Sunday, October 28, 2012

Soaring Wings Half Marathon Report

I just have to say this: Best race ever!! Seriously, It was so much fun. It was incredibly well organized, the crowd support is amazing, it's a fun course, my pace group was awesome, etc. Seriously, if you have ever considered this race or consider it in the future, go for it!

The race is in Conway, Arkansas, which is about 5.5 or so hours away. My mother in law lives there so we made the trip. I got off work early on Friday and after a stop at WalMart for last minute stuff and a quick trip downtown Indy for some Neewollah food, we were on our way. I met a couple of friends in Conway for dinner and had a great time. If you know my husband, please ask him about his waitress from TGI Fridays. He and the boys sat at a table alone and his waitress seems to have taken a shine to them. Funny story!

Saturday I got up bright and early and got ready and got the boys up to get ready. My super awesome mother in law Marilyn made biscuits and gravy for breakfast! I've never had such a good pre-race breakfast. I think I need to more races in Conway. I knew parking was going to be difficult so we left pretty early. I had no idea how difficult it was going to be. After driving around for a long time I finally got out and walked and Rick went to park the car. Marilyn, Ryan and my nephew Logan got out and walked with me. I felt bad for them because it was cold. I choose to do this, they didn't. Still, it was nice. Rick parked our car and Marilyn's husband John parked too. They both (along with Adam) met us right before it was time for me to go line up.

I got to the starting line and wow, lots of people. There wasn't enough room for everyone in the corrals so I just kind of squeezed in. As the race started people were still trying to get off the grass onto the road. When it was finally time for my group to go I realized my Garmin had entered sleep mode. Crap! I got it started about 10 seconds past the start line. Oops. Messing around with my garmin put me pretty far behind the pace group I wanted to run with so I had some catching up to do. I did get caught up and stayed with the group until the last mile when I went ahead.

I've never run with a pace group so I wasn't sure if I wanted to. I'm so glad I did though! First, my group was awesome. We had a lot of fun. Big shout out to Jesse, the leader. He did a great job! There were several times I felt like I could have gone faster, but thought it was best to just stay with them because I knew I'd get tired later. I was right!

The first three miles were uneventful and just easy running. Mile 4 was tough! There was a huge hill and if I had been running alone I most definitely would have walked. I was determined to stay with the group though and I did it! This race was such a boost to my confidence in regards to hills. I often walk hills but this race just had so many that if I had walked up every incline I'd have walked half of the race. Ok, maybe not, but there were very few flat sections. It was constant up and down. And guess what? I never walked!

After the top of the hill was a huge downhill. Yay! At the bottom of the hill you go up again just a little bit and then have some flat section to the next aid station and are back to the start. My family was there cheering and gave me a high five. I was having so much fun at that point. Again, the next few miles were uneventful. Up and down, up and down, and up and down some more. Lots of joking from the group. It was highly entertaining to just listen to everything people around me were saying. At mile 6 they had energy gel along with the water and gatorade. I'm not sure what brand it was but I plan to find out as it was really good. It just tasted like fruit without a lot of stuff added. I took two. One I consumed right away and I put the other one in my pocket for later. When I got to the end of the 8th mile I was pretty tired. This is when I was very grateful to be a part of the pace group. The next two miles were pretty rough. I was determined to keep going at the pace I wanted to go though and I did it! When I got to the end of mile 10 and knew I only had a 5K to go I started doing better. Then I really kind of perked up and started enjoying myself again.

I can't remember when it was, but we were running up a hill and someone had set a bowl of starburst out. Win!! But have you ever tried to open a starburst while running up a hill? I can't believe I didn't fall down. Also, they were really cold so it was hard to eat them. With around 2 miles to go (I think, math gets fuzzy) there was a gummy bear station. Woohoo! I got a little cup of gummy bears. Around the end of mile 11 (again, I think) there was someone handing out GU. At that point I didn't think consuming one would do me a lot of good but I took one anyway. I put it in my pocket and will use it in the future on a long run. After that was another really long hill. The same one from mile 4 actually, just coming up the other saide. That also meant the last mile would be mostly downhill. Rock on.

