Race Report: The San Francisco Marathon

IMG_20170723_095843I pick a verse for every goal race to focus on throughout the training cycle and race. For the San Francisco Marathon, I came across Proverbs 16:9, and it really got me thinking about where my heart was in this process. Running can easily become such a self-focused sport, and we lose sight of the mighty plans that God has for us.

Proverbs 16:9

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.

Training Derailed

I formally started marathon training 7 weeks before race day, and about three weeks in, I started to have shin splints that hurt pretty badly, and more importantly, scared me enough to change up my training entirely. My coach utilizes intensity in practically every run, so I was out of a coach and out of a training plan once I made the decision to focus on health over performance. I’ve never had a stress fracture, and I want to take precautions to never reach that point! So I spent the last month with a lot of time cross training and running on a flat treadmill. I also added a few 20 mile runs that I wouldn’t have run with my previous training schedule.  Although it was disheartening to have my training derailed a bit, it was a really good reminder to evaluate my heart and keep my focus on God. Injuries are really good at giving us perspective!

Arriving in San Francisco

San Francisco was not a goal race for me to PR, but rather a race to go enjoy, perform well, and then enjoy our friends and drink lots of good wine out in wine country.  Jon and I spent the night at my parents’ house on Friday night so we could be with Cadence one more night before flying out. We did a quick 1.5 mile shakeout run before jetting to the airport for our first trip without Cadence. Since I’m still breastfeeding Cadence, I brought a manual pump to use at night and in the morning.

Jon and I arrived in San Francisco on Saturday afternoon and walked with our friends to the expo. On our way, I just about had a heart attack when I walked all of hills. I had been avoiding hills for the last month because hillwork made my shins hurt worse, and my goal was to make it intact to the race. This race was going to hurt! I picked up my elite bib at the expo, which was a really neat experience since this is the first race as an elite runner!  Dinner included lots of good food, great friends, and an early bedtime.

Race Morning

Our hotel was right across the street from the start, so race morning was pretty easy. My alarm was set for 4 am, but I didn’t sleep great and woke wide awake at 3:40 am.  I ate some of my mom’s homemade bread and half of a protein bar.  Jon and I got dressed and headed downstairs to meet our friends at 5 am. This is probably the first race where I haven’t used the porta potty before a start. It was so convenient to have the hotel so close!! I hopped into the elite corral at the front of the line and did a few warm up strides. I wasn’t nearly as warmed up as I should have been, but the corrals closed at 5:15 am, and I was afraid I’d miss the window if I went off and ran much.

One of the announcers was Dean Karnazes, which was really neat. I admit that I felt totally out of place standing up in the front, but it was still a really fun experience to stand with the elites. Finally, the whistle blew, and we all started running. I started out at about a 6:50 pace, and it felt like an effort. I knew I could hold the pace at that time, but I didn’t think this was a good sign for what was to come as far as pace was concerned. I didn’t have a goal though, so I didn’t worry. I was running beside the 3:00 pacer, and there were a few other guys clumped with him. I like to run with others, so I decided to stick with them as long as I could.

First Hill to the Golden Gate Bridge

We reached the first hill around 2.5 miles. I really wanted to see how the other guys handled the hill to get an idea of what I should be doing. We all slowed down to about an 8 minute pace and then flew down the hill. This was fine by me, and I was clicking right along. Things were feeling really comfortable and I was having a lot of fun. It was 57 degrees at the start, which is way cooler than anything I have run in a long time. There was a really dense fog and a headwind, so we were pretty much just running in a bubble.

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At about mile 5, we ran up a hill to the Golden Gate Bridge. I didn’t realize that we were even on the bridge until I looked up and saw the bridge towering overhead. It was so foggy.  The bridge is 1.2 miles with entry and exit adding to the distance. This was definitely my most fun part of the race. As we were crossing over, we saw the lead pack coming back over the bridge. And then it was our turn. All of the masses of runners were crossing the bridge as we were exiting. I saw our 3 friends and my husband. This is also where I learned that I was first female. I had so many other runners, especially female, cheering for me as I passed. If ever I felt like a celebrity, this was the moment.  I also knew that I should enjoy it while it lasted. 🙂

Running to the Golden Gate Park

We left the bridge around mile 9.5 and ran toward Golden Gate Park. Up until this point, pacesthe race was flying by and I felt really good, albeit tired of hills. Golden Gate Park seemed to last forever. And it wasn’t as flat as I had hoped. A really nice guy was running with me and tried to give me an idea of the landscape for the rest of the race. While it evened out more on paper, to the legs, it still felt really hilly.  Two girls passed me around mile 13. I had not really slowed down, but they were flying. I know that it was too early in the race to chase, and I didn’t have it in me to run their paces.

