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?


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hubby Homemaker

This month I'm participating in the Give Thanks Challenge, hosted by Abby at Back at Square Zero.

Tonight I am thankful that I came home to a kitchen full of light.

Someone else's bright, beautiful kitchen.
Ours is the completely opposite.

Which meant that the hubs was home.  Which meant that dinner was already in the works.  Which meant that, instead of tackling the dishes from this morning, I could just change into my pjs and open a beer.  Which is exactly what I did.

Not only had the hubs made dinner, he also did a load of laundry AND put little Nugget to bed. 

So, tonight I am oh so thankful guessed it...

...the chance to relaaaaaaax.

(Oh, and for my hubby too, of course. :)

How do you like to relax after a long day?  Do you enjoy a beer or a glass of wine?  Whats your favorite libation?

What would your dream kitchen look like?  Mine would have lots and lots of counter space, and lots and lots of light.

What are you thankful for today?  Share it below or on Twitter!  Don't forget to tag @backatsquare0 and @ama_runs, and use the hashtag #givethanks!


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Catching Up...Thankfully

This month I'm participating in the Give Thanks Challenge, hosted by Abby at Back at Square Zero.  And I'm six days behind.  I'm sure no one out there is keeping track (or are you?!), but my OCD certainly is.  So here are six things that I have been thankful for over the past few days:

1.  Lessons learned from a bad race
2.  Road Trips
3.  Coffee...again (preferably without Flat Stanley, but I couldn't seem to shake him during our Richmond trip)

4.  Sock Gloves

I wore sock gloves during Freedom's Run, and they worked really well in the sub-freezing weather that I made a new pair for Richmond.  The weather was much warmer for Richmond, though, and I ended up chucking them before the race even started.  

I still heart these days later because I FREEZE at work, so they come in handy on a daily basis too.  I got the socks from Target, and I'm going to buy a few more colorful pairs to add some color to my cubicle life.  Yes, its the random things in life that make me happy.

5.  Being on the trail with friends

Thanks to the holiday, I met up with a friend who is just getting into this crazy sport (yes!) for a 5-mile trail run/hike.  Good friends, good trails -- just what I needed after my marathon.

6.  Running with my son

After our hike, I rejoined the fam at the park playground so DJ Research could get a few miles on the trails.  Surprisingly, Nugget had lost interest in the playground, and when I asked him, "Do you want to go for a run?" his face lit up, "Yes!  Mommy, me, run-run?"  So I strapped him in the jogging stroller, gave him some goldfish, and took off.  We ran 3.4 miles in just under 28:50 minutes (8:28 m/m) and I felt great.  So thankful that my son wanted to go for a run.  We all went home smiling.

Have you taken any road trips lately?

Do you have any random items that make you happy?

Do you enjoy trail running?  With friends or flying solo?

Do you run with your kids?  Or run away from them?

How many cups of coffee have you had today? ; )

What are you thankful for today?  Share it below or on Twitter!  Don't forget to tag @backatsquare0 and @ama_runs, and use the hashtag #givethanks!


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Richmond wasn't all Marathon...

Despite having a poor race at the Richmond Marathon, our little family unit had a blast while visiting this city. DJ Research and I spent our babymoon in Richmond before Nugget was born, so it holds a special place in our hearts.  

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Richmond I-64 West End.  We tend to stay at Holiday Inns when we travel because I like their facilities and they have reasonable rates.  This Holiday Inn, however, was my least favorite.  The entrance for the hotel restaurant was more visible than the entrance for the hotel itself (meaning we were driving in circles trying to find the lobby), the rooms weren't as nice (in fact, the ceiling in the shower had a HUGE leak that rained water from the bathroom above!!), and the hotel overall was a tad run-down.  No biggie, but I've seen better.  Service was stellar, though.

Decent room.

We were given these awesome door hangers (Nice touch, Richmond Marathon!):

Richmond Marathon Door Hanger
If only life were always this simple.

In our room, Nugget did some speedwork on the bed and assessed overall bounciness:

Both beds passed the test.  

