Monday, May 12, 2014
Run my 4th Harpers Ferry Half Marathon this past weekend. I'll make this a short report because I've written about it before (see link at end). I won't repeat anything except to say it's a *very* hill course. Here's a pic comparing it to the HMs of Frederick and Baltimore - check out that red line:
This year, due to illness , I was only able to eat 800 calories the day before the race. Despite this, I had a good race - actually ran faster than last year finishing just a hair over 2 hours. This reinforces my belief that eating the day (and morning) before a race is one of the least significant aspects of race prep (if you've eaten properly during the rest of your taper).
One thing I did differently was to drink a LOT of water during the race. At the start, I listened to the RD warn about hyponatremia. So of course, I was a bit worried but it was hot (70F). I figure that people suffering from hyponatremia must really be overdoing it!
I also consumed gels on the course, something I haven't been too keen on in the past. Last year, I only had 1 gel. This year, I had a "Double Latte" at mile 6 and another at 11. I already knew that PowerBar gels taste horrible so I slammed them down as quickly as possible. Still not sure if it was the sugar or the caffeine but I finished strong.
Despite what I just said, I did take a brief walk break during a giant hill at 12 and another at 12.9 that's incredibly steep. It's a bit frustrating to walk so close to the end. But these hills are killer when you're so close to exhausted and I had walked them every year. In fairness, I must explain that *everyone* around me walked these same sections, too. I was not passed.
Also dumped a cup of water on my head and shirt. (Hope the aid station volunteers found that amusing.) Had never done that before but it was soooo hot.
My race report from last year:
Sunday, March 23, 2014
This is my kind of deal: In lovely Rockville, Maryland, an 8K for only $20. Includes t-shirt and, at the finish, free beer and all the food you can eat, live band, dancing, and a 50' high cool-down spray courtesy of the local fire dept.
8K is a nice distance for people who've done 5Ks and want to try something a bit longer.
To get this deal, you just have to register anytime on Sunday, March 23. At midnight, it goes to the regular price of $34 (which is still a darn good price but $20 is amazing).
What's the downside? Two:
1) The race is in July (kinda hot). But they have lots water stops (4!) and sprayers on the course. Check out these architectural water stop masterpieces:
2) Not the most scenic race. But it doesn't matter because it starts at twilight so you're not going to be looking around much anyway cause it will be dark! Some finish-in-the-dark photos:
For more info: rockvilletwilighter.org/
Monday, March 17, 2014
I did the Seneca Creek 50K last week. This was the 2nd year I had done it. Last time, conditions were ideal. This year, not so much.
This year, it had snowed a week earlier so I considered using screwshoes or yaktrax. My friends speculated that several afternoons above freezing would leave the surface snow-free in which case trail shoes alone would be fine and anything additional would be annoying. I followed their advice.
In the first mile, I realized I had made a huge error. The snow had not melted from the last few days above freezing. And so began the start of miles of sliding around and hunting for secure footing. Tiny muscles throughout my entire lower body told me that they had not been trained for this.
People using yaktrax were having a better experience. But they complained that their yaks didn't work in the center of the trail - mostly ice or compacted snow - so they were running to the side on uncompacted snow. I stuck to the center where it was icier but had divot-like contours - my trail shoes gripped better. I still slipped a lot though.
Although I'm a natural heel-striker, my gait changed unconsciously to forefoot-striker. (On ice, you cannot land securely on your heels!) What's that they say about never doing anything new on race day?
What's Even Worse Than Ice
Things slowed down when, after an hour or so, snow/ice began to alternate with areas where the snow had melted entirely turning the ground muddy. I was partly prepared for this. But not for giant expanses of mud!
Imagine pillows of mud! The mud rose to the top of my shoe. I passed a runner who had stopped to clean the mud out from under his arch. After the race, I finally understood when I removed my shoes and found a sculpted bed of mud under each of my own feet. No wonder my shoes were so comfortable - a mud-bed orthotic!
Back to the race: At first, we were delicately picking our way through mudfields as we looked for solid footing. But swinging far to the side of the trail often put us in brambles or a tree. Everyone eventually did the same mental calculation - that running right through the middle, the deepest mud - made little difference.
I became an expert in mud running. I'm not saying it was easy. But there were times when I actually had a stride. I began to realize that I could make up time on the steepest downhills - each stride ended with a pleasant slide as I oozed my way even further down. Alas, due to roots and other obstacles, some of the downhills were not safe and I still had to gingerly step my way down. And the flats and uphills remained a shoe-sucking slog.
I felt sorry for runners doing this trail or distance for the first time. Trail races are rarely like this. And during good conditions, this was a particularly lovely trail. This was not a good way to experience it.
Around mile 20, I was thinking this was no longer any fun and having trouble remembering if I had experienced any fun that morning. I recall walking some of the flats at this point. And my feet were getting cold. Not a good sign. I stopped at an aid station to put a bandaid over a hot spot. Peeling my sock and shoe off was disgusting. Putting them back on was even less appealing. My white socks had turned brown. A pic of my tights taken afterward:
Time to talk about food! In my report from last year, I obsessed mostly about the food. www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
urnal_individual.asp?blog_id=5271654 This year, I didn't worry about food. I was confident I was not going to bonk. Despite working harder due to the tricky footing and shoe-sucking mud, I figured I was still fat-burning my way through the course.
