Category Archives: Racing Recaps

Race Recap: Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race

“Remember what Bilbo used to say: ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”” — J.R.R. Tolkien

 

I had no intention of running this race. I signed up the Wednesday before I ran. I was  coming off of a race in CA, Leona Divide 50, where I dropped at mile 40. I left Leona with a tender right hip that was diagnosed a few weeks later as “hip tendonitis”.

3 training weeks prior to signing up:

  • May 22-27: 46 miles
  • May 29-June 3: 67 miles
  • June 5-10: 56 miles

Tried a few new things: The adage goes, “don’t try anything different on race day.” Sometimes, I say, “why not?” I packed my running vest, but I chose to run with only one handheld. I drank SPRING electrolyte drink the entire time. I did not cramp. My hands did not swell, and my stomach felt great the entire time. I did not use water. I used only SPRING. I ate gels, peanut butter pretzels and a few cups of trail mix, each day. This was a big change up for the weekend.

Weekend Mantras: My thoughts for this weekend? “Run now, hurt later”, “let me be weak, so that God can fill me with his strength”, “Each day is new and it is only 20 miles more”, “Use each day to prepare you for the next”.

Songs on repeat:

  • “Out Of The Woods”, Taylor Swift
  • “Thank You”, Alanis Morrisette
  • “Patience”, Guns & Roses
  • “Good Life”, OneRepublic
  • “It Is Well”, Bethel Music
  • “Castle On A Hill”, Ed Sheeran

It was a very good running weekend for me! Some of my best, aggressive, joy-filled running.

Friday, Stage 1: Raccoon Mountain. Per my watch, 1800′ ascent and 2:55. By far the fastest day. Our weather was decent, 70s, cloud cover and humid. (I love running in the humidity, in case you were wondering 🙂 ) The time cutoff for this day is 4 hours. I am confident that all the runners who I run with could finish this day in 4 hours. The trail is nice and the ascent is almost half of what you will experience on the next two days.

My goal for this day was to run by feel. I was not going to look at my watch and tell myself to slow down. I ran hard. I breathed hard. Gave it almost all that I had. I saved some for the next day.

Saturday, Stage 2: Lookout Mountain. Per my watch, 2800′ ascent and 4:03. This was the hardest day for me. The weather was good, again! The temps were in the mid 70s. The time cutoff for this day was five hours. The cutoff was extended by fifteen minutes on race day.

I think this day felt more humid than Friday, or it could have been that I was running for one hour and eight minutes more?! My body felt great at the start of this day!! I was running with a handheld and gels for this day. I decided to run in a sport’s bra and shorts today. We started and finished at the Lula Lake trailhead. This course seemed quite different to me than the Lookout 50 course, and I LOVED it. There were a few crazy climbs!! My strength is definitely on the climbs. I push the hiking hard. I do not use the climbs to catch my breath or eat. I use them to push past those who are using them to catch their breath/eat. (Get on the treadmill and practice this type of hiking!! Ask me for specifics.)

Oh my word! I think it might have been the last 1-2 miles of this day that we descended to the falls and then, hiked a crazy steep section back up from the falls!! LOVED it. This is the day that I cried a bit. 🙂 I breathed hard the entire time. I ran hard. I hiked hard. My fav song for this day was WEAK by AJR.

This was a tough day for a lot of runners. The food at the end was good. I did not leave right away. I spent some time talking with fellow runners and helping out a runner or two with nausea and heat exhaustion.

I believe this would be the most challenging day of the 3 for any runner because of the time cutoff, steep climbs and the final miles, down to the waterfall and back up.

Sunday, Stage 3: Signal Mountain. Per my watch, 3200 ascent, 4:17. This was my favorite day. Most technical day. Most climbing. LOTS of rocks. In places, this course reminded me of Savage Gulf or the gorge section at Fiery Gizzard. The cutoff for this day was five hours and thirty minutes.

Signal Mountain provided the BEST views, LOTS of briars, poison ivy. . . cuts and scrapes. I enjoyed weaving in and out of the overgrown trail. It felt like I was running away. . . It felt like I was being chased. . .

My heart rate and breathing rate were well under control on this day. I think the mix of climbs and rocks kept my heart rate down, so that I could run well on the runnable spots.   Again, the climbing was in my favor. The scrambling over rocks was also something I enjoyed and there was plenty of it!

One of my fav parts of this day was the “break” in trail from about mile 11.4 at Signal Point, past the assisted living facility, Alexian Village of Tennessee. It was a small break, after a steep stair climb on a paved road. 🙂

I think this day is challenging but in a different way from Lookout. It is a slower day because of the technical trail. It takes a mindset of “just keep moving”. It would be easy to slow down and get discouraged on the rocks.

The run to the finish line from the last aid station is totally doable, mostly double track, non-technical. Great finish to the last day of running.

