I’m an Ultra Marathon Runner

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I can officially say that I am an Ultra Marathon runner!  I completed the Forget the PR 50k in just under 8 hours.  I spent the weeks leading up to the race training in the woods with friends and continued to doubt myself if I would be able to finish the 31 miles in the 10 hour time limit.  Our training runs were slow as I was learning how to navigate trails and tree limbs.  The weather was less than ideal when we were training, so as long as it wasn’t raining on race day, it was going to be insanely better than what we were used to at this time of year.

The morning of the race we picked up our bib numbers and had the pre-race meeting.  We collectively took the Special Olympics pledge as the race was benefiting that wonderful organization.  We all head out to the start line and at some point we were told to go, I didn’t head anything just saw people start to jog.  The race starts off a bit slow as you are running around a campground area before heading into what is called “Big Ass Hill.”  Excuse my language, but it literally has signs starting up the hill with those words.  NOTHING in my training runs had prepared me for this hill.  You think that when you’re almost to the top, you come to find out that you’ve only made it to the half way point.  As I was climbing the first time, I kept thinking to myself, “how in the world am I going to climb this hill a second time more than half way through the race?”

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I picked up a group of runners to pace with and they pushed me through the beginning part of the race.  I love the downhills and can generally fly down them.  I did crash and burn on one downhill, I alerted the runners approaching behind me and yet the runner right after me (about a minute behind) fell in the exact same spot.  It’s always the little roots that get you.  The group I was running with for the first 19 miles would get a little lead on me on the uphills and I would catch up on the downs.  It was a nice balance.

At mile 19, we started the second loop.  At mile 22, we climb Big Ass Hill for a second time.  Seriously, what race director would do that to these runners?  I thought about crawling up the hill because some how that seemed like it may be a faster option.  I made it up that insane hill for a second time.  The group I was originally running with left the aid station before I did so I picked up a new friend.  This guy can only be known as pajama guy.  He started the race in red long johns and a fur hat (he ditched the outfit when the temps reached the 60s).  I had told him it was my first ultra and that I was fairly new to trail racing in general.  He stuck with me for the remaining 11 miles.  It was another story of he’d push ahead on the uphills and I’d catch up on the downhills.  He was constantly giving me encouraging words and advice.

The final five miles were the most challenging.  Not because I was tired, I was.  I had developed a large blister on the ball of my left foot.  I had never experienced that with my training runs and I could really feel it on the downhills.  My strength was inevitably taken away from me. I walked a lot more during the last 5 miles than I would have liked. I know I will need to do something to prevent blisters during my 50 miler.  I need my downhill running!

I finished the race (31.6 miles) in 7:58:52 with friends and family waiting at the finish line.  I thanked Pajama guy and two others that were with us as they motivated and pushed me during the last 11 miles.  The race director came over and shook my hand as he gave me the buckle.  I signed the pole holding the finish line like all first time 50k finishers and officially got a PR!

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Run Happy Friends

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50k Finishers!

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Count Down to First Ultra!

It has been so long since I’ve written anything for this blog that I didn’t even know how to come back to it.  I’d been thinking about it for the past two months as I’ve prepared and trained for my first ultra marathon.  The thought of finding a way to segue seamlessly back into blogging without acknowledging my lack of posting was impossible.  I haven’t stopped training, watching my diet, and living the family life.  I stopped writing about it and letting others follow along my journey.

Over the past few months, myself and a running buddy have been working with a coach to prepare and train for the longest distances in our running career.  Next weekend we will toe the line for our first ultramarathon.  We chose a 50k race that was aptly named Forget the PR.  As long as we cross the finish line in the 10 hour cutoff, then it will be a PR for both of us.  Then 10 weeks later we will toe the line for our first 50 miler at the same location.  We have spent hours upon hours each week making sure we hit all of our training runs and put forth our best effort in seriously horrible weather.  We’ve scouted and trained on trails that would help us prepare for the over 4,000 feet of elevation gain we would be facing.  We quickly found out that we actually live in a fairly flat area based on our garmin and strava data.

Trail running is a different beast.  The ice and snow were a challenge in the beginning because it was winter in Ohio.  As Spring reared its head in March, it gave way to mud pits that could suck your shoe right off if you didn’t have them tied tight enough.  We practiced a ton of creek crossings to get our feet used to the moisture we are sure to face during both ultras.  In one training run alone we had 15 crossings just going in one direction.  We had to turn around and cross each one of those creeks again to get back to the car.  It was fun, exciting, and extremely exhausting.  But, each week we gathered some friends and set off to obtain our mileage goal no matter how long it took us.

