Monday, September 21, 2015

Erie Marathon Race Report...I Just Registered for My First Boston Marathon!

I just registered for my first Boston Marathon! Holy cow! Now I have to wait for my acceptance email but with a 3:35:14 qualifying time in Erie and my standard being 3:40 everyone that I have talked to has assured me I am "in".

The Erie Marathon at Presque Isle was an incredible course to qualify on. It is flat, shaded and fast albeit a little windy in some spots. I was a little nervous going into the race as it rained all day Saturday and I had visions of running 26.2 soaking wet miles. Fortunately the rain stopped around 2 or 3 am Sunday morning and held out for the whole race. The temperature was around 60 degrees at most, which made for a nice, cool day. That definitely helped my chances!

Race Morning:

Everything with the race went smooth but parking was a challenge and apparently it was from the main parking lot being closed due to flooding from the heavy rains. It took us about 45 minutes to park as we arrived at 5:45 and parked around 6:30. After a restroom break and some drills to warm up it was time to line up. There were pacing groups out there so I lined up near the 3:35 group since that was my goal. The start was jam packed with people from all over the country. I had a couple of women next to me from Texas and a guy behind me from Florida. Erie they say is one of the best qualifying races in the country with over 30% of the field qualifying. I was there like many people with that goal in mind. As I stood at the start and waited for the cue to start I was filled with a lot of emotion. This was my last chance to qualify for the 2016 Boston race. I HAD to get it done no matter what or I would be on the sidelines again next year cheering for my husband and friends.

The first half:

I would love to say that I had a  perfect race but the truth is I did not. I actually felt pretty crappy during much of the first loop, which was a surprise. I had tapered but with training for an ironman concurrently I was worried I had done too much. I tried to just brush those thoughts aside as my left knee locked up and my right hip was aching and I pressed on. I thought about making it a training run for Beach 2 Battleship and just cutting it short but I knew I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't give it my all. So around mile 12 or so I finally started to settle in. Yes, I settled in at mile 12 as odd as that is. I then decided that this was MY race. I gave up a lot for this race. I changed my schedule around this year and made this race my A race. I could not throw all that training away. I would simply make myself BQ. At the halfway point you literally go over a timing mat with the finish on the other side. That was hard. I was at 1:47 at the 13.1 mark - right on schedule for my 3:35.

The second half:

I finally ran a big girl marathon! My splits were close to perfect - all between 8:05-8:15 with only one or two miles at an 8:15-8:20 pace - one being my first mile where it was hard to generate speed due to the crowd and the other at mile 24. I really feel like I got into a meditative state in this second loop. I enjoyed my playlist and taking in the surroundings and every mile I checked my watch to make sure I was on schedule. Miles 20, 21, 22, 23 ticked by and I never hit that dreaded wall! 24 I slowed down just a hair and picked it back up for 25 and 26. As the finish line drew close I felt the emotion welling up inside. I had worked so hard for this day. This was my 4th BQ attempt this season with 3 consecutive marathons in April, May and June a little break for tri season and then this one a few months later.

The Finish:

Finisher shot courtesy of Kirsten!
That finish line sure was sweet! Coming in at a 3:35:14 was just about on goal. In fact I beat the 3:35 pace group. I am not sure when they finished as I was ahead of them the whole race after mile 4 or 5. Steve came up and gave me a big hug and I filled up my post race bag with as much food as possible and headed over to photographer for a post race pic with Steve and to the med tent for some post race stretching.

Post Race Celebration:

Steve ran to the car to get the "gift" he had made for me, which was a shirt that said "Cheers! I BQ'd Today! So then of course he had me put the shirt on and a nice woman took our photo so we could post it and share the good news with our friends!

Post race with the shirt!
The drive from Erie to Mentor was pretty short and we decided to stop at Willoughby Brewing to have some food and a couple pints to celebrate my BQ. We celebrated the next day too because why not? Big goals mean big rewards!

Closing Thoughts:

So much of my day was mental. Sure you have to be physically trained to run a marathon but the mind is a powerful weapon that can work for you or against you. Even though I had a rough start I was able to send the pain below and focus on the task at hand. And it was So Worth It! Always remember that even if things are not going your way in a race you can take control of the situation. That is a valuable lesson  I learned that I plan to take with me on my journey to other racing goals.

A special thanks to my husband Steve who believes in me and did everything he could to help me achieve this goal including running with me for many painful miles, to all of my caring friends and family members that believed in me and cheered for me - you guys are the best especially my friend Kirsten who took tons of race pics including the finisher shot above! I could not have done it without the support of all of you. And finally to Powerbar for being an amazing sponsor and fueling countless workouts and races - thank you!

