Race Report: PHUNT 50k

Back in January, I attempted my first ultramarathon at the PHUNT 50k in Elkton, Maryland. You may remember that I ran the 25k version of this race (one loop) last year and even though it was Really. Freaking. Hard., I almost immediately decided I wanted to attempt the 50k (two loop version) in 2017.

The lead-up to this year’s race was much different than last year. I started a brand new job in November (call me if you’re buying a house in Northern VA or D.C.!) and my training took a backseat to trying to establish myself in my new position. I also ran 3 marathons in 2016 – actually, 4 if you count the Ironman – so I was definitely going into PHUNT more tired than last year. But, the flip side is that I was running better than I ever had leading into this race. I also felt like I had no pressure at all to perform coming off of my other fall races and it was more about finishing than anything else. So those were all positives heading into the day. My only real fear was not making the eight-hour cut off. I had visions of being at mile 29 and not being allowed to finish. Actually, strike that. I had the time limit fear and a very real fear of getting lost in the woods, since I can’t find my way out of a paper bag.

In any case, I drove up to the race on Friday after work and traffic sucked. It took me something like three hours and I was pooped by the time I got to my hotel, which was in Newark, DE. I’m going to be honest that it was probably the worst hotel I have ever stayed in (and I’m not afraid of cheap hotels), but I was really trying to stay within a budget. Next year, I’m upgrading.

The race starts late, so I got to sleep in, which was awesome. This race is fantastic for a lot of reasons, but one is that you get to hang out in an activity hall before and after the race. Shelter and real bathrooms – score!

Since I’m writing this post almost a full month after the race, my race report is not going to be the most detailed of my life, but here’s the abbreviated version.

For the first half of the race (one 25k loop), my main goals were running where I could run (in a trail race you inevitably end up walking some sections because of footing issues) and eating as many calories as I could. I got through the first loop at around 12 minute mile pace, which was awesome for me on that terrain.

14597394_731946220297468_6223623004513894400_n1

I had left a duffle bag waiting at the start/finish line with my nutrition for the second loop. I tried to move as quickly as possible to re-fill my Camelbak and stuff my pockets with food before starting out on the second loop. Almost immediately, it started sleeting and I regretted my decision to leave my gloves in “transition.” Luckily, the weather wasn’t awful. I would much rather run in sleet than rain and only a few portions of the course were muddy for the second lap, since it was relatively cold.

I definitely hit some low points during the second loop. For the first 6-ish miles I ran completely alone and didn’t even see another runner, since the majority of the racers only ran one loop and those of us doing two were so spread out at that point. At the first aid station, I finally saw another racer and I immediately latched on to him. We ran together and chatted for awhile, but at a certain point, he said I could go ahead, which I did. I actually passed a few guys (!!!) and then got passed by two couples. Both times, I tried to stay with them, but I just couldn’t. In retrospect, I definitely don’t think I was drinking enough during the second loop because my Camelbak was almost full when I finished the race, but at the time, I felt like I was doing okay with my nutrition.

I walked more than I would have liked to during the second loop, but despite that, I still ended up finishing in plenty of time – 6:38 for 31 miles.

15877613_248554658913035_4524557371262894080_n

I’ve already registered for next year’s race because I know I can do better. That second loop wasn’t what I wanted it to be. But, I am still proud of the finish and for tackling another big, scary goal.

As always, I need to thank Alyssa for preparing me for the race and supporting me through every high and low in my life for the past three years. I also want to thank the volunteers, who were AMAZING! Even though the weather sucked, they were out there cheering for us like we were rockstars all day long. I also want to thank Carl Perkins, the race director, and the other folks who helped to plan and put on this event. I’m fairly certain Carl’s whole family is involved in various ways at this event and that is really going above and beyond!

This is a fantastic event and I’m so excited to be heading back in 2018!

 

 

 

Double PRs

I’m writing this on Christmas Eve, the first time I’ve had enough spare time to blog in THREE months, which is certainly a personal worst for me. I started a new job this fall and I’m still adjusting to my new schedule. I love the job. I’m working in sales for a title company (call me if you work in real estate in Metro D.C. area!).

In any case, even though I haven’t been blogging, I’ve actually been racing quite a bit! Back in October, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon as a member of Team Fisher House. I’m proud to have raised $2,655.00 for Fisher House, which is an incredible organization. I definitely encourage you to look them up if you aren’t familiar with the work they do.

14906960_10211420715936586_3503986511314818524_n

Leading up to the race, both Alyssa and I thought I could have a good day based on some of my times during my key workouts, but it didn’t exactly work out that way. I finished in 4:33 something, which isn’t a personal worst, but I knew I was capable of running a much faster race. So, despite quitting sports forever somewhere around mile 16 of the race, just a few days afterward I registered to run the Rehoboth Marathon on December 3. It’s incredible how easy it is for Alyssa to talk me into things.

In the interim, I ran the Vienna Turkey Trot, which is a great local race on a surprisingly challenging course. This event was a lot of fun, as many of my friends ran as well.

Okay, so now on to Rehoboth. I’ve had a really long season this year. I ran the L.A. Marathon back in February and then of course Marine Corps in October, and an Ironman, the Tour de Skyline, and several other events in-between. I’ve never done two marathons so close together (just five weeks apart). I really wasn’t sure what to expect of my body at all. I joked with Alyssa that I thought I would have a good race because my training was going so poorly. Alyssa told me to have fun, no matter what happened during the race.

I carpooled to the race with two of my friends who were running the half and I laughed so hard in the car that my stomach actually hurt the night before the race. We stayed with another friend from our running group, who was also racing the half.

The four of us headed to the race start on race morning, but we got there with *barely* enough time to use the porta potty before the start. I had no time to warm-up and was definitely feeling a bit anxious about the harried start.

The gun went off and off we went. I started off feeling good and just took the race one mile at a time. As soon as a mile was over, I stopped thinking about it and focused on the mile I was in. I actually did this so well that at a couple of points I wasn’t even sure what mile I was in until I saw the mile markers along the side of the course.