A few things: I would recommend this race, if it fits into your training schedule. Running with a handheld is doable in this race. Each day is different. Focus on each day. I chose not to hold back on any day. I looked at this race as 20 miles each day, NOT a total of 60. Plan on hanging out a bit after. The people are fun. It is fun to share stories and meet new people.

 

Female WINNER of the Hillbilly Half, Her Story

And our first place female runner, from Franklin, Tennessee, 15 years old, with a time of 1:37….Kathryne Hirt!! The announcer said. I couldn’t help thinking, how on earth did I get here?

 The summer before seventh grade, I made the decision to start running. I got up every morning and ran 1.5 miles. When I began, I could barely even make it to the corner of my street without stopping, and I really hated it. But I was determined. And when I’m determined, there’s so stopping me. Little did I know that in just a couple of years that I would run to relax.
Fast forward to freshman year of high school. I decided to run cross country instead of playing volleyball. This turned out to be one of the best decisions I could make! The team was more than a team, it was a family. The coaches were very nice and encouraging, but between you and me, could have done some more actual coaching. I made so much progress as a runner, falling more and more in love with running,  every day. By the end of the season, my 5K race time was about 21 minutes. Even thought the season was over, I ran every day, and not just a little bit. I was running 7 miles a day, and boy did I pay for that. I ended up with a stress fracture in my hip, which took two months to heal. Any runner knows that not running for two months is torturous, and it was hard.
I signed up for my first half marathon, THIS June, with my sister, and part of me thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. But, my hip healed in perfect timing. I had a couple weeks to get back into shape, and then my training officially started. I used the Hal Higdon Intermediate 2 plan. To be completely honest, most of the time I didn’t follow the plan. I almost always ran more than I needed to. And rest days? I hardly took them, unless the weather was too bad. I made sure to cross train, running 3.5 miles and doing a 30-40 minute ab workout on the same day. I also made sure that all of my runs included hills, which was not hard to do, living in Middle Tennessee.
My favorite part of training was the long runs. As an endurance athlete, I live for and love running long. The farther I ran, the happier and better I felt. As my runs progressed into the 9 mile and above range, I started to experiment with fueling. I tried raisins (not the best for me since they took more work for my body to digest) and GU energy gels. At first, I was hesitant to put something artificial into my body, but I soon realized that they were the best for me. And the flavors covered every base! Fruit-y, chocolate-y, coffee-y, and even maple bacon! These long runs did mean, however, that my training was coming to an end. And training coming to an end meant one very exciting thing: THE HALF MARATHON!!!!!
This brings us to June 3rd, 2017. My half marathon of choice was the Hillbilly Half. It would begin at 6:30a, which meant I had to wake up a little after 5:00a. I had learned from my training runs that I did not need much for breakfast, so I had Greek yogurt and mixed some Honey Bunches of Oats into it about an hour before running. I made sure to pack extra clothes and shoes, as well as my water bottle and energy gel. I was so excited, and a little bit nervous. So as every runner does, I made a last minute trip to the (disgusting, smelly, gross, etc) port-a-potty before the race began.
All my training was leading up to this moment. And with a ‘bang!’ it began. I weaved between people, moving around them left and right, for quite a few miles. After a while I found my pace, and maintained the same speed. Sticking true to its name, the course was constantly going up and down. It seemed like as soon as we ran down hill, there was another hill waiting for us. I ran by myself for most of the race.
About 3/4 of the way through, I ran alongside a guy going about my pace. We didn’t say anything to one another, but both of us knew we were using each other as a pacer. When we hit another hill, I took the lead. For the last 5K, I sped up. As I hit the last couple water stations and “hecklers” (volunteers dressed up as hillbillies to encourage and to entertain runners), the volunteers were cheering me on loudly, screaming “you go girl!” It made me wonder, was I the first female? And I was! As I rounded the corner to cross the finish line, I saw my mom screaming for me, and the men at the finish pulling the banner across for me to run through it. After I crossed, I got my medal and, best of all, my fresh Georgia peach from the amazing Peach Truck.
After the race, I snacked on some fruit, waiting for the awards to begin. It felt like forever.  When my category was announced, I was ecstatic to have won my very first half marathon at age 15. For the rest of the day, I was on a high, smiling whenever I thought about that morning.
Right now, I’m training for my second cross country season. My goal is to qualify for the state meet this year. Looking ahead, I want to run in college, but have no idea where yet. I love running, and cannot wait to see where it takes me!

Race Recap: Leona Divide 50

Ten Hours, nineteen minutes. 10,500′ climbing. 15:28 pace. Forty miles.

I signed up for Leona Divide 50. I finished Leona Divide 40 with a 50K medal. This was my fifth 50 and my hardest to date, climbs to 4000′ and temps in the high 80s to low 90s. The race director (RD) , Keira Henninger, sent an email out to runners a couple of days before the race to make everyone aware of the heat and to offer several suggestions for key places in the race to load up on drinks and ice. The RD specifically mentioned miles 17 to 26 to load up on ice and water because it was a long, exposed climb.