We managed lights out at 9:00.  9:00!!  While thats late for Nugget, DJ Research and I are NEVER in bed that early.  Surprisingly, I zonked out immediately.

I woke the next morning, got ready, had some breakfast (banana, coffee, peanut butter on bread), and caught the shuttle to the race start.  Actually, I missed the shuttle because I got to the lobby and realized I had forgotten my handheld upstairs, and by the time I got back down to the lobby, the shuttle was full.  No biggie, they had a back-up shuttle, but it was definitely an indication of how things would go that day.

Whats that random kid doing?
And by random kid, I mean my kid.

Anywho, ran the race, didn't do so well, hobbled back to the hotel, and drowned my sorrow (melodramatic?  moi?) in pizza, lasagna, and Disney movies starring Anne Hathaway.  Yes, I watched BOTH Princess Diaries movies (enjoyed the first one, the second one was pretty lame) while Nugget bounced around the hotel room in just his diaper.  I'm pretty sure he thinks this was the BEST family vacation.

Mark my words, hipsters of the future
will be wearing this outfit.

And honestly, I REALLY enjoyed just hanging out with my family for an entire day.  I felt no pressure to do anything; in fact, I felt that I deserved to sit on my butt for the rest of the day considering I just ran 26.2 miles.  I kinda wish we had better movies options, though.

The next morning we grabbed breakfast at Urban Farmhouse.  Love, love, LOVE this place.  So does Bart Yasso.  And DJ Research loves Bart Yasso, so he just had to say hi.  Sort of:

Stalker tweet.  Mr. Yasso is in the red shirt.

DJ Research sent the tweet to Mr. Yasso WHILE WE WERE STILL THERE.  I almost died.  I thought he was taking the picture for fun, NOT to profess his love.  Mr. Yasso tweeted back after we left:

The nicest man in running responding to the biggest dorks in running.

But before we high-tailed it outta there, we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast, and Nugget shared his pain au chocolate with Flat Stanley.

To burn some energy before we hit the road, Nugget tried to open every door on the city block, per his tradition when we travel.

Nugget and his nightclub.

And we came across a small parking lot with a smile pile of leaves that kept Nugget entertained for a good half-hour (hallelujah!)

This worked out perfectly:

The car ride home.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip.  We'll be back Richmond.  If not for your marathon, at the very least for your wonderful charm.

Do you travel for races?  Whats the farthest you've traveled to a race?

Do you have any family traditions when you travel?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Richmond Marathon: Race Report

Well, that sucked.

Yesterday, I ran the 2012 Richmond Marathon, which was my second marathon in 5 weeks, and my second marathon overall.  It did not go well.  I can come up with a myriad of excuses for why the race went poorly, but honestly, I didn't take the race seriously.  I ran Freedom's Run well, and thought I could just waltz through the Richmond Marathon, which is an "easier" course.  And by waltz, I mean PR by 7 minutes.  In the end, I anti-PR'd by almost 20 minutes.  Apparently I am not super woman, and I learned this the hard way...AGAIN.

This was my most critical mistake:

Richmond 3:45 Pace Team
I should not have made friends with this man.

I thought I could run a 3:45, and therefore went out WAAAAAAY too fast.  By mile 4 I knew I was in trouble, yet I refused to slow down.  I held on until mile 13, and then started to fade badly.  The 3:45 pace group was out of sight by mile 14, and dejected, I started to plod.  And then I started to walk.  I walked/plodded for the rest of the race.  I wasn't wearing my Garmin (it died in my bag and I forgot to bring my charger; just an indication of how things would go that day!) so I have no idea how slowly I was running, but I was so upset with my pace, I would stop and walk out of frustration.  No, this was not a mentally strong race for me.

I also walked because my hips were killing me.  This has been an issue for the latter half of my training, but my left hip was so sore that my left hamstring started to cramp.  Walking eased the pain somewhat. I really need to see a PT about this.

