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Tales of a recovering over racer

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Addiction is a powerful thing. I am not sure exactly when it happened but suddenly I found myself wanting to run all the races! Between the Celebration Marathon in January and Boston Marathon in April, I raced nine times and even joined a new running club just so I could compete in their racing series. No wonder my hamstring injury never healed. After Boston I ran in four more races between the end of April and mid-July. I tried resting the hamstring for a week or two here and there and even went to physical therapy. Finally when I had finished the last of the Picnic Island Adventure Runs of the summer in July I decided to focus on getting healthy for marathon training.

I was set to begin the 18 week Hansons Marathon Method with a group of friends at the end of July. I knew I would not be able to handle marathon training with a hamstring injury. I followed the plan almost perfectly for weeks and weeks. I turned down invitations to race, which is difficult for me to do. I even had to skip one of my favorite summer cross country races. I trained consistently and did not race for 11 weeks. I even stopped having the urge to look at race calendars in running magazines.

Then it was time for the Tower of Terror 10 Miler at the beginning of October. “You are about to discover what lies beyond the fifth dimension, beyond the deepest, darkest corner of the imagination, in The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ 10 Miler!” Thanks Disney, I was already both scared and excited for this.

2014 Tower of Terror 10 Miler

On one hand, I was really looking forward to it because my training had been solid and it would be a good test of my fitness. It is such a fun race; probably my favorite Disney race. But on the other hand, I was extra nervous about racing. Would this trigger my racing addiction? Would I revert back to the bad habit of over racing? I am happy to report that as of two months post-race, it has not. I have kept my racing calendar from filling up. I am staying focused on training properly and only racing when it fits in with my goals.

I think much of that success is due to the amazing time I had at the Tower of Terror 10 Miler. I hadn’t raced in 11 weeks so I could only rely on my marathon training paces to guide me. I started conservatively but quickly sped up because I felt so comfortable. A little before halfway I knew I could really race it. I ended up running negative splits, finishing a little over a minute off my PR that was set 12 years ago. I was the 5th overall female and Masters Winner.

Meagan & me in front of the Tower of Terror after we both had awesome races!

I am not sure if my addiction is racing, adrenalin, competition, or some combination, but let’s just say that my competitiveness does seem to carry over to other areas like Toy Story Mania (the best game/ride in all the Disney parks). Perhaps moving into the Masters category has helped me mature as a runner because I definitely learn from my mistakes and train a lot smarter. It took one great race preceded by many weeks of patience, listening to my body, and good training in addition to some serious willpower to stop over racing.

Masters award arrived in the mail a few weeks after the race.

Tower of Terror 10 Miler Results

Running Journal – January 2015 – Page 3

Running Journal

It’s pretty much all runnable except…

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Words I had never heard describe a race course before I asked what the Paris Mountain 16K Trail Race was like: “It’s pretty much all runnable except the ten minutes it takes to ‘hike’ up the mountain.” I have to thank Brian G. who not only answered my question on facebook the night before the race but who also saved a few of us with excellent directions out on the course.

Typically my vacations involve a race so when a friend who attends Furman University in Greenville, SC invited me to visit her for the weekend, she not only found a great, inexpensive flight for me but a trail race. I booked the ticket and signed up for the race without even researching it. During my trip from Florida to South Carolina, I decided to find out more about this Paris Mountain trail race I was about to run. The distance was perfect since I was scheduled to run ten miles on Saturday anyway. I found the Greenville Track Club – Trail Runners group on facebook, posted my question, and received some very interesting answers.

Nervous about running up a mountain, I awoke race morning to SNOW! Yes, snow on November 1st.

What is that white stuff over Greenville!?! ;)

I was definitely having second thoughts about doing this race. I mean, I moved to Florida almost 20 years ago to escape this weather. We arrived at Paris Mountain at 7:00 a.m. in complete darkness after a short snow removal session so we could see out the car windows.

