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Archive for the ‘Race Reports – Running’

Published October 13th, 2010

A Victoria’s BQ (but far from victorious)

You know the elation you feel when your training, pre-race nutrition and race-day strategy coalesce into the perfect race?  Well, that feeling eluded me in Victoria this past Sunday.  Mind you, I was still able to pull a BQ out of my sorry arse, but it sure twasn’t pretty.  Even though this was my 44th marathon, the experience proved you just can’t take the distance for granted.  Get too cocky and you risk getting chewed up, spit out and left on the curb licking your wounds.

For those in race report overload I’ll cut to the chase: I finished in 3:57:40; not the PR I was hoping for (needed to beat 3:54:34), but good enough to be invited to the 2012 Boston party should finances allow.

I was determined to follow a more regimented training schedule for this race, at least as regimented as a Marathon Maniac could be.  My goal was to PR, but I also considered going for a 3:50. After my BQ at Seattle Rock ‘n Roll (3:55:42) at the end of June I ran “only” one other marathon — Missoula on July 11.  I was pleasantly surprised with my time — 4:04 — given it was only two weeks after Seattle.  (I probably could have run a sub 4 if it weren’t for two bathroom breaks).  I vowed to concentrate on speed and shorter races for the rest of the summer.

Most of my longer runs for the remainder of July and August were in the 9- to 13-mile range, however, I did run/hike two 25-milers and ran/walked a couple of 19-milers.  (The first two were on the White River 50-mile course, a mountainous single track.  The latter two were on carriage roads in Maine; while I was able to run the first 10 miles of each run, the heat and humidity slowed me to a slog during the last half.  So I don’t consider any of these long runs to be quality runs, although they did give me time on my feet).

My August mileage was also very low — 136 — compared to the 175-200 miles I had been averaging.  However, I PR’d in a half marathon in early August, shaving almost 5 minutes (ran it in 1:48:52).  I was encouraged to see McMillan predicted a 3:49:36 marathon time based on the half, but I also knew that’d be a stretch.  I also raced a 10K in mid-August (got 3rd in my age group) and was on a competitive women’s team for Hood-to-Coast (we placed 4th in our division).  Still, I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me to reach my goal, including upping my mileage and getting in more long runs.

My first race in September was a trail 25K which I took very easy.  I followed that up with a road half the next weekend; I was on track for yet another PR through mile 9, but the rain and headwind got the better of me.  Still, my 1:50:03 time indicated a PR was not out of the question at Victoria.  I also got in two 20-milers, another half and a couple of 12-milers, finishing up the month with just over 180 miles.


Published July 3rd, 2010

Rockin’ the Meb Mojo

It really shouldn’t have happened. I’m sure most people thought I was crazy to even THINK it could happen. BQ six weeks after running a 50-miler? Using a 50K as my last long run before my goal race? Coaxing a sub 4-hour out of my aging body at my 20th marathon for the YEAR? That’s crack-smoking talk.

Yet thanks to strategic planning, an impromptu encounter with an elite runner and favorable weather conditions, I managed to smash my goal with nary a toke on the ol’ crack pipe, finishing the 2010 Seattle Rock ‘n Roll Marathon in 3:55:41.

The Plan
Upon returning from Beantown this year I began to set my sights on next year. There’s something about being around such speedy runners that gets me motivated. However, I assumed Boston would sell out even earlier this year, which might make a fall race moot. Given I’d be running the Rainier to Ruston 50-mile on June 5, I didn’t think I’d be recovered in time to try at Seattle Rock ‘n Roll. Missoula was two weeks later; still not ideal, but at least it’d give me more recovery time. And if I didn’t succeed, no big deal. After all, my darling still hadn’t BQ’d, and I wouldn’t have wanted to drag him back again if I were the only one to race.

All that changed on May 2 when he ran a 3:18:28 at the Tacoma City Marathon.

As with my race, the odds of him BQing that day were slim. It’s a particularly hilly course, plus it was his 18th race in so many weeks. But if anyone has the grit and stubborn determination (along with a bit of dumb luck), it’s my hubby. Now the pressure was on.

As we were milling around in the recovery area one of my Maniac friends asked me about my goal for the Redmond Watershed 12-hour two weeks later. I had hoped to get in 35-40 miles as my last long run before Rainier to Ruston, but she wondered why I wouldn’t go for 50. It wasn’t as if I wasn’t ready; if I could run 13 marathons/50Ks in 12 weeks, I could certainly run a 50-miler, especially in 12 hours.