I was close to the top of the hill and realized everyone but the three leaders of the group was pulling away. My goal was always to pull away at the end of I had energy. It turns out I did! The last mile or so was great. I felt wonderful and happy.

My official time was 2:29:24. This is almost a 10 minute PR! The only other half marathon I've done is the Oklahoma Aquarium run. My time there was  2:38something. Almost 2:39 I think.

I have some questions about the chip timing. According to the 10K split time, I was faster than the pace leader at that point. The thing is, I wasn't. An aid station was right before and I had gotten the two gels. I slowed waaaay down while putting one in my pocket and had to really hurry to catch up. I hadn't caught up by the time we crossed the mat. I'd say I was a good 15 seconds behind. So that seems weird. Also, there was someone shouting times and she said 77 minutes and something when I crossed. I remember at the time thinking it was very odd as that was way slower than typical for me. According to the results I crossed 10K at 1:10something, which makes much more sense! Anyway, this weirdness is my only complaint about the race and it's not a big deal. Just in case you are dying of curiosity, the pace leader finished about a minute behinde me, just a little over 2:30. I'm so glad I pulled ahead. Finishing 30 seconds past my goal of 2:30 would have been really depressing.

I actually think maybe I could have finished a little faster, but I'm really happy with what I did. I ran a really smart race and I'm glad. I was never completely exhausted and never felt like I couldn't finish. I was just happy and relaxed. During the race I passed a lot of people and was happy that I hadn't started too fast and slowed down which is what I typically do. I also know I can go faster and have something to look forward to!

This week I start training for....something. I haven't decided for sure. I know what plan I'm going to follow and what I would like to do, I'm just not sure if it's going to happen. There are a lot of things that will affect my decision. Stay tuned!


Friday, October 26, 2012


Do you know what I think the hardest thing about being a runner is? Balancing time training and/or racing with family. A good example is a race I'm doing this weekend. It is in Arkansas where my mother in law lives. Sounds like a win/win, right? I get to run a race I want to do and we take a family road trip and visit other family at the same time. Awesome! But you wouldn't believe the emotions that have gone into this for me.

First, I couldn't register until we got football schedules because if the boys had a game it was a no go. I got many texts from my mother in law asking if I had registered. Then I found out the race was almost full. Football schedules were late in coming this year so I finally just registered and decided if they had a game I could defer my registration to next year. Well, we got football schedules and there was no regular game that day, but it is/was the championship. The peewee football Super Bowl!! Hmmm, well, we likely won't make it to the Super Bowl, right? We can still go, right? It was obvious early on that Ryan's team wasn't going to make it. Adam's on the other hand was really good. Adam pretty much never plays so I decided if Adam's team makes it just Ryan and I will go to Arkansas. Yes, I would miss Adam's game, but I really wouldn't miss him playing. Yes, I am a bad mother sometimes. And if you think that's bad it's about to get worse. I spent a good portion of Adam's games hoping they wouldn't win! Seriously, wth is wrong with me? I realize that's bad. And good grief, a race isn't that important. And honestly, it wasn't all about the race. I want to have a fun weekend away too.

During the football season Rick and I had more than one "discussion" about whether or not Adam could just miss the game and we could all go. I was all for that, Rick was not. I seriously spent weeks being conflicted about this whole thing. After FlatRock all I could think was that I wish I hadn't even signed up for it. I was forced to run when I didn't want to so I could stay in shape. I was tired and hurting and cranky. Thinking about this race has consumed more time than it needs to and honestly it has affected my ability to be the mom I want to be. Seriously, did you see the part about hoping my sons team didn't win games? I'm ashamed, but whatever. I know people are judging me right now, but hey, I'm guessing all of you have bad parenting moments too.

So now that you are all on the edge of your seats waiting to find out if they made it to the Super Bowl and what we decided about Adam....

