Monday, October 20, 2014

Indianapolis Marathon...a training run

I’m so tired of training for my next 50 miler that I did something so stupid…. 

I signed up for a full marathon as a training run.

But wait! There’s more!

I signed up for another full marathon the very next weekend as a training run….

It all made so much sense in my head when I wrote it out on paper. I mean, that’s the mileage that I needed anyway, what’s the difference? And frankly, I’m SO TIRED of running the same places I always run. So, when you think about that it’s actually a good idea, right?

Well, I don't know that it was a good idea, but the wheels are in motion, so I'm determined to see how it works out. In fact, the first marathon is DONE! This past weekend I ran the Indianapolis Marathon. I ran this race last year and despite crappy weather at the start, I had a really nice time. 

This weekend was an immediate improvement over last year because the rain looked like it would hold off for at least the first half to three quarters of the race. I drove up on my own early in the morning and parked right in front of my friends that were doing the half. After packet pick up, we all hit the port a pots and chatted until the start. 

And then we were off!

The race was... a race. I ran too fast in the beginning, I hated everything in the middle, I couldn't wait to get done at the end, and I realized how much a road marathon HURTS! Oh my lord! I haven't run that far on roads in a while and it beat the living snot out of me. 

So, I thought about this blog post on the drive home. What was I gonna write about? How was this race any different than other races? Well, training runs are where you figure stuff out for race day, right? So here's some stuff I figured out during the race.

1) Every race has at least one super awesome moment. If it happens late in the race, you're just lucky, cause you probably need it then. If it happens early in the race, take that moment, shove it in your pocket, and pull it back out when you hate running the MOST of all. 

During this race I was about 6ish miles in and on a tiny out and back when a woman I don't know that was heading my direction said, "hey, I read your blog". I completely locked up because well frankly, I'm always a bit surprised that anyone reads my blog, not to mention people I don't know. But I had the most gigantic grin on my face that flew me through the next mile or two. And later in the race, when I felt like crap, I thought about it again and got the same dumb (and potentially scary looking at that point) grin on my face. Once again, it carried me through another mile or two. Also, if that person is indeed reading this blog, what I SHOULD have said was, "OH MY GOD THANK YOU! HAVE A GREAT RACE!". Instead, I locked up like a 13 year old getting asked to slow dance for the first time. So. Freaking. Smooth.

2)  I hate mile markers. I wear a Garmin when I run, so I'm painfully aware of what mile I am on at all times for the most part. But there's something about those glaring mile markers at road races that drive me absolutely insane. Is it because I'm looking at my Garmin and know exactly how much "off" they are from my Garmin? Is it the clock that's always underneath them that doesn't actually reflect MY start time? I have no idea. But, I can't handle them. 

3) Watch the leaves fall, cause oh my god NATURE!!!! Indiana is smack dab in the middle of a jaw droppingly gorgeous Autumn. And this race ran through a park that was BEAUTIFUL with fall leaves. I caught myself watching a leaf or two just fall down and I forgot I was in a race at all, just for a second. Running races can be fun. But looking around and enjoying your ability to run races is pretty amazing.

4) If someone calling you a name under their breathe motivates them.... Let them do it. I was back and forth with a guy for a bit and I'm preeettttttyyyy sure I heard him say something under his breath about not letting that b*$&% pass him. At first I was offended... But then I just smiled and thought, if that's what keeps you going, have at it. These races are not easy, you have to play every card you have in the deck.

5) Towards the end of the race, I was hurting and tired and generally over everything. My walk breaks were getting longer, and I was getting pissed at myself because the walking just seemed to take too long. I started to run just to pick up the pace a little and I found this "gear" that I could get into and just keep going. It hurt, but walking hurt too, so I just kept going. It's nice to remember that I have that gear, because that's one I might need to use during my 50 miler.

So what's the verdict? Oh man that race hurt. But I learned some good stuff! And that's what training runs are for, right? Now it's time to rest up for marathon #2 this weekend. We'll see if this still seems like a good idea then....

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Not Yo Momma's 50k... It's a training run...

I get lots of stupid ideas when I start to plan a race season. This Fall my stupid idea was to train for my second 50 miler in November. And if that wasn't stupid enough... I thought..

Hey, here's this 50k that falls into a good place in my training schedule. I could use it as a training run.

I told my husband about it and he found that it fit right into his schedule too.  But here's the thing. He's training for a very hilly 50 miler in November and I'm training for a very flat 50 miler in November. When my husband called me and said, "man, did you see the elevation on this thing?" I might have panicked a little bit, but I played it cool. I mean... what's a little elevation gonna hurt? It's just a training run. Right? RIGHT? We have hills here. I'll run them... sometimes.

The closer the race got the more nervous I was. I hadn't tackled a really hilly ultra in a few years and I had no idea what the terrain would be like. And we were camping. I grew up camping and I like it, but it does add another layer to the planning and the stress.

By Friday we were on the road and I was committed to doing this. Because if I didn't get thirty miles in during this race I would have to run thirty miles where I live and frankly, I liked the idea of having my longest run be somewhere different.We were almost to the state park when I realized that we had forgotten pillows. Meh, we were tough, we could handle not having pillows, we'll just wad up some clothes, it'll be fine (it wasn't. apparently I'm the kind of diva that really likes a pillow).

