RECAP: Clearwater Distance Classic – 50K Ultramarathon

Sometime, a few months ago, my friend/coworker Whitney mentioned training for a winter marathon…which then became talks about an ultra…which led to a discussion about a road 50K (my only other was trail)…which became the basis for registering for the Clearwater Distance Classic.

Sure, it was the weekend after the Goofy Challenge, but it was a chance to run with friends and enjoy scenic views, so I was in.

Fast forward to yesterday

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Ready to run 50K!

Whitney, her friend/neighbor Darcie and I arranged to carpool up to Clearwater (about 1.5 hours away) and stay overnight so we could have as much sleep as possible before the big race. So, we left around ~3ish from Sarasota, and drove straight to Coachmen Park (where the race would start/end, and served as packet pickup). Although we hit quite a bit of traffic, we made it in right before they closed, and then headed over to our hotel for the night (the Hilton Clearwater Beach) to check in, before hitting dinner.

After a delicious sushi nosh and a quick stop at what was quite possibly the largest and nicest Walgreens we had ever seen (it had two levels, an escalator and frozen yogurt dispensers!) we changed into our PJs and settled in for the night at the late late hour of about 8:30 PM.

After drifting off to sleep (with Blended on the TV, which I laughed -loudly- at) I slept pretty soundly until the 5 AM alarm went off (with just one wakeup – at 11:54 PM I thought it was time to get up!)

The race start was 7:05 AM (which felt like sleeping in, after Disney last week!) and we wanted to have ample time to get ready, head over, and find a good parking spot.

My first race as a Bib Rave Pro!
My first race as a Bib Rave Pro!

Once on site, we dropped our bags and lined up for the portapotties (x2) before it was time to get running. The start was pretty weird – no official line ups, and all distance events started at the same time (5M, 13.1, 26.2 and 50K) which was a little annoying, but not too bad (the cool thing was that they let walkers start early – 6:45 AM, I think).

The first few miles were a bit congested, but beautiful, as we ascended the first bridge over to the Clearwater beach area, rounded the resort section, and hit the second bridge. The 5 Milers were split off at that point, and after an out and back portion by the residential condo area, the halfers headed back, and the marathoners and ultra runners kept on.

By Mile 8, we had stopped twice for potty breaks (Darcie has the world’s smallest bladder, lol) but otherwise, were maintaining a pretty good 9-10 minute pace and were still all together. We had been moved over to the shoulder of the road, marked off with cones (kind of narrow, but not terrible) and had to stay vigilant about crazy drivers. It was a beach road though, so there were a few nice views, as well as sights of fun kitschy beach cafes, shops and inns.

Mile 15ish, Darcie needed another potty break, so I stopped with her, but Whitney said she wasn’t feeling the idea of stopping, so she moved on and so we had to then pick up the pace to catch up with her – that was a little rough! For about .75 miles, we had to juice it up under 9 minute pace, which felt fast after the easy pace we had been going!

A little after 16, there was another fork in the road – straight for ultra, left turn for marathon – this was a ~5ish mile out and back to add the distance on the Pinellas Trail (which, P.S. was a little boring and shady – and I don’t mean covered with trees – I am talking stray cats and dogs, trailer parks, etc). It got really sunny at this point, and we were hoping for some cloud cover! We had to ascend two somewhat steep overpasses on that route!

Thankfully, the ‘back’ portion to the merge point felt easier (and the clouds came out to play) than the ‘out’ portion, and we were at Mile 21 then. After taking Gatorade and water at a handful of stops, I finally felt like I had to pee, and thankfully, there were ‘real’ bathrooms!!

And that’s when it went downhill for me…

Yup, at Mile 21, I found out that my *ahem* Aunt Flo was (unwelcomingly) visiting me early, and with her, a whole arsenal of related ailments, aches and pains. UGH. It was like being hit by a truck, and despite our thus-far pact of staying together, I told Darcie and Whitney to forge ahead.

We all stayed in relative eyeshot of each other for the next 2 miles or so, but then, their figures faded away. I was run-walking (2/:30ish), and took a moment to call hubs and let him know what was going on so he wouldn’t worry about me out there.

At Mile 27, I had to walk, the pain was so bad. Then, it subsided a bit and I did run/walk. Then Mile 29…walk. I have to admit, I was getting so frustrated. My legs felt great – amazing, even – and here I was, having to walk (though, I did run up every overpass – the seemingly endless overpasses).

