Archive for the ‘13.1’ Category

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My friends, it is quite possible that G-town was the last rodeo for these shoes. Trail shoes wear so differently than road shoes. *sigh*  I love these shoes.*

2016 kicked off with a trail half-marathon – an inaugural run at Kercher Park in Germantown, Ohio – for which I was woefully under-prepared. I’ve been running pretty regular, but since my PR at Iron Horse last October, I haven’t gone further than 7 on trails, less on pavement.  In other words, I knew this was going to hurt.

But it was the first ORRRC run of the season (Eric & I just joined)

And it was my friend Lance’s first gig as an RD, so I didn’t want to miss that.

And we hadn’t been to Kercher Park before…I love new trails!  (which if I’d had my head on right, is really bad logic for signing on to a 13.1 you haven’t trained for). And, and, and…

And so even though I knew this was going to hurt, off we went. To the hurt. On a beautiful morning in January – it wasn’t sunny, but about 50-degrees. Lots of mud – rain earlier in the week had made things slick, so most of what we ran in was that kind of mud that makes a sucking sound when you lift up your foot. It sticks to your shoes and every step is like lifting an extra 2 lbs of weight from the suction.

Later I would ask Lance “Why do you hate the dry land, Lance?! What did dry land ever do to you?” because SO. MUCH. MUD.

The first almost mile was a paved park trail, a nice warmup since we got there literally, in time to make a U-turn and start the run, courtesy of my crappy navigational skills. We started LAST. Like, the very last 2 people to cross the line. Though chip-timed on finish, the start line was manually set at 10:00am start.

After the first mile, we turned off pavement and the trail started to climb. Forever.

Kercher Park is freaking BEAUTIFUL! Eric & I were talking about how much we wanted to come back to the trail before we even got to the car after we were done. IT. IS. THAT. BEAUTIFUL!  But WOW! Does it climb! Garmin says 1560+ ft in elevation gain, 1506 ft of coming back down. There is not much flat at all. The uphills are long and twisting, the downhills are fast and steep – meaning you spend a lot more time climbing than you do descending. But there are moments in those climbs, running alongside streams and reaching overlooks, that will take your breath away if you pause to look up.  Especially with it being January, when you can see between the trees. I am sure I would have finished much faster if I hadn’t stopped to absorb so much nature into my eyeballs.

Later I would ask Lance “Why does the trail only go UP, Lance?!” I don’t think he took me seriously, but it was a real question.

Also, I would have finished faster if I hadn’t stop-drop-&-yoga’d a couple times in miles 10-12. Leg fatigue. I needed to stretch to keep going. On trails, once you pass the water stops, there is no DNF – mainly because no one is coming to get you unless you’re bleeding. And honestly, I’m not sure how that would work either. Maybe that’s how woodland gnomes are made. Trail runners that DNF’d between water stops.

Water stops were at miles 3 & 10 – which were the same as the course is a loop (water & gatorade), and 7 (H2O, gatorade, snacks).  Very well placed with more than enough when I came through at the back of the pack. For back of the pack runners, stops being packed up or out of supplies is a concern – so there being plenty for me when I knew I was pulling through 5-6th place to the end is important for me to note. My BOTP friends, you are not abandoned here. The cutoff to mile 10 is also a very generous 4-hours. I had concerns about it knowing that I would be moving slowly, but I hit the cutoff with an hour to spare.

