The Other Half, Moab

Race photos are finally up, my legs are mostly not sore anymore, and the blisters on my pinkie toes have receded to mild bruising – time for a race report!

I was pretty excited going into this half marathon since I had 8 weeks of solid 30+ mile weeks in my legs and several 12+ mile long runs, plus some strong half-marathon focused workouts. My long tempo (7 miles at marathon pace + 10 seconds) had gone well and predicted that I could probably handle low 7:20’s pace, which would put me well under my goal of 1:40.

Unfortunately, I was also *extremely* nervous about the potentially hot weather and longer race than I’d run since over two years ago. I completed my final ¬Ĺ-focused workout and felt ok but not great, and then spent the next couple days nursing a strange little Achilles twinge that popped up seemingly out of the blue after a hilly easy run. After a couple days off my last couple shakeout runs went by without any pain, and I went into race morning no longer thinking about the prospect of crippling injury.

I met up with Fish in Moab the day before the race and we camped out that night, tossing and turning with pre-race nerves.

I was having a *great* time dealing with some cramps and spent my pre-race prep swallowing ibuprofen in the hopes that it would keep the discomfort from impacting my race. On race morning I took a couple final doses as we drove down the winding dirt road back into town at 6am to meet the race shuttles. Fish and I ate some pre-made bagels and yogurts as well boarded the shuttle, and then spent 40 minutes shivering with nerves and cold as the bus wound through the dark canyon along the race route to the start.

We disembarked, spent about half an hour milling about the porte-potty lines, and then reluctantly took our warm gear to the gear-drop van. We spent the last 15 minutes before the race doing a ~1 mile jog to get the feeling back in our limbs (it was in the low 40’s) and then bouncing up and down to stay warm in the starting corral. As the starter made the pre-race announcements we hugged and went our separate ways to our respective pace groups to line up. The local Moab drumming group led us on a slow march to the starting line and then rode their truck off down the course that we would soon be covering much more slowly on foot.

The start was uneventful – a simple ‘1-minute to go’ announcement, a quiet wait, and then the gun. I took off in a small herd and tried to relax, letting the sprinters and speedsters fly ahead. My watch told me I was just a bit under pace so I settled in and let the slight downhill carry me along. At the 1 mile I passed a few people who’d started out too fast but otherwise mostly held even with all but the lead group who were already pulling way. The next few miles followed the same trend, with steady mid-7-teens showing on my watch and the quiet patter of feet providing the only distraction from the long road ahead.

At mile 4 I started to get passed and got a bit concerned. However, my watch still showed relatively even splits and I felt like I was pushing just as much as I could without going too far so I let the passers ease ahead and worked to just stay relaxed and keep an eye on the people who seemed to be holding my same pace. I had a nice chat with one younger guy who thanked me for acting as a good pacer as he pulled slightly ahead, and spent some time admiring another gal’s unique attire and earrings as she ran just ahead of me. I still felt good enough to chat briefly ¬†with my fellow racers and examine my surroundings, and was able to get enough water at the aid stations to avoid feeling thirsty in the still-chilly air. I felt a small Achilles twinge but had no lingering pain so was only mildly worried.

As we passed the 6-mile aid station I told myself that the race was ‘half over plus a bonus mile’ and focused on keeping my pace up while not thinking too much about the remaining miles or my Achilles, which had developed an annoying habit of twinging¬†once or twice a mile whenever I hit a slight downhill or stepped too hard. The cycle of one mile without an aid station and one with every two miles was breaking the race up nicely, and the volunteers were enthusiastic and well organized, making the water stops smooth and upbeat. Mile 7 was our last flat mile and I just focused on relaxing and gradually working towards the small forms of the racers ahead. I worried a bit that the climbs would aggravate my Achilles issue, but figured I wouldn’t know till I took my first few uphill steps.

We finally hit the climbs, and the first big climb actually turned out to provide a nice boost as I passed several racers who I’d only expected to see the backs of for the rest of the race. My calf/Achilles actually felt better on the climbs than the slight downhills so I figured it couldn’t be too much of a serious problem. The climb to mile 8 cover 170 feet and gave me my slowest split (8:01) but the experience of passing people on the climb counteracted my concerns about the slower pace. The next mile was downhill, and then to ten miles was rolling climbs and drops. The downhills had luckily stopped aggravating my Achilles (thanks endorphins!) but were now making my feet suffer. Every downhill made my feet slide forward in my shoes, grinding my soles against the footbed and scraping my toes against the front of my shoes. I’d never had this problem in training, but had also never done quite such a long hilly run on the asphalt.

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I can’t decide if this is a smile or a grimace :-[]

Hitting eight miles had put me at the ‚ÖĒ mark and the prospect of only having 3 miles left when I hit the ten-mile marker put a little pep back in my legs, which were starting to suffer from the climbs. I had passed a few more men on the uphills with my short, quick stride and was now surrounded by a small group of older men, with the nearest woman about 30 seconds ahead. As we crested the final hills at 11.5 miles the drummers were there again, and the beat of the drums simultaneously gave me the shivers (thanks late-race, overly-emotional running brain…) and gave me a beat to run to up the final incline. From there it was all downhill or flat. I threw a last cup of water over my head at the 12-mile aid station in the hopes that the cold water would shock me into some sort of final push.

