Sunday, April 28, 2013

Nike Women's Half-Marathon DC 2013: Is it worth it?

Today I joined 15,000 women (and a few men) to run the inaugural Nike Women's Half-Marathon DC. I was pacing two friends who were running their first half-marathon, and I was excited to be there. The weather the gorgeous. The energy was electrifying and the crowd was pumped. But I'll be honest, up until race morning, I did not really want to run this race.

The Nike Womens Marathon series (NWM, which also includes a half-marathon event) carries a hefty price tag. $160 to be exact (for the 2013 race). With it you get a Tiffany necklace, a finisher's shirt, and the Nike experience.

NWM DC 2013 Tiffany Necklace

Is all that worth $160? Well, considering the Tiffany necklace alone probably costs much more than the race entry, one would have to say yes. However, you could run at least two half-marathons for that price, and its even easy to find two marathons for that amount of money. So what is worth more--the running experience or the Nike experience?

Obviously, the answer is personal preference. And personally, I prefer to run a no-frills, low-key, limited field kind of race. But this race wasn't about me, it was about pacing two friends to a strong finish for their first half-marathon. I had already paid the *gulp* entry fee, so I was ready to see what the Nike experience was all about.

And let me tell you, it did not disappoint.

Let's start with the Expo--ahem, excuse me, the Expotique--which was held at the Georgetown Waterfront. Since we are local, we went on Thursday afternoon when there were no lines. Packet pick-up was easy peasy. The expo itself was like being in a club minus the black light. The vendors were few because it was all about the experience -- you could get your hair and make-up done, try shots of Nuun, and get sized for the right Nike gear that fits your style.

Photo ops!

Make up by Bare Minerals 

Nike Inspiration 

It was neat to see, but also overwhelming for this old crony. The best, though, was this cool map of the race course:

Fast forward to race morning. As we faced the starting line, we were presented with this amazing view:

The Capitol Building in the distance
 It was awesome. Time and again, we were lucky to witness some amazing views of our nation's capital. These pictures do not do the beauty justice.

Lincoln Memorial from Arlington Memorial Circle

Our little troop was all smiles race morning. The energy was palpable, and if you weren't pumped, you were probably dead.


Taking inspiration from history:
Rosie the Riveter, "We Can Do It!"

We were shooting for a sub-3:00 finish, so we were in the 12:00-13:59 pace corral. Because we were in the back, room to run was a premium, and it took more than 2 miles before we could really begin to move. We were presented with more than one bottleneck during this time, requiring an impromptu walk/run strategy, which was frustrating. And we witnessed one woman fall flat on her face after someone dropped their sweater and she couldn't sidestep the garment in time. A testament to runners though: about 6 of us stopped to ensure she was ok and could carry on.

All that said, the race was pretty great. Around mile 2, and again around mile 10, we ran through a long tunnel and to Nike's credit, they took advantage of the acoustics by placing two bass-driven bands on this section of the course. It was hard not to stop and start dancing! Not to mention, the taiko drummers at mile 5. Reinforced my goal to run the Big Sur marathon one day.

Around mile 11, we stopped at National Archives to take a picture of our race shirts.

We crossed the line at 2:57, 3 minutes faster than our goal time! I was so proud of these ladies. They earned those Tiffany necklaces!

So is the Nike Women's Marathon (and half-marathon) series worth it? If you are looking for a challenging mind-over-matter event, one that will test your grit--you vs. yourself--then NO, this is not the race for you.

But if you want to run an event, and you want to feel celebrated for your accomplishment, then YES - this is THE race to run. This is a great first half-marathon / marathon (should that option become available in DC; it is currently available in San Francisco), and a particularly great one to run with friends.

Even as one who prefers a low-key race, I would run this event again with a friend (or sister!) interested in running their first half-marathon.

What type of race do you prefer to run?

Have you ever paced someone during a race? How did it go?


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Pain in the Neck Fat Ass 50K Race Report

Last weekend I ran my first ultramarathon - a 50k on the eastern shore of Maryland. It was awesome. Awesome, awesome. So awesome that I've been finding it difficult to write about for fear I'm not able to capture how truly awesome it was (and also because Blogger deleted my first draft. Argh!).