Some things to be proud of –

  • Through almost the whole race, I stayed in a really good place mentally. I saw the stirrings of what I dub “fuck soup” – that moment where a porridge of ‘fuck this race’, ‘fuck this mud’, ‘fuck running’, etc.,  begins to coagulate into a blob that spins ugly in your head. Giving it a name helps me have some power over it and when it came up, I told myself I was NOT. GOING. THERE.  New trail, fresh year. I was not going to allow it a start with beating myself up.  Instead I looked up, I looked around, and I told myself that going more slowly wasn’t going to make it hurt any less. Keep moving. I smiled and laughed and let the joy in, of just being and doing what I was doing.
  • I spent a lot of the race alone. In a long race, I think you meet yourself several times. Let’s just say that at Forget the PR Mohican 25k, I met myself in a very bad way being alone in the woods for an extended time. It’s good to have the ghost of that out of my head a bit and realize that this time, I didn’t even realize how long I’d been out of sight of other runners for quite a while. I was in my own race.
  • A woman said to me “You’re pretty good at the mud” when I slogged past her as she was picking carefully through a downhill.  We’d been leap-frogging for half a mile at that point through some serious slop. Lady, that comes with practice! Mud is less my enemy now than it was at the WORST F*ING RACE EVER at East Fork last Summer. I’m learning to manage it. Slog through it. Minimize it slowing me down. She was right, I’ve improved greatly at handling mud.
  • My nutrition was SPOT ON! I’ve struggled with this a bit on trails.  A piece of cinnamon toast on Oatnut Bread 1.5 hours before the race. An apple in the car 45 minutes pre-run. Every mile, a decent sip from the hydration pack (I took in about 1 liter from the pack, total.) and a shot of H2O and gatorade at each water stop. A strip of dried papaya after mile 4. Half a Gu before mile 7, where I had 5 gummy bears. Somewhere between miles 8-9, a tablespoon of nuts from my pack. At mile 10, I put the best thing I’ve ever eaten on race in my mouth – half a slice of dried pineapple. OH MY GOD!  IT WAS PERFECT! Not too much sugar, and solid – so it didn’t make my stomach sloshy.  On the whole, that doesn’t sound like much for a 13-mile run, but it was exactly what I needed. Note to self: Pineapple, nuts & papaya should always be in the hydration pack!

Everything ached and screeched at me by the time I finished, but as I said – I knew I’d signed on for the hurt.  Slow, but done – and a great start to the season!

ORRRC does 2-3 runs per month, most of which appear to be trail runs. They are either free or dirt cheap if you’re member – and still cheap even if you’re not. We paid less for a year’s membership for the two of us than it would cost for one of us to register at most 5k’s now. Go check out their calendar! See you in the woods!

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*(Sidebar: Brooks, I’m side-eyeing you on where these are failing. I know a couple other runners with failures in the same spot on their Cascadias.)

IMG_3484It’s Saturday. A slow coffee kind of day, starting with a movie on Netflix and afternoon-ing some miles in with both dogs. Despite just finishing up two weeks of vacation, recent life has felt fast. There was a trail 5k I wanted to do about an hour East, but my legs are still tired from last weekend, and frankly, a day of quiet is in order. Soul feeding quiet. Observing my friends’ FB feeds fill with results from a local pavement 7k/14k.

This is how I think of races now – pavement or trail first, then the rest of the details.

Somehow the year of being 40 turned me into a trail runner.

Since Run the Bluegrass, there were 2 shorter pavement races – Joseph House 5k (which was an EXCELLENT little race & I highly recommend doing again) and the Flying Pig 10k, where I stepped in to fill a bib for a friend at the last minute.  Beyond that, the Summer has been spent on a slew of trail races to good and hard result. I can’t say a day on trail is ever bad, just good or hard, or good AND hard. There was…

Forget the PR, Mohican 25k, which began April with a great big DNF. A heck of a way to kick off a season. A HARD, but fantastically beautiful course with long, steep hills that never seem to end. I learned there’s a thing you find out when you run trails and you’re slow, and that thing is what ALONE feels like in a whole new way. Lonely and ALONE are verrry different. In this race, I found my limit on being alone at mile 12 and I simply didn’t have another 5 miles in me. DNF.

A week later, the local Dirt Days Trail Series started. This is where Eric joined in the fun. After a Winter of mulling, a decade of repairing me after races, and some time spent watching the snow fall from the treadmill, he got his own bib for the Ault Park Switchback run – and every race thereafter. We did 5 of the Dirt Days races together – from a HORRIBLE, NASTY, (humbling), MUDDY MUDDY MUDDY 11-miler at East Fork that *still* makes me shudder, to a repeat of the Powder Keg 5k where I beat last year’s time by 9 minutes.

Somehow the year of my being 40 turned Eric into a trail runner.