The gears in my head started spinning — what if I ran 50 miles there instead and switched to the 50K option for Rainier to Ruston; could I possibly get into BQ shape for Seattle Rock ‘n Roll? That race was preferable since I knew it, plus Missoula can get quite hot. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try.


Published May 30th, 2010

My first 50-miler

After running 41 marathons and nine 50Ks, I finally popped my 50-mile cherry by running 50.54 miles at the Watershed Preserve 12-hour race two weeks ago (I finished in 11:23:11, deciding I didn’t need to continue on for the full 12 hours).

This race was originally going to be a training run for the Rainier to Ruston 50-mile on June 5; however, I’ve decided to try to BQ at Seattle Rock ‘n Roll at the end of June and wanted more recovery time (I’ll still be running a 50K at R2R). Besides, I figured Redmond Watershed would be easier on my body as it’s all on trails, while R2R has a lot of road. In addition, given it’s a 12-hour race, even if I didn’t reach my 50-mile goal, I’d still be able to run farther than I ever had (my longest run prior was a 50K).

I didn’t follow a specific training plan; rather, I just ran a sh!tload of marathons and 50Ks (this was my 18th race of marathon distance or longer for the year). While I’d never run more than a 50K in one day, I have run 62 miles in two days and just over 80 in three days. While I was pretty confident I had the endurance, I was still quite nervous.

I knew the key would be too start off conservatively, something I’m used to doing in my marathons. I actually mapped out a pacing strategy for each loop on a spreadsheet, with paces starting at 11 1/2 minutes/mile and increasing by 15-45 seconds every loop, ending with 15-minute miles. My plan had my total running time at just over 11 hours, which would leave almost an hour for breaks at the aid station. Of course, I knew this would all be speculation; I had no idea what race day would bring.

I also received some great tips on nutrition/hydration from one of my ultra-running friends. This race puts out quite the spread at the aid station; in addition to typical ultra-running food (boiled potatoes with salt, cookies, pretzels, fruit, potato chips, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, electrolyte drink, etc.), they also offer sandwiches and soup later in the day. Therefore, the tendency to overeat was great. My friend recommended sticking to gels for the first 20+ miles before imbibing in “real” food.


Published May 9th, 2010

A PR I thought I’d never see

I am not a good 5K runner. Or should I say, I’m not a good 5K racer. It takes me about that long just to warm up; when I try to go fast at short distances, inevitably I get injured. Besides, I figure why spend $25-$35 on a 5K race when I can run the distance for free? After all, the outside loop of Green Lake is 3.2 miles, and it’s just down the street from me.

Because of this, I figured my 5K PR of 25:49 from the 2007 Fremont 5K would remain my best. I hadn’t even bothered to run the distance again until I entered the B.A.A. 5K the day before the Boston Marathon (since I had hoped to go fast in the marathon I took the 5K easy, finishing in over 31 minutes). But I recently signed up a new client, and when I found out she’s the executive director of NARAL’s Washington office, I decided to enter their “Run for your Rights” 5k yesterday. It’s held at Green Lake, so it couldn’t have been more convenient.

I didn’t think I had a PR in me, but decided I’d try for 26 minutes. However, I ran a fairly fast 4-miler on Thursday and by Friday my right hamstring was talking to me. I took the day off from running, hoping I’d be fine for the race.

We’ve had an absolutely gorgeous few days in Seattle, so I knew Green Lake would be absolutely packed (we’d be sharing the path with hundreds). We ran over to the check-in (just over half a mile away) and milled around while they held the rally. Just after 11 a.m. they were ready to start; the runners headed out first (there were only 50-75 of us), followed by the walkers and then those with pets/strollers. While we didn’t have bib #s, someone would be at the finish to record our time.

While I didn’t start off at a sprint per se, I also didn’t hold back. The speedy group, including my darling and his brother, got off to a strong lead, but I held my own. A couple of 20-somethings — a guy and a girl — passed me in the first quarter mile, but I kept telling myself I was racing for me; I didn’t feel the need to pass anyone. Although my body felt good the entire time, this was not a comfortable run. I pushed myself the entire way, thrilled to see I ran the first two miles in 8:08 and 8:06 respectively.

I wasn’t sure if I could keep up that pace — it was getting hot and I was wearing the cotton race shirt — but I just kept going. I decided to not even look at my watch; I’d just push on and hope for the best. Just after mile 2 I passed the male 20-something (didn’t see the female, but apparently I had passed her earlier). By then I was ready to finish, but still had just over a mile to go. I kept pushing and was grateful for the slight decline just before the finish. I kicked it into high gear, crossing in 24:54 — third woman overall!