LOVED running through the morning fog.

A few statistics: I finished in 6 hours and 7 minutes. I placed 5ish out of 9ish (not sure who was running the 50k and who was running shorter distances). The weather started cold and got slightly less cold, which I have come to realize is my favorite type of running weather for long runs. The course was a 5k loop that we ran 10 times. So 10 times I passed a roaring wood-burning bonfire around which spectators and runners of shorter distances would convene to enjoy warmth and camaraderie. And beer. I had to laugh every time I passed them. 5 years ago, I would likely have been around that fire. NEVER in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would pass up the warmth of a fire to run in the cold.  Much less for 31 bleepin' miles. But now, as a 30-something full-time working mom to a rambunctious two-year-old, I was running circles through the woods and having the time of my life.

Pre-race group photo

If you ever have to run a 5k loop 10 times, this is the course to do it on.  The first section consisted of hard-packed dirt with lots of roots and rocks and fallen leaves as well as a short segment of gravel road thrown in for good measure.  The third section was more or less more of the same.  But the second section was the fun part: technical single-track that had you winding through the woods, dodging tree trunks, twisting and turning beneath the leaves. I felt like I was running through a Mario Kart course. Running that technical single-track made me feel like I was flying, even though I'm pretty sure my splits never dropped below 10:00m/m. You really had to focus on your footing, but the course was so well marked you didn't even have to look up to know where you were going.

Mario Kart for Runners!

At one point, I could sense a runner coming up behind me, so I moved to the right to let him pass. As he zoomed by, I noticed he was wearing a shirt that said...Hardrock. Whoa, what? "Did you really run Hardrock?" I called after him. "Three times," he said as he slowed waaaaay down. "How did you train for that around here?" I asked him. "I ran a lot of stairs."

This is what will always impress me about runners, whether of the ultra variety or not: we will do whatever it takes to achieve our goals.

As amazing as the whole day was, the best part was running with people who didn't think 31 miles was really all that far.  I've only run a 50k, and I don't think I can really call myself an ultrarunner just yet, but running through the woods with veterans of 50 and 100 mile races--who have tackled Hardrock, Badwater, Angeles Crest, Grindstone, TNF 50, UTMB, and who were trying to get into Western States--just made me feel...I don't I was running with celebrities. IT WAS JUST SO COOL.

Posing with one of the running celebrities!

It wasn't all fun and games. I did learn something. Well, I learned a lot but specifically this: Fig Newtons work really well as a fuel source. Bagels not so much. I loaded my race vest with Gu gels, Fig Newtons, Ritz crackers and a bagel since most of these worked well for me on my one "real-food" trial run a few weeks ago. And after DJ Research's experience during his 50-miler, I decided I was going to scarf down some calories after every loop whether I wanted to or not.

After the first loop I ate some of the bagel. That was hard. Chewing and running takes some practice, let me tell you. Also, it took a while for the bagel-energy to kick in, and it didn't last very long. Perhaps I needed more bagel, but the chewing was wearing me out.

Attempting to shaka,
but foiled by my sock glove!

So next loop: Gu gel. Aaaaah. Got me a nice energy kick. Third loop: Fig Newtons. Interesting (and yum!). Fig Newton-chewing is not so laborious as bagel-chewing, plus the energy from the Fig Newtons kicked in sooner and lasted longer than the bagel. Gu gels were definitely the most efficient energy source, but fig newtons are a great alternative when you are sick of the goo.

I alternated between Gu gels and Fig Newtons for the rest of the race, as well as taking an S-cap about half-way through (I also tried Ritz crackers out there. Too dry and didn't offer much energy anyway). Still, by mile 24 I was feeling low, so I had another Gu, turned on the tunes, and air-drummed it to the finish line.  The Chemical Brother's Galvanize got me through to the end.

As I completed the final loop, all three people at the finish line applauded and congratulated my efforts. I took a bow. Or collapsed out of sheer exhaustion. Same thing.

