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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.

1st quarter recap

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Back in January I was training on my hybrid marathon training plan which combined long runs, several races, hill training, and speed work.  The week ending January 15 marked my “highest week ever” (noted that way in my training log) with 63.25 miles.  Highlights of that week included a hill workout, 22 mile long run, and a decent 10K race.

My previous blog entry goes into great detail about the January 21 Ringling Bridge Run.  The week ending January 22 featured a 9 mile speed workout, some hill sprints, and the 26.2 mile run with the race in the middle.  That week ended with 57.45 miles.

I am going week by week for a reason here.  I wanted to share my build up to the February marathon so you can see the crazy hybrid training schedule I concocted.  ;)

Last week of January I totaled 49 miles with a tough speed workout (600s!) and one of my best races in a while – the Newnan’s Lake 15K in Gainesville (6:55 pace for 9.3 miles) which was followed by a 22 mile long run the next day.  Exhaustion was setting in but luckily it was taper time!

First week of February I had another good quality speed workout (800s this time), some 400s uphill, and took first overall female in the Run for the Manatees 5K.  Only 39 miles this week.  I was having some major IT band pain so I decided to switch to shoes with a little less stability to see if that would help.  I normally train in Brooks Adrenaline and decided to try the Brooks Ravenna.  Probably not the best idea a couple of weeks before my marathon but I didn’t know what else to do at this point.  I stretch, get massage regularly, and had acupuncture.

Taper time!  I do not handle the taper very well.  But who does?  The week ending February 12 totaled 34.25 miles with a tempo run, a couple short runs at GMP (goal marathon pace), and the St. Pete Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon which I ran at GMP.  It was tough to hold back during this race but I knew if I did not, I would ruin my chances at a decent marathon next week.  All this week I ran in the Brooks Ravenna (less stability).

Marathon week!  After two and a half weeks training in the Brooks Ravenna, my IT bands felt better but my left hamstring and TFL were so painful.  So bad that I decided I better run the marathon in my good old Brooks Adrenalines.  Race conditions were not ideal for the Five Points of Life Marathon in Gainesville.  It was super windy, extremely humid, hilly, and a small race so I often found myself alone with no one around to even think about drafting.  I felt very good through halfway and was exactly on my goal pace at 20 miles but that’s when the good feelings blew away with the strong wind gusts.  My pace slowed every mile from 20 to the finish.  I even had to walk in the last mile.  I felt awful trying to ascend the final incline before the left turn to the finish line.  I know I looked as bad as I felt from expressions on the faces of my husband and friends at the finish.  My goal was to finish just under 3:30.  For some reason 3:30 has been a weird barrier for me in my last few marathons so I wanted to break it.  I finished in 3:39:46.  Of course I was disappointed.  I felt like I had trained so hard and so well for this.

5 Points of Life Marathon

After I walked around for a while and came back to see the posted results, my mood immediately changed.  The winning female time was 3:20.  I was the second overall female and won $450!

After a week or so of recovery, I closed out February and started March with 30 miles including an 8 mile speed workout, a hilly trail tempo run, and the Gasparilla 8K where I finished 3rd overall female.  Since the marathon I had been back full time in my Brooks Adrenaline with no IT band pain but still some lingering left hamstring and TFL tightness and soreness that just would not respond to anything.  On March 11 Team RunnerGirl won the female division of the Sarasota Half Marathon Relay.  I ran the first leg which was about 6 miles and included the Ringling Bridge while my relay partner Kali ran the longer second leg.  It was our second relay together this year and this time we took home the gold.  What fun!  We had such a great time at this race with so many of our running friends from Team RunnerGirl – On A Shoestring – Brooks as well as Suncoast Striders and many of our local high school runners.

Team RunnerGirl Wins Sarasota Half Marathon Relay

Team Brooks-RunnerGirl-On A Shoestring

And then somewhere in mid March I decided I was going to do my first ultra…

Ringling Bridge Run 26.2 Miler

Saturday, January 21st, 2012

Most people know this race as the Ringling Bridge Run 4 Miler which is the biggest local timed/scored race in our area.  It’s mind boggling year after year to see more and more people who want to race over the Ringling Bridge!  I mean, I love hills and bridges, but people think I’m weird.  ;)

It looks like there were 2,158 finishers in the 4 miler this year.  I have no idea how many participated in the one mile.  But it’s for a great cause and the money stays locally so it generates great community support.

