Monday, April 22, 2013

Blue Ridge Marathon 4/20/2013 - America's Toughest Road Marathon

So a few months ago after signing up for the North Face 50k, I figured the Blue Ridge marathon would be an excellent training run for the North Face 50k in June.  The Blue ridge marathon website said it had been deemed America's Toughest Road Marathon...psssh, I figured they just put that on there to scare runners.  Besides, how hard could it be, its on the east coast and other than named after some mountains, how bad could it be.  So the family and I head down to Roanoke, VA for the race on Friday the 19th.  It rained most of the way down but didn't hit any real traffic as we were going west of civilization.  Here is a quick pic of one of the moutains I would be running:
Yea, that looks like no fun.  We get there and head over to the expo and get my bib which is 107.

After getting the bib, we stop by the book signing for Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers...the kids posed with them as I thought I was too cool for such a thing :) ...Here is a picture of the expo, not much to look at but it was nice not to fight the lines you usually see in DC:

Below is a picture of Bill Rogers signing this girls jacket.  Apparently, she ran Boston last week and was getting interviewed by

Hit a bowl of spaghetti at this hole in the wall and then back to the hotel to get some rest.   Because I am freak, I got a picture of this as well!!!  btw, I ate the rest!

 Up early the next morning to eat my marathon bar and part of a banana at 4am, race was at 7:30am.  Head over to the Marketplace to stay warm before going outside and freezing my ass off in 40F and 15-20 mph winds...yikes.  Got some pics with the kids before heading out:

After 42 stops to the dumper, I squeezed every possible thing out of my ass and bladder, I felt like I was ready to run "America's toughest road marathon".  I still didn't know what to expect.  On to the starting line were a few words about the Boston marathon incident were said - then onto the national anthem which I could barely hear and really didn't want to, given the butchering it was getting...guess mariah carey was all booked up this week.  Another guy who I run with Michiel was doing the marathon as well.  We decided to use this race as a training run for the North Face 50k as well...Here is shot of us before we enter hell:
I wore my classic cherry blossom with the arm warmers as I had no idea what to expect up in the Mountains.  And then we were off!  Oh, forgot to mention, there were around 1200 1/2 marathon runners, 500 full and about 100 team relays doing the full marathon.  Ok, out of the gate I am doing a nice and easy 9:03 for the first mile.  I told Mike I kinda wanted to keep it at 10 given the hardest of the three hills were coming first.  Then we make a turn out of town, then up this hill.  The hill which started at mile two didn't end until mile 7 - fucking unreal.  4 miles into this bitch, I am thinking you can't be serious as I am keeping a around a 10 minute mile.  Mile 6 approaches and the legs are feeling it as we continue to go up and we hit this 180 turn and all I see is a road with a 30% incline, just sick...walking ensued by EVERYONE.  One guy who I was walking/running near said he ran this part of the course two weeks ago and said it took him 26 minutes running and 28 minutes walking....after hearing that, we walked up that bitch till I got to a runnable area.  So its back down the mountain and now I am crusiing at a 8:30 pace thinking I am really moving now.  3 miles of downhill straight and my feet and hips are starting to actually ache.  I never had pain in either of those two areas ever so this was new.  About mile 9 we start heading back up to the Roanoke Star which ends about mile 13 or the half marathon mark.  Another eye opening experience as I am thinking to myself, what was I thinking.  At this point, my achilles in my left foot is starting to feel more pressure than usual.  Guess 10 miles of climbing will do that.  However, we finally started to decend around mile 13 onto mile 17...At mile 16, I got to see heather and dump my arm warmers and get my headphones as I am pulling out all the stops here...

Actually, at this point, I was thinking in any other race with no hills left I could of got a sub 4 but I knew what lied ahead...the infamous peakwood drive...I heard it was devastating because it starts at 17 and ends at 21.5...ok, so I am off again

Off to peakwood...about a mile from here we start this ascent which is through a neighborhood.  Your thinking, come on, how steep can this thing be.  people live here, right?  wrong...the fucker was murder...up 4 miles, left a little, right a little, turn here, no turn here...I felt like I was going to walk all the way in to the finish at this point.  The only thing that kept me going was (besides Michiel) was the people in the neighborhood who came out to cheer us on...they were incredible and definitely appreciated the love.  That said, by the time I got to heather again at 22, I was on a death march.