I changed into more comfortable clothes, helped myself to homemade sweet-sour meatballs and pulled-pork (sooo delicious!!), and took a seat around the crackling bonfire. I listened to the stories told by these veterans of ultra-distances, loving that I was just a small step closer to contributing stories of my own, and excited for the day when I could truly test my grit.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Stone Mill 50 Race Report

DJ Research is baaaaack!  This time with a full report on his first 50-miler, the Stone Mill 50.  Its a long one, so snuggle up with a cold beer, or a glass of red wine, or a styrofoam cup of overcooked ramen, and enjoy!  :)

Publicly, the goal I'd set for the Stone Mill 50 was 10 hours. This is what I'd told my friends and co-workers, and what I'd convinced myself would make me happy. I crossed the finish line at 9 hours and 26 minutes, comfortably succeeding in this regard and feeling extremely satisfied. On the other hand, I'd failed in the pursuit of my super secret goal – the one I'd only shared with the devil on my shoulder. Missing it by only 26 minutes isn't exactly a miserable failure, but given my halfway splits were 4 hours and 5.5 hours, I have to admit I'm a little disappointed I couldn’t finish in 9 hours. And I'm ready to point the finger.

At my belly. Actually, no, my belly was willing, but my brain was concerned with other things. Apparently when I'm tired, I forget to eat. It doesn't matter how many training guides you read, or podcasts you listen to. Or to what degree you've convinced yourself BEFORE the race that you need 200-300 calories per hour. It doesn't matter how grand your designs, if you don't execute. And I didn't execute. The really unfortunate thing was that I didn't know it until it was already too late.

I'll be the first to admit that going in, I didn't have a complete fueling strategy. This is more due to my lack of experience than anything else. I had the framework of one and I'd certainly practiced eating solid foods during my long runs, but I just had no idea what would be provided at the aid stations, or for that matter, what I would want to eat after 28 miles, 35 miles, and 43 miles.

What I did know was this. Early in a run, I can usually consume 300 calories an hour. In my marathon training, this meant most of a handheld of Gatorade and two shots of Just Plain Gu. Obviously though, I wasn't going to spend my 50-miler eating a full case of Gu. For one, that's a lot of caffeine (not a big fan of the other flavors). For two, I was limited by what I could carry in my pack. For three, ewww, that's a lot of goo. So, early in training, I learned to substitute some of those Gu for Clif Bars. I'd still run into the problem of limited space in my race vest, but my "strategy" was to carry a few hours worth of calories via Clif Bars and Gu shots, consume additional calories via Gatorade, and supplement with aid station foods.

Excepting one hiccup, this worked great for the first three hours! I efficiently made my way over the rolling single-track trail, walking all the steep inclines and letting gravity pull me quickly down the declines. The day was cool and sunny, the course was well-marked, and the creeks and streams had mostly recovered from Hurricane Sandy. The one hiccup though: the temperature at start time was about 35-degrees. In and of itself, this shouldn't have been a big deal, I was more than adequately dressed. But holy crap, it takes a lot of effort to chew a semi-frozen Clif Bar!

At first, I just dealt with it, huffing and puffing as I chewed and chewed and chewed. After two and a half Clif Bars though, bonking my face off, I'd had enough. I doubled up on Gu and decided to start making better use of the aid station cuisine starting at mile 25, earlier than I'd expected. The problem was that while I'd decided to make better use, I wasn't actually making better use. I got to the mile 25 aid station hoping to find a bagel or a banana, but found PB&Js, Oreos, and M&Ms. After four hours of running, these options just didn't sound appealing, so I sucked down another Gu and made for the next aid station, three miles away.

Cookies, Snickers, Pringles, and grilled cheese sandwiches this time. Those grilled cheese sandwiches were tempting, but I'd never trained with greasy foods and wasn't sure how my stomach would handle it, so "Do you guys have any bananas?"  "No, but we have a few potatoes left." By this point, I was in serious need of calories, and so it was that these potatoes were the sweetest, most delicious anything I'd eaten in forever. I had gotten to the point of being hungry, swollen, and irritable, but this faded away with each little nugget I consumed. Wow. Potatoes boiled in salt water. Who knew?

This, a couple more gels, and the knowledge that I'd soon be seeing Ama and Nugget got me to the mile 35 aid station. I had already decided that I would hang out for a bit, eat some, chat a little, and handoff all my extraneous gear. The extra few ounces of weight from my jacket, gloves, and knee-high compressions socks had become an increasingly heavy burden as I tired. Five minutes, a few hugs, a banana, some ginger ale, and lots of Gatorade later, I headed off to the mile 38 aid station.