It was nice and cold, which always helps me, and as the miles ticked by, I knew I was on track to break 4:20, which was my goal for the race. While this race course is flat, there was a lot of wind and there were two particularly notable sections where we were running straight into the wind for an extended period of time. For the first, I was able to tuck behind the pace group leader for the 4:10 pace group. He blocked the wind for me, which was awesome. The second time, at mile 19ish, I was on my own. I saw my “lap pace” on my Garmin creeping up and I started to get nervous that it was the beginning of the end of my effort to have my dream race. But, I stuck with my plan and as soon as that mile was over, I tried to put it behind me. I fought for every mile.

On the last out and back stretch, where you are running through a beautiful wooded area, I saw the 4:10 pace leader again (he was running solo at this point). It didn’t seem like he was that far ahead of me. I yelled “I am trying to catch you!” and he said “You totally can!”

In my mind, I actually did start to think I could run a 4:10, which was good motivation to keep pushing hard until the very end, even though (spoiler alert) I missed it.

15220166_10211721681300532_5704018301912003321_n

 

I finished in 4:11, far surpassing my goal time, with my friends cheering me on at the finish. It was awesome! I couldn’t wait to get back to the car to text Alyssa.

15326339_10211721681660541_5245807497944037277_n

Of course, she had been tracking me and already knew, although, she joked that I owed her ten years of her life back because there was a huge gap in the splits and she was on the edge of her seat the entire time!

So, after this race, I was majorly riding the pain train for a couple of days, but I had registered for the Gar Williams half marathon on the following weekend, so…

Fast forward 8 days to December 11 and I was on the start line of a half marathon. I was there with two other friends from my running group (love my running group!). I, once again, had no idea what to expect from my body having run a 12 minute marathon PR the prior weekend. Alyssa and I had decided in advance that I would just run and see how I felt. It was up to me to decide whether I wanted to really try to race it or not.

Thankfully, it was another cold day and I started off feeling pretty good. I was ticking off miles at under 9:00 minute/mile pace and thinking I could definitely try to PR by breaking two hours. I hit the half way mark at 58:08, running 8:53 pace.

Around mile 7 or 8 though, my body realized what was happening and said “OH, HELL NO!” and the wheels started slowly coming off. My pace started slowing, and slowing, and slowing… I knew it was going to be tough to break two hours at that point, but I tried to employ the same strategy I used the weekend before in Rehoboth – just fight for the mile you’re in. Don’t give up.

I ended up finishing in 1:58:33. Another PR! Even though this was a terribly paced effort, I was happy to have held on.

This sport is so odd. Two years ago, every half I did, all I wanted to do was break 2:00 (see here, and here…) and I never could. And then, out of no where, I was able to do it the weekend after running a marathon PR. Team HPB is known for doing “doubles” (although, usually that means double Ironmans), but I did my own mini version of the double and was able to double PR.

Huge thanks, as always, to Alyssa. When I started working with her, my marathon PR was a 4:40, and we have slowly worked our way down to a 4:11. I would have never EVER imagined I could do that when we started working together many years ago.

Now, I would say that I’m looking forward to taking a bit of a break, but I’m registered for my first ever ultra-marathon, a trail 50k on January 14, so I’m off to the gym instead.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

Race Report: Rev3 Knoxville Half

Taryn and I headed down to Knoxville on Friday for our first half of the season. I hadn’t done this race before but heard great things about it from Alyssa and others and was super excited for the race.

Taryn and I stayed at the Four Points Sheraton directly across the street from the race expo, which was an awesome choice. I would definitely recommend staying at the Sheraton if you decide to do this race (and you should!).

Most of Friday was taken up with the drive, so we didn’t pick up packets until Saturday. After we got those, we hit the practice swim, which is always really critical for me, with swimming being my weakest of the three disciplines. Luckily, the practice swim went great. Everyone was super friendly, the swim was very low key, the water temp (68 point something) was perfect – I couldn’t have asked for a better start to race weekend. We also did a short ride and run, checked our bikes in at transition, attended the athlete briefing, and then went to bed early. The day before a race always goes by faster than I want it to!

With everything going so smoothly on Saturday, I woke up feeling positive and excited on race morning. I got up at 4:00 and we left the hotel around 5:15, which is when transition opened. No race number tattoo or directional snafus this time. We were able to walk to transition and get there by 5:30, which was great, and we had until 6:30 to get set up.

We thought an hour in transition would give us more than enough time to get ready, even if something went wrong. Sure enough, I had to visit the mechanics, as I couldn’t get a reading on the pressure in my rear tire (this is a recurring problem, as I need a valve extender on my rear tube and it’s constantly causing me problems). In any case, they were super friendly and helped me out quickly and efficiently. Huge thanks to those gentlemen for helping me out!

I also spoke to the race officials in transition (I had a random question about where I could put my bag because it was too large to fit neatly by my bike) and they were super friendly. The head official was from Atlanta and we chatted a bit. I loved the low-key, friendly atmosphere at this race from start-to-finish. It really makes such a difference in terms of keeping the athletes calm. The Race Director told us in the athlete briefing on Saturday that our racing experience was their top priority and it really showed throughout the weekend.

As I was finishing getting set up in transition, I happened to look down at my ankle. No chip. I stayed calm, and walked over to Taryn to tell her what was happening. She immediately stopped what she was doing and went to talk to a volunteer about getting me a new chip, as I retraced my steps trying to figure out where mine could have gone. Ultimately, I found it (it had slipped off when I took my pants off), but it was definitely a scare.

We finished getting organized in transition and started the walk toward the race start right around 6:30, with our wave scheduled to start at 7:00 a.m. It’s about a half mile walk from transition to the swim start, but it wasn’t bad at all. And, as a bonus, we were treated with a gorgeous sunrise. 

Soon enough the race was starting and the two waves in front of us had gone off. It was our turn and we walked down to the dock. It’s an in water start, and they give you about five minutes to warm-up in the water before the start. We jumped into the water and I felt good warming up. I was ready to go!

Swim: 45:25 (10/14 AG, 29/47 women)

Oh, the swim. My day did not get off to the start I had hoped for.

In terms of the race itself (as opposed to my personal performance) I actually really liked this swim. Our wave was quite tiny and we were able to spread out a lot at the start. It was a simple out and back course (with the back section slightly longer than out, since the swim start and finish were at two different points along the river) and the water temperature of 67 degrees was really perfect for a long-sleeved wetsuit. The sun made sighting for the first half quite difficult, but, generally, I liked this swim more than most. It should have been a great swim day for me.

It was not.