Miles 0-17.8 My goal with this section was to run it as fast as I could comfortably go. This would be the coolest part of the day and I took advantage of it. The start was about 2 miles uphill on the road. Then, double track trail that fed to single track for the rest of the race. The race started at 6:00a. You did not need a light at the start. I ran hard and was WAY ahead of my projected pace/time by mile 17.8. I did need to slow down. The climbs were not too steep or technical. For me, they were challenging because of the altitude.

Miles 17.8-27 I was happy to reach aid station #3, Aqua Dolce, mile 17.8. The cutoff time was 11:30a. I arrived at 10:15a. I took a few minutes to put ice in my hat, in my bra and around my neck in an arm sleeve.

This section was tough. It was 5.5 miles uphill and about 3-ish miles down. It was exposed except for the occasional oasis of shade. There was a breeze that blew every once in a while to cool my ice soaked body. The top of this climb went to around 4K. The climb to the top and the run down from the top required me to breathe deeply. I unbuckled my vest on the climbs to get a full breath of air.

Miles 27-33  Mile 28 was aid station #4, Bouquet Canyon Rd. The cutoff time here was 1:45p. I arrived at 12:30p. Great volunteers! They were fun and helpful, making light of an insane day. I restocked ice in my hat/bra/arm sleeve. I took a brief, ICE COLD sponge bath, put on sunscreen and loaded up my bottles with electrolyte and water. I do not remember much about this section. It was part of an out/back. Just remember more running up and more running down. The trails were beautiful and runnable. The downhill was sweet.

Miles 33-40  Aid station #5, Spunky Edison. This is where the race got tough for me. I was not mentally prepared to patiently suffer. When I reached this aid station it was about 1:45p. The cutoff here was 2:30p. They were out of ice and they had one container of cold water remaining. The rest of the drinks were warm. I was not prepared, mentally. I wasn’t sure how to process this,  and I started thinking about dropping to the 50K. I would still have to run back about 4 miles to the finish. I decided to move to the next aid station at mile 40, before making any decisions. It was an out/back. . . 7 out & 7 back, then 4 miles to the finish. THIS section was the toughest of the day because my body was hot. I was carrying 50 oz of water & electrolyte. I drank my electrolyte and one bottle of water. It was warm. (bleh)

There was plenty of runnable trail in this section, really ALL day the trail was runnable. My energy was low. My water was hot. I knew I needed to eat, especially if I was going to run back and finish 50. I started 1st on my sandwich, eating one tiny bite at a time. I chased it with a bit of hot water. I made it through 1/2 sandwich.

I occasionally confronted my desire to stop. . . 

“Do your feet hurt?”

“Do your legs hurt?”

“Are you vomiting?”

“Are you eating/drinking?”

“Are you hot?” **KIDDING!! I was hot!**

No. No. No. Yes. Yes. 

It was hard to stop thinking about the 7 miles back to the aid station that did not have ice or coke or cold drinks. I tried eating again. I did not really want to chew, so I slowly sipped 1/2 GU and followed it with more hot water.

I could see the aid station now at mile 40 (I could also see the trail back.) A very sweet, energetic lady came running up the trail to tell me that the aid station was waiting for me with ice and cold drinks. I started to cry. She couldn’t see the tears behind my sunglasses but she saw my mouth turn down and my lip quiver. I made it to the AS with time to spare. I hiked ALL 7 miles in 2 1/2 hours. I arrived at 4:30p. The cutoff was originally 4:30p, but it was extended to 4:50p.

It was too late. I decided a mile back that I was done suffering for the day. I gave up the fight. As soon as I walked into the AS, Sara asked me if I was okay. I said, “no, I’m done. I want to drop.” I think she could have convinced me or anyone could have helped to convince me to go on, but I could not convince myself. I got a ride to the start from a dad, crewing his daughter. I picked up my 50K medal and headed for my car.

Leona Divide: Why run?

  • Fantastic Volunteers, very organized
  • Sweet, runnable trails, not technical
  • Easy to get to from LAX
  • Awesome muscle (race) shirt!

Positives/negatives:

  • -NOT easy for this TN girl at the end of April. In some ways it was more challenging than Pine to Palm (P2P)
  • -Hotter for longer, completely exposed all day in the sun
  • -Minor elevation, up to 4K. The top of the climbs and the top of the downhill was hard. P2P was at the end of August. I trained all summer in the heat and humidity. This helped prepare me for the elevation at P2P.
  • +I did a great job drinking. I knew with the heat and altitude that I needed to drink to avoid dehydration. I think, overall, I drank more than 2+ gallons in 10 hours.
  • -Eating was worse than I thought. GOSH. I ate 1 zbar, 1 1/2 turkey/cheese sandwiches, two handfuls of peanut butter pretzels, one pack of GU watermelon chews. 4 mini peanut butter cups, some watermelon, 1/2 GU, ginger ale, and 4 mini ginger cookies.