Not sure I’ll ever beat this PR, but that’s okay. It’s actually not the fastest I’ve ever run; when I ran Hood-to-Coast in 2008 I ran my first leg — 4.5 miles — at a 7:52 pace. But I’m now happy to have a 5K time I’m proud of.

My current PRs:

5K: 24:54, NARAL Run for your Rights, May 2010
10K: 50:12, Arlington Walk and Roll, April 2008
Half marathon: 1:53:35, Kirkland, May 2008
Marathon: 3:54:34, Light at the End of the Tunnel, August 2008
50K: 5:42:58, Pigtails Flat Ass 50K, December 2009

Published May 8th, 2010

Playing catch-up

Oh my — has it REALLY been more than two months since I’ve blogged? So much for my vow to document my “13-in-12” journey (not that I have anyone left reading.) Suffice it to say I’m now a 7-star Maniac who managed to complete the stunt injury-free. I’ve included more info below, but wanted to summarize the highlights from the past two months.

The biggest news? We’re going back to Boston in 2011!!! Unfortunately I don’t have an invite to the party (yet), but my darling — after two years and several attempts — ran a BQ race this past Sunday at the Tacoma City Marathon, finishing in 3:18:28 (he needed 3:20). This was a surprise to us both as he’s run even more races this year that I have. But his Achilles heel (so to speak) has been the long run; he starts off strong but fades toward the end. By getting in so many long runs he built up his endurance and it’s paid off. Now I need to get my butt in gear.

Tacoma was not only the capper to my 13-in-12 streak, it also was my 50th race of marathon distance or longer (I even got to wear bib #50). It also was my fastest marathon since Portland.

The Boston 2 Big Sur Challenge was fantastically fun, albeit not particularly challenging given I had already been running a marathon a week. Going in to Boston I toyed with trying to beat last year’s time (4:15:48), but my darling encouraged me to try for a more challenging goal: a BQ. I figured it would be an incredible long-shot, but I also thought I would know when to dial it back once it became clear I wouldn’t reach that goal. Fortunately that happened with the first 5K. In order to make 4 hours I’d have to run each 5K in under 29 minutes; when I hit the first in 29:30, I decided I’d run the rest of the race for fun. I finished in 4:25:19 feeling great.

The next week we headed to Monterey for the Big Sur Marathon where I met up with a woman from the Runner’s World online forum. She’s a speedy runner (she BQ’d at Boston), but this would be her first back-to-back race. Therefore, we decided to run together. It’s an absolutely stunning course, and fortunately we didn’t get as much wind as in other years (in fact, the little wind we had helped cool me down). We ran up ALL the hills — including the 2-mile Hurricane Point — and celebrated our accomplishment with a snort of Laphroaig 10-year single malt scotch at the grand piano just after the Bixbey Bridge (it was surprisingly tasty!)

The other big news? We’re parents again! We welcomed Jasper and Luna into our hearts and home this past Sunday (we rushed home from the marathon to shower and then head north to pick them up). They’re from the same litter and they not only keep themselves entertained, they fill us with happiness and joy. We still miss our sweet Xanthe terribly, but are so thrilled to have the pitter-patter of little paws running around.



As for future plans, now that the pressure is on for me to BQ again I’ve made some adjustments to my schedule. I was signed up to run the Rainier to Ruston 50-mile (my first) on June 5, but now that I want to try to BQ at Seattle Rock ‘n Roll on June 26 I’d like to get in some more recovery time. So I’ve switched to the 50K for R2R and will attempt to run 50 miles during the Redmond Watershed 12-hour next Saturday, May 15. This takes some weight off my shoulders as my darling wouldn’t have been available to crew me on the 5th (although one of our running friends offered to do it). And since the Watershed race is a 12-hour, there’s no DNF — I’ll simply run as many miles as I can.

Should I not BQ at Seattle Rock ‘n Roll I may try again at Missoula on July 11, however, it’s only three weeks later and the race can get pretty hot. My last-ditch back-up plan will be Skagit Flats in September, however, that too can get quite hot. Given how quickly Boston filled up last year I doubt it will still be open for an October race (but if it is, perhaps I can try again during the Nike Women’s Marathon). If all else fails then I’ll simply go to Boston as a spectator and will perhaps take over the Hopkinton Hop.


Published March 2nd, 2010

Four down… nine to go? (gulp)

It’s bonus time in EDRW land — you get THREE race reports in one!