What's Next:

I will be racing the HFP Deer Creek 70.3 this weekend as a tuneup for Beach 2 Battleship 140.6, which is three weeks later! After that I am taking a hard-earned break until next season!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Erie Marathon Race Weekend - Lucky #7

It's finally race weekend for the Erie Marathon...lucky #7 for me! Or at least I hope it will be lucky! There are so many ways to shave a few minutes off a marathon. I'm hoping to do that this Sunday and finally realize my goal of a BQ time!

Marathons #4, 5 & 6 happened for me this year in April, May and June consecutively. While that was never my plan it just evolved into the year of the "Marathon Maniac".

  • Glass City Marathon in Toledo (#4) was a nice PR for me at 3:46 and change. Looking back I had lost a little too much weight and don't think I was properly fueled to BQ. I also ran too fast the first 10 miles or so. I still managed to take off 5 minutes of time from my previous PR in Cleveland in 2014. 
  • Cleveland Marathon (#5) was three weeks later. I ran with the 3:35 pace group for the first 1/2. It just got too hot for me. I pushed as hard as I could that day to the point of throwing up but with a 3:52 a BQ was not in reach that day. No problem will just try again in late June then! 
  • Charlevoix Marathon (#6) in Northwest Michigan was a fun road trip and little long weekend vacation. I loved this area! I was ready here I think to get it done but I had two things working against me: first, I ran the first 1/2 a little too fast and had some uneven splits. Plus the last hour of the race was hotter than I hoped in the mid 70s. I don't do as well in the heat as I would like. I tried my best but came up a little short with a 3:42:45. Two minutes & change away from the 3:40 qualifying time. 

I have prepared more intently for Erie by including more speedwork, faster long runs and a cleaner diet. I have also obviously been cross training with the bike and swim as I prepare to take on some long course tris in the weeks to come.

This last week and a half has been pretty easy physically for me as I taper. I know my body needs to be rested to push as hard as I can. I feel more rested than when I went into Charlevoix. I have been carb loading all week and sleeping well. The weather forecast looks to be cool (high 50s - mid 60s), which is ideal for me. It may rain but rain is not a reason to ruin my day. I have worked long and hard for this BQ this year! The plan is to shoot for a 3:35. If it ends up being a 3:37 or 3:38 I will take it! I will slow myself down the first half and try to run consistent splits. I will push harder the last miles. I will give everything I have. I am ready! No matter what happens I will know that I gave it my best.

Special thanks to Powerbar for keeping me fueled for all these races and countless workouts and to Steve for letting me drag him all over to run marathons this season. He has sacrificed as much as I have for my goal. Nothing to it now but to go chase that unicorn! Stay tuned for the race report next week.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Rock Hall Half Marathon Race Report

I've been delayed in writing this post about the inaugural Rock Hall Half Marathon held downtown at the Rock Hall August 23. The event itself was done very well. Packet picket the day before was ideal because it made race morning a little smoother. It was very easy to park for the expo as well. The race shirt was a high quality Nike women's fit tee, which is nice. Also, the medal was awesome! Race day logistics went smooth, Greater Cleveland XC did a nice job with the timing and there was plenty of food afterwards.

Pre race at the start line
Race morning went pretty smooth as well. Steve was racing too so we left our house around 6am to get downtown by 6:45 and give ourselves plenty of time to warm up. We found street parking not too far from the start. We jogged about a mile to warm up and found some indoor restrooms to use before lining up at the start line in front of the Rock Hall. It was nice to see some of our friends before the race and chat. The race started at 7:30am and it was a fast start. I tried to hold back the pace not going out any faster than a 7:25-7:30 mile.

To be honest I didn't really rest for this race because I just didn't have the time in my schedule with a few other key races coming up. I had biked more than 100 miles and had about 30 miles of running and a couple of swims in at the start line so I wasn't sure how it would go. I hoped I would run about my average 1:40 time given my strength this season if nothing else. I also did no real race specific training for the half. I had raced some 5Ks and 5 milers this summer as speedwork for my marathon but never did any speed over 5-6 miles outside of marathon pace.

Fighting through the pain cave
This lack of focused training was evident as I hit the halfway mark and started to labor more than I anticipated. The weather was also warming up and this probably contributed to my feelings of malaise as well.  I had a second burst around miles 7-10 running through the MLK area, which was nice and shaded and had some rolling hills. That was my favorite part of the race. I felt good and I thought I might have a chance to PR but that quickly evaporated as we hit Marginal. The last 5K of this course wiped me out. I watched my average pace drop from 7:30s to 8:15s. I also got passed by four or five women in the last 5K and that was deflating. Normally I have more of a fight in me but this day I did not. I just let them pass and prayed that it would be over soon.

