Sunday, May 25, 2014

Don't stop surprising yourself - Timp Trail Marathon

I'll go into the race report from Timp Trail, but want to address something more important that's been on my mind since the race yesterday.  Despite how well I did, I had a really good time and feeling coming away from the race because I surprised myself.  I had a good goal in mind and wouldn't have been crushed had it not happened, but when it did and in a big way, I was just so surprised and excited!  I didn't care what place I was, I was on a high from being surprised by what I did - for me.
Whether someone enjoys athletics or any other hobby or activity -crafts, organizing, cooking, reading, an instrument, anything - it's good for the soul to reach achievements sometimes, whatever that achievement is.  I thought of reading first when trying to figure out how to make my feelings relatable to someone who doesn't enjoy what I do.  Maybe you have a goal of how many books you want to read a year, or how long you want it to take.  It will be a good feeling just to read, to enjoy that book, but it's even more exciting when maybe you read more than you expected.  Maybe as a cook you try a new recipe and it turns out so great, better than you were hoping - that's exciting!  I hope that makes sense.  I just think it's important we never stop setting goals and surprising ourselves.  
The other thing before the race report I wanted to mention was how important I think it is that we support each other in whatever it is we do, and not feel less because of the good things they do.  So often we compare ourselves to others and figure that we're only good if we're as good or better than someone else at something.  That we're not good at something if someone else is better.  It isn't true and is a great way to be depressed and always reaching for happiness rather than enjoying life along the way.
I heard a quote that I loved-
Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.