I got to see my husband and friends several times while I was in the park (they ran the half and finished in the park). This was a great boost to my morale. I was hurting a little, but it was more that I was just ready to be done with the hills. It wasn’t so fun anymore. I remember reading a race report by Tia Stone (@arkansasrunnermom on IG) who said that she felt relief at mile 20 because it was downhill. So I just kept looking for mile 20. My legs were tired, but not so tired that I really felt like I needed to slow down. My paces for the whole race were very much dictated by the hills. I had lost the 3 hour pacer guy (Carl) somewhere in the park, and the sun was so bright that I couldn’t really see anything in front of me (it was no longer a cool 57 degrees!)

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Map provided by The San Francisco Marathon http://www.thesfmarathon.com/the-races/full-marathon/

Running Past 20

The last few miles went by pretty slowly for me, but I didn’t want to slow down because I wanted to be finished. I only saw fuel at one stop at mile 8 (apparently I missed the other aid station), but I ate my Honey Stinger Gel and Honey Stinger Chews.  I also drank water at every other aid station. The second half of the race was direct sunlight and pretty toasty.

The last two miles of the race were by the bay, so it was flatter, but by then I had started to slow regardless of elevation change. I had not been running tangents very well, and my watch chimed at 26.2 as a sub 3 hour marathon, but I still had 0.34 to run. I knew that I was third female, but I did not know how much of a lead I had. I crossed the finish in 3:01:12 as the overall third place female, and my sweet husband and friends were there to cheer me on.

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Lessons Learned

The race was a challenge for me, but it was an incredible experience. The race director and all of the volunteers did a fantastic job with every detail! My least favorite part was definitely the second half, which was supposed to be the easier half. I am satisfied with my time and place, but I do wish that I had gone into the race with a time goal. I absolutely believe that if I had gone into the race with a time goal of sub 3, I could have hit the mark. By the time that I realized that I could have reached this goal, I didn’t have time to make it up. I believe that I could have shaved off time with a little more mental edge alone. So that’s a great lesson to be mentally sharp going into a race, even if you don’t feel very ambitious at the start. You never know until you try!

Post Race

After the race, we attended the awards ceremony. All of the top finishers were super congenial and energetic. What an honor to get to know them! As a prize, I got a new Fitbit, Jaybird wireless headphones, and some other smaller items. I also got a nice 3rd place plaque. My husband and friends made me feel like a queen, and I am so thankful for their sweet support. We all ate a big brunch together after showering, and then we masochistically walked all around San Francisco on tired legs. What an amazing city!

We finished up the trip with wine tastings in Sonoma and Napa on Monday and Tuesday.

Here’s some cool data from my Milestone Pod. The main thing that I notice is that my foot strike changed for the uphills and the downhills. My stride length and ground contact were also better for this marathon than on my training runs. The faster I run, the more efficiently I run. Isn’t God good!?

If you want to order a Milestone Pod, use code PodTeamMeridith30 for 30% off until the end of July!

Race Report: Peachtree Road Race 10k 2017

Jon and I ran the Peachtree Road Race 10k for the second year in a row, and I’m pretty fond of our new tradition together. We spent the night at my parent’s house so that we could leave Cadence in the morning with my parents. I’m still nursing mornings and nights, and I haven’t had a night away from Cadence yet (soon to change when we go to San Francisco).

We went to bed early on Monday night and woke up at 5 am to get ready. Cadence had nursed around 4 am, so that was about as good as I would get as far as emptying before the race. She nurses exclusively on the right side, and I no longer pump. So I’m a little unbalanced. Haha. We drove about 30 minutes from my parents’ house to Marta, where we thankfully caught a train just as we walked onto the platform (last year this was a nightmare).

We jogged to the porta potties as a warm up, and then we made it to the start just as the star spangled banner was being played. Jon started in the A wave and I started in the seeded wave. This was my first year as a seeded athlete, and it was really nice to start in the cooler 7:30 am weather (albeit 90+% humidity) and with fewer athletes to have to weave around. I got to say hi to one of my good ultra buddies, and then we were off!

The course is hilly, but it starts out downhill with an overall negative elevation gain. It’s easy to go out too fast, but for a 10k, I have no idea what that feels like. I guess you have to run a lot of shorter distances to get a good feel for pacing. It felt fast, good, and easy for the first half of the race. It was really fun to run with other fast runners. There were a couple of girls who looked like they had just stepped off of a track, and I tried to keep up with them for most of the race. Also, I noticed that no one at the front was listening to music. Is that just a mid-packer thing?