As you can see, I am struggling!!!  However, my boys had pulled out the signs for me and I gave them high fives for all the support...

The last 4 miles felt like they lasted forever...what wind we didn't get in the mountains, we got in town and it felt like a wind tunnel.  You could tell they were stretching the course a tad by making us back and forth on this bridge before we started towards downtown and the finish.  By the time I got to the bridge before downtown, I could barely run that tiny tiny tiny little hill - it was embarassing.  Finally, got about a mile out and I knew we would be done soon.  About .5 to go a girl says "only 3 more blocks" and I am loving it...then we get to the next block, some dude says "only 4 more blocks", WTF!  At this point, I can see the finish banner so we pick up the pace and don't want to look like slouches coming are a couple shots of us coming in:

and here:

and finally at the finish line:

All in all, we didn't do to bad and I got a 4:29:47 which was 23rd out of 42 in my age group.  Here are the mile splits per their tabulation:

Mile 5.4 - 49:45 / 9:12 pace
Mile:  9.8 - 1:35:42 / 9:45 pace
Mile 15.7 - 2:32:05 / 9:41
Mile 22 - 3:40:51 / 10:02 pace (when shit fell apart!!!)
Mile 26.2  - 4:29:47 / 10:17 pace

I am pretty happy with the final results and everyone had a blast.  Looking forward to the North face 50k in about 5 weeks, now just resting the legs a little.  Going to hit the bike on wednesday real easy...crazy thing is, the legs feel real good but I am not going to push it back.  Running this race and having no injuries as a result were really my main goals..Some sides notes, I need to get better at having better nutrition at the end of the race..I seem to really die at 22 in all my races...I need to practice eating more during my long runs..of interest is that I actually stopped to piss two more times during the port-o-dumps no less...later...

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Taking Back the Finish Line

 "A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways as they're capable of understanding.”  - Steve Prefontaine

After a difficult week, this weekend was about taking back the finish line for runners and spectators everywhere.  We traveled to Roanoake, VA for the Blue Ridge Marathon this weekend.  I wasn't running, but JD and the kids were running.  The kids have been logging miles for the past several weeks to get up to 25 miles and earn the right to run the last 1.2 miles on the actual course and cross the official Blue Ridge finish line.  The Foot Levelers expo was awesome and so inspiring.  It was really small, but three of the legends in running were there signing books and posing for photos.

The Legends!
  It wasn't very crowded when we arrived so we walked right up to Bart Yasso.  He was so incredible.  He spent at least 10 minutes chatting with the boys and talking about running.  Then he put this awesome personalized inscription in his book for Zman.

Then we moved over to talk to Frank Shorter.  The boys were definitely impressed to be in the presence of an Olympic medalist.  He was wonderful as well and signed copies of the race map for the kids.

 Lastly, we talked to Bill Rodgers, 4 time Boston winner, who spent time giving running advice and signed his book for the boys.

The marathon had provided blue bracelets that said Running for Boston as well as great stickers for the bibs.

The mood was upbeat and the vibe was great.  We were really excited for the morning.  After finding a great little pasta place and scarfing some carbs, we headed back to the hotel to rest and stay up way too late watching the manhunt on TV.  It wasn't a great night of sleep for any of us since allergies were Nickel a hard time with breathing.  We woke up way too early, but everyone was really nervous and excited.  We headed down to the start and hung out in the City Market before the kids and I took off down to the YMCA to pick up their race bibs.  We didn't realize that it was about 3/4 of a mile to the Y so we ended up having to run back to make sure we were there for the marathon start.  The race start was so touching and exciting.  They had a Boston flag hung over the start line and many runners were jumping up to touch it.  I have to say that I felt completely safe and secure due to the police presence and careful security checks near the start and finishers' areas.  The kids and I then hustled back to the Y for the start of the Kids' Rainbow Mile.  As we neared the start, Zman noticed that a lot of the other kids were already lined up.  He ripped off his warm up pants and ran into the corral and started working his way right to the front.  I got Nickel settled in the corral, and then my friend and I started to walk the course back to the finish.  Since it was a point to point, they had the course lined with volunteers and police and parents were encouraged to go to the finish to pick their child up there (using a bracelet matching system).

