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 ½-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 ⅔ 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 😀

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!

Team

Guess what I finally got in the mail! My Oiselle Voleé singlet! I’ve been (impatiently) awaiting it’s arrival since the original team membership order this Spring, and had almost given up hope on its arrival after the original order was lost by the USPS forwarding office. However, it finally made its way to me and I am thrilled that I’ll be able to officially represent the team next time I race!

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Why am I so excited to join this team? After all, I’ve seen a few criticisms about the newest form of the team, including the comments that it’s too big, too impersonal, or is a trick to get people to pay to advertise the company’s clothing. From what I know the original team was much smaller and had a few more perks, so in comparison the newer team set-up, with many more members, a focus on online rather than face-to-face interaction, and a membership fee rather than exclusively free perks.

I did consider these cons when applying, and decided I still had many reasons to be enthusiastic about the joining the team. Individual enthusiasm for this form of team may vary, but here’s what has me excited to fly with the Voleé:

  1. Virtual/wide-spread team isn’t  really a negative for me. Sure, I’d love to have people to train with on a regular basis, but I also enjoy the ability to run at whatever time I need to on a given day, and the freedom to modify my training plan and running routes on the fly. My recent experiences with friends in creating virtual teams for encouragement and accountability with training has shown me that being surrounded by team, even if you’re not actually training physically together, is still valuable to staying positive and motivated during the rough patches of training, and being encouraged to celebrate each small success during better times.
  2. I’ve observed great team cohesiveness with all the Voleé that I’ve met in person and online, and I am also ok with not personally knowing every single member of the team. I’d love to meet all the women in my state section of the team, and will definitely seek out teammates to run with/cheer with when I travel out of state. The lack of exclusivity isn’t a problem for me – with a larger team that just means more likelihood of finding women to run with.
  3. The purpose of the membership fee and the benefits that go along with it were clear and seemed reasonable to me. The fee included a singlet and spike bag, membership to the team forums and newsletters, a discounted pair of shorts/tights, free shipping, special team-only sales or early access to sales/items, and a donation to the developing athletes fund. Some of these definitely encourage more clothing purchases, but honestly, anyone joining the team probably already likes Oiselle’s clothing so isn’t suffering too much from the purchase-related perks. I’m honestly ecstatic to have a team singlet that isn’t huge/stinky/required to be turned back in at the end of the season (as I did in every school xc and track program), and can’t wait to use the discount on some pricy tights this winter which I probably wouldn’t be able to buy otherwise (ah, the good Colorado winters…tights wear out quickly up here). Being able to contribute to the emerging athlete fund is extremely valuable to me as I have several friends who are currently in that category, one of whom runs for Oiselle. In my current financial circumstances (i.e., not grad school) I’d actually give more to the fund if that was an option.

I’ve already met 3 teammates in person, and look forward to meeting more as I watch for matching singlets at races (should be easy to spot with the snazzy, eye-catching design!). I’ll admit the singlet also brings with it dreams of open meet cross-country teams, relays, and feeling at least sort-of legit if I end up lining up for any track races next Spring/Summer.

Sure, one doesn’t need an official team to do these things, but I’m excited to move forward with a supportive, enthusiastic team of athletes to call on when I need a boost during a busy, exhausting week, a group to cheer with, or a singlet to run beside in a challenging race.

#headupwingsout

Race report: LaSportiva Boneyard Boogie 11k trail race

Saturday’s race started off tough a few weeks ago when I previewed the course and apparently overextended myself to the point of becoming ill. I tried to shake off the less-than-great impression of the course, but still felt some lingering dread even through Friday’s (heavy-legged) shakeout run. I knew the course was exceptionally tough, and I feared that my relatively low endurance level would turn the majority of the race into a heavy-legged slog.

Luckily, I received two unexpected confidence boosters for this race that stemmed from my decision to join the Oiselle Volee. First, upon arriving home on tired, achy legs and feet on Friday night I discovered a mysterious brown envelope that turned out to be the Oiselle Volee welcome mailer! I immediately added the enclosed ‘I run for Oiselle’ sticker to my water bottle sticker collection and savored the cheerful surprise while downing some pasta and spending some quality time with my foam roller.

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On race morning I received another needed boost in the form of a Oiselle singlet flashing by during my warmup. I ended up stretching next to the singlet’s wearer (Rachel) and asked if she was with the local Oiselle group. It turned out she was from a few towns West and was returning to the trail series after a year or so off for a back injury. We happily chatted as we walked to the start and lined up together on the line. As the wave of racers took off onto the short dirt road stretch before the single track I tucked in behind her and we climbed the first hill together. The feeling of having a teammate and a singlet to keep an eye on in the crowd of runners brought me back to my high school and college days and provided reassurance during the heart-pounding uphill sprint to the single track.

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The quick course narrowing meant spending time in trains, trailing slower runners and then sprinting past groups of 1 or 2 on the turns or slightly wider sections. I was fortunate to be in almost exactly the same shape as my new-found teammate, and we spent the first 1.5 miles within a few runners, alternating between settling in and popping out wide to surge ahead in the line of runners.

