Monday, November 24, 2014

Lakefront Ultra 50k - Race Recap

(Disclaimer...hugely long race recap with lots of crying ahead...)

I did the Lakefront 50k on November 1st, which marks the second year in a row I've done this race.  They have a spring option but for fear of horrible winters and training, I've decided the fall one is the way to go. 

Yes, it's been almost a month since I've run this race. There is a good reason for that. It really just did me in this time. I mean, I didn't even want to run after running that race (this year). And I'm still not HUGELY interested in running even almost a month later. 

First of all, my friends had a good time. It just did ME in. It happens. Not all races are good ones. This one wasn't mine.  It's ok. I finished the 50k for the second time and that is a huge accomplishment. Ok, on to the recap...

First of all, thanks to Melanie from See Mommy Race for the photos. I was struggling to survive and then my phone "broke" on me. So yeah...

The race was on November 1st, which is a Saturday. The Friday before the race, there were severe winds in Chicago along the Lakefront, so much so that the trail was closed in spots because of the high waves washing up on the trail. I figured our race on Saturday would be fine because we were further south from the city, and for some reason...I thought that was reason enough (??).  I don't know.

The race starts at Jackson Park around 63rd Street and Lake Shore Drive. The 50k (31+ miles) travels north along the lake for just over 5 miles, turns around and goes back to the start. We do this "loop" 3 times. From my experience last year (read about it here), I found that I really like this setup. I didn't think I would but I like it because you know where all the aid stations are, where all the bathrooms are, and you think of it more in terms of "3 loops" instead of 31 miles. It makes it much more manageable.

I drove down to the race with Melanie. Parking is right near the start line and packet pick up. Due to the high winds the day before, those winds were still pretty fierce that morning. The race people couldn't set up the tents like normal so everything was out of vans. We got our bib out of the van and waited in the car for a bit. Finally it was time to head to the start line.

Let me back up a bit for a minute. I knew the temps were going to be about 35-40 degrees for the race. Pretty good actually. But because of the high winds, it was much colder than I anticipated (real feel temps were about 25 degrees). At the last minute, I decided to wear an extra long sleeve outer layer (so 2 layers and gloves).  I was freezing with that wind.

Me and Melanie
Melanie's mom came for support (super sweet) and we started and she took this shot at the start of the race! Thanks Melanie's mom!
Melanie in Gold and I'm in Pink
As we got to the Lakefront, the wind was straight to our faces and it was strong. I joked to Melanie that I felt like I was a part of some extreme sport!

I didn't really have any running plans in mind. I set my watch for a run/walk interval but planned on running the first full loop of 10+ miles. Then possibly start the run/walk interval for the remainder.  While running, I got word from a friend that part of the trail was not runnable and we had to run on the grass and the trail was pretty tore up in spots.  Luckily Melanie is the true blogger here and took some pictures of the "devastation"... (Photo credit for ALL the photos below are from Melanie!)

The trail was all tore up in spots from the wind and water

This was supposed to be our route but we got routed over a large hill to the left instead
(the trail was literally gone)

All those rocks and rubble...that "was" the trail

Full disclosure - Melanie got wiped out by a wave taking this photo
So as you can see, it was pretty brutal out there. Not only was the trail not runnable in a couple spots, we had to run on the grass for a bit and got detoured and had to run over a large hill.  Out and back... X 3!  It was just...not fun.

To move things along...the way out was much windier than than the way back. It was like a breath of fresh air after the turn around. But I knew that every time I got back by the start, I would have to face 5 miles of huge wind and cold directly into my face. It was mentally and physically draining for me.  Just knowing I had to do it 2 more times...  Running into the wind is clearly the thing that bothers me the most.  It's my kryptonite.

After the first 10 miles, I turned around to do it all again. I had run ahead of Melanie but I knew she wasn't far behind. That's also the beauty of this 3 - out and back - course. You see everyone so many times, which is really helpful and nice.  Especially when you really don't have any spectators there cheering you on.  The runners are your spectators.