Woolley Trail Marathon, February 20
This was a grief run for me as we had to put our kitty down the day before. Since my darling had a photo shoot in the afternoon we opted for the 6 a.m. early start, which meant we had to leave our house about 4:15 for the hour and a half drive to Sedro-Woolley. We had a rough start to the morning as our kitty’s absence set in; there’d be no strident meowing for breakfast. I broke down in sobs several times, plus I found it hard to concentrate on what I should be packing. As a result we got a late start, but figured the race director would understand. Besides, it wasn’t as if we’d be competing for the top spots.

The early starters took off just as we pulled into the parking lot. We checked in and confirmed with the RD that we could use the time on our Garmins. It was still dark, so my darling decided to run with me for the first few miles until it was light enough to put away the headlamps. Even though it was going to be a sunny day, I fortunately made the wise decision to wear a long-sleeved shirt; however, I forgot to throw on gloves. BRRRR.

This was the inaugural year for the race, which follows the Cascade Trail from Sedro-Woolley to Hamilton and back. It’s a nice wide, flat course that offers great views of the Cascades and local farmland. I started my run listening to a podcast about gastro-intestinal distress in long distance runners, and the eau de cow provided an appropriate olfactory accompaniment.

Although he had intended to start running at his own pace once the sun came up, my darling decided to stick with me. After all, we had another race the next day and there was no need to go fast. Besides, it would only mean he’d have to wait around for me at the end. While we didn’t talk much (I had my iPod, he did not), it was comforting having him close. After my podcast ended the sad songs started (I was in a melancholy mood), as did the tears. We stopped to hug several times. Fortunately the pain in our hearts was the only pain we suffered that day, as the run was quite cathartic. We crossed the finish in 4:51:12, and after an aprés race lunch of chili and hotdogs we headed home, where once again we were overcome with grief from her absence.


Published February 16th, 2010

And in the beginning…

If Sunday’s race portends what’s to come in my “13 in 12” streak I’ve got a LONG road (and sometimes trail) ahead of me.

As I was putting together my list of 13 races (marathon distance or farther) I gravitated toward the free ones.  After all, I’ve already shelled out a bunch of money for Boston and Big Sur (not to mention the Goofy Challenge), so free or almost-free were ideal.  So when I saw the Poulsbo Running Club was hosting the free Fishline 50K on Valentine’s Day, I knew it was the race for me.  How better to celebrate the Hallmark holiday than running the trails with my sweetie?

The race is held on a privately owned tree farm in Port Gamble on the Kitsap Peninsula.  We had run a similar course in August for the Port Gamble half marathon, however, this race started at a different point.  It’s moderately challenging with a mix of single track and forest service roads, with a few hills thrown in (most are fairly runnable).

While we’ve been having some great weather of late, the week leading up the race was quite damp.  In fact, I got caught in a squall while running around Green Lake two days prior (at one point the wind and rain were so strong I could barely move forward).  In addition, my work week was particularly busy (regular clients Monday-Friday, Valentine’s dinner Saturday evening) so I wasn’t as well-rested as I would have liked.   Still, I was looking forward to hitting the trail.

The morning got off to an interesting start.  We’ve been having to give our kitty subcutaneous fluids — not an easy task by any means — but by doing it ourselves we eliminate the traumatic trip to the vet.  While I wrapped her in a towel to keep her from squirming too much, my darling readied the 18-gauge hypodermic needle.  Just as he was about to stick it into her she managed to free her front paws from the towel.  As we once again attempted to get her confined I felt a sharp pin-prick on my left forefinger.  Yee-ouch!  (My darling hadn’t placed the cap back on the needle while I was re-wrapping kitty).  As I fished through our first-aid kit for the antibiotic ointment and a bandage, I noticed two spots of blood on my finger.  Turns out the needle had gone clean through!  (Medical professionals, we are not).

We took that as a sign to abandon the task until we returned from the race and got to packing our race gear.  I also packed a cooler with the fixings for chicken Caesar salad wraps to share afterwards (along with a couple of beers, natch).  I also tossed in a 1-pound box of Sees nuts & chews and a bag of salt & vinegar potato chips (we figured we’d burn our fair share of calories on the trail).


Published January 31st, 2010

The PYS Run

Ever since I’ve become a Marathon Maniac I’ve heard grumblings from the more traditional, old school marathoners about our group: we care more about quantity than quality, running not to perform at our best or even for the love of the sport, but to simply add another notch in our marathon belts.  This argument even circled among our ranks, as the group’s founders proposed tightening the rules on what counts as a marathon to eliminate what appeared to be glorified training runs that are merely used to pad ones stats.