 I've heard the "I hate you" line for being thin after my kids.  I know they're kidding, but it's hurtful still.  I don't think myself any better than someone bigger or smaller than me.  I don't hate those than have more than my 1/2 an A cup now after carrying and nursing 4 babies.  I used to post more to a FB running group of moms, but felt like the level of my achievements garnered too many comments that made me feel like I was above their level as a person and therefore not relatable.  Like I didn't need support and encouragement too.  Or maybe someone thinks what I do is easy because I go faster and that they "could never do that".  It really hurts me and is the completely opposite of what I would want when someone is saddened or discouraged by what I do.  I do it for me, I've been doing it a long time, work hard, and am grateful for it, but it doesn't make me better!  I happily cheer anyone on in what ever makes them happy no matter their achievement level, and I don't feel bad if it's better than me.  Well ok, maybe when I see someone's always impeccably clean home, because mine definitely isn't :) It's something I struggle to do well, or at all sometimes, but I wouldn't tell them that their success in keeping such a lovely home isn't great and that it makes me feel bad or belittles my home.  We all have different strengths and weaknesses and don't need to match each other, we need to be happy for and cheer each other on!  I'm not perfect at it, but I believe strongly in the principle.  Everyone deserves to be happy!
Maybe premature in the post to show a picture with 1 mile to go, but I was just talking about being happy,
and happy I was here!  Thank you Lori Murray Burlison for the photo!
 Ok, onto Timp Trail.  I have done the half marathon several times and the marathon once, last year.  I remember it being HARD!  Lots of climbing, descending, technical, mud, rain, but beautiful.  Why not sign up to do it again?  :)  I had the opportunity to race, get some more good quality miles before Bryce 100 in 3 weeks, and truth be told, I do actually like the race, the trails it's on, it's views, and the people that put it on and attend.  Woke up a little late and stressed over eating closer to a race than I usually do especially since my stomach hasn't been quite happy this week.  I ran out the door to discover it had been and was raining and kind of laughed.  I have never done this race without rain.  Classic.  Made my decision to stick with the Altra Lone Peak 2.0, a good choice.   Got to the race just in time to grab my bib, a bathroom stop and load my Ultraspire Quantum belt up with Vfuel gel and filled my 8oz soft flask to hold in my hand (easy to hold and collapses tiny and can be stuffed in my pack or bra till the next aid station).  Walked up to the group with about 1 minute to start but was ready.  I wanted to run a good race, more than training pace, but not all out as I didn't want any injuries or nagging issues leading into Bryce.  My goal was to PR, go faster than the 5:18 I did the year before.
I listened to my breathing and tried to keep it quiet.  I did push it a bit more than that in places but overall did well.  Around 1/4 of the race is on hilly foothill trails and I wanted to run more of them.  Not because it would be fun, because truthfully I'm not in quite as good of hill running shape as I'd like as I am quick to get into a good power hike, but looking back at a race like Sonoma, I would need to be able to run more of the smaller hills to finish faster.  So I pushed these hills when my legs were a little grumpy about it mostly because it wasn't a 50 mile or longer race, I could keep enough energy for a 5 hours race not power hiking as much.  The race started out misty and I was hopeful for good weather; a long stretch of dirt road we run turns in to a giant mud slog when it's saturated.  It did rain on us for a couple hours but never too hard and the winds were light.  Great running weather!  Anyway, we got to mile 12 or so and it was time to get off the foothills and head straight up this beastly little climb called the Green Monster I believe.  Truly a straight up the mountain 'trail' I'm pretty sure was carved in only for this race....or a widow maker dirt bike hill climb ;)  Got into good power hike mode and it actually wasn't as bad as I remember last year.  Mental note - I hit the top about 2:30 because I recall taking a gel and thinking this was halfway through the course.  Figured I was on track to run about 5 hours, good to go.  We headed toward Grove Creek which I knew was another long climb that I planned to power hike.  I did run a little which was nice, felt good.  Toward the very top before the Indian Springs aid station the running was much less and was harder.  That's a lot of climbing!  Love the meadow up there heading toward Battle Creek and was able to open up the legs and turn on the speed for a bit while it rained steadily.  The downhill in Battle Creek was probably my weakest point on the course.  It was longer than I thought and was wet, steep, rocky and rutty and when one isn't a crazy downhiller lightly bounding off everything around you, you'll slip in the mud a little.  Had a few heart rate jumping slips and a few 'ankle stretches'  but thankfully didn't go down.  Crossed the river and headed uphill again toward Dry Creek.  This was a the very slippery wet section I remember from last year, clinging onto anything I could to get up.  It wasn't as bad this year, but defiantly wet, slick, and work to ascend.  I can't imagine how much worse it was for those behind me.  Once we finally got to the top it had stopped raining and the trails were tacky and generally downhill and it was fun to run!  I did run into a very strong stomach cramp of some kind that halted me still for a minute but I was able to continue on soon.  I could hear the cheering of the next and last aid station at Dry Canyon far before I could see it, just like last year, they are great!

Up till this point I really had no idea how I was doing time wise, all I was watching was for the :30 and :00's to take calories and electrolytes in.  While I usually write out a plan of when to expect being at aid stations, I didn't for this race, I didn't want to take it too seriously and was too lazy to figure out paces for all the up and down on this course.  I knew this last aid station was about mile 21, so I calculated 5 more miles at 12 minute mile pace since there was still uphill to go before the last 3-4 that are all downhill or flat.  I was at 3:40 so figured excitedly I could run a 4:45.  That would be a 30 minute PR!  I had hoped to maybe go sub 5, but not that low!  I pushed the uphills and downhills strong but felt good.  I wasn't putting out 100%, probably 90%.  I was however staying right on top of nutrition, hydration, and electrolytes, I think that's so important.  I was really working now to run the downhills fast, mostly to build skill there.  I navigated around people pretty well trying to be polite and encouraging.  The flat 3/4 of a mile or so we run before the last descent went better and faster than last year, and thankfully that road had not turned into a slop fest.  Kept the legs open and moving and the feet up so I didn't trip and it was finally that last turn to get off trail and onto the 1/2 mile of dirt road to the finish.  Don't believe I looked at my watch again until that dirt road and I couldn't believe it.  SO much faster than I expected.  I flew down the road to the finish and jumped across it feeling great in a 4:22!!  What the what??  I get that the conditions were better this year although not perfect, and I did struggle last year, but I had a reasonable race. That time was just beyond anything I considered.  I almost had to go over the course in my head and make sure I did it all.  I did, don't worry. :) Despite running alone for much of the race, I know these trails and the flagging was great, and I definitely did every last fun bit of this course :)
Not only was this almost an hour faster than last year, but under course record time!  I don't think I've ever run under a course record time!  The sweet and incredibly talented and strong Britta Trepp who finished 8 minutes in front of me bested her own previous course record, but I was honored to have gone under the old one with her.

