Category Archives: Racing

5k on St. Patrick’s Day Race Recap

Yes, you read that title right. I somehow went from not blogging about anything to writing race recaps about 5ks…?

Now is when I really wish I could include emojis in blog posts, because I would include the scared face with the white eyes and the blue on top of its head. You know the one.

No offense to the distance at all, I’m just generally not a short-distance racer – so I tend to equate a “race recap” to a half or full marathon. Regardless, this was a race I am proud of…so you get to hear about it, like it or not.

Let me back up first, because I realized I’ve given absolutely zero detail about how my “training” this spring has been strategized.

I decided a while ago that I didn’t want to run a spring marathon for a couple of reasons. 1) Our wedding is in June, and while running is a great stress reliever and I do it no matter the circumstances, I didn’t feel like intensive/heavy training would fit well into all the other to-dos that this occasion requires. And 2) I really don’t like spring marathons. They are always hotter than the temps I’ve trained in, and historically I just haven’t run that well in them.

So, a full marathon was out, and since I still wanted a “goal” to get my butt out of bed in the morning, I decided to focus on shorter distances and reclaiming my speed. My target race is a half-marathon in the middle of April, but generally I just wanted to think (for the first time) less about mileage and more about shorter, hard key workouts. My other “short distance” PRs were dusty as well, so I figured this spring would be a good time to do an overall refresh and reset on my running. The end goal, ultimately, being a faster marathon time (because they’re still my jam), but that can wait for now.

Anyway, onto this past Saturday’s 5k!

I was really pumped up for this race, namely for the fact that I really wanted to race it. The time on the clock was certainly a consideration, but mainly I wanted to focus on embracing discomfort and pushing through it. In researching race results from last year, I also hypothesized that I could break into the top 10 women as well. Game on!

I planned a light training week beforehand, and the morning of I did everything 5k-specific I could; a slow 1.5 mile warm up, activation exercises, and strides. Mentally, I treated it as I would another “big” race, including a lot of visualization of running strong and shutting down fear. I lined up near-ish the front of the pack (which with over 2,000 runners was not easy) and took some restorative, calming deep breaths. And then boom, we were off!

I knew the course started on a very slight downhill, followed by a slight uphill, and finished fairly flat. I told myself to take advantage of that first mile and not be scared of a fast split – which in hindsight was a good forethought. My watch buzzed right at 1 mile in 6:16…which might be the fastest mile I’ve ever run. But I felt great! My lungs were a little fiery, but it was manageable and I mentally checked out of mile 1 and focused solely on mile 2. And shortly after…things started to get uncomfortable. We were on that “slight” uphill at this point, and it felt anything but slight. I focused on maintaining my form, maintaining my position (although I had zero idea how many women were in front of me), and keeping calm.

I peeked at my watch a few times, but it frankly felt like too much wasted effort, so I just tried to stay strong. Closing out mile 2 (6:47), I was excited to finish the thing off, since I could mentally handle 1.1 miles to go. There were two hair pin turns in mile 3, which kind of threw off my groove, but they made for nice landmarks to focus on. I was also able to run back by the other runners coming out to mile 3 on the way to the finish line, and I got a wave and cheer from my dad and step-mom who were also running the race. I might have even mustered a smile, but who really knows what it looked like.

pain face, coming down the finishing stretch

Pain face, coming down the finishing stretch. Photo by Adam.

The finish line was closing in, and things were hurting. I had no energy to think about anything other than holding my pace and getting it done – so all thoughts of finishing place and time were completely out of my mind. As I neared the end, I could see the large clock ticking below the 20:20 mark – which was the first time  I realized that my goal of breaking my 21:05 PR was going to the crushed.

photo 2 (3)

I busted over the line, immediately stopped my watch, put my hands on my knees, and tried to catch my breath through the huge smile on my face.

20:17, 9th female overall, and 1st in my age group.

Leading up to the race, I was generally just hoping for a strong finishing spot and a 20:xx finishing time. This result was beyond my expectations for the day, although I won’t say it was beyond my expectations for myself. I think part of why I was excited for this chance to run hard was because I know there’s more out there for me to reach toward, and this result validated that I should probably stop limiting myself as I tend to do. I’m feeling encouraged and motivated after the fact – and somehow for the first time I haven’t sworn off the distance for another two years 😉

Additionally, since I was able to beat a record previously set at sea-level at 6,000+ ft elevation, I realized I need to stop sand-bagging myself with the “altitude” excuse. Sure, it’s a factor, but I think I’ve reached a point where comparing myself to my Seattle-self isn’t really relevant anymore. Which is exciting! I also think these last two paragraphs may have come across as a giant non-humble brag, but…just trying to keep it real.

I’m looking forward to what’s to come, both within the next few months and for the rest of this year. I’ve got the aforementioned half-marathon on April 12th coming up, a 10k on Memorial Day, and I might try and schedule another little race pre-wedding. I’m excited for the momentum shift that seems to have happened, and I’m hoping to capitalize on it throughout the spring.

Hope everyone had a good weekend! Hallelujah for the (almost) end of winter, amiright?

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Bellingham Bay Half-Marathon Race Recap

Lots of things to say about yesterday’s race. For a quick minute in there, I was disappointed that I was (spoiler) only 20 seconds off my PR. I was also disappointed for an instant that my watch (along with those of several around me) read a long course and not a true 13.1. However, after those thoughts subsided and I thought back on the race that I’d run, I landed in the spot I am today: both very pleased and very encouraged.

I went into this race with some trepidation about the conditions (blustery and rainy) but also with a lot of gusto to run a good race. Relatively speaking, I hadn’t raced in a while, and I was ready to see what my legs could do. I rested all day Saturday (a new approach for me), hydrated well, slept well, and treated the run like a real race.

photo 1

Low and behold, race morning comes, and the drive up to Bellingham was…ominous. It was pouring, windy, and the perfect conditions for sleeping in and hot coffee…not running 13.1 miles in spandex and a tank top. But I kept my spirits high, and after an easy bib pick-up and some dynamic stretching, I forgot about the weather and tried to get in the zone. Spotting some fellow Oiselle teammates helped kindle my excitement, and I felt proud to be wearing the same singlet as such fast women.