Thank goodness for Gatorade. Looking back now, I realize the only reason the wheels didn't completely come off was due to the thousands of calories I was getting from Gatorade. But why I'm only realizing it now is unknown - the evidence was right in front of my face.

I left the mile 35 aid station in relatively good shape, but was already pretty worn by the time I got to the next aid station three miles later. The hills were wearing me down more and more quickly. I was starting to trip on even the smallest of rocks, including one time, while speeding downhill ("speeding" might be overstating things), I kicked a root and went flying. Literally. My arms extended out in front of me like Superman, I hit the ground belly first and slid through the leaves about ten feet, scuffing up my knees and chin. I was so short on calories, I was having trouble lifting my feet up high enough to get over the smallest obstacles. I was really in need of some more potatoes and Gatorade. What I got was a single pretzel and water.

Despite the little cheat sheet I'd made for myself indicating which were which, I'd completely forgotten that some aid stations were full aid stations and some, like this one, only had water. In fact, it was a stroke of luck that they'd even had pretzels. As I entered the clearing at mile 38, I was sooo happy to see this little folding table and immediately sooo sad to find out they didn't have Gatorade. But then I was happy to see they had pretzels, I love pretzels. But then I felt betrayed! Apparently, pretzels really (really) dry you out when you're already dehydrated. It only took one pretzel to completely gum up my mouth. Tired and grumpy, I trudged on.

I'd already bonked one or two times now, but the next five miles set the bar for just how low I could get during a run. I'd made a HUGE mistake not knowing my aid stations. And what's more, I had had and given to Ama two packets of Gatorade powder I didn't think I'd need, and was now kicking myself for that error in judgment. The five miles from mile 38 to 43 were just brutal. I would have completely fallen apart if not for three things. First, I was inadvertently paced by a younger woman who seemed to be bonking just as hard as I. For no particular reason, I decided to try to keep up with her. If I hadn't, I could definitely imagine this section going from 70 minutes to 100. Second, I was going to see Ama and Nugget again. I recognize how childish this is, but I really couldn't wait to have open ears to complain to. I was tired and hungry and grumpy, what better relief is there than to complain to a sympathetic ear? Finally, I met my first trail angel.

This young woman and I were holding our slow pace for three miles or so, when I'd just about had enough. I left the last aid station maintaining the intent to walk the uphills, and running the flats and downhills. Unfortunately though, my definition of "uphill" was changing with every additional mile. Now, I was walking more and more of the flats, such that, when a round, shirtless, late middle-aged man approached me from behind, I stepped off the trail with the full intention of stopping (and remaining stopped) to take a nice, long, motionless breather. This guy came out of nowhere. It wasn't until he was within fifteen feet of me that I heard the even, persistent rattle of... I don't know... aspirin(?) in his waistpack. I mumbled something insignificant like, "Good job, Dude," as he glided effortlessly by me. And in a quiet way that was calm and crystal clear, he replied, "You too. Stay with me now." I'm not really sure what he meant. It was probably just generic hyperbole, like, "Keep it up!" But for some reason, I determined that he'd seen something weak and fragile in me and that he would help guide me through this low point. So, I got back on the trail and stayed with him. The young woman had gotten a ways ahead, but we caught up to her in short order. Apparently, she too was in a tough spot - she had just run out of water and was getting antsy about the distance to the next aid station. The shirtless man didn't know how far it was, but, "Here, have the rest of my water." She did and he took off up the next hill, leaving the both of us in a much better position than we'd been in just a few miles before. Moments later, I reached the mile 43 aid station and the whole race changed.

Nugget was sleeping in the car, but I spent a few moments complaining to Ama, who listened and encouraged me to stop worrying about the clock and take as long as I needed to get to the finish. And just like that, as though she’d commanded it, my watch died. Which was awesome. I could no longer over-scrutinize my agonizingly slow pace every two-tenths of a mile. I drank some Gatorade, refilled, and drank some more. Then a volunteer offered me some "nectar of the gods," and I was off again.