The problem came when my cap started creeping upward around the turnaround. If you know me at all, you know I am a rule follower. Always have been, always will be. The minute my cap started to slip, I was panicked about getting a penalty. At the athlete briefing the day before the race, they had emphasized littering as something they would be looking for during the race. Surely coming out of the water sans cap would be a penalty, right? I wasn’t sure. But I thought it was a possibility. I knew I couldn’t swim holding my cap in my hand. Especially since I wasn’t even half way through the swim. I had to figure something out and I had to do it fast.

I tried stopping several times to pull it down. This wasn’t working because my head was wet and the cap would just slide right back up. The only result was that I was messing up my goggles. It was one of those situations where time (and quite literally other racers) seem to be passing you by at warp speed, but you can only seem to work in slow motion. After several attempts, I knew this approach wasn’t going to work. I finally swam over to a kayak and asked the kayaker if I could hold on and try to fix my cap. I took my goggles off completely, took the cap off completely, and started from scratch. I finally got my cap back on my head, got my goggles back on, and started swimming again, but it felt like an eternity had passed while all of this was going on.

I did finally finish and get out of the water (volunteers pull you up on to the dock and then there is a bit of a run to get back into transition), but I was definitely shaken up.

Looking at photos afterward, it was very obvious my cap wasn’t on properly before the race even started.

IMG_6043

Photo from the Rev3 Facebook page.

Lesson learned to make sure I really pull my cap down completely before future races.

Bike: 3:15:33 (7/14 AG, 12/47 women)

I’ve done a lot of riding this month, including the Tour de Skyline, which entailed riding over 200 miles in 2 days with a ton of climbing. I thought I was set up for a super strong bike.

However, with the less than ideal swim behind me, I spent the entire start of the bike just trying to calm down and stop being mad at myself about my damn cap!

IMG_6042

Photo from the Rev3 Facebook page.

The course starts in the city and then heads out to the country. In the more rural sections, there were some spectacular views. It actually reminded me quite a bit of riding in Loudoun County. Hilly, but very scenic and green.

I would classify the bike course at Knoxville as a challenging course. Before the race, I had read in a race report that this is “not a PR course” and I think that’s definitely true. There is a lot of climbing and for some reason, I felt like I couldn’t really take advantage of the downhills as much as I normally would, which usually helps make up for the climbing on a hilly course.

There was a course marking snafu (not Rev3’s fault), but that didn’t impact my race. I thought the course was very well-marked with color-coded arrows and signs throughout. There were also a few special “caution” signs along the course and those were helpful. I really only found one turn to be especially tricky.

There were two turnarounds on the bike course and I was able to see Taryn twice along the course, which was nice.

My overall bike speed was slow – in the low 17s – which is slower than where I wanted to be. Even though I stayed on top of my nutrition throughout the ride, I definitely felt like I wasn’t able to go as fast as I had expected.

I finally got back to transition at 3:15, which was honestly pretty disappointing. I dismounted, ran back in to transition, and got ready for the run as quickly as I could.

Run: 2:18:19 (9/14 AG, 22/47 women) 

So, my PR for a 70.3 run is a 2:02, which I ran at Challenge Atlantic City last year. After my solid run at Monticelloman (a 54:14 on a challenging run course) earlier this month, I thought I would be in the same 2:00 ballpark here, but obviously, I thought wrong.

I didn’t start out strong and die in the heat or get injured or anything like that. I was just running slow from the get-go. I tried taking in extra calories along the run course, thinking that may give me a boost, but instead, all it gave me was GI distress.

At each of the aid stations (spaced about one mile apart along the run course), I took a gel or Coke or Gatorade. I tried ice in my bra. I tried ice in my hat. I really wanted to “fix” whatever my problem was, but nothing was working. I’m honestly not sure what I could have done differently to remedy the situation. I was just slow. 

The only thing that really hurt on the run was my feet. I am using a different brand of elastic laces this season and they are not as adjustable as the ones I used last year. My feet must have been swollen because my shoes were painfully tight (I wore the same shoes in Monticelloman without any issue). Although this wasn’t ideal, I don’t really think it impacted my race. It was an annoyance, but, again, I don’t think there was any clear cause to my bad run – it was just one of those off days.

Toward the very end of the run, two of the Rev 3 Team athletes ran up from behind me and were trying to encourage me along (thanks, guys!), but I really didn’t have anything extra to give. They ran past me and I just kept trying to put one foot in front of the other until I crossed the finish.

This ended up being my slowest 70.3 run EVER (yes, even slower than Syracuse, which is a much tougher run course) at 2:18:19. It was definitely NOT the run I had expected to have at this race.

137517-039-030h

My final finish time was 6:25:52 (it hurts just to type that), which landed me in 8th place in my age group (18 out of 47 women).

In happier news, Taryn was waiting at the finish for me. She had a fantastic race and WON her age group! This was her second podium this month!

IMG_6030

We ended the day on our balcony, over-looking the expo, sipping sparkling wine to celebrate Taryn’s awesome day. It was the perfect way to end the day.

Despite my performance, Rev3 Knoxville was a great race. The volunteers, Rev3 staff, and Rev3 Team athletes were all fabulous. I loved the course. Rev3 puts on a fantastic, well-organized race. I loved this race and definitely plan to go back someday.

While my race was disappointing, I am trying to convince myself that I will come back stronger and smarter from this experience. Everyone has bad races – even the pros – and the only thing I can do about it now is to have a positive attitude and move forward.

As always, I want to thank my awesome husband for his support; Alyssa, who even called me after the race from somewhere on her journey home from Lanzarote to give me a post-race pep talk; Bobo’s Oat Bars; and all of Ignite’s fabulous sponsors.

Next up for me is the Tupper Lake Tinman half on June 25.

Race Report: L.A. Marathon (and Spectating the Olympic Marathon Trials)

I had a fantastic time in L.A. this past weekend, albeit short. From spectating the Olympic Marathon Trials, to running the L.A. Marathon, to spending time with my dear friend Ashley, this was most definitely a weekend to remember.

I flew out to L.A. on Friday to meet up with Ashley, who I haven’t seen since August 2014. I had to wake up at 3:00 a.m. to catch my early flight out of Dulles. After a brief layover in San Francisco, I landed at LAX around noon and met up with Ashley, who was coming in from Phoenix, at baggage claim.