“What’s an ice scraper?” was her response when I asked if she had one. Riley is a Florida native. ;)

Dreading the cold, I picked up my bib number and started to warm up in the parking lot. I was wearing all the layers of running clothes that I brought with me. After jogging and doing my dynamic warm up, I felt warm enough to remove some layers so I raced in shorts, a long sleeve shirt, a light jacket, and gloves. I am so thankful that I packed my Brooks Adrenaline trail shoes! That extra tread definitely saved me on the slippery course.

Right before the start, the race director told us to take a map or follow the guy in front of us since all the course markings were washed away by the snow and rain. We were also offered a bottle of water to carry since they did not want to put volunteers out on the course in this cold weather to hand out water. I really did not know what to expect. The biggest hill I train on is the Ringling Bridge in Sarasota.

The course was beautiful. As we ascended Paris Mountain all I could think about was the beauty all around me. I wished I had a camera to try to capture it. Almost the entire trail was single track with lots of rocks, roots, twists, turns, and wet leaves. I just kept repeating to myself: “breathe, focus, and lift your feet.” Once we reached the part that was not runnable I tried to enjoy the scenery and take it all in but I had to focus even more on the terrain so I would not trip or fall behind. The higher we went up the mountain, the more snow we encountered. The wind was whipping the snow off the trees so it felt like it was snowing on us.

Once we began the descent, the race was really on. I moved from third female to first and ran down those hills and switchbacks with reckless abandon like I used to in my high school and college cross country days. I don’t remember thinking about speeding up; it was like instinct just took over. I earned my patch as the overall female winner of the race. I’d like to say that the mountain and those hills were no match for this Florida girl but even four days after the race I had to walk backwards down the stairs.

Huge thank you to Riley for being my #1 supporter (well, she did talk me into this race) & taking photos! :)

 

She thought it was just hilarious that I had to walk downstairs backwards.

Links:

Award Winners

Overall Results

Running Journal

This time it was no picnic!

Monday, August 4th, 2014

One of my all-time favorite races is the Picnic Island Adventure Run in Tampa, Florida. It is actually a series of three races that take place once a month on Friday nights in May, June, and July. Hot and humid do not begin to describe the weather at 6:45 p.m. on the small island in Tampa Bay under a cloudless summer sky. So once you’ve accepted the weather factor, you’re ready for the real challenge.

This adventure run is unique and definitely not one of those mud runs or extreme obstacle races where you sign away your life in a waiver. I don’t do dangerous races like that. Picnic Island is challenging, don’t get me wrong, but it is definitely more welcoming to all ages and abilities who are seeking adventure. The obstacles are minor; you crawl under a cargo net on your knees over sand, run through six big, inflated tubes, and then hurdle, jump, walk, or crawl over one hurdle. The rest of the run is on the beach, grassy areas with hills, a couple of very small sections over pavement, and quite a bit through mangroves. Oh the mangroves! You never know what to expect until you get there. This July 18th, high tide was coming in so the water through the mangroves was pretty deep, very warm, and muddy. Yes, a little bit of “ick” factor, especially if you go splashing through like I did and it hits you in the face.

I always sign up for the three race series but this year I was unable to race the May and June races due to my post Boston Marathon rest period and rehabbing an injury. I knew I was not in top shape, but was very excited to race Picnic Island as well as I could. From the gun, I was out of breath and knew I would be. I was just trying to hold on to my spot in the top five overall women as we approached the last section of “non-trails” before the toughest part of the course. I say “non-trails” because they are not trails; they are overgrown areas of vegetation that someone walked through when setting up the course and stomped down a single track area for us to squeeze through. I was almost through this section, which is my least favorite of the course, and I tripped. I had an out of body experience. I saw myself floating down towards the ground, almost as if in slow motion. As soon as my knees hit the rocks at the bottom of the slight downhill I popped up, probably cursed (can’t remember now), and quickly ran off.

I attacked the five or six steep hills that zigzag up and down from the beach because I was so shocked that I fell and a bit embarrassed. But I wasn’t feeling any pain yet so I finished strong and ended up placing third overall and won Masters. Once I hosed off my legs to assess the damage, then the pain kicked in. So this one was no picnic but even now, two weeks after the event, my knees are still scraped, bruised, and recovering but I cannot wait until next summer when I can run all three Picnic Island Adventure Runs!