That's not really what he said, but I'm pretty sure that's what he meant to say. I was handed a styrofoam cup of overboiled ramen noodles and broth, which I downed quickly and excitedly. Too excitedly. I had to walk the next ten minutes to keep from throwing up, but suddenly... Suddenly, I was exploding with energy. I was actually running the flats again. And bounding down the declines. And even passing people!

I have no proof of this because my watch was conveniently persona non grata, but I'm pretty sure the last seven miles were my fastest all day. I had energy again. My body didn't hurt. And because I was finally repeating trail I had run earlier that morning, I sensed the nearing finish line.

At one point during this stretch, I came upon an older woman hiking toward me and pulled over to let her pass. "What are you doing?" she said. "No, I stop for YOU. You get back on that trail and start running. Go. Go. Go. Go. Go!" I smiled, thanked trail angel #2, and took off.

Where the distance from miles 38 to 43 seemed to take forever, miles 43 to the finish flew by. It was only moments later that I heard some chatter in the near distance - an announcer had just congratulated a runner finishing ahead of me. I came out from behind the trees to see the finish line, took Nugget into my arms, and he and I crossed together at 9 hours 26 minutes.

I cannot over-emphasize how satisfying it was to cross the finish line. I was my own hero for that moment. Completely spent, but in the best way possible. So spent that I decided to never ever do this wonderful horrible thing ever again. Ever.

Until I changed my mind three days later. I finally recovered enough to go on my recovery run (ironic, right?), and started thinking about what I could have done differently. Eat! I should have been eating from the very first aid station. The reason I didn't feel like eating was because I was tired, and the reason I was tired was because I wasn't eating! To make things worse, despite everything I read suggesting I should do otherwise, I waited until I really needed calories to try to consume them. I waited until it was already too late! I need to be more proactive next time, and I need something that takes longer to digest than sugar. Part of the problem was the calorie deficit (obviously), but part of the problem was the mental fatigue of feeling hungry. FOR HOURS! Next time, I'll be sure to have Ama special deliver some bagels or a turkey sandwich or something. And next time, my super secret goal time will be 8 hours 30 minutes!


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Celebrating 26.2

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.  We definitely did.

We drove a few hours north to spend the holiday with family, which was awesome (both the drive and the family.  Thankfully, Nugget does well on car rides). There was lots of food. And I was introduced to this desert:

Pumpkin Pie & Eton Mess

No, not the pumpkin pie.  The Eaton Mess.  Holy kamoly.  Heaven on earth.  Even though its a British dessert, it is now part of our family's Thanksgiving menu.

We also went bowling.  Nugget had a blast and practically OD'd on popcorn.

When we got back home, I found this waiting for me:

I'd been contemplating how I would commemorate finishing a marathon.  High on the list was getting a tattoo.  But I realized I'm not quite ready to make that commitment.  Maybe after I run a 50-miler.

I opted for jewelry instead.  I first learned about Erica Sara Designs from a giveaway on NYC Running Mama's blog.  I didn't win, but I liked Erica's work so much that I bought my sister a necklace for her 30th birthday.  She loved it.

Sample of the necklace I got my sister

And while I did browse the internet for other running jewelry options, I didn't find anything quite like the bold yet feminine pieces that Erica Sara creates.  Her jewelry is also customizable, so you can create a piece that expresses who you are as a runner/athlete/woman (she does more than just race bling!)

Sample of the necklace I got

If you're looking for a way to commemorate a big racing achievement, or if you've got a special runner girl in your life, or if you just want to treat yourself or someone you love, check out Erica Sara Designs.  Plus, Erica is donating a portion of all proceeds from race jewelry sales to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

I love, LOVE my necklace.  Its the perfect way to commemorate my first marathon season.  And it sure beats wearing my race medals to work.

How do you celebrate when you finish a big race?

Do you have a running tattoo?  Or thinking of getting one yourself?  I think I want one but still looking for that perfect design.

Did you enjoy your Thanksgiving?  Did you travel or stay close to home?

Have you ever had Eton Mess?  Amazing, right?!

[I did not receive a free necklace nor was I compensated for this review.  I purchased an Erica Sara necklace for myself and wanted to share my thoughts on the beautiful piece.]


