Category Archives: Races

Race Recap: Loveland Sweetheart Classic 2017

Before last weekend, the last time I had raced was in June, at the Skirt Sports 13er — and even then, I didn’t really race until the last couple of miles, when I realized I could place. Then I got injured in July, and moved and started a new job in August, and continued fighting that injury, so I hadn’t raced or trained hard for months.

Nevertheless, I decided to race the Loveland Sweetheart Classic 4-Miler last Saturday. My hamstring was feeling about 85% of healthy. I love this little race (this was my fourth time running it), and I figured that even though I’d have a slow-for-me time, it would give me a good baseline for getting back in shape for this year’s 13er. So I registered, and last Saturday morning found me lining up in the Loveland High School parking lot, enjoying the unseasonable warmth and getting re-familiarized with pre-race butterflies.
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One of my injury-healing (and -preventing) strategies is doing a thorough warm-up, so I did some dynamic stretching and ran an easy mile, returning to the start just in time to hear the National Anthem. Soon, the gun went off, and so did the runners. I wasn’t really sure how to pace myself, since the only fast running I’ve done recently is a few strides and a couple of fartlek workouts. I figured I’d just go by feel, playing it by ear and not paying too much attention to keeping even or negative splits, since the first mile-ish is downhill and the last mile-ish uphill.
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I ticked off the first mile in 6:50, feeling pretty decent. I picked it up a little for the flat second mile (6:42), passing a few people and high-fiving a few spectators (high-fiving little kids mid-race is the best. If you don’t usually make time for it, you need to start). Mile 3 is when I started to feel my lack  of fitness, and it was also my slowest mile (6:53), I guess thanks to a slight headwind? That’s when I started mentally repeating the mantra that got me through the end: “Just gut it out.” I knew that a race this short, even with minimal fitness, was mostly a mental game, and I just had to, well, gut it out.

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Don’t be jealous of my beautiful race face. (Photo courtesy of the Loveland Road Runners). 

Mile 4 ends with a mild uphill push, then a rewarding downhill sprint to the finish line. I managed to pass one more woman just after my watched beeped for mile 3, and then I was alone until the finish. I pushed it hard, hitting mile 4 in 6:47 and finishing in 27:36, good enough for fourth place.

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Gasping for air after the finish

After catching my breath for a few minutes, I jogged back along the course to meet my friend Christine and run her in, so I finished the day with just over 6 miles. We wandered around the post-race expo, I got a free post-race massage in the hopes that it would keep my hammy healthy, and then we stuck around for the awards ceremony. Since the overall top three women were excluded from age group awards, I took first in the 30-39 category (and my time was faster than all the 30-39 men. I like to brag). My prize was a handmade medal and a $15 gift certificate to Runners Roost. I was stoked, since I need new running shoes!
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After the awards, I took a baby-wipe bath in the bathroom (races with access to indoor bathrooms are the best), put on clean clothes, and headed to the Loveland Fire and Ice art festival with J.

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Snowman ice sculpture, part of the “ice” bit of the festival. 

Overall, I’m satisfied with how this race went. I ran hard but didn’t get reinjured, and I feel like I have a good baseline now as I build fitness for this year’s 13er, which I do plan to race (if you want to race with me, use code SKIRTAMB15 for 15% off!). Time to start training harder (but smarter)!

Have you raced lately? How did it go?

What’s your favorite local festival/event? We’re pretty darn excited to live closer to artsy things..

Skirt Sports Ambassador Weekend, Part 2: The Race

Last week, I recapped all the Skirt Sports fun of Friday and Saturday of the ambassador retreat, but Sunday was, by far, my favorite day of the weekend. I mentioned once or twice on the blog that I was running the 13er, but since my training had been minimal, I’d decided to run it as a training run: nice and easy, soaking in the scenery and the camaraderie with my newfound buddies.

Early on, everything went according to plan. The race started at 6:30 (sounds early, but in June, I’ll take an early start any day), so I rolled out of bed at 5, ate a granola bar (one I’d never tried before, breaking the “nothing new on race day” rule because, training run), slathered on sunscreen, woke up Jordan, and drove the 20 minutes from our hotel to the start. Once there, I wandered around, chatted with some of the ambassadors I’d met earlier in the weekend, and of course, stood in the porta-john line.

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This is my new friend Jenn. Photo borrowed from Skirt Sports’ Facebook page. 

Before long, I heard the “line up” announcement, so I filtered in somewhere in the mid-pack, trying to ensure that I’d treat this as a training run and not push, especially at the beginning. Soon, the gun went off, 125 watches beeped, and we started a long, easy downhill run. I kept my pace easy, but I realized that I’d taken this mid-pack thing too seriously and I couldn’t run comfortably, so I did a little bob-and-weave until the crowd thinned out and I settled in to my long-run pace — a little faster because of the downhill.

As I took in the beautiful scenery, I realized that I could see the lead bike, so I counted women in front of me. I was in sixth. I told myself to calm down. “This is not a race for you, self. You’re not in race shape. Start pushing it now, and you’ll die by the hill at mile 7.” Believe it or not, I actually listened to my own advice. I know. Maybe I’m learning something in my old age. So I kept cruising at a nice, easy pace, enjoying the view and the coolness of the morning, even taking a couple of pictures along the way.

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Not a bad place for a run!

On the first hill, a pretty small one (even for flatlander me), I passed one woman and told myself not to think about how I was now in fifth. I kept running and kept smiling, waving to the cyclists passing on the other side of the road and telling myself to take it easy. I stopped and filled my handheld at the last aid station before the infamous hill, and then I started up.

This hill is nicknamed “The Bad Relationship,” because it hurts, but you’ve “just gotta get over it.” It’s not very steep, but it’s long, and by the time you get to the steep part (the last quarter mile or so), your legs are getting pretty tired. Last year, I think I walked part of the hill, so my goal this year was to just keep running. “Eat that elephant,” I told myself. “One bite… er, step… at a time.” And so I did. Up, up, up, past the fourth-place woman, up.

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Free race photos are always a great race perk! Thanks, 3W Races!