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Once we hit the hills, my legs burned on the uphills, but I just kept plugging along. Every time that I run a hill now, I judge it against how I’ll feel running the San Francisco marathon on July 23. I’m afraid that I’m in for some pain! About 4 miles into the race, I was running at a good pace, 6:15-6:20s, slowing down uphill, but I just didn’t feel like I was hurting badly enough. I thought about pushing harder, but instead I just kept plugging at that pace. Who knows?! Maybe I would have blown up if I had pushed more in the race. Maybe I would have trimmed a few seconds. I definitely sped up at the finish, but once done, I didn’t feel like I had pushed my hardest. This isn’t a goal race and I wasn’t trying for a goal time, but I was a little disappointed to not feel depleted. BUT I did feel sore for a couple of days after the race, so clearly, I pushed hard enough to tear up some muscle! Maybe I’m just not used to the distance.

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Splits Cumulative Time Distance Avg Pace
1 06:13.3 1 6:13
2 12:24 1 6:10
3 18:36 1 6:12
4 25:21:00 1 6:45
5 32:02:00 1 6:41
6 38:23:00 1 6:21
7 39:56:00 0.29 5:26
Summary 39:56:00 6.29 6:21

I PR’d with a final time of 39:56. Fun to be (barely) sub 40! It’s pretty eye- opening though, because I have dreams of hitting a marathon of <2:45. With a 10k overall pace of 6:21, I need to be a bit faster and learn to feel comfortable at the fast paces for a bit longer. I came in 5th in my age group and 24th female overall. With over 55,000 race participants, that’s not too bad. 🙂

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Over 60,000 racers!

After the race, Jon and I walked around a little bit and then made our way back to Marta. The race was fun, but our little running buddy was waiting for us at my parents’ house! We finished off the holiday with a boat ride on the lake and a fun lunch with my family.

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Hope you had a good Fourth of July!

Race Report: Gorge Waterfalls 100k

I don’t exactly know where to start with this race.  It didn’t go the way that I had hoped it would.   I’ve been in my head a lot with this one, and unfortunately, I think that is also what influenced my race performance.  Either way, these are the ones that help you grow the most, and I’ve certainly gained a lot of strength from this experience. I’m relatively new to the trail and ultra scene, and I think I doubled in experience by this one race alone.

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Photo Credit Glenn Tachiyama

Leading up

I was given entry into Gorge (thanks to my coach for pulling some strings) after I finished my sub 3 marathon in January, and my confidence was super high after achieving that goal on the first try.  My coach had absolute faith in me that I could perform well in the race and I have always seen good (fast) results with her training method.  So commenced a time of recovery from the marathon and then a pretty intense cycle of training for about two months.  At one point, my training plan had me doing 340 push-ups of IMG_20170214_182740.jpgdifferent variations 3x a week.  And that’s just the push-up portion of the workouts.  Needless to say, I spent what felt like every free moment trying to finish my workouts outside of work, baby, house, and husband.  But I didn’t miss a workout. I got stronger and I felt really solid on my runs.

The biggest tension wasn’t how hard the workouts were, but more how hard it was to take time away from my family.  My husband is truly my champion, and he makes working out so much easier for me by helping me incorporate Cadence whenever we can.  We would family hike for cross training, or he would sit with her in our basement workout room while I finished the 340 push-ups.  The biggest struggle since Cadence was born has always been getting away to the trails. But I did it all.  I didn’t miss a training session and I got in the extras as well as I could.

 

Arrival in Oregon

We arrived in Oregon on Friday afternoon in the midst of big storms and high winds.  Cadence was great, but anyone with a toddler can understand how hard it is to keep an 18 month old confined to one lap for 5.5 hours.  As soon as we got our rental car, we drove to Benson State Park to scope out the start line and we also purchased a parking ticket for the next day.  We checked into our hotel, got an early dinner, and I was in bed by 7 pm PST, which is really 10 pm EST.

Race Morning

I woke up at 2 am (5 am EST) and waited for my alarm to ring at 3 am.  I didn’t feel tired, my stomach was cooperating, and I felt like I was really prepared for the race. So many people had told me that the course was really runnable, and it’s “only” ~63 miles.  For all of you new momma’s out there, I am still breastfeeding Cadence, and so far, it’s not ever been an issue with my running.  She’s 18 months old, and we are down to mornings and nights now, so I knew that I wouldn’t have to pump during this race like I did during Hot to Trot and the Yeti 100.  We packed up the car at 4:45 am and headed to the park.  Parking wasn’t an issue at all (we had been told horror stories about long lines to park), and it was a pretty low-key check-in.  We waited in the car until about 5:40 am.  I got out, walked around, did some lunges to stretch and warmed up, and then waited for the RD James Varner to give final instructions and send us off.

