Saturday, May 26, 2012

A good Timp Trail half marathon humbling

From the time I knew my due date with our baby I knew Timp Trail Half Marathon would be the first race I'd really focus on.  I ran it last year and just loved it!  It's what's inspired me to put more effort into getting into ultra running later this year.  I told myself not to have any expectations with this race placement or time wise.  This was just a celebration of my giving birth and getting back into competition, and a chance to measure my current fitness after working for 8 weeks (I know, I know, that's fast.  I feel like I have the background to do this though and have built up slowly as I wrote in the post below).  The weather was great!  This winter and spring have been very mild and so unlike the 2 years past the trail was dry and packed.  The sky was clouded, winds still, temperature in the 50's.  I was never cold and wishing for layers and in fact was warm from the get go.  Glad I didn't pack any layers with me.  On my feet were my Altra Lone Peaks.  Wore my Intuitions last year, appreciated the rock plate and better traction and lugs of the Lone Peak for this race.  Wore my UltrAspire Surge pack which I love.  Love that it doesn't feel like any weight at all on my shoulders, doesn't bounce around much (not enough to bother me, and less bounce than a waist pack, I think it's just the water sloshing in the bladder), and holds things great in the front pockets.

So here's the run down.  The miles passed quickly luckily (except the last mile that seemed like 5)  I felt about the same as last year until mile 7.5 or so.  It was a little harder to climb until then, but I remember being pretty out of breath last year too on those.  Ran with a really nice guy Shad for 5 or so miles.  Nice to talk to someone in a similar situation: young kids, on a budget, little time to train, etc.  Ah the life  :)  He did great and ended up beating my by several minutes.
As soon as we entered Dry Canyon at about 7.5 there are maybe a dozen steps to get going.  Man they were at least 12 inches high and oh boy did they burn the legs.  I speed walked like I did last year in the steep uphill sections but don't think I was moving quite as fast on those climbs the whole time.  Once we finally got out of the canyon about mile 9.5 or 10 I was hoping to open up and fly like I did last year, but the legs just weren't quite there.  They were tired and weak and just weren't supporting me as well as I'd like to be aggressive.  My footing didn't feel super confident either.  Bummer.  Just a lack of time on real trail since Ella I think.  Not much time to get to the mountains when I'm a nursing mom and my husband is always working.  Oh well, my family comes first so I'll do the best I can with what I have right now.  I was a little nervous passing the point where I fell last year, but I was fine.  Did catch a rock with my toe almost crashed and man does that sky rocket the heart rate!  That last mile felt like it took forever and my legs were tired but not burning, just difficult to keep them under me and stable in difficult steep downhill terrain.  Was amazing to see one of our Altra coworkers Brian Beckstead fly by me downhill at suicide pace at mile 25 or so of his trail marathon.  And other coworker Seth Wold broke the course record for the marathon by 35 minutes! Inspiring.  Scary, but inspiring  :)
Competition wise, here's how it went.  I led the race from .5 mile in to about mile 6 where a girl came powering down a hill in front of me.  No big deal, I was happy to be leading until then and just figured I'd let her go and not worry about it, still a long race and if I caught her I caught her.  She ran away a little but every time we'd get to significant uphill I'd catch up to her.  Eventually passed her right after the 8.6 mile aid station and knew I was better on the up and she was better on the down so I made as much ground as I could on the climb up and out of that canyon.  Once I finally got to the top I ran, but knew I didn't feel as good as last year so it was kind of a matter of time before she caught up.  She caught me about mile 10 and was out of there, I just hoped to maybe hang onto 2nd, but at least 3rd at that point.  I also wanted to beat my time of last year which I thought was 2:09 (actually 2:06).  Was somewhere between 11.5 and 12 when 2 other girls came screaming down in front of me. 
Well, see you later ladies!