Just after the crest of the hill, I also passed the third-place woman, but 0.1 miles later, I had to pull off and hit the porta-john. I reminded myself that it didn’t matter, because I’m not racing.  A mile or so after the hill, the course heads into some trails at an open space for a few miles, and at the entrance to the park was an aid station manned by high schoolers. When I turned down their water (my handheld was still half full), one girl said, “Oh, please take some water!” Since I wasn’t racing, I said, “I didn’t know it meant that much to you!” and I turned around, jogged back, and chugged her water. The kids all cheered, and it made us all laugh. That moment was well worth the few seconds I lost off my final (non-racing, remember?) time.

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Shortly after that water stop. Again, photo cred is 3W Races.

At around mile 10, the race has a short out-and-back. I saw the lead bike and the lead woman coming back past me. I saw the second-place woman coming back past me. And then I reached the turnaround without seeing anyone else. Somehow, I’d gotten into third place! “Okay, self,” I thought. “You’ve got three miles left. You’re in third place. Let’s keep it that way.” I let myself pick it up, then, finding speed that I didn’t know my legs had after so many months of slow running. I cruised down the long, final downhill, watching the second-place woman and hoping I could catch her. I didn’t — she ended up finishing six seconds ahead of me — but I finished third, in 1:42:40. That’s more than ten minutes slower than my PR (from 2012, the last time I actually raced a half), but third place in a race in which I  expected to be mid-pack was pretty darn exciting!

When I crossed the line, Skirt Sports founder (and my hero) Nicole Deboom greeted me with “Are you freakin’ kidding me?!” and a big hug — despite my sweaty grossness– and then Nicole and the top three finishers posed for a picture.

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Also taken from Skirt Sports’Facebook

Here’s an example of why I admire Nicole so much: she greeted almost every single person who crossed the line in the same way, from the first three to the Running Start participants to the final finisher. Take a minute to scroll through the pictures from the race, and you’ll see Nicole hugging, high-fiving, and celebrating each person. I know I said this in my last post, but this is why I love Skirt Sports so much. Yeah, the clothes are amazing (and they have pockets!). But the community? That’s what makes this company amazing.

Anyway, back to me. #narcissism. After I finished, I drank some chocolate milk and got my award (a champagne flute, a Skirt visor, and a box of Love Grown Power O’s. Not sure which part of the prize I liked best). I’ll admit it, I kiiiinda want to pick a race and actually train for and race it. That podium is addicting.

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J had to take off to be on time for a meeting in Breckenridge, but I stayed and cheered for the rest of the race, alternating standing at the finish line and chatting with my new friends. And dancing in the sprinklers.

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Borrowed this pic from Skirt Sports’ Facebook page.

I’m ashamed to admit this, but I’d never stayed until the very end of a race before. Now, I will whenever I can. Seeing those final finishers come in was inspiring. They put so much time and effort into their training and their race. They deserve to be cheered on just  as loudly as the pointy-enders, and, as I learned from this article, that doesn’t always happen.

This race was a perfect wrap-up to a weekend of inspiration, camaraderie, empowerment, and celebration. I’m prouder than ever to represent this company, and I’m already excited for next year!

Have you run any races lately? Tell me about them!

Any recommendations for a goal race later this summer/fall? I’m thinking a half or 10k. 

P.S. If you want in on the Skirt Sports love, use my 20% discount code: RRR20.

 

 

Blue Sky Trail Marathon 2015 Recap

I intended to get this recap done sooner, but … life. The week after the race was Homecoming week, and since I’m the Student Council adviser, it’s one of my busiest weeks of the year. And because I’m really smart, I assigned essays in two different courses that week. So I had to grade essays for two different courses between Homecoming events. Blogging went on the back burner, but now that’s over and I want to get this written before I forget all the details.

When I registered for the race, J and I decided that we’d camp at the trailhead instead of getting a hotel in Fort Collins, because $15 camp site > $100 hotel room. As we watched the forecast during race week, we grew a little nervous, as rain was predicted for Saturday, but we decided to stick with the original plan. We headed up to the Fort on Saturday afternoon, set up our tent, and wandered around the campground for a while before cooking a simple pre-race dinner of chicken and potatoes with a Clif bar for dessert.

Not a bad little campsite
Not a bad little campsite

The weather held off until we finished dinner, but shortly thereafter, thunder and lightning started, and soon the clouds opened up. J and I retreated to our tent and spent the rest of the evening playing Go Fish, because we are adults.

Do you have any sevens?
Do you have any sevens?

After a few rousing rounds of Go Fish, we called it a night and burrowed down into our sleeping bags. Neither of us slept great, thanks to the wind wiggling the tent and my typical nervous pre-race sleeplessness, so I was awake before my alarm went off at 5:30. The rain had stopped, but the morning was foggy and chilly. I’d been indecisive all week about wearing my compression socks during the race, but when I discovered how cold the morning was, I decided to wear them, and I’m glad I did.

While Jordan started some coffee, I ate a Clif bar and a banana, then headed up the trail to pick up my packet. I ended up in line behind the eventual women’s winner, whom the RD encouraged to try for a course record (spoiler alert: she got it). Packet pick-up was easy, and “swag bags” were simple — the race t-shirt, plus a toothbrush and toothpaste. I pinned my bib on and headed back to the campsite to drop my bag off and get a cup of coffee, then came back to stand in the porta-john line (because coffee).

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I’m not a Skirt Sports ambassador, but maybe I should be — my skirt, top, and arm-warmers are all theirs.

As start time approached, the RD told everyone to line up at the start line, but he waited to start the race until the porta-johns were empty, which meant a 10-minute or so delay. Though I wasn’t still in the bathroom line, I appreciated this move — I’ve started more than one race late because I’m in the bathroom when the gun goes off. I thought waiting for everyone was a cool thing to do. Once the johns were empty, the RD gave us a few simple directions, and we were off into the foggy morning!

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The first couple of miles were a little crowded, but at least that kept me from going out too fast, and soon, the crowd spread out — especially when we hit the first big climb. I did a lot of hiking (as did everyone around me): jogging when I could (or when there was a camera) and slowing to a hike when I needed to.

Photo by O Photography, taken from Gnar Runners’ Facebook page. I definitely was running only because I saw the camera. The guy in red and I both started walking as soon as we passed the photographer. 

Just like the time I ran it in training, the hill seemed to go on for eternity, but eventually, we reached the turn-off and got in some glorious downhill. I actually got passed more on the downhill than the up; especially since it was so wet, I wasn’t too confident in my footing and didn’t want to take a race-ending tumble this early in the race.

