Race Report: Sawnee Showdown

I love running races as part of my training because it is always the boost that I need to be surrounded by other runners.  It also makes me push myself harder. Both of these elements were true this past Saturday when I ran the Sawnee Showdown 8.9 mile trail race. I signed up for Sawnee Showdown because some of my favorite trail friends had signed up, and the trail is right down the street from my old high school stomping grounds.

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This was the inaugural race, and the race director did a fabulous job, from communication to course marking and prizes.  The race started at 8 am, but I showed up at 7:15 to make sure that I could get parking.  Cadence has been congested (welcome to cold season!), so just like normal, I didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before the race.

The sun was just coming up when I arrived, and it was stunning.  The wind was picking up and bringing a cold front with it.  The temps started in the mid-forties and continued to drop as the morning progressed, but it turned out to be perfect running weather.  The wind was also good to blow the forest fire smoke out of the area for the race.  I don’t remember smelling it at all.

The race started like most trail races where everyone walks into the parking lot, the RD gives a few instructions and then yells “GO” and we all file onto a single track.  I started near the front with some of my friends.  While this was not a goal race, I knew that I wanted to run at a good effort to justify using it as a training run.

From the start, it was apparent that we were in for a lot of elevation change and plenty of rocks!  The race started on the side of the park called the Indian seats,  which is thought to be a sacred site used by local Native American Cherokee and Creek tribes for ceremonial purposes.  I know that the view at the Indian Seats is spectacular, but I did not want to take the time to stop for a view.

I was the third female for the first 2-3 miles, following closely behind my new friend, Alexa.  The first female had blown by us in the first mile, and she quickly put distance between us.  I was moving fast, but my limiting factor was really the technical terrain.  There were a lot of rocks and roots on steep paths, and this was not a race that I wanted to sacrifice to an injury.

I pulled into second place while on the Indian seats side of the trail, and then we crossed the street to follow another bigger loop to the finish.  Someone had commented that the second loop was more rolling, but that was a lie!  It seemed pretty steep to me!  I love running on trails, but at one point, I started to wonder why I always have to push so hard in races.  It is a love/hate relationship, for sure!  I was not enjoying the pain of pushing, but there is always a high from the exertion.  I think I’m just wired to push and run hard.

For the rest of the race, I caught glimpses of the number one girl but then she would disappear around a corner.  At about mile 6, I was running with one of my good trail friends, Seth, who has paced me to strong finishes at several races now, and he encouraged me to try to catch number one.  We were able to close the gap, but then my foot caught a rock and I fell pretty hard, rolling and hitting my knee directly against a rock.  Stumbling, I got up and we kept running.  Seth had stopped to help me, which just goes to show how amazing trail friends are.  I didn’t lose much time, but I was definitely in more pain!  And as soon as the number one girl saw that we were close, she seemed to have no problem putting more distance between us. wp-1479871554885.jpg

So I finished in second place, and later found out that the top girl is a track athlete from Georgia Tech.  She definitely helped me run a faster race, and I’m thankful that she kept such a strong lead.  It turns out that the first place winner was awarded $200 and the second place winner was awarded $125.  That is more than I have ever won, and it’s pretty unheard of for a trail race!  I also won a raffle and was able to select my prize based on finishing time.  All of the prizes were really great, but I decided to go home with a big Yeti cooler!

Overall, this was a great morning with wonderful friends, a beautiful trail, and really nice prizes!

Do you always have to “race” the races?

Race Day with a Baby

I’ve heard from a lot of pregnant or new moms (mostly over Instagram) who say that they are relieved to see that my training days didn’t end when we had Cadence.  She’s been a great little buddy in the stroller or pack and play while I run.  And she likes to play in our basement while I do weights.

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That’s all great for training, but what do you do about race day?!  I have two races coming up in the next week (Saturday 8.9 mile trail run and Thursday Thanksgiving Half Marathon), so I thought it might be a good time to mention our experiences with race day and childcare.

  • Husband: If my husband isn’t racing, that’s a no brainer, and he watches the little dumpling. We brought Cadence to Boston with us when I was 6 months postpartum,
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    Boston Marathon Finish 2016, 6 months pp

    and Jon hung out with Cadence the whole day from the time that I loaded the buses until I finished my run.  They are the best spectators, my reward!

  • Crew: For the Yeti 100, my parents and husband watched Cadence and brought her to the aid station stops for me to soak up her goodness and get a little motivation.  I pumped at three of my crew stops, and it helped to see the baby and get a little baby love.
  • Daycare/babysitter:  For local races where Jon and I are both running, we use our daycare person to babysit.  Our daycare is an in-home facility down the street from our house, so this is very convenient.  It’s also a lot easier to ask a grown adult to babysit at 6:30 am instead of a teenager. 🙂  We just drop Cadence off on our way to the race, and she’s happy because it is familiar.

