Friday, April 26, 2013

On My Own Two Feet Half Marathon Race Report

Running a half marathon in April in Northeast Ohio is challenging. I can recall last year running Dover the weekend before the Boston Marathon. It was 83 degrees at the start of Dover, which turned out to be a bad race experience for me last season. Saturday when I got up to get ready to run the On My Own Two Feet Half Marathon, I realized it had snowed some the night before. It was cold (30s, windy and grey with a 30% chance of snow). Needless to say not the best weather conditions you'd hope for on April 20th. Steve and I got ready and headed out around 7:15 since we had to drive from Concord to Kent - about an hour drive. The race would start at 9am.

I felt pretty good before the race...not too nervous just a little cold as was to be expected given the temperature and wind. Steve and I ran an easy mile to warm up, took in our prerace fuel courtesy of PowerBar and lined up.  The race director Melissa said some words about the race day dedications. Close to my heart were the words about the Boston Marathon bombings. They had given out blue and yellow ribbons to wear in honor of Boston. As you can imagine it was an emotional thing to race the weekend following Boston. As she spoke of Boston she asked us to dig deep within ourselves and honor the Boston victims and our freedom.

We lined up and the start was fast from just next to Beckwith's Orchard. We started on the Portage Bike/Hike for maybe a mile or so and headed into Towner's Woods. At this time I was the second female behind the woman who won the full marathon. The trails were fun and challenging. Although I have not done much trail running for the last several weeks I was grateful to have had a good base of trail running in the fall and winter. I was quickly reminded of how dangerous trail running can be especially with the ground being wet. Within the first couple miles of trail I had twisted my left ankle and then my right - fortunately my balance was good and I was able to hold steady and move on. I fatigued a little coming into the grassy trail section and I knew I had to slow my pace a little.
Running through the trails during the race

Around mile 4 the woman who placed first in the half marathon passed me as we headed back out toward the bike/hike trail. She looked solid and I was not interested in trying to catch her at that point in the race. I threw off my jacket and gloves and handed them to a race volunteer as I was warm at that point. In retrospect this was not good as maybe a mile later it began to literally snow/sleet sideways - almost to the point where it was difficult to see where I was going. And being that this is a smaller race, I was alone for a lot of this section until maybe mile 7 when the woman who won second in the half marathon passed me. The course was confusing here as you had to get off the bike/hike trail, run down next to the railroad tracks then up Crain Ave and onto the trail by River's Edge park off 43.

Running through River's Edge was both beautiful and dangerous given the conditions. Much of this course was on a paved path, wooden decking including many sets of steps and some wooden bridges winding through the park along the water. Much of which was snow covered and slippery so it was a little slow going  for a mile or two to maintain solid footing. I grew very excited around mile 8 or so seeing Steve and being able to high-five him. He was in 2nd place for the men and looked great! The turn around point was around mile 9 where I took in a gel and hit the gas. I could see the woman in second (at the time I thought she was third as I didn't know the first woman was doing the full). The point is I really wanted to at least try to place third so I went for it.

After the turn-around as I passed the runners behind me I felt a real sense of oneness with everyone. I made sure to wave, thumbs up, scream for, throw up my arms or make some sort of friendly gesture to let them know they were all my fellow runners and therefore friends. It was a real pick-me-up to see them return those gestures and shout back and cheer. This helped get me through some of the tough last miles of the race.