Interspersed with DD, was the Topo Adventure Sports Summer Trail Series. A good, no-frills race setup. I like it. Also, these guys stay till the last runner comes in with a smile. I really like how they handle their show. Through these two series I learned that if the trail is wet, you step in the first mud puddle you see. Get it over with. Your feet are not going to stay dry, so find a way to be happy about it, and take the race that comes to you. Also, Body Glide on your feet is GOOD.

Finally, though the season still isn’t over, all of these efforts culminated in running The Rugged Red last weekend.The HARDEST terrain I’ve ever run. 1700 feet of elevation gain, some of climbing on all-4’s up round-edged sandstone. I came into the finish line to find my husband and a crew of my RWB peeps who’d waited over an hour for me to come in. People, that is some love right there! I still can’t believe I finished it – which was one of only two goals I had  – (1) finish and (2) beat the sweeper. I beat the sweeper with only 10 minutes to spare, but I did it. I’m not sure how. And that guy that kept trying to pass me again after mile 9-10, I kept him behind me. It might’ve been a full on goddamn sprint at the finish to make it happen, but it happened.

Somehow the year of being 40 upped my level of badassery just a little bit.

Recovery from all of these beatings came in the form of swimming and yoga (which I’m still teaching, but at a new place now). The training sessions at Caesar’s Creek last Summer taught me I was a pretty crappy swimmer. A new gym membership came in December and twice a week 6AM swims started in March with a friend training for her first half-Ironman. Swimming lessons followed to build the skill set, and while I’m working on strength and endurance, I’ve started to do decently in the pool. At some point I went from dreading the water to looking forward to a good swim.

Somehow the year of being 40 turned me into a swimmer.

My house is usually a mess because we’re too busy training. The dogs are usually stinky because four legs get muddier than two on trails. The number of pairs of running shoes in my house has almost doubled. Some of them aren’t even mine.

And I started giving my bike the side-eye about 2 weeks ago…when I turned 41.

Wow! People – I would love to sit here and say OMG – how is it already the end of March and RTB has passed again – EXCEPT that it’s already the middle of April. Time is moving FAST FAST FAST these days – and I say that AFTER I just finished up a week of vacation! Isn’t vacation supposed to be a slow-down time?  Nevertheless, it IS mid-April and two weeks have passed by since RTB was logged into the recordbooks. Some races, you write about right away. Others, you need to let soak in. RTB is a soak-in for me. Even with being a race ambassador (or Race AmBADASSador, as we call ourselves) again this year, there are so many details which Eric Marr (RD) and Rachel Crabtree (ARD), as well as their bevy of volunteers, invest themselves in, that I think they warrant a few moments of just absorbing the big picture of the event.

The Race:  Billed as America’s Prettiest Half Marathon, Run The Bluegrass starts and finishes at Keeneland Racecourse. Options available are 13.1 & 7-mile distances, run simultaneously. The 7-mile race splits off of the half-marathon course via a cross road and joins back up with it again before the finish. Race date is usually the last Saturday in March, which was 3/28 this year. The date has moved to the first Saturday in April – 4/2 – for 2016.

The Swag:  Swag has it’s own special personality at RTB, which is one of the things I LOVE about it most. Included in the race fee is a t-shirt, an option for a personalized bib, and your medal. I’ll admit, on the surface, this doesn’t sound like much – until you also add in the meet-up tents & INDOOR areas pre-race, the post-race PARTY, then the post-post-race party later that evening. There’s also the fact that this race is NOT a crowded melee like many others are these days – worth a premium to me. Other race organizers please note – capping race attendance is NOT a sin!

This year, there was a problem in shipping with the Nike shirts which would have delayed receiving them until after the race. For Eric & Rachel, this wasn’t an option – they knew runners would be disappointed and no one wants to see a sad runner. They sprang into action and got in some super soft hoodies! A lighter-weight version than the winter hoodies, I think I like it better than a shirt! (Especially since I’m trying to thin out the herd of shirts in my running wardrobe right now.) It’s unique and an awesome option to have available to throw over running or yoga clothes for post-workout beers. All of the runners I spoke with LOVED the hoodie and several were already sporting it at yoga the next morning.