Before I knew it, we hit the first aid station and headed back down toward the start and (eventual) finish. I made up some time on the long, smooth descent, and soon was cruising back past Jordan and our campsite. Originally, I planned to toss him my arm-warmers as I ran back through, but I was still chilly and wanted them on. In fact, I ended up wearing them for the whole race!

Coming down into Towers aid station. Photo by O Photography Studio, pilfered from Gnar Runners’ Facebook page.

I passed back through the aid station/start line at mile 9 and headed out the other direction on the Blue Sky Trail. I hit a really low mental spot shortly thereafter, around mile 10 — probably the lowest I’ve ever been in a race, actually. That first big climb and descent left my legs pretty tired, and some foot pain I’d been dealing with for two weeks flared up pretty badly. I walked hills that weren’t even hills. I cursed myself for training for only 12 weeks, for thinking I could run a trail race when I live so far from trails. I wondered if I could even finish, or if I should just turn back, take a DNF, and go home.

But then, I thought about how a month before, I watched Logan run 100 miles — almost four times as much as I was running — on relatively limited training. Using her as inspiration (thanks, Logan!), I told myself to stop being an infant. I reminded myself that this was my choice, that I get to run trails. Eventually, I talked myself out of the grumpies and started enjoying myself again — and my foot stopped hurting. Although it bothered me before the race, and has a little since, I seriously think that at that point, it was all psychological.

Photo by Terry Grenwelge, taken from Gnar Runners’ Facebook page

Once I got out of my funk, I realized that I was now on the part of the trail that I’d trained on several times this summer, and that helped my confidence, too. Soon I passed another aid station and headed up to the Indian Summer loop… the loop that had messed with my head every time I ran it this summer. It’s not super steep — definitely runnable — but the trail winds around, and it makes you think the climb is almost finished… then you round another bend and up you go. Of course, what goes up comes down, so you also get a nice, long descent. On Indian Summer, I chatted with a nice older guy, also running his first trail race, and conversation made the time go faster. Seeing the leading men, already heading back the other direction, was less encouraging, but quite impressive. Those dudes are speedy.

After Indian Summer, I headed on out toward Devil’s Backbone and the technical, rocky trails there. I was thankful that I’d trained out there and gotten more comfortable with those rocks; they were tough as it was.

Photo by Mike Hinterberg, taken from Gnar Runners’ Facebook page

The course loops all around on the rocks, and before I knew it, I was headed back toward the finish, counting down the miles as I headed back around Indian Summer, past the final aid station, and up the final “big” climb. My legs were tired and hurting, but I felt pretty good, overall. Even though I was tired, I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the race. At this point, I knew I’d make it, and unless the wheels fell completely off, I’d meet my goal of going sub-five.

The last mile, however, was a struggle. The course is 26.7 miles, not 26.2 (which I knew going in; it’s on the website), and that last half mile seemed like a cruel joke. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I stopped to walk while I could see the finish line. Seriously. I had nothing left. Then a guy came up behind me and said, “Don’t walk now! Come on, come on!” That gave me the jolt I needed, and I ran with him to the finish, crossing the line in 4:50:41 and finishing in 10th place among women.

Just dying a little bit. Photo by O Photography Studio, taken from Gnar Runners’ Facebook page.

Jordan and our friend Shane, who lives in Fort Collins and came up to watch, cheered as I crossed the line, then hobbled with me (okay, I was the only one hobbling) to the food and drinks. Nothing appealed to me except ginger ale, which is weird because I don’t even like ginger ale, but my stomach was a little upset, and that stuff tasted heavenly. I chugged three cups of it. I knew I should eat something, too, but solid food sounded horrid. Instead, I took a shower at the campground while J and Shane took down our camp. Once I finally felt like eating, we headed back to the post-race bar-be-que, watched the awards, and stayed for the raffle (I won some Smartwool armwarmers)!

I kinda loved the message on this Sierra Trading Post sign at their finish line booth.
I kinda loved the message on this Sierra Trading Post sign at their finish line booth.

I think I’m hooked on trail races now, and I definitely want to do this one again. Aside from my mental breakdown at mile 10, I loved everything about this race. The course is pretty, and it was ridiculously well-marked. It’s also probably more runnable than I made it, which is part of why I’d like to run it again, with a little more training under my belt. The other runners were super friendly and supportive, even the wicked-fast dudes in front. The RD was well-organized, and everything from the start to the aid stations to the bar-be-que and awards ran smoothly. The aid station volunteers were fantastic, standing out there in the cold, misty morning, screaming and cheering for every runner as though each was winning the thing (one of my favorite parts of the whole race was coming through the last aid station and telling the volunteers “You’re the best!” and hearing the reply, “No, YOU’RE the best!”). And the raffle at the end was incredible — they gave away sweet prizes ranging from socks to Ultimate Direction hydration packs and Altra shoes.

This race was everything I hoped it would be. I proved to myself that I can run trail races, even living out here. I pushed myself to keep moving for more than an hour longer than I’d ever run before, and I finished something I wasn’t sure that I could. I’m proud of myself… and I can’t wait to get out there again.

Race Recap: Skirt Sports 13er

Ever since the lovely ladies at Skirt Sports and Sweat Pink reached out to me about running the Skirt Sports 13er (yes, I got the entry and gift certificate for free, but all the opinions here are my own), I intended to treat it as a training run. I knew that a month and a half after my last marathon, I’d be coming into the race with little to no speedwork. I also knew that I’d spend the week prior to the race running trails, which would leave my flatlander legs tired. So I really had no goals for this race, other than to have a good time. Spoiler alert: That’s exactly what happened!

The race started at 6:30 a.m. Yes, that’s early… but it’s Colorado in June on a course with no shade, so really, the early start time was fantastic. Jordan and I had stayed in Estes Park with his family the night before, so we were on the road by 4:30 and at the start at about a quarter to six. I picked up my bib and goodie bag with no trouble, did a warm-up mile, and hit the porta-potties (of which there were plenty, thank goodness… at a race this female-filled, we need a lot of them!).