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Course map provided by Rainshadow Running

Starting Out

I placed myself near the front because if I’ve learned anything in trail running, the mid and back pack move very slooooowly once you hit single track.  On the first little jaunt out of the park, I met a girl named Sara.  We briefly chatted and then started the ascent up the steepest climb of the race (until you go back up it again at the end of the race).  We were all in headlamps and rain jackets, and I was moving well in the front pack.  It didn’t take long to get warm and start to feel the effects of running up about 1600 feet of elevation gain in 2 miles.  I started out as one of the top female runners. Then about a mile up the mountain, 3 girls passed me.  Then one more.  And that’s when I started to think that they were stronger runners than me. I don’t know where this came from, as anyone who runs ultras knows that this is way too early in a race to determine who the leaders will be.  But there in that moment, I gave the race over to them.  Don’t get me wrong, I was surely working hard, but my head wasn’t in it anymore, and the head is pretty important for any type of performance.

Our headlamps were only needed for the first 20 minutes of the run, and mine was heavy and the rain jacket was hot.  And my legs were feeling tired from the climb.  Once we hit the downhill, things started feeling better, but I was aware that I didn’t feel fast and I started to feel discouraged.  I passed No Name aid station at mile 6 without stopping.  As beautiful as this course is, I didn’t like it very much at first.  The trail runs along the side of the mountain, and you can see the highway below and hear cars and trains.  I expected to be out in the wilderness, but we were always pretty close to civilization the whole time. (My opinion changed as I ran deeper into the fairy tale kingdom).

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Yeon Aid Station Mile 13 and Crew stop #1

The course is described as runnable, but there was about ~150-300+ ft of elevation gain within every mile, and that really pushed my fitness level.  Also, the course had a lot of rocks, roots, trees, and snow in its path, which is a big challenge to me.  The area had seen record winds and washouts, and this was clear by the incredible number of branches, trees, and detritus covering the ground.  About two miles before the Yeon aid station, we hit paved road, and that felt like heaven to my tired legs and beat up feet.

I had mapped for Jon to meet me three times along the course for crew, and I couldn’t wait to see him at Yeon.  My instructions to him had been that I didn’t want to waste any time at aid stations, so I asked him to help me get in and out as fast as I could.  When I got to Yeon, I was 5th female, and while Jon was helping me refill water and food, another girl passed through, making me 6th female.  Something in me just didn’t care.  My legs didn’t feel strong or fast, and I just didn’t think I had the ability to fight for a top spot.  Jon was kind of surprised, but he kept encouraging me and pushed me off on my way as any loving husband wearing a baby would do.

 

Cascade Locks Aid Station Mile 22 and a surprise crew visit #2

This is where the course started getting magical, and I decided that even if my body was letting me down (which I know sounds silly when the body to which I refer is carrying me 64 miles across tough terrain), I was going to enjoy the run.  I had been leap frogging with my new friend, Sara, and I found myself needing to talk to someone on the trails.  She was strong and carefree out there.  This was her therapy after going through some personal stuff the week prior, and her only expectation from the race was to let the run help heal some wounds. So naturally, we talked about boys and babies and futures.  And it really helped me get out of my emotional funk.  I fell twice during the race, and the second time during this section did a little damage to my knee, and I was aware of the swelling for the rest of the run.  In addition to the knee, my legs still felt heavier than they had ever felt in a race, but at least I wasn’t crying about it as I chatted with my new friend.

The aid stations were spaced further than I would have liked, not because I was running out of food, but because it is such a great way to check off miles when they come in smaller chunks.  I ran into the Cascade Locks aid station to find Jon there!  I had not mapped this as one of his stops, but he surprised me by showing up. Just what I needed!  At this point, it wasn’t just what I needed to buck up and compete, but rather just what I needed to not want to quit the race.  That’s how disappointed and disillusioned I felt about it.

The halfway point: Wyeth Aid Station mile ~31 and crew #3

I had to stop to pee in the woods after leaving Cascade Locks and I got passed by another girl while my pants were down.  I still wasn’t too far behind in the ranks, but I was slowing down.  We ran past several snow covered patches.  The RD had tried to dig out little paths for runners to use as footholds, and it really helped.  There were also sections of hill completely covered by moss covered boulders.  It was pretty magical, and I kept thinking of The Princess Bride when they ran through the boulders (only my prince was several miles away waiting for me with a baby and a honeystinger in hand).

I was at mile 25 when Jim Walmsley past me on his way to the finish in a record breaking time.  That was pretty incredible.  I passed two girls hiking with their dogs, and we joked.  It felt so good to laugh.  I realize now how tense I was for this race.