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Stone Mill 50: Warmth and Camaraderie

Today we have another guest post from DJ Research!  Last week he wrote about his pre-race jitters for the Stone Mill 50.  Having survived--and beating his goal time by a half-hour--DJ Research is back to reflect on his first 50-mile race.

All told, it took me 9 hours, 26 minutes to cross the finish line. I ran for most of it, walked for significant chunks, and at one point, I fell face first while running downhill, skidding through the leaves. But the most significant moment of my day happened before the race even started. With 30 minutes to start time, there was a line winding out of the men's restroom. "There's no line to use the urinal," I was told. As I took my position at the end, I thought, Well, I'll be sure to relay the message to anyone who comes up behind me.

If you've read (this), you know I had a lot of anxiety prior to race day. Of all the things I'd been worrying about, the line for the one and only men's stall (for 200+ male racers) was not one of them. We don't need to get into details (I've already given away too much), but it can be really difficult to use the toilet when there's only seven minutes to race time and a line of people waiting on YOU. I'm telling you this, because despite all the worrying, all the over-thinking, all the hemming and hawing, this, the one thing I hadn’t considered, was (thankfully) the most intense and nerve-wracking part of my day.

Stone Mill 50 start
Stone Mill 50 start

I found my first ever 50-miler to be just as grueling as I'd been told to expect. But it was twice as rewarding. I trudged my way up many hills and enjoyed equally many downhills (even after 40+ miles, I still managed the energy for exhilaratingly fast descents). I bonked my face off - not once, not twice, but three times. At mile 43, I was rewarded with the finest styrofoam cup of ramen I will probably ever enjoy. I staved off the choice words of my inner demons and was lifted up by several trail angels that I will always remember for their unexpected encouragement. And I was witness to the camaraderie I had heard that the Ultra community was famous for. While waiting for the toilet.

It was 5:30AM, dark, and 36-degrees – 30 minutes to race time. The line, thirteen people deep, had already extended outside the facilities. As it slowly took its course, we compared shoes (super minimalist Vibrams to supermaximalist Hoka One Ones) and recent races (some had run the Richmond Marathon only last weekend), and we all came to a mutual agreement: no more than two minutes on the toilet.

The whole day was like that. I never had to ask to pass anyone on the narrow single track trails. Before I even had the chance, the notion was offered. If someone tripped on a root, the closest person always helped him up. The aid station volunteers never waited for me to ask for something, everything was offered. Encouragement was tossed about like confetti. And I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Stone Mill 50 2012

In a lot of ways, my first marathon was much more difficult than this race. Don’t get me wrong, running 50 miles is an ordeal that can be full of pain and loneliness. However, where my 30,000-person marathon felt like a race of just me against the clock, the Stone Mill 50 felt like this cool thing 421 other people and I were all trying to accomplish together (plus dozens of volunteers and countless other supportive bystanders).

Running UPHILL to the finish

Stone Mill 50 Finish
Crossing the finish line!!

And the person who I think typified this the most is someone I’m still very thankful for: the guy three spots ahead of me in line who said, “You know what guys? I’m just going to poop in the woods.”


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Running on Real Food

I've got one more race up my sleeve before 2012 is over: the Stampede Runs Fat Ass 50k.  I figured I've got all this training from my marathons, what's another 5 miles?  Plus, I will likely have to dial back my running next year, so I want to get an ultramarathon in before I take that break.

I went for a short run on Monday, then took the rest of the week off to recover from the Richmond Marathon.  This morning I ran a slow 20 miles to get my body back in gear.

To prepare for my Fat Ass (hahaha, I love saying that), I approached this 20-miler differently than I have any other.  For this entire training season, I've been fueling with gels--mostly Gu but also Clif Shot Gels, Hammer, and Accel--as well as the occasional Clif Shot Bloks and Jelly Belly Sport Beans. I also tried Nuun for about three months, but I couldn't bring myself to like it.

For my run this morning, I opted to fuel with real food rather than gels.  I've been curious about fueling with real food for a while, but figured I should get the hang of using gels first.  But after downing 5 gels during the Richmond Marathon, I'm pretty sick of the stuff (though I definitely see their value and will continue to use them).  For today's run I just grabbed items from our pantry that I thought I might like:

This photo insists on appearing sideways.