The race started on the other side of an overpass from the expo/finish line. I guess that last year, racers had to run over the bridge, which caused bottlenecking, so the organizers moved the start line this year. As we headed up the bridge, Skirt Sports founder Nicole DeBoom (who is pretty much my hero) gave us all high-fives. photo 3 (14)

We received a few instructions and some encouragement at the start line, and soon we were off! Because I’m a chump, I got caught up in the start-line energy and set off WAY too fast for a training run. And then, at my too-fast pace, I fell in with a couple of super cool women, and we started chatting, and so I continued at that too-fast pace for a few miles. Whoops. By the time we hit a steep-ish hill at around mile 4, I caught my error and made myself slow down. I was not in race shape; I should not be racing. 

Once I slowed down, the group of women I’d been running with pulled ahead, and I was running on my own for quite some time. The course was gorgeous; I was kicking myself for not bringing my phone; since this was a training run,  I could’ve stopped to take some pictures. Instead, here’s one that Nicole sent me a while back to use for race promotion:

Image courtesy of Skirt Sports
Image courtesy of Skirt Sports

We had views of those mountains, plus cattle pastures and open spaces, pretty much the whole race.

At mile 7ish, the race heads up a massive hill (nicknamed “The Bad Relationship” — ha!). Confession: I walked a bit. I was being a baby and really had no reason to walk, but… I did. Then, the course turns into an open space for a little out-and-back. Races with those little out-and-backs bug me for some reason, but it wasn’t long.

From the open space on, the race is either flat or downhill, which was nice. I did run out of water in my handheld (totally my fault for not refilling it at the last aid station), and because it was getting warm, I started to get a little lightheaded and chose to walk again. Had I been racing, I probably would’ve just pushed through, as the next aid station was near, but again: being a baby.

The last couple of miles were uneventful but HOT: I was really glad the race started so early. I crossed the finish in 1:46:something — my slowest half ever. 

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And this is why I usually don’t do races as training runs: I was mad at myself. That’s dumb, and I know it, but sometimes my emotions get the best of me for a bit. The mad didn’t last long; I reminded myself that it was a training run, and that I had intended for it to be all along. I drank some chocolate milk and all was right with the world again.

Here’s a list of key points about this race. I was going to break it into pros and cons, but some things are subjective, so it’s all one big list. You can decide if you want to run it without me classifying things for you.

  • Girl-power vibe. The racers are almost all women, and everything from the pep talk at the start to the finisher skirts to the kick-start program participants was  women-centered and focused on making us all feel like badasses. I loved it. Plus, it’s always fun to see women as the overall winners, since that doesn’t happen in most races.
  • Awesome little expo. There was gluten-free cake (I heard it was amazing, but I was all hot and no food sounded good), EVOL burritos, chips, salsa, fruit, Two Moms in the Raw granola, kombucha, chocolate milk, Skratch … all sorts of tasty business. Plus, since Home Depot was a race sponsor (and the start and finish lines are in their parking lot), they had a booth set up where kids could make crafts while their moms ran. They also had a DIY race bib display project. I did not make one, because I don’t do crafts, but it’s cool for those that are crafty.
  • Finisher skirt. And bucket. I have about 12 million race t-shirts, so I LOVED getting a cute little skirt.

    (photo from 13er website. Obviously.)
    I also was pretty excited about the free Home Depot bucket, because with all the yard work we’re doing, we needed another one.
  • Hot, and no shade. It’s June, so of course it’s going to be hot. If you run this, be prepared. I was wishing I’d worn a hat and carried my bigger handheld.
  • Great aid station support. Carrying the small handheld wasn’t a big deal, because there were plenty of aid stations, and all the volunteers were super friendly and encouraging.
  • Well-marked and well-staffed. If you get lost on this course, you’ve got issues. Bonus: Every mile-marker/directional sign had an “I run for…” poster, each with a different picture under the “I run for…” headline.  Everything from margaritas to shirtless firemen was featured. The signs were funny and provided nice little pick-me-ups along the course.
  • Not many spectators. Aside from the aid stations, I saw only 3-4 groups of spectators along the course. That’s fine with me, but if you’re big on crowd support, you might have to recruit some friends to cheer along the course.
  • Beautiful and challenging course. This course is at the base of the foothills, so if you’re a flatlander like me, train for the hills — there are several, and that “Bad Relationship” is serious business.

I thought this was a great little race, and I’m planning to be back next year — racing it this time! I’m grateful to Skirt Sports and Sweat Pink for the opportunity. If you have a chance to do a Skirt Sports event, do it (even if you’re a dude)!

Can you do races as training runs, or do you get frustrated like I do?

What’s your favorite half marathon? 

Lincoln Marathon 2015 Recap

For 18 weeks, I focused on one number: 3:10. Whatever my actual pace was on easy, tempo, and long runs, three hours and ten minutes was always in the back of my mind. I’d targeted that goal twice before, instead running 3:13s both times. Lincoln was going to be my race, the one where I finally broke that barrier.

I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t even come close. Unlike the past two races, though, I’m not beating myself up about it. Sometimes, the weather is challenging. Sometimes, race day is not your day. And last Sunday was definitely not my day.

We left home a little after 7:00 on Saturday morning and drove the six-ish hours to Lincoln. Jordan deserves the Husband of the Year award — he’d spent Wednesday through Friday in the mountains with sixth-graders, then got up early Saturday to drive me to Lincoln, got up early again on Sunday to watch me run, and then drove me home. He’s a winner.

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Our first stop in Lincoln was the expo. It was really crowded, so we didn’t stay long. Instead, we checked in to our hotel and I went for a short shakeout run, then stretched and Sticked to work out the stiffness from the car ride. We grabbed some pasta from Noodles and Company, then just relaxed in the room and went to sleep early.

I slept surprisingly well for the night before a race, waking up just before my alarm went off at 4, when I ate my bagel with PB, popped some Immodium, then crawled back into bed for a while. Finally, we got up, got ready, and headed to the start line. Lincoln knows how to start a race: there was a huge indoor space to wait in (which wasn’t necessary, since it was already 60 degrees, but it would’ve been really nice in colder weather), and approximately 12 million porta-johns, to which my nervous bladder sent me several times.