This week is a nice fun taper and I’m sure I’ll be more and more anxious as Saturday approaches.  I know that we are ready and definitely prepared for the worst conditions possible.  I am not out there to set any records or to try and win it all.  My goal is to beat the cutoff and take some fun pictures in the process.  If you have run any of my training runs with me, Thank you! Thank you for pushing me and helping me achieve my goals.  Thank you to my family for letting me run away on Saturdays to spend countless hours in the woods.  Thank you to my mom who will be driving and supporting me for my first Ultra.  Thank you to my coach for creating a positive experience and giving me the confidence that I can do this and that I am ready to tackle this race.  Finally, thank you to my running buddy for putting up with my complaining of uphills, sore muscles, just plain grumpiness but most of all having lots of fun while training!  We’ve got this!

Columbus Marathon Recap

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The weekend started out with a road trip just two hours south of home and 3 other running friends.  In the days leading up to the race, I was unsure what the temperature would be like that morning or even what I would wear.  We’ve trained all summer in hot and humid temperatures that I didn’t know what I would do in the cool crisp mornings.  We were going to hit up a running store and then the expo, so I was going to look for some capri pants to run in (I know this is a big running no- no) with my HRC tshirt.  I have a lot of cold weather running gear, but not much for the in-between.

As we all discussed strategy and running gear, the drive seemed to go fairly quickly.  Just like that we were at the running store and out stretching our legs.  I was starting to feel some nerves because I wasn’t quite sure if I could run a full 26.2 miles.  Training said I could, but there was a lot of self-doubt.  By the time we arrived at the expo, there were booths already being taken down.  There was still an hour and a half left before it closed!  We went up and got our bibs and gear bags and then headed down to see the vendors.  I picked up some GU and took the obligatory pictures with the large daunting numbers.

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As we headed to our dinner reservations, the wind picked up.  When I say picked up, I mean we felt like we were going to blow away.  A large marathon route sign fell right in front of us.  We all kept praying that the wind would die down before we had to hit the start line in the morning.  Once we got to our restaurant, we checked and there was an advisory for 50-55mph winds!!! We were pretty sure we just attempted to walk through that.

I was starting to feel like I had a sinus cold coming on so I took some medicine and went to bed.  Sleep came quick, but the morning came even quicker. The alarm clock rang and it was time to get dressed and prepped to run.  I was still feeling pretty foggy in the morning so I took some more medicine and ate some peanut butter.  I don’t like to run with food on my stomach because that’s when I experience bathroom issues.

As we headed down to our corrals, Susan and I said good luck to our fellow running friends and waited for the second wave to start. In the Columbus marathon, they actually start one wave of runners and then repeat the starting process for the second wave.  We made sure we were right in the front of the second wave because we wanted to attempt a 4:15 marathon time which was paced in the corral ahead of us.  When the gun went off we were off.  The first mile was completed in under 9 minutes.  I knew we had to back off if we were going to last the remaining 25.  I started watching the pace and Susan was watching the miles based on goal bracelets that were given out at the expo.  We were ahead of schedule through the first half.

It is always very tempting to complete the first half and just want to run in with all the people who were finishing up.  But, we still had another 13.1 to go.  I could tell Susan was feeling really good with her race because she kept running through each mile.  In training, once we hit the mile we would walk for a minute or two and then start running again.  She only walked through the water stations to get her fuel.  At mile 16 I was starting to feel cramping in my quads.  This was new because most of the time there is pain in your knees or calf muscles.  My legs just felt heavy.  I could tell Susan was trying to wait for me but by mile 17 I had told her to just go on and run her race.  I didn’t want to hold her back from her goals.  I was still on pace to hit mine, but I knew slower miles were coming.  I stopped to stretch at mile 18 and then set a goal to run at least 3/4 of every mile left in front of me.  I caught up to our running friends as one of them was singing!  She had been battling a cold for two weeks prior to this race so she’s a super hero for going out and giving it her all!