Before I knew it, the countdown was on, and boom…we were running a half marathon. Tried and true to the start of any race, I a) felt incredible and b) knew I was going too fast. A look down at my watch about a half mile in would verify that my 7:00 “easy” pace was certainly not the way to start off a distance race, so I tried to tug back. Ugh, why is this always so hard? Every time I swear to myself I’ll follow the rules and hold back at the start, and every time I cross a start line I abandon all those good intentions. But, I forgave myself, let a faster mile 1 clock in, and prepared to reel in the reigns.

I felt so good during these first few miles. Like, better than I’ve felt running in a long long time. Isn’t that what we hope to feel during races? Anyway, I alternated between sharing paces with others, pulling back when they surged, and going ahead when they fell behind. Generally, it just felt great to be racing, and I let that mindset and momentum carry me through the early miles:

Mile 1: 7:14

Mile 2: 7:22

Mile 3: 7:23

In terms of pacing for this race, my goal was to stick to 7:30s for the first half and open it up if I could during the second half. So, once I reentered the 7:20s, I considered it okay and just went with it. I also knew that there was an incline coming up in mile 4 which would get things back in line.

That incline came and I already knew that my legs were in for a hard race, should I keep this pace up. My breathing sped up and my HR surged a little, reminding me that I was—in fact—racing. But, per usual after a hill reclines to a flat grade, my legs started turning over again and invited the steady downhill that would come in the next few miles.

Mile 4: 7:47

I knew that miles 5-7 were on a downhill, and I’d planned ahead of time to use those miles to my advantage. What I hadn’t considered, though, was that these miles would also change the direction of the course directly into the forecasted wind. These miles were also pretty exposed, which made the wind even more difficult to avoid, but nonetheless…I tried to gun it a little.

Mile 5: 7:18

Mile 6: 7:06

Mile 7: 7:01

There was a bit in there where my watch read 6:xx, which both horrified and exhilarated me. I’d never seen a pace in the 6s during a half marathon, and it was a definite confidence booster to see that pop up.

The course flattened out after this, and the headwind seemed to take a turn directly into our faces. I tore open my gel around this point too and held it for the next few miles, taking drags from it whenever I felt steady. We reentered downtown Bellingham, and there were a few twisty inclines that definitely slowed me down and reminded me of the miles I’d already logged. My energy started waning a little around miles 9-10, and looking back on the elevation profile of the course, it’s obvious that those mini hills took their toll.

Mile 8: 7:34

Mile 9: 7:45

Mile 10: 7:40

We were on a dirt path along the bay at this point, which was warmly welcomed after all the pavement pounding. Although my watch had been a little off the whole race, it was really off once I got to mile 10, which was a little discouraging. My miles were beeping at least 2/10 of a mile before the mile markers, and a fellow racer confirmed that her Garmin was at the same distance as mine. Admittedly, I fumed about this for a bit, considering I thought a PR was within reach should the course be 13.1, but I put that thought out of my mind and tried to just run the race I was running and enjoy it as much as I could.

Once I got to mile 10.5 or so, I resolved to kick it up in the last 5k, and that mind shift seemed to give me a bit of a second wind as well. I was hurting, but not done yet, and I wanted to finish strong. There was a STEEP boat ramp during mile 11 that felt like I was walking, which took a lot of self-talk to get up and over especially with another hilly ~1.5 miles to go afterward.

Mile 11: 7:17

Mile 12: 7:58

Alas, up I went, and we turned into the homestretch. Something I really like about this race is that it’s an essentially straight shot to this finish, and it seemed like everyone around me was pulling out everything they had to fire their final canons. I’d been leap-frogging with a few men the whole race, and all of us were straightening up and putting on our best race faces during this final stretch. Lots of fun.

However, things were hurting. This last mile was consistently up and down hill, and I was definitely feeling all the changing elevation, despite how minimal it actually was. When my watch beeped “13” I was nowhere near the mile marker, so I made a mental note to check “my” half marathon time in another .1 miles.

Mile 13: 7:12

Eventually, the finish line came into view, and I dug out my final dregs of speed as much as I could—I’ll be damned if that clock changes to 1:39!

photo

Final .32 miles: 6:37

Official finish time: 1:38:47, 16th woman overall

After a momentary feeling of being punched in the gut, I pulled it together, got my medal and space blanket and regaled on what just happened: Was that the fastest I’ve ever run before?

Technically, no. My official half-marathon PR is 22 seconds faster than that. But, in reality…it actually might be.

I am certainly not someone to play the, “But my watch said xx:xx!” card. I believe we all run the same course, the same race, no matter what, and the numbers we clock individually are secondary. But, .2 miles off is significant enough that I’m inclined to look at my pace according to the distance I logged rather than a 13.1 distance. Furthermore, in the case that I ran 13.32 miles in 1:38:47, I ran a 7:24 pace, which is easily faster than I’ve ever run a half marathon before. Take it or leave it, I realize this is a controversial topic, but I’m having a hard time ignoring that figure.

Despite the could-haves and maybes of the off-distance, I certainly had miles during this race that were both unexpected and mini personal-record breaking. The fact that 6.32 miles were under 7:20s is incredibly encouraging, and it brightens my hopes for a 1:35:xx in the (hopefully) not-so-distant future.

photo 3

I also felt like I was able to handle discomfort during this race much better than I’ve been able to before. One of my goals going into it was to keep my head on and not let the pain shadow my confidence. I tried to keep this in the front of my mind during those tougher miles, and I’m happy that I feel like I was able to stay comfortable being uncomfortable. There were some bleak minutes, certainly, but it felt like my resolve to push through was able to suppress those dark voices—which is something I’ve definitely struggled with in the past.