I finished in 4:10:12.  25 minutes slower than my A goal (3:45), 20 minutes slower than my B goal (3:50), 17 minutes slower than my PR (3:53).  I'm mad that I didn't run sub-4:00.  But I am damn proud that I finished.

A bad race is really a blessing in disguise.  Its important that you take the opportunity to learn from a bad race.  So for the rest of this post, I'm going to turn my frown upside-down, and tell you about the highlights (because there were some!) and lessons I learned along the way:

  • Meeting another Freedom's Run marathoner before the race.  She was running the Richmond Half-Marathon, and it was fun to rehash the Freedom's Run event.
  • Santa Claus was out cheering for us around mile 11/12(?), and he invited all of us to run the North Pole Marathon next month.  Hahaha!  I loved it!
  • All the little kids cheering for us along the way.  I tried to high-five as many as I could; I was so thankful that their parents were introducing them to this (crazy) sport at a young age.
  • DJ Research and I planned a handheld swap around the half-way point (I like to carry my own water since thats how I train).  The hand-off went perfectly - a little too perfectly!  DJ Research was so intent on switching out water bottles that he forgot to offer words of encouragement!  He made up for it though...
  • I saw DJ Research and Nugget again around mile 21.  I wasn't expecting to see them until the end of the race, so it was an awesome surprise.  He asked me, "Do you need more water?"  Almost in tears, I said, "I need a hug!!"  I buried my face in his shoulder and said, "I'm having such a bad race!"  "You're doing great!" he encouraged me.  And even though I knew it wasn't true, those words picked me up and helped me to keep going.

The DJ & Nugget were wearing
dinosaur hoodies while spectating.
Did you see them?

  • At mile 23, I saw a sign that said, "You are about to finish a FREAKIN' marathon!"  Even though I  was waaay off my target goal, I knew I was still going to finish this race and have another 26.2 under my belt - and that is still quite an accomplishment.  That sign helped put things in perspective and I yelled to the girl holding the sign, "Thank you! I needed that!"
  • As I rounded that last corner and started the surprisingly long downhill to the finish, I pulled up next to a runner who blurted, "Where is this darn finish line?  This the longest .2 miles of my life!" to which I quipped, "Oh they just keep moving it farther back."  We both had a laugh and I crossed the finish line with a smile, which was a redeeming way to end this race.

Lessons Learned:

  • On starting out too fast:  Don't.  Seriously, don't. (I know this is a cardinal sin in racing, but also one of the most difficult rules to follow).  I ran too fast for the first half of the race, crossing half-way at 1:51:55, and then got my butt handed to me.  And if you do realize you've started to fast, listen to your body and SLOW DOWN.
  • On following a pace group:  I didn't like it.  Granted, I was following a pace group that was much too fast for me, but even if I had been following a pacer more my speed (like the 4:00 pacer), I still don't think I would have liked the experience.  I felt too much pressure to run within the group's perimeter--as arbitrarily determined by myself--so I found myself speeding up if I felt I had fallen behind, or slowing down if I felt I was going too fast.  I didn't feel like I was running my race.  Also, there were too many people trying to run with the pacer, so I felt like we were tripping over each other.  (That said, the pacers were awesome.)
  • On fueling: I took a GU gel every 4 miles, as I did in training.  Normally I'm ok with it, but by mile 20, I was disgusted with the stuff.  I forced it down since I knew I had to.  Next year I'm going to experiment with glycogen depletion training and taking salt tabs.  Also, I think I need to mix my gel intake with other fuel sources so I don't get sick of the same thing.
  • On not meeting your goal:  More experienced marathoners will tell you, just adjust your goal and enjoy the race.  I didn't enjoy the race: I couldn't run hard, and so I didn't let myself run happy.  And that was a problem.  Next time I miss my target goal (cause I know its gonna happen again), I'm gonna make sure I just have a dang good time.

I also learned: THE RICHMOND MARATHON IS NOT A FLAT COURSE.  I had so many people tell me "Richmond is flat and fast - you'll love it!" that when I looked at the elevation profile and saw hills, I thought, "Well, they must be really small hills since everyone keeps telling me that Richmond is flat."  Granted the hills were not large hills, but when you are expecting flat, any hill is an unwelcome surprise.  In the end, its my own darn fault for not being more prepared.

