Sunday, October 17, 2010

My first 26.2!

So, I ran The North Face Endurance Challenge marathon-distance trail race on Saturday. My first marathon was an AMAZING experience! AMAZING.

However, so many things went wrong! So many things, though, that I had to laugh at the end of the day. Alternate titles for this post could be:

(a) Why You Should Invest in Trail Shoes for a Trail Marathon
(b) Why I Can't Seem To Do Anything the Easy Way

Let's start with (b) Why I Can't Seem to Do Anything the Easy Way. Running 26.2 miles is no easy feat for most people. In fact, it's estimated that only 1% of Americans finish a marathon in their lifetime. It's a long race, both in terms of distance and time. It's a race for which one trains really hard, and, most of the time, one trains by running on streets, which is the surface on which most marathons are run.

So, what on earth possessed me to think, "Hey, I think I can run 26.2 miles--how about I try to do it for the first time on single-track hiking trails?" I don't know. I just don't know. I did a half-Ironman for my first triathlon and a trail race for my first marathon. I just can't seem to do anything the easy way!

I guess I initially thought that there wouldn't be too much of a difference between running on a trail and running on the road except for the surface composition. WRONG! This marathon wasn't on a running trail; it was on a hiking trail! That means it was almost all ascents and descents (4796' total elevation change), and there were parts that were just NOT runnable--you know, like parts where you're climbing over boulders.

Check out the elevation chart from the runner's guide:

Needless to say, this was no easy race! Let me start at the beginning.

First, I had a minor disaster with my Zipcar, which I took to the race. Zipcar is a (usually) awesome car-sharing service. I reserved the Zipcar for the whole day, but when I went to pick it up at it's location, it wasn't there! I was already late at this point and starting to panic. I very angrily called the Zipcar people, and they put me in another car immediately, but the other car was parked about a mile down the road. Grumble, grumble. I walked to the other location and started heading to the race. Thankfully I made it on time!

I had just enough time to pick up my packet, stretch, jog a bit, and prep all my gear.

By the way, I don't have any pictures to document what I'm about to say, but I need you to believe me. If you are wondering what sport has, by far, the HOTTEST male athletes, it's trail running. No other sport even comes close. Rugged, ripped, tattooed, and rough around the edges. Wow.

Anyway, a few minutes before 9:00 AM, we had a pre-race pep talk from Dean Karnazes, which was really cool! I mean, it was cool that he was there. The pep talk freaked me out! It started like this:

Dean Karnazes: For how many of you is this your first trail race?
(I and some others raise our hands.)
Dean Karnazes: For how many of you is this your first marathon-distance race?
(I and some others raise our hands.)
Dean Karnazes: [Laughs hysterically.] You guys are insane!

That was my first cue that this was going to be a rough one. I didn't pay attention to much after that. I just started silently panicking.

The race started promptly at 9:00 AM. I stuck to the back, knowing that I would be one of the slowest. It took awhile for everyone to settle into the single track in the proper order, so I actually had to stop and wait a minute at the trailhead.

Let me take this opportunity to discuss (a) Why You Should Invest in Trail Shoes for a Trail Marathon. Trail shoes have thicker soles and much more traction than road shoes, making it easier to stay stable on all kinds of terrain. They also usually have reinforces toe boxes so that you don't damage your toes when you repeatedly kick things sticking out of the ground.

I really should have got some!

First, I stubbed my toes on roots and rocks approximately 25,000,000 times. My toes hurt SO BAD by the end of the race! Worse than that though, the lack of traction on my Nike LunarGlides caused me to take a nasty spill around mile 3.5 while I was running on a rocky stretch, disguised by a layer of pine straw. My right knee took the brunt of the fall. I walked off the pain for a minute and then got up and kept running. It wasn't really bothering me at all after a bit, but I knew it looked nasty.

When I hit the first aid station at mile 5.6, they sent me to the medical tent to get it cleaned. I hadn't noticed, but it was pretty much gushing blood. Oops! They cleaned it and tried to bandage it, but it was too big for their bandaids. No big deal. The only issue I had with all of this cleaning/bandaging nonense was that I was losing time! Unfortunately, a lot of the med checks were not optional, as I would learn.

This is what my knee looks like now.

It's cleaning up pretty well.

After leaving the first aid station, I hit an awesome runner's high and ran well and strong for a couple miles. The trail became wider and packed, and the hills were shorter and shallower than they had been previously. I started loving it! I thought, "Wow. Trail running is the best ever! I want to do this everyday!" And then, in my endophin-induced daze, I tripped and fell around mile 8.7. Damnit.