So, all in all, it was a great race. I’m happy that the rain held off (mostly), and despite the comprised conditions, I ran the best race I could. I have high hopes for what’s to come, and a little more gusto in my motivation to start training a little harder. The half-marathon is a fun and tough distance, and I’m excited to see what the next two this year have in store.

And a huge congrats to the other ladies who ran this race! In case I needed a spoonful of humble stew, the other 4 gals I ran with finish in 3, 4, 5, and 7th. Yes, really. Speedy ladies! Super impressive.

Happy Monday all!

Making a Plan, Changing the Plan

Bad blogger here, poking out from my cocoon of silence…

Hey peeps! Guess what? It’s race week! A race I’ve been anticipating for a while…meaning I’ve already had some nerves and goals running through my head.

As I said last week, I rearranged my sky-high hopes for this race and settled on a “we’ll see” approach. Which is what I was/am still planning on. Essentially, my mission has become:

Race the damn race. Don’t just cruise—get a little uncomfortable. Stay in control, run smart, but make it hurt if I can.

Simplistic. Anddd there might be a few pace numbers thrown in there too. But I won’t bore you with those.

I did determine some good ole fashioned A, B, and C goals. So without further ado…

A) PR: I think this is possible if I have a really good day. Ideal conditions, happy legs, etc. A sub-7:30 pace average (what I’d need for a PR) shockingly isn’t as scary as it used to be, which in and of itself is encouraging. Even so, it would take some luck smart racing.

B) Sub-1:40: I became a member of this club on only one occasion, and I feel like it would be nice to affirm my status a little more considering I tend to feel like a poser with my “fluke” 1:38 PR sometimes. No, I don’t feel like I need to prove anything to anyone…except for maybe myself. It would just be nice to feel those race paces again.

C) Keep my head on. This is better than another “sub xx:xx” goal, right? Here’s the deal: I feel like I’m a good racer, but I don’t necessarily feel like I’ve mastered overcoming the mental hurdles that come with tough conditions. Sure, I can press onward, but I feel like I have a tendency to completely count myself out as soon as I feel fatigued. This is especially true in workouts. I’d really like to use this race as an opportunity to keep my game face on straight…or something like that. Having other people to chase after tends to help with this, so I’m excited to execute some playful competition in the name of building confidence.

So, all that’s well and good. But! Of course….but.

Now, I’m not one to whine and complain about race-day conditions. For the most part, I accept them as they are since I know there’s nothing I can do about them. We’ll all have to run in the same weather, right? Right.

But when a race I’ve been looking forward to and anticipating a strong performance at looks like this, my evil eye tends to come out:

Capture

 

Rain doesn’t really phase me. I’m used to the rain, I’ve raced in the rain, whatever with the rain. But rain + wind? Gross. Talk about my least ideal running/living conditions. And 20 mph isn’t a joke…that will make a difference.

So, I suppose for right now I’m trying to accept that some adjustments may need to happen. Goal adjustments, pace adjustments, etc. All in the name of Mother Nature…that saucy little minx. Am I completely discounting those goals above? Absolutely not. Do I think this adds another important variable to consider? Certainly. We’ll see, friends. Expect a very soggy finish line photo, with a side of yummy thigh chafing.

But, no matter the circumstances, I’m excited to run my 9th ( <—lucky number alert!) half-marathon this Sunday. The same half-marathon, in fact, that I ran as my first half 3 years ago. Crazy! This will also be my first official race as a Oiselle team member, clad in the singlet and everything. Let’s hope those new wings know how to sail in the wind!

Who’s racing this weekend? Does weather affect your race-day hype? 

 

Spokane to Sandpoint Ultra Relay Race Recap

This summer has been a seemingly endless stream of events, namely in the form of sweating and running. And I’ve loved it! It’s been one of the best summers of my life, and despite the excessive traveling, late nights, early mornings, and chronically fatigued legs, it’s all been worth it. I feel like I broke out of my comfort zone a lot over the past three months, and along the way I learned a lot about myself as an endurance athlete.

The Spokane to Sandpoint Relay, furthermore, was sort of a grand finale to all the summer hoopla. Both in the sense that it was an intense, multi-day endurance event— but also in the sense that it was kind of my last “big thing” for a while. And let me tell you…I think my body understood the whole “this is the end” ethos of this race.

But let’s get to the running. This was a 200+ mile relay, which started at the top of Mount Spokane and ended on a beach in Sandpoint, ID. Our “Girls Just Wanna Run” ultra team of six each had 4 legs to take on, and I was lucky number runner 6.

It feels incomplete to write about my experience without detailing the runs of my teammates. I was so impressed with every single one of them throughout this entire race, and it’s truly not adequate to recap a relay without their stories, too. So while it’s not possible, I have to acknowledge that the magic of this race for me was in each and every member of the team—including our driver.

So to Tasha, Jordanne, Amy, Rose, Kaitlyn and Luke…you all are heroes. Thanks for letting me run with you!

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Buckle up, kids, this is a long one.

5:30 PM: Leg #1, 13.9 miles

I’d waited the entire day, since our 7 am start time, to run. I was equal parts really antsy and really nervous. The primary theme of the day was just how hot it was, and after seeing each of my teammates affected by the 90 degree weather, I got more and more wary of what my ~14 miler would hold.

Proof of heat: Kaitlyn using our go-to cool off method.

Proof of heat: Kaitlyn using our go-to cool off method.

Kaitlyn handed over our bracelet to me, and off I went— happy to be moving and excited to be knocking out the longest of my four legs.

See? So happy!

See? So happy!

Well, that feeling lasted approximately 3 miles, and that’s when the heat started to affect my stomach. I’m not sure if it was the end-of-the-day run, the food I’d had beforehand, or simply the temperature, but for whatever reason— I quickly went from happily running to extreme digestive discomfort (which we’ll just call “feelings,” because I’m fairly certain you all understand what I’m implying here).