After a while, I kept going and the miles did seem to tick a little faster than 16-19 moved.  However, my times were still getting slower.  The crowd support was a little thinner than I remember, but the patient champions were out there with their families and that was inspiring enough to keep moving!  At mile 21 the crowd kept saying “only 5 more miles!”  Problem is, that isn’t that encouraging.  At the start of mile 26 I decided that I was going to run it in and not stop until I crossed the finish line.  I finished that mile in 9:40 and then the final .5 was an 8:55 pace.  I’m not sure why, but my watch clocked the race at 26.5 miles instead of 26.2.  I started it right when I crossed the start line and ended it when I hit the finish.  But, every mile marker I hit, my watch was .25 miles ahead after mile 2.

Just like that, all my training and hard work had come to an end.  The final result was a 4:21:03, just 1:03 over my goal time.  However, it is 26 minutes faster than my first marathon so I shaved off a minute per mile! I need to work on miles 18-25 to really improve my time.  This may or may not be my last road marathon.  I’m going to try trails for awhile and just enjoy my time running.  If the Columbus marathon teaches you anything, it is that running is a privilege that should not be taken for granted.

T’was the week before marathon

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T’was the week before marathon when runners were making final preparations.  The training is complete, the miles have been run.  It’s time to take faith that you can get it done! As I look back on the training, I am thankful for all the miles I was able to complete.  I can’t put myself down for only running 2- 20 mile distances.  I need to just relax and enjoy the day with my friends!

I have run Columbus one other time and it is my only marathon to date.  My training was extremely lonely.  I wasn’t running with anyone and didn’t even know running groups existed in my area.  My knee gave out in my training when I attempted my first 20 miler. I was never able to break that mileage distance in training due to my knee always causing me to stop short of my distance goal.  During the race I felt great, until I hit mile 18.  My knee pinched and I immediately had to stop.  I walked/limped in pain for 7 miles. I felt completely defeated.  I didn’t want to walk across the finish line, so I would jog for a minute, walk for a minute and repeat that cycle through the last mile.  When I crossed the finish line, I was in tears.  I was so upset with myself for not finishing the way I had hoped nor the way I had planned.  At that moment, I swore I would never run another marathon again.  I would stick to the half marathons.  After all, I like that distance.

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Everything changed when I was introduced to my #RunHappy friends!  I started training with them for a half marathon that I had committed to a year in advance.  I was enjoying running again.  Fast forward and I completed 4 half marathons this year and was training with my friend to complete her marathon.  I completed some of her long runs with her and decided to just throw in the towel and run it with her.  I got a bib, ran another 20 miler in seriously gross weather conditions and started tapering.

Now, we are just 3 days away from lacing up our shoes, hitting the starting line and finishing another marathon.  The distance I swore I would never do again.  I’m not only going to toe the line and finish this thing, I’m going to do it with a lot more confidence than the first time.  I’m going to watch friends reach their goals and push their limits.  I’m going to cheer on those that finish at the back of the pack.  I’m going to enjoy race day in all its glory! Columbus truly has the most amazing crowd support and I am excited to have a better race experience.

Not only will I complete this marathon, I will complete my first ultra marathon next April!  I’ve already signed up for the Forget the PR 50K at Mohican State Park!

Look for my race report next week to hear all about Columbus!

River Run Race Recap

Say that title five times fast.  This past weekend I completed the River Run Half Marathon in Cleveland.  This was a carefully chosen race based on a strong recommendation from a fellow runner.  After looking at the course and seeing that it was primarily flat and mostly having a slight down hill grade, I knew this was the race to add to my schedule.  Not only was I going to complete this race, but I was going to attempt to PR.  I wanted to put everything out there on the road so that I knew I gave it my all if I were to come up short.  My PR time to beat was 1 hour 57 minutes and some change completed a few years ago.  This would be my fourth half marathon this year and I would need to shave off 4 minutes from my fastest one this year alone.  I was up to the challenge.

Race day was around the corner and the forecast was calling for wind and lots of rain.  Based on the day before, the rain with the added 20 mph wind gusts could be a complete bummer for a race.  Up to this point, we’ve trained in squelching heat and humidity.  I was struggling with what to wear so I wouldn’t get too hot, but wouldn’t be shivering at the start.  If my toes get cold, I would never get them warm again.

The morning of the race, I was psyched to see what the weather was going to be like an hour north.  I filled my new hydration flasks and started to get a little nervous about the course.  Those pre-race jitters can really do a number on a person.  We hopped on the bus to take us to the start line and drove through most of the course.  It was a very windy course through the metro parks.