Finally, it was time to find my corral and get ready. Lincoln’s corrals are sorted by bib color, which makes it easy to find the right spot. As I lined up, I saw the 3:13 pacer and told J, “I’ve got to beat that guy!” (Spoiler alert: I didn’t).
photo 2 (9)The National Anthem played, the wheelchair racers started, and then — BOOM — we were off!
photo 4 (2)The first few miles ticked along right on pace, but the weather was heating up and getting humid fast. By mile 5, my tank top was already getting soggy, and I was getting nervous, though I was still on pace. By mile 10, the sun came out in full force, I was sweating hard, and my pace started to drop from 7:15s so 7:25s or so. At that point, I knew that my 3:10 goal wasn’t going to be realistic.

Miles 7-12 were mentally challenging, as the half-marathoners were starting their negative splits, and I was getting passed like crazy. Since so many more people run the half, a lot of the spectators were shouting things like, “You’ve got this! Just two more miles!” It made me laugh… and also really tempted me to turn right, toward the finish, at the split. But I knew I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t finish the full, so I turned left, leaving the half crowd behind.

J saw a woman wearing this shirt and took a picture for me. He knows me well.
J saw a woman wearing this shirt and took a picture for me. He knows me well.

The second half of the race had much less shade, and my pace started dropping significantly. I was seeing eights on my watch, which I didn’t like, but if I crossed a certain speed threshold, I’d get lightheaded and nauseous, so the slower, safer speed won. At about mile 15, a little twig wedged itself down into my shoe. I had to stop and take my shoe completely off. I was not thrilled with losing even more time, but there was no way I could run another 11 miles with that thing rubbing my foot.

J caught me shortly after mile 15, and I made a “shoot me now” gesture. The heat and humidity was dragging me down — training through the winter certainly didn’t prepare me for it — and a headwind was blowing to boot, but he cheered me forward.

At this point, my pace was shot, so I simply focused on moving forward, breaking the race into 2.5ish-mile segments — from aid station to aid station. At each stop, I chugged at least two cups of water and often dumped one on my head, too. Several aid stations and friendly spectators also handed out cups of ice, which I’d dump down my bra for a few minutes of sweet relief. I probably should have been drinking Gatorade — I’m sure my electrolytes were way off; my body was gritty with salt by the end — but since I hadn’t trained with it (thanks to that strict diet), I didn’t want to race with it. I’m not sure which was the worse decision — risking it and having it destroy my stomach, or skipping it and getting more and more dehydrated. I did take three Vfuel gels, the last one at mile 17 or so (I think). I carried five, planning to take one every 45 minutes, but after a while, I just couldn’t stomach them in the heat.

I finally hit the turnaround just before mile 20, expecting to get some relief from the wind. Nope — it shifted, too. I thought that shift was all in my head, but several other runners said the same thing. I read an interview with the women’s winner, and she even said so! That made me feel like less of a baby. The last 10k was a slog — I had to stop and walk several times to keep from blacking out, and I continued my chug-dump-ice routine at the aid stations.

At least everyone else was struggling, too, so we cheered each other on as we leapfrogged. One nice guy even offered me water from his Fuel Belt when I was hurting. That’s the best thing about this sport — sure, we’re there to compete, but everyone looks out for one another, and I love the camaraderie.

photo 1 (12)

Finally, I turned the corner into the stadium and toward the finish line, which was at the football field’s 50-yard line. That tunnel seemed to go on for-ev-er, but I really appreciated that the half and full marathon were split all the way to the finish. Dodging walkers at the end of a marathon is rough, so I liked that we had separate paths. I also loved that they announced each marathon finisher over the loudspeaker in the stadium. I felt like big stuff.

When I was finally close enough to see the clock, I saw 3:27, and gave it what little kick was left in my legs.

photo 2 (10)It looks like I’m passing all those chicks, but they’re in the half lane.

The race sent a finisher video, but I’m not smart enough to embed it. If you want to see what a 90%-dead redhead looks like, click here.

Once I crossed the line, I stopped to catch my breath and wait for the world to stop spinning, hobbled back into the shade under the stadium and grabbed some Gatorade and water, then shuffled back out to the stadium turf. I wasn’t sure where J was, and I didn’t think nonrunners were even allowed where I was, but I desperately needed to sit down, as I was pretty dizzy. I eased myself onto the turf, rested my head on my knees, and drank my water and Gatorade. I even managed to choke down some chocolate milk. After a while, I felt okay enough to try to find J… but I couldn’t get up. I had to ask a stranger to help me. Ouch.

Post-race. So much sweat.
Post-race. So much sweat.

I finally found J, and then found the showers (another perk of this race: not having to stink afterward). Then, we found my favorite post-race lunch: a burger, a beer, and sweet potato fries. It was everything I wanted.

My official time was 3:27:14 — my third-slowest marathon, and far slower than the 3:10 I originally hoped for. I was disappointed, sure, but I honestly feel that there’s nothing I could have done differently. I’m not a good heat runner anyway, and I didn’t have any opportunities to train for those conditions, since the last 18 weeks were, you know, winter.

I felt better about my finish when I got the official results e-mail Sunday night: I crossed the start line 133rd overall, 15th woman, and 5th in my age group, and I crossed the finish 130th/16th/6th. So yes, I struggled, but so did everyone else. Later, I read that the men’s winner — who also won last year — ran 10 minutes slower than he did in 2014. So yeah, the conditions were tough. I wasn’t just a wimp.

I was impressed with the race as a whole and would definitely run it again. It was extremely well-organized, and the volunteers and spectators were awesome. I also think it could be a PR course if the weather cooperated — it’s flat, but not painfully so , with just enough little rollers to keep it interesting.

So what’s next? I’m not sure. I’d like to try again for 3:10… sometime, but not this fall. I don’t want to register for another goal race until my stomach stuff is straightened out, and with all our travelling and adventuring this summer, I don’t want to be committed to a hefty training schedule. For now, I’m going to recover, then run for fun and lift a little more weights. And then…. whatever I want, I guess!

Anybody else race this weekend?

How far off is your personal worst time from your personal best?

Any suggestions for what my “next big thing” should be?

Giveaway: Skirt Sports 13er Entry and $125 Gift Card

I’ve always thought that the half marathon was poorly named. I mean, I get that 13.1 is half of 26.2, but calling it a “half” seems to diminish the accomplishment of running 13.1 miles. And it is an accomplishment that should be celebrated.

The awesome ladies at Skirt Sports share my opinion, so they  named their race a Thirteener, because “it’s not half of anything.” I kind of love that.