There were several creek crossings that required you to get your feet wet.  I have resigned myself to blisters on long runs, so I don’t mind wet feet.  The front runner girls passed me when I was at mile 29.5 on their way to the finish.  They were 1.5 miles ahead of me and looking tough.  It was pretty humbling to think that I could have or should have been running with them. Maybe on another day.

I ran into Wyeth at around 31 miles, and I was so happy to see Jon and Cadence.  They were both wet, bless their hearts, from waiting for me in the rain.  I was running way slower than my projected pace, so Jon was guessing my aid station appearances the best that he could while also taking care of a toddler. I resupplied, went to the bathroom, and reluctantly headed back out.  This race wasn’t ever going to end unless I kept moving.

Cascade Locks Aid Station Mile 40

I came into Cascade Locks wanting to find a porta potty.  I had to walk down a hill to find it, and it was occupied, so I decided to just keep moving and pee in the woods.  I actually prefer to go in the woods, so I think I just wasn’t thinking clearly.  In the meantime, another girl ran through and passed me.  I grabbed a PBJ and headed out of the aid station.  The frustrating thing is that I felt like I was running in slow motion.  Compared to the other runners, I was passing some people, and some people were passing me.  But I had been so successful in my training, and I had never felt this slow in a race.  A 13 minute mile feels like forever when you have 20+ miles left to go. And I was really trying. The elevation change was no joke (still), and I was moving as well as I could.  At this point I was truly thinking that I didn’t ever want to run again.  I was thinking through new hobbies that I might like to take up like yoga and wine.  Those activities sounded way more appealing and comfortable at this point of the race.

Yeon Aid Station Mile 49 and Crew #4

I switched watches on my way to Yeon, and either my watch was wrong, or the mile markers were off because I felt like I kept running and running without reaching this aid station.  I reached Jon and Cadence at Yeon, and Jon knew exactly how to talk to me and feed me.  Nutrition and hydration had not been a problem for me all day (at least something was going right), and I relied mostly on Honeystinger gels, chews, and waffles, with the occasional Clif or Bonkbreaker bar as my go-to food.  Seeing Cadence both filled me up and made it really hard to leave (because I knew that my new slow pace would mean it would be a long time before I saw them again).  Jon suggested that I take my headlamp with me *just in case*, and I couldn’t help but feel depressed that this was my new position.  I had expected to finish around 5 pm, not possibly getting back after dark.  Through it all, Jon was nothing but supportive (despite the fact that he had been baby wearing and driving all over Hwy 84 chasing me all day).

I left the aid station and started running the two miles of pavement back to the trail.  This time, it hurt a little bit more, but it felt good to actually see my paces in the 8s and 9s. The miles between Yeon and No Name felt like forever.

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Jon is trying his hardest to pump me up and help me get back out there.

No Name Aid Station Mile 56

Even though I didn’t stop for aid, there is something about reaching an aid station and seeing other people.  A lot of trail racing ends up being time solo on the trails.  Normally that is fine for me, but I was feeling more vulnerable during this race, and I welcomed seeing faces (unless it was a girl passing me, which was just depressing).

The volunteer at the aid station told me that it was just 6 miles to the finish, pretty much 3 up and 3 down.  My watch clocked a bit more than 6 miles to the finish, and those last miles were very hard!  We went back up the mountain at about 1600 feet elevation gain, and back down the mountain.  The switchbacks felt never ending, and I found the uphill actually more comfortable than the downhill. One final girl passed me on the downhill, and I didn’t have anything left in me to chase her down.

Finally reaching the finish was such a combination of emotions.  I was so disappointed in

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Jon is my hero ❤

this race.  I invested too much time in training for this to have been the result.  But I was also so happy to be finished and reunited with my family.   As always, Jon was my biggest cheerleader, and he took care of me by getting me pizza and introducing me to his new friends (while still wearing the baby).  I got to see my new friend, Sara, at the finish.  She came in 8th place about 30 minutes before me.

I ended up placing 12th female in 13:27 hours.  While this was not the way that I anticipated the race to go, I definitely learned a lot from it.  And, we got a nice little family vacation out of the deal.  Oregon is beautiful, and we thoroughly enjoyed sightseeing around Mt Hood and tasting wine at the local wineries.  I have a few more lessons learned, but I think I’ll save that for another post.  🙂

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Elevation profile by Rainshadow Running

 

About Brokenness

I was talking to my sister the other day about brokenness and how often it is not until we are in a state of brokenness before we truly allow God to work in our lives.  I’m not going to say that Gorge broke me, as that sounds a bit dramatic considering this is a hobby and I finished in a decent time as 12th female.  But the experience helped changed my perspective on a few things, and I came out a different person.  I’ll definitely learn from this one, and hopefully I’ll come out as a better runner (yes, I plan to run again despite what I was thinking around mile 40) and with a better understanding of my purpose.