When I hit the second aid station at mile 10.5, I had a bloody elbow and hand, and they sent me to the med tent again. I just couldn't win! They kept asking me simple questions and feeding me Gu Brew while they cleaned me. I told them that I wasn't falling because I was dehydrated and woozy--I'm just a clutz without trail shoes! They weren't listening. Boo. More time taken away from me.

Here are my elbow and hand now.

They don't look bad at all, do they? I'm still mad about getting stuck at that med tent.

Leaving the aid station after mile 10.5, I felt great again! I started dragging about mile 12. I hit another high around mile 13. I started dragging again around mile 15. So it continued for the rest of the race. My walk-run ratio started getting higher and higher, and by mile 20 I was just about tapped out. I would have brief bursts of energy and start running again, but it wouldn't last more than a few tenths of a mile.

It was tough mentally. I wanted so much to run--and I did when I would hit the brief stretches of flat trail--but having enough energy to run is not the same as having enough energy to scramble up hills, hop over roots, and dance around rocks. I had trained to RUN 26.2 miles, and I knew I could do it. However, I just wasn't able to run 26.2 miles of trail, and that was hard to take, especially at mile 20, knowing I had 6.2 more to go. I wanted to cry. I wanted to quit. But more than that, I wanted to finish.

It was brutal, but I did it!

Crossing the finish line was all I wanted, and I got it! I'M A MARATHONER!

I still can't believe it. I ran my first mile back in February. I ran my first 5K race in April. 5K in April, then 42K in October! Running is a serious addiction.

I'm already registered for a regular road marathon here in Atlanta in March, and I know that it's going to be a totally different experience. I can't wait!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ironman 70.3 Augusta

Yesterday was the BEST. DAY. EVER. I'm not even joking! My favorite day of my life. Was it perfect? No. There were parts of each event (and each transition) that were absolutely horrible. But, all in all, I wouldn't take back any minute of it.

Pre-Race Day

It all started Saturday. My friend Jess and I left Atlanta around 10 AM to drive to Augusta. Jess is definitely the best spectathlete ever! We got there later than expected due to some horrific roadwork disaster that is going down on I-20 East, but we still had time to do everything. We arrived around 2 PM and immediately got to work.

There's so much you have to do before an Ironman 70.3! First, I had to check in at the Athlete's Village at the host hotel. The line was so long! They give you your packet, wristband, bibs, stickers, t-shirt, gear bags, and goodies. Then, there's a 30-minute course briefing to go over the rules and regs for the race.

Next, on to bike check-in.

There was a mandatory bike check-in on Saturday evening, so I had to take my baby over there and leave her overnight! It was kind of traumatic to abandon her like that, but I knew I'd see her in the morning.

Let me take this opportunity to mention for the first time that I was INCREDIBLY daunted before the race. Standing in transition, I realized that I had, by far, one of the cheapest bikes there. I don't have aerobars, and I don't have bottle launchers (those water bottle holders that go behind your seat). I don't even have bike shoes and fancy pedals! Browsing the bikes in my row, I realized that I was a bit out of my league, equipment wise.

I had to remind myself of one of the things I learned at the Georgia Games cycling race: Better equipment DOES NOT equal a better athlete. I still panicked a bit and looked to Jess and my friend Rusty for encouragement. They talked me down from a couple panic attacks!

After checking in my bike, we checked into the hotel. We were exhausted from hiking around Augusta all day, so we ordered Chinese food and hit the hay early. Like, 8:30 PM early! I think Jess was actually asleep around 7:30 or 8:00!

Race Day

The alarm went off at 4:30 AM, and I hopped out of bed, ready to go! I was so prepared for this day! I had a step-by-step list of everything I had to do in the morning, so I had no reason to panic at this point. I had all of my things packed in separate bags for pre-swim, T1, T2, and post-run. I had a feeding schedule starting from wake-up call to finishing the run. Preparation is EVERYTHING. I live by the proverb, "Failing to plan is planning to fail."

First stop: Transition. I had to pump up my tires and drop off my T1 and T2 bags. I laid everything out carefully on a towel.

For T1 (swim-to-bike transition):
--large towel to lay out under bike wheel
--small towel to wipe feet with
--energy gel to slam before getting on the bike
--small water bottle to wash down the gel
--wicking headband
--calf sleeves
--race belt with bib affixed
--fuel belt with gels

For T2 (bike-to-run transition):
--energy gel to slam before hitting the road
--small water bottle to wash down the gel

I also got my body marked at transition in the morning. They mark your bicep with your bib number and your calf with your age. It's really fun to see everyone's ages when you're racing! That is, until you get passed by a 63-year-old, which happened to me on the run course! Ha! It was still cool, though.