I was very happy with how my body felt immediately after finishing.  Not pukey, not crazy sore or tight, lungs weren't tight.  Grateful that the upset stomach I've had all week didn't come back to bite me during the race either.  Man I'm excited and happy for how I raced and I can't wait to see how Bryce pans out.  This marathon-50k distance is fun.  You run faster through the trails and woods which can make you feel like a little kid frolicking around, and there's not enough time for the longer races low points and big bonks and exhaustion.  So while this doesn't necessarily equal a great 100 mile performance, it was a good confidence booster.  I'm looking forward to a couple more weeks of training in which I hope to get a few overnight runs in.  I want to get a few massages, keep up on the vitamins and good nutrition, foam rolling, lots of committed core work (I've been slacking big time and this abdominal separation of mine is kicking my butt physically and mentally) and even a family camping trip to Yellowstone to encourage a good taper.  Bring on Bryce!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Ironman thoughts and reflections

I completed a full Ironman 4 years ago today.  Hard to believe it's been that long.  I'd consider it my entrance into real longer endurance.  I had only raced 5 hours up till that point, so to ponder 12 was a lot more. 
It was an incredible training journey.  My friend Charity wrote me a training program and I was diligent with it, probably the most diligent I've been to any program.  I'm really proud of it.  I was so fit and prepared. I think back on it now and marvel at how dedicated I was and hope I could do that much again swimming and biking again when I do another Ironman sometime.  I ran into a calf injury 3 weeks before race day and was really worried about it, but I put a lot of work into healing it and amazingly I was able to run the whole challenging run course and really in a time I would have expected pre injury.  I completed the original Ironman St George, a course that was hard and I loved it for that.  It was such a big experience for me, my whole family was there. I felt so accomplished and like it was a really big deal.  I wish I'd been able to do it one more time before it went down to a 70.3. 
I haven't been able to do another Ironman since IMSG 2010 mainly due to their cost. Yes I wanted to venture into ultra running, but after Ironman St George in 2010, throughout that year and in 2011 before I got and stayed pregnant I was really motivated to do another.  WTC races cost almost $700 and there are cheaper races out there about half that cost through Rev3 and HITS, but even $100 was a stretch as we were starting Altra around 2010.  And let me tell you, starting a company is a great way to not make money.  The next several years were probably the hardest in our whole married life.  They were so hard. We're still recovering. There was in no way an extra $300 plus travel for me to go have fun for 12 hours.  And that's ok. I did race a fair amount in those years, but it was mainly races I volunteered with and got an entry to or races we sponsored and we worked the expos of (Ironman doesn't work that way).  I am very grateful for all the opportunities I've had to race and realize what a privilege it's been. 
So now that we're at least in a position to save up for it, doing another Ironman in the next 2 years is on my mind.  Every time I see friends do it and report back, and especially every time I go back down to St George and watch, I'm sucked in.  I'm not worried about the running, can fake the swim if need be since I came from a swimming background and it's such a short part of the race anyway, but I would need to focus a lot on the bike to do as well as I'd like. So we'll see what life's like the next few years and if another 140.6 will be possible. For now I'm thankful for my healthy body, the running I'm enjoying and the occasional swim and trainer ride I get in. But triathlon is calling me back ever so quietly 

My 2010 IMSG post and a reflection 1 year later