The last mile was especially tough for me back on the bike/hike because you could actually see people at the finish for a good distance and the finish line seemed to be close yet far away. I thought of the Boston runners and Melissa's words about digging deep for Boston and for freedom and all runners everywhere and I did my best to honor those words and in fact dig deep. I tried to kick at the end. I grew excited to see Steve at the finish waiting and cheering for me. I crossed my hands over my heart for Boston as I crossed the finish in 1:50:24. Not a fast time for me for a regular half marathon but this was not a regular road half marathon! Steve and  fellow athlete and Friend Elizabeth who had been volunteering informed me that I had placed 3rd overall female! Holy Crap I was excited. I thought I was 4th but as it turns out the speedy first woman was running the full! Bonus! Steve had also placed 3rd overall male running a 1:36 and change! Second Sole was kind enough to have provided gift certificates to the top 3 finishers male and female so that was an extra bonus too!
Post race celebrating 

After the race Steve and I were both starving. They had a nice spread of goodies and generous folks on site to give complimentary massages! That was much needed! We headed to Starbucks so I could change out of my sweaty race clothes, hit the Second Sole to use our gift certificates and headed to Ray's Place for a hard-earned tall IPA and some yummy food - including those killer fries! It was a great day and a great race despite the weather. We will definitely run this race again!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Run Free - My Thoughts on Boston and Our Running Community

I am a runner. Pure and simple. This simple but powerful statement connects me to millions of others in the world who also run or were at some point in their lives a runner. It doesn't matter how you started running, how fast you can run the mile or the marathon. Those are just stats. What matters is your character. This is one of the best things about being a runner - the community!

Steve and I after running a memorial mile for Boston 
Last night at 9pm my husband and I gathered at the Mentor High School track along with a group of runners to honor the three victims who were killed and all those who were injured at this week's Boston Marathon. Candles were passed around to the hundred or two hundred runners who gathered and a prayer was said. Maybe the most powerful words said last night during that prayer were that "we are all runners and runners are family". In no other sport is there such a communal feeling. In spite of this week's tragedy at Boston, we are pulled closer together to support one another and this community. We know that we must stand together and not let an act of terror keep us from doing what we have always done. We run. Not only for ourselves but for those who have fallen. Not only for ourselves but for our running community and our freedom. Noone can take that away from us. Run free!

Run your miles this week for Boston. It doesn't matter how many miles or how fast or slow. Your heart's intention is all that really matters.

In yoga we have a saying that feels appropriate to end this post. At the end of every yoga class a simple word is spoken from the teacher and then repeated by the class. The word is namaste. The meaning is as follows "I honor the place in you in which the entire universe dwells. I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light, and of peace. When you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, we are one."

This week our running community is united even more than ever. Namaste my running friends. We are one.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Learn to Love the Burn - Let Your Long Runs Teach You Lessons

Yesterday was long run day. If you're like me then you might look upon these days with both excitement and dread. Excitement because you know that you are going to get in your best workout of the week and torch many a calorie. Dread because you know that after a certain period of time you may be in what endurance athletes refer to as the "pain cave". That place where you would like nothing more than your GPS watch to read the goal time or mileage you want it to read versus what it actually reads.

Yesterday was one of those pain cave kind of runs for me. Thank god my husband/training partner was along for the ride! We didn't officially map our run route but we knew we were going for 3 hours and would need to be able to access restrooms, water and fuel for the run. We decided to park at Veteran's Park in Mentor and start there on their little wooded trail heading over to the Mentor Lagoons trails by Lake Erie. The trails were wonderful except for the island of dead fish, which was on our route too. Yuck!

We parked around 11:45 and got going around noon. We had eaten breakfast around 9 and then Steve had a Powerbar and I had a small apple and some coffee and water just before we started. My iPod shuffle nearly died as I used the restroom and forgot I had clipped it to my fuelbelt and it fell in the toilet! OMG! I thought you have got to be kidding me...I do not want to run for 3 hours sans music in a training run. I hurried and grabbed it out of the toilet (and yes in case you wondered it fell in before I peed!) and wrapped it in toilet paper. I am not sure how - but I was able to save it. Whew! So following that little fiasco we were off and running literally.