Only in California! A sign at the airport in San Fran.

12742695_10208978468601929_5557193509686053978_n-1

We knew we were in L.A. when we stepped outside and the first person we saw was a little girl (maybe 5 years old) wearing sunglasses and Beats by Dre. L.A. oozes cool.

Ashley and I took a cab downtown and checked into our hotel – the Sheraton Downtown. Between waking up so early and the 3-hour time difference, I was starving, so the first order of business was getting some food. After enjoying some very yummy Asian food, we headed to the race expo to pick up our bibs. We somehow turned what should have been a short walk (the expo was just a few blocks from the hotel) into an adventure (we got a little turned around and ended up at the place where people were picking up their tickets for the Grammy Awards), but we eventually found our way. The expo was huge and we walked around briefly to scope everything out. After the expo, we hit the hotel gym (the Sheraton has super nice gym, by the way) for a brief, post-travel shake-out jog. We grabbed dinner and then – Type A personalities that we are – figured out logistics for the rest of the weekend. We decided where we would stand to spectate the Olympic Marathon Trials on Saturday, we thought-through our plan for race morning on Sunday, I figured out my coffee plan for the trip (priorities!), etc.

Saturday

On Saturday morning, we went for a brief shake-out run around downtown and then grabbed breakfast at the Whole Foods just a couple of blocks away from the Sheraton (another plus for the Sheraton). We showered and I put on my most patriotic outfit and off we went to watch the Trials!

Spectating! USA, USA!

IMG_5350

Spectating the Trials was incredible. There was a palpable buzz in the air. Ashley and I were actually nervous for the runners! We found a great spot to watch them walking to their warm-ups, which was awesome. They are all SO teeny in person – even the men. These runners have thighs the size of my arms!

I took a ton of photos during the race, but here are a few of my favorites.

Meb and Galen Rupp 

IMG_5211

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a great shot of Meb at the finish, but he was waving the American flag with one hand and pumping his fist/giving high fives with the other – it was awesome! He’s just the best!

IMG_5351

I am so thrilled with our women’s team. We couldn’t ask for three more fabulous women to represent us in Rio.

The winner of the women’s race, Amy Cragg, looking super strong and fresh at the finish.

FullSizeRender

Desi finished in second.

FullSizeRender (12)

Shalane fought hard to hang on for third.

FullSizeRender (11)

Spectating the Trials in person was even more amazing than I hoped it would be. It’s something I will never forget.

The races ended in the early afternoon and Ashley and I took it easy for the rest of the day. We reviewed our logistics for the next day and laid out our clothes. We wanted to be ready to go in the morning. We had noticed the day before that the Sheraton’s gym had foam rollers and massage sticks (how awesome is that?), so we put in a solid foam rolling session before bed.

Sunday

On race morning, we woke up at 4:00 a.m., had our breakfasts, got dressed, and walked to the shuttle buses. For those of us staying at the Sheraton and other downtown hotels, free shuttle service was provided to the race start at Dodger Stadium and back from the finish in Santa Monica. It was so convenient that we only had to walk a couple of blocks to get on our shuttle. The whole process went very smoothly. It really made race morning a breeze.

We were able to hang out inside Dodger Stadium before the race, which was pretty cool. We took a couple of photos and hung out for a few minutes and then I headed out for my warm-up. It was actually a bit cold, so I was glad to get my body moving. In addition to the bathrooms inside the stadium, there were more than enough porta potties outside, so there wasn’t a long wait at all to use the bathroom before the race. Ashley and I went to the bathroom one more time, gave each other a hug, and off we went to our respective corrals.

Inside the stadium on race morning.

Stadium

I had some trouble getting into my corral. I couldn’t figure out where to enter the lettered corrals and had to slowly work my way through the very crowded general corral to find my place with the 4:15 pace group in corral D (there were five lettered corrals, seeded based on prior marathon finish times, and then a large general corral).

Even though this was a large race, the start was much smoother and quicker than the other large marathons I’ve done (Chicago and NYC). I crossed the line just a few minutes after the start of the race.

I wasn’t wearing a Garmin for this race, but my plan was to stick with the 4:15 pace group. The last time I tried to run with a pace group, I lost them at the very first water stop, so this time, I made a point of staying right with Jo, our pacer, even if it meant jostling a little in the crowds at the start of the race. I stuck like glue to that pacer for the first few miles, even though the pace felt really fast.

While the elevation profile really doesn’t seem bad at all, the course was quite hilly, particularly over the first six miles or so. Between the hills and what felt like a quick pace, I was starting to struggle. I knew it was WAY too early to be feeling that way and I had in the back of my mind the time I tried to run the Chicago Marathon in the heat and ended up walking to the finish in 5:20-something.

This elevation chart doesn’t do the course justice!

Screen shot 2016-02-16 at 7.15.47 AM

At one point, we ran past a clock and I realized we were way ahead of where we should have been to run 4:15 pace (I was wearing a pace band that listed all of the splits for a 4:15 marathon). I wasn’t sure what pace we were running, but this was confirmation for me that it was too fast. Knowing it was going to warm up throughout the day, I decided to let the pacer go a little after mile 5.

This was not the start I was hoping for. I tried not to get upset and to just relax and settle in to a comfortable pace, which is easier said than done when you’re in a race, knowing you’ve already abandoned the plan at less than 1/4 of the way through!

In an effort to take my mind off of the pacing issues, I told myself to just do what I did in Chattanooga – just put one foot in front of the other until the finish.

The course was just incredible. Looking up at the mountains and the palm trees, the fancy shops and restaurants – I actually liked this course more than New York. Maybe that’s just because I grew up near NYC and went to law school there, so the sights there aren’t new to me. In any case, this course was spectacular.

At around mile 10-ish, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to see my friend Cassie who also coaches at M3. I was so thrilled to see her, especially since I wasn’t feeling great. She reiterated what I already knew, which is that I really needed to calm down and settle in. We chatted briefly and then she ran ahead.

It was definitely warming up and I was trying to take in fluids at every aid station and stay on top of my gels and salt to ensure I was giving my body everything it would need to get to Santa Monica. The aid stations were just about every mile, which was fabulous. It really helps you count down the miles and gives you something to look forward to.

