Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Drop it Like it's Hot - the Lake Health 20 Mile Drop Race Report

Sunday I was able to run and experience the inaugural Lake Health 20 Mile Drop race. My expectations heading into the race weren't super high. My coach and I had talked the week before about this being an easier training run for Cleveland but I expressed my disappointment in just running it easy. After some discussion we decided that I'd run the first 10 easier and then race the back 10 if I was feeling good.


Prerace at home 
The race started in downtown Chardon (close to our house in Concord Township) and ended at Mentor Headlands Beach. It is so nice having a race in your backyard because you can sleep in and leave later for the start. Because it was a point to point, we had dropped one of our cars off at Mentor Headlands Saturday night then headed home for some carbo loading including pizza and beer. We set the alarm for 5:45 and were up getting ready by 6. After breakfast we headed out for the short drive to downtown Chardon. We got there around 6:45 and found a great parking spot. The buses from Mentor Headlands were just starting to arrive and we were able to get in a warm up, use the bathroom and hang out with some friends before the race. The weather for the start at 7:20 was around 60 degrees.

The start & first few miles:

Prerace with my friend Amy
We lined up for the start. Steve was out front and I was back a little with my friend Amy. As we took off I reminded myself that I was supposed to go easy, which any runner knows is not an easy thing to do at the start of a race. But this was 20 miles so sprinting too fast the first few could make for a long, painful race. So I held back and watched as people moved ahead. I reminded myself that this was my race and not to get caught up in anyone else's race. The first few miles through Chardon I felt great and I held back more than I wanted to. Around mile 3 as we started one of the climbs in the race (yes there were climbs!) I couldn't hold myself back anymore. I felt great and I enjoy running hills so I went for it. I didn't sprint I just figured I would run by feel, which was around a 7:30-7:45 pace. I had passed all of the girls I could see and then finally caught up to another girl around mile 4 who looked strong and was able to pass her.

Miles 3-13:

I felt wonderful running on the Maple Highlands trail and up through The Hunt Club but that area was a rough section for me where I had to dig in mentally. It was getting hotter and I knew I had another 11-12 miles to go. As we crossed over to the Greenway Bike Trail, which is one of my normal running spots I felt a sense of relief. I knew the next three miles were almost all downhill. I had stayed pretty steady for these miles and as I hit the 13.1 mark I was repassed by the girl I had passed around mile 4. My half time read 1:41 so that was pretty consistent with my half marathon pace, which was both a good thing and bad thing. With my half marathon PR being a 1:39 I figured I was going to pay later in the race for the speed.

Miles 13-20:

The last seven miles were hard. Coming off the trail and crossing onto the uphill section on Rt 84 W headed towards Mentor was tough. A few people around me were walking but I told myself to hold steady and just keep moving. It was hotter and windy and I was relieved to turn right and head towards Painesville. Crossing over Mentor Avenue at mile 16 was also a hard section. My right foot had badly blistered along with one of my toes on the left foot so I was trying to keep my mind off the pain and tell myself that four miles was not a lot of running. You're almost there I thought. Around mile 17 my quads cramped up pretty bad and I stopped to stretch and walk for a few seconds. Again I was around a few guys walking and I shook it off and forced myself to get going. At this point I wanted to finish strong.

one of my worst blisters ever!
Towards the end miles 18-19 had some hilly sections that were no easy feat. I felt myself slowing to a 9 minute pace and as I hit the top of the hill headed onto the street that leads to Headlands I saw a woman back maybe 400m behind me. Kick it into gear I told myself. I was not prepared to lose any ground this late in the race. I only had a mile to go. That last mile my split was 7:57 although with the pain of my blistered feet and the heat and exhaustion it felt like I was running a 12-minute mile.

The Finish:

Turning right to enter Mentor Headlands I was focused on the finish. Stay strong, hold steady, get it done. I saw the finish and it made me motivated to run as fast as I could. I saw Steve running towards the finish to watch and cheer and I was FINALLY done in 2:42:26. It had been a hard but good run. My average pace of 8:08 says there's a chance I can qualify for Boston next month when I run the Cleveland Marathon! When I talked to coach Pete he agreed that we would try for the BQ on May 18. Hopefully this race along with the Fools 25K Trail race a couple weeks ago have made me strong and ready to perform my best that day.

Post Race:

Post race with Steve
After the race Steve and I had a recovery drink and then celebratory beers. We both had good races. I had finished 6th female and 1st in the 35-39AG and Steve finished 11th overall and 1st in the 45-49AG with a time of 2:23. We hung out with friends including my beastly friend Kristy who won the women's race in 2:13!