At around the 1.5 mile mark I felt good and pushed ahead a bit, passing Rachel and another woman. I kept climbing, feeling pretty good until 2.5 miles. After 2.5 things started to get tough since we’d been climbing steadily since the start and it was beginning to warm up as the sun rose higher overhead. I focused on keeping the doubts quiet and impatiently looked for the 2nd aid station, which signaled the switch to downhill running.

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Up, up, up, doooooown

The 2nd aid station finally appeared out of the sagebrush and I happily grabbed some water, choked on it, and started my descent. I hadn’t gone more than half a mile when I heard two runners thundering down the windy, steep singletrack behind me, feet moving at least twice as fast as mine. I couldn’t match their speed so pulled to the side and let them pass. Happily, one was a buddy from running club and one was an extremely long-legged dude, so I didn’t feel too bad letting them wiz by at breakneck speed.

However, I really struggle with the downhill speed, especially on tired legs, and I was soon passed by another woman. The day had started to get truly hot and I was beginning to drag. Getting passed was discouraging, but luckily balanced out by the opportunity to pass several younger men/boys who had apparently gone wayyyy too hard in the first 3 miles. Around mile 5 I realized I only had 2 miles left and briefly pushed the pace. However, the heat and my own exhaustion fought back, and I paused briefly on the side of the trail as an unpleasant combination of despair in ever being done and hyperventilation overcame me. A woman’s voice from behind yelled ‘Are you ok?’ and snapped me out of my little pity party. I yelled back that I was fine and began running again to try to stay ahead of this concerned rival. We ran together over the last mile, with me focusing intently on matching her (much smoother) stride in an effort to stick with her.

With 400m left I knew I wasn’t going to catch her, so I just focused on pushing through the last (paved & flat, hallelujah!) little bit to keep anyone from sneaking by behind me.

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Pace/elevation profile. Windy trails do not make for steady running 😛

In the end, Rachel finished just 40 seconds back and we ended up placing 1-2 in our 20-29 age group. Go birds! I was happily surprised by the placing, and with my overall 8th place in the Women’s category, considering the relatively deep field of local ultra stars and serious trail racers. I finished in just under an hour – decent considering the course record of 51:08 and my complete inability to ride the downhill rather than clomping down it like an overly-cautious draft horse.

The after party was excellent (yogurt, pasta, salad, and a gear raffle) and any disappointment with my race (like the stopping and downhill struggle) was alleviated by the great atmosphere and post-race talk with the many friends from running and cycling club, plus my newly-met Volee teammate, who’d joined in the fun.

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The two lessons I took away from today’s race:

  1. Team helps soooo much. I’d almost forgotten this with all the decent runs alone lately, but it really does help to have the moral support and team mentality mid-race.
  2. I am in desperate need of some downhill form work and downhill strides to help with my speed. It’s free velocity so I really shouldn’t turn it down.

No, I didn’t just join for the snazzy singlet (although they are AMAZING)

About 5 months ago in mid-December, as snow piled up outside and I tried my best to tune out the cold basement air and whirring of my bike tire against the trainer drive, I balanced my phone on the handlebars of my bike and watched the green grass and tan sand of a sunny cross-country course become obscured by a flowing river of brightly dressed runners on the Oiselle Periscope broadcast of the USATF Club XC Nationals women’s race. In contrast to the later official post-race broadcast by USATF TV, this view of the race was bumpy, loud, and chaotic, immersing me in the XC atmosphere on the sidelines and pulling me along as the video stream recorded the frantic cheering-spot-to-cheering-spot sprints that are unique to XC. The cheering around the recording phone increased with each passing Oiselle runner and I found myself smiling, remembering the excitement of running around on a warm-up or on aching post-race legs to cheer on the JV women’s squad or the men’s teams as a high-school and collegiate XC athlete. As I cross-trained alone in my chilly basement the brief vicarious feelings of team membership added to my growing desire to find some way to return to the team atmosphere in my running life.

5 months later and I am now a member of that same team that I enjoyed a live-stream based comradery with while watching that XC race. I had been looking for a way to return to the comradery and extra motivation provided by being a member of a team since a few months after my undergraduate graduation, and that shaky live-stream view of the competing Oiselle teams and supporting cheers reminded me of exactly what I missed about being on a team. When the Oiselle Volée started hinting at a potential new batch of team memberships this Spring I began seriously considering the idea of joining the team.

I had also looked at some other team options this winter, including racing for a team back in my home town that a former teammate runs for, trying to create a team with some other post-collegiate running friends, or just racing in my cycling club’s colors. However, the Volée had some additional aspects that appealed to me over these other possibilities.

Each of my options would provide a long-distance network of supportive and inspiring teammates and a jersey run in, but the Volée option had the added benefits of a much larger and wide-spread team, an established network of existing teammates and platforms for interacting with them online and in person, an association with a company that focuses on women’s running and female leadership, and the perks of free shipping and periodic special deals on running clothing line that combines beauty and function in a uniquely appealing way.