I’ve experienced this running before, and normally it just passes, but whenever those “feelings” felt like they were going away, I’d immediately get another round. The frustrating thing was that my legs felt great. All of my body wanted to run, expect for my lower stomach. I tried my best to focus on the beautiful scenery (which WAS beautiful!) and I knew that when I’d run through the first exchange, my team would have fuel and supplements that could help.

Around 7 miles in, I made it to the exchange and took salt and magnesium pills which I prayed would help alleviate my issues. It was great to see the team also and I was amazed at their support– it felt like my own personal fuel crew!

Taking pills mid-run: true talent.

Pill swallowing mid-run: true talent. Looking this beautiful: even truer talent.

Unfortunately, the two pills didn’t do much, and in fact the “feelings” kept getting worse. I did all I could to not think about needing a bathroom, but simultaneously I started to plot exactly what I would do should the situation get worse. The heat was also starting to get to me at this point, and I could feel the energy quickly being zapped from my body.

Once I got to the next exchange area (I was running through twice), I debated using the port-a-potty or not. However, from experience I knew that one quick stop wasn’t going to make a difference in how things were feeling. I decided against it, told a few of my teammates how I was feeling, and just wanted to get the last 4 miles over with.

"Rose, I'm gonna poop my pants."  "Fine, but make sure you're practicing safety first with this vest and headlamp."

“Rose, I’m gonna poop my pants.”
“Okay, but make sure you’re practicing safety first with this vest and headlamp!”

Just after leaving the transition, I got to cross over the Washington/Idaho border, which was definitely a highlight. I was trying as hard as I could to distract myself from the heat and the discomfort, but things were seemingly getting worse. The miles that felt strong and quick before were starting to crawl by, and eventually when I saw a public bathroom on the side of the path, there wasn’t really another option.

I finished the last few miles a little more comfortably (and managed to pass a few more people), but as I got to the end, those “feelings” reached an all time peak of pain.

Al-most-done...

Al-most-done…

I was thrilled to hand off and be done running, but more thrilled to stop the stomach jostling. It was discouraging, to say the least. I still had 3 legs and over 20 miles in front of me, and things weren’t going to go well if they were anything like the first leg.

Peace out, first leg.

Peace out, first leg.

So, I frequented the Honey Buckets, took some Tums, kept my hydration and nutrition systematic and clean, and hoped things would be a bit better during my next three runs.

Didn't have satellite for first part (~.2 m) of the run

Didn’t have satellite for first part (~.2 m) of the run

leg 1 e

^^^ wtf, that’s not what the map looked like??

12:55 AM: Leg #2, 7.5 miles

First middle of the night run ever! Despite the pain of run number 1, the promise of cooler temperatures and a shorter distance kept my spirits higher for this run. Plus, I’d gotten a little sleep beforehand, so I tried to maintain a positive attitude. The run was all through farm land (read: DARK) and pretty flat the whole time.

There were very few people around me during this run, which meant that I was relying almost solely on my headlamp for guidance and light. I immediately felt so much better than I had earlier, which I was sure was due the decreased heat and sun exposure.

So, despite the run being a little spooky and smelly (so many cows), the 7.5 miles ticked by moderately pleasantly. It was encouraging to finish and know that not only had my stomach settled a bit, but I was over halfway done with my mileage!

The best part of this run was when it dawned on me halfway through that I was in the middle of nowhere in Idaho, at 1 in the morning, with a bunch of strangers, running. I almost started laughing out loud at the obscurity of it all, but I also realized that this was half the fun in relays…and in running. There isn’t a lot of sense to it, but we love it anyway.

leg 2

leg 2 e

 

8:15 AM: Leg 3, 8.9 miles

After my 1 am run, I’d been able to get a little more sleep, which meant that cumulatively, I think I totaled around 3 hours for the night…which in relay terms might as well have been a coma. I was so happy! Thanks goes entirely to our driver Luke, who ended up driving the entire race which enabled some uninterrupted van-sleeping.

Needless to say, I was feeling pretty good about my next leg. It was about 9 miles, and although it was getting war,m I thought that running closer to the time of day I normally run would help with how I felt.

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And as much as I hate to say it, I was completely wrong.

I stopped enjoying this run about two miles in, and it got progressively worse until the very end.

What was going on?! I normally have a bad run once every three weeks or so, if that, and here I was in my second in less than 12 hours. Part of me found it amusing, but a bigger part of me was just frustrated. I was in good shape, I had slept-ish, I was hydrated, fueled, etc…there was no reason to feel like this.

Except for the most obvious factor which I’d been afraid of all along: the heat.

Let me paint a quick picture of what this third leg looked like: Approximately 75 degrees, on exposed highway, with the first 5 miles gradual uphill.

So looking at it that way, it sounds a little bit more understandable as to why it didn’t feel great. But, I was still down on myself for feeling so low. I knew all my teammates had struggled, but I felt like this just wasn’t acceptable. My inner monologue was something along the lines of:

“I hate running, why am I doing this?”

“Buck up captain! You need to keep up a game face for your team!”

“Better you than them, better you than them…”

“Where’s the nearest Slurpie machine?”

In essence, these miles all sucked. There was little to no shade, long and unforgiving highway roads, and a general negative attitude to boot.

As I’m sure you can guess, I was, once again, thrilled to see the exchange. It was great to know that handing off to Tasha meant that my team was in the homestretch of finishing this bad boy up.

Go, Tasha, Go!

Go, Tasha, Go!

I don't even care that I'm getting a GoPro in my face right now, just hand me more water.

I don’t even care that I’m getting a GoPro in my face right now, just hand me more water.

leg 3

leg 3 e

Just before my final leg, our Runner #4, Rose, ran her final 4 miles—and managed to do so a minute per mile faster than she’d been averaging before.

