Sunday, April 20, 2014

Tweaking your hammy 2 weeks before Pittsburgh

Although I had not planned on the Pittsburgh marathon to be anything more than a nice training run.   I had hoped it to be pain free so yesterday I am out in the yard and Zach is hitting balls off the tee.  I go to show that I want him to modify his stance a little and take a swing from the left side.  What do I do, miss the ball completely and land weird on my right foot and feet a little twinge in my right upper hamstring.  So yesterday, I spend the entire day icing and stim'ing the right hamstring.  Today, I was planned for a 10 miler but decided 7-8 was enough for me to see how things actually felt.  I got to Battlefield this morning around 6am, did some dynamic stretches on the legs but really didn't stretch much since stretching a "strained" hamstring is not protocol.  The first mile was slow and felt a few twinges in the right hamstring but for the most part, everything didn't feel that bad.  After the run was what I was waiting for b/c that will tell you everything.  I was a little sore/tight and iced it immediately.  I bought a TENS unit a few months ago that allows you to do stim work on yourself at home, it was about $150 and thought it was well worth the money.  Its a little sore and will most likely take the next few days off...depending on how things feel, I may even take Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday off..Today is the 20th of April and the marathon is May 4th.  I should be able to make it to the marathon however, even though I ran Reston 30 days ago, I am not in that good shape - especially going into a marathon.  I am going to rehab it heavy for the next three days hard.  To boot, zach is running his first 10k on Sunday and I am his pacer.  I definitely don't want to let him down as he wants to break 1 hour since he is only 9, that would be a nice goal.

So we will have to wait and see how the next three days turn out <SIGH>.  To be continued!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bull Run (Not Quite) 50 Miler

Dora (RunDominican) and I before the start

 My ultra goal for this year was to tackle a 50 mile or longer race.  I have always wanted to do Bull Run Run mostly because it is our local ultra, and I have raced or run on the trails enough that I felt like I had pretty good course knowledge.  So I was very excited when I signed up and got selected in the lottery.  I got some awesome coaches (Sandi Nypaver and Sage Canady of VO2MaxProductions), and a training plan that I loved and executed very well.  However, I always knew finishing this race was going to be a stretch for me.  The cutoff is 13 hours, and they are really strict about the various cutpoints along the way.  It was going to have to be a perfect day of race execution for me to get a finish.  In retrospect, I really should have signed up for Glacier Ridge 50 Miler which has a 14 hour cutoff and permits pacers from mile 32 on.  That extra hour would mean the difference between a 50 mile finish and a DNF.  So lesson learned on bad race choice, and I knew it going into Saturday.  I was really pretty worked up about the race the fear of failing and not finishing the distance after all of my training.  I pretty much had myself freaked out about it all week until Friday when I happened along a few inspirational posts from friends.
Turned out to big my big mantra near the end when I realized that I was going to get cut.  "Don't unpack!" was what I was repeating in my head.

I signed up for something big and scary, but I tried it anyway.

Friday afternoon I headed over to Hemlock Overlook after work and picked up my bib and shirt.  The shirt was nice quality although I didn't dig the color (turns out not to be a big deal since I won't wear it now).  The quote on the back is cool and in keeping with the theme of the race.

I was irritated to find out that the finishers award was a beach towel.  I was going to run 50 freaking miles for a beach towel.  Now some people would say that you should run the 50 for the love of running the 50, and I get that but then don't bother throwing up a cheesy beach towel like it's some kind of awesome prize.  It's hard not to compare it with other 50s that have nice medals or buckles.

Weather forecast was sunny and 80!!! Yes, you heard it 80 in mid April despite the fact that I ran a marathon in snow, sleet, and hail two weeks ago and did 90% of my training runs in polar vortex conditions.  I don't run well in heat so my hopes for a finish were rapidly dwindling.  My goal on Saturday morning was just to keep moving as fast as I could until they forced me to stop.  I hydrated really well pre-race and had my Nathan Mimimist ready to go to avoid any hydration issues and a repeat of Instant Trail Classic .
Prepping the hydration pack

Flat Mama-minus the shoes because my trail shoes are a mess
My self made pace card with critical cut offs in red, family meeting points in green, and times and mileage.