Exiting the water and heading to the finish line!

 

 

My poor knees!

Listening at the Midnight Run

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

After several weeks of physical therapy, cross training, and not running, I was cleared to start running again. I followed my physical therapist’s advice and literally started with five minutes of running and only increased by two minutes each day. My hamstring and piriformis were still a little painful and tight but definitely better than before I began the physical therapy and what seemed like a never ending rest period. Perhaps I was overly cautious, but I didn’t want to rush back and have another set-back.

After many weeks of doing more walking than running plus my half-hearted attempt at cross training, I soon found myself heading to Dunedin, Florida in a rain storm for the July Fourth Midnight 10K Run that I had signed up for months ago. As an over racer (recovering) I tend to sign up for races very early when they catch my interest. I was excited about the overnight trip and racing at 12:15 a.m. with friends from my S2 Timing racing team and fellow Suncoast Striders but not very excited about racing ten kilometers. I purposely did not bring my racing flats or “lucky” bracelet and earring that indicate (to myself at least) that I am in race mode.

I first discovered the phrase “listen to your body” when I read the many incredible books by George Sheehan, M.D. Since then it has become a regular part of my coaching philosophy. It is so simple, yet so difficult to do. Sometimes we may hear our bodies telling us that something is not quite right but do we really listen? That is the big revelation in my life recently – learning to really listen. I have realized that I cannot over race and get away with it anymore. Okay body, I’m listening!

At the Midnight 10K Run I had no race plan as far as goal time or pace. Coming back from this injury I decided not to put any pressure on myself. My friend Meagan was really surprised because she has seen me on a “normal” race day and I was definitely not in race mode that night. But I was not going to utter anything pace specific before that starting gun went off. I started my GPS and went out at a somewhat comfortable pace and didn’t even look at the Garmin the entire 6.2 miles. Meagan caught up to me after about a mile or two and thought that something was wrong since she is not normally so close to me during races. I felt a little surge of competitiveness but kept my effort in that somewhat comfortable range. After the turn around she caught up to me again and was about to pass me with about two miles to go. I knew there was no way I could stay with her. I encouraged her to chase down a couple of female runners that were ahead of us. She said that she couldn’t catch them and I yelled back that she could!

And she did. One of them passed her back in the last 400 meters but she still had an amazing race. She ran a new 10K PR, which is not easy to do in the hot, humid Florida summer at midnight, ran negative splits, and took second in her age group. Our other Suncoast Strider and S2 Timing teammate, Diana, won overall female. I was so proud of them and so happy for them! I truly was. I didn’t care about my time or place. I did end up placing fourth in my age group but was way more excited about celebrating their success and the fact that I really listened to my body and ran within its limits that night.

Team S2 Timing at the 2014 Midnight 10K

[Originally featured in August 2014 Running Journal]

Space Coast Marathon: Mission Columbia

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

Second marathon in my mission to join Marathon Maniacs. With an 18 miler one week ago, a 30K trail race two weeks ago, and a marathon three weeks ago, I knew trying to race Space Coast Marathon all out would not be wise. On top of that, I was sick for the past couple of weeks and my goal marathon is about eight weeks away: Inaugural Celebration Marathon. To join Marathon Maniacs, the minimum to become a member is to complete three marathons within 90 days.

My plan for Space Coast was to run comfortably around 8:40-8:45 pace to start then speed up and run negative splits. It has been so long since I have run negative splits and been able to finish strong in a marathon, I needed to not only remind myself but almost relearn how to pace myself early, hold back despite feeling good, and stick to a race plan. I was tempted by the 3:40:00 pace group and the 3:45:00 pace group. I could join the group and just hold on letting them do the pace work. But as a bit of a loner I decided to run my own race. I started out comfortably, letting the 3:40:00 pace group go by me. My Boston Qualifying (BQ) time is 3:45:00 now that I moved up to the 40-44 age group. In my mind I thought it would be nice if I ran a BQ and was able to stick to my race plan. At times during the first half I could hear the 3:45:00 group talking behind me but luckily they stayed behind me.