Check out my body marking.

Next, it was on to the swim start, which was NOT at transition. For a lot of races, the swim course is an out-and-back or a triangle, but this swim course was a straight shot down the Savannah River, so the swim start was 1.2 miles down the road from transition. We walked down there to get my timing chip and check out the area.

After I picked up my chip, it started raining. Boo. It wasn't raining hard, but we still didn't want to stand around waiting at the swim start in the rain, so we walked another half-mile down the road to the host hotel to hang out for a bit.

Jess napped for a few minutes, so I moved to the next thing on my to-do list: Plan to distract myself during the run. I knew the run leg was going to be rough. I knew I'd be tired and sore, and running 13.1 miles without music is hard enough as it is! In normal situations, I can let my mind wander for hours and hours without getting bored, but this situation was going to require some planning.

I made a list a self-discussion topics and other mental games to play. Then, I wrote them on my forearm.

I covered all of the topics except potential hairstyles (insuffciently distracting) and my plan for the zombie apocalypse (required too much concentration.) The other athletes I showed it to thought I was INSANE, but it helped me a lot!

After some stretching, it was time to suit up! I covered my legs in BodyGlide so I could pull on the wetsuit without too much issue. It's still not an easy feat! It was still raining when it was time to suit up, so I did it outside the front door of the hotel.

I decided that was good enough at that moment! We walked down to swim start, and I finished gearing up for the swim.

There was more waiting...

FINALLY! It was time to start! One last pic.

I ran down to swim start, and I immediately started to get super-nervous! Not because anyone had better equipment than me, though. In fact, we were all essentially in the same wetsuit. I was nervous because I was about to start an epic quest, and I had no idea if I could do it! I did know, however, that quitting was not an option. I may have hyperventilated. Just a little.

They called my age group. We all hopped in the water and floated to the starting buoys. They sounded the horns, and we were off!

Like I said, the course was a straight shot down the Savannah River.

So, it was still raining during the swim, but it wasn't raining hard enough for it to really be an issue. It wasn't complicating my breathing patterns, or anything like that. It was just mildly annoying. More annoying than that was the fact that I couldn't seem to swim in a straight line! I kept popping my head up and finding myself headed for shore or headed for the buoy line! There were a couple times that I had to slow down, stop getting angry at myself, re-center myself mentally, and then push ahead strong.

When I first caught sight of the finishing gates, I looked around and realized that I was NOT surrounded by other dark green swim caps! I was in a sea of pink and yellow caps. I had no idea what that meant until later, but I now know that the pinks were the fastest swimmers from the wave 4 minutes after me, and the yellow caps were the slowest swimmers from the wave 8 minutes ahead of me!

Jess was waiting for me when I ran up the chute to transition! My official swim time was 29:58 for the 1.2 miles.

It took my 9:52 to get out of T1! It was a long run into the transition area from the water, and it took me a minute to navigate the area to get to my bike. The wetsuit strippers were great, though! There was a line of volunteers inside transition to help us out of our wetsuits, and they were priceless. They grabbed your zipper and ripped it down, and then you sat down, and they ripped the suit off your legs. Took 10 seconds! I geared up with my T1 stuff and tried to get out the gate as soon as possible.

There I go!

Oh, the bike ride. It was epic! I felt so amazing! In training, I'm lucky if I can get home with my Garmin showing an average of 14 mph. I know it's not because I ride that slow but because I ride in the city where I stop a lot, change directions a lot, dodge obstacles a lot, etc. I guess I thought that all of the stopping and starting only accounted for maybe 1 or 2 mph, though, so I told Jess that I'd finish the bike course in 4 hours, give or take 15 minutes maybe, thinking that I'd average about 15 mph. On this ride though, I averaged 17.1 mph! I finished in 3:16:57! Jess missed me at transition because I got in so early, but that's totally okay with me. I was so proud!

On the bike course, I felt like I was flying. Also, I felt like the course was flat as a pancake! Athletes from other areas were complaining about how hilly it was, but, compared to the hills in Atlanta, these were nothing. I took it a little slow in the beginning, just to feel out the situation, but I felt so powerful after the first hour that I felt comfortable turning it up a notch. At about the half-way point I was averaging 16.7 mph, and I cruised into transition averaging 17.1 mph overall.

The downside of the bike course: It RAINED the whole time. Not sprinkled. It's RAINED. At one point, it was raining so hard that if I had been driving a car, I would have pulled over to wait it out. It was kind of miserable at first! After awhile though, I just got used to it. The rain stopped for a few minutes around mile 35, and the only reason I noticed is that it suddenly became quiet. It was sort of creepy. It took me a minute to realize that it was quiet because I no longer heard raindrops hitting my helmet! But, then the rain started again, and everything went back to normal.