We got to Hemlock Overlook about an hour before race start.  There were lots of people milling around, but the bathroom situation was pretty good.  There were indoor toilets near the bunkhouses with relatively short lines right up until 15 minutes before race start.

 I used the toilet about 100 times and split some Honey Stinger chocolate waffles with the boys just to top off my pre-race fuel.  I had already done my usual peanut butter, raisin bread, and banana plus coffee routine at 4 am.  I gave my guys one last big hug and said that I would see them at Fountainhead (mile 28).

Trying to stay relaxed
Pre race hugs
 They did the National Anthem, played the bugle and shouted charge to send us off.

Start line (courtesy of James Williams)

And they are off! (courtesy of James Williams)

Inspiration on my hand...Fly! inspired by some of my running friends and 413 for Philippians 4:13 and also to remind me that no matter what happened tomorrow was going to come, and everything would be OK.   Plus I have raced with my Boston bracelet every race since last year.  It reminds me that running is a gift and to enjoy and honor every step.

There was short road section where everyone was running way too fast so I tried to settle into my easy and comfortable pace.  We hit the trail and quickly got slowed down because this section of Hemlock has a lot of river sections with tons of rocks.  Most people were picking their way over these so there were points where we would come to a complete stop.  This was a little frustrating to me because I was worried about time, but I tried to relax because I knew runnable sections were coming.
Trail schematic

Trail map

The first section of the race was 7.2 miles from Hemlock out to Centerville Road where there was an aid station with a suggested time for the last runner through at 8:21 (basically a soft cut). The sun was really hot at this point, and unfortunately we didn't have much shade coverage from the trees as the leaves weren't out yet. We did see bluebells in this section, and although they were pretty they were really aggravating my allergies.

Trying to spread out the conga line near the start (courtesy of James Williams)

 I came through right at 8 am and grabbed some oranges, took an Enduralyte, and some Honey Stinger chews and headed out quickly.  I was a little concerned that I was only 20 minutes ahead of cut so early on when I was running pretty hard and doing well on the climbs, but there were a lot of runners right with me and behind me.  Some veteran runners assured me that we were just fine with regard to the time so I relaxed a bit.  We headed out of the AS for a 2.2 mile out and back section.  This section was a bit annoying because it was narrow and there was a lot of out and back traffic especially with constantly yielding the trail to the lead runners coming through.  I got back to Centerville Road around 9:05 (suggested soft cut was 9:29 so I had picked up a little time and felt good).  I didn't spend much time at the aid station this time either as it was really crowded.  I grabbed some quick Mtn Dew and orange slices and used my own Honey Stingers plus another Enduralyte.  I was doing pretty well with my hydration pack and going through the water.  Then I headed back to Hemlock. 
Waiting at Pope's Head Creek Crossing (courtesy of Bob Fabia)

We came back a slightly different way and the runners had spread out quite a bit so this section was better the second time through and slightly shorter at only 5 miles getting us to 16.6 miles.  I was feeling pretty good at this point and hit the aid station around 10:25 (suggested soft cut was 10:46) so still maintaining my narrow margin ahead of the cut.  I got my pack refilled, ate some bananas, took another Enduralyte, and headed back out.
Headed back towards Hemlock (courtesy of James Williams)

So now I was headed out to Bull Run Marina on a 4.5 mile section.  I struggled a little bit in this section, but I expected that because my usual wall is somewhere around mile 18 so I really just focused on pushing into the Marina and tried to forget about how hot I was.  Suggested time into the Marina was 11:56.  I came in around 11:40 so I lost a little time on this section, but I was still ahead of the cut and confident that I would get into Fountainhead before the first hard cut.  They had ice cold wet cloths at this aid station so I used those to cool down really well, grabbed more banana, did my Enduralyte, a little Mtn Dew, watermelon, and oranges.  I was in and out in under 2 minutes.  I didn't want to linger and waste time in the aid stations so I was trying to come in very focused and get my business handled and get out.

Marina Aid Station (courtesy of VHTRC)

 Next order of business was to get 5 miles to Wolf Run Shoals which would put me at the marathon mark.  There was no suggested time for this one, but I was thinking that I needed to be in there by 1 pm to stay on track.  I don't remember a lot about this section except running across the god awful soccer fields that were completely exposed and just getting scorched by the sun for at least a mile in this section.  Wolf Run Shoals was decorated like a Christmas theme and had lots of interesting food choices.  Thumbs up for the cheese quesadilla triangles since I was feeling like I needed just a little bit of real food at that point.  I grabbed one of those and another piece of banana and scooted out.