The first half of the race was comfortable which ended up being 8:30-8:40 pace and with the few rolling hills I clocked a few miles around 8:16-8:29 thanks to those down hills! I focused on hydrating, taking Gu every 45:00 or so, running comfortably, and happily watching my Garmin click off a nicely paced first half. At the halfway point we pass by the start/finish area so there are bigger crowds. The cheering and excitement of this area was where I picked it up too soon when I ran this race in 2011. Throughout the race I kept smiling and reminding myself of what I was trying to accomplish – a strategically paced race with negative splits. Once I hit mile 16 and then 18 I reminded myself again to stick with the pace. I told myself that once I reached mile 20 at the turn around I could let loose. I liked the fact that this was an out and back course because I was able to count all the women who were ahead of me by the time I reached mile 20. Once I started on the way back, my goal was to pass as many of them as possible.

There was a fairly strong head wind on the way back (last 6 miles) so I just focused on my targets ahead and did not worry about pace. I was having fun! I was tired but still felt strong and despite looking at my Garmin less and less I knew I was running faster. I must have passed at least 10-15 female marathoners in the last six miles. It was not always easy to tell because there were half marathoners on the course and some other women who were just out for a trainng run too. I don’t know what all my splits were towards the end but mile 24 was 7:56 and mile 25 and 26 were 8:05. I definitely ran negative splits, finished strong, ran a BQ 3:40:39, finished 4th in my age group and 21st overall female. I did not win anything or run a PR (technically it is a masters PR but I won’t go into that right now). I was so happy walking around the post race party area with my husband because I successfully executed my race plan, finished strong, and ran negative splits. Victory can have so many meanings.

I would definitely say the Space Coast Marathon was a mission accomplished!

2013 Space Coast Marathon

 

X-Country 30K

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

I had to run this race again this year despite it being only one week after the Random Acts of Giving Marathon since I came so close to the course record last year!  When I justify to others why I have to run certain races, it’s really more to convince myself than anyone else.

The Overall Female record is 2:28:15 and the Masters Female record is 2:34:37.  Last year I was only 39 so not eligible for the Masters record just yet.  The X-Country 30K is a gorgeous trail run at Alafia River State Park in Lithia, Florida.  There is a section of the course that you run twice so when you exit the sandy section and trail near the restrooms, pavilions, and finish area the first time you take a right so you can go do the second loop, and then the second time you run straight to the finish.  Last year was a cool day, perfect for a long race like this.  It was my first time running the 30K and I was on course record pace when I exited the trail the second time only to have the volunteer send me to the right AGAIN.  I ran about a half mile in the wrong direction before I decided that this was ridiculous and wrong so I headed to the finish line as the overall female winner.  I ran over 19.5 miles and my average pace was faster than the Overall Female course record pace but because I had run longer than 18.6 miles (30K), my finish time was 2:33:20, slower than the record.  I was so frustrated by this experience at first but after filling out the finish card, getting a drink, and walking around a bit, I realized that the volunteer who sent me the wrong way made a mistake.  We are human and we make mistakes sometimes.  I should have known the course.  I still won the race and a very cool trophy but vowed to return in 2013 to go after that course record!

2013 rolls around and now I am 40 so I had a shot at both the overall and masters records.  I was very excited about this!  I knew the course so there would be no mistakes heading to the finish line.  A very hot day and being sick thwarted my course record attempts.  But I still enjoyed the beautiful cross country course and won the race.  The woman who was in the lead dropped out around 12 miles.  Not sure if the heat got to her or something else.  I felt bad for her but it reminded me of a quote from a newspaper article from my high school cross country days:  “Sometimes even good runners need a little luck.”  Source:  Original 1987 article by Gregory Kerstetter

As I exited the trail to head to the finish, a volunteer asked me as I whizzed by if I was 30K and heading to the finish.  All I could manage to blurt out was “FINISH!”  They weren’t going to make me run more than 30K this year!  Ha ha!