The crowds were amazing along the entire course. Their support was incredible. The volunteers were great, too – there were lots of kids volunteering, which was really cool to see. Everyone had words of encouragement. I loved looking at the crowds and volunteer groups as we went along. There were cheerleaders and drag queens and people who looked straight out of magazines – you just never knew what you were going to see next.

I think this was the most diverse race I have ever done in terms of both runners and spectators. So many people of different ages and sizes and colors. It was awesome! L.A. has an amazing program called Students Run L.A. (“SRLA”). From the SRLA website:

The mission of Students Run LA is to challenge at-risk secondary students to experience the benefits of goal-setting, character development, adult mentoring and improved health by providing them with a truly life-changing experience: The training for and completion of the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon.

There were hundreds of students on the course. These kids were so fabulous. I was just so darn impressed with them.

The miles were ticking by and I had no idea where I was time-wise, but I knew I was going slow. I kept telling myself “only X miles left,” but I was hurting. Everything hurt – even things that haven’t ever hurt me on runs before. My toes were hurting, which was a first for me. I took some Ibuprofen, hoping that would help, and just tried to keep moving. When I got to the last few miles, I could finally do the math and see that I still had a chance of finishing in less than 4:30, but it was going to be close (heading into the race I thought I would be happy with anything better than a 4:30 finish time). That was good motivation for me to keep moving as fast as I could, despite the pain.

As we approached the finish in Santa Monica, there was a drastic weather change – it was noticeably cooler, with a fog that really helped cool things down. At this point, unfortunately, I was in too much pain to really capitalize on the improved weather. My hamstrings, quads, feet, hips, low back – basically, everything – was hurting so bad that I was running with a bit of a limp. I knew I was SO close and tried to push, but just couldn’t. I’ve actually never been hurting so bad that I couldn’t give a final push in a race, but there is a first for everything, I suppose. Several people passed me in the final stretch as they surged to the finish and I was just hobbling along.

As I crossed a few volunteers asked if I was okay because I was stumbling a bit, and I said I was. I was just in pain. There were tons of volunteers at the finish, which was great.

I got my medal, which is gorgeous. It’s two-sided and one of the heaviest medals I’ve ever gotten.

My medal.

IMG_5359

I knew I finished in just under 4:30, even though I wasn’t sure of my exact time. As I mentioned, I had said prior to the race that in light of the heat I would be happy with anything under 4:30, but in the moment, it can be hard to accept anything less than what you know you can do (and I know I have a faster marathon in me somewhere). I was tired and in a lot of pain, and disappointed in my time and I got a little emotional at the finish. But I was able to pull it together after I drank some water and ate a banana and recovery bar.

I found Cassie and we were able to chat for a bit post-race, which was great. She had a good day, even though her training had not gone as she had hoped, and I was very happy for her.

#Twinning with Cassie in Lululemon at the finish.

IMG_5335

I met up with Ashley and unfortunately she did not have the day she was hoping for. I was super bummed for her, but she seemed to be in good spirits.

We found the shuttle back to the hotel. The Sheraton offered a late (3:00 p.m.) checkout option for $80, which we decided was worth the money so that we could shower before getting on our planes. After showering and checking-out of the hotel, we grabbed lunch at The Counter, which was right by the Sheraton. They had great vegan burgers and fries – the perfect post-marathon meal.

We had enough time to grab a drink at the airport and then Ashley was off on her way back to Phoenix.

I was definitely sad to say goodbye to her, but I am so glad we did this. It was out of character for both of us to decide on a whim to register for a race across the country, but I am so glad we did!

My final race time was 4:28:06, which is less than 5 minutes slower than my marathon PR. All things considered, I’ll take it!

Final Thoughts on the Race:

I can’t say enough about this race. I’d love to do it again one day and would definitely recommend it to others. It has all of the benefits of a big city race without the negatives that usually come along with it. For example, when I did New York in 2013, I didn’t check a bag, but leaving the race was still a nightmare. We were directed through what seemed like at least a half mile walk, if not more, before we could exit Central Park and meet-up with our families. Here, the finish process was very easy and smooth. Similarly, pre-race in New York is nuts. You have to get on a motor coach super early in the morning and then sit outside on Staten Island for hours before you can start the race – in my case at 11:00 a.m. Here, walking to our shuttle bus at 5:00 in the morning was a breeze, and we could hang out in Dodger Stadium before the race and use real bathrooms. And, L.A. started at 7:00 a.m., so you didn’t need to make special plans for nutrition because of a late start. I actually even think the crowd support was better in L.A. in terms of crowds being spread out throughout the entire course. I will definitely do L.A. again someday. I loved it!

Travel Notes:

If you’re thinking about doing this race, I would recommend staying at the Sheraton. It was affordable, within walking distance to the expo, restaurants, Whole Foods, etc., and included the free shuttle service to the start and from the finish on race day. A taxi from LAX to the hotel was about $60 with tip. As I mentioned above, they also allowed for late check-out (for a fee) after the race.

I do wish they would have opened their coffee shop at 4:00 a.m. on race day to provide runners with the option to purchase coffee, bagels, bananas, etc. before boarding the shuttles to Dodger Stadium. I’ve never understood why hotels don’t do this for races. It would make race morning logistics so much easier for the runners (and families) and surely would bring-in enough revenue to cover the cost of paying employees to work.

Ashley booked our room as soon as hotel options were posted on the L.A. Marathon website, shortly after we registered for the race. I’m not sure how quickly it sold out, but if you want to stay there, I would try to book early.

I wouldn’t recommend taking a red eye home on the night of the marathon 😉

I’m so glad I went on this adventure to L.A. and I look forward to going back again soon!

 

Race Report: PHUNT 25k

Saturday was a day of many firsts for me. I ran my first race of 2016, my first 25k, and my first trail race. It was also the first of several races Taryn and I will race together in 2016.

Taryn convinced me to register for the TrailDawgs PHUNT 25k sometime during IM training last year. She ran the race in 2015 and we thought it would be a fun adventure. Alyssa’s roots are in ultrarunning and she has won the 50k version of the PHUNT (at least once, maybe twice?), so she was 100% on board with me giving it a try, even with the race falling just one month before the L.A. Marathon.

A few ladies from the running group Taryn and I belong to, “MRTT,” registered, too, as did another of Alyssa’s athletes, Beth. I was so excited to get to see Beth, who I haven’t seen since July.