Aid station crew in Christmas gear (courtesy of VHTRC)
  I was focused on getting to my awesome crew at Fountainhead before the 1:45 hard cut, and I only had 2 miles to go.  This section seemed really hard to me like there were a lot of climbs in it.  I was still doing OK on the climbs and really focusing on power hiking them.  The downhills were killing me because my quads were getting tired, and it was hard to feel in control going down the hills.
Did I mention that it was hot?  Photo of thermometer before noon yesterday.  It eventually hit 80!

I rolled into Fountainhead at 1:37 with not much time to spare, but I was ahead of the cut.  I never even saw the kids and barely saw JD because I was focused on getting out of there.  I knew making the next cut was going to be a problem for me, and I wanted to give myself the best chance of getting there.  I don't even know what I ate or drank at this aid station.  I just know that I blew through it while some volunteer was trying to assure me that I had plenty of time (not sure what race clock they were looking at).
Section of the aid station that I pretty much stuck to. (courtesy Hai Nguyen)

 I had 4.5 miles to go on the white loop at Fountainhead before getting to the Do Loop and a little over an hour to get there.  I was so hot by this point that I felt like I was barely running even though I was putting out a lot of effort.  The climbs were really taking their toll on me.  All of the runners coming back were really encouraging and giving me updates on how close I was to the aid station.  I watched the time tick past 2:50 and knew that they would probably drop me at the entrance to the Do Loops, but I was hoping that if I was close they would give me a little breathing room.  I got there at 2:53 and no such luck (note to self on dumb race choice...for a 14 hour cut you would have been an hour ahead of the cut and in good shape).  The man with the clipboard informed me that I was past the cut and that I needed to tear off the bottom of my bib as I would no longer be allowed to continue.  Then he told me that I needed to get myself back out to the road because there was no transport from this aid station.  So I was looking at 2 miles to get back to the road.  That kind of sucked because runners were passing me and telling me that I was doing a great job (um, not so much).  The thing that pisses me off just a bit is that the Do Loop was a 3 mile loop, and I wasn't that late getting to it plus I was going to be on the trail anyway because I had to walk myself back.  I don't see why they couldn't let me continue in the loop and then get dropped at Fountainhead since I had to get back there anyway. Then I could have gotten a legitimate 38 miles in before being told to drop.  As it was I ended up with a distance PR because I had to hike myself out.
In the words of Rex Ryan "Let's go get a goddamn snack!" (courtesy of James Williams)

I called JD and let him know that I was done.  He said to call him when I got close, and he would drive down to the trailhead to get me so I didn't have to get all the way back to Fountainhead.  So I hiked myself back out to the road.  I actually contemplated running because I was starting to feel better and was wanting to run, but I figured that my race was done and a good hike would be a cooldown for my legs.  So that's the story of my race.  I got a DNF, but it wasn't because I quit.  I kept pushing right up until the end and would have kept running if they would have let me continue.  I know my legs were good for 50 miles.  I just needed some more time.  On a cooler day I think I would have run better, but you have to take what race day gives you.  Overall, I feel pretty good physically.  I got some serious blisters on my big and little toes (no idea why as I've never had those before...thinking maybe wet feet from stream crossings combined with more foot swelling than usual due to heat).  I also rolled my left ankle pretty good around mile 10, but other than being a little tender it feels OK.  Now I'm going to focus on recovering for Pittsburgh Marathon and have my sights set on the buckle at Oil Creek 100K.

Will I be back at Bull Run?  Likely no.  The course was just alright for me.  One of the drawbacks of knowing the course is that it gets boring.  I knew all of the sections, and they aren't all that visually interesting.  The aid station volunteers were nice, but they weren't that great about helping refill bladders, etc.  They seemed to like bottles, but were completely flummoxed by bladders. 

I got spoiled by the full on pampering that I got at YUTC and Oil Creek (even as a pacer).  I basically was doing all of that on my own even when I was in an aid station that wasn't busy.  It wasn't an awful race, but I didn't love it enough to want to repeat it.  There are a lot of other races out there that I want to do so I only want to repeat those that are really amazing overall.