By the half way point, I saw Melanie wasn't far behind at all and decided to wait for her. I figured it would be better to run with someone than alone. My leg (IT band) issue from the Grand Rapids Marathon (recap here) 2 weeks before started bothering me by mile 10 and I was having a hard time shaking negative thoughts off.  Melanie and I started running together for a couple minutes, but I knew I wouldn't be able to hang. I told her I need to start doing my run/walk intervals or I will never make it through. To my dismay, I let her go ahead. I didn't want to hold her back.

Running back on this second loop, all I could think about was the pain in my leg and the fact that I will have to turn around and start that windy 5 mile run back out soon. (In fact, thinking about it now, it's bringing tears to my eyes). I was really struggling mentally. So much so that with a couple miles left on that second loop (so about mile 18), I decided I was going to quit when I got to the end of the second loop. 20 miles and I would be done. I literally WANTED to quit. I even said in my mind... "I don't want to finish."  I didn't WANT to finish. I didn't want to do that wind again. My leg was bothering me and my knees were bothering me. I was so mentally and physically done. I guess doing that marathon 2 weeks before, well, I knew it didn't give me enough recovery time. And I PR'd that marathon. I pushed it. I needed more rest.

So in my mind, I was quitting at mile 20, and I didn't care. I got to the end of the second loop, hit up the aid station, smiled at people cheering and started walking the 3rd loop. I tried running for a minute but continued walking.  While walking I realized I "forgot" to quit!  I got to the aid station and turn around and just did my thing. I forgot. Literally forgot because I was 100% certain I was quitting. Well it was too late now. I was on my 3rd loop. 

While walking, I texted Derek (who was working) something like.... "I don't think I can do this. I'm walking so much." I wanted to cry. I wanted to be done. The wind was hitting me directly in the face yet again. I'm sorry if I seem like a huge baby. I'm not sure if you all have been there during a race. The loops were taking me forever to finish and I thought I didn't have another 2+ hours in me of this race.  Well, after I sent that text to Derek, my phone went dead. Nice. Derek would probably think I jumped in the Lake after that text I sent him. 

About 2 miles into the 3rd loop, I said that I was going to quit again.  I wanted to quit with like 8 miles left in the race. But at this point, I didn't know how. I would have to go another 1.5 miles to get to the next aid station! What was I going to do if I quit now?  I had no where to go. Damn... I had to suck it up.

I figured that I just wanted to finish under the 7 hour time limit. I didn't care how much below. I was walking a lot. I tried to walk up the hills. I tried to stick to some time of run/walk plan to keep me going. It was tiring to run but it hurt to walk. And starting up running after walking...the pain in my leg made it so difficult. I kept trying to calculate how much time it would take me to finish and if I would make the time limit. I knew I would but I absolutely had to keep moving forward. Walk... run... just get to the finish.

Finally I knew I was almost done.  I saw the finish hill (yes, there is a steep hill at the finish that we had to run up 3 times...after each loop).  With all the pain in my leg, I didn't care. I needed to run up that hill to the finish. I saw Derek at the top of the hill taking pictures.  I crossed the finish line. Derek came up to me and I just started crying... "That was so hard!" 

Running up the start of the hill at the end

Still running up the hill - eyeing the finish line
About to finish the 50k! I busted out a smile.
My friends Melanie and Jan came over and I felt like a huge idiot. They both had a great time and Jan rocked out her first ultra!  I stopped crying and talking to them made me smile again. I was done.

Derek told me that when Melanie and our other friends finished, they all said I was looking strong and looking good. Derek was like... "That's not what she texted me!" lol.

Well earned medal
Jan, Melanie, Me - 50k Finishers
I got my red beans and rice (so delicious) and chit chatted a bit before we all headed home.