I finished in 1:41:49 about two minutes under my goal of 1:39-1:40. After the race I got in a cooldown mile with Steve and then another 3 marathon pace miles solo to round out the day and my last long training run for Erie with 18 miles. Although it didn't go as well as I wanted I didn't blow up. It ended up being a great training run for Erie I think and I was 4/80 in my age group so maybe next time I will crack the top 3. I do have a competitive age group so I guess I will have to do my homework and put in some longer speed sessions and rest up a little bit more to place in this one!

Steve had a great race and placed 1st in his AG! And his legs were just as tired from many bike miles and some run miles. I am glad that he did well and we were able to celebrate a successful race for him. After the awards we headed to Winking Lizard for food and a post race hoppy beer. Then we headed home for some pool time.

Thanks to Powerbar for fueling me through countless workouts this summer. Thanks to Second Sole Mentor for putting on this great event, to Greater Cleveland XC for timing the event and to all of the volunteers who worked the event. Definitely add this one to your list of half marathons to run!

This was my last race until the Erie Marathon on September 13! I am trying once more this year for the BQ. I need to take off 3-4 minutes from my time in Charlevoix and I am there. I am feeling good and just hoping for good conditions that day. Stay tuned for the race report!

Here's a shot of the hard earned finishers medal below!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Miller Marut 5K Race Report & Training Update for Erie Marathon & Beach 2 Battleship 140.6

This past Saturday was my birthday and I could think of no better to celebrate it then with a race! It was five years ago on my birthday when my husband Steve and I had our first date at the Perfect 10 Miler race. In addition to my birthday, running the Miller Marut 5K this past weekend in Concord Township (where we live) was kindof a celebration of our fifth year as a couple as well!

The race started a little later at 8:30 am and was close to home so we were able to sleep in until 6:30, which was nice! We left the house around 7:30 to get to packet pickup and get in a little warm up beforehand. We ran about 2 miles at an easy pace and I was already dripping with sweat as it was a warm and humid August morning. I opted to leave my singlet in the car and race in my sportsbra, which proved to be a good decision. The first half of the course is downhill so there was a fast start. My first mile was at a 6:35 pace and it felt pretty good but as we hit the turn around it was all uphill from there! I was very close at that time to Savannah Dennison who was in second place but she took off as I faded. The last mile was hard physically and mentally tough for me and I lost a lot more ground than I should have but I do not do as well in the heat as some. I was able to hang onto third place female with my time of 21:47 but I really think I should have been a little faster. With the tired legs and heat I will take it. The real purpose of these short races for me is to force myself to get in the speed work for the upcoming Erie Marathon!

post race with my love!
After the race Steve and I got in another two miles of easy running and then headed over to the awards. Steve ended up placing 4th male and 1st in his AG so he had a pretty good race too. After the race we treated ourselves to  Starbucks non-fat, unsweetened Green Tea Lattes! Then I headed home to ride my bike for an hour and fifteen minutes followed up with a short 500 meter swim. I wanted to make sure that I got in all three sports on my special day! The rest of the day was filled with family.

Sunday I did my long ride for the week. I had planned on a century but it was so hot that I only ended up doing 85 in the 5 hours I was out. Steve did the first 50 with me and then I did the 35 on my own. This wrapped up a big week of marathon and ironman training with 50 miles of running, 150 miles of biking and some swimming although not as much as I would have liked! My long run of 18 miles on Wednesday evening went great as I was able to average an 8:40 pace even with the last 4 miles being mostly on trail. All in all it was a solid week and I am happy with where I am.

This week I am focusing more on the swim. I have done three 2500 meter swims including a double on Monday (one in the pool and one in the open water at Mentor Headlands Beach). I will also get in about 45 miles of running including racing at the inaugural Rock Hall Half Marathon this Sunday in Cleveland and 130 miles of biking. So it's a little easier of a week than last with the exception of the race.

Next week I begin to taper the run down a little more to 39 miles but have close to 200 miles of biking on the schedule including another long one. This will be my biggest bike week for a while since Erie will be two weeks out from Sunday! I will also get in a couple of 3000+ meter swims and some bikram yoga.

The following week will be lighter on the running and biking with a couple good, long swims and then the week after that I will be on a very light marathon taper with only one swim and no biking. The idea of not biking for that long is not making me happy but it is necessary so that I will have fresh legs for Erie. I know that the next 24 days are going to go very quickly! Then it is time to recover and do one more short build for the Deer Creek 70.3 Tri and Beach 2 Battleship 140.6 tri!