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    Yeti 100, mile 53, 1 yr pp

  • Grandparents: My first race postpartum was the Thanksgiving half marathon last year (I’m getting ready to run it again next week).  We had a house full of company, and everyone was getting up and running the race the next day.  Everyone except our 8 week old… So I spent the night with my parents 35 minutes away and got up race morning super early to drive back to my house and meet up with everyone else running the race.  I did not get much sleep at all that night, but that seems to be the trend for all of my races since Cadence was born.  Haha.  It was nice to see my parents briefly for Thanksgiving, and I always love to have my parents watching our baby. My mother in law hasn’t watched Cadence for races yet, but she has been super to come over on Sunday mornings to let Jon and me get in some of our runs together.  A little date on the run!

Those are our examples of our experiences with childcare and races, and here are a few other tips on racing with a baby:

About breastfeeding/pumping: I have run every distance from 5k to 100 miler while breastfeeding.  It goes without saying, pump before the race.  If we are driving to the start, I pump in the car.  For the Boston Marathon, I had to load the buses at 7 am, but my wave didn’t run for several more hours.  In that case, I packed a manual pump and visited the first aid tent to pump before the race.  For my ultra races like the Hot to Trot 8 hour race, I brought my manual pump and stopped to pump along the way.  Typically, I can go about 5 hours without pumping.  Lecithin is a great supplement to help you prevent getting clogged ducts. (I’m now at >1 year of breastfeeding, so I am not worried about supply and will start weaning sometime in the coming months.)

Running on no sleep: Oh my goodness!  I don’t even remember what a good night of sleep feels like!  I’ve really not ever gotten much sleep before a race, still waking up with Cadence several times in the night, plus waking up early to take care of her before packing up and heading out for a race.  But it’s always been ok.  I’m not advocating that sleep isn’t important, but if you find yourself sleepless the night before a race, don’t panic.  Just drink a cup of coffee and enjoy the run.  🙂

The reward: For all of the new challenges of figuring out logistics with a baby on race morning, it is absolutely worth  every little inconvenience!  You just figure out what works for you.  If you have a good support system, that makes it all the better.  There might be a season of local races, but those can be just as fun for a season.

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Has anyone traveled to a destination and hired a babysitter while at the site?  I have heard that some races and hotels offer referrals for race day childcare if both parents are running.

Ultra Eating: Fueling for an Ultramaration

I learned a lot about nutrition and fueling by preparing for and running the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run.  Everyone is unique, and different courses dictate different nutrition needs, but I’ve provided some guidelines that will help you best prepare for your race.  Remember the adage “We are an experiment of one” when reading through these guidelines.  What works for one person may not work as well for another. Testing your fueling plan during training is best, but always be prepared that race day may confront you with a new set of conditions.

The distance of an ultra is not always as important to consider, as much as the time that you will be out on the trails.  For a technical 50k, you could be out in the woods through lunch and dinner.  In ultras, one of the most important lessons is to eat early and eat often.  It’s also wise to take a gel within 30 minutes of the start of a race.  Then, continue to consume small amounts of nutrition about every 20-30 minutes.

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Cloudland Canyon 50 Miler

Well trained athletes can burn up to 600-1000 calories per hour of exertion.  However, our stomachs can only process about 200-400 calories/hour on the move. This number will vary based on the size of the runner, effort level, temperature, and how easy it is to process the food.  A typical athlete can store glycogen to fuel the demands of 90 minutes or less of activity.

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What types of foods to eat: the desire to consume food wanes the longer you are out on the trail.  That said, the food that you craved at mile 20 might sound very different to you by mile 66.  Conventional running fuel includes: gels, energy chews, sports bars, and sports drinks. Each of these products offer an option with caffeine and/or electrolytes. Gels are relatively easy for the body to digest.  The type of sugar depends on how quickly the energy lasts over time. Sugars like honey act quickly but wear off fast as well.  Maltodextrin offers a slower release of energy over a longer period of time.  During a run, most of your calories will come from carbohydrates.  Make sure to consume fluids with food so that absorption can be facilitated.

 

Aid station food can offer a good variety to the fuel that you packed in your drop bag (gels can get very old after hours of sucking on sugar).  Be careful trying new things, and don’t rely on the aid station to have your favorite trail snacks.  Examples of aid station fare include potatoes in salt, chips, m&ms, pie, brownies, soup, grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwich wedges, gatorade, and water.

I had stomach issues during the first ~half of the Yeti 100, and I’m not completely sure why.  The best I can explain is that it may have been nerves. Either way, I knew that it was important to continue eating and drinking.  Otherwise, I did not have any issues eating, but my desire for food started to diminish.  Many runners experience nausea toward the end of the race (another reason to front load the calories if you can).  Ginger chews and ginger ale are good remedies for an upset stomach.

Here is a troubleshooting table that may be helpful to share with your crew so they can help you if things start heading south:

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Below is an example of the food that I had planned for the Yeti 100. I also had a lot of different kinds of food packed in a bin for my crew to have available just in case I craved an Oreo or a potato chip.  I pumped/breastfed throughout the race, so I also calculated extra demand for calories to produce breastmilk. Toward the end of the race, the only things I could tolerate were Starbucks frappuccinos, Honey Stingers, and Cliff Shot Blocs.

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There are a lot of running books that have complete chapters on fueling for an ultra. Here are a few books that I recommend:

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Do you have any fun fueling stories?  Experiences are the best way to learn!