Thoughts on the Race:

Lake Health gave out nice medals, finisher awards and had good snacks and beverages available post race. It was a nice course and I think they did a great job. They also have a 10 mile version of the race as well. I would definitely do this race again.

What's Next:

It's two days later and I'm still sore. Especially my quads. Coach says it's from all the downhill running. We lost 700 feet (thus the drop) but we also gained about 500-600 feet. Yesterday I took the day off and had a massage. Tonight I will do an easy spin on the bike and hopefully flush the rest of the lactic acid from these legs. Hoping for a recovery run tomorrow and by the weekend I have a 50 mile bike and 11 mile run (some at MP) on the schedule. The main goal for the next month is staying healthy!

The next race will be a road 15K on May 3 in Peninsula. That's two weeks prior to Cleveland so I am anxious and excited to see how that goes and then of course the Cleveland Marathon will be on May 18 and again I hope to break 3:40 and qualify for Boston (fingers crossed). And then multisport season kicks off in June with the Twinsburg Duathlon and Rev3 Williamsburg 70.3! After Williamsburg it's the build for the Rev3 140.6 at Cedar Point. This is certainly shaping up to be an exciting and challenging season!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Not a Tough Mudder...but a Tough, Muddy Race at the Fools 25K/50K Trail Race

When people hear that I'm an endurance athlete they usually ask me certain questions like have you ever done Ironman Hawaii. To which I must sadly reply "no" or "not yet". A lot of people also ask if I've done a Tough Mudder race. In all actuality I have not done a Tough Mudder or any of the related mud races. With so many options out there for racing I just don't have the ability to do everything I see or hear about. Ironically the Fools 25K race, which was my longest trail race to date was in some ways a Tough Mudder because it was tough and muddy for much of the race!


Prerace shot with the hubby!
Word had it that the trails in Peninsula were gonna be muddy. But then it snowed Saturday and I don't just mean a little bit! We got at least 4-6 inches throughout the Northeast. That would make for an interesting variety of conditions on the trails of the valley! The 25K'ers were to start at 9am - an hour after the 50K runners. Steve and I got up and ate a high-carb breakfast and headed out around 7 to arrive a little before 8. We were able to catch the start of the 50K race as we picked up our bibs and goodies. It was a chilly morning at 29 degrees and the field where we would start was covered in a blanket of fresh white snow. We got in a little warm up, used the bathroom and lined up for the 9am start.

The Start & First Couple:

The start was a slippery and snowy wet mess in the fields heading toward the trails of Pine Hollow. The terrain quickly shifted into a mixture of snow and mud. Lots and lots of mud. I tried to keep my feet dry as long as I could but it was a useless battle. By mile 2 my feet were soaked and would remain that way for pretty much the entire race.

The next 6 or so Miles:

Running through the ledges!
The trails were muddy but the scenery was beautiful - especially running through the ledges of Virginia Kendall. They were snow covered and slippery but breathetaking and actually they were my favorite part of the run. At least the first time we ran through them. You can see on the picture here that I was smiling and enjoying this portion of the race. A truly magical part of the trail!

The Back Half:

This was my longest trail race and trail run ever with my longest trail run before this being 13. I definitely struggled with the last 3-4 miles that went through Salt Run, which is a hard section of the race with lots of hills! I just tried to pace myself and walk some of the hills. I wasn't expecting to hit the podium at this race - just wanted to push myself and enjoy the experience and use it as a great training run for Cleveland.

The Finish:

Coming out of the woods and up the hill to the finish line at Pine Hollow, I was elated. Elated to be done but also elated for pushing myself through a tough day and a tough race! My first 25K trail race wasn't pretty but it was done! I finished slower than I expected at 3:02 but with the walking the last few miles it just slowed down my average pace. I was 10th female and 2nd in the 35-39AG so I still did okay all things considered.

Steve had a great race and finished in 2:23 and won second place overall so it was great to see him do so well!

Final Thoughts:

I definitely love trail running and much prefer it to grinding it out on the roads. I think it makes you a tougher runner for sure and you can learn to appreciate the raw beauty of nature no matter what the conditions are. Western Reserve Racing does an excellent job with their events and I highly recommend their races!

Next up is the Lake Health 20 Mile Drop, which is a road race that has an elevation loss of almost 800 feet. Looking forward to seeing how I do going downhill versus so much uphill!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Building the Spring Running & Triathlon Endurance Machine

After a good week of endurance training I am feeling pretty good about where I am for the end of February! I am building the endurance machine as I did last season. Despite a rougher week last week with a cold/flu bug I was able to rest a few days and quickly get back up and running. Sometimes getting sick can be a little blessing in disguise as it allows for extra rest days that I would never actually take off if it were up to me. Our bodies tend to let us know when a rest is needed. So I listened and bounced back to a great training week including a terrific weekend.