Know what else I love? Giving stuff away. (Okay, so this is my first blog giveaway, but I already know I’m going to love it. And so will you). Skirt Sports is giving one lucky reader an entry to the 13er (or the 10k or 5k), PLUS a $125 gift certificate!

The race is in Louisville, CO, on June 14, but if you’re not a Coloradoan, don’t despair: there’s also a virtual option, so you can join the Skirt Sports fun wherever you are!

Disclaimer: Skirt Sports also gave me a race entry and gift certificate. And look at the fun things I got!

I'm kind of in love with this top.
I’m kind of in love with this entire outfit.
Fun fact: This top is reversible!
Fun fact: This top is reversible! Awkward pose and face not included.

I’ve never done this race before, but it looks like a ton of fun: a finisher skirt instead of a shirt, cake at the finish, and raffles! I’m excited to participate, and I hope some of my readers will, too!

Ready to enter? Click here to head to a Rafflecopter with several entry options! The giveaway is open until April 30 at 11:59 p.m.

 

Race Recaps You Should Read

There’s nothing more inspiring than reading a race recap. Whether the racer ran a new PR or ran for fun, recaps are entertaining and always make me want to lace up my shoes and head out the door. Since fall racing season is in full swing, the blogosphere has been full of recaps of all sorts of races. Here are some of my favorites recently:

Rachel ran her first-ever 5k a couple of weeks ago. The girl runs wicked-fast half-marathons but had never tried the short and terrible 5k. Spoiler alert: she killed it.

Laura ran the Great Pumpkin Haul, which is exactly what it sounds like: she carried a 33-pound pumpkin through an obstacle course. She’s studly and the race sounds like a blast.

Christy ran the Shoes and Brews half-marathon. Sounds like the awards and swag were mediocre, but Christy ran a great race, especially for having raced several times recently!

Heather has been racing like a crazy person, but that’s a link to her recap of her tenth marathon. Ten! She’s awesome like that.

And speaking of marathons, Brooke just ran Rock ‘n Roll Denver, which is one of my favorite races ever. She met every one of her goals and ran like a rock star!

Amy ran the half at Rock ‘n Roll. She had a friend in town, and they ran for fun and wore costumes. Sounds like a great time!

I hope you’re as inspired by these recaps as I was! Now, go run!

Did I miss a race recap you’d like to share? Post the link!

What’s your favorite race of all time?

Fall Classic Marathon Recap

First, thanks for all the sweet comments on my last post! They definitely made me feel better about the race. As promised, here’s my recap. It’s wordy. Sorry.

I spent the Friday and Saturday before the race at a conference for work.  Timing was great because the conference was in Loveland (where the race finished), so I didn’t have to stress about getting to packet pick-up on time.  The conference was excellent, and I had lots of professional things to think about, so my mind was occupied with things besides my usual level of pre-race nerves. That was nice.

Packet pick-up was out at Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, which is a special place to me because that’s where J and I had our rehearsal dinner. Last year’s floods caused a lot of damage at Sylvan Dale (including wiping out the building in which we had our dinner), so I was happy to see that they were receiving some financial kickback from the race.
photo (3)The view as I left packet pick-up

There was no expo, just bib and shirt pick-up, which was totally fine with me. I grabbed my bib and shirt, asked the (very nice) volunteers a few questions about the shuttle the next morning, and was on my way in just a few minutes.

I headed back into Loveland and checked into the hotel, then went for a walk to loosen up my legs while I waited for Jordan to arrive (he had meetings in Denver at the same time as my conference). When he got there, we grabbed some spaghetti from Noodles and Company, then went back to the hotel to swap conference stories and try to relax. I went to bed super early and, of course, didn’t really sleep.

The alarm went off at 3:45 the next morning. Ouch. I got dressed, ate my bagel, peanut butter, and banana, and threw on my ugly warm-up clothes. Jordan drove me the 15 minutes to meet the buses (he’s a good husband), and soon I was drifting in and out of sleep on the drive up the canyon. Soon, we arrived at the start in front of the famous Stanley Hotel. I waited on the warm bus for as long as possible, then stood in the porta-john line, worrying as the 6 a.m. start drew ever nearer. I needn’t have worried, though: two of the buses got lost, so the race start was delayed.
(This is not my picture. I didn’t want to run with my phone. I stole this picture from here. But this is where we started.)

Finally, the race director said a few words, and then we were off! We started down a steep downhill, but I tried to keep it reeled in, especially since I almost always start races too fast. Mile one ticked by in 7:33, which is right where I wanted it:  about 20 seconds slower than goal pace.

I settled in to my goal pace then and watched the miles tick by. The sun was just coming up in the canyon, reflecting off the rocks and river, and it was beautiful. Two girls were ahead of me, but I kept reminding myself that it wasn’t time to race yet, to just stick to my pace. Before long, I passed one of them, and then the only woman ahead was the one in the red Nebraska singlet… hereafter named “Nebraska” because that’s how I thought of her.

Shortly after mile 10 (I think), I passed Nebraska, but I didn’t let myself get cocky: I knew there was still a LOT of race ahead of me, and I needed to stick to my pace. By mile 15ish (when this picture was taken, I think), I was still feeling good.
Untitled2(Clearly these are the crappy thumbnail pictures sent out by the photographer. But I’m not going to pay a billion dollars for a picture, so you can look through the copyright).

At mile 18ish, I started feeling the need for a bathroom. But Nebraska was still hot on my heels, so like a moron, I didn’t stop. I really thought I could push through. So I just kept going, and for a while, I did feel better.

After 20-some miles of almost exclusively downhill, we hit a series of rolling hills. Going uphill at that point was pure torture, and looking at my splits, you can tell it:
Mile 20: 7:05 (down)
Mile 21: 7:56 (up)
Mile 22: 6:52 (down)
Mile 23: 7:34 (up)

Untitled3(This is my “who put this hill here!” face)

The last aid station was at mile 23, and I fully intended to stop and use the porta-john and just pray that Nebraska wouldn’t pull too far ahead. There was no porta-john at that aid station.This was bad news, but I had no choice but to keep going.