Elevation chart

One last note about the elevation on this course, and I'm going to quote one of my favorite bloggers Kelly Agnew (Slipping Slowly Into Pain)  "this course has over 5000' of ascent. This trail is a deceptive bitch and if you take her for granted, she will trash you.  This race goes out of its way to not discuss the climbing. No...this race sneaks it in. A little here...a little there...before you know it, your legs are screaming. ... there are MILES and MILES of trail that never stops rolling. By rolling, I mean a 100' ascent, then downhill. Then a 200' ascent, then downhill...on and on and on until you want to punch the next race volunteer you see. Maddening!"  Um, yeah pretty much sums up my race!

Special thanks to my sole sisters at Moms Run This Town for support leading up to the race, keeping me from melting down all week, and supportive text messages throughout the race (particularly Sue (This Mama Run for Cupcakes) and Lexie Loves to Run  for reminding me not to unpack and Sara Ham for telling me to "Fly!"); my amazing coaches, Sandi and Sage, for believing in me even when I didn't always believe in myself and for putting together a training plan that worked with my life and didn't become my life; and my amazing husband and kids for getting up at 4 am and running all over the NOVA park system while I raced yesterday and lifting me up all throughout the day.

My race award from Nic!  Way better than a beach towel!
This has been my flower since the moment Fellow Flowers put the flowers out there, and I did my flower proud this weekend. 
Dreamer:  Putting yourself out there.  Doing it scared.

A friend pointed out this awesome blog earlier in the week, and it's worth reposting.  "In the Philippines, a finish or a DNF means “I SHOWED UP AND FOUGHT WITH EVERYTHING I HAD”. It means, “I am present and engaged in my life”. It means “I am myself, without apology."  "Saying No to Cool

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Run Happy at Cherry Blossom

Post race with my bling
One week out from the 50 miler and my last long training run was Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.  I love Cherry Blossom.  Normally, I hate big DC races, but there is something about Cherry Blossom that is special to me.  It was one of the first really big races that I ran, and it was one of the first races where I felt confident as a runner and knew that I wanted to keep doing double digit distances.  I didn't know that I wanted to multiply that distance by 5!

We got great weather on the morning of the race, but I was sad that JD couldn't join me.  He wanted to take it easy on his knee after the Reston Marathon, and our babysitter got sick at the last minute so he stayed home to take care of the boys.
Muti Chapter Photo

I met some friends on the way in at the Vienna metro and then met up with a massive multi chapter group from all over Maryland and Virginia for the Moms Run This Town photo.  We had so many people there, and it was so awesome to see MRTTer's all over the place.  After our photo in front of the Smithsonian Castle, we hit the porta potties.  Cherry Blossom always gets an A+ for awesome porta potty quantities so the line moved really quickly.  I got into the blue corral, and then it really started to get exciting as the launched the elite women and then the elite men shortly afterwards.  We were getting play by play of the race as we were waiting in our corrals.  I was getting so excited about how the women's race was playing out that I was almost disappointed when it was time for our corral to go.

Woodbridge/Manassas chapter acting crazy pre race
My plan was to just run easy, have fun, and enjoy the race.  I stayed pretty much in the 10:30 range at the beginning of the race.  Water stop #1 was awesome because it was our MRTT water stop so there were lots of cheers and high fives. 
Crossing Memorial Bridge

It was also awesome seeing moms from different chapters in their gear all along the course and calling out Moms Run.  Random spectators (who must have had family members in MRTT) would also call out Run Mom or Go Mom.  Cherry Blossom has an awesome crowd atmosphere, and I was soaking it all in.  Early on we got to pass by the elite men, and wow were they going fast!!  It was amazing to watch them. 

As we headed out to Haines Point we were treated to some terrific drummers.  Haines Point was a real treat this year as there was no wind.

 I picked it up in this section and run a few sub 10 minute miles, and then I forced myself to shut it down after mile 8 to do the rest of the race as a cooldown.  This was really hard as I really felt terrific and wanted to pick up the pace even more.  I was getting passed by a ton of people because I had slowed my pace by almost a minute per mile so that kind of sucked.

