but sometimes, it’s just not necessary.  Here are some of my reasons for not PRing a race in no particular order:

  1. Because you have a different goal and learned a lesson from a previous race.  Sometimes your goal in a race is not about having a personal record. For example, I purposely ran the Cedar City Half Marathon slower this year than I did last year. Why? Because last year I was sore for an entire week due to the dowhill and altitude change.  My goal for this race this year was not to be as sore.  I’m happy to report that I enjoyed the race AND I was sore for a few days instead of a week.
  2. Because it’s just another training run.  Depending on your running level, races are a good way to get in a training run and get some swag at the same time.  When I’m training for a half or full marathon, I’ll seek out some races that might be the  length I need as opposed to doing a “regular” training run in the same place.  Even though I pay for a race and not a training run, I get to run with different runners, get a cool shirt and medal just for a training run.
  3. Because you are running with a friend.  Running is a great social sport.  I love running with my friends. I’ve “ran” into friends at races that I haven’t seen in awhile and I choose to run with them for company rather than worry about the race.  OR you might have a friend who is doing their first event and you want to be part of their experience.
  4. Because you just don’t need to add that kind of pressure (or resistance).  The thought of having to do better than last time, sometimes can mess with your head.  This causes mental tension which causes physical tension and just can overall ruin your race experience.  You have the power to make that choice.  It’s that simple.  I blogged about this on the ChiRunning website last year when I described my experience at the Women’s Half Marathon.   I purposely ran a race without my GPS.
  5. Because you just want to have fun!  There may be a time to race for you but ultimately, when running isn’t fun anymore, what’s the point?  Seriously, sometimes we just need to get out of our heads and enjoy life. One of the many things I’ve learned from ChiRunning and meditation is to enjoy the present moment.  So instead of worrying about your time, enjoy the scenery, talk to a new person running next to you, and thank the volunteers and people cheering along the road for being there.

Bottom line, it’s your running story and you can do whatever you want!

Please comment below if you have any other reasons not to PR a race. Help me inspire other people to enjoy running for the fun sport that it is!

From My Running Story to Yours….

(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)