The first loop we did included some wooded trail by the park, a short amount of road over to the Mentor Marsh, a couple of miles by Lake Erie and some more wooded trail around the lake and then the same route back. We made it to the car to fuel up around 7 miles - just over an hour. At the time we both felt pretty good as the temperature was in the 60s (albeit very windy) and we were nice and warmed up. We fueled up and headed back out, this time on the bike trail on the Mentor roads from the park up to Lakeshore heading towards 306. Running on Lakeshore was not fun. Traffic was heavy and we just were not feeling it and were both hungry since we really didn't have a lunch before the run.

Around mile 11 we headed back and stopped at Dunkin Donuts to get a snack. We split a Diet Coke, Water and half of a multigrain bagel with peanut butter. While this all tasted wonderful it was maybe not the best idea to have that much in the belly. I spent the next 2-3 miles running with a sick feeling. Yuck! Good thing this was just a training run. I walked it off a little and we ran up the roads back to the park where we took in our last fuel and headed out around mile 14. We were aiming to get in 18. Despite our desire to just be done with the run, we headed back down to the lake and back to the park, wrapping up right around 3 hours. I tried to remind myself to love the burn. Not everyone is lucky enough or motivated enough to be an endurance athlete. We walked it off for a couple minutes and immediately split a Powerbar and some pretzels and water. After getting home we made a Raw smoothie with banana and some Udi's oil. Yum! It took me about an hour to feel totally revived.

You can learn a lot during these long training runs. Some things that I learned or was reminded of on this long run were as follows:

  • Running 18 miles with someone you love is much better than running it alone! Having Steve there is definitely a bonus for me.
  • Make sure you eat enough before your run or else you will suffer later. If you try to jam in the food during the run you will likely feel sick.
  • Be careful with your Ipod while you are using the restroom. I was lucky mine did not die but it easily could have! 
  • Just because your long run goes smooth the week before does not mean it will go smooth this time.
  • Even if you want to stop you can keep going. It is more mental than anything else. How else can people run these crazy long ultras?
  • I am lucky to be physically and mentally able to do endurance sports. Even if I will never be fast at the marathon I can get stronger, faster and go further! 
  • There is freedom and beauty and peace in running long even if you are in the pain cave. Seeing Lake Erie and smelling the fresh spring air and seeing the people out enjoying life was good.
  • The smell of citrus is wonderful when you are near two long-running, stinky runners or an island of dead fish.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Cautiously Ramping up the Training - So Far So Good!

For those of you you who know me or have followed my blog for a year or two it will come as no surprise to you that the spring season worries me. I have had serious injuries the last two spring seasons that caused me to cut back on my training (especially the run). I am doing my best to avoid that this season!

I have made a number of changes over the last year to help keep me healthy and able to ramp up nicely into racing season. For starters, I changed my running shoes. While I still tend to run in a lighter, neutral style I do not run in the minimal shoes anymore. I think they work great for some runners but not for me. I need a little something more for training...especially for my longer runs. The second big change I have made is in my strength training and core work. I spent a good deal of the off season working on my strength and core - generally at least two to three workouts weekly. Now that triathlon season is approaching I cannot dedicate as many workouts to core but do plan to maintain one or two workouts weekly (most likely yoga and a short strength session focused on sport-specific fitness). Another thing I have improved upon this year is recovery. After a hard session I am doing my best to replenish with ample carbs and some protein within 10-15 minutes of activity. This really seems to help. Finally I am just listening to my body more and staying flexible. If I have a couple days of calf pain I back off the run.

So far my training is going well. This week I was able to swim a good amount at CSU, ran some solid mileage including just under 16 yesterday and got a few bike rides in - including a hilly ride Saturday. I am ramping up nicely and pain free for Rev3 Knoxville and the Cleveland full marathon next month and Rev3 Williamsburg 70.3 half in June. Depending on how that goes I will make some decisions about fall.

I am looking forward to the weather warming up again for the weekend so I can get in some solid mileage and my old coach and bike mechanic Sean will be heading out Saturday to get the bikes tuned up and ready for racing action! Exciting stuff!