Race Recap: Music City Trail Ultra 12K (guest post)

Trail Race Virgin

My first official trail race . . . 7 to 8 miles (Hardwin Adventures race which apparently makes the race mileage a bit, fluid, shall we say?) didn’t seem like that big of a deal.  I mean, I’d done training runs of that distance in Percy Warner a couple of times and felt fine so I really went into it more excited than nervous.  Honestly, I didn’t really care how long it took me, I was really just looking forward to some uninterrupted time on the trail in the woods.

I showed up a bit early the morning of the race to pick up my number and get my bearings.  I was running this race alone, but ran into some acquaintances at the start which was fun.  As I dug a handful of rusty safety pins out of the zip-loc bag full of pins provided and crumpled up my race number (only newbies leave it clean and pristine, right?), I had flashbacks to road bike racing days and started to feel some of those old pre-race jitters.  I told myself I was just here to “run” and not “race” and I just needed to simply enjoy being in the woods for a few hours without needing to feed or clean anyone else (Mom of 3, 7 and under, #reallife).

The participants lined up at the start and pledged their commitment to giving their all and running with humility and respect for the land and their fellow runner which of course made me choke back a sob because #waterworks ever since birthing aforementioned children.  Then just like that, we were off!  After a brief stint in an open field we started a climb.  Not a bad climb, really, but the crowd made it feel like I was in a ride line at Disney.  Now, if you don’t know me, you must know that I don’t really like to walk or hike when I trail run, I like to run everything – albeit very slowly at times – so this queue was frustrating to me at first.  I felt like I could have run this climb if it hadn’t been so crowded but I just sort of settled in and hiked and coached myself by remembering that this would save me some energy for later.

The initial climb led us up to a brief ridgeline where the crowd thinned out.  Before long we came to our first significant challenge . . . a descent and subsequent ascent that required sideways footing and the occasional bracing of self with a hand on the hillside.  This part was crazy steep!  If I’d tried to run down (which I didn’t see anyone do), I feel certain I’d have tumbled head-over-heels cartoon style to the bottom.  The ascent on the flip side was nearly as daunting.  It was not runnable for me (Boo.  See previous note, regarding me not liking to walk/hike) but I went into the race knowing that, so I was truly okay with hiking and had fun passing a few people who had to stop to catch their breath.  All this ascending and descending was further complicated by thick mud resulting from rain overnight that was covered by a heavy layer of fallen leaves.  These things worked together to make it less of a trail race and more of an adventure race for me.

After the steep ascent and descent the rest of the course fell into a regular rhythm of jeep roads punctuated here and there by climbs and descents of varying degrees of difficulty.  My least favorite section was another steep descent down a trail-less hillside coated in thick mud covered with inches of dead leaves to a creek at the bottom followed by a climb with roughly the same conditions just on the other side.  Really, nearly the entire course was like this which made it not my favorite, to be honest.  Once I came to the first aid station across the creek I knew I had only about 3 miles left and I felt sort of home-free because the race manual had described this section of the 12K to be where you could really start to pick up some speed to the finish.  Maybe I read that wrong, but I did not find that to be true.  There was still much climbing to be done and I feel like when I wasn’t on a gravel jeep road, I was on one of the plentiful trail-less sections of the course guided by little multi-colored flags sunk in the thick mud and leaf icing on the cake that was the Music City Trail Ultra.

It’s kind of funny . . . another thing about me is my covert competitiveness.  I like to think I’m “only competing against myself” and just “trying to do my best” and while that’s true . . . . towards the end, I came across an acquaintance I’d chatted with at the beginning.  Given her experience and my lack thereof, I didn’t figure I’d see her at all after the start but here she was.  All of a sudden it turned into a race for me.  I tried to block out thoughts of “I must pass her, she cannot beat me” and tell myself I didn’t care who crossed the line first but she was so close.  I noticed she walked the hills so I became determined to jog them if at all possible.  At some point, I came up on her and she seemed surprised to see me.  Then I passed her and didn’t see her again until sever minutes after I’d crossed the line.  So, maybe I am a bit competitive.  Could be genetic.

Takeaways from my first race . . .

  1. This race was tough but my training had me really well prepared for the challenge of it.  Thanks Coach McClain.
  2. This race was not my favorite, but it was accurately described by the organizer and I feel like he did a fantastic job with the event. The course was really well marked, swag was fun and the atmosphere was chock-full of comradery.  Bonus points that it was really close to home!
  3. I literally crossed the line looking forward to my next race, whatever that will be. I’d really like one that has you on actual trails, though, not trail-less flag marked hillside.  I will say – this is not the fault of the organizer and I don’t feel like the event was mis-represented in any way, shape or form.  I just really enjoy gliding up and down packed trails.  I’m cool with obstacles but this course was just too fraught with less than ideal topography and conditions for me to call it a favorite.
  4. This is one time I can say without hesitation that I gave everything I had. Oftentimes out of fear of failure I find myself sub-consciously holding back a bit.  Not here, folks.  When I crossed that line I did it with my last ounces of energy.  That, my friends, is a pretty cool feeling.