At Mile 30, I knew I wanted to get it done in less than 5:30, so I kicked it in, and was happy to see the same finish of this race as Iron Girl – down a rounding walkway, then straight to home!

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Official finish: 5:28:28

It was definitely not an easy finish, but it was a satisfying one. I had a huge smile, and felt triumphant (and even happier when I reached the ONE AND ONLY medical tent and was saved by a female paramedic who had extra feminine products – my hero!!) Plus, I found out I wasn’t as far behind as I thought (Darcie finished around 4:13ish, Whitney 4:25) so I hadn’t made them wait forever, like I had feared!

Overall, it was a nicely organized race – I had fun with friends – and I got some pretty sweet bling. I don’t think I’d run it again (the course was just “okay”) but I have memories I won’t soon forget!

Other notable things:

  • The Script’s “Superheroes” totally made the end of my race with these lyrics: “Every day, every hour,Ā Turn the pain into power.
  • Mile 29 was when I laughed so hard after asking a fellow runner (who looked good and strong!) how he was feeling. He said, “I feel great!” / Me: “Well, you look it!” / Him: “I always feel great!!” / Me: “Good!” / Him: “I also always lie!” šŸ˜‰
  • Outfit was a win – Oiselle Distance shorts + Bibrave racerback tank + Brooks Glycerin 12 + Sparkle Athletic headsweats visor
  • After today, I plan on taking a week off running as double recovery from this weekend + last weekend – my legs feel great, but I know it’s the smart thing to do, if I want a successful February. So Day 1 is tomorrow!

Where did your running shoes take YOU this weekend?

RECAP: Best Damn Race – Cape Coral 2014, 26.2

This fall’s “A” race was originally intended to be the Space Coast Marathon – not necessarily a BQ attempt, but definitely a PR attempt, after what happened last year, but after some scheduling/life things got in the way, I transferred my half marathon bib at Best Damn Race – Cape Coral for the full, refocused my efforts, and felt ready to take on my 11th full marathon.

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I’m in the middle, Mary is carrying the Go-Pro!

My friend Mary was also running this race, which was her comeback from having her (adorable!!) son last year. The weather was pretty close to perfect (50ish) with just a slight breeze, and after meeting up in the corrals (self seeded), we set off.

For 10 miles, we ran pretty close to side by side, knocking off splits right on pace (nothing over 8:10), and it was just flowing. At water stations, I’d stop and grab a cup, then run and catch up with Mary,Ā and once, she even stopped at a portapottie and made her way back up with ease.

Of course, I mentioned that things changed at Mile 10. And changed, they sure did. The bottoms of my feet were burning up, like with hot spots. This concerned me, as I (foolishly) had not trained with the shoes I was wearing for anything longer than 10 miles (in fact, they had been my PR shoes a week before, which was one of the reasons I chose them – rookie fail).

Right after Mile 10 clicked off, I began to see Mary’s figure pull forward…and for the next 6 miles, I was practically shoulder to shoulder with some loud breathing, hard footfall runner (UGH) so I turned up my iPod a little to try and drown him out.

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I could do this in my sleep šŸ˜‰

Since it was a double loop course, I have to admit it was a little dramatic when we passed the sign that said “half marathoners turn right” and we carried on. Of course, it added to the fun that I was wearing a pink bib (the half bib – they just transferred chip info since my bib was personalized) and had well-meaning volunteers shout that I was going the wrong way…when deep down, I was kind of wishing that maybe I was only doing the half šŸ˜‰

Nevertheless, I kept on. Mile 16, however, was the threshold of my shoes and from that point on, I had to take walk breaks to ease the waves of pain from my feet. I still had a few strong miles, but for the most part, the pace had dipped considerably. ON top of that, my tank was chafing me, my shorts were chafing me (which was weird, because I’ve worn them so many times, even in the Wine and Dine monsoon, without issue) so there was a lot of pain going on…

I kept on that damn pain train, though. There was no turning back. Through Mile 22 or so, I was still pulling for a PR (sub 3:43) but inevitably, it just was not meant to be.

What pulled me through to the finish last week was the uplifting spirit and good nature of my fellow runners. Completely. Several of us in my immediate vicinity appeared to be experiencing similar fatigue, and when any of us would pass each other, we would wave, flash a grit tooth smile, or even utter a motivating phrase to one another (“We can do this. You’re looking strong. Let’s keep going!”) On top of that, the volunteers at the aid station were ON THEIR GAME! Along with clapping, cheering and nuunĀ distributing, their smiles and quick clean up (such a clean and clear course!), each aid station was like a beacon of positivity for me, even as I felt my time goals slipping away.