Soon enough, camp was set, we had our bib numbers and we decided to scope out the course a little since it ran right behind our campsite. The surface was nice and there were a few hills right off the bat, but we kept saying it didn't seem that bad. Then we got to the top of a little hill and saw THE hill. Sugarloaf Mountain...

We both looked at it and immediately realized that it didn't have kind switchbacks. This bad boy went straight UP. Crap. Welp, no more kidding myself, this race is obviously going to kick my ass.

We ate dinner, packed our race gear, and met a nice fella that was doing the 100k at the race and shared our campsite. My game plan adjusted itself to:

Remember it's a training run, try to be smart, try to finish close to 10 hours.

Ten hours!?!?! Yep. We had heard elevation rumors of 5,000-6,000 feet and the winners were still taking just under 6 hours. So, for a slow runner 10 hours was a reasonable assumption. And that hill...that trail went straight up! Was the whole course going to be like that? Oh my puke.

Race day started early. We got to see the 100 milers and 100k runners get going for their 5:30 start. There are not many things that are cooler than a dark start to a 100 mile race. So much nervous energy and then... just a bunch of bobbing headlamps heading into the woods to start an adventure.

We got ready and headed to the starting area for announcements and then waited for things to get going. In the starting corral I met lots of nice folks and we chatted about different races, what they knew about this one, where they were from. Good stuff. AND..... GO!

So happy to get things going, we were off. When we got to Sugarloaf Mountain, I took a deep breath and headed up, and up, and up. The lack of switchbacks was AMAZING! But what do you do? You keep going up. I would glance away from my feet a few times to look up and there always seemed to look like MORE UP! Finally, there appeared to be a break in the up and I saw a sign.
 If you look closely, I believe my Garmin is actually reading 480 feet in one mile. WHAT!?!?!? And I've got this sign saying I'm not done yet? Thankfully, there wasn't too much more up before I got to go down. But down wasn't any better! I skittered down the trail and then all of the sudden, the trail seemed to disappear. You know that part when you're riding a roller coaster and you get to the very top of the first hill and you can't see anything below you? Well, that's what happened on the trail. As I got closer I saw it. Straight back down the mountain, NO SWITCHBACKS!!!! At which point I said

I said this a few more times during this first loop (I had to do two loops).

I navigated down the trail by diving from tree to tree and catching myself. It was more than a little terrifying and I couldn't help but wonder what it might have been like in the dark for the groups that went out before us. WOW.

After I got down Sugarloaf, there were a few more runnable sections, but my intention for this race was to really try to keep it in the training run realm, therefore I was doing my best to keep a low heart rate. Which meant walking and more walking. Miles one to four had me thinking that maybe I was going to need that entire 20 hour cutoff. The first four miles just felt relentless. I couldn't find a groove and felt like all I was doing was walking. 

Around the four mile aid station I started to see other runners on their way back (loop course with a little crossover in the middle). It was so nice to see people and get lots of smiles and encouragement. It was then that I saw our campsite neighbor and he asked how I was doing. I slightly screamed:


He told me that the worst part was over. I wanted to believe him, but I couldn't get my hopes up. The good news is that before I knew it I was running. Comfortably and finally ticking off some miles at a "decent" pace. I couldn't help but think about doing that first four miles again on my second loop, but it was so comforting to know that I had this section as a reward. That section changed the whole race for me. I was finally able to look around and appreciate how gorgeous the course actually was!

Soon enough, I was assaulted with another hill that was severely lacking in switchbacks. I yelled at it, and then started up. I did see a sign up ahead, but I was sure it was just another smarty smartpants sign about not being the top. Finally, I got close enough to the sign to read it. It said:

Pick up a rock

(I didn't take a picture because I couldn't breathe. And I was afraid that if I moved my forward leaning position too much, I may just fall backwards all the way down the hill)

Did I pick up a rock? You bet I did! Why? Weeeelllllll, I'm not going to lie, there was a small part of me that was hoping that if I brought that rock back for my loop count I would be rewarded with an easier or shorter second loop maybe? Wishful thinking.

BUT, when I did get to the top of the hill I was greeted by a giant stack of rocks and this sign.
I added my rock to Jesse's Big Ass Rock Pile and kept going up, where I saw this:
I had to take a picture of it because part of me wondered if it actually existed or if I was just imagining it. Totally real. A bit more running on some BEAUTIFUL switchbacks. Beautiful because OMG look at this gorgeous nature!

Also beautiful because OMG I FREAKING LOVE SWITCHBACKS!!!!

After the first loop, things felt easier (except that first four miles). I got to see my husband on his way to the finish and I could see he was totally enjoying himself (and bringing in a 3rd place finish!)! My second loop wasn't much slower than the first which I consider a win. AND my guts did GREAT! I mean my guts behaved better than they ever have in a race this long! Using Tailwind has completely changed the game for me! I was exhausted but the whole race felt like a total WIN!

I can't say enough about what a fun weekend my husband and I had at this race. The race director was great, aid stations were full of wonderful volunteers and tasty food, camping was cheap and convenient, and the other participants were a blast!

I am in awe of anyone that completed any of the distances that weekend because that course does not disappoint!