Stay tuned for the Rock Hall race report! My plan is to race it as hard as I can assuming I feel okay otherwise I will run it as a marathon tempo run for Erie. Gotta keep my eyes on the prize for that BQ!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

My First Multisport Win at the Greater Cleveland Triathlon

Sunday I raced the Greater Cleveland Olympic Triathlon at Mentor Headlands. This race is literally in my backyard and the race director Mickey is a friend so it makes sense to race it. After another hard week of marathon/ironman training last week I was not sure how things would turn out. I just knew that I would give it my best effort. I had been practicing OWS swims at Headlands for a few weeks as well as riding the bike course so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect Sunday.

Steve was racing too so we got up around 5:30, which is late for a triathlon but with it being so close we could sleep in. After getting dressed in my new SL3 Triathlon kit we ate a couple bowls of cereal, loaded up the car and we were off to Headlands Beach. I was in an especially chipper mood singing along to some tunes on the radio and about 10 minutes later we were parking. After entering the transition area we learned that the swim was cancelled due to poor water quality and potentially unsafe waves. I was disappointed like many other triathletes because I was ready to tackle that swim and besides who wants to sprint a 5K before the bike and then again after the bike?! Ouch! Duathlon hurts. I give them a lot of credit for killing their legs like that!

I was able to rack with Steve and some of our friends and we knew lots of people racing so it was fun to catch up with everyone before and after the race. After setting up transition with just my bike stuff it was time for the prerace meeting and then my wave was first to start run #1.We would be doing a 5K run, 24 mile bike and a second 5K run for the olympic distance.

Run # 1 - 5K - 20:58 - (6:46 pace)

I lined up near the front with the guys and did not really know many people in my wave so I just tried to stay loose and go hard but not all out for the first 5K. I was first woman into T1 with a time of 20:58 (6:46 pace) although I think the course was a little short. I saw my husband in transition as I was leaving he was coming in but it was nice to be able to say hi.

Bike - 24 Miles - 1:12:31 (19.9mph)

on the bike!
Leaving the park I just tried to hammer the first part of the bike on 44 knowing the first 3-5 miles were pretty flat. I felt good. There are a couple of climbs on Heisley but other than that it's pretty flat and fast. Jackson was just bumpy and then Hopkins has a long gradual climb before crossing over to Chillicothe. Chillicothe is fast and there's a downhill with a very sharp left turn at the bottom so I had to slow down there taking the turn onto Baldwin Rd. Baldwin is pretty fast and scenic. From there we went left onto Hart Rd which has a nice climb coming up to Little Mountain. It flattens out for a minute and then there is a long, crushing climb up Little Mountain to Morley. I made sure to take in some nutrition here and really took advantage of the downhill on Morley Rd. Much of Morley is downhill and then there are a couple of rollers at the end as you cross over 44 to Newell Rd. The course then is very flat but bumpy and has some bad train tracks. From there we took Blackbrook up to 44. This was all very flat and windy. I started laboring a little but knew the bike was almost done. Another female Pam Semanik who was racing in the duathlon division passed me on 44. She is a great cyclist so I just made myself stay close to her. We came into transition at the same time but I knew she had started a few minutes after me.

Run #2 - 5K - 22:28 (7:15 pace)

Pam and I started the run together and she looked strong. I was not able to pass her until the very end. Even then it didn't matter since we were in different races. I was just happy to have someone pushing me for those last miles.

Finish & Post Race 

winner winner chicken dinner!
I ended up finishing in 1:58:01, good for the win in the "triathlon" olympic division. The next closest female was 2:08:39 so even with my swim not being my strongest I still would have had the win most likely. After 5 years in multisport it was nice to add a win to my list of accomplishments. I can see that the hard work I have put in this year and last have paid off.

Steve ended up coming in 8th male and 3rd in his age group with some tough competition from Nate Loman and Mark Durno. After the race awards we headed over to Winking Lizard Mentor for post race food and beverages. It was a fun day and I definitely pushed myself. I am looking forward to racing more short tris next season but this was my last one now until Beach 2 Battleship 140.6, which will be a long one. I do have another 5K, The Rock Hall half marathon and then the Erie Marathon before that so I will be focused on running and long rides and swims for the rest of the season.

Closing Thoughts

Special thanks to Powerbar for fueling countless workouts and races this season and to Cleveland Triathlon Club for some terrific training opportunities this season including the inaugural Emeraldman! I am lucky to be part of such a terrific local tri community!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Mayfield Wildcat 5K Race Report & Training Update

Last weekend's Mayfield Wildcat 5K was a painful sort of way! I have not done many 5K races in the last few years. The only one I did last season was the Lakeland Clocktower run, which was a 5K PR for me at 21:17. That one was about a month after my first 140.6 triathlon.