Kids getting hit with color as they run their mile.
 The first kid runners came through pretty quickly (mostly older boys).  Then Zman came through around 10th place, and he was really sprinting hard.  I was figuring that we would have to wait awhile on Nickel, but he was less than a minute behind Zman.

 I collected them, and then we headed over to set up our viewing spots at miles 16 and 22.  We had a ton of fun watching the race and cheering on all of the runners.

  We finally made our way over to the finish line where I had a momentary urge to cry when I saw Nickel and Zman at the barrier waiting for JD to cross.

 My heart just broke thinking of poor little Martin and his family.  JD came through the finish area, and we snapped some photos of all of the guys with their medals before grabbing a bite to eat and heading back to DC.

This morning we headed out to the 4th race of the EX2 Spring Backyard Burn Series.  We were running at Laurel Hill Park site of the old Lorton prison so that added some excitement.

 I had never run at Laurel Hill before so I wasn't sure what to expect.  The course was a bit different than the usual set up.  Instead of two 5 mile loops, we had the following:  "The 10 milers will have about 1 mile of grassy field running.  To separate the field of runners, the race will start with .7 miles of running on a wide, newly paved section of the Cross County Trail (CCT) before crossing Lorton Road at the equestrian crossing.  All 5 and 10 mile racers will complete a 2.3 mile loop on the single-track trails south of Lorton Road.  After this loop, the 5 milers will cross Lorton Road and complete 2 miles on the trails north of Lorton Road.  After the initial 2.3 mile loop, the 10 milers will complete a second, expanded 4.1 mile loop before crossing Lorton Road and finishing with another 2.9 miles through trails and meadows.  Most of the single-track sections are fast, fun, and moderately technical.  "

That doesn't sound too bad.  What that description leaves out is that the 5 milers get off easy.  The 0.7 paved miles, and the 2.3 mile loop were fairly flat and pretty fast compared to the rest of the course.  The other 2 miles of trail that the 5 milers ran also left off the 0.9 miles of rolling hills through a meadow that the 10 milers got.  My strategy in these races is usually to figure out the trail on the first loop and then press on the second loop when I know the course and how best to run it.  That obviously wasn't going to work today.  I made the first mistake by getting caught in with a bunch of 5 mile runners from the start of the single track.  As it was very difficult to pass, the pressure was on to keep the gap between you and the runner in front of you pretty tight.  I was running around 8:30 miles for the first 3 miles just based on how my effort felt, entirely too fast for a 10 mile trail run. I think we were on Pasture and Apple Orchard Loops at this point. 

Once the 5 milers split off, I settled my pace down and was running more comfortably, but the trails got much harder.  We hit Workhouse Hills which were basically rolling hills through a meadow with the wind hitting us in the face.  I was glad to finally get into some woods until we hit our first lolipop loop which was called Slaughterhouse Trail (with a sign that said Most Difficult Mountain Bike Trail).  It is actually a really nice trail.  The loop was a series of ascending switchbacks and then back down on switchbacks, not terribly hard running, but enough to wear your quads down.  I was feeling pretty tough coming out of Slaughterhouse feeling strong and having run the entire section.  Then it was back into the Workhouse Hills to repeat the rolling meadow section.  At some point we hit on our original loop and got some easy flat running, but then it was back onto a Power Station Loop which also featured some mountain bike whoop di woos...not fun to run, but they would be awesome to bike.   

Back out onto Workhouse and we get about 0.25 miles of the Cross Country Trail until we are directed into Giles Meadow.  There was this amazing police officer directing traffic for us when we crossed a street who was cheering and clapping for every single racer that came through.  Giles Meadow was awful, rolling hills through a disc golf course with high grass that was just dragging at your shoes. 
Obviously, I was not running happy here.  I am pretty pissed about running through this grass.