So I had to walk. Late-marathon leg pain is expected. It sucks, but I can push through it. But when the choice is between walking (and losing my PR and taking second instead of first) and soiling myself, I will choose walking every time… even if I wanted to cry when Nebraska passed me. My dismal last splits:
Mile 24: 7:46
Mile 25: 8:19
Mile 26: 9:02

Of course, this was also just about the only place on the course where there were spectators, all yelling at me, “You’re almost there! Just push through!” Ugh.

I finally crossed the finish in 3:13:00 and made a (hobbling) beeline to the bathrooms. And then I cried a little, drank some water, tried to eat some watermelon, and decided that there was nothing I could do, so I should just accept the race I ran. The $400 second-place prize helped soften the blow considerably, too.

photo 1 (4)Aside from the digestive disaster, I’m pretty happy with this race. I did much better at pacing than I ever had before, and I think that I do have that 3:10 in me, if all my systems cooperate. During this training cycle, I sometimes thought that this would be my last marathon, that I was ready to try something new … but now I feel like I need one more chance to redeem myself. Spring marathon suggestions, anyone?

My personal race aside, the Fall Classic is a fantastic marathon, and I highly recommend it. This was its first year, so naturally it had a couple of little glitches (like the bus issue), but overall, it was very well-organized. And it’s tough to beat that gorgeous course. I was a little nervous about running down that narrow canyon road, since the road remained open, but the runners’ area was clearly marked with cones, and police were constantly driving up and down the canyon with their lights flashing to slow down motorists. I never felt remotely unsafe.

My favorite thing about this race is that it 100 percent benefited locals. The entry fees supported flood victims. The aid stations were manned by local high schools’ cross country teams, who earned money for “volunteering.” The medals were created by a local artist, and the food and beer were provided by a local brewery (apparently their hand-made bratwursts were to die for. I wouldn’t know, because bratwursts are the worst. Ha. Pun).
photo 2 (5)So, in a nutshell: stunning mountain course, substantial cash prizes, great organization, all benefiting the local economy. Do this race if you can.

Have you ever had a race foiled by digestive troubles? Tell me your story and make me feel better about myself, please.

What spring marathon should I do?

 

Chase the Moon Relay Recap

This post is a little wordy. For a quick review of the race itself, scroll to the bottom. 

A few months ago, via Twitter, Logan started trying to convince Amy and me to run this crazy, all-night trail relay called Chase the Moon. Though the thought of running trails at night scared me, I decided that it’s good to do scary things sometimes, so  I agreed to it… especially after we assured one another that none of us were, in fact, serial killers (none of us had met in person at that point). And so, Team Cereal Killers was born. Later, we managed to talk Aimee and Brooke into joining the team, so we moved into the five-person division.

Last Friday night, Team Cereal Killers met for the first time, ready to take on Chase the Moon.
photo 4Logan, Brooke, Amy, me and Aimee. And our cereals, of course.

The race started at 7 p.m., so Jordan and I left home around 3:30, planning to meet the team between 5:30 and 6. As we drove, rain started pouring down. As it rained harder and harder, I got more and more nervous. I never run in the rain… because it hardly ever rains here, and when it does, it passes quickly. This storm was a typical quick-mover, thank goodness, so by the time we all met up, put up Amy’s and Brooke’s tents, and took a group photo, the rain had slowed to sporadic spits. By race time, it wasn’t raining at all. It was, however, humid (to me. Logan, who lives in D.C.,  thought it felt delightful).

I was our team’s first runner, so at 7:00, I lined up at the start to listen to instructions and the National Anthem. And just like that, we were off!
photo2I started WAY too far back, which meant I spent the first mile or so weaving, which is never good (but which I always do, somehow). Eventually, the crowd thinned, and I settled into a comfortable pace. My plan was to run nice and easy, at long run pace, since I was counting my two loops as my usual long run.

And then I hit the first aid station at mile 3.7, and they told me I was the first woman through. That’s when Competitive Cassie came out. I didn’t care that there were still over 11 hours in the race. I was first right now, and I was gonna stay first through the first loop. And this is why I can never do a race as a training run: I am mildly crazy.

I picked up the pace a little (the long downhill stretches helped). Since it was still daylight, I also got to enjoy some gorgeous views of the sun setting on the foothills and the city below. No, I did not take a picture. I was WINNING, remember? Before I knew it, I was back at the start, where I handed off the baton to Aimee, and she took off.

Thanks to Logan for this picture!
Thanks to Logan for this picture!

I changed out of my sweaty clothes, said goodbye to Jordan, and spent the next several hours hanging out at our little camp and getting to know my awesome teammates. Aimee was back before we knew it, finishing her lap in the dark. We realized, as she passed us unrecognized, that identifying our teammates in the dark was nearly impossible. The next few runners on our team came in shouting, “Cereal Killers!” so we’d be ready.  In hindsight, that’s probably not a great thing to shout as you come in off a dark trail in the middle of the night…

Aimee handed off to Logan, who handed off to Amy, who passed the baton to Brooke. I have no pictures of this, because it was dark. All the pictures I attempted looked like nothing. When Brooke got back at around 3:30, it was my turn again, so off I went. I knew my second lap would be much slower than the first because of the whole darkness thing, so I told myself to just take it easy. My Garmin beeped at mile 1: 8:35. Not too bad, I thought.

Then, at mile 1.3, I tripped over a big nothing and fell flat on my face. Awesome. I broke the skin on my knee and filled my water bottle cap with mud, but I wasn’t hurt. I assumed that was the universe telling me to not get cocky, so I slowed down considerably and paid closer attention to my feet. Thankfully, I had no further incidents, and I actually enjoyed running in the dark. It was quiet and peaceful (but there were other runners out there, so I felt safe), and the full moon and city lights below made for some pretty sights (on the rare occasion that I looked up post-fall).

(Another stolen photo, this one from Colorado Runner Magazine)

I finished my loop in the slowest time I’ve ever run ten miles, and my team told me that unless I wanted to run again, we were done. The race directors (and website) had originally said they’d cut the loop down to 10k between 5:30 and 6. Since none of my teammates were up for another 10 miles, they had asked the race directors when the loop would be cut down, planning to wait and run the 10k loop. They were  informed that the course wasn’t being cut down  after all. Since all of us are training for other races and none of us were dumb enough to risk pushing too hard on another 10-mile loop and getting injured, we called it quits after 61.8 miles and 10 hours.

