Monday, March 28, 2011

Fool's Trail Run 25 and 50K

I hadn’t run a trail 50K since last fall so I was a little nervous and very excited.  I knew I could finish, I trained a ton over the winter.  What I didn’t know is whether I’d really gotten faster and if I had, then how much?  Then also a lot of my friends were running one of the two distances which for me is a feel good thing.  I ran the first half with a couple other runners and between chatting, feeling really good and trying not to trip and fall I paid a lot less attention to my pace than I usually do, so when I looked up at the clock for my split I was shocked.  I’ve never run a 25K that fast let alone any half of a 50K.  Good or not good?
I held onto the pace until mile 20 or so and then it started to slip but I still ran 30 minutes faster than I’ve ever run a trail 50K before so that made me pretty happy.  Shaun Pope won the men’s and Sandi Nypaver, who I ran with for the first half, was strong enough to hold a little closer to the pace than I could and won the women’s.  I was happy with 2nd place, although I of course plan to try to get faster.  It was pretty amazing to watch her pull away running up hills late in the race looking so strong.  She promises me the hills started to hurt and slow down some in the last 3 miles out on the salt run loop but I several minutes behind by then and didn’t get to see it.  I’ve already mentioned this before but it bears mentioning again; I have met so many really wonderful people trail running and racing!
Three of my fellow Grunt Girls ran in the 25K.  Tonya Yanok set a new PR and didn’t even look tired by the time I got to the finish line.  Kim Zepp ran a great race, covering more miles of trail than she ever has before.  Anastasia Birosh finished over an hour faster than she’d told me she would while we were all huddled together for warmth before the start.  Yeah, that’s a lot faster!  Gabe Bures, one of our Grunt Guys also ran a PR, although this was actually his first 25K.  A crowd of our fellow Grunt Girls drove over from their morning training run to watch us finish and it was a life-saver hearing all that screaming and cheering fighting my way to that uphill finish.
So what else should I talk about?  It was in the low 20s when we started at 7:30 but rose to just above freezing and sunny by the finish, turning the trails into mud sometime around 11 and slowing progress for already tired runners.  The sun was so great to see and feel that I’m not sure I minded.  I continued my strategy of alternating protein gels with Hammer gels early in the race, switching to Hammer gels alone in the second half and I still think it makes me a heck of a lot less sore the next day to put in those 10-20 grams of protein.  I think I’ll send Hammer Nutrition an email and ask them to make protein gels. Total gel count?  I think 3 Accel gels (if you try them don’t complain to me about the taste, it sort of grows on you) and 10 Hammer gels.  Yeah, it’s a lot but I would start to feel like my legs really hurt and eat one and then a little while later my legs would hurt less again.  Higher blood sugar=happy brain and a happy brain will tell you your body hurts less.  Low blood sugar=unhappy brain which will play tricks on you to try to get you to stop running.  ‘Lies’ I tell it, ‘all lies’.   Possibly I should have put in even 3 more gels than I did.
Ice bath after?  Yep, after a large glass of wine.  Stairs this morning?  Not too bad.  Even just right after I get out of the ice bath I can feel the difference in how my legs respond-well, after they warm up again.  I’m sore but I’m not limping around.  Did I scream and carry on for the first couple minutes?  Oh, did I ever.  That will probably never go away.  After I was done screaming I called my friend Stacy Rhea, the woman who put the idea in my head in the first place, and she kept me calm enough and distracted enough to stay in the tub for about 18 minutes.  Thank you Stacy!  That’s enough blog for today I think  Thanks Lloyd Thomas for having a great and well marked race for us to run and have a wonderful day out there everyone.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Green Jewel 50K