So I finished in 2:17.  The finish line was stretched out a little from last year so I was basically 10 minutes slower than last year.  Really surprised me.  The conditions were much better this year and yes I'm not in as good as shape as last year, but I really thought I could match or beat my time because of the lack of mud.  I must have really have been flying on those 3 miles of downhill last year.  I know last year I felt much more confident in my legs and footing and really felt like I was flying.  Today I finished 3rd woman (the one that passed me early got lost), 2 minutes behind the first two ladies.  And I'm not sure how I feel about it.  Well I really should just be happy with it.  I didn't go in looking to win.  I pushed my body to it's limit, but I'm not thrilled with it's limit, I guess that's it.  And yet I shouldn't feel that way because I do have a 3 month old and took a 5 month break from running.  My biggest hold ups right now are I can tell my legs aren't as strong, I need more time on trail to practice my footing and downhill running.  If those last two were there I really think I could have won.  The other hold up right now is my pelvis.  I have been watching and tracking the pubic symphysis pain from the pregnancy since I started running 2 months ago and it had gone away in the last few weeks, even on my long runs.  Well, it kicked in good about mile 5 and I'm really feeling it now and will for a few days I'm sure.  I think the increased pace and challenging terrain upped the stress to that pubic symphysis joint.  I'll have to watch it and not bump the miles up much further for a month or two I think.  I do have a goal to get to trail marathon and trail 50k distance by the end of the year and I think that will be doable, I'll just need more time to let my body heal.  I'll still keep training obviously, I'll just need to still be cautious. 
I'm still a little mystified that I couldn't meet my time considering there were better conditions, but it is what it is.  I don't like to be upset with my results.  I ran with all my body would give me today.  I ran longer time wise today than I have in over 6 months and didn't bonk like I did in my last long run before this race.  Didn't have any nutrition or hydration issues and did see some beautiful terrain.  My husband asked me if I had fun and I wasn't sure how to answer.  It was hard.  Hard can be fun, but today was hard.  Last year was just so exciting for me, so many endorphins and felt so good all around.  This year was just harder but I am really happy to be out there doing this.  I lose perspective sometimes that I have a 3 month old and this is a lot more than most people would ever do, but I'm me, not another person.  I'll be happy with today.  It was hard, but I did it and I have a beautiful new baby to enjoy right now as well as 3 other great kids and a supportive husband.  I have great friends in this athletic community both local and online.  It was great to see many of them today.  I have a healthy body and I'm getting back into the training and competition that I love!  I'll take it!

A little postpartum core and running experience and advice

  I have come back to competition very quickly with each of my babies.  A few examples, I did a trail 8k 5 weeks after one baby, an open water sprint tri 7 weeks out, ran the St George Marathon 5 months after my last baby.  I was more cautious with my return to running after our 4th baby though because of the anemia I suffered because of hemorrhage and the fact that because of some really rough pubic symphysis pain, I stopped running all together in November.  So I basically took 5 months completely off of running.  Yes I still rode hard and swam, but it's not the same. I totally support cross running (obviously) but the impact of running has to be respected, the impact to my pelvis after having a baby and conditioning my muscles again.  I run in Altra foot shaped Zero Drop cushioned shoes and have workout history and cross train, so I don't worry about impact to my leg joints.  Someone just getting into running of course would want to watch the impact to their joints.  Programs like couch to 5k are a great resource for direct guidance in a very gradual program.

Core is another thing to strengthen after baby as it plays a huge role in everything we do, running included.  A quick note on core, any movement you do that causes a budge in the middle of your stomach where the abs have separated (as mine have) is a bad core strengthener.  I have to be very cautious with leg lifts from the floor and planks.  Any movement you do, focus on contracting and pulling the abs into the back and keep the belly flat to strengthen the very important transverse abdominals.

Anyway, I started running about 4 weeks postpartum and I realize that doesn't sound like very long to most people, but I started a lot smaller.  I was doing run/walk intervals for several weeks and didn't run 3 miles straight until 6.5 weeks and built up to a 10 mile long run (with 2 other shorter runs during the week) by 12 weeks.  The lesson here was that even though I could maybe have gone out harder and longer and sooner as I have in the past, I wanted to be safe. 
The last piece of education here I'll give is what my midwife of my 2nd child said.  She said that the best time to heal and strengthen the pelvic floor is right after baby.  The pelvic floor is responsible for preventing 'leaks' from urinary incontinence and holding the bladder and uterus in their proper positions and to not prolapse. I'm not a personal trainer but I've looked into resources for myself.  Some things I've done are kegals, reverse crunches and hip bridges as well as general aerobic activity.  Walking and running are great, gradual running.  Doing too much too soon too fast won't help, it will probably in fact hurt you.  If the pelvic floor isn't healed and strengthened well initially, it may not heal as completely later.  I have had 4 kids, 3 of them very big kids (9.5-10lbs).  I want to be active and competitive the rest of my life even if it's just with me, so I will take the time now to heal up well.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

First tri back - Spring Sprint

It's been a few weeks, life's been busy between the baby and her 3 older siblings, my husband running his first marathon, and just life (note I did not say training, I am really struggling to find time and motivation to fit anything in, I'll do a separate post later).  Anyway, here it is.

