Monday, September 28, 2009

VA 10 Miler - Lynchburg, VA

I don't recommend preparing for a 10 mile race in this fashion: First, the day before run 14 miles at marathon pace(for me that's 9min miles). Then, wear your contacts too long and irritate your eyes to the point that they're swollen and painful. Schedule a swing band gig the night before and play your trombone until 11pm. Get home at about 1am. Get up at 3am and have your husband drive you 3 hours to the race(at least that part was smart). Try to sleep in the car. Pick the hilliest 10 mile road race in Virginia. Take some Excedrin to try and get the swelling out of your eye and the headache right above the eye (the little boost of caffeine doesn't hurt either). Now for the race strategy: Take advantage of the down hill in the beginning and start too fast (7:35 mile 1). Now settle into your normal hilly pattern - pant, wheeze, huff and puff to get up the hill, then sprint down the other side trying to gain momentum to get up the next hill. Get passed on the uphills and pass back on the down hills. At mile 4 don't get too discouraged when the 4 mile racers turn off to go to their finish line. After all, you're almost half way. Ignore the mile splits being called out. Sure you're at 39 minutes at mile 5, but you've got a mile and half hill to climb at the end of the race. Run next to someone who has your same first name and is from the town. When the crowd yells "Go Susan!" pretend they're cheering for you. Take a few seconds to walk through the aid stations and drink some Gatorade. Okay, so it made you nauseous the first time, but now your legs are wanting to cramp. Keep pushing at mile 8 when the legs really start to bother you. Don't look for the top of the hill when you begin that last climb, you're going to be here a while. And don't look at your Garmin, you don't want to know what your pace is. Talk to your legs for the last quarter mile, tell them not to freeze up or go numb. Threaten to drag them kicking and screaming across the finish line. Don't worry about the other people passing you, just get it done. Rejoice when you see the finish time: 1:26:33. Realize you didn't run the tangents and ran 10.13 miles instead of only 10 with an average pace of 8:32. Be proud you put 100% into a race and left nothing on the table. Feel empowered as it says in Philippians 4:13(Amplified):

I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who [a]infuses inner strength into me; I am [b]self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency].


Sunday, September 13, 2009

VA Happy Trails Running Club Women's Half-Marathon

September 12, 2009

After I got home from my swing band gig, I laid out my running gear so that all I would have to do is wake up, get dressed and head out the door. Getting to bed at 12:30am and getting up at 5:30am is not the best race day strategy. It doesn't count that I woke up about once an hour either. The weather was cloudy and cool, not bad for a race day run. Once registered, I did the normal pre-race ritual - stand in line to use the toilets, last minute wardrobe changes, warmup jog, etc. I decided to try my race-vest hydration bladder. I was at my car when they said the race was going to start in a couple of minutes. So I jogged down to the starting line and there was no place to go, except on the front row. The men who were volunteering for this all-women race sang "Happy Trails to You." Ha - it was very off-key and they got a wonderful round of applause. Then it was time to go! I was running with the leaders and they had no idea where they were going (neither did I). They started to head out to the road and the poor guy standing there was pointing the way, only it was the wrong way! "This way!" a bunch of women shouted as they headed to finish the parking lot loop. So we had to back track a few yards. The first 1/2 mile or so was on a road and it was fast. I couldn't believe how quickly the leaders pulled ahead of everyone. Of course, I started off way too fast - but that's my normal procedure (first mile was 8:15). Finally we turned to do the trail running and I was in a group of about 5-10 women. The trails weren't as muddy as I envisioned except in the bottom of some of the steeper inclines, and they looped through the woods, which was good, because although it was cool, it was also very humid. I stayed with this group for a while, we would change positions periodically depending on the terrain. At the first aid station (2.8 miles) I kept moving and the group spread out more. This is the "Do Loop" section, complete with relics from the 50s - a Ford Fairlane and a Nash Rambler. How they got back there in the woods, who knows. This section runs down by the reservoir and then back up to the aid station in a series of up and down hills. I was able to pass a few people on these hills and felt pretty strong coming back up to the aid station. I passed a woman who was being helped by the volunteers. She had gotten stung by a bee, tried to keep running, but it must have started to affect her. I again ran through the aid station and left behind the group I was running with. Now I was alone and scared that I was going to get lost in the woods. Plus, how do you pace yourself when you've got no one breathing down your back as you're climbing hills? I went like this for a while and eventually someone caught up to me and passed me. Actually two or three women passed me on the steep hill climbs. I was about at the half-way mark and starting to feel it. On some of the steeper hills, I was pushing hard (now that I had company) and was feeling pretty light headed by the top. I would use the downhills to recover and would usually gain ground on the woman in front of me. This is when the woman in orange passed me. At least I could keep an eye on her. Finally I made it to the last section of the run, an out and back, 2.5 miles each way. Because I had water with me, I again ran by the aid station, but walked a little to take a gel(with caffeine). Dang it, if a couple more passed me. In this section, the hills were both longer and steeper, and because this was an out and back you could see the leaders coming in for their final mile or two. Those ladies couldn't have walked up any of the hills, even the steepest. I usually took my cue from whoever was in front of me. I was so happy to see the turn around even if it meant climbing up a hill. The guy directing traffic said something about the hills and I said "I'll just take the elevator up." Those were the kind of visuals I was trying to keep in my mind. As I passed the aid station, they asked, "Do you need anything?" I called out, "Yea, I need to finish this thing!" They thought that was pretty funny and cheered me on. 2 miles to go. Now I was watching those behind me head to the turn around. Finally, the last hill. Can I push it harder, oh no my calf thinks it might cramp. Slow down slightly, then hear the guy yelling "400 yds to go!" Finish line in sight - time 2:12:18. It's a done deal! Final results 4th in age group, 38th out of 188 overall. The winner obliterated the record and finished in 1:37:38. The field was much stronger this year and the weather was cooler. In 2008 only 7 runners were under 2 hrs, this year 13 runners.
The lady in orange was 3rd in my age group, I had her in sight most of the 2nd half of the race, just couldn't muster up the strength to pass her. Still thinking about fueling, hydration, and nutrition in general. I can be stronger and faster. This is a good trail race to try to conquer again and maybe be one of the sub 2hr runners.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Run from Hades - Saturday 9/5/09