IMG_1160Time to start the race.  I line up midway through the pack and wait for the start.  When the sound goes off, I take off and throw my jacket to the side.  I went with the pack and we hit that first mile at 8:15 pace.  I wanted to average an 8:50 to hit my goal so I knew I was pushing it a little much.  I just kept going with how I felt and pushed through each mile.  There was a volunteer at every single mile marker calling off times, which was motivational for me.  At mile 4, I quickly grabbed water at the aid station and when I looked up shortly after I spotted an eagle in a tree.  I was so excited that I actually pointed it out to other runners, but everyone around me had their headphones in and up too loud.  I was one of the few runners without ear buds and just enjoying the scenery around me.

Mile 6, I needed to get some GU and water.  I had started to cramp in my sides and was having difficulty breathing while running.  I knew that if I got some water and food (I don’t eat before a race), I would feel stronger and can push on.  At this point I had settled into a comfortable 8:30 pace anyway.  I continued to push myself through each aid station and around mile 9 was confronted by 3 young deer.  They were trying to figure out a way to cross the street amidst the sea of runners.  They decided to cross right behind me, which I was thankful for them not running into me!

Mile 10 and 11 came and went but I was starting to have more cramping issues.  Only this time I was in need of a bathroom.  Around 11.8 miles, I found a port-a-potty and made a stop.  A minute later and I was back on my route to finish the 13.1 mile course.  The finish line was just around the bend and I heard the announcer say 1 hour 55 minutes and 15 seconds.  I was slightly crushed.  I thought I would beat my goal PR and hit just under 1:55.  I ended up crossing at 1:55:45 with a  chip time of 1:55:25.  Definitely a PR! IMG_1165 2

Two things played into my time, the bathroom and the course being slightly longer than 13.1 (my watch and my friend’s watch both said 13.25).  I probably could have hit 1:53….maybe next year.  This was a fun course beautiful scenery and lots of support at each mile.  There were ample water stops and bathrooms with lots of post race food options!  The shuttle back to the car wasn’t a long wait and we were able to get into warmer clothes right away!

I would recommend this race to anyone wanting to push themselves and hit a new PR.

Next scheduled half is in November, but I may run a full before that….we shall see.  As always, be confident, be fit, be you!!!!

Where does the time go?

When you were younger the adults in your life would say how “fast” life was going for them.  It isn’t until you hit a certain age or parenthood that you realize just how true that statement rings.  I haven’t had the time to sit down and write something that I felt would be worth while.  Time has gone by fast and lots of things have happened in the last five months.  Let’s talk racing and training!

February, March and April I spent preparing for a half marathon I had signed up for a year in advance.  Mid-April I ran the Athens Half Marathon and felt horrible.  The race didn’t go as planned and if it had rained the whole time, I would have quit half way through.  My first race back since before my second child and it was not picture perfect.  I needed a do-over.  I signed up for another half marathon right away that was just a month away.  I decided to just run that for fun and to help a fellow runner hit their PR.  Race day came and I was feeling pretty good.  Traffic was horrific and I was afraid I wouldn’t get to the start line in time before the gun went off.  Fast forward and my friend hit her PR!

 

At the Expo for the May race I decide to sign up for a 3rd half marathon just two weeks

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after the second.  I’m already trained and ready to go, so why not?  The Medina half marathon course was also supposed to be for fun.  But, I was feeling good and thought I could hit a sub-2 hour time.  I have only hit that two other times and one was pre-baby number one and the other was post-baby number one.  It had been years!  Sadly I finished in 2:00:58.  Yes you read that right.  Just 59 seconds short of the sub-two hour time frame.

This prompted another half marathon sign up.  However, it is at the beginning of September, so I have been training hard.  My friend from the May race that PR’d signed up for the upcoming half as well as the Columbus Marathon.  I decided I would help her train and have gone a numerous long runs with her to help keep pace.  There are times when I felt like I have held her back, like that first 20 miler, but we keep moving forward!  To be honest, that is only the second time in my life I have run 20 miles.  The first time was the only time I attempted a Marathon.

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After a seriously long training run! We’re still smiling!