 I hit the final stretch with the little "hill" that everyone always complains about, and I had to pick it up a little because I didn't want to just jog out the finish.  I ended up running a 1:43 with minimal effort.  It was a great run and a beautiful day.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

ScoutStrong 5K-2nd Overall Female (or maybe not)

Zach and I have been training for his first 10K.  As part of his training, we signed up for the ScoutStrong 5K out at Camp Snyder.  It was a small cross country race and was pretty no frills which is fine.  It is part of a program to get Scouts out being active and running.  It was a nice morning, but it was windy.  Zach and I did a warm up mile and a few strides.  Then we were ready to go.  This was one of the rare races with 10 and under age group so Zach was excited that he might have a chance to place.  He always does really well against other kids in that age group, but most races are 12 and under or 14 and under, and he isn't quite strong enough yet to hang with the older boys.  I said that I would run with him and pace him to help him stay out in front. 
Zach and I ready to race!

We lined up in the field in front of the parking lot and got some confusing instructions about where to run.  At that point I was a little afraid that we were all going to get lost.  I have to say that the course was really well marked.  There were large chalk arrows all throughout the trail and signs at every major turn.  As Zach and I were standing on the line, I sized up the women.  There were not a lot of women, but a lot of them looked to be in my age group.  I thought that maybe if Zach ran well that I had a chance of an age group award.  The gun went off and Zach took off.  I was chasing him for about a 1/4 mile until I finally caught up with him.  Another boy his age tried to hang with Zach for a few minutes, but Zach got determined and put on a little surge at a hill and dropped the boy.  As I was catching up to Zach, I started to notice that the women were mostly novice trail runners.  They didn't seem sure on the trails and were fussing about the mud.  At this point I also looked around and realized that I was running 1st woman OVERALL!  That never happens to me so I was shocked.  I was figuring that women would start passing me at some point because we were hitting about an 8:30 pace...good for a trail, but not super fast. 

As we started into mile 2, Zach slowed a little because the wind was bad on the back half of the course.  I was letting him draft behind me, and we were running around a 9:15 pace.  At this point one woman passed me.  I checked behind us and noted to Zach that there were no kids anywhere close behind him so that I thought he had his age group solidly locked up as long as he kept his pace.
Zach won for most mud!

When I checked a few minutes later, I noticed that I could now see two women behind me.  I mentioned to Zach that we should pick up the pace because I did want to stay in the top since we were near the end of the race.  Zach assured me that he was good and that I should go and hang onto second.  I put on a pretty good surge at the last half mile and held the other women off.  I crossed the finish line around 27:50 (...there was no race clock...they had some weird handheld thing keeping times, and I didn't stop my Garmin right away).  I was second woman and 16th place overall.  Zach finished about 30 seconds behind me and won his age group. 

We waited around until the awards ceremony.  Zach got his medal for the 10 and under age group, but then things got weird.  They called the 30-39 age group winners and had the first woman as 2nd place in the age group with men.  That's when we realized that the race director had no clue that you should do awards separately for men and women.  I was still OK because I knew that I was up for an overall award so a 40+ age group award was not a big deal.  So they called up three men for the 40+ age group awards.  Then they called the top three women overall, but they didn't call my name.  They called the two women behind me for 2nd and 3rd.  I stood there stunned as they accepted the award.  They were running together and clearly knew that I finished in front of them, but they still stood there and accepted the awards.  I didn't quite know what to do, but I didn't want to make a scene as it was a Scout event.  After the race I went up to the woman who was giving out the awards and explained that there was a mistake.  She consulted the score sheet and realized that they had skipped over me when putting together the overall awards.  However she wasn't overly apologetic.  She just kind of shrugged her shoulders and said that she was sorry.  No offer to fix it in anyway.  I was still not sure what to do so we kind of just headed to the car, but I was really disappointed because I'm not the kind of runner who gets overall awards or even AG awards regularly. It wasn't even really about the award because I could care less about a medal or a trophy.  It was more about not getting to have the experience of participating in the awards ceremony with Zach since we had done it together.
First age group win!