When we finally got out of there, we were told we had 1.5 miles to go (good Lord, isn't this over yet).  We ran some more switchbacks and about 0.25 miles from the finish encountered our first caution signs (which is a surprise since we normally get a plethora of them at EX2...this should give an indication that the trail was not very technical...just rolling).  We had a stream crossing which we could negotiate on boulders and then burst out of the woods into a finish in the meadow. The boys were waiting for me and ran in alongside me to the finish. Overall, I thought I ran really well and really hard, but my time was only 1:49:30.  It's still my second fastest trail 10 miler, but I thought that I had run a lot better.  We'll see how I placed when the race results are posted. Results posted...yuck!  I managed a point for 20th place in my age group, but my gut reaction that I sucked compared to the rest of the field was correct.  I currently have a total of 8 points through 3 races which puts me in 8th place for the series among eligible series runners in my age group.  Top 5 in points get an award at the end of the series.  I think I would have to be pretty much the only woman who shows up at Fountainhead to crack the top 5.  :)

They had a short kids' sprint after the adult race.  Zman tore out in the lead and was in a foot race at the end with another girl.  Zman crossed before her, but they got tangled at the finish.  He fell and face planted into the grass.  I ran over to see if he was OK.  Instead of answering my question he said, "Did I win?"  Meanwhile Nickel had gotten tripped on the turnaround, but instead of crying or quitting he got back up and finished out the sprint.

After a long emotional week, I think this is the ultimate lesson...bad things happen, but we get back up, we find our strong, we keep running, and we never ever give up.  I feel proud and happy of what our family did this weekend and glad that we were able to stand with other runners and spectators to take back our finish lines.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Because I'm a Runner...

"I'm waking up to ash and dust
I wipe my brow and I sweat my rust
I'm breathing in the chemicals

I'm breaking in, shaping up, then checking out on the prison bus
This is it, the apocalypse"
Radioactive by Imagine Dragons

I usually only blog about races, but this needs to go somewhere.  Yesterday morning was so exciting watching the start of the elite women's race, following along online while I was out and about doing other things, tracking a friend who was running, and anticipating watching the DVR'd marathon in the evening. Then the unthinkable happened...explosions at the finish line.  I teared up immediately and was worried about runners that I knew who were in Boston.  As photos started to come in, I felt sicker and sadder. I also saw how runners are still inherently runners.  Even amidst the chaos, you can see people automatically stop their Garmin or make sure they cross the finish line completely.  I smiled as I listened to the story of the elderly gentleman who was knocked to his feet yards from the finish line who then got up and continued on to finish.   When I heard about Martin Richard, I was completely undone.  This feels so personal.  This could have been my family.  This could have been my little boy.  How many times have one of us stood at the finishing line of a big race with the kids cheering on the other parent to the finish?  My heart breaks for that family, for all families, for the runners whose dreams and lives were shattered today. My run is my outlet.  It's how I process life, solve problems, find strength, and push myself to the limit.  This morning I felt so lost.  I felt like the solace and joy of the run had been taken away.  As I began to read on Facebook and see other runners feeling the same way and starting a movement to wear race shirts in honor of Boston, I gathered my strength.  I did what I always do in the morning.  I laced up my shoes, and I hit the road.  My tears mixed with my sweat as I pushed myself harder than I normally do on a midweek run.  As I finished the 6 miles sprinting towards my driveway, my lungs burned, my legs ached, but I owned my run again.  I ran for those who might never run again.  I ran in solidarity with other runners.  I ran because I'm a runner and that's what I do. 

JD is running a marathon on Saturday and the kids have been working so hard at logging 25 miles so that they can complete the kids' marathon on the same last mile as Daddy.  My heart is heavy, and I can't quite see how we move forward, but we will move forward.  We will take back our finish line. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Runniversary-Manassas Runway 5K

The Manassas Runway 5K was the official runniversary for the boys.  Last year was their first ever 5K at this race and kicked off a real love for racing.   Adorable video footage of Nickel's first 5K finish from last year including his finish line interview.

We were really excited about this race again as it is a fun race.  It is really close to us, it is completely flat, and we get to run on the airport runway near the planes. We showed up pretty early, but check in was a bit of a mess.  They were using some system where you had to pick up your bib separately from your chip and then the chip was a triathlon ankle bracelet that needed to be assembled.  This was all quite a hassle when you are doing this for 4 people and trying to get to the start on time.  The check in was so disorganized that the race ended up starting a little late.