They did make it! Go Black Dogs!!! Seriously, I'm happy. After much debate and discussion among ourselves and with Adam we decided Adam would miss the game and we would all go to Arkansas. But wait. I called his coach to tell him this and he said "We aren't playing Saturday. We moved it to the next Saturday!" What?! All of that stress and drama and it was unnecessary? Now Adam gets to go with us and play in the championship! Life is good.

This experience has taught me that I need to prioritze better. I need to take the needs of my family into consideration before I commit to something. I have missed their games before to run and likely will again. I'm ok with this and so are they. I just need to decide when to do that and when not to. And even if a race I want to do is on a day we have no other plans, I know I need to consider the impact on them. Really, I think they can only take so much. Sometimes we need to just relax and be a family. Also, the worry about me when I run. I know there is no reason to worry, but my kids don't know that. I think I can only push them so far and I'm pretty sure we are at the limit right now. It's time for me to back off a little.

Sometimes in running is isn't a matter of "Can I?" but a matter of "Should I?" I need to be better at differentiating between the two.

Does anyone else have this problem?


Monday, October 22, 2012

How NOT to train for an ultra

As you all know, since I keep bragging, I recently ran a 50K. The thing is, I shoudn't have. I didn't put in the necessary training for it. I probably didn't put in half of what was necessary. I still finished, but it was much harder than it had to be and less enjoyable than it could have been. There are countless articles, blogs, books, etc that will give you tips on training for an ultra. Heck, I might break out my own list of tips someday. Until then, I thought I would share a list of things you shouldn't do.

1. Don't skip half of your runs. I don't care what the excuses are, and I had plenty. You have to put in the miles.

2. When your alarm goes off, don't just go back to sleep. Ok, once is fine. Day after day after day is probably not fine.

3. Don't use every excuse that you can dream up to not do a long run. This will bite you in the butt. And really, there are good excuses. Most of the ones I used were not!

4. Don't refuse to run in any weather above 75 degrees. This is especially important if you are training through the summer when it is excessively hot. You are  severely limited on running days if you do this. So if you wake up, check the weather and see something over 75, don't go back to sleep! It's really not that bad. Ok, it is. The heat sucks. But there is a chance it will be hot on race day. You should probably prepare for that. For the record, I didn't actually plan to not run when it was over 75. It's not like I thought "if it's that hot I'm not running!" or anything. That just seems to be about the temperature that forced me back into bed time after time.

5. Don't jump from a 10 mile long run to a 15 mile long run a month later. There is a good chance that in that month of barely running you've lost some fitness and endurance. A really good chance. Furthermore, don't jump straight to 20 miles after that. It will hurt. A lot! And then when you do a 31 mile race after a long run of only 20 miles that's gonna hurt. Way more than you could have ever imagined!

6. If your race is in September, you should probably run more that 56 miles in July and 56 miles in August. BTW, how did I run the exact same amount of miles two months in a row? Wait, I know! Same excuses for not running!

I'm sure I did other really bad things while not training. I'm pretty sure I've shamed myself enough for one day though. Take my advice! Running an ultra is probably a lot more fun if you are trained for it. I hope I can do better next time. And speaking of next time, I have already signed up for FlatRock for next year. Yep, I'm crazy. However, I have something even crazier in mind. Maybe. I haven't deciced. Stay tuned!


Monday, October 1, 2012

FlatRock 50K Report

I have so much to say about this race that it's hard to start. I haven't really sorted through all of what happened in my own mind, so it's hard to imagine laying it all out for people reading.

I should start with the pre-race dinner. I made Ryan go with me again this year so I didn't have to go alone. He had to leave football practice a little early to go. I asked if he told his coach why he was leaving and he said "Mom. I was not going to tell my coach I was leaving early so I could go have dinner with my mom!" Ok! I've been put in my place! We got there and got our spaghetti and found a picnic table with a few people. Much to Ryan's horror, I asked the people sitting there if we could sit with them. I really enjoyed visiting with the ladies sitting there. There was a young man also, but he was really quiet. We visited for awhile about the race and then it was time to head home. I went to pick up my packet and talked with Ken "TZ" Childress. He gave me some advice and assured me I was going to be fine. I've emailed Ken in a panic a few times and he's always kind enough to reply.