I was in T2 for 4:02 before I hit the road for the run. All I had to do was drop my helmet, headband, sunglasses, gloves, and fuel belt, and put on my visor. I slammed a gel and some water and headed straight out.

I felt pretty awesome through the first half of the run course! I ran the first 6 miles, averaging about 10:30 per mile. Unfortunately, I then began feeling the blisters. I was running in socks and shoes that were absolutely drenched! Blisters were forming on every square inch of my feet. I started a walk-run pattern that I kept up until the end. It was BRUTAL, but I finished!

Jess was there to see me run down the finisher's chute!

I was SO glad to be done!

I finished in 6:37:36, which I'm pretty stoked about! I was worried that I wouldn't finish at all! I'm so proud of myself, it's unreal. Even as I lay in bed today, inable of operating either of my legs, I'm still so so so so so happy that I did it!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Onward and upward

Ironman 70.3 Augusta is just 30 days away!!! Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh.

I've been tracking down some last minute additions to the team.

Like... a wetsuit.

Originally, I didn't think I'd need one. I didn't think that the Savannah River would be that cold in September, but it turns out that it is! I checked out the current temps of the river in the Augusta area, and they're already cold enough to make a race wetsuit-legal.

In case you didn't know, Ironman races are very strict about when you can wear a wetsuit.

    After Sept. 1, 2010, the following changes to our current wetsuit rule will apply:

    •Wetsuits cannot measure more than 5 millimeters thick. A standard variance will be allowed to account for seams and jersey material (non-buoyant).

    •Wetsuits may be worn in water temperatures up to and including 24.5 degrees Celsius/76.1 degrees Fahrenheit.

    •Athletes who choose to wear a wetsuit in water temperatures between 24.5 degrees Celsius/76.1 degrees Fahrenheit and 28.8 degrees Celsius/ 83.8 degrees Fahrenheit will not be eligible for awards, including World Championship slots.

    •Wetsuits will be prohibited in water temperature greater than 28.8 degrees Celsius/ 83.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

    •Full wetsuits are allowed (legs and arms covered)
The water temperaturse now in the river are only peaking around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so it's definitely going to be wetsuit-legal, and probably edging toward wetsuit-necessary for me! I hate being cold in the water.

I looked at buying one at first, but there weren't any even close to my price range. So, I decided to rent.


Love these guys already! You tell them your height and weight, and they'll choose the ideal brand and size wetsuit for you and then ship it to you 10 days before your event. Think they might need more measurements than just height and weight? Nope! They get it right 97% of the time with just your height and weight measurements. There is, however, an "additional comments" section where you can plead the case for your weird curves if you feel the need! I used that space to inform them of my non-existent chest and big ol' vegan booty.

I'm slightly nervous about getting the sucker on and off, but I'm going to practice non-stop after I get it.

Another addition to the team... Jessica.

Jess isn't racing, but I'll tell you more about her role later.

Happy training, everyone!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

One day at a time

It's been a minute since I've posted, eh? There are a few culprits that have stood between me and this blog. First, I moved from my darling 3-bedroom house, which I shared with two roommates, to an even more darling 1-bedroom apartment, which is all mine. After many years of living alone, I thought last year that maybe some roommates would be good for me, but it turns out that I'm just not that kind of girl.

I like my alone time. A LOT. For me to be happy, I need a lot of quiet, and I need a lot of control. I like order, and to have the order you want, you have to control your environment. My old house was great, and my roommates were amazing women; but, my new apartment is PERFECT. I'm unpacking so slowly because I'm savoring the experience of putting every single one of my things into its own special place, from which it will only be moved by me. I spend hours just staring at a box--thinking, in perfect and complete silence, about where I want to put the items inside it. It's been amazing.

Also, I've been sad. I found out on August 3rd that I have a stress fracture in my left tibia, and I was so heartbroken. I cried. I tried to be strong. I cried again. I really wanted to hold it together, but every morning when I got out of bed and took my first steps, I remembered the pain that I had forgotten while I slept. That first experience of pain would send me right back into bed where I could pretend it wasn't happening.

The most depressing part about it? I'm smarter than this "wallow in self-misery" nonsense. I know that this isn't the end of my training. I know this means I have to work harder and be stronger than I was before. I know that if I stick to an aggressive cross-training schedule then I won't miss a beat, and I'll still be able to run my marathon in October. I know that this is a blessing in disguise because it gives me an opportunity to focus on my swimming and biking and thus be in better shape for the triathlons in my future.