The men around me began to pick up the pace in the last half mile, but the final stretch turned out to be frustratingly long, with several twists and turns before the hidden finish. I prayed there wasn’t another runner gaining on me as I failed to hold off the group of men who I’d caught on the last hill. I was suffering and didn’t have any extra energy left to pick up the pace and fight off any kickers. We dropped down to 6:40 pace and it was all I could do to keep the group in sight as I flailed and gasped my way around the multiple blind turns.

Mercifully, I *finally* turned the final curve and only had 100m to go, and no one came up on me in that last straight. I got close enough to read the finishing clock and gave a low energy “whoop!” in my mind when I saw a ‘1:3_’ in front of the final digit rather than a 1:4-something. I heard someone yell out “seventh woman!” as I came through and managed a smile for that and the wonderful volunteers who were handing out medals and directing the runners towards the water.

I stumbled about for a bit and then grabbed some food and rushed back to cheer in Fish, who finished right on the dot of her ambitious ‘A’ goal with a perfect 10-minute-pace average (off of mainly hiking/backpacking training!). We spent the rest of the after-race celebration limping on sore feet and enjoying the bountiful feast of ice cream, chocolate milk, watermelon, and, a rare thing on a Utah Sunday, beer! I got a very unexpected¬†age-group win and we both enjoyed some fun chats with fellow runners before heading back to the shuttles and some more substantial lunch food.

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Boom! We did it ūüėÄ

Looking back at my past races this spring/summer I realized that I ran this 13.1 mile race at the same pace that I held for my 5-mile race back in May! Going from a 37 minute all-out 5-miler to a 1:36:40 half marathon makes all those arduous workouts, tedious recovery runs, and tough long runs feel much more effective and much more worthwhile. This is also my first actual PR since my toe injury almost 5 years ago, so I’m both extremely pleased with the race and excited to see what I can do next season.

Hurrah for awesome racing buddies, only mildly unhappy Achilles tendons, challenging (but fun) courses, and the blessing of being able to train and then actually apply the resulting fitness in a good race!

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Half marathon next weekend!!!

As I mentioned in a previous post I’m signed up for a half marathon in Moab this year and am hoping to set a new half PR of something-under-1:40. Well, I’ve reached the point where race day is now only 8 days away (ahhhhh!!!!) and I figured I’d talk a bit about my training, and then we’ll see in a week how effective it actually has been!

I realized about 6 weeks out that I should probably do some race-specific training rather than sticking to 5k training till the day-of and then going out like a wild woman for 3 miles before collapsing. Even if the fitness is there, some actual race-pace training is always a good idea! I searched around online for intermediate 13.1 training plans (i.e., wanting to race/hit a goal time in addition to finishing) and decided on this plan from Kara Goucher that was posted on the Oiselle site. I wouldn’t always trust an Olympian to write a good ‘normal person’ training plan, but this one appeared to ¬†do a great job of balancing tough-but-doable workouts with a reasonable amount of mileage. The plan starts off with the expectation of some base having been put into place, with a fartlek workout in week 1, and then moves to ¬Ĺ marathon pace work at week 5.

Since I only had 5 weeks before my race I hopped into the plan at week 6, figuring my trail season and cross-country work would serve as a fine substitute for the initial 5 weeks of workouts. Luckily I was correct and the transition to half marathon workouts went pretty smoothly. Honestly, I might recommend a little bit of speedier work leading into the ¬Ĺ marathon workouts since the switch to a more relaxed pace balances the intimidation that comes with the introduction¬†of the longer, more tedious workouts.

I steadily worked my way through each of the written workouts, plus weekend cross-country races on weeks 7 and 8. I’m trying to keep up some 5k speed so the races served as good short-but-hard efforts that balanced well with the more tempo-type half marathon workouts. With the lower mileage plan (peaking at 33-50 miles depending on which level one picks – I picked the lower mileage plan) 2 hard efforts didn’t wear me down too much. I just completed the final big workout with a 7-mile tempo run – my longest since college!!! – and am excited to test out my fitness next weekend.

The one other thing that I did to deviate from the written plan was to add a few miles onto the written long runs. The 10-week plan’s long runs start at 5 miles and peak at 11 miles. Since I was already doing 10 mile long runs when I would have started the 10 weeks I was able to gradually add miles without overdoing it and included four runs of 12-14 miles over the last few weeks. I’m dropping down to 8 miles this week, as suggested by the plan, and with a few longer runs in my legs and a nice taper I’m confident that I can make it the full 13.1 miles at the very least.