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Also, they don’t skimp on the medal for this run. The medal is GORGEOUS!!! Beautiful detail and it weighs a ton! If you are into race bling, this should be one you seek to collect.

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The rest of the swag available is at your discretion – you have a menu to pick and choose what means the most to you in the form of one-of-a-kind experiences that you buy tickets for – thoroughbred farm tours, distillery tours, race course tours, excellent pre-&-post race dinners. I’ve done many of these experiences myself and this is swag you don’t forget. Last year, I got to pet a foal that in another year, I’m likely to see competing at Keeneland, making its name as a champion. I also learned all about making my own hooch distilling bourbon and found a new love in bourbon cream (who knew that existed?!). Um, I hear there’s also a yoga class the next day at the race hotel…I think I might know the teacher. 🙂  (And yes, I customized my bib to promo the yoga class.) You can EASILY make an entire weekend of the race, scheduled with events at a pace to suit you.

The Tag: Registration cost is on a sliding scale, depending on when you register. Registration for 2016 was already available at the 2015 Expo for $50 – RIDICULOUSLY LOW – for this run. Discount codes were emailed out to race alumni. Current 2016 registration is $70 for 13.1 and $60 for 7-mile distances. It pays to register early, though I don’t recall fees going over $85 for 2015 – which is still a decent price compared to the experience you get up against a higher fee for RnR races which are way too crowded to enjoy half as much.

The Course: As it says when you open the webpage, RTB is “One of America’s 20 standout, must-do half-marathons” per Runners’ World – and you know RW don’t lie! The course on this race is AMAZING – 13 miles of rolling green hills – pastures – farms. Million dollar horses watch you pass by. At one point in mile 11 – we saw SIX PAIRS of mothers & foals standing side-by-side in a pasture. On a blue-skied, Spring day with all the greenery beginning to emerge, this course is Americana at it’s finest.

It is also HILLY AS F-…hills can be. I have to be honest about the fact that this is NOT an easy course – you will be challenged by it. But that’s also what makes it majestic and completely worth the effort. It’s like running through a postcard. A very pretty, but also sweat-inducing, postcard. There’s a gopro of the course on youtube here. I’ll admit, I didn’t watch all of it because – 90 minutes, but next Winter when I’m training, this will be nice to throw on the iPad and watch from my view on the treadmill as an inspirational tool.

Of Course: Guys, I teared up at the start line. Normally, that’s a finish line thing – but honestly, I was doing my best not to take a minute just to sob it out at the start of my 13.1. Not for any awful reason, but because being able to do this race for the 13.1 distance was a hugely emotional thing for me. This was my 3rd attempt. In year 1, I dropped to the 7-miler at the expo because I was undertrained for the race. Year 2 – the knee injury had me hobbling around taking pictures. I had to admit that there was no way in hell I could run it, not even the 7-miler, a week before the race. After having an entire year to prepare, that sucked. So at year 3, and a year after that injury sidelined me, to just be standing at the start line was a victory in and of itself. Whatever happened on the course was gravy.

My Day:  Eric & I opted against getting a hotel this year. We’ve done a hotel the past 2 years, to varying degree, but Lexington is only 80-90 minutes from my house and an EASY drive, so we decided to try handling the experience without one. This would let me rest & recover in my own bed, and keep us from having to book a dogsitter. We drove up for packet pickup on Thursday – the first opportunity. The expo was not crowded and was set up with a walk-through flow that kept you moving. I was able to pick up packets for myself & several RWB friends who were running. Eric & Rachel were both there, greeting runners and helping out. There were a LOT of other local races there and part of what was nice was that you actually had time to stop and chat with the booth people about the runs – as opposed to being hurried due crowds. We stayed for dinner, grabbing a great burger and beer at the Shamrock, then back home.

Race Day started by being out the door at 6:45 with RWB Rebecca joining us for the drive down. We made a pretty seamless drive, got through Gate 2 to park and made it to our RWB tent at 8:35. In that venue, 25 minutes to a race start is PLENTY of time to get where you need to be – except that the porta potty lines looked LONG, but we’d already taken care of that on the way.