I finished. My time was 6:40. (My previous time was 6:22).  So I didn't PR.  But that didn't matter to me for this race at all. I wish I had a better time. I wish I didn't have all the negative thoughts. But I have to give myself credit where it is due. I didn't quit (even though I tried!). I kept going when the going was tough. I smiled at my friends (ok it was all a lie in a smile...but I tried to be positive).  Long distance running isn't easy for me. I'm sure it's not easy for most. That's why I like it. It challenges me in ways I would never be challenged. It makes me realize that I have determination and heart and I can accomplish things I never thought possible. I'm no athlete, I never was. So to accomplish these things...even when the weather/race isn't cooperating with you, that takes guts. And I recognize that. It's definitely something to be proud of.  And I'm proud of myself.

Hop on over to Melanie's blog post to read a much happier review of this race!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Grand Rapids Marathon Race Recap

Going into the Grand Rapids Marathon, I knew one thing. I wanted to PR it. It was the only thing I was going to try to PR all year.

My strategy to accomplish this goal was to practice pushing through negative thoughts and to run happy and consistent. In order to PR, I didn't have to be fast. I just had to be consistent.  The few days before the race, I had some doubts. I felt like I could do it. But would I? I told myself I had to believe I could in order to succeed. My old PR is from the 2012 Chicago Marathon with a time of 4:44:54.  Ironically enough, I ran 20 miles of that race with Julie! :)  I see a theme! My goals were:

First goal: Time of 4:35
Second goal: Any time in the 4:30's (even if it was 4:39)
Third goal: PR time of 4:44:54

To say I was excited for this race was an understatement. I felt like this was going to be my first marathon (even though it was #7). I've only heard good things about this race. I've also been there twice supporting friends through a full and a half. I've seen parts of the course so knew a bit what to expect.

On Saturday, I headed down to Grand Rapids for the expo and packet pick up with Julie and Derek. Julie was running the full as well and Derek was running the half. Julie of course was a beast and just ran the Chicago Marathon the week before too!  We got to the YMCA where they help packet pickup. It was super easy and fast, which was nice. We checked into our hotel and ate dinner and called it a night. Well, I tried to call it a night. The walls of the hotel were super thin and the room next to us was loud and up to all hours of the night. Oh well.

Saturday, we got up and there was frost on our cars. I was hoping I would be warm enough wearing the capris, t-shirt, and arm sleeves I brought! We got down to the marathon but had a bit of trouble with traffic and trying to park. I felt a bit rushed but Julie thought it wasn't a big deal. We found the porta-potties, did our business, headed to the start line, and of course...took a pre-race selfie! No run is complete without one!

Pre-Race (L-R: Julie, Derek, Me)
Julie and I decided to start together. The weather actually seemed pretty decent once we started running. The first 4 miles or so are in a square around the town, then you head out onto the trail. The course wasn't too crowded but there was a good amount of people. There was also a half marathon and we ran with them until around mile 7 or so.

I knew there were a few hills on this course. I looked at the elevation chart prior to going. I trained on some hills in the Palos area just so things were easier for me. Julie and I had a decent pace going. I wasn't sure exactly what it was as my garmin was already way off by mile 10. But around mile 10, we were with the 4:29 "Team Oprah" pace group. The pace groups are set based on celebrity marathon times so it's pretty funny watching Oprah's head bob around on a stick.  I never expected to keep up with the Oprah pace group but at this point we were doing pretty well. I think we were keeping around a 10:18-10:20 pace going.

The hills started around mile 7 and I think that lasted through mile 15 or so. Most weren't too bad but a few just made me want to cringe. By the last one, I was so over them! Ha! But I'm glad I knew they would be there. I knew it was completely flat. That helps mentally when trying to tackle them. I just kept thinking of all those weeks of Palos hills I ran. I could do the hills.

When I got to the half way mark, I thought to myself that maybe I could just have a good 16 miles, then if I needed to, I would have to walk more. At this point Julie and I were just walking through every water stop and start running again. Perfect race strategy for me! It gives me a goal. Just get to the next water stop.