I ran the Space Coast Marathon on November 27, 2011 then took a couple weeks of rest and recovery before deciding to sign up and train for the Five Points of Life Marathon on February 19, 2012.  That didn’t give me a lot of time to recover, start training again, get in all the long runs and workouts I wanted to, and fit in all the other races I had already signed up for in January and February.  So I created the best possible training schedule I could with all the weekend race commitments I had already made weeks and months earlier.

This brings us to the Ringling Bridge Run 4 Miler and the Saturday I’m supposed to do my longest long run of this hybrid marathon training schedule.  So I combine the two and am very happy with the result!

I ran approximately 8.5 miles before the race then raced 4 miles in 27:09 (6:47 pace) which is 12 seconds slower than my PR.  Wished I realized that during the race so I could have gone for a new PR!  After the race I had some Gu and water then set off for my 14 (approx.) mile “cool down” with water and Gu stops throughout.  I averaged 8:55 for the 26.2 miles and went over and back on the Ringling Bridge (biggest “hill” in this area) four times.

This was the second time I had done a 26.2 mile training run.  I decided this was important to do again for this February marathon because I recovered so quickly from the November marathon.  Oh and did I mention the rolling hills I would see in the February marathon?  Luckily I have this hilly 26.2 mile training run under my belt and have been doing weekly hill workouts since last fall.

Gu rediscovered

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a big fuel problem at the Space Coast Marathon.  During the two weeks after the marathon I was a bit bummed and did not care to talk about it much.  When people saw me around town at cross country meets, group runs, and at the running store I cringed when they looked so excited and asked how it went.  I think they were excited because they also knew how well prepared I was.

But I gave my standard short version recap of how it was pretty good through 20 miles then I just fell apart and struggled to finish.  It almost felt like a script after explaining it to so many people.  After Phil and I finished timing and scoring the county championship middle school cross country meet on December 10, we were headed out the gate to the parking lot and got stopped by a good friend who has completed many marathons, half marathons, and has done even more crazy stuff like Ironman and several half Ironman races.

Anyway, when I gave her the scripted recap of the race she then asked, (paraphrasing here) “you didn’t take any Gu?”  When I answered “no” and continued to explain my intake of water and Gatorade, her jaw dropped and she looked shocked and amazed.  I so wish I had a photo of her face at that moment!  We laughed so hard at her reaction.  It was the perfect mix of surprise and disbelief.  As funny as that moment was, it really stuck with me and got me thinking…

I tried Gu way back in the mid to late 1990s when I was running lots of marathons and I thought it was so disgusting.  The consistency was gross and the flavor about made me gag.  But as with so many things…they can and do improve over time.  I asked around about the flavors that my fellow endurance athlete friends preferred.  I even tried eating Sharkies during a long run before I gave in to try Gu again.  Although I love Sharkies – taste, consistency, healthy – everything about them!  It was too much for my stomach to deal with during a run.  I know people who can eat bananas and Clif Bars during training runs and long races; I am just not blessed with that type of iron stomach.  ;)

So, here we are on Sunday, December 18 at our group long run.  I ran a 10K (about 8 miles total with warm up and cool down) the day before so I only planned to run 12 miles.  I took half a packet of Gu with water at six miles.  The run was supposed to be easy and I averaged 9:23 for the 12 miles but my last three miles were 8:47, 8:43, 8:24 and I felt pretty good.  No stomach issues from the Gu and the Vanilla Bean flavor was not bad.  Still not crazy about the consistency but there’s the incentive to get it down quickly!  Tuesday and Thursday that week were pretty hard runs followed by acupuncture and massage for my knee and Achilles on Friday in preparation for Saturday’s 20 miler.

The Christmas Eve 20 miler ended up being an awesome group run at the preserve.  I think we had over 20 people join in.  The 20 miles took 2:54 for an average pace of about 8:44.  I took a full Gu packet at mile 8 and mile 14 with water stops about every 3 miles.  I felt great and knew I could run more if I had to.  I ended the 20 miler with the last 3 miles in 8:34, 8:19, and 8:08.  That never happens!

2011 Christmas Eve 20 Miler

So, yes, I have given Gu a second chance and discovered its many benefits.  I am a fan!  And no longer wondering when my next marathon will be.  Gu has worked so well for me in these two training runs that I signed up for the Five Points of Life Marathon on February 19, 2012.  I will keep using it in training so I know exactly how much to use on race day.  Fueling issues are now under control.


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