I knew it was going to be a bad run when I almost had an accident just getting to the starting point. I was going around a curve on a narrow country road when I came face to face with a speedy sports car. I had to drive my car halfway up the embankment to avoid being hit. That was the second time in a week I had a close encounter with another car. My guardian angels were working overtime, and their job was not yet done. My goal was to start at Route 50 in Clarke County by the river and run through Warren County and into Frederick County, ending at Middletown, VA where my daughter was at rehearsal and my husband could pick me up. 28-30 miles of beautiful, rolling country roads. I gave myself 5 hours. The run started off well, my pace was good and there was hardly any traffic, but this was familiar territory for me until about 8.5 miles. Then I turned towards Front Royal. At least here, the road was straight, lots of hills but straight. However the traffic was a bit more than I would have wanted and the cars were going really fast and not slowing down a bit for a lowly runner. And since the only wildlife I had been seeing were the normal cattle and horses, I decided to count roadkill instead. I was up to 5 when I thought I might become roadkill myself by a pickup truck that thinks ditches are the best place for runners. Then I turned onto Fairgrounds Road. Note to runners, if you value your life do not run on Fairgrounds Road. I felt like I was running on a major highway. Problem is, no shoulder and lots of uphill climbing. You couldn't see if there was a car cresting the hill, and they certainly couldn't see you. So my strategy here became, run/jump-in-ditch/run/jump-in-ditch. It was a short stretch of road, but seemed to take forever. Finally, I turned onto a much less traveled road and continued climbing hills. The views were lovely, and I passed the half-marathon mark at about 2hrs15min. I made it out to the highway, crossed it and continued on towards Middletown by way of Reliance Road. Now it was mid afternoon and the sun was beating down on me. Reliance Road continued to climb up, up, up, and I was drinking, drinking, drinking and still having to avoid traffic on another heavily traveled road with very little shoulder. At mile 17, I ran out of water. Okay, no biggie, the town of Reliance is a couple of miles ahead. Surely, they have a general store. So I run for 2 more miles uphill in the sun. Where is that town? Every house I go by, I look to see if someone is sitting on the porch. Would I be so bold as to ask for a little bit of water? But nobody was in their yard. Finally, I think I'm in the middle of Reliance. It's one of those town where the entering/leaving sign is one and the same. There is a church and they are having a yard party at 4pm with homemade icecream, food and drinks - but that's next week! I'm a week early! I had mapped out a two or three mile spur at this point which would get my mileage closer to 30 miles. I decide that to avoid heat exhaustion, I probably better keep moving on the main road. I take to walking up some of the steeper hills. It was one of the few times I would have jumped into the truck if my husband had come by to check on me. But then I said, "No! I'm the Warrior Princess. This is how I do battle! Relentless forward progress. Get moving soldier!" I remember I have a VESPA supplement in my pack. It is based in orange juice. I drink it, it's only a couple of ounces but it wets my mouth some, and gives me the energy to run again. Finally at mile 22 I reach the Route 81 intersection with a gas station and water! I refuel and continue on into Middletown. I'm at about mile 23, feeling better and still have time to spare so I opt for my Belle Grove loop and hope to make at least marathon distance. Finally I'm back in town with 27 miles under my belt. But where is my ride? I had turned my cell phone off because it hadn't charged properly. Sure enough, they were looking for me, thinking I might be down on the side of the road. So I head back down Reliance Road and get another mile in before we hook up. I'm crusted with salt from head to toe. Even my eyelashes have salt in them. But I had done it - 28 miles in about 5 hrs under not the best circumstances. What did I gain? Confidence. Confidence comes from facing a challenge and pushing yourself when obstacles threaten to defeat you from your goals. It comes from falling down, but still getting up and moving forward. It comes from believing that you can and will overcome and finishing knowing you did your best. You may not finish in the time you wanted, there may be pain or discomfort, and you may have been short of your goal but because you persevered, you have the confidence to brush yourself off and do it again.