The race was in Elkton, MD, which is almost in Pennsylvania, so we had a long drive on race morning. I drove thirty minutes to meet Taryn at her house at 6:00 a.m. We then had an additional two hour drive from her house to Elkton. Patty from MRTT carpooled with us as well.

The Race Site in Elkton, MD

Screen shot 2016-01-18 at 8.46.58 AM

As soon as we arrived at the race site, I knew this was going to be a very different experience than running a road race. The first thing I learned was that the trail racing uniform is shorts, a long sleeve top, compression socks, hydration vest, and beard. The male grooming products industry is really missing out by not sponsoring these races!

It was much chillier than I had anticipated and I went back and forth about what to wear a zillion times. I made a last minute decision to switch out my tee shirt for a long sleeve (this turned out to be a mistake), we picked up our bibs (there were no timing chips – whaaaatt?!), adjusted our gear, and got ready to race.

I spotted Beth (and her awesome dad, who also ran the race) and we took a few minutes to catch up.

Reppin’ for TeamHPB at PHUNT

IMG_4973

We proceeded to the athlete briefing (which was indoors, thank goodness!), where the race director provided a brief overview of the course markings and then everyone started walking outside. I started noticing people running and realized the race was starting! This was just one example of how informal and un-type A this race was, especially as compared with triathlon.

Beth, Taryn, and I started running together. Right off the bat, it was very clear that the mud was going to be a factor. We were slipping and sliding even on some of the flatter sections at the start of the course. When we hit the trails, we had to run single file and there were definitely some back-ups where we were stuck behind other runners and had to wait to pass. Again, this was a new experience for me, so I just tried to soak it all in.

We ran into another MRTT runner, Anna, at the first aid station (around mile four) and it was great to see another familiar face on the course.

I really enjoyed running with Beth and Taryn, but it became obvious pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with them (and was going to blow-up if I tried), so right after we ran through the first aid station, I backed off a bit and they ran ahead.

I tried to settle into a more comfortable pace for me. There were definitely some sections of the course that I had to walk, either due to mud, a steep incline or decline, or a combination of the two. There were also some water crossings that required caution. I’m not very coordinated (understatement of the century) and I really didn’t want to fall and hurt myself with a marathon less than one month away!

Have I mentioned it was muddy?

(photo credit Sean Toohey, top, and Patty Thompson, bottom)

IMG_4972

12548886_10208211015221943_3728223415644582734_n

The scenery was beautiful, but I was trying to focus on foot placement and surely missed out on some of the views along the course. There were switchbacks in a couple of spots and I tried to see if I could spot Taryn and Beth running ahead of me, but never did.

There were some noticeable wind gusts, but generally, the weather was perfect. I definitely could have worn a tee shirt and shouldn’t have switched into my long sleeve before the race. We really lucked out, since it snowed during this race last year!

Even after I slowed down a bit, I still felt like I was struggling. I distinctly remember at mile 19 of my first marathon (in 2009) thinking I was in over my head and shouldn’t have registered for such a difficult race. I felt the same way about half way through the PHUNT. It was a much tougher course than I expected and everything from my waist down was hurting.

Alyssa didn’t want me worrying about my speed, so I did not wear a Garmin. There were no mile markers on the course, so I wasn’t sure about my mileage throughout the race, other than knowing the third aid station was around mile 10. We had been warned that the 5 (ish) miles after that last aid station were the toughest, so I tried to really stay on top of my fueling. As I thought I might be getting close to the finish, I asked someone running next to me if he knew how much longer we had to go. He replied: “For the first loop?” I can’t even imagine running the 50k on this course. My hat is off to those runners for sure!

On the Run (photo credit Ryan Goverts)

IMG_4969

The last little bit of the course is uphill and when you cross the line, the race volunteers hand record your number. They haven’t posted results yet, but I believe I finished in about 3:19.

I ran into Taryn as I crossed the line. She had a HUGE PR over her time from the prior year (over 20 minutes!). I was elated for her, especially since she had a tough end to her season last year and couldn’t run for many weeks. I’m so proud of you, Taryn!

I was definitely hurting as we headed back inside for the post-race food. (They had vegan soup, which I was thrilled about! So many races only offer post-race pizza, which I can’t enjoy. Thank you so much to the race organizers for accommodating vegetarians and vegans!) We met up with Beth and the other MRTT-ers there and everyone agreed it was a really challenging day. I was exhausted. I texted Alyssa to let her know I was near death and of course she was responding with words like “fun” and using exclamation points. I told her I would need a few minutes before I could even think about whether I enjoyed myself out there!

Since this was my first trail race, I don’t have much to compare it to, but the course seemed to be quite hilly (supposedly over 1800 feet elevation gain) and I was definitely hurting more than I would be running 15 miles on the roads. I honestly think this 25k was as difficult as any road marathon I’ve done.

Post-Race with Taryn, who had an awesome day!

IMG_4959

Yup, it was muddy! I didn’t even bring my shoes home!

IMG_4961

By the time we ate, collected everyone, and headed home, it was 5:00 p.m. before I got back to my house. I took a shower, ate dinner, and fell asleep at 6:30. Trail running is no joke!

It’s now Monday and even though I am still sore I can honestly say that I do want to try trail racing again. It was a huge test for me – physically and mentally – and a great change of pace from road races and triathlon. I may even do PHUNT again next year!

I would definitely recommend this race to anyone thinking about giving trails a try. It was a fun, friendly event; very affordable; and the post-race food was great. I also loved the medals, even though I’m not a huge hardware person. If you drive to and from Northern Virginia on race day, it is an all-day affair, but doable. The weather is always going to be a big question mark in January, but that’s just part of what makes trail running such an adventure! Just get out on some trails and hills beforehand because it isn’t an easy course.

Thanks to Taryn, Beth, Patty, and all of the other ladies who made the day so much fun! And, of course, thanks to the “TrailDawgs” for a great event!

 

Ignite Endurance

In my last post, where I talked about joining the coaching staff at Machine M3 Triathlon, I teased that other exciting things were happening that I couldn’t quite talk about yet.

I can finally let the cat out of the bag – I was invited to join Ignite Endurance!

If you aren’t familiar with Ignite, I’d invite you to check out the club’s website and to like the team’s Facebook page!

I am absolutely thrilled about this opportunity and can‘t wait to represent the team at races in 2016! 