The last factor going into this race is hydration and fueling. I’ve been taking a gel for practice on some of my long runs since I won a full box of them at one of the trail races and my tongue and stomach handle them fine. I just did a race-pace fueling and drinking test during this week’s 7 mile tempo and everything went smoothly other than one inhaled mouthful of water. I’m thinking gels at 4 and 8 miles should be adequate since they’re 32g of carbs and those markers should give me about 30g per 30 minutes as recommended. I’ll bring one extra in case I start dreaming of bagels at mile 10 but don’t think I’ll need it. My main worry is water – I don’t often get a chance to practice drinking out of cups and am worried that a choking sip every 2 miles at the water stations won’t be enough to keep me hydrated. It’s also nice to be able to sip the water over a longer period rather than gulping it, and cups don’t seem conducive to carrying ¬†water along for sipping over a half-mile or so.

I carried a half-full soft flask bottle from my Salomon pack during the tempo this week and it worked great…but only holds 250 mL when half filled for comfortable carrying at race pace. Based on the fact that I drained the half-bottle during the tempo plus warmup/cooldown 250 mL seems like only enough for about 9 miles of comfortable sipping. I’m also a little concerned that my arm might get tired and then I’ll be annoyed to be lugging the dang thing. I’m planning to run with it again on my 8-miler today so that should give me more info. Maybe I’ll carry the bottle and then switch to cup sipping at the miles 8-10 water stations if needed?

 

Any good tips from the long-haul runners out there re: carrying bottles and/or drinking out of cups? Will I actually need that much water or is the constant mild dehydration induced by living at altitude making me paranoid?

Trail 1/2 Marathon: Post-race

I survived!

Race-day dawned chilly and damp Рperfect conditions for me and my lackluster ability to perform well in the heat.  I drove out to the course and got to enjoy the sight of the early morning fog settled around the hills along the highway.  I arrived in plenty of time to do a little shake-out walk (skipped the usual running/drills warm-up routine since 13.1 miles was already long enough to push my luck on my still-healing foot and low fitness level) and do the whole pee-a-billion-times thing.

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Pre-race view of the course (those hill up yonder ha ha).

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Pre-race walk (can you spot the bluebird?)

At start-time I stripped down to my capri-tights, singlet, and arm sleeves and met one of the other racers (a speedy girl I know from the series last year Рand the to-be race winner) to line up at the start.  The horn sounded, and we were off!

The race director had warned about the mud, and man was she right! ¬†In the first 200m my shoes collected enough mud that my legs were struggling to swing my feet back in front of me each time I took a step. ¬†The course gradually turned to gravel and the clods of mud gradually got flung off (a girl I was running next to called these mud clumps “dingleberries.” ¬†Not exactly the reference I would have gone with, but it made me laugh). ¬†We headed up into the hills and got ready to hang in for the long haul.

I felt pretty good the first 3 miles, and then hit a rough patch from 4-7. ¬†I’ve been struggling with some stress/anxiety stuff lately, and apparently my problems followed me on to the course. ¬†I can usually block out “real life” stuff while on the run, but kept thinking about all the work I need to get done and all the stressful things that I’ve been struggling with. ¬†This led to some near-hyperventilation and was extremely distracting from my actual goal of racing. ¬†Luckily, I fell in with a nice little pack around mile 6 and the steady rhythm and break from having to focus on my own pace/ankle-breaking-rock-avoidance let me calm down and get focused back in on the race. ¬†Around mile 8, the girl ahead of me and I took advantage of the aid-station slowdown and to break away from our little pack and pick up the pace.

I had a great time running with my new-found pace buddy for the next few miles. ¬†However, my lack of training hit with a vengeance at mile 11, and I hit the wall hard. ¬†I fell back from the lady I’d been running with and even took a couple walk-breaks on the hills. ¬†Even though I knew I had less than 3 miles left and was trying to motivate myself to finish strong, every 50 meters had begun to seem like an eternity, and my hips were cramping up enough that I started to worry about pulling a hip flexor. ¬†A younger guy in front of me was coming back (and also taking some walk breaks) and I managed to hold it together long enough to catch up with him, allowing us to work together and hold a decent pace for the last 800m.

I have never been so relieved to see a finish line in my life.

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Looking back, I wish I hadn’t walked, but I just didn’t have the willpower today. ¬†Lack of sleep, and a stressful and emotionally draining week left me lacking that extra competitive flame this morning. ¬†However, I managed to finish as the 4th female overall, and did enjoy the muddy, XC-style course for all but a few miles. ¬†For my fitness, I held on pretty long and pushed the pace more than I had expected to be able to. ¬†Last year I experienced similar problems (drastic drop in energy the last 2 miles) and took 1 pause-and-collect-myself break, going on to win the women’s race and place top 10 overall. ¬†This year, I ran slower, walked a few times more, and finished further back, but probably did as well, or better, considering my low mileage (20 MPW, 12 miles for longest run).

Best parts of the race?

1)  The mud,

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2) ¬†the post-race weather- sunny but gorgeous clouds (and yummy Nuun to go along with the warm sun) ¬†ūüôā

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3) and the swag – got a pint glass, a medal, and won a hat for my age-group placing!

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