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Photo credit Glenn Tachiyama

Have you had a race that was really disappointing?  How did you grow from it?

Here is my Milestone Pod data:

And here is my split data (my watch had me going 65 miles and 14,000 feet elevation gain):

splits

Race Report: Warner Robins Aviation Marathon

I started marathon training in November with the idea that I’d run sometime in January and try for a sub-3 hour marathon. My previous PR was a 3:24 from Boston, but my coach planted the seed that a sub-3 hour marathon was possible, and I couldn’t resist.  She created an 8 week plan for me, and I didn’t miss one workout (for better or for worse).

The Week Before

I didn’t actually commit to this race until after New Year’s, which just goes to show how little confidence I had in my body at this point to pull off my goal of a sub-3 hour marathon.  I stayed quiet about race day on Instagram, which if you follow me, you know that I post everything on there.  In November, I was feeling extremely strong, but by the end of December, I was having little (and big) health issues pop up, and I just felt tired. 

Part of my problem in this training cycle is that I was just chronically not getting enough sleep.  Our 15 month old still wakes throughout the night, and with teething and runny noses (both momma and baby), we were have had some rough days and nights.  The week before the race, I finally started going to bed early.  I don’t know why it took me 15 months to finally get my butt into bed early, but it was glorious.  And in a few days, some of my health concerns started to abate and I was feeling human again.  It’s just so hard as a working mom to see above the weeds sometimes. 

I always choose a verse for my goal races, and for this one I wanted something to remind me that God’s love is sufficient, regardless of how I perform.  So, my verse was Phil 4:18a,19 “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied […] And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” I’m thankful that the race went well, but even if it hadn’t, I know that my “medal” isn’t of this earth. It makes it a lot easier to run your heart out when you know that you’ve already won.

The Night and Morning Before

My grandmother lives 30 minutes from Warner Robins, Georgia, so my husband, baby and I stayed with her for the night.  My grandmother’s house wp-1484618173235.jpgis one of my very favorite places to visit to relax, but we had a few unexpected things happen to make the night exciting.  In one sentence: a criminal stole a truck and wrecked it across the street from my grandmother’s house so the five dogs that she is dog sitting barked at the eight cop cars and fire truck that showed up, and the wrecker that was called to tow the stolen truck ran over our water valve, so the water was shut off, and that doesn’t even include the baby who still doesn’t sleep through the night and my aunt who called at midnight to check on us!  🙂

I like to say this for the benefit of the new moms. I am still breastfeeding Cadence at 15 months postpartum, and I have not had any problems with breastfeeding while training and racing.  Everyone is different, but don’t let breastfeeding intimidate you out of competing.  You know your body better than anyone after going through pregnancy, especially if you are a runner.  So I breastfed Cadence the night before and the morning of the race, and then I pumped a couple of ounces in the car on our way to Warner Robins.

Everything went smoothly once we arrived at the race and I checked in.  The forecast changed to be a few degrees warmer than expected with full sun instead of clouds.  Also, the race started 20 minutes later than scheduled, but this wasn’t announced until we were all lined up at the start.  I wasn’t thrilled about the schedule change, but once I set my expectations, everything was fine.

The Start

My prayer was that the paces would come easy.  It’s the best feeling in the world to feel your legs floating during a race.  Thankfully, when the gun went off, everything clicked.  I was running in the low 6:40s , and it felt easy.  I ran with a small group of guys for a few miles, then many of them dropped off.  There were no females in sight.  It wasn’t long before I was running by myself on the course as we spread out.

My goal pace to go sub 3 hours was a 6:52.  Even though I was running faster than I had planned, my new rule is to run by feel.  If 6:40s feels like I’m running at top efficiency, then that is what I am going to do.  I knew that it would only get hotter as the morning grew later, and I wanted to take advantage of feeling good.

The course was not at all beautiful, but it was interesting to see different buildings on the base and see planes peaking out of hangars around the base. The course had minimal elevation change, but it was enough to have to work a little on the hills.  The hardest part was around mile 11.5 (and 24.5) where there was about a mile and a half of gradual incline. The aid stations were about every two miles, but I never felt like I could quite get enough water despite this frequency.

Halfway There

There were very very few spectators since it was a military base, and there were not many volunteers on the course.  I have never known whether I needed the spectators for energy, but I definitely noticed that whenever I passed anyone at all, I got a little bump in my speed.  The sun was out full force by the halfway mark, and I wished that I had worn my hat.  It was in the mid-70s by the time that I finished the run.  Otherwise, I felt pretty good in my zone and I was thoroughly enjoying this run.  This is what we train for and it passes so quickly!  You have to enjoy every mile because there are only 26(.2) of them.

