Eat Drink Run Woman

Musings from a Seattle personal chef with a fitness problem

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August 18th, 2011

2011 White River 50


Photo by Glenn Tachiyama

Holy shit, this is really happening.

It was 5:30 a.m. on July 30 and I was at start line of the White River 50, one of the Pacific Northwest’s most stunning and challenging ultras with 17,400 feet of elevation change.  This moment was a year in the making, and I was quaking in my Cascadias.

Holyshitholyshitholyshit.  What am I getting into?

I almost entered the 2010 race on a whim, but fortunately a disastrous training run on the course slapped me back to reality: I wasn’t ready… yet.  While I could tear up the roads for miles, technical trails left me a quivering mess.  So I started hitting the trails to boost my confidence, as well as entered several of the more challenging races.  I built up slowly, starting with shorter races that would increase my trail-running skills without completely wiping me out, then moved on to the longer stuff: Chuckanut 50K, Capitol Peak 55K, 55 miles at the Watershed Preserve 12-hour, Beacon Rock 50K (a particularly grueling race put on by Rainshadow Running).

My training was going well, but I made a bonehead move at the end of June: I tried to BQ again at the Seattle Rock ‘n Roll Marathon.  My darling and I had decided to skip Boston for 2012, but had a change of heart.  Given how quickly it promised to sell out, we knew we’d have limited chances to get our times.  We both had great races up until mile 17, but we weren’t able to hold the pace.  While pushing my limits at RnR wasn’t necessarily detrimental to my White River goals, running the Ghost of Bellevue — another road marathon — the next day probably wasn’t the smartest move.  The roads beat me up, forcing me to take four days off from running.

To my credit, I did get in three training runs on the White River course.  However, due to snow we weren’t able to get as far as we hoped.  More troubling: based on my paces in each of these runs I was concerned I wouldn’t make the cutoff, even with an hour early start.  In mid July I headed down to Death Valley to pace a friend at Badwater; while I didn’t get in as much running as I would have liked, at least I got to spend time at higher elevations and in intense heat (the second half of White River can be brutal due to the sun).  By the time I returned from Death Valley I was in taper mode — there was nothing I could do to improve my fitness, but lots I could do to f@#k it up.

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March 20th, 2011

2011 Chuckanut 50K

Yesterday I became a woman — an honest-to-god trail-running woman!

Even with 50+ marathons and 14 ultras under my feet, I still couldn’t identify myself as an ultra-runner.  I hang with a pretty gnarly crowd; they eat mountains for breakfast and consider 40 miles an easy day.  Me?  I like to take baby steps when it comes to challenging myself.  Most of my ultras were on relatively flat, well-groomed “rails-to-trails” courses.  It was time to hike up my “big girl” pants.

Mind you, I wasn’t a total virgin to technical trails with major elevation.  In August 2009 my darling and I joined several other runners on a 27-mile training run on a section of the Cascade Crest 100-mile course.  Not only did I have to contend with the most technical trails I had ever encountered, it was also freaking hot (90 degrees at the Snoqualmie Pass summit).  Soon after hitting the trail I was sweating buckets, and even though I had 60 ounces of water in my hydration pack, salt tabs and several gels, the sweeper was really worried about me.  By the time we hit an aid station at mile 10 I knew it would be foolish to continue, and fortunately we were able to get a ride back to the start.

I had another disastrous trail run last summer.  I joined my darling for a training run on the first half of the White River 50 course, but it ended up being a long, slow hike (9 hours to cover approximately 25 miles).  I was still recovering from two fast road marathons in the two weeks prior, plus I hadn’t eaten enough that morning.  I was sucking wind on the uphills and far too timid on the downhills.  By the end I was stumbling along in a daze.  I somewhat redeemed myself, however, as two weeks later I swept the first half of the course during the race.  It still took 8 hours, but I was responsible for removing the plentiful course marker ribbons, which added at least 45 minutes to my time.

That’s when I decided to make 2011 “The Year of the Ultra.”

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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.

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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.

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July 3rd, 2010

My interview with Meb

While I was thrilled with the opportunity to interview Meb Keflezighi, winner of the 2009 New York Marathon and Olympic silver medalist, I started to panic. I wanted to ask him about running, but I hoped to ask him something I could relate to.  What could we possibly have in common?  Yes, we both ran the 2010 Boston Marathon, but he crossed the finish line more than two hours before I dragged my sorry ass across.