Essentially, right before she started, Luke asked her if she thought she could push it in those last 4, and she immediately jumped at the idea. She’s a former track/cross country athlete, so I knew the idea of a little speed would be fun for her—despite her tired legs.

Watching her gut out those last few miles at a sub 8 pace was incredible! Our van followed along almost the entire time with Luke coaching her the whole time. It was so inspiring and it reminded me of just how much fun you can have with running, even in the most trying circumstances.

rockstar

rockstar

The best part (for me) came near the end of her leg. As we prepared to drive off to the exchange, Luke asked if anyone could pace her the rest of the way. It took me approximately one second to go from my seat belt and flip flops to my running shoes and running alongside Rose. We had about a half mile to go, and I had such a fun time helping her push til the end. It was the best my legs had felt the entire relay, too, and although I knew I still had 5 miles of my own to do later on, it was completely worth it to help Rose leave it all out on the course. And I say “help” loosely, since I’m fairly certain she would have done it all on her own. At least I got to enjoy the high with her 🙂

It was easily the best highlight from the relay.

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3:35 PM: Leg 4, 4.75 miles

I knew I shouldn’t have too many expectations going into my final leg, given how the morning run had gone. It was also hotter now, and although I only had about 5 miles to go, I knew it was going to be a test for my tired legs.

Nevertheless, I was SO excited to finish things up for my team and to complete the adventure. Since everyone was done at that point, I was so full of pride that I wasn’t too concerned with my own final leg. It had been so inspiring to see all of them finish, and I just hoped I could muster up a little bit of strength to bring it home for everyone.

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After being peer pressured by Luke a bit, I told him if possible…I would try to push my pace a little. As soon as I started, I didn’t see another option: it might hurt, but it would get me to the finish line faster.

So push I did. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was certainly faster than my end-of-relay legs were planning on. However, I didn’t see much point in trying to conserve.

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The sun was hot, but I didn’t really care anymore. The only thing I was focused on was getting those last miles run so I could get back to my team at the end.

The final 2.5 miles of the Spokane to Sandpoint course finish on a very long, open bridge—which I initially thought would be an awesome and scenic end to the race.

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And while it was certainly scenic, there really wasn’t anything pleasant about it—specifically after running over 30 miles in the day beforehand. It was so ridiculously hot, and there wasn’t anywhere to hide from the exposed sun. I kept my focus on picking off the runners ahead of me, while trying to ignore the desire to walk/jump in the water/curl up on the path. (5 kills in the last 3 miles!)

After crossing the bridge, I got a little jolt knowing that the end was near. There were spectators and fellow relay-ers along the sidewalks, which helped get me excited to finish. I was really feeling the 8 minute pace and the previous 35 miles at this point, but I didn’t care…it was time to finish this thing.

I don’t know if I’d ever been happier to see a finish line once it came into view. I got to run along a grassy lawn which felt like heaven after all the pavement pounding, and my wonderful team was right there waiting to finish what we started.

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my face here really explains it all...

my face here really explains it all…

33 hours and 13 minutes after Tasha took off at the top of Mt. Spokane, we made it.

leg 4

leg 4 e

It took me a few minutes to get my wits about me at the finish line, but after the sweat stopped dripping and my heart slowed down a bit, I was completely overwhelmed with excitement and pride. Somehow, all those brutal miles disappeared from my memory and were replaced with joy for my team and for the sport.

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We were announced the women’s ultra team winners over the loud speaker, and we gathered our prizes (shiny metal goblets) and medals along with our t-shirts and beer tickets (obviously the most important part).

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My favorite picture of the race.

Draping each of my teammates with their medals was a true highlight, and I felt so honored to have run alongside all these incredible women and athletes.

After some cheers-ing, reminiscing, and photo taking, we were spent with our Spokane to Sandpoint adventure and headed home for pizza and showers. The hour and a half drive back to Spokane was a little surreal; it took just 90 minutes to return to the place we’d started over 30 hours beforehand.

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This race proved to be a true momento to the summer I’ve had. It was an adventure in running but also in mental endurance, in teamwork, and in handling adversity—all of which, in the end, makes each of us a stronger athlete and competitor. This race, and this summer of running, has shown me that hard work truly does yield the most satisfying results. It may be tough getting there, but the reward is so much sweeter knowing that you fought hard the whole way…especially when it’s alongside such an incredible group of people.

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I’m hoping to carry the things I’ve learned this summer into my next running adventures, wherever they may lead. Because if I’ve learned nothing else, it’s that you never know where running (and running friends) can take you.

And I can’t wait to find out.

Thank you Spokane to Sandpoint for making this event so memorable. You tested every ounce of endurance we all had, and while we may have cursed you at the time, in the end you put on one kickass show.

Girls Just Wanna Run, you’re an inspiration. Congratulations to you all!

 

The Races Are Coming, The Races Are Coming!

Happy Friday!

We are officially one week away from Ragnar NWP, and I’m actually getting really excited!

I didn’t really mean for that to sound like I’m surprised, but I suppose I’ve just been feeling a little more daunted by the idea than jazzed for it. Part of that stems from the fact that I’ve never done a relay before, so while I know all the hearsay about how awesome they are—I don’t really have a good concept of what to expect.

All that seems to be going away, though. Now that the final details are getting sorted and we have an established start time, drivers, runs times, etc., it’s all becoming more real and super exciting!

I’ve accepted that there really isn’t a “right” way to prepare for an ultra relay, and I feel like I’ve done everything I could have. I’ve also accepted that it’s going to be hard, no matter what, but it’s the hard aspect that makes the whole experience memorable.

Plus, my team is pretty awesome, and I’m excited to hang out with these ladies for over 24 straight hours 🙂

Team Six Pack with a Rack

(in running order, because why not, right?)

Bethany

Lauren

Rebecca

Jessey

Rira

ME

We’ve got a great mix of personalities, experience, ages, and all with one big thing in common: a lot of run love. I can’t wait!