Race Report: Ironman Chattanooga

One year ago, I volunteered at an aid station on the Ironman Chattanooga run course. The following day, I registered for the 2015 edition of the race. Every day since, I’ve worked toward one goal: becoming an Ironman. On Sunday, my dream came true.

Thanks for the screenshot of my finish, Leslie!

Pre-Race

We left for Chattanooga on Wednesday, the 23rd. With this being my first IM, I wanted to get into town early to make sure I had plenty of time to get settled and not feel rushed. The drive took about eight and a half hours, which wasn’t awful. When we arrived, I went for a short run to scope out the area. Our hotel location was great! If you are thinking about doing this race, I would definitely recommend staying at the Doubletree. We were just a couple of blocks away from transition and numerous restaurants in every direction (there is also a Whole Foods about a five minute drive away). Our room, although on the smaller side, had a mini fridge and microwave, which always makes race morning breakfast easier.

On Thursday morning, I did a short ride around the Chickamauga Civil War battlefield in Georgia. I had posted in the Ironman Chattanooga Facebook Group (definitely join this group if you plan on doing the race) asking for recommendations for rides without a lot of traffic and several people suggested I drive to the Battlefield and ride there. After riding there myself, I understand why this is a popular place for cyclists. I definitely recommend it as a safe and scenic place to ride for anyone doing the race next year. It wasn’t very far away (about a 20 minute drive from transition) and there was ample parking at the Visitor’s Center. There isn’t a lot of traffic and the cars I did encounter gave me plenty of room. It was also gorgeous and I lucked out with a perfect weather day, too. I felt great and loved the scenery – I really could have kept riding all day!

I just had to stop and take a picture of this scene. Two monuments in a field of hay bales. 

IMG_3990

Later in the day, I went for a short swim at the Chickamauga Marina. This is another place to check out if you’re doing the race next year and want a good practice swim spot (the lawyer in me feels the need to say that you swim at your own risk at the Marina, as there are no lifeguards on duty). The water was super shallow in spots, but it was still good to get in the open water and it felt much safer than jumping in the Tennessee River by myself!

The Marina.

IMG_4001

I also went to the Athlete Village to check-in, pick up my bib and chip, and shop on Thursday. There is an option to do athlete check-in on Friday, but I wanted to get this taken care of on Thursday to give myself plenty of time to figure out the gear bags! My last “to do” for Thursday was attending the athlete briefing.

IMG_3997

On Friday, I got my bags together, drove the bike course, and attended the Team HPB team dinner. Alyssa and three of her athletes (including myself) were racing and it was nice for everyone to get together for some social time before the race. Whiting was in town from Boulder to do the race and Leah from Salt Lake City. We had a great time chatting and getting to know each other.

I checked, double checked, and triple checked my lists for my gear and special needs bags.

FullSizeRender

On Saturday, Whiting and I met in the morning to join about 30 other racers for an informal practice swim in the River. We also ran into Leah and her family there. Last year, there was a formal practice swim put on by the race organizers, but they did not include one on the schedule for this year. So, a group of athletes organized a practice swim via the Facebook Group. It was really nice to have Whiting as a buddy in the water. We swam together (she is a much faster swimmer than me, but we kept an eye out for each other as we went), which made it feel a lot less scary. The water temperature was perfect.

After our swim, Whiting and I went for a short ride together and then we turned in our gear bags and checked our bikes. I must say, it felt sort of weird to give away all of my stuff. It’s hard to hand over control of these important pieces of gear pre-race. I did a short run back to my hotel and then we met up with Jon’s parents, who had just gotten into town for the race. We went for an early dinner together and then I went back to the hotel to rest my legs.

Race Day

Whiting and I had planned to meet outside of hotel at 5:15 to walk to transition. I was following her lead since this was my first IM and her fourth. We dropped off our special needs bags and then went to set up our bikes. I will talk more about that later. After we finished up with our bikes, we got on shuttle buses to ride to the swim start.

The Swim

When I woke up on race morning, they had already posted on the official Facebook Page that the race would be wetsuit optional. Alyssa and I had discussed in advance that if that was the case, I would wear my ROKA swimskin. Even though I am not a strong swimmer, I am much more comfortable in my swimskin than my wetsuit, so I was actually pretty happy about this news. More people than I expected decided to wear wetsuits anyway. They started after the rest of the racers and weren’t eligible for awards.

In any case, after we got off the shuttle bus, we walked quite a distance to get to the end of the line for the swim start. This race has a first come, first served-style rolling start. I was so lucky to have Whiting to wait with in the morning before the swim. We took turns holding our spot in line and using the porta potties and stayed together right up until we made it to the dock and it was time to jump in the water. If you do this race in the future (which I do recommend you do!) know that the swim start line moves quickly once it gets started. Be ready to hustle! It’s kind of a frantic start, but maybe that’s better for someone like me who will freak out if I stop and think about what I am about to do.

I had a great swim. I didn’t panic and kept moving. I even tried to get on some feet to draft, although I need to work on picking the right feet (I was either behind someone too slow or too fast every time I tried this!). I am so very glad I did the Jim McDonnell Lake Swim earlier this year. I think that really helped my swimming confidence, since I knew I could swim two miles continuously (even though that was a wetsuit swim for me and this was not). I kept what felt like a steady pace throughout.

My swim time ended up being 1:12:52, which was quite good for me, especially without the wetsuit (it would have been a good time for me even considering the current, which people are saying saved around 11-12 minutes).

When I got out of the water I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to spot Jon! I gave him a shout and a wave. Then, as I was running toward transition, I saw my friend Mindy! I was so excited to see her!11071079_10100292733346851_8929630772715957320_n

The Bike

So, back to the morning in transition before the race began. When I got to my bike in the morning, there was a tube draped across my seat. I thought that was odd, but, at least initially, didn’t think into it any further than that. I put my bottles on my bike and then proceeded to try to inflate my tires. The front tire was fine, but I was unable to put any air in my rear tire. Something wasn’t right with my valve extender, even though it had been fine on Thursday for my ride around the Battlefield. Then I realized my bike was in a different gear than I had left it the day before. Whiting speculated that one of the bike support folks noticed I had a flat and changed the tube out for me. This definitely gave me some pause at the time. After some hemming and hawing, though, I decided that I would just leave the rear wheel alone since surely they had pumped up the tires when they changed out the tube that morning (or, at most, the day before). And, hey, that meant all of my bad flat tire luck was clearly out of the way, since the chances of me getting a second flat in one day would be slim to none, right? I thought I should just be thankful that a “flat tire fairy” saved my day and not stress about it. In hindsight, I probably should have trusted my instincts that something was wrong and taken the time to get it checked out by one of the on-site mechanics.

