Sunday, October 28, 2012

One Last Weekend..

This weekend is the very last one before I lace 'em up and toe the line for the Stone Cat 50. My Healthy Bites arrived in plenty of time, and are waiting patiently to be placed in my drop bag.

I did my last double digit run with Lisa yesterday; it was a gorgeous day of awesome fall trail running in New England. Great way to close out Stone Cat training!

So lucky to have these trails less than 4 miles from my house! 

Today Caitlyn asked to go for a run, so we hit the trails, just the two of us. I was smart enough to grab my camera, and document this awesome time with her.. 

Now all that stands between me and that starting line is Hurricane Sandy.. Good news is she'll be long gone by Saturday, and we should have beautiful weather for the race! 

6 days to go!!!! 

Happy Training! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cheetah-Fast, Pain like Bee Stings, and Ice Cream Sundaes.. Caitlyn's 5K PR Race Report..

This race report is a collaboration between Chris, Caitlyn, and myself; I bring you the report of Caitlyn's 5K PR at The Landmark 5K in Hamilton, MA. 

Race morning brought lots of sun, but also a bit of a chill; a perfect day for a race! Chris suggested Caitlyn wear her warm-up pants, to keep her legs from getting too cold. Caitlyn insisted on wearing just her shorts, because "what "real" runner wears warm-up pants to RACE? C'mon daddy!" It was also non-negotiable that she wear her brand new technical race tee shirt over her long sleeve,  because all the teenagers were. And if you ask Caitlyn, "teenagers are so cool".

As most runners headed out for their warm-up, Caitlyn got warm by dancing to all of her favorite Top 40 tunes. Bring on the Biebs baby, it's an obviously correlation to a PR! Caitlyn's favorite warm-up song was Gangnam Style; she said she "rocked it"!

Caitlyn's splits ended up at 10:31, 11:18, 11:21, and 68 seconds. She flew through the first 6 minutes of her race before she took first walk break. The second mile brought slightly rolling hills, and she conserved energy by walking up the hills. It was about halfway when Caitlyn looked at Chris with her "serious face" and said "I'm going to get a PR today!".

He nodded, and confirmed that if she kept it up, she would definitely PR for sure!

It was somewhere in the last mile when Caitlyn said her legs were hurting; when I asked her how bad they hurt, she said they felt like "she had gotten stung by a bee a thousand times".  Chris provided her encouragement  saying she was doing great, and this was the toughest part of any race.  Heather (Chris' wife/Caitlyn's Step-mom)  met them with a half mile to go, and they all ran the rest of the race together. In typical Caitlyn fashion, she put down a kick! I asked her just how fast she said she ran at the end, and she said "like a cheetah kind of fast".

After the race she was all smiles with her shiny PR of 34:16 (helllloooo runners-high)! As most of us runners do, she eyed the food table, asking Chris if she could have a cookie. Let's be honest, you can't deny anyone a cookie after a hard fought PR effort; Chris told her she could grab whatever she wanted! He also reminded Caitlyn just how proud of her he was, and how impressive it was that she fought through to the finish. Caitlyn was very proud of her winnings.. A free ice cream sundae at the local ice cream stand. And, well, ice cream sundaes make any of us smile!

According to Caitlyn, her favorite part of the race was finishing, because she "felt so happy, and proud I got a PR".

During this race, Caitlyn showed some mental strength that she's never displayed before in a race. She really focused, and when it got hard, she pushed through all the way to the finish. She always shows a competitive spirit in these races, asking throughout the miles if there are people behind her; she always wants to ensure she's beating people! When asked, she claims someday she's going to beat her dad (who, by the way, holds a 5K PR of 15:28....). I won't burst that bubble for her quite yet.

Watching Caitlyn grow to truly love running is just so much fun. She has grown up surrounded by runners, yet not one of us has ever pushed her into the sport. She really enjoys running these 5Ks, and is counting down the days until she can join the cross-country team in third grade! Thus far, we've seen a great balance of passion, competitiveness, and truly loving to run, win or lose. How fast she runs isn't important to any of us; what IS important is that she is allowed to develop a love of a sport/skill/hobby that we have with running.

Congrats again to Caitlyn; we love you!

*all photos courtesy of Krissy K*

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fast or Slow, Everyone Needs Some 26.2 In Their Life.. (A Race-Ish Report)

I apologize for lack of pictures lately - my phone committed suicide, and my new iPhone isn't coming in until the end of the month - so sorry for the wordy/picture-less posts lately!... 

When I signed up for Stone Cat, I swore off all speedwork. I decided after 2 years of crap running plus surgery, I needed to get back to the basics. I needed to remember why I love to run so much, and truly enjoy training. As I enter my taper for my 50-miler, I look back at this training cycle with a gigantic smile on my face. I have accomplished everything I set out to do in the past 4-5 months.