Saturday the weather was perfect to run an easy 13.1 with Steve. Yesterday we killed our 3200m swim and it was a hard set too! Following the workouts we recovered well and I am ready to attack the week! I have a very hard training block leading up to our vacation next Wednesday.

Since I need to get in a quality long run again this weekend I am considering running the Youngstown Millcreek Distance Classic Half Marathon. It has 17+ hills and is known to be a tough course. I think this is a good opportunity to get in a hard, hilly training run prior to vacation. Right now the weather shows 26 and no snow so this could be a good one. Additionally I have a number of other tough workouts scheduled for the week including Masters Swim tomorrow, and doubles & triples for the rest of the week including a good bit of core work again this week as we get ready to head to the beach!

Once on vacation I will have no scheduled workouts although plan to do a good bit of running on and near the beach with Steve. It will be nice to get up and run and then relax in the sun all day! Coming home is always tough and I have a hard week before heading out to see my Rev3 Triathlon family at the 2014 Team Summit in Virginia. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone and plan to get in some group runs there too.

The following 2 weeks it's back to hard, focused training with a lot of running as we ramp up to the Fools 25K on March 30 followed up quickly by the 20 Mile Drop and Cleveland Marathon. That wraps up the spring running season as we head into Multisport and prepare for Rev3 Williamsburg 70.3 and build all summer to Rev3 Cedar Point 140.6!

I am so excited about this season and  my #1 priority is to stay healthy so I can accomplish my goals and to have some fun along the way!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

2014 Dirty Love Trail 10K Race Report

I'm happy to report that the first race of 2014 is in the books! Despite a tough day physically and mentally I am happy with how it went. Anyone who runs or has ever tried to run knows it can be hard at times. This race was one of those times for myself and probably every other person who ran that day.

I had questioned whether I would even toe the line for the Dirty Love on Sunday. With lingering IT band issues that had improved within the week or two before I didn't want to overdo it. I made the decision to give it a go and just try to have fun with the race versus trying to get on the podium.

It was somewhere between 15-20 degrees at the start and snowing a bit. We had gotten fresh snow all week and the trails at North Chagrin Reservation were already covered. Needless to say this made for an interesting and slow race.

Staying warm prerace with the hubby!
Steve and I tried to stay warm in the car and the heated shelter for a little while and then we did a mile warm up on the bridle trails about 30 minutes before the start and my Garmin indicated a 12-minute mile. Really I thought. This is going to be a tough one!

At 9:25 a couple hundred brave runners lined up in a field ready to take off...in a foot of snow. To describe it in words doesn't do it justice. You MUST see this start and luckily there's a video here.

After maybe 200-400 meters through the field of deep snow my heart rate was definitely sky high and from there we got on the trail to start the long journey through the snowy woods to the finish. The trails were snowy and slippery and mostly single track with some amazing views. There were some hills too including one BIG hill that will make even the strongest runners walk a few steps!

In the pain cave!
For most of the race there was not much passing. I was not even sure where I was place wise but hadn't seen a woman pass me until the last 1/2 mile of the race. That woman who ended up being 3rd overall finished about a minute ahead of me. She looked strong when she passed me and I certainly didn't feel the energy and desire to try to catch her. I thought the finish would never come but when I saw it and heard Steve yelling for me I was a happy girl! I finished 4th of 100 females and 1st in the 35-39AG with a time of 1:09 and change (11:13 pace! to put it in perspective about 3-4 minutes off my normal trail pace). So I am happy with how it went and I'm not in a bad place with my running in February and coming off an injury. I'm hoping things can only get better from here.

Nice race swag!
I was rewarded with some nice swag for my hard work including a sweet pink mug and some gift certificates to Vertical Runner. And then I rewarded myself with a couple hard-earned beers and pizza at Willoughby Brewing with Steve and some friends. Beer and pizza taste even better after running in the woods for 90 minutes.

Next up it's the Fools 25k trail race in late March - another Western Reserve Racing production. This will be my first 25K so I am excited! Now it's time to start logging some mileage! If only the weather in Cleveland would cooperate!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

World Cancer Day - Tri for the Cure!

Today is World Cancer Day. Almost everyone has been affected by cancer in some way. Some of us have lost a loved one or friend. Some have personally fought this terrible disease themselves. Whatever your personal connection to cancer, know that you CAN make a difference in a number of different ways. From making a donation to one of the many reputable organizations out there to fundraising for the cancer charity of your choice to volunteering your time to do things for cancer patients - please find a way to get involved in the fight!

