Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Green Jewel 50K 2015 Race Report

Saturday I ran my first ultra-distance race at the Green Jewel 50K. I had heard about this race and thought it sounded perfect for my first one since it was mostly on all-purpose trail called "The Emerald Trail" travelling North to South from Rocky River Reservation to Brecksville Reservation. The last part of the race is run on Valley Parkway on the road. The race has both a solo 50K option as well as a 2-person relay option. My husband Steve and I had both decided to run the whole thing as well as our friend Jillian.

With the winter we had it was a wildcard as to how the course conditions would be. Things were not looking promising as race day approached. With lots of snow and record low temperatures throughout January and February this year, much of the course through mile 16-17 was ice-covered, which really slowed things down. Even with the conditions being not ideal to race I enjoyed the race. You just needed to be prepared with proper footwear and slow down a little and it was definitely runnable.


Prerace photo courtesy of George!
My husband Steve and I got up around 5:15 for a hearty breakfast and then we drove to the finish at Oak Grove Pavillion in Brecksville to check in and pick up our bibs. We then boarded one of the comfy coach buses that the race directors provided for the drive to the start of the race in Rocky River. The bus was buzzing with excitement for veterans and first timers alike as we departed for the start around 7:40am. We arrived in Rocky River around 8:10 and stayed on the bus for a little while to stay warm and use the facilities then it was time to walk to the start and drop off our finish and half way point bags for Wallace Lake. We found our friend Jillian and lined up to listen to prerace announcements and put our trusty yaktrax on. Then at 9am sharp we were off for the journey!

First Half:

It was definitely icy right away once we got on the path. I was very glad that I decided to use the Yaktrax as the race directors had strongly advised being prepared for icy conditions. This definitely slowed me down as I wanted to be sure of my footing. Since the plan with my coach was to go out around a 9-minute pace this worked out very well. Had it not been icy I would have probably went out faster. The course was really beautiful albeit a little trecherous at times. I guess this made things more interesting for me since I could never really go into auto-pilot mode. I had to watch each step. There were a couple of stoplights that I got stuck at but other than that it was pretty straight forward with aid stations around mile 4.5 and again around 9 or 10. Our friend Jim was out running and cheering and checking on us to see if we needed anything.

At Wallace Lake, which is the half-way point where the relayers switch, I stopped and looked for my drop bag. I had a Coke in there as well as a small clip-on water bottle and some extra gels that I needed to grab. It took me a couple of minutes to get back to the path. I would say I maybe lost 5-6 minutes of time from the stoplights, this stop and a potty break after the second aid station.

Miles 15-24.5:

The next several miles I just tried to settle in to my run. Around mile 16 a woman had told me that the path was clear up ahead so I took off my yaktrax and proceeded to take a little spill. I was okay but a little annoyed with myself that I fell. I got up, kicked the snowbank next to me and that was that!

Tackling Ridge Rd Hill!
I was happy to see my friend Mel around mile 17 or 18 and then I realized I needed to go to the bathroom again. At least I was hydrated! So I ran until W 130th where there was a porto-potty that was a little off the course but manageable. I probably lost a couple of minutes here as well but it was worth it. Back onto the path this was around mile 20 or 21 I think and I was feeling some fatigue set in but didn't allow myself to walk except once to take a quick drink. I just trudged along at a 9-10 minute pace. Then I saw the infamous "Ridge Rd Hill" ahead and decided I would try to run it. I got up a little ways and then decided I would walk it until the aid station. That is definitely a hill! Again my friend Mel was out on the course cheering for me as well as my friend Jim so this along with the Coke and goodies at the aid station was a pick-me-up.

Final Miles:

The aid station folks told us to stay on the road on Valley Parkway after we crossed Ridge Rd so the final 6.5 miles were on the road, which consisted of pretty much all rollers heading back into Brecksville. I remember hitting a mentally hard point where I actually shed some tears but continued to push forward. The song "Freebird" by Lynyrd Skynrd was playing and all I can say is that running this far into the race I really had a sense of freedom and strength that filled me with emotion. I worked hard to train for this day and I knew in that moment that I would be done soon so it was one of those sweet moments that you don't want to end.

Then around mile 27 or 28 the second wind kicked in as Pantera's "This Love" came onto my playlist and I took off. I think this was my favorite part of the race. With a few miles to go I felt energized and strong. I looked down at my Garmin to see that I was running 8-minute miles again. Wow - where did that come from?!