My awesome husband went back and found the race director and talked to him for a little bit.  The race director was much more understanding and said that they would get a trophy out to me in the mail and also gave me one of the AG medals as a consolation prize.  The race director said that he was serious about trying to grow the race and that they were still learning about how to put a race together.  I would give this race one more try because I like the idea behind it, it was 5 minutes from the house, and the course was nice.  I'm hoping that next year they are a little more organized with the awards.  I would suggest maybe focusing the AG awards more on the kids since it is a race for Scouts and then just doing top 3 or 5 overall for the men and women.
Age group medal and cool Scout patch that all of the boys got

A big thank you to my awesome husband for working things out for me and also to Nicolas for being an awesome cheerleader since he couldn't race today (healing a minor foot injury).
My replacement medal

Runners Marathon of Reston - 3/30/2014 (Reson, VA)

So the day had arrived when I would run my first marathon after finding out that I had two hip labrum tears in my left hip.  This would be my 7th > marathon distance race and it would be the Runners marathon of Reston in Reston, VA  The race was held at the South Lake High School in Fairfax, VA.  The previous six were the following:
  • Marine Corp Marathon (2012)
  • Seashore 50k (2012)
  • Blue Ridge Marathon (2013)
  • North Face 50k (2013)
  • Drakewell Marathon (2013)
  • Oil Creek 100k (2013)
I had run one 18 mile run a few weeks back and had a bunch of 20+ weeks and a few 30+ weeks - not exactly killer mileage but I have to work with what you got.  During that time, I was dealing with Achilles, knees, and left hip acheage :)  That said, we were a go for the race.  The day before, I set out the flat daddy hoping it would be enough to keep me warm:
Got to represent my boys in Titusville, PA for the Drakewell marathon!

So we get up early for the 7:30 start time (around 4:00 am), hit the shower to warm up the achy legs, get my raison bread and nutella, water and get dressed.  Heading there, the weather was calling for 20+ mile/hour winds with rain...but the temps said something around 43.  Ok, I can deal with that.    So we get there, pee about 4 times, try to dump it up, no go...guess I was empty!  I actually struck up a conversation with Mike Wardian about the Hoka's he was wearing...didn't know it was him when I chatted him up - very cool and down to earth guy.  Ok, finally, we walk out to the start and its coming down good with the wind no where near 20 mph, it was much harder...and cold...I am thinking wow, 4+ hours in this...hmm.  Ok, we start and I head out at a 9min pace...ok, feels good but the plan of attach here was to do 10 min miles the whole way.  Its actually quite difficult to run slower than you want during a race.  Next 10 miles were no slower than 9:44 so I was ok with that and what I thought would be difficult hill were not.  Yes, it was rolling but no so much that it was that bad at all.  Granted, I was not running my PR pace but it didn't feel to bad.  This was a picture of me around miles 8 or 9:
Running with some random around miles 8 or 9.

Meanwhile on the weather front, the rain was absurd and the wind  - tropical storm worthy!!!  By the time I reached mile 15, my hands were of little use.  Grabbing a hammer gel out of my Salomon pants was a task that required the aid of the AID station workers.  I could barely even squeeze the gel out of the packets, they were so frozen...Miles 15-20, I slowed down to a 10 min mile pace which was comfortable but then the sleet and hail came as did the increased winds....By the time I reached mile 24, the hail was pretty strong....I ended up finishing the race in 4:22:27 with a 10:02 pace, not exactly speedy but it was a good training run and that was the sole purpose of the run today.  The timing was kind of messed up b/c of the weather do I don't even know if that was the exact time but who cares...finishing in those conditions was good enough.  The left hip was bothering me around miles 9-13+ and then dropped off after then but picked back up around miles 20+ until the finish.  After I finished, it bothered me a little but what is bugging me the most is my left knee.  Looks like runner's knee come me and will have to rest that until I can walk with no pain.  Given my lack of training and quad workouts during the winter (b/c of the hip labrum issue), I was not able to build up my quads the way I wanted.  Such is life and will have to ride out the left knee issue.  Overall, the Aid stations were great and even had chicken broth at mile 20 - great idea as I was so cold at that point.  The food at the end of the race was awesome and the event was well run - highly recommend.

Overall, the bathroom situation was up to par, the volunteers were great and the event was well organized.  I recommend it being a good race to do in mid to late March in the Northern VA area.