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Keep it moving.

I knew I was almost back to the main resort area of the Cape Coral Harbor, but my feet were just so angry with me.Ā I let my playlist push me forward (my friend/coworker Tonya’s suggestion of “Little Bird” by Annie Lennox was especially uplifting) and repeated to myself: just keep moving.

The final stretch was a straight, long road. The finish area was next to a big condo building, and it felt like it kept pulling farther away. By this point, the temperature had risen to around 70, but the sun made it feel much warmer. I was wiping sweat from my face, and concentrating on just one thing – one foot in front of the other.

I grimaced a bit to see 3:33 (the time goal I had envisioned earlier in the race) tick off with more than 1.2+ miles to go, but what was done was done. I had given all that I could, took a chance, and was not going to reach my goal that day. I was disappointed, but not defeated.

The second blow was when it finally dawned on me that sub 3:43 was also not going to happen. I had clearly not run the tangents (final mileage ended up being about 26.7 that day).

Still, I was breathing. I was moving. I was alive. I was going to have a Best Damn Finish, dammit! Onward.

I mustered up anything that was left inside of me when I heart the finish line announcer’s voice, and made my way down that finisher’s chute. I could see Beth and Caitlyn cheering, and I threw those hands up. It wasn’t the finish that I had imagined, but it was still a finish that I could be proud of!

BDR_finishI finished in 3:45:12, my third best marathon time, of 11, and 7th sub-4 of my running career. I still had a lot to be thankful for.

I hobbled out to the finisher’s area, and caught up with some friends, as well as stopped to chat with some of the runners I had finished “with” and found that one of the ladies who had been near me for most of the race was 51 (!!) and had qualified for Boston! YESS! And another woman had traveled all the way from Minnesota to run, and loved it. And…all of a sudden, anything negativeĀ iota I had left about my race was gone.

It made me think about an article I had read by one of my running heroes, MebĀ Keflezighi recently, and it lifted my heart and spirit to think that as runners, we’ve all felt a range of emotions – in training, in racing, and on the ride back from a big race…but it’s what we do with those thoughts that defines us, and what sets us apart.

We chose how to move forward – even when our minds try to lead us astray.

We are goal getters. We are driven. And we WILL reach what we strive toward – it just takes everything that we have – and it will be worth it.

For a review of this race (logistics, swag, stuff not in this personal account of the event), please visit my Bibrave review!

Match yo’ miles.

Ask any runner, and I bet you’ll get a general consensus – whenever you CAN’T or SHOULDN’T run (read: injured/resting/recovering) it is when you WANT to run the most!

Here, 8 days post-Chicago, I am ITCHING to run…bad. Sure, on Saturday I did run/walk training with the No Boundaries Group at Fleet Feet, but I am not counting that šŸ˜‰ Since I began training with the Hanson Marathon Method, I’ve been a stickler to the recovery period after 26.2, but as I transition into a new schedule, I came up with an idea that I think will benefit not just me and my antsy-ness, but the greater good!!

runkrissydollaIntroducing…the MILE MATCH CHALLENGE!

So, yes – you may have heard of a matching challenge before – where someone donates an amount, and then some wealthy donor goes in to match it, essentially doubling your money. Well, I am still working on finding a wealthy donor or two, but in the meantime, I am doing what I do best – running – and matching each dollar to support the cause and prepare for all the running fun ahead this season.

So PLEASE! Share this post, share this link, just SHARE and I SO appreciate donations of any shape and size…from $1 to $500 (okay, that might be a bit challenging to do, but hey, a promise is a promise and we all need to make some sacrifices to achieve goals, right!?)

DONATE TODAYĀ – and I’ll be lacing up my shoes and hitting the road!

How many miles do you run a month? How many miles do you think I’ll reach in the next 40 days?

 

RECAP: 2014 Chicago Marathon

chimarathon14A week ago today, I imagined I would beĀ celebrating my return home with a shiny new PR, reveling in the accomplishment after months of tough training, and planning out my next move…and yet, here I am, lips and skin chapped, throat sore, and legs swollen with a finish time right smack dab in the middle of my PRs and PWs – yet, feeling strangely calm about it.

The Chicago Marathon was a race to remember – in so many ways. It was a day of gorgeous, perfect weather. A day of seeing so many amazing athletes, friends, spectators and volunteers. A celebration of running, of health and of life. Amongst the crowd of more than 45,000 runners, I was fortunate enough to run with several friends (including rockstars Lauren and Mindy), see amazing inspirations (like Jess)Ā and soak up the energy from incredibleĀ Oiselle teammatesĀ and cheerers – I just cannot describe the intense feelings of love and support that I experienced on Sunday.