I was hoping to break 21 for this weekend's race but it was a little harder than I anticipated. Of course the pace of the first mile in a 5K is FAST. I resisted the urge to push so hard I would pay for it later in the race. So I went out around a 6:30-6:40 pace. That didn't feel so bad. At the halfway point we turned around in a cul-de-sac within the neighborhood we were running in (close to Highland Heights Community Park). I saw three women in front of me and wasn't sure if I would have enough to overtake anyone. I stayed on my goal pace and tried to just focus on that. A tad short of mile two, the woman in third stopped and I passed her. It was definitely hot and I was laboring a bit myself but with a short race like this there is no time to stop and walk. I quickly chugged a water and poured some on my head as I hit the gas.

Post race with our plaques
The last mile was hot and slightly up hill and it was my slowest mile coming in over 7. I tried to hold steady and think of how close the finish was. And there it was...a grassy finish too, which I love! So I pushed on through feeling like I was going to puke. Mission accomplished I guess. 5K races hurt but they are over fast! My time of 21:35 was not the PR I had hoped for but not too shabby as I managed a 6:56 average and placed third female. The prizes for a smaller local race were very generous too as I received a $30 gift certificate to Achilles Running Shop in Mentor and a plaque. They also gave AG awards out. Steve placed 3rd in the 40-49AG and our friend Brandon won his AG in the 25-29 group so it was a good race for all three of us.

There was plenty of food afterwards and lots of door prizes and we ran into some running friends, who also did well in the race.Afterwards Steve and I headed over to Headlands Beach in Mentor for a 40-minute open water swim. On such a hot day, it was the perfect day to be out there swimming. The following day we did an 80 mile bike ride out to Ashtabula Harbor and back. We managed to squeeze in some pool time and a beer tasting over the weekend to after a successful week of training.

We also got in a trail run Tuesday night, which was a nice change of pace. The rest of the week my training went well including my 16 mile solo run on Wednesday night so I am happy with my training for the week and my speedwork at the 5K race. Next up this weekend is the Greater Cleveland Olympic Triathlon at Headlands Beach. We got in another 45 minute practice swim out there last night and rode some of the bike course this morning so I am looking forward to the race Sunday. Hopefully my legs will treat me well since I do have an awful lot of training to get in this week!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sunrise 5 Miler Race Report

My plan to race shorter things as much as possible this summer as my speedwork leading up to the Erie Marathon is well underway. With the Johnnycake Jog two weekends back and the Painesville Sunrise 5 Miler this past weekend, I have been out of my comfort zone. This is good since I have focused on endurance all season. I am hoping these shorter, harder efforts combined with my long runs and solid base will net me those precious few minutes I need to line up in Boston next year!

The Sunrise race started in downtown Painesville at Veterans Park so this was a short, easy drive for us. We arrived around 7 to pick up our bibs and get in a quick warm up. It was already close to 80 degrees that early in the morning so I knew this would be a sufferfest! After a mile warm up Steve and I lined up. It was a smaller race but some fast runners from NERC were out there to make it competitive.

My first mile was about 7:15 so a little slower than my Johnnycake race but I knew this course was going to have some hills and with the heat and tired cycling legs I didn't expect to set a PR. I settled in to a good, challenging pace and kept moving forward. There were some good hills and the course was scenic. The last mile of the race winds you through a little park down in the valley so coming back to the finish you've got to climb out of the park and then up the street a good ways. With the heat and being late in the race this made me feel fatigued so I was very happy to see Steve screaming for me at the finish.

Greater Cleveland XC did the race timing so I was able to check my live results right away and see that I had placed 3rd female. My time was about 2-1/2 minutes slower than the Johnnycake at 38:13 versus the 35:56 but this was a more challenging course and it was hot and humid. Overall I am happy with the effort especially after doing a faster 50-mile bike ride the day before! Steve placed in his AG and 10th overall as there were some very fast guys out there running. He too was about 2 or so minutes slower than the Johnnycake.

Post race, happy with my 3rd place!
For coming in third I will get a small gift certificate in the mail for Second Sole Mentor, so that is good because I always need new stuff like socks. Next up is the Mayfield Wildcat 5K this weekend. This will be my first 5K since last October when I ran the Lakeland Clocktower run in 21:17. I would like to break 21 if I can but since this is speedwork moreso than racing I will be happy with anything between 21-22ish.