I signed up for the Green Jewel 50K this year on a whim, not really thinking about what the race would entail.  The shirts from the previous year looked pretty cool, the parks the course runs through are pretty, I’d heard other runners say they liked it lots, so why not?  Then as the race approached and I began to really think about it I began to worry.  Not about the distance but about the surface.  The entire course is pavement.  Bike path sure, but pavement still.  I ran a whole lot of trail last year, even a few 50Ks but only one road race.  It was five miles long and my feet hurt afterward.  What was I thinking?  Sure, in some ways pavement is easier.  It’s certainly faster to run on, your feet don’t slide all over the place or sink in and usually it’s flatter than trail.  On the other hand it’s a lot more impact for your body to absorb and if your running form has problems you’ll be punished for it.  What was I thinking?!?
    I had worked on form a whole bunch the previous fall after a couple minor muscular difficulties.  Still though, I run two thirds of my miles on trails.  The longest training runs I used to do were 8 miles so I upped those to 10 or maybe 12.  I signed up for the race so there’s no way I was backing out.  I figured if I got into trouble I could just run on the grass next to the bike path.  Plus also I’d learned more about during race fueling during longer races over winter and really wanted to test it out.  I’d done some four or five hour runs sure but only a race really tests a new strategy and this was the perfect opportunity.
    So how did it all work out?  Well, I forgot my fuel belt but fortunately my good friend and running partner, Gabe, was with me for support and was able and willing to retrieve it for me and pass it to me a couple miles in.  I ‘ate’ four Accel gels (20 grams of protein) during the first half of the race and 7 or 8 Hammer gels throughout.  I expected if the race went well I might finish in four and a half hours.  I ended up finishing in 4:09:30 as first place woman.  I never knew I could run that fast for that long and it felt pretty amazing, especially after months of slogging through snow because I will NOT run on a dreadmill.  My legs felt the best they’ve ever felt after a 50K.  My feet were tender sure, but not really in pain.  All in all I was ecstatic.  If you’re a trail runner tempted to try a road marathon and Cleveland, Ohio isn’t far away I recommend you run this instead.
    This post is going to run just a little bit longer because I have to share another new experience I had that day.  I decided to try giving my legs an ice-bath post race since I’ve read that lots of elite marathoners, tri-athletes and so on use ice-baths to reduce inflammation and speed recovery.  Did it help me?  Sadly yes.  If you’re asking ‘why sadly?’ then you have never tried an ice-bath.  My wonderful aforementioned friend and training partner was there in a supervisory and lifeguarding capacity and recorded the first couple minutes on his iPhone.  He can be hear giggling in the background as I ease myself into the tub, pushing ice cubes against the sides and screaming like a very unhappy small child.  I think I’d stopped rocking by the time he ran out of video space.  Will I do it again?  Of course I will, I just won’t let it be recorded for posterity and the amusement of my friends who all got a huge kick out of that video.   

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Run With Your Heart 15K Trail Challenge

The 2010 Run With Your Heart 15K trail challenge was the very first trail race of my life so running and finishing first woman overall this year was special to me.  I had run a couple 5 mile charity road races with friends but hadn’t considered running to race since quitting high school cross-country about 20 years ago.  Over the preceding winter I’d made friends with many of the women in Grunt Girl Racing and had begun going trail running with them on weekends.  With their encouragement I signed and ran in the foot of snow that had fallen the night before, finishing exhausted but happy and in love with trail running.
    I spent the rest of 2010 running more trail races and building my endurance for the Buckeye Trail 50K which these same friends had convinced me to sign up for in an optimistic moment.  It turned out to be a great idea.  I liked it enough to sign up for two more 50Ks in the fall and conquered the Bobcat Trail Marathon in November.  All in all it was a great year for me and one with barely any time to think back on how it all got started.
    And then came this year’s Run With Your Heart.  It didn’t snow quite as much and I ran 22 minutes faster and feeling a lot stronger.  The thing is there were all these moments during the race when I found myself remembering the year before.  It’s funny how the memory works.  When I run down a particular piece of trail sometimes I can remember all kinds of odd details about the last time I ran there. 
In 2010 I spent the last 3 miles running behind Dan Belinger, who I’d never met before.  He asked if I want to pass which I definitely did not want to do.  Focusing on the motion of his feet was pulling me along and keeping me going.  A few minutes later he introduced himself and introduced me to something I didn’t know about trail runners.  They just race about happily making friends with whoever happens to be close by.  It’s fantastic.  I’ve made friends in just about every trail race I’ve run long enough to allow for a nice chatting pace but that one, clear memory of that first trail race stays with me, that camaraderie, that strange and special combination of fatigue, pain and happiness.