 

Race Recap: Lookout 50, December 2016

 

Stick to a task ’til it sticks to you. . . for beginners are many, but finishers few.

-Thomas S. Monson

YEP.

Tough day on Lookout Mountain 50 for many. I finished in 11:45, one hour, two minutes slower than last year. Here are a couple of comparison stats from last year to this year.

This year, I ran without a safety runner and without a crew. All the miles mentioned are approximate.

Lookout 50 2015

  • 174 finishers (145 men and 29 women)
  • Finish Line 1, 21/22 miles, my split was 4:24
  • Finish Line 2, 50 miles, my split was 6:19
  • Finish time 10:43

Lookout 50 2016

  • 137 finishers (99 men & 38 women)
  • Finish Line 1, 21/22 miles, my split was 4:21
  • Finish Line 2, 50 miles, my split was 7:29
  • Finish time 11:45
  • DNF: 13 men & 7 women
  • DNS: 29 men & 20 women (approximately)

The start & weather Lookout starts at Covenant College in GA at 7:30 am EST. It is a wide open, short road section through a portion of campus until you come to the trail head. At the trail head, there’s a brief slow down as everyone files onto the trail and patiently head single file onto the single track. 🙂

The weather forecast changed 5 times, leading up to race morning. As of race morning, showers would start around noon. The temperature started at 38 degrees and would climb to a high of 70 at 3:00 pm, with intermittent showers. As I mentally prepared for the race in the days leading up to the start, I planned to expect rain.

Miles 0-8 ran by feel. This first section to AS 1 (aid station 1) is mostly downhill and very runnable. This year, it seemed like runners were being a bit more cautious with the wet leaves and wet rocks. I hung with most of the crowd for about 4 miles, and then decided to move around runners and find my sweet spot. At about mile 5 1/2, you hit a steep climb, then, a switch back decent to a jeep road. LOVE, LOVE this section. I def pushed my pace here. I ran hard to AS2, felt good. I stopped to refill my bottles. I wanted to stay well hydrated, especially as temps would be rising as the day went on. (Last year, I did not stop here at all.)

Miles 8-15 another quick, runnable section. I definitely had my sweet spot. I did not feel like chatting or running with anyone. This is where I put one ear bud in and just ran. 🙂 It felt good. This section overall is slightly downhill with some rollers here and there. This group of miles to enjoy running on. The next section has a long climb back up to the start/finish. I stopped to fill my bottle here too and grab a few fig newtons. (Last year, I did not stop here.)

Miles 15-21/22 Easily one of my favorite sections. I LOVE to hike uphill. There’s a short, steep climb out of AS2, then, rolling hills to the 3 mile climb back up to the start/finish. It is a great feeling to pass people HIKING. The climbing felt easier than last year. Still going by feel and not looking at my watch. I arrived around noon, and I was hungry. I stopped to refill my bottles with water and Gnarly electrolyte drink. I really like the Gnarly drink, WAY better than HEED and better than GU Roctaine. I needed to eat. I grabbed a bagel with almond butter and honey out of my drop bag. I ate it all while walking out of this AS3.

Miles 21/22-30 This section of the course is also the last 8 miles of the race. I thought this section was marked better than last year. The section is mostly downhill with a few short climbs and rollers. This section has a creek crossing. You do not have to get your feet wet, if you cross on the rocks. At about mile 30, you arrive at AS4. This is one of my favorite AS’s. It is right by the waterfall. The group of volunteers here is a lively bunch! LOVE it!

Miles 30-34 The most memorable part of this section is the rope climb!! Here, I saw Jobie Williams (one of the course photographers & a friend of mine). It was really good to see him. He humored me and let me go back down the rope so that we could stage a shot climbing back up. 🙂 This section also provides a great view and nice, runnable bluff portion. Toward the end of this section, you are able to see and cheer on the leaders, as they are running to the finish. It is cool to see how hard they are working.

I still felt good and was running by feel. Last year, I started watching my pace here, anticipating the time with my safety runner, Kevin. I walked more of this part last year. This year, I did not have a safety runner. I was not sure how the next section would go. It entered my mind that I would be doing it alone. This might be the place when I asked myself, “what is your why today?” I needed to be reminded, because I was getting ready to run the rest on my own.

The last 1/2 mile of this section is on the road to the Long Branch AS4 & AS5. This is where you can stretch out your legs and RUN!