This is a tough race for volunteers since there’s a marathon, 30K, and half marathon all using the same trails.  I definitely do not expect volunteers to keep track of everyone, which race they are in, and which loop they are on.  I am just very glad I knew the course this year.  TampaRaces.com puts on some great races and definitely THE best trail races I have run.  Next year I am hoping for cooler temperatures for the X-Country 30K as I once again attempt an overall or masters record.

IMG_9555

Rookie mistake

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

Before I even start writing here I must take a moment to log yesterday’s run on my shoe mileage spreadsheet…

So to be totally honest, I was not really looking forward to writing this one.  But lucky for me when I toss around ideas to write about my husband sometimes gives me that little push to get it on paper.  I don’t remember where I first heard the term “rookie mistake,” but it strikes both of us as funny, especially when used in the right situation.  I guess it’s most funny when used for silly things that end up being nothing more than slightly inconvenient. “You forgot to use bodyglide yesterday and now you’re a little chafed?  Rookie mistake.  You forgot to bring your swimsuit on vacation?  Rookie mistake.  You forgot to bring our refillable popcorn bucket to the movies?  Rookie mistake.

As we all know or have heard over the years, we are supposed to replace our running shoes every 300-500 miles or 200-300 miles for the more minimalist styles.  I have worked at two specialty running stores, am a certified running coach, and have been running for 29 years.  I think this somehow relates to the story of the cobbler whose kids don’t have proper shoes…

Anyway, I tend to rotate 3-5 pairs of running shoes when I am training.  Usually I have 3-4 pairs of training shoes and one pair of trail shoes in my rotation at any one time.  I like to let my shoes completely dry out between uses.  I use my running shoes for my own training runs, when I am coaching, and when I go to the gym so 3-5 pairs might seem like a lot but when the shoes are getting wet a couple of times a day, it does take some time for each pair to dry out before the next workout.  Plus, I’ll be honest, I love all the cool colors that the Brooks Adrenaline comes in now!  I have been known to match my shoes with my outfit pretty regularly.

This past year I have not tracked the mileage on each pair of shoes as carefully as I have in the past.  Normally I would at least make a note when a shoe reached 3-4 months of use to keep an eye on it.  Lately I have been dealing with some calf and Achilles tendon pain, hamstring tightness, and blisters.  I have treated it with massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic adjustments in addition to stretching and yoga.  For the blisters I have tried different socks, different anti-chafe products, and changing my socks and shoes in the middle of longer runs.

I spent most of my birthday money on a couple of new colors of Brooks Adrenaline so I have quite a few pairs “in the queue.”

2013_birthdayshoes12013_birthdayshoes2

It’s not like I don’t have the new shoes readily available when old shoes are ready to be retired.  Sadly I just wasn’t paying attention to the very important details of how many miles were on my shoes!  I decided this week to retire two pairs of my older training shoes and break out the new neon lime and purple Adrenaline 13.  I went for one 6 mile run and my feet and Achilles felt much better.  After a couple more runs in the new shoes I realized that many of my aches and pains and probably blisters were from running in shoes that were past their prime.  Rookie Mistake!!!!!

I share this story in hopes that others will learn from my mistakes and avoid aches and pains that really can and should be avoided with just a couple of minutes worth of time each day spent tracking shoe mileage, whether on a spreadsheet, training log, or a simple index card.  I have definitely learned my lesson and now have a pretty color coded spreadsheet to track the mileage on each pair of shoes. Run Happy!

shoe_mileage_tracker

Recalibrate

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

This morning I was in a different mindset as I got ready for our group run at the Celery Fields.  Both of my Achilles tendons have been extremely sore for the past couple of weeks so I decided that I would either not run at all and just oversee the run or maybe walk/jog a little while everyone else did the workout.  It’s difficult for me to go to one of my favorite training spots and not run!

                          

Instead of my usual pre-run breakfast of PowerBar Energy Bites, a little caffeine, and 8-12 ounces of water, I decided to eat a “regular” breakfast which included taking all of my vitamins plus a bowl of organic granola with almond milk.