The course for the Stampede Runs 50k is a 5k loop.  Yes, that means we have to run around that loop 10 times to complete the race.  Ugh.  So to help prepare myself for that mental drudgery, I intended to run  a 6-mile loop around our neighborhood 3 times, followed by a quick 2-mile out and back.

First Lap

The first lap was actually just under 5.7 miles because I miscalculated the distance of my route.  Whatever, it was just great to be running again!!  I ran slow and happy (total time 57:09, avg. page 10:03, avg. HR 155).

I got to our porch and immediately went inside because I had to pee!  (You're welcome).  I also grabbed the DJ's race vest, which I had been wanting to try out for some time.  Its an UltrAspire Spry, which is their smallest race vest.  Surprisingly, it didn't stink despite having covered 50 miles the day before!

I had some water, then stuffed my face with pretzels, Ritz crackers, and a quarter of a blueberry bagel, which sat surprisingly well in my stomach.  I also stashed a chunk of the bagel and some crackers in the race vest.

My Spry, new best friend :)
Also, where did my chin go?!

Second lap

The second lap was the same as the first--5.7 miles--because I didn't realize my calculation error until later.  The pace for this lap was slightly faster, but not by much (total time 56:54, avg. pace 9:57, avg. HR 160).  Speed was not on my list of things to do this morning.

About 3 miles in, I felt like I needed more calories so I started gnawing on the bagel.  I had no idea eating while running would be so challenging!  I had to take small bites and chew slowly.  But the bagel was mighty tasty as were the Ritz crackers (mmmm, salty-buttery yumminess).

Sexiness in action.

Got to our porch and took a SUCCEED S Cap with a swig of water, had half of a banana, broke off a quarter of a strawberry breakfast bar, and stuffed more bagel, crackers and this time pretzels into my vest.

Third lap

Realizing I had been shortchanging myself on my previous laps, I increased the mileage on this lap.  I intended to do 6.5 miles, but part way in I just opted to run 9 miles and call it done.  I was loving my run, but I also wanted to get on with my day (total time 1:29:24, avg. pace 9:52, avg. HR 161).

After four miles I had more bagel, more crackers, and tried the pretzels, which I did not like at all.  They were too dry, and I wasn't carrying any water to wash them down.

Around six miles I could feel that I needed more energy, but I had eaten everything in my vest.  Oh well.  Luckily I only had 3 miles left.  Miles 7 and 8 were uphill and slow (10:11 and 10:16), so I picked up the speed for mile 9 to finish strong and just be done (8:29).


My total mileage ended up being 20.5 miles (total time: 3:23:27, avg. pace 9:57, avg. HR 159).  I've run faster 20-milers, I've run slower 20-milers, but this the most I've ever enjoyed myself on a 20-mile run.  I felt great throughout the run, and I felt great after, not completely wiped out like I usually feel.  As usual, I had some coconut water right after.  I bought a few cans of this brand at our local health food store, but didn't like it so much, so I thought I'd try it cold to see if it taste better.  Nope, still gross.

The amount I ate was good for the pace and distance I was running, though I'm not sure how much more I need to consume to fuel a faster pace.  For my 50k I will probably use a combination of gels and food.

Oh, and the race vest?  LOVE.  I've been running with an Amphipod Airflow Endurance Pack, but no more.  The UltrAspire Spry is so light and well made.  I'll do a review after my 50k, but so far I'm head over heels.

Have you tried using food to fuel a long run?  What works for you?

What type of course do you prefer - loop?  Out and back?  Point to point?

Have you ever run a 50k?  Any tips to share?  


Friday, November 16, 2012

Pre-Race Jitters (A Journey into the Soul)

Today we have a guest post from DJ Research!  Tomorrow he's embarking on the greatest race of his life (up to this point).  He's nervous.  I'm nervous.  We'd appreciate any strong, positive vibes directed his way.  And you can bet he'll be sporting a Peformance Enhancing Kokepelli!