Fast forward to the race. To make the very long and upsetting story short, within two miles into the bike course I got another flat and from then until I finally got mechanical support at the first penalty tent (maybe around mile 25?), I just could not keep air in my rear tire. It was just one flat after the next. Yes, I did check the tire, but I couldn’t find anything wrong with it. I did try to have a volunteer radio for bike support, but they indicated they were busy helping other people and couldn’t get to me. I felt completely helpless.

All I kept thinking about was this Norman Stadler clip.

As I stopped, I had to beg other racers for tubes/cartridges as they were riding by because I ran out (in the athlete meeting they indicated this was permitted under the rules). People were awesome and I am so thankful for their generosity. I kept thinking that I would fix it (I know that sounds crazy, but I really kept thinking that).

Finally, after several unsuccessful stops attempting to fix the issue myself, I decided I just had to get myself to an aid station and wait for mechanical support, no matter how long it would take, because clearly I wasn’t able to deal with this on my own. At one point, I had asked a volunteer about walking to the next aid station, but he said it was too far. I ended up riding on a flat tire (yes, I know this is bad) to the next aid station where finally they were able to radio to get me help. Spectators kept yelling at me that I had a flat tire as I rode by.

When the bike tech arrived, he inspected the tire and agreed that wasn’t the problem. He took everything apart and found that my rim tape had gotten bunched up (I’m sure there is a more technical way to describe this) and that was causing the flats (in my race wheels, I need the rim tape to protect the tube from the spoke holes in the wheel). I hadn’t even thought about checking that. The bike tech recognized my bike and said he was the one who had fixed my first flat in transition on race morning.

Since I had ridden without incident at the Battlefield on Thursday, something obviously happened either during my short ride on Saturday, in transition over night, or during the first couple of miles of the race that led to the tape slipping. I’ll probably never know for sure what that was, but obviously the timing was unfortunate.

After he finally got everything back together and ready to go, a total of almost an hour of non-moving time had passed. I was worried I wouldn’t make the bike cut off after so many stops and so much wasted time. I wasn’t even sure what the bike cut off was, but I knew there was one and that I was way behind. The mechanic and another athlete who was stopped at the aid station told me I could still finish before the cut off, so after I gave them hugs, off I went.

Once I finally got going, I was really trying to balance the urge to make up time and the knowledge that going too hard too early (I wasn’t even a quarter of the way into the bike leg at this point) would only make my day worse. I tried to work, but not go crazy. I ended up riding at a little over 17 miles an hour average pace, which felt hard, but definitely wasn’t killing me.

My Garmin had autopaused during all of the stops and recorded me finishing the 116 mile bike course in 6:35:35, which would have exceeded my expectations going into the race by almost a half hour (I was thinking I would be right around 7:00).

Screen shot 2015-10-01 at 7.14.14 PM

Of course, I understand that 6:35 wasn’t actually my time, but I really want to try to focus on the good parts of the day and not let the unfortunate bike issues overshadow what was otherwise a magical experience.

While all of this was happening, Jon had taken over my Facebook and Twitter accounts to keep my friends and family updated on my progress throughout the day (although, some of his funniest posts were updates on his activities). He had done this during my first 70.3 as well.

One of Jon’s tweets from the race.

IMG_4043

The Run

For obvious reasons, I was ELATED to get off of my bike and start running. With this being my first Ironman, I had no idea what to expect from my body on the run. I knew I needed to just take it slow and steady, one step at a time.

I had a blast on the run.

1155_072732

I really wanted to run the entire way because Leslie convinced me that even a slow run is better than walking. I kept thinking of her and my friend Emily, who I did most of my longer runs with this summer. Emily and I would never stress over pace on our long runs. We would just run and talk and it never felt like a chore and we always got in the miles (or time). I told myself to run relaxed, but steady, just like I was running long with Emily.

I must say that the miles actually ticked by very quickly. I wasn’t super focused on my pace, but knew I was staying in the right ballpark, even with the significant hills on the run course. I was sick of gels, but knew I needed to eat, so I ate things I normally wouldn’t – bananas, pretzels, grapes. When my stomach would start to go, I would switch to pretzels one at a time and Coke. I think everyone’s stomach feels awful at this point in the race and it’s really just about managing that discomfort as best you can.

I kept passing mile markers and once I hit halfway, I KNEW I was going to finish before midnight. It’s funny because another lady I was running with said the same exact thing. We both knew at that point that even walking we would make it.

I finished the run in 4:45:37. That’s actually my third fastest marathon time ever. Alyssa had told me she thought I could run that fast and I thought she was insane. One of the (many) traits that makes her an awesome coach is that she really believes in us, even when we don’t believe in ourselves.

Overall my run splits were pretty even (fastest was 10:05, slowest 11:52 on a hilly section). One of the highlights of my day was text messaging Leslie after the race to tell her that I didn’t walk!

When I approached the finish chute, I was so immensely happy. I saw Alyssa and she said something like “you did it!” I was so glad to see her. I was definitely crying tears of joy. The volunteer who “caught me” asked me if something was wrong – presumably because of the tears. I said I was fine and that I was just really happy. The funny part here is that after I finished I was reading through all of my messages and my teammate Bri had read my lips and knew that’s what I said to the volunteer. I love my team!

Emotional at the finish.

Ironman Chattanooga 2015

After the race, Alyssa met up with us at the hotel. I was so glad that she had a great race, too!

IMG_9816

I can’t say enough how much I loved this city, the spectators, and volunteers. But for the bike issues, I could not have asked for a better race experience. I would definitely do this race again!

I want to say thank you again to Jon, Alyssa, MooMotion, Bobo’s Oat Bars, and all of my friends and family for their support. I got so many amazing emails, text messages, voicemails, Facebook posts, etc. from my friends before, during, and after the race. I am truly so lucky to be able to do this thing I love and to have such an awesome group of people supporting me. Thank you all!