So the pressure is off.  No hard running today.  No running at all since I had my regular breakfast.  We meet at the school, carpool to the Celery Fields, and a few others meet us there.  We start the dynamic warm up and my Achilles tendons hurt.  We finish that and I explain the fun hill workout they are about to tackle.  I decide to go with them on the easy mile warm up loop just to make sure everyone knows the route.  We had a few new people out today; which is always cool.

Warm up mile loop is done and the group splits up into several smaller groups as everyone begins the actual workout of 2-3 x mile loops working hard on the up hills and coasting the down hills.  I took it easy on the first loop and did not run hard on the up hills.  When I finished that my Achilles tendons actually felt a little better.  I really wasn’t feeling them at all, which was a nice change!  So my warm up loop and the first of the workout loops were both somewhere around 10:00-11:00 mile pace.  Considering the loose rock trails and hilly terrain, not bad.

Remember, I ate my regular breakfast, not a pre-run breakfast so I wasn’t supposed to be running and certainly not running a hard workout.

I just finished two miles on the hilly loop and I was not feeling my breakfast at all plus my Achilles tendons felt pretty good.  I decided to run the second of the workout loops harder and dropped to about 8:46 mile pace running hard on the up hills and coasting somewhat on the down hills.  That felt great!!!  Maybe I just needed a longer warm up – definitely a trend with me lately.  Sometimes I need a 2-3 mile warm up before a workout or race.

I then started my third of the workout loops really pushing the pace on the up hills AND the down hills and finished around 8:18 mile pace.  I could not believe how good I felt.  I then joined the group for the 4 x short sprints up the steep grass hill.  Those things make you feel alive!  Somehow I swear my legs muscles morphed into a Jell-O like substance while my lungs were burning and I became a little light headed.  I had trouble keeping track of how many I had actually run.  Who knew counting to four could be such a challenge.  Okay, a slight exaggeration here, but these are intense!

 

After the fourth short, steep hill sprint we did one more mile on the hilly loop to cool down then a quick stretch after some shin strengtheners.  A total of 5.5 miles for the day.  I am still struggling to adjust my way of thinking about mileage in workouts and total weekly mileage.  Training for that 57 miler has really skewed things for me.  I am keeping much more detailed notes in my training log now so I can see the intensity and types of workouts and not worry so much about my lower weekly mileage totals.

The big mistake I made after the 57 miler was jumping back into 50+ mile weeks with only one week of rest right after the race.  When my Achilles tendon pain started I looked at my training log and I could see it right there plain as day the reason why.  Last week I backed off to about 33 miles and this week will be even lower.  I decided to do shorter runs, increase the intensity of just a couple of them, and also take more rest days to heal up.  I definitely needed to recalibrate my way of thinking about my training.  Yes I am going to be running a 50K in just a few months and yes I am going to run another marathon when I run Goofy at Disney Marathon weekend, but that does not mean that I need to be training the way I was just a couple of months ago.  I don’t always have to run high mileage just because that worked well for me this spring when I was preparing for a 57 mile race in June.

I don’t know if other running coaches have similar issues, but I find that I am often my own toughest athlete to coach.  I always feel like the regular rules of training do not apply to me.  Sadly I am not invincible.  But luckily I do learn from my mistakes and that helps me to be a better coach to others.

Back to breakfast…

I have never been able to run well or run hard after eating cereal with milk or just drinking milk.  As I said this morning was organic granola with dark chocolate bits and almond milk.  I decided to switch to almond milk for my cereal because it is higher in calcium and has fewer calories than regular milk.  I am still amazed at how hard I was able to run after eating all that.  I felt great on the run.  The granola is pretty dense and kept me fueled.  I did not get my extreme post run hunger for quite a while after the run too.  Perhaps a new pre-run meal in the arsenal!

I will definitely keep trying new things to see what works.

Uncharted

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Back in March The Tornado Alley 50 Miler race director emailed me back to let me know that I could run the entire distance myself and that I did not need a relay team but I would need to provide my own crew and fuel.  Okay, now how do I train for this thing?!?