This weekend was my last big weekend before taper - I wanted to get in 28-30 miles yesterday, and 10-12 today. Realizing the Hartford Marathon fit in perfect with my plans, I went ahead and signed up. I also asked Sara to run part of the race with me, to keep me in check, and to keep me from "racing" and subsequently ruining Stone Cat. This turned out to be way harder than I thought it would be.

Toeing the line yesterday, I was on my way to a 65-70 mile week, and I thought running slow would be incredibly easy. I wanted nothing more than time on feet, practice nutrition, and to have FUN. I started off with a few girls that were running their first marathon, which always brings an infectious positive attitude. They asked me to run with them for the first few miles, so they didn't go out too fast. We ran, chatted, laughed, and shared stories about how we all got into running. So much fun.

Sara met me at mile 5; she's 6.5 months pregnant, and her goal was to get in 20 miles yesterday. She's freaking amazing, and so inspirational. Her knowledge of ultras has been instrumental to me during this training cycle, and having her there yesterday to remind me NOT to race was so perfect.

The next 15 or so miles were spent by me saying "this is SO HARD", referring to having to hold back, and not pick off every person in sight. However, it was also spent talking to so many different people, cheering for everyone on the out-and-back portion, laughing at all the signs (one of my favorites was "running marathons is like mouthwash - if it's burning, you know it's working!") that people were holding out. We high fived as many little kids as we could, and we just.... had an incredible time.

I felt so good; granted, we were moving slowly, but I felt awesome. It really feels like all of the hard work I've put into my training is really starting to show. It was somewhere after mile 20 that I decided we were going to run sub 4:40. Why? Who knows. There is ZERO significance to 4:40, and it's about an hour off of my PR. It was silly, but I needed something to aim for in the last 10K. It was about mile 25 where we realized if I was getting under 4:40, I was going to have to MOVE.

So I went. Sara yelled at me to just GO, and lay it out there the last mile. I haven't run a fast mile since that 5K I did last December, but my God it was fun to run fast. I flew past so many people, pumping my arms, snot dripping down my face, the whole nine yards.

And wouldn't you know, there was a race photographer just before the 26 mile mark, who I'm SURE now owns the sexiest picture of me ever. I've decided I'm going to blow up that inevitably awesome picture of fabulousness with the caption of "THIS is what a sub 4:40 marathon finish looks like". And put it right next to the picture of me finishing my 3:42 PR marathon, where I'm smiling and giving a thumbs up to the camera.

Yesterday's mile 26 photo is waaaayyyy more sexy, and way more snot-filled
According to the Garmin, I ran that last .75 in a sub- 7:30min/mile pace, which is probably the fastest I've ever run at mile 25/26 of a run. Woop!

Yesterday was the most perfect way to end my last big training weekend. We ran a ridiculously fun marathon (which, by the way, has a CANDY TABLE at mile 24.. Ummm, race directors everywhere need to adopt this immediately), Sara ran 21.5 miles, and as soon as we finished, I had a text saying Caitlyn CRUSHED her 5K PR. She threw down a 34:18 yesterday with her dad. I really need to start working on speed again after Stone Cat; I cannot let Caitlyn start beating me until she's at least 10!

It's no secret I love the marathon distance; I've had a LOT of races where I've laid it on the line, given it everything I've had, and left my soul on the race course. Yesterday was NOT that day, but it gave me a whole new love for the distance, and the respect for every.single.person that crosses the finish line of a marathon.

Everyone needs a little 26.2 in their life....

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

From Last To First, And Molding Me As A Runner..

"this is so hard... my legs hurt so badly, and I don't think it's possible to sweat anymore than I am right now.. I can barely feel my feet hitting the pavement, but I can hear them clomping like I'm a 6'4" man. I can't see straight, and my God this hurts".. - Brewery Exchange 5K '00 36:11 (11:15 pace)

"Just keep moving.. One foot in front of the other.. I won't end up last today, just keep moving forward.. I might break 11:30 pace today, if I can just fight through the burn.". - Tufts 10K '00 1:10:13 (11:18 pace)

These were races done when I was 21 years old, and had no idea what was wrong with me. I couldn't figure out how I was an above average swimmer most of my life, but just plain sucked at running. I can't find the result online, but in the summer of '00, I finished dead last at a 10K race. As in the sweeper; behind EVERYONE. Yes I had the ambulance driving behind me, and they were picking up the cones as I passed. My then boyfriend had won the race; we joked that we were the bookends to the race, but in my mind, I didn't understand how I could be working so damn hard to not see any success. I felt humiliated and defeated .