So, in lieu of a traditional race recap, here’s a list of things I know will stay in my heart and mind forever, following the 2014 Chicago Marathon:

  • Sometimes, it’s just not your day. At the start of the race, I was battling a sore throat and some sniffles, but I chalked it off as travel ickiness. Unfortunately, at Mile 16ish, I realized it was much worse. Without going too much in to detail, each step was painful, thanks to intense abdominal cramping.
  • I thought about DNFing for a while. DNF = did not finish. Seriously. As my 10th marathon, I thought – I KNOW I can do this, but I have so many more goals coming up, including a handful of marathons. I thought it would be a smart choice. I didn’t think it’d be worth the chance of injuring myself, or overexerting. I stopped right around Mile 17 and sat at an aid station and talked to hubby on the phone. He convinced me that I’d be mad if I didn’t finish what I started. He told me to finish strong. So, I did the best with what I was given for the day, and looking back, I am glad.
  • Chicago volunteers and spectators know how to BRING IT. RecapsĀ and reports fromĀ past participants warned of dead zones during the race, but there was not one moment that I felt unsupported or “alone.”
  • Large races have their pros and cons. Okay, this is one I did NOT expect: the intense lack of etiquette from fellow runners!!!! I had cups thrown at my legs and feet from runners, was spit on from runners who couldn’t bother to move to the side to do so, and elbowed and shouldered. I was NOT used to that and was quite irritated! Was it a huge influx of first time racers, or just a huge amalgamation of self centered rude people? Blah. On the flipside, I did love the fanfare and how ROCKSTAR the City of Chicago makes you feel, wearing your medal around that afternoon…and night…and next day šŸ™‚

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I have more thoughts, and will probably post more, but these are the major points that have been popping around my mind since Sunday…so before I go…

THANK YOU.

Thank you to EVERYONE who has sent kind words, thoughtful notes, motivation, congratulations…it means so much. I’ve been working to respond to as many as possible, and have been continually inspired by the legions of my own friends who accomplished the incredibleĀ this weekend – from first marathons (Rockstar Sarah), PRs (what’s UPPP my fabulous race roomie, Ashley!), to BQs (Jesica, you are my hero) and more – it was a weekend of amazing things.

 

 

 

Let’s do this.

21 days and 163 miles – these are the two things that stand between me and crossing the finish line of my 10th full, the 2014Ā Chicago Marathon.

There are lots of emotions zipping around my head and heart these days, but here are a few things that have been banned:

  • Fear.
  • Stress.
  • Negativity.

Yes, the miles have been logged (600+ and counting)- and even if training has not gone exactly as planned, I know that I’m the best me that I can be in this moment. There have been great, confidence-boosting runs, and there have been incredibly frustrating and crappy runs. Some weeks, every workout was punched out, and some weeks, life took over…and although 26.2 miles are definitely not for the weak of heart, I can say, with confidence, that this training cycle has proved, once again, that it is the TRAINING that shows us who we are, and that we are meant to persevere.

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Deep thoughts.

I did a simulation run today, with my chosen outfit, and it worked great (except for the soaked shoes – but hey, what can you do about that)? 16 miles, the longest in Hanson’s Marathon Method,Ā cut short by .5 because of blistering (I never blister on my feet, so I thought it’d be best to think of my feet!) and my legs feel great, even with the 50 miles logged between Monday and Saturday. I also practiced this run with no audio – music, podcast, etc. – and it went fine, so I will proceed with my “no music marathon” plan, as I really don’t want to miss a thing during my first Chicago experience!

The Numbers

So, 65 miles – the highest amount of miles I have ever run (previous PDR, 61, last October) this week, pushing my 2014 mileage to 1,202, and my total logged on dailymile to 5,005 (started tracking in December 2010).

Taper Zone Thoughts

  • With this training plan, the taper doesn’t really start til 10 days out, but with my last LR logged, it kind of does feel like a slope down to race day.
  • I’m thirsty.
  • Although I really don’t believe in regrets, I do have one tiny one this marathon training cycle, and that is that I didn’t get to blog enough about it! Well, I know I’ll make up for it with a lot lot lot of post-marathon thoughts, so I think that’ll even it out.
  • I have to go to the bathroom.
  • I know what I am wearing, what gear I am bringing, and now, staking out the course map for more mental preparation.
  • I’m hungry.
  • I am so excited to go back to Chicago.
  • I am so excited to run with Bibrave.
  • And donuts.
  • I am so excited to hang out with Ashley.
  • I’m hungry.
  • Is it time to go to Chicago yet?