Around mile 15, the race was handing out their infamous "pickle juice".  Ok...I've heard about this. It's the only race that gives out pickle juice but it's supposed to help with cramping due to the sodium content. And I happen to love pickle juice so I was definitely going to try it. Because it's always good to try new things on race day, right!  Um.. right?  Actually, I don't have a weak stomach usually so I wasn't particularly worried about that. Julie and I both tried the pickle juice and ... wow, that went down and we had to muster a face! It was strong and the taste lingered in your throat! It was weird to drink it during a race and not in the privacy of your own kitchen as you sneak a drink of the pickle jar.  Good or bad? I don't know. I was fine drinking it. I didn't cramp up? Do I usually cramp up during a race? No. But definitely after a marathon and I don't remember that feeling so it could only have done good things right?

Ok enough about the pickle juice. Julie and I decided to split up around mile 16. We were both tired but I'm sure the marathon she just ran the previous week (BEAST!) was getting to her. I was still determined to keep my pace going. I was now at mile 16 and I thought maybe I could keep it up until mile 18!  Mile 18 came and I decided I wanted a good 20 mile split. I was so close.

I started having pain near my IT band around mile 13. At that point, it was minor so I just pushed through it. Nearing mile 20, it was making itself more known and I just kept powering through. I crossed the 19 mile marker and almost wanted to cry (from joy). I was doing this. I was having a good marathon. I was pushing through. All my running and training to push through and run happy was actually helping!  (If you remember, my marathons last year were painful and miserable so I was really happy at this point).  At mile 20, I only had 6.2 miles to go.

And then I decided to walk out of turn (not at a water stop) around mile 20.5. And my wheels fell off.  I wish I could have prolonged doing that had I known this was going to happen. The pain in my IT band just got so bad. I was tired and that part of my leg hurt. I would walk but then it was so painful to just start running again. Ugh. I basically did a run/walk for the remainder of the race.  I was getting so mad that I just couldn't keep running. I would run maybe 1/2 mile at a time and walk. I just wanted to get through with a PR and I should be able to. I knew I couldn't rely on my garmin because it was a 1/2 mile off. I tried to calculate times as I was running/walking to make sure I could still PR.  I still wanted to get into the 4:30's too but really wasn't sure. I kept trying to push as much as possible. Keep going. Keep going. Move forward. Get to the end.  I was just repeating to myself those phrases. Over and over.

Around mile 23, I was leap frogging a woman. She would run past me while I was walking, I would run past her while she was walking. I stopped to walk yet again and she came by, patted me on the back and told me I was doing great and to keep going. I so appreciated that. It really helped keep me going.  Thank you fellow runner! I tried to offer the same encouragement to her about a mile later when I told her we just had a little left.  I hope she felt the same encouragement from me.

Nearing the end, there was a guy before a turn.  He said that when we turned, we would be able to see the finish line! I decided to walk one last time right before that turn! Ha! Because once I saw the finish line, I wasn't going to walk again.  I turned the corner and started running.  There it was. The finish line. But it was SO FAR AWAY!  I looked at the time I had been running. I knew I would PR. YES! But would I reach the second goal of finishing in the 4:30's (I knew 4:35 was out).  I really wanted to but didn't think I could make it there in time. I didn't know the distance to the finish line and it was just so far away! lol.

A bit later, I saw my boyfriend Derek with his half medal around his neck.  He hopped on and ran about .2 miles or so with me, which really was so appreciated. He said I was doing good. I told him I was going to PR but didn't know if I could make it to the finish by 4:39. My watch said 4:36 right now. He told me not to worry about it. But inside, I thought, I'm going to try for that 4:39! I might not make it but I'm going to try.

The time on my watch said 4:39+ when I crossed the finish line. I was hoping I started it at the right time and that it wasn't ahead and I really finished in 4:40 or something. lol. The little things. 

And I did it!  I finished in 4:39:20!  A 5.5 min PR!  I could not tell you how happy I was. 

I am so pleased with my splits through mile 20. That is better than I had hoped for. I was a bit upset with myself that I couldn't push through the last 6 a bit better. Had it not been for my IT band, I know I could have done even better. But how can I complain about hitting my 2nd goal for my marathon. And getting a PR that was long overdue. 