While there may be a few Maniacs who are guilty of such behavior, I never considered myself one of them.  Sure, I’ve run marathons as training runs, but I’ve always set some sort of goal for myself, whether it be to run all the hills, hone my fueling strategy, run a negative split, etc.  Sometimes my goal was simply to have fun with my friends — both during the race and while mingling afterwards.

I must confess: last Sunday’s 50K was a PYS (pad your stats) run.


Published December 6th, 2009

2009 Carkeek 12-hour

Considering I returned to the scene of the crime yesterday for the first time since the race, I figured it’s about time I write up my report.  The Carkeek 12-hour is advertised as “The hardest 12-hour out there.  Period.”  Boy howdy, they ain’t kidding.  Actually, I have nothing else to base that on — after all I haven’t run another 12-hour — but given how much this race whipped my patootie I’m going to take them at their word.

The race is held in Carkeek Park just northwest of Seattle.  Although it’s a trail run, it’s not particularly technical.  However, the elevation gain/loss for each 1.93-mile loop is 430 feet.  You run as many loops as you can within a 12-hour period.  Many folks opt to stop after they reach a certain distance (14 loops for just over a marathon, 16 loops for a 50K), although a couple of diehards go the full 12 hours.  Me?  I wanted to run at least a marathon distance, although I was hoping for a 50K depending on how I felt.

Given the dire warnings, I decided I needed to get some practice on the trail before race day.  After signing up in early August my darling and I ran it a couple of times.  But when we saw so many of our friends were signed up we decided to meet every Wednesday evening for as many laps as people wanted to run.  We even met on our 9-year wedding anniversary where we celebrated afterwards with snacks and champagne (shhh… don’t tell the Seattle Parks Department).

I typically could get in 2-3 loops before it got too dark, however, I found some days the trail would chew me up and spit me out, especially if I had had a particularly long cook day.  (One day I couldn’t even finish an entire loop).  I averaged 26-27 minutes for most loops; my best time was 23:46, my worst was 28:13.  I had hoped to run at least 7 laps at once before the race, but only managed to get in 5 before I cried “uncle.”


Published October 7th, 2009

2009 Portland Marathon

I knew when I became a Marathon Maniac and embraced multiple marathoning my times would suffer. Yes, there are a few freakishly talented Maniacs who can log fast marathons one after the other, but I’m not one of them. So even though I was already qualified for Boston 2010, I thought I’d try to run at least one fast race during 2009 (and by fast I mean in the 4-hour range). I had heard great things about the Portland Marathon, so I figured that would be the one to target.

I briefly toyed with trying for a 3:50 or at least a PR, beating my Light at the End of the Tunnel time of 3:54:34. But considering Portland would be my 26th marathon overall — 17th for the year — I knew that would be a stretch. My plan to run five marathons in June further put my goal into question. Even if I were to survive such a stunt it would only leave me 14 weeks until Portland (two weeks of recovery, 12 weeks of training). But with nothing to lose I decided to give it a shot. (I settled for a more realistic goal of a sub 4-hour).

While I made it through my “monster month” injury-free, I did have a few niggling aches and pains I’d have to baby for several weeks. Therefore, I basically put the kibosh on any type of speed-work and instead focused on incorporating hills into my runs whenever possible. But by early August I was ready to gauge my fitness level and raced a half marathon on the 8th. My 1:55 finish was a minute and a half off of my PR, but at least it told me I was on track. I got in a couple of 20-milers in August, as well as raced the Hood-to-Coast relay (I was on a competitive women’s masters team). I ran a couple of marathons in September as training runs, and also raced a 10K three weeks before Portland. Once again it wasn’t a PR (it was a hot day), but my 51:47 finish placed me third in my age group.

For sh!tz & giggles I plugged my times into the McMillan calculator, which predicted a 4:02:43 finish based upon my half marathon, and a 4:03:01 based upon my 10K time. I realize you can’t rely on these calculators, especially if you’re not putting in at least 70 mpw (I averaged 45-55), but I felt it at least proved I wasn’t smoking crack rock for thinking I could pull off a sub 4-hour. It certainly was no guarantee, but was in the realm of possibility.

One thing in my favor was the fact I have run several marathons. Sure, I didn’t race most of them, but I knew how to pace myself. I’ve very good at holding back in the beginning, even when getting passed by several runners (typically I catch up with — and pass — them in the latter miles). I also knew that just because you feel great at mile 13, 14, 15+, it doesn’t mean you’ll continue to feel great at mile 20, 21, 22+ (cue foreshadowing music).