But, there’s business to tend to before Ragnar. And so continues my summer of endless activity and racing…

This Sunday, I’ll be running the See Jane Run half-marathon as my final long training run for Ragnar.

I have had this race on my radar for a while, and luckily won an entry to it, but I’m finding myself a little lost when it comes to my approach to it.

Full discretion: I am physically incapable of “fun running” a race. I don’t always all-out race, but even in cases where I don’t have an A-goal, I still like to have a race plan or some sort of structure as to how I’ll try and run. Racing is a really important part of running for me, and I like to try and take it seriously whenever the opportunity presents itself. Even if the opportunity is to practice pacing, practice racing, or practice going slow.

Back to See Jane Run. I’m in a weird limbo between wanting to work hard and wanting to hold back. This will not be an all-out effort, as I’m saving that energy for my actual A-race this fall, but I still want to try and practice racing a half.

So, although I’m not entirely sure of my exact plan, I know I do want to practice finishing strong. I have never really had the opportunity to tap into stored energy for a great finishing kick at the end of a race (seeing as I normally go out too fast). So, I’d like to give this approach a try. I suppose it will be a practice in patience more than anything else and trying to hold back in the beginning so I can let it rip in the last 2 miles or so.

I’m trying really hard to not let the races I run now affect my confidence for attempting a 1:35 in a few months. Slowly I’m getting it into my head that it’s a BIG goal, and just because I’m not ready now doesn’t mean I won’t be ready then. So, I’m going to try my best to not let numbers on Sunday take away from the experience. I’ll be happy with a solid effort and enough juice left to start building the energy and excitement necessary for some Ragnar miles.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Who’s running See Jane Run this weekend? Who’s racing? Who’s doing something summery/outdoorsy/exciting?

Tri-ing it out and other upcoming races

Hey, Hello, Hi out there!

My head all week:

“ROBYN, write a blog post! You like blogging, just write something! ANYTHING! Post one picture and gif, SOMETHING!”

My reactions:

…no.

Yada, yada, yada…lots of work, lots of life, and lots of “I’d rather watch reruns of Grey’s than look at a computer screen for another second.” It happens.

But wouldn’t you know it, I do have some news to share. Exciting news! News which has slightly dented my previously mentioned lack of direction in the running/racing world.

In just one week, I have gone from being registered for zero races to being registered for three. Three! Exciting stuff. And the best part is that two out of those three are within the next month or so.

So with that said, let’s take a look at what’s coming up:

Dilettante Women’s Sprint Triathlon

You guys, I did it.

Finally.

After over a year of circling around the triathlon pool lake, I finally decided to get over my fears and jump in head first.

And I mean that quite seriously. I’ve done very little specific training, I know close to nothing about transitions, and don’t even get me start on the clip-in pedals (Read: biggest fear OF ALL.)

Essentially, if you consider how much I mentally and physically prepare for running races (a lot) and take the opposite of that…that’s basically how I’m approaching this first sprint tri.

And I kind of love it! It’s a short enough race that I can kind of get away with this method, and it totally takes any pressure off. I honestly have NO idea as to what a “good” sprint tri time is, and this whole endeavor is more to get a taste of the sport in general. I’m excited.

The best part is that some local friends are doing it too, and they had the brilliant idea to do some open water swimming and biking on the course beforehand. (And they’re letting me tag along 🙂 ) So this Sunday, exactly one week from race day, I’ll be starting my triathlon training.

So smart.

But in all seriousness, I’ve been in the pool and on the bike recently enough to where I’m sure that short of complete catastrophe, I should be fine.

And I actually have a feeling I’m going to enjoy it more than my wallet is prepared for…

See Jane Run Half-Marathon

You guys! I won something! RoseRunner hosted an awesome giveaway on her blog a few weeks ago: she gave away three spots in the See Jane Run race series. I was psyched to see something that I actually wanted in a giveaway, and somehow I ended up snagging one of the spots!

Side note: If you don’t already, check out her blog. Girl is stupid fast, smart, and isn’t afraid to call out the bullshit in the “healthy living” blogging world. One of my favorites in my reader.

This race is in mid-July, so it will potentially be warm, but otherwise I’m looking forward to it. I’ve flirted with the idea of making it a goal half race, but currently it’s scary to do one mile at my would-be goal half marathon pace, let alone run 13.1 miles at it. We’ll see.

Seattle Half-Marathon

Okay, so this race is eons away, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to have on the calendar! I absolutely loved this race when I did it for the first time last year, and at that time I promised myself to run it again. And with a coupon code in hand and a lingering price increase deadline, I decided to go for it.

There is also potential that should I not get into Boston for 2014, I may decide to do the full instead. Essentially, I’d like to keep the option of a fall full open for now…and this one is late enough that I could still do some solid training after knowing for sure about Boston.

But in the meantime, I’m still hoping for/planning on being in Bean town next April, in which case this will just be another fun, cold, post-Thanksgiving coma half-marathon.

Hooray races! Sorry paycheck, you were fun while you lasted.

I am really psyched to have some things on the calendar in additional to the crazy ultra-relay extravaganza I’ve gotten myself into.

Lots more to share, but for now I’m interested in what races YOU have planned for the upcoming couple of months. It seems like people either go crazy with racing during the summer or avoid it altogether.

So…what races are you signed up for?

Also, how do you “do” a sprint triathlon? 🙂

Eugene Marathon Race Recap

Something funny happens when you finally experience something that you’ve been thinking about and dreaming about for a long time: it doesn’t feel real.

That’s how I feel today about Sunday’s race. Because although I definitely felt the build-up, the pain, and the joy of it at the time, I’m still having a hard time internalizing that it happened. 

And it did happen…that moment that I’ve been focusing on and training toward for months and months; it’s actually a reality.