By mile 13, my legs were feeling like they were running in the 6:40s, but I was pretty confident that I could at least keep pace to hit my sub 3 goal. When I passed the mile 13 aid station, I saw my husband and baby, and it was the highlight of my race (other than the finish, haha!).  Mile 13 was the only place where spectators could gather, and since I was completing two loops, I knew that the next time that I would see them was the finish. (Jon gets husband and daddy award of the year for keeping our one year old occupied at the museum while I was out playing. Below: it looks like they had a pretty good time!)

The Finish

So out I went for the second loop.  I knew that I could hit my goal, but I’d have to work for it.  For fuel, I was eating Honey Stinger chews, and I had packed one Honey Stinger gel.  I assumed that the race would have some type of gel at the aid stations, but I was wrong and only saw half bananas at one aid station.  I carried enough food, but would have appreciated a little extra should it have been available.

I was really happy with the Honey Stinger chews, as I was able to eat two or three at a time over the course of the run.  I mixed the caffeine chews with the regular ones in a ziploc bag.  I also ate one Honey Stinger gel before the race and one during the race.  The HS gels taste so good!  I’ve never cared for gels, but these actually taste like honey, and the consistency is more natural.

My left hamstring and both calves were feeling tight, but it was manageable and I was able to sustain a decent pace.  I started to slow to about a 7 minute pace in the last 3 miles, especially for the inclines.  At this point, I was passing a lot of walking half marathoners.  I was just focused on not letting my pace slip so that I could finish the race with a sub 3 hour time.  I kept comparing the last 6 miles of this race to the last 16 miles of the Yeti 100 where my husband helped me shuffle in to the finish. I’m still not sure which one hurt more, but both were uncomfortable and made the finish all the more sweet!

I finally got to the finish… and ran the wrong way!  I passed the turn to the finish, but since there were so many half marathoners around, it took me a minute to understand that the volunteers were telling me to make a turn.  So I took a left turn and finally saw the finish line!  Glory glory!  I saw my handsome husband and cute little baby, and crossed that finish line as first female in 2:58:22!

The awards ceremony was held about an hour after I finished, so Cadence and I ate bagels (and one of us napped) while Jon drove to a Subway to buy us lunch.  We got our award, and then we were off to my grandmother’s house to celebrate and shower.

Thank you to my amazing coach, Michele Yates of Rugged Running, for believing in me and creating a training plan that helped me reach my goals!  Also, thanks to the Warner Robins Aviation Marathon for hosting all of us for a great day of running!

Also, I’ve been training with the Milestone Pod, and here is the data it collected about the running mechanics of my run:

Did anyone else have a big race this weekend?

Race Report: Atlanta Thanksgiving Half Marathon

This is the second year in a row that my husband and I have run the Atlanta Track Club Thanksgiving Half Marathon.  Last year, my husband ran it with me because I had asked him while I was still pregnant if he would sign up with me.  (How can a husband look at his very pregnant wife and say no?!) This year Jon is the one who asked me to run because he wanted to complete the Atlanta Track Club Triple Peach series, and this was the final race in the series. I’m never one to turn down a race! (Or a running husband!)

Jon’s family had come into town from Arkansas, and his dad signed up to run the 5k while we ran the half marathon.  (Jon’s family is amazing, and we always look forward to visits with them.  His aunts and uncles are all hardcore athletes.  It’s pretty cool.)  The three of us drove down to the start area while Jon’s siblings stayed behind to watch Cadence at our house.  We gave ourselves plenty of time for parking, and I pumped in the car in the parking lot once we got settled.  The temperatures had been projected to be in the 30s-40s, but as the sun started to come up, we realized that it would be a warmer day than forecast.  I changed into shorts in the car, and I’m so thankful that I did! (Below, don’t I have a hot husband?!)

When it came close to the race start time, Jon and I went to the portapotties for one last try, and then we ran to the corrals.  We probably cut it a little closer than we should have (especially after just sitting in the car waiting), but we made it to the middle of corral A before the gun went off.  There was a lot of weaving in the beginning, and I have to admit that I get pretty annoyed when very slow runners decide to start at the front of a competitive race.  I am very supportive of anyone who wants to run, but I think we would all have a better time if we started in the appropriate wave. (Right?)

I was hoping to use this race as a gauge of my current marathon training cycle, so I wanted to target at least ~6:50 pace.  Lately I have had some ankle pain, and I was afraid that this might limit me.  Once the race started, I felt light and free, and I was able to easily knock out paces in the mid- 6s.  The course was very hilly, but that did not seem to affect me until about halfway through the race.  I did have to slow down on the hills by around mile 8, but I never felt like I was racing with all of my effort.thanksgivingsplits

I finished with an average pace of 6:41 (gun pace of 6:48), and it definitely wasn’t easy at the end, but I always felt like there was something left in the tank to push harder.  The hills in that race (and every Atlanta race) are no joke, so I’m hoping that a flatter marathon course will be all the easier for me to knock out my paces.  I know that there is a huge difference between the half marathon and the full marathon, but I still feel encouraged by my results.