I'm never going to earn anything more than a few magazine subscriptions with my frequent flier miles, but I've certainly taken my fair share of airplane trips in my 33 years.  And as many trips as I've taken, I still get nervous every time.  The thing is, I'm never nervous until the very moment the plane starts to pull away from the terminal.  Until that moment, I'm fine.  I'm always excited to go on a trip.  I look forward to my in-flight movie, whatever crappy romantic comedy it may be. And I can't wait for all the reading I'll get done.  But the second the plane starts moving, a small but notable anxiety - one that will remain with me the entire flight - instantly underlies everything.

It's the same with public speaking and tests.  I feel no different than in any other unexceptional moment of life, until that very second I start talking or the clock starts ticking.

So, it's making me really nervous that for the last two weeks, I've been nervous about my upcoming race.  That's right, I'm nervous about being nervous.  Which is making me more nervous.

At 6AM this Saturday, I will attempt my first 50-miler. 

Stone Mill 50-miler

This year's Stone Mill 50 is a 350ish-person trail race held by the Montgomery County Road Runners Club.  In its third year, it has become a (much much) less expensive alternative to the much much more famous JFK50.  Held on the same day this year, the two races never actually cross, but run virtually parallel to one another about 20 miles apart.

Including any distance, this is my seventh race.  Five of my previous six were road races between 5k and 26.2mi; the other race was a trail 50k and in all of them, I've been happy with my results if not exceedingly happy.  I will admit to some anxiety before my marathon, because heading in, I was really unsure whether or not I'd meet my A-goal, instead of my still difficult, still would-have-made-me-very-happy B-goal.  But prior to none of them was I this nervous.

The reasons are thus:

Can I really handle 19 more miles than I've ever run before?  Though I've been told it's really no big deal, the jump up in distance from 50k (31mi) to 50mi, just seems impossibly huge.  If you'd told me after my recent marathon that you'd give me $1,000 to run another 24 miles in the next 6.5 hours (I'm shooting for 10 hours on Saturday), I would have said, "Damn," and then I'd have taken a nap.

What am I going to eat for 10 hours? While the Gunpowder Keg 50k, an excellent Fat Ass held by the Baltimore Road Runners, was very very well-aided and this race promises to be even better aided, I'm really nervous about my fueling. I've certainly thought about it plenty, but I still don't really have a concrete fueling strategy outside of periodically eating Clif bars and Gu. All I know is, if I have to eat more than a dozen Gu, I'm likely to... I don't know (but in terms of severity, it'd probably fall between invading Lichtenstein and watching a Teletubbies marathon).

Have I trained enough?  Theoretically, yes.  I've read time and again that being able to run 30 trail miles should be sufficient.  But theoretically, no.  95% of all my training was done on the road.  And while I occasionally have to avoid a heaping pile of dog poop on my local sidewalks, there really is no replacement for the hills and roots and rocks that trails will throw at you, except other hills and roots and rocks.

Have I even recovered yet from my marathon?  This is the big one.  And the answer is a resounding no.  Three weeks will have passed between races, which has been more than enough historically, but I'm only now getting my energy back.  I pushed HARD in that marathon, harder than in anything I've ever done.  And I did it on an already twinge-y achilles.  So I'm nervous that my legs'll be shot after only some of those hills.  With my achilles, the question isn't whether or not it'll hurt, the question is just how much agony will I be in at mile 30?  At 45?  There is no way to make light of this, this is genuine fear.

All together, these questions are founded in one overarching concern:

I really don't want to DNF.

I want to be able to say I finish all my races.  Let me rephrase, I want to be able to say I finish everything I start and care about.  I want someday for my son to believe what I believe, that (within reason) limping across a finish line hours after you intended is better than giving up for a little hunger, or a little pain. 

But where's the dividing line between a little and a lot?  How much suffering can I and should I put up with?  And if i do have to DNF, how will i feel about that decision a month later?  I guess I'm scared that when push comes to shove, I might draw the line in the wrong place and regret it later.

When I signed up for it, I'd thought this race would be a nice run in the woods, but somehow it's turned into a representation of my values as a human being.

Nevertheless, here we go...

Performance Enhancing Kokopelli

Have you ever started a race scared?  How did you overcome that fear?

Have you ever run an ultramarathon?