This is a pic of me after I finished:
Looked happy, more cold and happy I was done :)
and of course one with Heather and I who RAN it as well:

Happy Heather made it out of that nasty weather!
Next up (as I wait for the left knee to rejoin the rest of the body) is the Pittsburgh marathon on May 4th, about a month away.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Best Worst Marathon Ever (Runners Marathon of Reston)

Marathon #6 is officially on the books.  It was my worst road marathon time ever, but it was also one of my best runs.  I am super proud of this run.  On a whim, I decided to sign up for Runners Marathon of Reston.  I was hoping for one last long supported training run before the 50 miler, and Reston is always hilly so I figured this would be a good one.  On the day I decided to sign up JD ended up being the very last person to register.  I e-mailed the race director explaining the situation and asking if there was a wait list.  She was so kind and allowed me to register so that we could both be able to run.  (Reason #1 to love this race.)

So the course is essentially two 13 mile loops around the Reston area.  Some of it was on area roads, but there were large sections on paved running trails through the woods in the back of the neighborhoods.  This added some interest to the course since we would be running the same loop twice.  They had the course well marked with signs as well as a white chalk mark on the ground all along the trail.  It was very nice just to follow the chalk mark on the ground.  As long as you saw white chalk, you were good.
I don't think there was a flat mile on this course.  It was consistently rolling although there were really no monster hills.  All of the little ups and downs especially on the trail started to wear on the legs.
Elevation profile for 1 loop
It was nice to do a local marathon so we could just have our regular Saturday routine with no hassle of travel or hotels.  We picked up our packets on Saturday afternoon.  Packet pick up was really easy and quick.  We got awesome swag including a race tech tee, water bottle, RUSeen gloves with race logo, and a buff with the race logo.  That's a lot of swag for a local marathon.  (Reason #2 to love this race.)
Awesome swag!

On Saturday night there was a lot of debate about the clothes because the rain potential was 50% for most of the race with decent temperatures at the start but supposed to fall rapidly throughout the race and also gusting winds.  I had originally been going for arm warmers with a tee, but then I decided for the long sleeve base layer due to the wind potential.  I didn't really bother with rain gear because it usually makes me too hot and humid and is really uncomfortable for me to run in.

Flat mama
On race morning it was pouring as we made our way to the race.  Luckily we were able to stay warm and dry in South Lakes High School cafeteria.  It was awesome to have the use of warm, dry bathrooms that weren't crowded right up to race start.

I was in a foul mood due to the rain and just really didn't want to run this marathon mostly because it was a training run and not really a goal race.  I'll admit that I was being a complete bitch right up until race start.  We stood in the pouring rain and sang the National Anthem and then we were off on the course.

Start line photo...Mike Wardian just wants to start running so he can go home in <3 hrs.

I did smile a little at the start as I saw Maniac Larry and we briefly chatted how this was so different from two weeks ago. Temperatures were not too bad at first, but then the wind really started to hit us on the road.  For some reason I had to pee by mile 3 which never happens to me.  Luckily there were plenty of porta potties along the way so I hit the porta potty near the aid station and moved.  The aid stations at this race were reliably every 2-3 miles and were well stocked with gels, fresh water, Gatorade, bananas, oranges, and even some unexpected junk food that I normally ignore.  By mile 4 we hit the trail section, and my hands were just frozen from the cold rain.  I had them bundled up in my shirt, but that wasn't helping much.  The runners who had gloves on were not in much better shape because the gloves were just soaked.

  At around mile 6, half marathoners started to pass us, and I hated every single one of them.  I was seriously considering bailing out at the half marathon point because I was so cold.  Every single one of the halfers passing me would try to be encouraging by saying "halfway there", and I would grunt back that I still had 20 miles to go.  There was an annoying out and back section at mile 7 that only the marathoners had to do so I hated the halfers even more then.  Luckily as we left that section there was this awesome woman in a picnic shelter playing a keyboard and singing.  It was freezing cold and raining, but this woman was out there entertaining us and trying to lift our spirits.  (Reason #3 to love this race.)  At mile 8 aid station, I peed again (what was going on here...I'm notorious for not peeing at all during marathons!).  At this point I couldn't get my honey stinger chews open so I bit open my waffle packet because I was starving.  I devoured the waffle going through that aid station.  Back onto a long section of trail through the woods which blocked some of the wind. Somewhere around here a runner passed me and noticed my MRTT shirt.  We exchanged a few words about what chapters we were with so that was really awesome to get some encouragement on the trail.   We came back out of the woods, and I had to pee again at mile 12!!  I was drinking a normal amount of water so I was really starting to get irritated by the number of toilet breaks that I was taking especially since my hands were so numb that it was hard to get my capris pulled back up.  The we hit the MRTT aid station which was so incredibly awesome.  My friends were there, and they had hot chicken broth. (Reason #4 to love this marathon)  Leave it to the moms to know how to fix you up right.  I was really wanting to throw in the towel at this point due to the cold, but I got two small cups of broth down and headed out thinking that I would make a decision when I passed the school.