Mind you, I didn’t have much time to prepare — I had only found out about the opportunity two hours before I was to meet him.  Since I hadn’t actually spoken to the Sony PR rep myself, I had no idea if I’d be meeting him one-on-one, or if it would be a group interview.  But my darling and I mulled over a couple of questions as we drove back to the expo.

We arrived at the Sony booth to find a long line snaking around waiting for his autograph.  I spoke to one of the Sony reps who had just found out I’d be coming.  The autograph session was supposed to go until 1 p.m., then he was all mine.  I decided to hop in line myself in order to get my bibs signed (I brought my Boston bib as well).  When I realized the session would go long, I told the Sony rep we could skip the interview as I didn’t want to take even more of his time.  But they kept assuring me it’d happen (perhaps they thought I was some big-shot running blogger!)

When I finally got to sit down with him, I was starstruck; it was as if I was in the presence of royalty (extremely humble royalty!)  He greets you with a warm smile that lights up his face, grasping your hand in both of his.  He’s clearly appreciative of the opportunities his adoptive country has given him, and I couldn’t think of a better ambassador. (He was floored — and extremely honored — when my darling asked him to sign his passport as a patriotic gesture).

When asked what opportunities he sees for his young daughters that he didn’t have in his native Eritrea, he beamed.

“This is a great country, a melting pot,” he said.  “I want them to follow their passions.  If it’s running, great, but if it’s something else, that’s fine.  It’s all about self fulfillment.”

His two oldest daughters, ages 4 and 2 (his youngest is 5 months) are already expressing some interest in running.  They’ll position themselves as if on a starting line for a track race, then yell out “On your mark, get set — GO!” and sprint off.  While he’d love them to follow his passion for running, he simply hopes they’ll stay active.

“Anything to get them off the couch,” he said.  “Sports teaches you a lot about life — accountability, hard work — there are no short cuts.  Same with education; you wouldn’t skip high school and go directly into college.”

In addition to fitness, health and education are his other passions, and to promote and support these causes he is launching the MEB Foundation, which he says stands for “maintaining excellent balance.”

I was also curious how he approached his races in terms of a goal.  I assumed his “A” goal would be to win, but does he come up with secondary or even tertiary goals?  Ever since my blowup at the North Olympic Discovery Marathon in 2008 — where my end all/be all goal was to BQ — I’ve learned to come up with other goals to keep me motivated should my A goal slip away.  Do elites think the same way?

Turns out Meb does.  “You don’t want to make your primary goal untouchable, but you should some up with A-Z goals.  It’s all about self fulfillment.”

As I left the expo clutching my autographed Rock ‘n Roll bib, it dawned on me I blew it with Meb — Food!  THAT’S what we ALL have in common!  Here I am a personal chef and runner, why didn’t I ask him about food?  What does he eat before a race?  Does he allow himself any guilty indulgences afterward?  Is he able to find food from his native country here in the U.S.?

Oh well, perhaps I’ll get a second chance to talk to him in Boston next year


June 25th, 2010

My brush with greatness

I returned from the Seattle Rock ‘n Roll expo yesterday to a voice mail from a PR contact for Sony who said she wanted to talk to me about my blog. She had an opportunity she thought I might be interested in, yet didn’t elaborate. We traded phone calls, and when I didn’t hear back I figured the opportunity had passed. But as I got out of my dentist appointment this morning I saw a text from my husband — would I be interested in heading back to the expo to interview Meb? HELL YEAH!

I rushed home, jumped into the shower (and my 2010 Boston shirt, natch. After all, the race is probably the ONLY thing Meb and I have in common). I had to wait for almost an hour while he signed autographs (he signed both my Boston bib and the one I’ll wear tomorrow), before I got the chance to sit down one-on-one. While I had hoped to put on my best hardcore journalism hat ala Bob Woodward, it was more of a gush-fest:

I’msohonoredtomeetyou,youmadeussoproudinNewYork,Iwasthrilled toseeyoucrossthefinishline,you’resuchaninspiration.

I’ll post my “interview” with him later this weekend, but for now I’m reveling in the encouragement he provided for tomorrow: “Go for it.”

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.

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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

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.

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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.

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