For the big finally to this post, I got into Trail running.  My hubby was listening to a podcast with Joe Rogan and he had Courtney Dauwalter on after completing the MOAB 240.  She not only kicked butt on the course, she beat the second person by 10 hours.  Over 240 miles she ran in 2 days, 9 hours and 59 minutes.  It was insane!  From there I went on my first trail run with my Run Happy friends and it was a completely different experience.  I started binge watching YouTube videos of trail and ultra running.  The pictures and views were incredible.  I was living vicariously through these other trail runners.  I decided to sign up for a trail race.  I asked the people of the inter webs just which races were worth completing in our area on my birthday.  That’s right, I wanted to spend my birthday out running in the woods!  I was directed to the BobCat Marathon and half marathon and decided to give it a go.  I’ve implemented hills into my workouts and have the full understanding that I will be much slower than a road race.  But, the views will be worth it!  With all this information and my obsession with podcasts and YouTube videos on ultra running, I have decided to sign up for a 50 mile race next June.  Yes, you read that right, 50 MILE trail race!  I have a few people interested in completing it with me and I’m excited to start some serious cross training.  Apparently there are some serious gains in elevation.

I’m excited for how this year has spiraled in my running journey.  The only few times I have flaked on a group run is when I wasn’t feeling well or my kids literally did not sleep the night before.  Other than that, I have gotten my butt out of bed in the 4 o’clock hour 5 days a week and on the weekends it is 5.  I’m staying healthy, meeting some incredibly nice people and enjoying running once again!

Until next time:

Be Confident! Be Fit! Be You!

Training Continues

I haven’t stopped training and I haven’t stopped tracking with various forms of tracking methods.  What I have stopped doing was updating my blog weekly with the recaps.  To be honest, I think “oh, I’ll just update every two weeks.”  But then that comes and goes and I still haven’t updated anyone on my training.  So, here goes the few weeks of training recaps as well as the Weight Watchers updates.

Training has continued to be 5 days a week.  I have 3 run days and 2 cross training days.  I am using the 80 day obsession sessions for the cross training.  I actually want to complete this entire series when I am done with my half.  I may modify to keep 2 running days a week because I want to keep up some distance running.  I’m loving the 80 day obsession workouts because they are hard but they don’t include a lot of jumping and lunges, both of which my knees can’t handle.

My running has increased and my longest run so far completed is 7 miles.  I’m actually ahead in mileage for this training plan, but the longer runs skip over 8 and 10 miles and go from 9 to 11.  So, by being a little ahead I can add in a 10 mile run with no problem and just inch up each week by 1 mile instead of 2.  I ran my 5 mile training run with a

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7 mi. training run in 18*F

group of people training for either a full or half the week after my race.  During that run I met some very nice people and they introduced me to a group called Run Happy.  I joined their facebook group and found other crazy people that run at 5am consistently.  I was able to join up with them and have a good solid group of people to run with for my 7 mile training run.  I plan to join them each Saturday at the crack of dawn to train.  It gives me a sense of safety instead of running by myself.  Plus, I don’t find myself playing mind games to finish when I am with a group.  I keep pushing and telling myself to keep moving forward and make a turn that is further away from your car instead of ending short of the goal.

As for Weight Watchers, I am down 9lbs since I started 5 weeks ago.  I am losing slowly, which I am perfectly content with the results.  I haven’t completely given up my sweets and I’ve overindulged a few too many times.  I’m sure that number could be a little higher, but I haven’t deprived myself from foods that I want either, I have just cut back a little.  Over time, I am sure that I will be able to cut back even more to squash this sweet tooth that has taken over my taste buds.  I haven’t tracked everything, especially when I know the points will be insanely high.  Part of the reason I haven’t tracked certain foods is due to the process.  Not every recipe I use is in the system and I have to create a recipe before I can add the points.  This can be frustrating when the recipe on paper already tells me the points and I can’t just do a quick add, name the food, add the points and move on.  Regardless, I will continue to use the tracker and connect to help make me accountable for what I choose to eat.  Only when I am fully honest with myself will I see success.

Goals for this coming week:  Keep working through the training plan.  Track more consistently and honestly.  No CHOCOLATE- decided to give this up for Lent this year and I’ve noticed the struggle, but it is also a good thing.  I haven’t replaced the sweet with another form of sugar.  I did make egg-less chocolate chip cookie dough on Fat Tuesday and at half of it in preparation.

Be confident! Be fit! Be you!