So I didn't try to eat as many calories as last year. I just kept picking up handfuls of salty things from the aid stations to keep me interested in drinking fluids. Drank a lot of gatorade with occasional water for variety and some caffeinated coke at mile 24. I probably should have imbibed coke earlier because when the caffeine kicked in, it was very apparent and I felt doing the last 10 miles than the middle 10.
Didn't bother with gels. I occasionally picked up cookies and M&Ms out of boredom. (Why do all aid stations have M&Ms? It's not as if anyone trains on M&Ms!) At mile 28, I remember coming to a very tiny aid station - a woman standing next to a chair with a two bags of open food. She handed me a single fig newton. It had been sitting in the sun for awhile so it was soft and I recall thinking it was the best tasting fig newton I had ever had. Admittedly my standard for trail highlights had gone way down by that point.
The worst patch was at mile 14. The promised aid station wasn't there. What? I had just run 8 miles - the biggest gap in the race - and needed to eat. I saw a friend standing there and burst out "Where the f*** is the aid station?" He said he was wondering the same thing. Fortunately, he was driving from spot to spot as he tracked his wife on the course and so he had a stash of her favorite foods. He let me indulge and I owe him big time! Can't imagine what other runners did at this point. Chew on twigs? The race director has gotta take some heat on this.
Enough with the Food
I ran with many different people. Swapping stories was fun although I heard more than I wanted to about injuries and undertraining. Example: One runner apologized for not running faster - explaining she had had a concussion two days earlier! And I came upon a runner puking. Asked him if he was okay, he said the gatorade wasn't mixed to the proper proportion. That made me feel a bit queasy until about 2 minutes later when my concentration (zapped by the miles) made it impossible to remember what he had just said to me! On the plus side, my stomach felt fine after forgetting his story.
The course was several miles longer than promised. Instead of 50K, it was 53K (33 miles). But trail courses are notorious for this and this race has a history of being long, so I didn't dwell on it. I made the aid station cutoffs - whew - and finished in 8½ hours. Frankly, I was relieved to finish at all. Of the 450 registered, 290 finished.
Another friend of mine got lost and finished last in 10 hours. DFL as we say. I hear many new runners say they need big races so they don't finish last. But my friend was ecstatic. We had a great time congratulating her on her hard-earned DFL title. She loved it! A popular running quote: DFL is always better than DNS.
This was a no-bling, no-t-shirt race. No one needs a medal to remember this race.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
I did the Club Challenge 10 Miler this past Sunday in lovely Columbia MD. This race is open to any member of a running club in Maryland or DC. Can't beat the price: Free! About 1000 people enter so it's not overcrowded. It takes only 1 minute from getting out of your car to picking up your bib (hooray for race day morning bib pickup) and another 2 minutes to walk to the start line. If they didn't shut down bib pickup 15 minutes before race time, we would have all shown up 5 minutes before the start!
The only thing I don't like about this race is that there's no gatorade, only water on the course. And since I'm training to run at fat-burning pace for an upcoming ultra, I decided to forgo using gels. A decent breakfast would have to do.
I've done this race several times so I know it has rolling hills and you have to pace yourself. But this year, I figured I'd take it even easier because, the day before, I had "run" 18 miles on sloppy trails. Here in Maryland, the trails were still covered with a mixture of ice, snow, and slush. It was tough and, half the time, it was more like a hike with occasional bits of tiptoeing across ice and streams. And a lot of slipping throughout.
So I wasn't expecting much for the 10M the following morning. But despite getting to sleep late the night before and having to wake up early, I nuked a frozen entree, and felt fine at the start. So I figured I'd run at my usual pace - I would slow down later.
Around mile 8, I could feel my energy lagging and I knew I was going to have to slow down as I heard some guy gaining on me. Even though it was honestly a bit annoying, I figured I would at least compliment him on his pace. He, in turn, told me I was doing fine and that turned into a conversation as we swapped stories of previous races. He was so much fun that I kept up.
By mile 9, I needed to slow down and told him to leave me. But he was in no hurry ("this is just a training run for my upcoming marathon") and so we continued yakking away despite my discomfort. 100 yards from the finish, I told him to go ahead and "break the tape so it would be easier for me to cross the finish." He finally let me go as I backed off, and I finished about 10 seconds after him.
I was stunned to find that I had finished in 1:27, beating my PR for that race by 4 minutes. So what's the moral of the story? Find someone to run with during the last two miles who is better at pacing and won't let you slow down? Or run (hike, really!) the day before under conditions that feel so awful that running on pavement the following day feels easy?
I'm thinking that the former was nice but the latter was key. Compare it to my race report from last year when I ran significantly slower despite several day's rest(!) before the race:
PS: If you do 10M races or just want to try one, join the Spark 10 Mile Team! 10M is a nice intermediate distance that bridges the gap between a 10K and a HM. (Plus we need more people on the team!)
Saturday, December 21, 2013
What a bargain to start the new year: The Red Eye in lovely Prince William Forest in Triangle, Virginia on Jan 1. www.vhtrc.org/news/redeye
Nominally 50K, it also includes options to do 10M or 20M. About 1/3 of runners do each distance.
- Free. (Ok, I already said that but it's worth repeating.)
- No finisher premiums. (No pressure to finish!)
- No prizes for winning. (No pressure to push!)
- But there is one prize: Runner with Best Hangover. (Enjoy your New Years Eve party!)
Best part: Aid stations stocked by runners. Yes, you have to bring food to share - which leads to the best aid stations. Last year, foods ranged from chocolate-covered bacon (Mmm!) to chicken noodle soup (complete with camp stove to keep it hot)!
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