I got to the split for the half and full and just stood there for about a minute.  I really wanted to quit because of the cold.  I talked to a volunteer who was really encouraging, but I was still wavering.  My legs felt awesome.  I was running comfortable 11-12 minute miles, but I was just so cold and the idea of the warm dry school was so tempting.  As I'm wavering, an awesome masters woman Marathon Maniac passes and tells me that Maniacs don't quit and to keep going with her.  I had talked to her a little earlier on the course, and she was really cold as well.  I decided to go ahead and stick it out and run with her for a little while.  We got separated on a hill when she needed to walk, and I was feeling good and still running.  At this point the rain was starting to feel harder and hurt a little.  Then all of a sudden at mile 18, we started getting pelted with huge pieces of hail.  At that point all I could do was laugh.  The weather conditions were just so comical.  I was also feeling really good about how strong my legs were feeling.  I never wanted to walk and in fact was feeling stronger about my running as the miles went on.  Normally, I hit a wall around mile 18 and just really start to break down.  This time I focused on owning mile 18, and I got through it.  Then I focused on getting to 20.  20 was once again the annoying out and back, but it was a little more fun this time because I was seeing more marathoners and everyone was encouraging each other.  A deer also sprinted right out in front of me at that point as well.  The awesome keyboard singing lady was still out there singing too! I peed 4 more times on this loop.  I think the cold and the rain were making me feel like I had to pee urgently because when I would pee I wasn't peeing a lot.  I think I used every porta potty on the course.  At this point  was telling myself to get back to the moms and the chicken soup.  When I did my spirits were really up, and I was feeling strong.  I started passing a lot of runners in this section and felt like I was running really well.  The hail eventually let up around mile 22 and went back to freezing rain/sleet with seriously gusting winds.  The volunteers and Fairfax police were amazing standing out there in that weather for 6 hours just to keep us safe on the course.  I was so impressed and so thankful for their efforts.  I also have to note that it was really cool because some of the homeowners who had houses backing to the trail would open up their patio doors when they saw a runner coming by and yell out encouraging words.  On the back half of the course, I was eating mainly from the aid stations mostly banana and oranges, but I had two Oreos too.  Normally cookies gross me out during marathons, but I was seriously craving them during this run (must have been the cold).  As I hit mile 25, I started to pick up the pace because I knew that the freezing cold was almost over.  The weather had one more little surprise for started snowing huge snowflakes.  As I hit the track for the last 0.2 miles I was running into a wall of wind with snowflakes swirling all around me.  As cold and wet as I was, I was so happy about this run.  I felt so strong and positive through those last miles even in awful weather conditions.  I crossed the finish line, grabbed my medal, and actually kept running because I wanted to get in side the school.

I got inside, found JD, and got my dry clothes.  It was awesome to have warm dry bathrooms to change in.  You could also use the showers if you wanted to.  The post race food was amazing (chili, hot pizza, bagels, muffins, sandwiches, hot coffee/tea/cocoa, pop, cookies).  (LOVE THIS MARATHON!)

So even though I got my worst road marathon time and had the worst marathon weather ever, I had one of the best experiences.  I felt like I put it all together mentally and was really happy with how strong I was at the end.  There was no walking during the marathon, and my pace was pretty much steady throughout.

Splits were 1:10 at 10K; 2:35 at 13.1; 5:21 finish for a pace of 12:17 (12/18 40-45 female; 163/203 overall).  I wasted a lot of time on bathroom stops as well as my indecision at the halfway point.  I also wasn't in any hurry at the aid stations so I think my actual running time was more likely in the 11s which feels awesome on no taper, on a hilly course, and in bad weather.

I would highly recommend this marathon to other runners.  The course is challenging, but it is truly worth it.  It was an amazing experience.  You could tell that Reston Runners and the race directors put a lot of thought into the marathon.  It was a race that was really put on by runners not by some big corporation that had no clue what runners really wanted.