It's just so hard to think positively when it hurts to walk, you know?

I'm going to get through this, though, and I'm going to get through it by focusing on what I can do now and what I will do in the future. Can's and will's, baby. Can's and will's.

I can do this. I can be strong. I can cross-train every day. I can focus on my swimming and biking. I will get stronger. I will be better. I will run my marathon in October.

I'm a girl who needs to have goals. More importantly, I'm a girl who needs to have detailed training plans, mapping out the best way to achieve those goals (please note my obsessive need for control, discussed in paragraph 2). I've spent the last few days formulating a cross-training plan that will not only keep me strong while I'm off my feet during the next 4-5 weeks, but will also prepare me for--drumroll please--Ironman 70.3 Augusta!

I know that I may not be able to do this. Stress fractures are finicky, and I know that I may not be able to run by the half-Ironman, which is September 26. However, I'm going to try my damndest. The biking is the only thing holding me back right now--56 miles is a lot for me--but this injury should give me a chance to get comfortable with that distance.

I've just got to take it all one day at a time.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Big news!

I have some big news!

I've sadly decided not to continue with my current Team in Training campaign for the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco. Please don't hate me. I'm so so so so so dedicated to the cause, and I'm still going to fundraise for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as the team captain of Team Mom for the LLS's Light the Night campaign this year (4th year! Woohoo!). But, I just can't dedicate myself to raising the $3,900 for the Nike Women's between now and October. Life has gotten a little rough in the last few months, and I'm trying to remove as many stressors as possible at the moment. Unfortunately, I can't give up law school, which is the stressor I really want to eliminate!

Check out my fam at Light the Night two years ago. Darn, we're cute!

This absolutely does not mean that I'm going to stop training! In fact, there's a trail marathon here in Georgia (the North Face Endurance Challenge) on the same day as the Nike Women's, and I've already gone ahead and registered. I might even do a road marathon a month before that (The Air Force Marathon in Dayton, Ohio). I'll keep you posted on my developing racing plans!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The bike race that wasn't

On Saturday, my roommate Jessica, our friend Paul and I headed up to north Georgia for the Georgia Games.

As you can see in the banner above, it's sort of Georgia's version of the Olympics. Jess, Paul and I were there for the Road Cycling Championships. Jess and I were riding in Women's Category 4, which was a 38-mile course, and Paul was in Men's Category 4, which was a 53-mile course.

Paul has a truck, so he picked up our bikes at 6:00 AM, and Jess and I rode up there separately in Jess's car so we wouldn't all have to squish into the cab.

We had NO IDEA what we were getting into! When we got there, we realized that we were all way out of our league--Jess and I moreso than Paul. We walked into a parking lot full of expensive bikes, pro racers, and frantic coaches.

We were tragically unmatched. Paul at least had appropriate apparel and shoes; Jess and I were wearing our running shoes and brought CamelBaks! We stuck out like sore thumbs as soon as we exited our vehicles. Even better yet, Jess doesn't have a road bike; she has a hybrid! We practically got laughed off the course before it even started.

Here we are getting ready to roll:

Most of the bikers competing were professionals. We were nearly the only bikers who weren't on teams, and we were probably the only bikers who hadn't been training constantly for months.

Result? Jess and I were dropped from the race in MILE 2. Yep, you read that right. Mile 2. Jess didn't clear the first hill with the main field, and when I told the support vehicles that I was going to slow down and wait for her to catch up, they went ahead and passed me.

Did we let it stop us? HELL NO. Jess and I finished the full 38 miles, not stopping once, and we finished strong. What do I mean when I say we "finished strong"? I mean that we finished the best that we could, and we were hella proud. We raced against ourselves, and, in the end, we still won that thing. 38 miles is a distance record for both Jess and I, and we ended up averaging a few miles-per-hour faster than we usually ride.

We showed up, and we did it. That's more than most people can say! (Thanks to Kristin for reminding us of that!)

Top-5 Lessons I Learned:
  • You cannot be daunted by people just because they have better equipment. Anyone with money can buy a fancy bike; it doesn't mean they can use it. Could I have kept up with the main field of pro racers, with their fancy bikes, wheelsets, and shoes? Certainly not for the whole 38 miles, but I could have given them a run, even in my running shoes and toe clips. I have strength, and I have heart. Take that, schmucks who made fun of me!

  • You absolutely cannot let people tell you what you can and cannot do. Only you know how much you're capable of, and you're probably capable of twice that much if you really want it. A friend of ours told Jess she wouldn't be able to do 38 miles at all on her hybrid bike. Not only did she do it, but she kicked ass, too.