Wave starts kept the running crowd from being overwhelming, although I think RTB has done a great job choosing a 5000 runner cap on this race. Then we were off! I had strategized to do a 3:1 interval for this race and not worry about the clock. As I said before, I planned an aggressive Spring racing season – and I wanted to be able to race the whole season, not off myself in the first one. It was perfect running weather for me – I set my dial to HAPPY and got moving. The first 1.5 went by nicely and I was setting up for a great run. Around that point, I came across my friend Jenn. Jenn & I swim together twice a week and she’s on my short list of great training buddies. She was walking and I decided to walk with her – not really sure how or when both of us decided that was the thing to do – we’re pretty good at pushing each other – but we ran a little and walked most of the rest. Keep in mind, other than driving it – I’d never seen the 13.1 course the way it needed to be viewed. And Jenn ran in 2014, in that HORRIBLE weather – head down, don’t look up, kind of freezing cold rain – so she hadn’t really seen the course the way it should be viewed either. Seriously folks – YOU DON’T RUSH YOUR EXPERIENCE ON THAT KIND OF GORGEOUS. For the next 3-hours, we took the time to soak in how beautiful the route was – stopping to take some pictures, chatting, talking training plans for triathlon season. Both of us have our competitive, PR-driven sides, but there was this mutual agreement that happened which threw that out the window for a minute to really see this run. We were enjoying the day, and that was AWESOME!

On meeting Eric at finish, he commented that this was the first half-mar he’d seen me look genuinely happy crossing the finish line.

We took advantage of drinks and food, and the massage table lines were short by that time, so I took advantage of that too.  I hugged a few friends and then it was time to ride back. RWB Rebecca had PR’d significantly on that hard course, so it was fun to swap our race stories on the way home. I declined going to the post-post-race party that night as I had to prep to teach 2 yoga classes at the race hotel the next day.

The Ending Line: As I move more into trail running, it’s getting harder to hear the call of pavement, so I’m not sure what will happen in terms of my choosing to run this race next year. It’s likely that I will, but weather made training this past Winter a miserable endeavor. It was tough to get the mileage in that I needed to really make a go of this race. So lots to mull over there. Trying to decide whether the 7-mile option might be better for me, though missing some of that scenery in the upper miles of the 13.1 is a heartbreaking thought too… There’s also the camaraderie I’d miss from the RTB friends I’ve made through being a race ambassador and yoga teacher, as well as the RWB Chapters that showed up from Chicago, Cincy & Lexington.

The Next Race: Um, the next race was this past Saturday – so I’m behind a full race recap on Forget the PR Mohican 25k.  Trust me when I say, I need to write that one up! Lots to say about that. Two weeks into the future, I’ll be doing a girls’ weekend at Country Music Half-Marathon in Nashville.

Weekend Runaway

Posted: 10/06/2013 in 13.1
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Good morning, peeps! As I write this, I’m holed-up under a nice cushy comforter tucked into a corner room of a lovely hotel in Lexington. In about an hour, I’m going to get showered and re-packed. I’m going to find a little place for breakfast called the Coffee Pub that has good coffee and smells like warm. I remember it from my last visit. Then I’m going to drive around on an overcast day and see if I can add a few more photos to the 1000 I’ve already taken this weekend.

After which I will drive my hour and ten minutes home, I will kiss my husband extra special nice because it’s rare that we’re apart 48 hours. I will play “toss the rag” with the dog because that’s what he will want to show me he’s happy I’m back. Then I will begin to process all of this amazing weekend, edit it all, and stand in wonder at the way life sometimes goes.

But right now, right now, there is this bed. Normally I would never use a computer in bed – but it’s okay because it’s a hotel. Hotels are for computers in bed, leaving your shoes where you kicked them off, and discovering shows like “Vanilla Ice Goes Amish” (seriously it’s a real show) (Also, I’m sorry America because that’s a real show). I’m having coffee. I’m watching a movie.

And I’m writing to you. Because this trip – this is something  you’re along for. You’re a part of why I’m here.

I have a lot to tell you.