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Overall, I finished 8th female out of 3,582 female runners, and 3rd in my age group.  The Atlanta Track Club hosts some competitive races, so I am always humbled to try to keep up with the big dogs! 🙂

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On another note, I’ve been having fun with a new running toy, the Milestone Pod, to help me stay aware of my gait mechanics. Below are some of the data points that the little pod offers.  My stride length is normally in the mid forties on training runs, so it is interesting that it is longer in a racing environment.  I’m hoping to improve my ground contact time, but so far, I haven’t managed to lower it.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!  Now on to Christmas!!

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 Report: PNC Atlanta 10 Miler

My husband and I signed up for the Triple Peach race series through the Atlanta Track Club img_20161023_135538in the beginning of the year, and the second of the three ATC races was held this past Sunday.  The series includes the Fourth of July AJC Peachtree Road Race 10k, the PNC Atlanta 10 Miler, and the Thanksgiving Half Marathon.  After just running the Yeti 100 at the end of September, I have been taking a mini break from running in October, focusing on cross training and strength work.  But I was curious to see what kind of speed my legs had in them after pushing my limits on a 100 mile race three weeks ago.

Plus, I am determining my next race goals, so I wanted to see what a sustainable fast pace would feel like.  I did not go into the 10 miler with a goal to “race”, but rather to get a feel for my legs to see if November would be practical to jump right back into training. On Saturday the day before the race, I “hiked” 5 hilly miles with the dog and stroller and then did 2.5 hours of strength work.  The PNC Atlanta 10 Miler was not a goal race, so I was not concerned about tired legs from the strength work.

We woke up the morning of the race, got dressed, and dropped the baby off with a babysitter. I pumped in the car, and then we sat in race day traffic trying to get into the parking deck at Atlantic Station, where the race start and finish were located.  Once parked, Jon and I ran to the start area with the hopes of finding porta potties on the way.  I wanted to try to go before the race started, but unfortunately, the lines were really long, and the porta potties were very poorly located right in the race line-up traffic.  Jon waited with me in line, and then we hurried to line up for the race as it was starting.

This race was a “self-seed” but we were so late that we ended up running with Wave C, not my first choice.  As soon as we lined up for the start of our wave, I realized that I had forgotten my music in the car.  I really love to run with music, especially if I am going to put forth effort on the run.  Given that we were starting with the C wave, I knew that this wasn’t going to be an A race anyway, so I shook it off and waited for the gun.

The weather was perfect for a fall run in the low 40s with sunshine.  The race started for our wave about 5 minutes after the first wave was released.  I raced ahead out of the crowd and pretty quickly reached the previous wave participants who had already reduced their paces to a jog or walk.  This course surprised me in how hilly it was, and I had a little more challenge weaving around other slower runners on the uphills in the beginning of the race.  Within a few miles, I was relatively unhindered by my wave start and did not have to weave quite as much as we all spread out.

For an early, cooler Sunday morning, crowd support was fantastic!  There were several posts with great cheerleaders dressed in different themes along the course.  Water and fuel were provided, but I did not pay attention to the frequency, as I did not need to hydrate or fuel for such a short distance in the cooler temps.

I felt strong for the entire race. It was hilly, but I enjoyed the hills.  I stopped looking at my paces on my watch because the ups and downs of the hills made paces so hard to track for an overall average, and I was really just focused on seeing how my legs felt, not how fast I could run.  I was putting forth effort, but I never felt like I was exerting for a race pace.

After just running 100 miles, 10 miles really does not seem like that far, even if it is with a greater intensity.  When we reached mile 9, I picked up the pace a little and finished strong.  I had no idea where my place among the females would be, as I started in Wave C.  After the race, I found out the results that I finished 8th overall female and 2nd in my age group.  My overall pace was 6:44 min/mile, which makes me feel more confident about my future race goals for the marathon.

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Overall, both my husband and I had a great time running the Atlanta 10 Miler.  10 miles is a middle distance right between trying to run really fast but still maintain some steam for endurance.  The ATC did a great job putting on the race, from packet pick-up to race execution.  My only complaint was that the porta potties were placed in a very bad location so that the lines were cramped near the start. It was our fault for arriving without time to spare. Life is very different with a baby but we wouldn’t have it any other way!

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Have you run your first fall race of the season yet?  Cooler temperatures are glorious!