As I have become accustomed to the last year or so, I just jump into races.  It's not the best way, but it's a way.  Really I decided a few days before the race to do it because they changed the bike course.  The old one had hills, but that's not the problem, I won't stray from a race just because of some hills.  But the old course had a technical downhill with very fast traffic, rough road on another fast section, and some very dangerous rail road tracks.  Just wasn't something I was interested in doing again (I'd already done it twice).  So this new course was a 2 loop relatively flat well maintained road course.  Sounds good, sign me up!

I live only 5 minutes from the venue, but thanks to life as an Altra Running family, my husband was at another expo in San Diego so I had to stay with my wonderful mother in law 25 minutes away just to get a babysitter.  Headed to the race site after baby thankfully woke up early enough to nurse before I left and then went back down to sleep.  I threw my bike in T1 and ran home to grab some shoes for the expo I was working at the finish line (we eat, sleep, and breath Altra I tell ya, our kids can sell the shoes, and have).  I appreciate that after this long in the sport I can do race set up in no time and not stress over it.  Now if it's a longer race and there's nutrition to think about that's one thing, but in a sprint like this all I need is my bike, bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses, running shoes, number, and visor.  Done.
If anything, it just gives me more time to chat.  Not that I really had it here between setting Altra and transition up and heading to the van to pump since my little baby wasn't with me.  But I do have to say how very sweet it was for so many people to stop and say hi to me, made me feel really good to have what felt like a 'welcome back' like that.  Triathlon is a great sport!
Headed into the pool, chatted with great people a bit and it was finally go time.  The swim was uneventful, I felt a little better than I expected.  My jersey floated around which stinks, but oh well.  Headed out of T1 in 2nd place behind childhood swimming friend and swimmer extraordinaire Jen Fredsall. 

Looked forward to the nice roads of the new bike course.  There is a big intersection not even a mile in that I worried a little bit about beforehand wondering how well it would be manned.  Well, unfortunately there was a biker layed out flat on the ground with cops around him.  Not even 10 people through that intersection and somebody got hit.  I mumbled something to the cops about "already, really?".  Thankfully that guy was ok, and on my second loop he was standing up, and even finished the race!  Sounds like his chin really did a number on the drivers windshield though...
Anyway, there were a couple other scary parts and although I do prefer the roads of the new course, there was definitely less traffic pulling out of neighborhoods and parking lots on the old course.  Kind of spooky.  I didn't feel super powerful, but was pleased to be comfortable in aero.  Passed Jen just before half way through the 1st loop.

Coasted into T2 getting ready for a flying dismount very slowly, overestimated how far away it was and kind of felt like a dork.  The run was tough.  Headed straight uphill and on grass and it was harder than I expected.  I was almost reduced to walking.  The first 2 miles of the run were difficult.  It felt very anaerobic and not very coordinated or fast, but I just kept on going the best I could.  The last mile was downhill and as per usual, I finally felt strong.  Ran into the oval and finished strong. 

Now interval starts are always difficult, you never know how you placed till results come out.  2 fit ladies came across the line several minutes after me, but I had no idea where they started in the water so couldn't determine how I did.  Anyway, they were posted and I hurried over nervously, and I pulled off the win!  Everyone kept asking me before the race how I thought I'd do and if I was going to win and as I told everyone, I really had no idea, I hadn't incorporated speedwork yet, and was just going to go see how it went.  I'm pretty pleased.  I know I am definately not 100% yet, but getting there.  I struggled with it last year some, not being as excited as I should be with a win, but I was really happy with this one and did a little elbow back hand in a fist Yes! move (haha, I have no idea if it has a real name).

I worked at the Altra table teaching people about the shoes for the next hour or two, such a fun thing to educate people and watch their faces light up when they try on the shoes.  It's a hard thing sometimes, to have to devote so much time to the company as a whole family, not just my husband, but it sure is neat to see the results and good things we're doing for people.  Anyway, awards finally started and the people around me told me to go up as I didn't even realize they were happening.  As second place climbed up I turned to her and smiled and said good job.  I really try hard to not come off as prudish, like I'll only talk to fast people.  I really try to befriend everyone around me and just be and appear friendly and not threatening or intimidating.  Anyway, the lady turned to me after my friendly hello and said "yeah and you only won by like 15-20 seconds and I hardly ever do these!".  Uh, ok.  It was actually closer to 45 seconds ;)  I really wanted to say "yes, and I just had a baby 2 months ago", but I didn't, I just smiled.  She and I will meet again at a big race this summer that I have just a little more motivation to train for now  :)