Miles 34-38 This is the spot last year when my stomach went downhill FAST. Last year, I suffered from this point to the finish. This year, it was different. My stomach did not bother me at all. This AS is called Long Branch, you visit it at miles 34 and 38. You can have a drop bag here. I stopped here, dropped my pack, grabbed a water bottle, some food and took off. This is a 4 mile loop. It was a nice break to drop my pack and run/hike with just a water bottle.

I do not remember much of this section from last year. I think I was kind of out of it and suffering with my stomach. I was lucky to have a safety runner, last year. This section was pretty. A lot of runners will tell you that this is their least favorite section because it is difficult to get a rhythm on the single track. I disagree. I would tell you to look forward to this. 🙂

Done with the loop and back to mile 38. (sigh) I did it. 🙂 KEVIN-you’d be proud of me here. I ran more than I walked. I put my jacket back on, put my pack back on, filled my bottles, put my headlamp in my pack, grabbed several pieces of frosted Christmas cookies, and smiled as I headed out. FINISH TIME!!

This is when the fog started to roll in thick, and there was a 5 minute downpour.

Miles 38-43 These are the same miles that I ran to get to Long Branch. I started hiking with a friend, here. I cannot remember his name. This is also where we got a bit lost, by about 1/4 mile. The fog was pretty thick, and it was raining. We missed the flag we needed to follow to get off the road and back on single track. GLAD that we noticed that sooner rather than later. (phew)

Back down the rope to one of my fav Lookout AS’s!! At this point, there were 3 of us together, me and two guys. We dropped down the rope to the last AS before the finish!! By this time, the atmosphere was a bit more lively. Last year, they had whiskey shots here. This year? Nope. I asked them if it was against the rules, this year. They quickly told me no that they make the rules out here! They just did not have whiskey. 🙂

All 3 of us were ready to finish!

Miles 43-50 “Are we there, yet?!” We power hiked almost the entirety of this section. It was getting dark here, and we put on our headlamps. The fog made it difficult to see with our headlamps on our heads. It was like driving in the fog, with the fine mist falling. To see better, we had to carry our headlamps. This section has lots of rocks and roots. It is okay to navigate in the light at mile 23, but it beats you up in the dark at mile 46!!

It was a grind. LOTS of hiking. Some running.

With a mile to go, I told the guys that we had to run across the finish line (Kevin). They weren’t convinced. With about 1/2 mile to go, I said, “I think we can run now.” We ran a bit. We slipped on a hill, going down in the mud. We started walking. I saw the finish. I started RUNNING. I crossed first in 11:45!

Happy 45th birthday to me!!!

83 out of 137 overall

16 out of 38 women

4 out of 7 in my age group

Hungry. Satisfied. Thankful. Finished.

 

 

 

 

Race Recap: Monumental Marathon, BQ Quest

Boston Bound!

When Liz asked me to write this I was really excited to share my experience (I mean, what runner DOESN’T love to talk about running lol).   But sitting here now all I can think is crap – where do I start? So I guess I’ll give you a little background.  I’m a 40 year old, divorced, remarried, no human kids but one awesome dog child mom, equine surgeon, nonrunner until 5 years ago woman.  That about sums it up haha.  I come from a long line of “real “ runners, but I never ran more than a mile or 2 on the treadmill (begrudgingly) until I went through my divorce.  I started running then, & a bunch of ½ marathons & 5 marathons later here we are.

The plot is probably familiar-ish to many of you: “I’m just going to do one ½ then I’ll go back to 5/10ks” followed by “I’m going to do one more ½ because I think I can go a little faster”; “I’ll NEVER run a marathon, the ½ is plenty for me”; “I’m going to do one full, just as a bucket list thing, but ONLY one”; “that was terrible, I am never doing that again” (fast forward 3 more marathons…) “I think I want to TRY to qualify for Boston?”. Turns out running is fairly addictive haha.  But I love that it is also a sport that you can improve in and make gains if you put in the work.

As for qualifying for Boston, a few things to note: 1-I am not particularly fast.  I’m also not particularly slow, but I do not consider myself a naturally gifted runner.  In fact, I’m pretty darn average as far as my “speed” goes. So I knew IF I wanted to BQ I’d have to work pretty hard; 2-I absolutely needed the experience of my 1st 4 marathons to hit my standard of 3:45; 3-It takes a village, literally.  I cannot name everyone who helped me, but here are a few: Ryan, my husband, who put up with all of the early mornings, the Saturday nights I didn’t want to do something so I could run long on Sunday, & (probably the worst) the constant talking about the running; Liz, my AWESOME track coach & friend who gave me such solid running advice & inspiration on a weekly basis and while training for & finishing her own 100 mile (ONE HUNDRED FREAKING MILES!) race; Kara & Christine for being great cheerleaders/running buddies/therapists; Travis my brother for always pushing me to be a better version of myself in a mostly good natured way; Nashville on the Run for being such a welcoming & supportive running group; and last but definitely not least my co-coach & constant running companion Nike (my blue heeler), who made sure at least 1 of us was excited for EVERY training run.  See-an actual village!  That would be a cool village to live in. But I digress…