Julie finished just a little behind me. She did awesome considering the number of marathons she has done just this year alone! Derek did well for the half also and I was happy that we were all leaving pleased with our races! Of course, there was tons of food afterwards to eat as well including Culver's ice cream! I was glad I wasn't too cold for that!

Me and Derek - my love!

Julie and I - Marathon Finishers!
The 3 musketeers!  All done and ready to head home!
The Grand Rapids Marathon didn't disappoint. I'm sorry I didn't whip my camera out to take some photos but I was just so focused and didn't want to fumble around for it. The course was nice, aid stations were well stocked. There was water, gatorade, bananas, oranges (yes please!), pickle juice, cliff shots, etc. though out the race.  I loved running on the trail past a few lakes (rivers? I don't know, I'm a city girl). Anyway, it was beautiful and I was trying to look around as I was running to see everything.

At the end of the marathon, the race director is there to shake everyone's hand. I wanted to give him a hug. I felt like I knew him after weeks of weekly newsletter emails he sent out. 

Would I recommend this race? Absolutely! Would I do it again myself? Possibly in the future! It's only a 2.5-3 hour drive from the Chicago area, which isn't bad. I really enjoyed this marathon and am so glad I decided to do it this year!  A PR was icing on the cake!  Thanks for reading my long race recap. I was just so proud of myself!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

October in Review

October is over and November is in full swing! And I still didn't get to my full Grand Rapids Marathon recap. I'm slacking and I'm aware! But let's see what happened in October by the numbers.


Running Miles: 86.6 miles
Strength Training/Cross Training Days: 1
Cycling Miles: 10.75 miles (1 cycling day)
# of workout days in October: 15 (49%)

Welp....I'm feeling a bit blah about a lot right now. Running, blogging, doing anything except napping (which I'm not doing). Ok here goes the rest of this blog post. Sorry guys. Cheer me up!

Running Miles: 86.6 miles. Not too bad at all. Considerably less than the last 2 months when I was in the height of my marathon training. The month of the marathon is usually less mileage due to taper and recovery afterwards. But over 80 miles in one month is always very good to me so I will take it!

Strength Training/Cross Training Days: 1. One measly day. I went bike riding around the 'hood and got lost a bit since it's my "new" hood (a.k.a. my boyfriend's hood and we are kind of moving in together). I always get lost running or cycling there. No biggie.  This number will improve as I'm taking 5 weeks unlimited barre classes at Pure Barre right now! Woohoo! Tight butt and stronger core, I'm coming for you!

Cycling Miles: Oops...see above. One in the same this month.

# of workout days in October: 15. Half way. I was running and nothing else. No cross training. No extra walking. Nothing. So I run about half the month. My's marathon month. Not trying anything new this month!

So there you have it folks. I'm behind on my race recaps ... I also did the Lakefront Ultra 50k on Nov 1st. I definitely need to tell you what a baby I was after the race that day! But I finished. Spoiler.

I'm pretty burnt out on running. I guess running and PR'ing a marathon, then running an ultra 13 days after in windy cold weather will do that to you. BUT... I can now officially be a marathon maniac! I'll apply soon. :)

I'm looking forward to the 5 weeks of barre classes. I'm weak. Really weak. My core is non-existent. Really. I don't think I have one any more. My butt is weak. I know I have one because it's big but it's got no muscle at all. So hopefully this will help. I'm looking to go 3 days a week if I can. That's a lot of barre! I went yesterday for the first time in months. I feel silly and I know I look silly. I get tired easily. They are always correcting my form (which I like because if I'm there, I want to be doing it right). I forgot how hard this is. 5 minutes after starting I thought "How am I going to last an hour?" Ha! I lasted. But my glutes and triceps are sore and my legs still feel shaky (even though it's the next day). Lord, help me. I'm going back tonight...

See you all next this month (November). I promise I'll get these recaps in for you!