After the dinner I went home and finished getting everything ready for the next day. I had already dropped off a bag with Jennifer, aka crewperson extraordinaire, but still needed to get a few things ready. I got everything ready and went to bed. I thought I'd have trouble sleeping but I really didn't. In fact, in the morning I pushed snooze and went back to sleep several times. Rick got up and drove me out to the race because I didn't want to drive out there and then have to drive myself home. I got to the shelter house right in time for the pre-race briefing. I think this is where people stand around freaking out or just thinking "yeah  right, it isn't that bad" while Eric gives all of the warnings. Let me assure you, it really is that bad!

After the briefing I found the two ladies I met the night before and walked to the start with them. I hate being alone at things like this. I need a running partner! Roll call was done and it was time to go! There is a nice little section of road before you head off into the trees. Once you are in the trees the trail goes up and up and up. Then it goes up just a little more! I stayed right with the two ladies for a while. Eventually I decided I really just needed to run my own race and not try to keep up with others. Since they finished an hour ahead of me that was probably a good decision. Trying to keep up would have just worn me out too soon.

About a mile into the race there is a crevice you have to go down through. It was a little muddy, so my feet were slick. When I stepped down my foot slipped and kind of twisted. I slammed my right side into the rock wall. Ouch! I think I loudly let loose with some expletives. My elbow was bleeding and my right hip hurt pretty bad. I knew it would be majorly bruised. I was right!

The first few miles of the course are the toughest. I somehow managed to run this section considerably faster than I thought I could. I wasn't overdoing it, but I wasn't just relaxing either. The thing I did wrong at the beginning was not drink enough. I typically fill my hydration pack halfway with water the night before and freeze it. In the morning I finish filling it and as it thaws I have nice cold water. I forgot to do that and was out of ice, so cold is not what my water was. Since it was warm I didn't drink enough. This really haunted me later.

When I got to Oak Ridge at mile 9.6 Jennifer was holding up a sign and cheering for me! She helped me replenish everything and gave me some gatorade.
Coming into Oak Ridge
When I hit Oak Ridge I felt great. Within about 1/2 of a mile I didn't feel so great. I think this is when I started feeling the effects of dehydration. I decided to slow down and try to conserve some energy as I wasn't even halfway and I was getting tired. I made it to the turaround in 4 hours 11 minutes. The cutoff was 4 hours 30 minutes, so I was well within the time limit. I was amzed! I also had a blister forming on my toe. I got a bandaid and sat down to take off my shoe and put it on. My legs started cramping so the aid station workers had me take some endurolytes. I had been taking some, but I think I way underestimated how much I needed. I also ate some salty potatoe chips and had another gatorade. Jennifer's husband Nate and son Chase were at the turnaround and they helped her switch the bladder in my hydration pack to a full one and get me some other stuff I needed. It was so nice of them to come! Tony Clark, who ran Badwater this year, was running the turnaround station. I was thinking "here I am being all wimpy after running 15 miles and this guy ran Badwater!" It was so awesome of him to be there helping out though.
Coming into the turnaround:

I left the aid station feeling pretty good. Within about a mile I started feeling pretty bad. Ok, horrible. I was dizzy and nauseous and just all around sick. I kept thinking I might pass out. I kept going though. The closer I got to Oak Ridge the second time the more I wanted to just quit. I was very seriously thinking of pulling out of the race at this point. As I was coming down the hill into the aid station I heard a man yelling "Go Aunt Mel!!" Huh? I look up and see my niece Jocelyn and my Mom. I started crying. I didn't know they were coming and it made me so happy. It turns out the guy yelling was Tony, who can add aid station hopping to his list of skills. Seeing my mom and Jocelyn was just what I needed to convince me to keep going. Also at this station was Dana Childress, Ken's wife. He had told her about me and introduced us the night before. She asked how I was doing and I told her not very well. We discussed how I was and what I needed to do to finish the race. She had me take more endurolytes and told me how many to take at the next station also. Jennifer was at this station again so she once again helped me switch out bladders and gave me more gels. I'm so glad I planned everything out and told her what I would need and when. By this time (mile 20.8) I really wasn't thinking a lot. It was all about just putting one foot in front of the other over and over again.