What are your best tips for mental preparation for a marathon?

 

 

The Shoes Make the Marathoner.

As a runner, and now, an employee of two running stores, it’s safe to say that I am surrounded my shoes a lot of the time. While I am a huge believer that the right shoe makes all the difference (GET FITTED!) I also believe that the shoes are only part of your identity as a runner – and it’s okay (and even a good thing) if you don’t have just one SOLE MATE when it comes to your running shoes. In fact, rotating shoes can even make your shoes last longerĀ – a great thing when it comes to the higher mileage demand of training for 26.2+!

I’ve written about it beforeĀ and, to be quite honest, I will likely write about it a few more times, becauseĀ let’s face it…there are always new cool running shoes your running, goals and yes, even your feet change!

In this training cycle, I am rotating a few pairs of shoes, and do my best to always select the correct pair for the variety of running workouts, conditions and terrain I’ll be working with. Now, this goes without saying, but I have to make this clear – these are the shoes thatĀ I’ve found work for ME – this post is all based on my experience, no paid endorsements (unfortunately) or compensation – and your mileage may vary šŸ˜‰

So, shall we go on? Here we go!

shoes(1) and (2) – these are the New Balance 890v4, a neutral trainer with an 8 MM drop. I was fitted for these a little after I started working at New Balance and have worn them for one half marathon (the Echo Half) and quite a few training runs. These shoes are quite lightweight, and come in a great variety of colors (the #1 version are the special edition Boston Marathon shoes) but after a few months of running in them, I’ve come to the conclusion that for longer runs, the drop has been irritating my right foot (I am more accustomed to a 4 MM), relegating these shoes to walking or work shoes now – they were perfect for our recent Universal visit!

(3) I found this pair of Saucony Kinvara 4’s at Nordstrom Rack, of all places! These HOT PINK beauties are actually the Gore-tex version of the shoe, and block moisture, which has been great for steamy/stormy summer training. I love using these shoes for bridge repeats down by the bayside (the 4 MM drop really connects me to the road), as well as for easy night runs that may otherwise be diverted by rogue sprinkler systems – due to the “flexfilm” cover on the shoe, however, I found that these are NOT the shoes to wear on the treadmill – they make a plastic-y sound!

(4) Brooks Pure Flow 2 – Ā I fell in love with the Pure Flow in 2012, and have been able to transition successfully from the original version of the shoe to these (they’ve since moved to the third version, but I may or may not have stockpiled these for the next few months, thanks to some great online sale shopping). These shoes feature 4 MM drop as well, and a wider toe box, which allows for miles of training with nary a blister. These are my “all workout” shoes – from speedwork, to long runs, these are my workhorse, for sure. This particular pair has also been outfitted with Lock Laces, which I have grown fond of – need top pick up some more at Fleet Feet soon…

(5) Brooks Cascadia – I think my version are ‘8,’ anyway, these are the shoes I wear on the loose dirt and trails of Oscar Scherer State Park (at my first Ultra!) I don’t wear them that often, but I am glad to have found a pair that can withstand the abuse, and keep sand, dirt and rocks at bay.

(6) Brooks Pure Connect 2 – I have stock in these too…haven’t tried version 3 yet, but these shoes are my go-to for racing (I ran myĀ 5K PR in them) thought they are also able to go the distance for longer runs (they matched my St Patrick’s outfit for Sarasota Half) and treadmill tempo/speed work. I love how they feature a glove-like fit, and cradle the arch of my foot. Whenever I feel a tweak in my foot, these are the best shoes to ease soreness out.

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On top of these six pairs, I’ve recently added a 7th pair (NB Fresh Foam) to my training / mentoring for our No Boundaries program at Fleet Feet. These are also a 4 MM drop, and I simply cannot get over how bright and beautiful these shoes are – perfect for those early morning sessions, as well as light and responsive for the stopping and starting on the course, as I work with my awesome 10K training group! I love the idea of having a special pair of shoes just for this program – and it doesn’t hurt that they feel great on, too!

As the Chicago Marathon approaches (AHH) it’s great to know that my feet will be ready – no shoe emergencies – and beyond that, my shoe collection will continue to complement the miles I run – and the miles yet to come!

What do you run in?