  • You have to push yourself a little to know what you're made of. How will you know how far you can go if you don't try to find that limit? I knew it was probably silly to sign up for a cycling race for a distance I had never done in training. How did I know that I'd be able to race 38 miles? I totally didn't! But I really needed to know if I could, and I knew I'd never find out until I pushed myself out of my comfort zone.

  • You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em... You've also got to know what legitimate reasons for folding are. When I didn't see Jess come over the top of the first climb right behind me, I had a choice. I could hold back and wait for her, or I could catch up with the main field and trust that she'd catch up soon. I knew where my priorities were, though. Jess and I hadn't shown up to race the main field and sprint for first at the end--we'd shown up to finish the race. Riding with Jess was much more important.

  • You have to own your victories. Yes, you may think that Jess's and my performance at the Georgia Games was embarrassing. Sure, we were dropped in mile 2. Sure, we were repeatedly made fun of by other racers and some of the volunteers and staff. But, Jess and I got up Saturday morning, drove to north Georgia, and finished a 38-mile cycling race. You can't take that away from us.

My unofficial 6th lesson is: Stick to running! Ha! At least for now.

Have you ever shown up to a race and found yourself tragically unmatched with the competition? What did you do?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The news up till now

Please don't hate me for being so negligent about blogging! I'm terribly sorry!

Let me tell you what's been going on up till now:
  • Everyday, I've continued my training, which is usually:
    • Monday: weight training & swimming (1.2 miles)
    • Tuesday: run (3 miles)
    • Wednesday: shorter bike ride (20ish miles)
    • Thursday: run (3 miles)
    • Friday: longer bike ride (30ish miles)
    • Saturday: rest/yoga/walk
    • Sunday: long run
  • July 1st: last summer exam!
  • July 3rd: 14-mile run!
  • July 4th: Peachtree Road Race 10K!
  • July 6th: last day of work at the library!

It's been crazy recently!

So, yes. I ran 14 miles on Saturday and then promptly ran another 6.2 at the Peachtree Road Race on Sunday. Am I insane? Why, yes! Yes, I am!

You see, I had to fit in a 14-miler this past weekend for my marathon training. First, I thought about getting up early and running 8 of the miles before the race started on Sunday, but I would have had to start running at 3:30 AM, which I just don't do. It's still far too dark at 3:30 AM for me to feel safe. Also, I wanted to be able to race the Peachtree (at least a little), so I didn't want to wear myself out with 8 miles beforehand. Then, I thought about putting in the extra 8 after the race. That plan just wasn't ideal either though because (a) it would be way too hot after the race, and (b) I wanted to relax at the post-race party afterwards! Lastly, I thought about splitting the 14 and doing 8 on Saturday and 6 on Sunday, but I wouldn't get the experience of the full 14.

Conclusion: Run 14 on Saturday and 6 on Sunday. I had to do it.

The 14-miler was good. It wasn't my best showing, and I wasn't begging for more after my Garmin beeped at 14, but I finished. I had a minor accomplishment along the way: I destroyed a hill that I thought would destroy me. We're talking a .5-mile-long, >1%-grade climb.

Can you see that mess?

Do talk to yourself (out loud or otherwise) while you're running? I totally talk to myself! All the time. I have a variety of mantras I chant to myself. Among my favorites for hills are:

  • You don't have to win, you just have to finish
  • Slow is smooth, smooth is fast
  • Pain is temporary, quitting is forever
  • I'm a warrior. I'm a WARRIOR!

I knew I'd hit the monster around the 10-mile mark, so I started psyching myself up around mile 9. I didn't know if any of my usual mantras were going to be enough to power me up the beast, so I started the pep talk early, hoping a new mantra would come to me. It did.

My pep talk started with me reminding myself about the "real" purpose of many competitions: Separating the men from the boys. Yes, it's sexist, but it worked. I had the following conversation with myself for about 5 minutes: "This hill is going to separate the men from the boys. Are you a man, or are you a boy? Are you going to be scared, or are you going to dominate? Are you a child? Are you no stronger than a child? No! I'm a man! I'M A MAN!" The whole way up the hill, I chanted to myself, "I'm a man! I'm a man! I'm a man!" Yes, the other runners and bikers moved to the other side of the path and probably thought I had lost my marbles, but it worked.

What do y'all say to yourselves to keep you going? Do you say it out loud, or just in your head?

Post-run, I iced and tried to take it easy. I was sore as all get-out, and I wanted to run some semblance of a decent race at the Peachtree. I ate all the carbs in the house! It was fantastic.