I had picked up running a couple years before, needing a way to move after I stopped swimming. Running was cheap, and I had just started dating a super fast runner. He made it look so easy, yet I was working so hard Legs and lungs on fire, sweat dripping off of me, pouring my heart and soul into every step. I would be thrilled if I broke a 12 min/mile on any single run. I would run w/ my college roommates or friends, and was always the one holding people back. I was always the one fighting for air, and willing the burn in my legs to stop for just one moment during a run. After almost every run, I would come home and nap. I talked myself into believing it's just what college kids do. In the recesses of my mind, I knew that probably wasn't the case.

After the Tufts 10K in '00, I decided to pop into my primary care to see if there was anything wrong. While my Hematocrit and Hemoglobin were low when they pulled my CBC (complete blood count), it was my low Ferritin count that took my MD by surprise. My number was not only low, it was through the basement. He was shocked I was finishing runs, never-mind at a pace that wasn't a slow walk. We worked together through supplementing, etc to get my iron levels back to normal. It took a solid 6 months, but then on June 23, 2001, something magical happened.

I toed the line at the Marion Village 5K, where I had just a year prior I finished the race in a blistering 32:45. I was deemed healthy again, and thought it would be fun to see what I could do. The gun sounded, and I.... flew... I've never honestly experienced anything like it. My feet felt like then were dancing along the pavement, my breathing rhythmic, and a giant smile plastered across my face. I don't remember the exact split of my first mile, but it was under 7:00. I wish I could put the feeling into words, but it's something I've held onto for the past 11+ years. I crossed that finish line, one year later, with a time of 21:18. A 6:51 min/mile pace. And holy crap, I finished FIRST in my age group. In one year, I had taken over 10 minutes off of my 5K time. I will never, ever forget that day, and just how special it felt.

Its that experience, and those years, that have molded me into the runner I am now; I will NEVER say no to an offer to run, no matter how "slow" someone claims to be. I've been there, and I know what it feels like. It's remembering how hard I fought every day that I ran, not just on race day. And it's remembering that no matter how hard it was, I went back at it every single day. I did it because despite how damn hard running was, and how badly it hurt, I loved it.

And all these years later, that love has only grown..

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

One Month to Go, and Making the Cut-Off..

One month from today, I'll be toeing the line of the Stone Cat 50 Mile Trail Race. I'm just going to re-read that sentence until it stops making me nauseous, and then I'll declare myself ready. Yeeps.

From a strict mileage perspective, I feel prepared. I have executed an asinine amount of runs over 20 miles, as well as a 30+ miler. I have one more 28-30 mile run next weekend, and then I just let my body absorb all the work. I am not injured (knock some SERIOUS solid wood), and I feel strong. But my God am I slow..

Which brings me to the cut-off. Being a solid middle of the packer, I never have to worry about cut-offs in a race. Not being all "mightier than thou"; I have just never gone into a marathon worrying that I won't make the 6 hour time limit. This ultra trail running stuff is allllllllllll new territory for me. As I mentioned, I've run silly amounts of miles, but there hasn't been any speed-work. I've done it deliberately; with my surgery, and reaching higher mileage weeks, I knew I couldn't have it all. I sacrificed speed-work to avoid injury this training cycle. It worked (are you still knocking wood?), but when you run a bazillion slow miles, it gets to be all your body knows. Slow.

The Stone Cat course is a 12.5 mile loop which you repeat 4 times (for all of us that aren't so great at math, that equals 50. You're welcome). The race starts at 6:15am, and you must start your last loop by 3:15pm. Again, for all of us non-math majors, that gives runners 9 hours to run the first 37.5 miles, which is a 14:24 pace (min/mile). If I were reading this on someone else's blog who has run a marathon in the low 3:40's, I would laugh. And maybe you are too; but I'm scared to death.

For anyone who's done some trail running, you know that your pace slows dramatically from the pavement to the woods. And God KNOWS what I'm going to feel like at 34/35/36/37 miles; I may feel like Usain Bolt while rockin' 16 minute miles.

The goal of this race has been something dramatically different than any race I've done in the past (yes, including my first marathon) - to finish upright and preferably without too much damage. I'm trying to think of this cut-off as a friendly reminder that the volunteers and race staff don't want to have a sleep-over in the woods of Ipswich because I decided to tun a 50 miler in 20 hours.

In 31 days, I will have my very first 50-miler under my belt, and WILL collect my finisher's jacket. Even if that means attempting a 7 minute mile at mile 36 to make the cut-off. Maybe I should think about ordering some rocket-launcher shoes.. Hmmmmmm...

Happy Training!