Training:

  • I used the Hal Higdon “Personal Best” plan & tweaked it a bit based on my last few marathons. I did an 18, 20, & 22 mile run for my last 3 “long” runs with a 12-13 mile run in the weeks between them.
  • I typically ran 4 days per week (track, medium run, short run, & long run). 5 days on a few of my peak weeks.
  • Yoga 1x per week (day after my long run)
  • Weight training 1x per week (usually the day before my long run)

The Race:

  • Indianapolis Monumental Marathon – I picked this race because it’s relatively flat, the weather is typically ideal, it was drivable for me, & historically it has a high number of people that BQ (yes, I’m a huge dork & research the crap out of everything. Because – science.)
  • What I wore:
    • Race start was 39 degrees, predicted to be 55 by race end. So I wore Nike spandex shorts, “Embrace the Suck” tank top (this was an important mantra for me-I said it repeatedly during the race) with a tech T shirt from a previous race over it, arm warmers made out of lucky 4 – leaf clover long socks (did I mention I’m superstitious?), a buff (from a past Ragnar trail team = more superstition) & compression socks.
    • I ditched the buff around mile 5, the tech T around 10, & the arm warmers around 15. I felt perfect (temperature wise) the entire time – I love running a little cold!
  • What I ate:
    • Week of: I tried to just add more carbs to my typically carb – low diet; so lots of sweet potatoes, white rice, & spaghetti a few nights out thanks to my cousin Marissa (2 time BQer) who was in town. I felt her making me a pre race dinners was a good omen (…superstitioius…)
    • I drank so much water the week before. So.   Water…
    • Night before: Ryan & I ate an early (6pm) dinner in our hotel. I had roasted chicken & mashed potatoes.  I’ve learned that for me, I need to eat early the night before & not too much.  I figure most of my “carb loading” has/should have occurred in the 5-6 days leading up to this, and a very big meal the night before just gives me GI issues on race day.
    • Moring of: ALWAYS = whole wheat bagel thin, almond butter, small redbull ~ 2 hours out.
    • During: Gu every 5 miles; by the 4th one I did NOT want it, but I know from past experience I NEED to eat them or it does not end well.
    • I drank a little water every mile; not sure how much total – 16oz through 13 miles, then used water from water stops after that.
  • The race!
    • My plan – my qualifying standard is 3:45 (~8:35 pace), but the last 2 years you’ve had to do at least 2 minutes faster than this to actually get into the race. So I was aiming for 3:42. No biggie right? WRONG! Turns out there’s a big (mental) difference in doing 8:35 for 26.2 vs. 8:25. That freaked me out, and honestly I was scared I couldn’t do it.
    • Decided to start w the 3:40 pacer & stay with him for as long as I could; if I could stay w him through 13 but not let the 3:45 pacer catch me after that I thought I’d be ok.
    • The 1st 5 miles were rough – I tend to start slow & get progressively faster, so this was REALLY fast for me to start. I started to get a little worried I couldn’t keep this pace up, but I quickly made myself stop thinking that.  NO NEGATIVE THOUGHTS!
    • From 5-10 the pacer was a bit erratic. Not his fault; we got behind a bit in the 1st 7 because it was crowded, turns, etc. & he slowed down at the water stops.  So he was trying to make up time (~8:00ish pace – eek!) but would continue to slow through the water stops.  I wasn’t digging this fast/slow/fast thing, so I went out a bit in front of him.  Girl who came with me: “we are going too fast”.  She was probably right, but I felt good!  So my new plan was to do my own thing/hold this pace for as long as I could.  “Just get to 10”…”Just get to 13”…”Just get to 15”…
    • Before I knew it I was 18 & still in front of him – REALLY??? Ok, this is good, but just keep this pace, you know you hit the wall between 18-22…
    • Mile 19: I felt so good (relative term for sure – every cell in my body hurt but not like a dying hurt haha? [yet] – not like the “hurt” that I knew was to come at some point) that I texted Ryan a pic of the 19 mile marker & time. Then I thought about the time – Holy crap I think I’m gonna do this!
    • Mile 20: Eminem’s “Phenomenal” came on. HOLY. CRAP. YES! It was like he was literally giving me a pep talk. & I was starting to need it.  It worked. Embrace the suck…
    • Mile 21: This isn’t great. It isn’t terrible, but it really isn’t great.  Wait – 5 miles left – Liz ran 100 FREAKING MILES! I’ll bet when she was at 95 she was so stoked! 95-man – get it together Liberty you can do 5 freakin miles. Embrace the suck…
    • Mile 22: Ah-there it is-the dying hurt. But still not as bad as I remembered?  “You ARE doing this! You CAN do this! Remember how disappointed you are in yourself when you stop…”
    • Mile 23: Ok yah this is actually pretty bad. But…you are on pace to kill this race! Think of all of the 4am days – you DID NOT do those to give up on this pace! You ARE NOT dialing this in!
    • Mile 24: Oh so there’s a hurt worst than the dying hurt? Awesome. Needed more motivation – put on “Beast” off of the Southpaw soundtrack –it’s my go-to when I’m struggling.  (I also have a playlist called “struggle bus” of songs that always get me pumped – I’d had it on since about 22).
    • Mile 25: This hurts SO BAD. BUT I AM DOING THIS! Just keep running.  Just keep running.  Keep. Running.
    • 2: You guys, I CANNOT even describe how I felt. I was stumbling towards the finish, legs weak, afraid I’d trip over the timing mat.  Couldn’t really see straight/a little blurry? I was looking for Ryan but couldn’t see much outside of what was directly in front of me.  I heard them call my name.  I managed to give a thumbs up going across the finish line, and then I literally collapsed in a heap against the fence separating the competitors from spectators.  It is honestly the weirdest combination of sheer exhaustion + complete happiness that I have ever felt (also probably a bit of the hypoxia – after I collapsed I immediately had an asthma attack – I have cold induced asthma but I’ve never had it be an issue at the end of a long run before, and this one was pretty bad but went away quickly).   The medics rushed over & tried to take me to the medic tent, but I waved them off & insisted Ryan was coming to get me & I was fine.  And then once I caught my breath I started crying….it was good crying though.  The poor people hovering over my head from the other side of the barricade must have though I was dying or insane.  Ryan found me & we hugged over the fence & we both started crying…an even better cry
    • I finished in 3:39:35. I never saw the 3:40 pacer again after mile 10 until after the race.  This is 6 minutes faster than my Boston qualifying standard, and an11 minute PR for me.