Spoiler alert:

CaptureSo while it might not have totally sunk in yet, I’m so happy that today I can announce that I did indeed qualify for Boston!

This race had the quintessential makings of a marathon experience: the adrenaline-filled, blissful first half, the scary and lonely middle miles, a head first slam into the wall, and a finish line that felt like the best place in the world.

Let’s go back to the beginning:

I was really confident in my training going into this race. I felt as if I had done everything I could, and I knew that unless disaster struck, I would have a pretty good shot at my goals.

BF and I did a little shake out 4-miler on Saturday, and we headed to the expo which helped crank up my excitement.

There was a little caveat though in terms of my race prep that had me worried. On Thursday night, I slept really poorly, as I did again on Friday night thanks to a late night of driving down to Oregon. Now, I think we all know that the golden rule of marathoning is that you want to get a lot of sleep the night before race eve, as a restless sleep is pretty much a given on the night before any race. So, on Saturday I was already worn out from the two nights before, and couldn’t stop thinking about how important it was that I sleep well that night.

And guess what? When you think about sleep, particularly on a night before you attempt a huge running goal, there is no possible way you can fall asleep. And that’s exactly what happened to me. Despite my fatigue, I spent hours awake attempting every trick in the book to wind down and shut off my brain. When my 5:30 alarm went off, I knew there was no way I had slept more than 3 hours…all of which was in 20 minute increments. Not exactly comforting.

But, I couldn’t do anything about it. And despite feeling exhausted, the race day hype kicked in like clockwork, and I was excited to get going.

I got to the start line in plenty of time for a porta-potty stop and good corral placement. I even managed to see Lora at the start! I was really impressed with the set-up and general energy of the starting area, especially that it was right outside of Hayward field where we would eventually end up.

After the National Anthem was sung and a moment of silence was held for Boston (so beautiful and powerful), it was only a matter of minutes before they let our corral cross the start line. And off we went!

Despite a gradual uphill start, I was filled with energy from the crowds and the general atmosphere. I really internalized that I was in track town, running a marathon, and striving for a goal that felt unattainable just a year ago. Needless to say, I clocked in a wee bit too fast:

Mile 1: 7:36

I knew I needed to buckle in, get it together, and run the race I planned out. I didn’t want to regret going too fast, so I spent a good amount of time in the first few miles getting to an 8 minute pace. I don’t like looking at my watch so often, but in races, I’ve found that a lot of my pacing instincts are thrown off.

Mile 2: 7:55

Mile 3: 8:01

I ran into Sarah just before mile 4, who stood out immediately in her bridal running outfit. She was running the half and gave me some good words of encouragement. Thanks Sarah!

Mile 4: 8:03

Mile 5: 7:49

The “hill” that was promised at mile 4 was barely anything to worry about, and there was a very nice downhill for a while afterward. I try to use downhills to my advantage as much as possible, so I forgave the quicker paces that were showing up.

Mile 6: 7:53

Mile 7: 7:58

Still, I needed to focus on the “slower start” I had promised myself I’d stick to. I knew another hill was coming up in mile 8, which would obviously help.

I saw my cheer squad for the first time also around 7.5, which is where I took my first few Honey Stingers as well. I loved seeing them, and I knew seeing them later on during the race was going to be really helpful. It certainly added that they were wearing these shirts:

My family surprised me with Run Birdie Run shirts!

Surprise! Run Birdie Run shirts!

Mile 8: 7:56

Mile 9: 8:04

Side note: The “hills” in this race aren’t anything to worry about. If you train with hills even a little bit, you wouldn’t bat an eye at this course.

By this point, we were leaving the cute Eugene neighborhoods and heading toward the river. We passed by Hayward and I caught a glimpse of the enormous sign that read: “Believe in the Power of the Run.”

Track town, you cut me right to the core.

I knew we would be splitting from the half-ers around mile 10, and I mentally prepared myself to get into the marathon zone. It’s those middle miles that can feel scary and daunting, so I tried to psych myself up for them.

Mile 10: 7:57

Mile 11: 8:02

Mile 12: 7:55

I was leap-frogging back and forth with a few runners, but it felt like we were pulling each other along instead of competing. Around this point, a shirtless dude with the shortest shorts I’ve ever seen starting matching me stride-for-stride, and it was obvious he wanted to share a pace. Alrighty sir, let’s do it.

Mile 13: 8:00

I LOVE reaching the halfway point in marathons. Mentally, I start to count down instead of up, and I was feeling pretty good at this point as well, which was encouraging. I had clocked just under a 1:44 half, which made me think that a sub 3:30 might be possible.

Miles 13-17 were probably the least memorable for me. They were in a lonely, residential area that was a little boring. I remembered getting to mile 17 and thinking, “Less than 10 to go!” which helped. I was definitely starting to feel tired at this point, and by tired I mean literally…I could have curled up on the side of the road and fallen asleep.

Mile 14: 7:53

Mile 15: 7:55

Mile 16: 7:49

Mile 17: 7:55

My legs were feeling pretty good, although my right leg was doing a strange thing that it had done on a few training runs where my glute, hamstring, calf, and even foot all got tight. Not painful, just tight. It wasn’t anything I couldn’t run through, but it definitely reminded me that I was running a marathon. We were on a beautiful path along the river at this point, which helped mix up the race and kept things interesting.

Mile 18: 8:00

Mile 19: 8:00

I saw my family again during mile 18, which provided another boost. More Honey Stingers, and my mom ran with me a few paces to check in. I admitted to her that I felt tired, and she reminded me to slow down if I needed to. No worries Ma, I had been thinking that same thing.

It was comforting to know that I’d gained a lot of time in terms of running under 3:35. While I always love the idea of negative splitting, sometimes in the marathon you need to go with the flow and let your body do the talking, so I gave in and let myself slow down a little bit. And much to my dismay, at mile 20, that horrible iPod Shuffle voice came on and said, “Battery low,” which elicited more than a few four-letter words. Probably the worst timing. So I shut it off, saving the final dregs of battery for the end.