I left Oak Ridge with a pep in my step after seeing some of my favorite people. Not far from the aid station I kicked a rock with one foot right into the other ankle. Ouch! Ok, ouch isn't what I yelled. I won't say what I did yell because I like to keep my blog kid friendly. I still did pretty well from miles 20.8 to the next aid station at 23.2 miles. After that it went downhill very fast. My watch was way off so I didn't know how far I had really gone. It seemed like from 23.2 to 27 was about 10 miles. I don't think I ran any between these stations and it's some of the most runable trail on the course. Then I got upset because I was so tired I couldn't run and was starting to convince myself I would never make the cutoff. Then my watch completely died and I had no clue how far I'd gone. I was really down for a while.

When I heard music coming from the last aid station I was beyond thrilled. I stopped to get a drink and some food and asked how much further I had to go. I was told it was only 3.8 miles. I think I asked if I could make the cutoff and they kind of looked at me funny and said yes. My math skills were fuzzy at best at that point. I left the aid station completely exhausted but determined. I stopped thinking about how far I had to go and just focused on finishing. Relentless forward progress. No matter what, I couldn't stop moving. With probably a mile and a half to go I looked at my phone. Ummm, what?! I could finish in less than 9.5 hours. The goal was always 10 hours, which is the cutoff. I thought it would take me every bit of that. I started moving considerably faster at this point. With maybe a mile to go I realized I had a rock in my shoe right under the ball of my foot. I tried to wiggle my foot to move it but every time I moved my foot it cramped. I thought if I took my shoe off I might not get it back on. I also knew if I sat down to take it off I was not getting back up. I decided to suck it up and run it in with the rock in my shoe.

That blacktop road is a beautiful sight! I think I could have run the entire blacktop but I didn't. I actually felt pretty good, but I think I was scared that by the time I got to the dirt road and the finish line I would be tired and I did not want to finish walking. I would run a little then walk a little. Then I just ran. When I turned onto the little section of dirt road I started running faster. When I was on the grass running up to the finish I really started running. And I did it! 31 miles in 9 hours and 13 minutes! I beat my goal by more than 45 minutes.
Belt buckle

At the finish line was Jennifer, Mom, Jocelyn, my Dad (rick) and Judy, Alex, Amanda and Spencer. Missing were Rick, Ryan and Adam. They thought they would be there but didn't anticipate me finishing so quickly. I completely broke down crying at the finish. I said "I'm just so tired!" Quite an understatement.

I think last year I said that the 25K was the hardest thing I had ever done. Well, this eclipses that for the hardest. It was so challenging, but so worth it.

I really truly appreciate all of the organizers and volunteers at this race. They are an amazing group of people. I wouldn't have finished without the help of the volunteers. Also, thanks to all of my family and friends who have put up with a lot while I trained for this race. People got out of bed early on Saturday mornings to take me somewhere or drop me off (or pick me up when I had a bathroom emergency or it got too foggy). They listened to my endless obsessing about the race and they never once told me to shut up. I would like to promise all of them that I'm done with all of this craziness, but I'm already thinking about next year. Will I be back to do FlatRock again next year? Absolutely! I hear the Hall of Pain calling my name. Only 9 finishes to go!

In case anyone is wondering, no, I did not finish last! Two people finished after me. I think there were some that didn't finish the race because I definitely passed more than two people after the turnaround and no one passed me while I was coming back unless I was so delirious I didn't notice. This is possible. Anyway, I kept saying I didn't care if I was last, but I was really hoping I wouldn't be. You know what though? Finishing this race is a huge accomplishement no matter how long it takes you to do it.

As promised, I will be writing a post very soon on how NOT to train for an ultra. I definetely didn't do it right. I have learned some lessons though and next year I will be back!

Happy Running!!!!!