There are a few ways that I plan to help this cause in 2014:

1) I just announced today that I am volunteering as a triathlon coach for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Northern Ohio "Team in Training" chapter. I am super excited to work with these individuals and help them achieve their goal of completing the Greater Cleveland Triathlon. This race is literally in my backyard and I am friends with the race director so I am confident it will be an awesome experience!

2) I am completing my first 140.6 iron-distance triathlon at Rev3 Cedar Point in September and plan to race in honor of my cousin Danielle who lost her life to cancer in May of 2012. Danielle was a true fighter and an inspiration to everyone who came in contact with her. I will complete this race and raise money for cancer for her. As a member of Team Rev3 and a past member of Team Fight I will again raise money for Team Fight, the team that supports The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults.

3) I will support and love anyone I know that is suffering with this disease as well as people I have yet to meet. Being compassionate is important. This can happen to any of us!

This is a battle that is personal. We must all get involved. Please do something this year to help with the fight - whether monetary, volunteering your time or even just increasing awareness of the disease. Every little thing really does make a difference!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Glad to see you go, go, go, go, goodbye...January - Update on the Training

What a month. Blah! I am so happy to see January go! Although it is a time of resolutions and new beginnings for many, for me it was just a bad month. You see I really have a strong dislike of winter to begin with. I have always had Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) to some degree...more like the "winter blues" but this year it has been at an all-time high. Some days it is hard to pull myself out of bed only to go out into the bitter cold (some days as cold as -30 degrees with the windchill) not to mention the feet of snow we have had several times in the Northeast. Really all I want to do is eat and sleep yet I have somehow managed to keep training. Us Clevelanders are tough people. We just keep going.

With the winter training being more difficult than I can recall in many years I have been relegated to running a lot of my mileage this winter on the treadmill. I'm not even a treadmill hater anymore but I am just sick of it and so is my cranky IT band! In fact I've spent the month with hamstring/IT band issues with the left leg. Taping up with KT tape, foam rolling, Normatec, stretching and more stretching. Next week I'm headed in to a sports chiro to see if they can nip this in the butt before the season really starts. 

Frozen after our N. Chagrin yetti trail run!
Next weekend I am scheduled to run the dirty love trail 10K at North Chagrin Reservation. It is a fun race. A group of us did the preview run last weekend and it was extremely cold and snowy and took about twice the amount of time it would in nice weather. So we will see how the week goes and I will decide if I am racing or not. It would sure be nice to get out there but my goals this year are too important to compromise so if I have to sit things out at times this year I am prepared to do so.

And in other news Steve and I booked a short all-inclusive trip to Cozumel, Mexico in early March. I really cannot wait to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and toes in the sand. I am hoping to be running healthy for the trip so we can enjoy some warm runs! Looking forward to the vacation and daylight savings time and spring coming up too! 

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Importance of Using a Training Plan For Your Running or Triathlon Races

Even if you are an experienced athlete it is important to have a solid training plan as you enter the 2014 running or triathlon season. Training plans can be found or developed in a variety of ways:

  • Find an "off-the-shelf" plan that meets your expectations about your goal. This can usually be done by searching online, reading some of the popular running and triathlon magazines or visiting your local library or book shop.
  • Use a plan that you have successfully used in the past if your goals are similar for an upcoming race - you can always tweak the time goals and workouts a little if you're looking to PR.
  • Ask a friend with more experience than you what kind of plan that he or she uses. Sometimes they might be able to suggest a plan source that will work for you.
  • Work with a coach to develop a plan that is more specific to you and your goals. This often goes just beyond training and delves into things like nutrition and emotional support.

Once you have selected or developed your plan it is important to TRY and stick as much to the plan as possible. There will inevitably be days or even weeks where something goes wrong such as sickness, injury or a work project...but it is important to remain committed to your plan and move towards your goal. The following strategies may help you to stay on plan:
  • Schedule your workouts if not scheduled for you by a coach - add them to your daily calendar, post them somewhere where you can quickly access your schedule if need be. 
  • Log your workouts in some fashion. Some people are oldschool about it and keep written training logs while others use tools like Training Peaks, Garmin Connect, Strava, etc to save workout information. If you work with a coach he or she may have a preference for what application you use to record your training. 
  • If you miss a workout don't try to overload yourself on another day. This can lead to fatigue, injury and even burnout from the training workload.
  • If you don't have a coach be sure to have a good support system in place that understands your goals and expectations. Family and friends often make terrific support teams. 
  • It helps to have friends that can serve as training partners but be careful not to adjust your needed workout pace too much on a key workout to accommodate the training friend's pace.
Find your plan, work your plan and make 2014 a great season! And feel free to share any input on plans that have worked for you or someone you know in the comments. It might help someone else to succeed!