The Finish:

Finishing it up!
I felt strong and excited to finish my first 50K. After a long day of running I saw the turn into Oak Grove for the finish and I had a good stride going into the finish. My husband Steve and friend Jillian were there cheering and I actually felt pretty good when I stopped after 5 hours and 4 minutes of running.

I headed over to the finishers tent to pick up my awesome medal and shirt and then eat some of the terrific soup that Kelly from Western Reserve Racing had made as well as having a hot apple cider that was the most delicious thing ever after running 31 miles! I then learned that I was one of the top females in the 50K race, which was pretty exciting and unexpected! Originally they had said I placed third and my friend Jillian was second but we were later contacted and notified by the race director that she was first and I was second! I guess the lead woman hadn't run and let a guy friend run with her bib. Second place in my first 50K?! Wow, what a day! Hard work does pay off! The awards are really magnificent too and handmade by Kelly and her sister Kirsten!

Jillian, me and Steve with our awards!
Steve also had a great race finishing 7th male and first in the masters division! I'm very proud of the progress he has continued to make as an athlete and the strong start to the 2015 season he has had already!

Post Race:

After changing into some dry clothes, Steve, Jillian and I headed over to Fatheads to meet Jillian's husband Brian and some other friends. We definitely earned the burgers, fries and hoppy beer that we enjoyed! After a couple of hours it was time to head home, eat again, shower and turn in early for some much needed rest and recovery!

Closing Thoughts & Thank Yous:

These memories will be with me for a while. I would definitely run this race again. In fact I think it may be in my list of favorite races ever! Western Reserve Racing did a wonderful job with this event. It is a beautiful course and there was plenty of aid on the course and the post race food and awards and everything were top notch!

I want to thank everyone that helped with my training this season...especially my sponsor Powerbar for fueling countless runs leading up to this day. Also thanks to coach Chris Martino of New Level Coaching for the guidance and of course for believing in me! A huge thank you to my husband Steve for slogging through the three hour treadmill runs with me this winter and coming along for the double long run weekends! We did it! Those long hours paid off! And finally to our Cleveland Triathlon Club friends that cheered us on and checked on us to make sure we were comfortable, thank you!

So now I am in recovery mode this week and planning to run St. Malachi Saturday. That is one of the most fun races of the year mainly because the huge afterparty at McCarthy's afterwards! And later this month I'm racing the Fools 25K again. I am looking forward to hitting the trails with this warmer weather!

Monday, March 2, 2015

It's a Big Week! Training Update for Green Jewel & Marathon Training

It's a new month, a new week - and a big week at that! On Saturday I'll be running my first 50K ultra-distance race. I opted for the Green Jewel 50K because it is a road race and I want to see what I can do in preparation for my marathons coming up - Toledo and Cleveland! The main goal of course it to finish the race healthy and in one piece but I of course have some time goals in mind too. I will keep those between myself and my coach for now so as not to put any unnecessary pressure on myself.

This weekend was a pretty easy training weekend as compared to weeks past. Saturday I had a 13 mile run to do as 8 miles @ 9:00, 3 @ 8:30 and 2 @ 8:00. I did an extra 1/2 mile cooldown to wind down. Then I had Sunday off! Yes, off! First off day in a while. I guess we need those at times - even if I'm not always a fan of them.

This week my volume is way down. A few shakeout runs, a swim, a bike and it's go time! I looked at my schedule and thought this is weird. I only have to workout once a day for an hour at most. I can't remember what that's like so I am planning on getting my workouts done in the am before work and spending some quality time with my husband Steve in the evenings this week. He too will be running the Green Jewel 50K this Saturday and I'm really excited to see what he can do!

The new kicks! Love them!
I am feeling well and planning to spend the week loading up on good food, green tea, emergen-c and doing lots of recovery techniques to be in the best possible condition for the start line Saturday. No matter what happens, I will finish that race and learn some things along the way that I hope will make me stronger for my spring races. I finally found a great shoe to run the race in - the Saucony Triumph ISO and I made a killer playlist. Just need to finalize the outfit now.

Special thanks to my sponsor Powerbar for fueling countless hours of running over the last few months! I would also like to thank my Challenge Family teammates and all my friends for the support. I also have to thank my husband Steve for being a constant companion and training with me. Thank god we like each other! Finally to my coach Chris Martino of New-Level Coaching, thanks for the guidance and support. I couldn't do it without all of you. It takes a village! And I am excited to see what I can do Saturday! So, nothing to it but to do it now. Wish me luck!!!