Talk about uncharted territory!  26.2 miles is the longest I have ever run in a race or a training run.  So I did some research on how to train for ultras.  I took some of the ideas I found along with what I have learned over the years and created a training plan that looked great on paper.  I kept the 3 month training schedule right next to my desk so I would see it daily and stick to it.

Consistency is key.  That’s probably the most important tip I can offer.  And that does not mean the schedule is set in stone.  Definitely listen to your body, take rest days as needed, and revise the schedule to fit your life.  But be consistent.

In March and April I had quite a few races on my calendar so I used those in place of some of the tempo and speed workouts.  I started doing back to back long runs in order to teach my body to run on tired legs.  This worked great for many weeks in this pattern – rest day, long run, long run, rest day and then the remainder of the week filled in with some easy runs, tempo or speed, and maybe a race.  But as the long runs got longer and longer I found that I sometimes I needed two rest days in a row before or after my longer efforts.  Some weeks when I was putting in 4-5 hour training runs (25-31 miles) I could not handle them back to back.  So I made the schedule fit what my body could handle.  I was training in Florida which featured many hot, sunny, and humid training days.

I trained at various times of day so my body could adapt to running at the different times.  I was ready for any sun, heat, or humidity that race day might bring.  I trained using all of my drinks and fuel options so I would know how my body would react to them all.

Once I reached the start of the taper, about three weeks out from race day, I was a little concerned that my longer runs were single day runs with two rest days around them and I was not able to do as many back to back long runs as I had originally planned.  But I have found that over thinking things is pretty typical for taper weeks – too much time on my hands so I start to question everything.

But I headed into race week healthy, well trained, and rested.  I had some of my best sleep the week before the race.  I have never felt so well prepared before.

First ultra

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

So how did I get here?  My husband will confirm statements that I have made in the past about how I have no interest in doing an ultra, that “those people” are crazy, and why would you want to run all day anyway?  That was my former opinion about ultras.  This opinion was formed really knowing nothing about them or the training required to prepare for them.

I guess the progression to “here” (having just signed up for my first ultra) would begin with doing longer training runs for my last few marathons (Boston–April 2011, Space Coast–November 2011, and 5 Points of Life–February 2012).  I had several long runs over 20 miles including a few of 26.2 miles during the past year.   I enjoyed my training for these races and really enjoyed those long runs over 20 miles, especially the 26.2 mile ones!

So good training plus better hydration and fuel during the marathons, yet I still could not break that darn 3:30 barrier.  What is up?  I thought I would rock the 5 Points of Life Marathon because I had figured out I needed Gu and used it in training.  I had done the hill training, the long runs, the GMP runs, tempo, speed, everything!  And I tapered.

That is the beauty and the heartache of the marathon.  You train for months and months and then when the big day arrives you can have a great race or you can walk away disappointed.  I think because it is such a big physical and emotional build up, such a commitment and investment of time and energy that if it does not go perfectly, it can be such a let down.  If you bomb this weekend’s 5K or 10K it’s no big deal.  You can go out and do another one next week or the week after.  But not with the marathon.

So with the disappointment from the last three marathons, I thought maybe I need to get away from the marathon for a while and stop obsessing about breaking 3:30 and do something else.  But what?  Maybe I would try my first ultra this year.  Maybe a nice 50K or something.  Then an opportunity, a race, presented itself and I could not pass it up…

Tornado Alley 50 Miler.

It is a six person relay race (similar to Ragnar or Keys 100) where each person runs three legs of varying distances of 2-6 miles and they pass through relay exchange zones where they find their vans full of teammates and take turns covering the 50 miles.  The course follows the path of the tornado that ripped through Western Massachusettson June 1, 2011.  This event even benefits all the towns affected by the tornado, including my hometown of  Monson, which was hit the hardest.  I had to do this!  But I knew there’s no way I could get five people plus a crew/driver to Massachusetts to do this thing with me.  So I emailed the race director asking if I could run the whole thing myself.


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