Mile 20: 8:02

Mile 21: 8:10

I could feel the pain creeping in, and while it didn’t feel all-consuming yet, I knew it was going to be a long final 5 miles.

“But it’s only 5 more miles! You almost always run further than that on average days.”

Those were the kind of thoughts I kept trying to get in my head, but unfortunately there were other voices shouting a bit louder.

Just before mile 22, the familiar dark feeling from Tacoma last year started the veer its ugly head. I had a hard time telling if it was actually the same type of pain as last year or just the bad memories that got me so unnerved, but either way, I did everything I could to remind myself to be smart. I allowed myself a 5 second walk break to get my bearings, and then pressed on.

Mile 22: 8:24

At this point, my legs were toasted. My feet felt hot, and it didn’t help that the temperature was rising. I stuck to the shady parts of the path as much as I could and dumped water under my hat at the water stations. Most of the fatigue was in my head, which I instinctively knew was from having not slept the night before. I saw my family again at 22, which certainly helped, but I didn’t like the idea of them seeing me in such a bad space.

Apparently though, I hid it well. BF started running with me for a bit and said I looked great, which was nearly impossible for me to believe- but I took it as a sign that my body was doing better than my head.

Mile 23: 8:28

Admittedly, it was comforting to know that I could run up to 10 minute miles and still come in under 3:35. I had already resolved that I would have a huge positive split, and that was okay. As much pain as I was in, it kind of humored me to think, “Oh, this is why the marathon is so hard. This is what the wall feels like, huh? I get it now.”

But, I knew that with such a big goal, a goal that was far below my current PR, this race was going to take a fight. So I fought. The miles felt so incredibly slow. The 8:30 pace I was holding felt like a 7 minute pace, and I could feel every single incline and decline in the road.

Around this point, I spotted Lauren up ahead, who I’d already seen twice earlier cheering like a champ. She started running alongside me and asked how I felt, which I fully admitted to feeling horrible. She gave a lot of words of encouragement,  including offering to continue running with me. While I was incapable of expressing it or realizing it at the time, this was a huge save for me. She distracted me and kept me going when all I wanted to do was stop. I took another short walk break, and as slow as they were…the miles kept going.

Mile 24: 8:39

Mile 25: 8:49

It was excruciating at this point. I felt like my head was crushed into tunnel vision, and it took everything I had to keep the BQ goal in sight. Seeing Hayward come into view was helpful, and while I was still battling the ghost of Tacoma Marathon past, I knew I was stronger this time around. Lauren was a game-changer, and I cannot begin to thank her enough for pulling me through those final miles.

She dropped me right before the entrance to Hayward, where I was greeted with a huge Oiselle cheer group of familiar faces which helped get me excited.

Mile 26: 9:03

Coming into Hayward was surreal. It was something that I’d been envisioning for so long it didn’t even feel real. I was in so much pain, but so happy to be done. It’s actually a little hard for me to remember since I was so foggy and tired at the time, but when I heard my name on the loud speaker and saw the 3:32 on my watch, all those dreadful and slow miles melted away.

Photo courtesy of BF.

Photo courtesy of BF.

I’d done it. I held my hand over my heart and raised my hand in the air. Boston, that was for you.

It was so relieving to be done. I was a little off kilter once I crossed the finish line, so a volunteer helped support me a little bit. I got my medal, got my bearings, and headed toward the finisher’s chute. I immediately felt nauseated and steered clear of the food they were offering. I wanted so badly to sit down, actually to lay down, but I knew I needed to keep walking. I have never felt so sick after a race, which was annoying considering all I wanted to do was celebrate, and I knew I needed to find my people.

BF was on the hunt for me, and we spotted each other pretty quickly. Not too long after, I joined up with the rest of my crew, and after a few minutes of my hands on my knees and some deep breathing, I started to feel a bit better and the accomplishment started to register.

image

The whole crew!

The whole crew!

It’s funny how pain can mask other emotions so much. Of course all I wanted to do at the finish line was cry tears of joy and relish the feeling that I’d accomplished my goal, so it’s a little disheartening that hitting the wall so hard took away a bit from that.

However, my wonderful support crew helped draw me back into the light. We visited the foam rollers they had available in a tent (quite convenient), hung out on the turf, and eventually made our way out.

image

Granddad and me...perhaps my new favorite picture.

Granddad and me…perhaps my new favorite picture.

After a heavenly shower and a change into flip lops and stretch pants, I started to feel like myself again. My appetite was no where to be found, my legs were completely shot, and my arm was chafed to the point of a scar, but I knew that it was all worth it. There’s something incredible that happens at the end of a marathon. You are stripped of every last defense and ounce of strength inside of you, and yet you still manage to do what your body and brain are both fighting against. It’s supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to hurt. It’s the fight against the pain that makes the marathon so mighty.

And in the end, I don’t care that I had a 4 minute positive split. I don’t care that I can’t walk down stairs today, and I certainly don’t care that I lost so much sleep over this race. I did exactly what I came to Eugene to do, and the reality that I nabbed my BQ is settling in more and more every minute.

And truth be told, something as great and as honorable as running the Boston marathon, especially next year, shouldn’t be easy. It supposed to be earned, to be fought for, and it took a good kick in the butt Sunday for me to truly realize what that honor is all about.

Another new favorite.

Another new favorite.

I cannot begin to thank everyone enough for your words of support and encouragement. This community is filled with an unbelievable kinship, and on Sunday I was reminded once again of how proud I am to call myself a runner. A big congratulations to everyone who raced this weekend! I hope you all celebrated well and are resting properly.

If you need me, I’ll be with my chocolate and my pillow. Probably wearing my medal.

Thanks Eugene! You proved your legacy ten-fold. And here’s hoping that next year’s spring race takes place in another legendary place, on a different coast 🙂