Richmond Marathon 2012 Elevation Chart
These hills were not insignificant.

At the end of the day though, I still ran 26.2 miles and I still finished a freakin marathon.  And at the end of the day, even after a bad race, this kid still makes me feel like a superstar.

Have you ever had a bad race?  What did you learn from it?  How do you recover from a bad race?  

How do you fuel on race day?  

Whats the best sign you've seen during a race?


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Are You Superstitious?

I have to figure out what I'm going to wear for the Richmond Marathon this weekend, and as many of you know, deciding race wardrobe is not a simple task.

Wait a second, who am I kidding?  Its a totally easy task!  Just make sure you're warm enough before the race (warm being relative, of course), and that you bring warm clothes to change into after.  It's not rocket science...BUT I am complicating the question just a tad: do I wear the same outfit that I wore for my first marathon, or do I go with something completely different?

I ran my first marathon about 4 weeks ago, and ran a pretty good race.  I'm wondering if I should wear the same outfit for Richmond, with the hope that it still has some good race energy (though I did wash it - maybe not the best move for the superstitious, but probably a better move for everyone else's sake).  Here's the outfit:

Nothing spectacular, but it did carry me 26.2 miles in under 4 hours.

Or should wear a new outfit, perhaps my Freedom's Run race shirt with different color Pro Compression socks? (I always wear Pro Compression socks when I race.  And I always race in a running skirt.  I don't have a big tush, but I still like the coverage).

Although, frankly, the lime-green does kinda hurt my eyes.

I'm leaning towards wearing what I wore for Freedom's Run, since you know what they say, "Nothing new on race day."  But I am curious how other runners approach their race day outfit.

How do you decided what to wear for a race?  

Will you wear the same outfit again if you raced well in it before?  

Do you have any race superstitions or pre-race rituals that you do before every race?

And since I'm participating this month in the Give Thanks Challenge, hosted by Abby at Back at Square Zero, my #givethanks for the day is:

Snail Mail

I got a very nice handwritten note in the mail today.  It was such a welcomed surprise.  Made me smile.

Do you appreciate a little snail mail every once in a while?


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

That's Funny!

This month I'm participating in the Give Thanks Challenge, hosted by Abby at Back at Square Zero.  And though I didn't post yesterday, I swear that I was thankful.  I was also really, really tired.  Was it all the election hullabaloo?  Probably  not.  Whatever it was, I was zapped and just zonked out right after dinner.  When I awoke this morning, I was thankful that:

The Election was over!

And now back to our regularly scheduled lives...

Speaking of television (because we were - did you not know that?), I must say that I am thankful for a few tv shows that make me laugh, and sometimes cry, and generally help me keep my sanity.  Though I don't have time to watch these shows regularly (and therefore, tend to binge watch into the wee hours every few months), I'm a fan of Parks & Recreation, Modern Family, The Office, Parenthood, and Suits.  I've also enjoyed a few episodes of the Mindy Project.

But tonight I tried something different - a Hulu exclusive series called Spy.  Have you seen it?  Its absolutely ridiculous.  So not funny that its hilarious.  I couldn't stop laughing.  Something must be wrong with me.  

So what am I thankful for?  Today I'm thankful for idiots comedy.  With the cold setting in and darkness descending before I even leave work, its easy to feel a little down and out these days.  As they say, laughter is the best medicine, and I thankful for silly humor that gets my giggling.

And then of course, there's this gem.  I still watch this with a silly grin on my face (and DJ Research can't understand why :)

I can't believe I'm running a marathon in 3 days!  No, really, I can't believe it.  I completely forgot about it until tonight.  Have to pack!

What makes you laugh?

Do you have any favorite tv shows?  

What are you thankful for today?  Share it below or on Twitter!  Don't forget to tag @backatsquare0 and @ama_runs, and use the hashtag #givethanks!