Sunday morning, I took the train up to the starting line, bright and early. I was greeted by a bevy of race photographers! Ack!

Surely someone could have told me that I had constructed the most poorly-matching, altogether-hideous running outfit ever? If you're wondering, "Did she get dressed in the dark?", the answer is yes. Of course, I did pack the day before...

Anyway, the Peachtree Road Race is the largest 10K in the country, and I ended up racing it with 55,000 of my closest buddies!

(photos from

It was the 41st running of the race, and it's become quite an Atlanta tradition! The whole 6.2 miles were lined with live music, spectators, and vendors. There were kids with water guns shooting us, and even the fire department was out there with their hoses! Everyone is cheering the whole time--it really helps ya keep going!

The first three miles weren't bad at all. They were mostly downhill, and I felt really good, despite waking up to sore legs from my Saturday run.

After those three downhill miles, it was pretty much three uphill miles. Ouch. I ran through almost all of it--only walking through the water stops--but I only ran so much because walking hurt more than running! Weird how that happens, eh? I tried to walk once on the hill Atlantans call "Cardiac Hill," but my calves started screaming, so I starting running again within a few seconds. By the end of the 10K, I was so ready to be done!

I crossed the line at 1:06:47. Also not my best showing, but I did it on sore legs! I'm an F-ing machine! I picked up my t-shirt and some grub, and then I wandered around looking for Jeff.

A lot of people run the Peachtree just for the t-shirt. There's a huge competition for the t-shirt design every year. This year, a chick from my alma mater (University of West Georgia) won! I think it's a pretty cool-looking shirt.

The t-shirts are coveted by Atlantans. They get you discounts and free things all over the city, and you can only get one by running and finishing. I used mine to get a free beer at Milltown Arms and a $4 burrito at Willy's. I wish I could have leveraged it for more, but...well...I wasn't walking so well. It sucked. I couldn't even go to the fireworks show I wanted to see! That's what I get for putting in 20 miles in 2 days, but I'd say it was worth it!

Coming up, I'm competing in the Georgia Games!

I'm doing a 32-mile road cycling race on Saturday with my friend Paul. It's going to be my first cycling race! I'm so excited!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

These are a few of my favorite things

...Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens...

I'd like to tell you all about a few of my favorite things! I haven't been running long, but in the short time I've been hitting the road and trail I've found some things that I can't live without. Let me share!

FIRST: Cherry juice

I buy this kind of cherry juice concentrate. You just mix two tablespoons of it into some other beverage like water, juice, or even (my personal favorite) coconut water.

Why cherry juice? It's packed full of antioxidants.. That means it works to repair our bodies, especially those little muscle tears caused by running. I'm not a doctor and don't know exactly how it works, but I can tell you that it makes me recover much faster than I normally would from long runs.

When I get back from long runs, I mix a couple tablespoons into twelve ounces of coconut water and guzzle heartily. I swear, it'll fix all that ails ya.

(Check out here, here, and here for info about the health benefits of cherry juice.)

SECOND: My Zensah compression sleeves

Clearly, those pictured above are not mine--I have charmingly bright white ones--but they're exactly the same, and they're awesome.

From the website:

    The Calf/Shin Recovery Sleeves are made with gradient compression which provides wide ribbing in the front for shin support and tight ribbing in the back for calf support.

    The sleeves are made with Zensah Fabric which has silver helping to regulate skin temperature and fight bacteria. The sleeves can be worn during training or for recovery to increase oxygen blood flow to the muscles of the lower leg. The more oxygen the muscles receive the faster they recover, allowing athletes to push the envelope in their training. The Zensah Calf/Shin sleeve is ideal for runners, cyclists and triathletes and anyone else who is on their feet. It can be worn during training, recovery or for traveling.

    The Zensah Calf/Shin sleeves are unique in that they provide Pin-Point Compression to the front and back of the leg. The dual action support was developed by a professional athletic trainer.

They do everything that they say they do. On days that I run without them or fail to wear them for awhile post-run, I recover seriously slower than when I'm wearing them. I can feel them supporting my calves and shins as I run, too. I wear them on every run and after every run.

THIRD: My Gracie's Gear tank

You've seen me wearing this in some of my running photos.

Ladies, go get yourself one. It's supportive and functional. The girls stay in place, and there's a front pocket big enough for your phone or iPod. There's also a loop on the side of the tank strap to thread your headphones cord through. It's magical--such a little strip of fabric being so darned nice! Also, it's long enough to hit your waist and doesn't ride up when you run.

Get one here.