 The 10K runners took off first, and then it was time for the 5K runners to go.  JD and I decided to switch up pacing duties so JD went with Nickel and I went with Zman.  Zman was looking for a PR so I let him go out a little hard.  He ran a 9:15 first mile and was really strong throughout that mile.  At one point Nickel caught up to us and hung on for a while and ended up with somewhere around a 9:45 first mile.

Grinding it out!

JD is auditioning for most photogenic racer!
I wasn't sure how much Zman had left in him so we slowed he pace a little in the second mile and ran that one right around 10 minutes including a water stop at the halfway mark.  I then told him that he was right on PR pace, but that I needed him to really push for the last mile.  He locked in and kept up a nice pace.  When we hit the final straightaway, I told him that I wanted his all out best effort.


I debuted my New Balance Cherry Blossom running skirt which was awesome!
He really started on a nice kick.  I saw another boy ahead of him so I leaned down and told Zman to go get him.  He kicked into a completely different gear and really turned it on. He mumbled something about feeling like he was going to puke.  I told him to run now and puke when he crossed the finish line.  He completely ran this other boy down from behind and left him in the dust to cross the finish line.  28:56!!! Awesome PR!  (and no puking)

The run down!
Nickel and JD crossed shortly afterward at 31:30...brand new PR for Nickel as well.

Daddy cheering him to the finish line!

We were so proud of their effort, and it was so awesome to see the improvement over a year.  Usually the age groups at these races are 14 and under so even a decent time for an 8 year old doesn't have a chance at placing.  We had to get to baseball practice so we took off.  We later found out that Zman placed 3rd in the 8 and under age group and own his first age group award.  Nickel was right up there in 4th place!!!

We all got cute little medals.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

No Cherry Blossoms but a New PR!

Yesterday I ran my second Cherry Blossom 10 Mile.  This was my second big road race ever and first 10 mile race when I fell in love with running and racing in 2010 so this race is special to me.  I remember being so excited and crying at the finish line when I finished it in 1:43 the first time and then being exhausted for the rest of the day.  What a difference a few years makes!  This year JD and I jogged down to the start line from GW where we had parked and got in a mile warm up.

 The sun was still coming up, and it was chilly.

Sunrise was gorgeous
We jumped around to stay warm and used the surprisingly uncrowded porta potties.
Look!  No lines at 6:45 am!

I met up with a bunch of the mother runners  from various Moms Run This Town chapters and we took some photos.   I ate some gummy bunnies and was feeling really relaxed and ready to load into the corrals.  I was also super excited about the National Women's 10 Mile Championships and geeking out that Janet Bawcom was there and running the same course that I was running.

Elite Women's Start (courtesy of CUCB)
 I step into the blue corral and someone taps me on the shoulder.  It was one of my friends from work.
Quick selfie before they launch us.

The gun went off for the elite men and then the next corral went.  Then it was time to launch the blue corral.  It was a mess in the beginning.  I hate running in crowds and was dying to get out of the group.  I started dodging and weaving and running faster to get away from people and get some free space to run.  I finally got some running room when we hit the Memorial Bridge.  I love this part of the run.  I run there a lot on my regular morning runs so it feels comfortable, and I love the views.  I was cruising along and feeling good while listening to people complain about the ?hill? on the bridge.  In the back of my head I was thinking that it would be nice if I broke 1:30, but I didn't really feel like pressuring myself in the race.  I just wanted to relax and enjoy the run and see what happened.  I vowed not to look at my watch once and run at a pace that felt comfortable but slightly challenging.  I had noted that I crossed the start line around 10:30ish so I could occupy myself calculating splits when I saw mile markers, and I knew that I was running pretty well early (mile 1-9:04; mile 2-8:43; mile 3-8:43).  So we head under the Kennedy Center and turn around (hate this part of the run-the turnaround and running under the Kennedy Center annoy me).  Then I get caught in some slow mess as someone drops a phone onto the street and has to stop to pick it up and causes a pile up (main reason that I totally support the no headphone rule in these huge races). There are also a lot of people stopping to walk which annoys me greatly.  If you are walking this early (and they clearly weren't using a run/walk strategy), then you don't need to be in the blue corral.  So at mile 4 I am elbowed, almost tripped, and kicked a few times until I hop up on the sidewalk and get out of the mess while still managing to run 8:48.  This whole time I am swearing that I am never running another big race in DC, and that I hate this race. 