Somehow, even quitting early, we managed to win the women’s five-person division (there were only two other teams in our division), so all of us except Aimee stayed for the awards (she had an hour’s drive home and needed to get there before the lack of sleep caught up with her).
photoThe medals glow in the dark. So do the race shirts. That’s pretty nifty.

In a nutshell…

Like any race, this one had pros and cons, but I think the pros far outweighed the cons. Here’s a quick summary of my opinions on both:

Pros:

  • The course. It was a pretty course, not at all technical (a major bonus for a night run), and very well-marked. Orange paint, ribbons, signs, and glow sticks marked the way, and anywhere you could possibly get lost, a volunteer was stationed to keep you on the right course. I have the worst sense of direction in the history of directions, and even I had no trouble staying on course. Also, it was cool to look back and see all the little lights from headlamps bobbing along below.
  • The volunteers. These people were amazing. They stayed up all night, too, but I never even saw one yawn. They were peppy, encouraging, and ready to help with anything.
  • The support. Water, Gatorade, and snacks were plentiful — more helpful for the solo runners, I’m sure, but nice for us relayers, too!
  • The solo runners. Seeing people of all ages and sizes running for 12 solid hours was inspiring. The solo race winner (a woman) ran over 70 miles in the 12-hour race. She is amazing.

Cons:
There were a couple of negatives, but any inaugural race is bound to have some hiccups. I’m sure the race directors will work them out for next year.

  • The washing-machine style loops. Odd-numbered loops were run one direction, and even-numbered loops the opposite. I understand why they did it this way, but it got a little confusing in the wee hours, and I really didn’t like scooting over as I met people in the dark. I was afraid of a twisted ankle. This is not a deal-breaker, though, especially since that’s just my opinion and I’m sure some people liked it.
  • The last-minute distance change. This will be a really easy fix for next year — either they’ll do the cutdown to 10k, or they won’t advertise that they will. It just threw us off because everyone was on training plans and had certain mileage planned, and it was frustrating to have those plans foiled. Again, not a deal-breaker, at least not for me.

Would I do this race again? Maybe. I definitely prefer daytime running — I loved seeing the scenery on my first loop and didn’t love the undivided attention on the trail in front of me on the second. BUT… next year, the race is July 31-August 1. August 1 is my birthday. That means that if I ran three loops, I’d turn 30 while running 30 miles. And that might be too cool to pass up.

Would you do or have you done an all-night run or relay?

Want to be on my team next year and ring in my 30th with me? 

Throwback Thursday: My First Marathon

It’s been quite a while since I wrote a Throwback Thursday post. I made that realization as I was finally categorizing past posts today. Note to bloggers: Categorize as you go. That was a huge pain. 

Anyway, I also realized that I’ve never written about my first marathon, Rock ‘n Roll Seattle in 2010 — the one that infected me with this desire to keep running them. So here’s the story. Enjoy!

I shuffle around the start line in the predawn light, shaking out my legs, straightening my bib, and exchanging nervous smiles and small talk with the other runners. Eighteen weeks of training have gotten me here– eighteen weeks of hard runs and ice baths, of early bedtimes and even earlier alarm clocks, of avoiding refined sugars and alcohol. Eighteen weeks, and it all comes down to this moment. In just a few minutes, the anthem will play and the gun will go off, and I’ll have 26.2 miles to test my training, to see if I have the endurance – mental and physical –for this task.

I don’t have much time to stress, thankfully. Before I know it, the gun has fired and I’m shuffling forward, anxious for the pack to thin so I can find my stride.  The first few miles pass quickly, and soon the sun is high and the spectators are out, ringing cowbells, playing music, and cheering enthusiastically as we run by. I bypass several aid stations, thinking I’ll avoid the crowds and catch a drink at the next one – a mistake, I realize just before mile 10. I’m lightheaded and dizzy, and I have to slow to a walk. At the aid station, I grab and gulp several cups of water; by the time I’m done, I feel like a new woman. I run the next few miles with a silly grin on my face, exchanging high-fives with spectators and jokes with fellow racers.

seattle rnr marathon1

After mile 20, though, I hit the metaphorical wall I’d read about on all the training websites– the wall I’d hoped to avoid. My legs throb, my lungs burn, and I look down to make sure my feet are still attached. I keep pushing, praying that I’ll break through that wall and feel fresh again. Along with not hydrating, I haven’t taken in any nutrition. I promise myself that I’ll avoid that rookie mistake IF I ever run another marathon… which is not looking likely at this point.

If I had known a polar bear was beating me, I would have been even more demoralized.
If I had known a polar bear was beating me, I would have been even more demoralized.

Eventually, I feel a little better, but some sadist of a course-planner threw in a hill at mile 25. My legs refuse to carry me up. Defeated, I slow to a walk. Another runner pulls up alongside me just as I slow. “Don’t walk now!” he urges. “Just top this hill, and you’ll hear the crowd. They’ll carry you to the finish line.” Encouraged, I start running again. Every step hurts and I want to quit, but I can’t stop now. My new friend runs with me for perhaps a quarter mile, adding valuable seconds to his own time to ensure that I’ll make it. I thank him between gasps and urge him to go on. He smiles, wishes me good luck, and disappears over the top of the hill.

Eventually I top the hill, too, and see that he was right. The road to the finish is lined with screaming spectators three-deep, and I can hear the finish-line band blaring. I pass the mile-26 sign, and then the finish line is in sight. The clock says 3:29:13– I’m seconds away from my goal time. My legs scream, but from somewhere deep inside me comes one final kick. I push hard, hearing Jordan’s shouted, “THAT’S MY WIFE!” as I glimpse his grinning face from the corner of my eye.

seattle rnr marathon2

 

I cross the finish line as the clock flashes 3:30:07. I made it! I slow to a walk—a shuffle, really– and gratefully accept water from a smiling volunteer. Another volunteer slides a medal over my head, and a third directs me to the end of the chute, where my grinning husband envelopes my aching, sweat-soaked body in his arms and tells me how proud he is.

seattle rnr marathon3

I missed the volunteer with space blankets, but I have to sit down. I sink onto the fender of a semi, gulping Cytomax and loosening my shoes, while Jordan stands beside me, swinging my medal and beaming. I’m exhausted, I stink, and every inch of me hurts, but I’m also proud of myself like I have never been before.

I look up at Jordan and grin. “When can I run another?”

 

Tell me about your first race!