Lastly, by joining this team I had the opportunity to help support the professional division of the team, as 25% of the membership cost goes to supporting the Oiselle Emerging Athlete Fund. As someone with several former teammates who’ve gone pro (one of whom runs for Oiselle), and who cares strongly about the professional side of women’s competitive running, the ability to directly contribute even a small portion to helping developing professionals stay in the sport was incredibly appealing. Oiselle’s decision to use the team membership cost in part as a tool for supporting elite-level competitive female runners goes along with their history of a positive attitude towards competition and supporting the wider issues of fair play, athlete sponsorship that acknowledges athletes as whole people rather than purely numbers, and the balance between team/inclusion and fierce competitiveness.

I can’t wait to rejuvenate my own sense of team and competitiveness as I gain amazing new teammates to cheer with and for, local/regional runners to support, compete with, and learn from in-person, and an enormous virtual, world-wide cheering squad that I will have the privilege to represent every time I put on the Volée racing singlet.

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A long week

Oof, well that was quite the week! I’m finally sitting down with MountainMan reading and drinking some Sunday afternoon coffee. It’s been a week crammed with good and bad, stressful and fun, and I’m glad to finally have some slow, quiet time to process everything before I start again tomorrow.

The bad/stressful: 

  • 4:20am wake ups on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday + 12 hour days Monday and Tuesday due to work events/meetings.
  • MM being gone all week for a funeral 😦
  • Taking care of furbaby – fun but stressful since he seems to act up when anxious about MM being gone
  • Some disconcerting work stuff 
  • Thought MM had crashed because the 100 mile drive from the airport today took him 4 hours. Nope, he just stopped to nap and didn’t tell me
  • A crazy commute Thursday that involved bad bus schedules, lost car keys, cycling in 27 degree weather, and misplaced office keys. And then, thankfully, free bacon

The good:

  • Science club students rocked it at their final presentations! So proud 🙂 
  • Tempo run on weds started wayyyyy too fast but then I held on and managed to drop almost 20 seconds in the last mile, totally shocking myself
  • Finished another conference abstract and made good progress on the study design and budget (new skill, yay!) for a new study – actually felt focused and productive even after 2×12 hour days to start the week
  • May have found a new road bike! 
  • Found a sweeeet new dirt-road running route and got to explore it with furbaby

  • Joined the #oisellevolee team! So excited to be on a team with new and former teammates 🙂 More on this coming soon…

  • Related: Started planning my summer race season and got wayyyy too excited. All the trail races!
  • Finished up a 30-mile week (woohoo!) with a sunny, celebratory shake-out run 


After all that I’m grateful to have a few hours to relax and recharge before jumping back in to work, another week of training, and the general stress of adult life. Thank goodness for my favorite fleecy blankets, comfy old track-team sweatshirt, and decaf evening coffee 🙂

Time to do some sewing!

I’ve been seeing some neat singlets at the running store lately – they are made of a stretchy mesh material which would be perfect for the summer heat.  They are a little sheer, but more coverage than a sports bra.  Here’s one of my favorites from Oiselle: http://www.oiselle.com/shop/running-tops/mio-mesh-tank.  Isn’t it lovely and breezy looking?  Although I’m generally comfortable in a sports bra, I’m sometimes a little self conscious prancing about half naked, especially if I’m running on campus where I’m liable to bump into some of my students or some of the faculty that I’m working for/taking courses from.  The mesh would be perfect – cool enough to avoid unnecessary roasting, but enough cover to feel prim and proper ha ha 😉

Unfortunately, each of the tops that I’ve seen are about $50 – $60.  That’s a bit on the pricey side considering my stipend level.  Rather than purchasing the tanks, I think I might buy a couple yards of fabric (definitely less than $50!) and sew some custom-made running tops for myself before the summer ends 🙂

Here’s a few sketches of what I’m envisioning: 

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Might make the back cut-outs with a contrasting mesh underneath rather than bare, or do some layering with some a larger weave of the same mesh color for texture.  

Now I’ve just got to get over to Joanne’s and see what my options are for fabric…

To bun or not to bun…

I was browsing the Oiselle catalogue this morning (http://www.oiselle.com) and came across this lovely ad for buns (aka bum-huggers/racing briefs):

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My first thought was “Ooh, I need those!”  My second thought was “Huh, would I actually feel comfortable wearing buns in a road race?”  This thought kind of surprised me, because when I was running in college I LOVED the buns.  They were the least heat-trapping/restrictive, didn’t ride up like boy-shorts, revealed my *super cool* tan lines beautifully, and gave the amusing impression that I had totally forgotten shorts and was racing in my underwear.  What could be better?

Here’s a lovely demo of my buns obsession – yep, I’m the only person on our team wearing the things (ours were not nearly as cute as the Oiselle ones):

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But now, with no team to make me look (and feel) legit in a “serious runner” uniform, race times several minutes slower than my college PR’s, and a few extra pounds cushioning my thighs, I don’t know if I could pull off the buns look.

Any other ladies like wearing buns/bum-huggers/racing briefs (and do any of you wear them for racing when it’s not part of a team uniform)?  What would you think if you saw a recreational runner wearing them on the starting line of your local 5k/10k/marathon?