 

Race Recap: Crazy Owl Marathon

The Crazy Owl Marathon is part of the Rock and Road 5k-Marathon-Marathon Relay put on by the Friends of Warner parks and takes place at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, TN. This year’s event took place on October 22.

The start time for the Marathon and Marathon Relay was 8:00 am.The course consisted of 3 loops of approximately 7.8 miles (one of the 7.8 added the stone steps at Belle Meade Blvd., and made that lap 8.1) and a final loop of approximately 3.1 miles (my watch read 26.55 miles at the end). This course was new this year. I talked with several friends who have run this in the past. They said that this year’s course was tougher and had more trail. This was a tough marathon with some sweet road sections.

The first 3 loops (approximately 3.2 road/4.6 trail).  These loops started and finished at the Steeplechase Grandstand and were a mix of trail and road, mostly trail. The trail portions of this race were on the red trail and on the white trail. You stayed in Percy Warner the entire time. You did not go over to Edwin Warner or the blue trail. I love how the the road sections broke in and out of the red and white trails.

The first part of the course was tough. Mostly uphills. You took the road from the Grandstand to the red trail and went right (left here takes you at the intersection of candy cane and red in .20 mile). You ran red downhill to the Indian Springs sign and back up tornado alley to white.

At the white trail you ran right and took it almost all the way around to the road, close to Deep Wells. This mini road section was .25 miles right, toward the Deep Wells trail head. Then, you climbed up to get back on red and take it to the right, toward dripping springs.

You come to a road crossing, before ascending to dripping springs. At the road, you turn left and run for about .20 miles. Then, turn right back onto the red trail at mile 6 then off again at mile 6.5 to run the road back to the exchange point. It is 1.3 miles on the road back to the Grandstands.

The final loop started at the Grandstand and finished just shy of it with a right turn before climbing back up the hill to the Grandstand. The final lap, 3.1 miles, was on the road. The last 1.3 were the same as the previous 3 laps, except for the detour right to the finish at the end.

I loved this race. This is one race that I would do again. The swag was nice. I like the race shirt, and we received a cool pair of Swiftwick socks! Whole Foods catered delicious food at the finish. You could get your food and eat out at the picnic tables, at the Grandstand. The Jenni’s ice cream truck was there if you wanted to purchase ice cream. There was also a free beer for the runners at the finish.

I think this would make a great training run for a longer distance race in November or early December. You could use this race as a training run for a November 50K. You could also start a 7 mile run before the 8:00 am start and make this race a 50K in prep for a 50 miler in November or early December. There were aid stations at every mile. Some stations just had water and some had water and gel. Worth running checking out next October!

The temperature ALL day was terrific. The 8:00 start was a chilly 42 degrees. The finish was a pleasant 65. I loved this and would definitely run it again. I ran with a handheld for the first 3 loops, and I ran without it for the last 3.1 miles. We had a total of 3400′ of gain and 3400′ of loss.  I finished in 5 hours and 6 minutes.