What can you not live without? What are some of your favorite things?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Muddy Buddy! And my first 13.1

Last Saturday was Muddy Buddy! As I'm sure you know, I love me a good mud race. My first one was the Warrior Dash on May 22nd (click here for the race recap), and I was instantly hooked! There's just something awesome about being covered head to toe in mud in public. Love it.

Here are the all the crazy kids who came with me this time:

From left to right: Paul, Emily, Jessica, me, Rusty, and Patrick.

We decided to race in the coed division, so the teams were Paul & Emily, Jessica & Patrick, and Rusty & me.

We got there nice and early so that we'd have plenty of time to prep our gear.

We started in the fourth wave, so we had a nice, long wait in line, too.

The concept of Muddy Buddy is that you and a buddy race as a team with one bike between you. One person starts on the bike, and the other person starts running. At the end of each one-mile leg, the biker drops the bike, goes through an obstacle, and runs the next leg; the runner runs the leg, does the obstacle, and picks up the bike for the next leg. You alternate for 5 legs.

The bikers got a head start on the runners so there wouldn't be a big mess with runners and bikers trying to share the path. The whole race was on a trail with a lot of single-track, so it was important to divide up the group ahead of time!

Here go the bikers:

Here go the runners:

We decided to have the boys start on the bikes and the girls start on their feet. Jess, Emily, and I stayed together for the first leg, but Jess and Emily dropped back when we hit the first obstacle and picked up the bikes for our first biking leg. They were pretty worn out from the running leg and wanted to take it slow. They kept up with me at a 9:00-minute pace, and they aren't really runners!

The obstacles went like this:

  • After 1st leg: Cross a balance beam
  • After 2nd leg: Crawl under a fishing net
  • After 3rd leg: Climb a rock wall
  • After 4th leg: Climb a fishing net and slide down an inflatable slide
  • Before the finish line: Mud pit!

I felt pretty awesome through the first two legs! Rusty was waiting for me when I hit the bike drop at the end of the second leg, but he did have a two-minute head start at the beginning--I didn't feel too bad! The third leg (my second running leg) was a bit rough. It was HOT outside! We're talking 90's with 100% humidity. I had sweat dripping from every inch of my skin. The course was steep and hilly to boot, so it was that much harder! I ran most of the leg, but I walked up most of the steep hills. The rest of the race went by in a similar fashion--mostly running/biking with some walking up the steep hills.

Luckily Jeff's mid-race perch was at a flat spot so I was actually on the bike!

The last leg (my third running leg) was actually 1.2 miles, and it seemed to go on and on and on. Before I knew it though, I heard the roar of the finish area and saw the signs for the mud pit! Rusty was waiting for me in front of the mud pit and we crawled through together.

Rusty and I crossed the finish line first and met up with Jeff in the finish area.


Emily and Paul crossed next...

...then Jess and Patrick!

Muddy Buddies!

Muddy Buddy sucess! Rusty and I ended up finishing in 54:29, 32nd out of 63 teams in our division (coed teams whose ages add up to between 56 and 65). Rusty has finished in 54 minutes and some change for the last three years! I'm glad I was able to keep up!

I took my shoes off in the car--I was DIRTY!

After the race, I came home, iced, and ate ate ate! I knew I had a long run Sunday, and I wanted to make sure I was appropriately fueled and rested. I was scheduled to run 12 miles, and I was a little nervous about it because of what happened post-Warrior Dash. I don't have a lot of experience with back-to-back runs because my training schedule only has me running Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.

I woke up Sunday morning, bright and early at 4:30 AM, and fueled with 1/2 a whole-wheat bagel and some Gatorade.

I left the house at 5:30 AM. Despite my goofy smile in the photo above, once I started running I felt like absolute CRAP. My shins were killing me! They threatened to give out with every step. Usually, I wear my Zensah compression sleeves on every run, but I didn't wear them at Muddy Buddy because I didn't want to get them dirty in the mud pit.

Zensah <3.

I told myself I'd reevalute the situation at mile 5. If I still felt like crap and my shins were still threatening failure, I'd turn home (at mile 5, I'd only be .4 miles from home).

Luckily, at mile 5, I felt flippin' fantastic! My shin/calf aches had worked themselves out, and I was feeling pretty powerful. I had told myself before I even started that if I was feeling good I was going to push for the whole 13.1. A half mary!

I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. I needed to know what I was made of. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

I did it, too! GO ME! I didn't have anything left in the tank and was certainly ready to stop at 13.1, but I did it! That's all that matters to me.

This bodes well for the weekend after next, when I'll have to run 14 miles on Saturday and then run my first 10K on Sunday!

It's the PEACHTREE ROAD RACE, baby! Once of the biggest races in the country!

More blogging soon. Miss you guys!