Still was happy enough to ham for a photo (Marathonfoto)
Then comes mile 5 where we are done with the annoying turnarounds and ready to get out to the point (9:14) for a 5 mile split of 45:25 and average pace of 9:05 on the first half of the race.  At this point I feel like I'm passing more than I was getting passed so that put me in a really good mood.  I also blew by the 9:30 pace group somewhere around here which tells me that I started way too far back in my corral since I should never have been that far behind them based on my pace.

Finally we hit Haines Point so I am excited to see some of the A runners coming out.  I missed the elite men unfortunately.  I had been hoping to catch a glimpse of them.  As we turn onto the Point, the wind just hits me.  I feel like I'm exerting way more effort, and I feel like my pace is dropping.  I am not looking at my watch.  I am just going to keep going.  I know it gets better, and I need to prove to myself that I can tackle Haines Point after falling apart on it at Marine Corps.  9:06 mile 6 and 56:52 10K split.  It feels like 5 miles out to the end, but pretty soon I see the free beer and oreos sign and make the turn. Mile 7 is where I really drop off my pace and end with 9:26 for the mile.  I kept trying to tuck myself in behind larger groups of runners to draft a little, but it wasn't helping much.   As soon as I make the turn, the run starts to feel much easier.  I want to pick up the pace, but I can't seem to make myself push it much more than I already am.  To tell the truth, I wasn't trying all that hard because I was still in the enjoy the run mode.  I am disappointed this whole time that the cherry blossoms are not out, but I am still chugging right along with a horrifying 9:30 pace-post race analysis tells me that miles 7-8 are where I lose any chance at sub 1:30. 

I see the 9 mile sign with my time and realize that I can probably PR after doing some quick math (yes, I'm a geek, and this is how I occupy myself when I run). I had picked up the pace at mile 9 for a 9:11 mile.  Pretty soon we hit the tiny hill near the end.  I know that it's coming so I'm ready for it, and I push up it.  I feel like I'm passing quite a few people at this point, but my pace really was only 9:16.  My watch beeps for 10 miles (46:29 for the last 5 miles so a little over a minute slower), and I finally see the finish line and make a nice push for the end. 

I know that I'm going to easily PR now, and I am pretty much shocked when I see that I have PR'd by slightly over 1 minute for a final time of 1:32:13.  (I ran 8:02 for the last 0.15 miles because all of that weaving around really added some distance which adds 1:14  to my time so quit weaving and run the tangents better. This tells me that I had a lot left in the tank which I already knew.  )

 Then I'm instantly irritated because I know that I could have easily run harder and gotten sub 1:30.  Overall I was really happy with this run since it wasn't really a goal race.  I just enjoy this race (yes, I know that I said I hated it earlier, but I always love it again by the end).  As soon as I was done, I was walking quickly through the finishers' chute to find JD, grab my medal, and do our cool down run back to GW with a Starbucks pit stop.

 I really needed this run because it's been a long time that I enjoyed a race this much without completely stressing and freaking about paces.  I also love that this race attracts so many elite runners.  Sorry that I missed seeing the elite men's finish.
Kiprono or Salel??? (courtesy CUCB)

3061 out of 10,329 females-only 30% ahead of me so I'm in the top third
My fave part about Cherry Blossom are the RunPix results since I can do what I do best and analyze the data.  According to my results, during the second half I passed 235 runners and got passed by 644 (it didn't feel like that many people were passing me, but it was really crowded at the end).  I was also ahead of 41% of the males in the race so go me (they were probably all senior citizens but I'll take it)!
415/1581 in my age group-only 26% of finishers were ahead so almost made it into the top 25%
7309/17,545 overall so 42% of the finishers were ahead of me
Which translates to avg of 9:13 mile