OPSF5050 – 50k

Saturday March 24th, 2018

This was the Owen-Putnam State Forest 50 miler and 50k, held in Poland, Indiana, which according to the Weather Channel is not a place. The nearest “place” is a tiny town called Spencer (where I got all my weather stalking data from about 6 miles away or so). This was my 2nd 50k/ultra marathon distance. It was a doozy.

About 10 days before the event, I started watching the forecast. Rain, 60% chance, 55°F. Ok, I can deal. 5 days before the event, rain, 60% chance, 48°F. Eh. 3 days before the event, rain, 90%, 38°F. Time to freak out. I go out to REI and buy a waterproof and wind resistant jacket with an extra lining inside. At first, I thought I might get too warm, but thinking back, when have I ever felt overdressed? Never. Two days before, rain/snow, 100%, 36°F. Things turned from trying to race the event, to “let’s finish” real fast. Cold weather is not my friend, and I have had the worst luck with distance and weather the last 5 months if you haven’t been following the blog… Little Rock Marathon ended up with rain in the 40s and a little hail at mile 23! Madison Marathon was cloudy and damp, and I ended up being severely under-dressed due to being only heat acclimated from participating in Xterra Worlds in Maui with temps in the upper 80s there!

For those of you read, who are not familiar with running conditions, you can’t get much worse than cold rain. Why? Wouldn’t snow be worse? Not necessarily. Snow is far less dense than rain and won’t go through clothing as easily as rain if it even melts on your body/gear. Rain just gets soaked up by your clothes and stays, does not dry out and keeps you overly chilled. Even the most seasoned runners really don’t want to run in the rain if temps are below 50°F. Then it got worse. Predicted winds were between 15-25 mph for race day, peaking at 11am. These are just not conditions that should be run in period, they are very dangerous and can lead to frostbite quickly and hypothermia. I had done about 9ish miles in conditions like this (sans wind) last year during training and had an idea of how to best prepare, a little…

Why was I doing this? A couple of reasons. 1. I had wanted to race a 50k after I had been preparing with marathon distances lately (this did not end up being the case). 2. It was my birthday and I thought it would be really cool irony doing 31 miles on my 31st birthday! 3. More distance and elevation practice for my A race in April: Zion.

Friday afternoon. Lovely sunny day! Hubby and I made the 6 hour trek down to Cloverdale, passing by Purdue University where we met up with some great friends for dinner. The hotel we stayed in was the Holiday Inn, which even though the rooms were older, there was a Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom, was on the first floor, and was in a great location off the highway.

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Race start/finish on Friday

The hotel was also about 32 miles from the race location, and the closest to the race location. I was pretty impressed, and decided with the declining forecast (now under a winter storm watch), we should stay the extra night post race.

I couldn’t sleep well though. I couldn’t put my finger on it as to why, but got probably less than 4 hours total, going through periods of waking and sleeping. On one of my wakings, I went to peek out the window…snow, a lot of it, was falling. I got up before the alarm went off and prepared for the worst. All the roads on our way down were salted and prepped for the storm. This did well with the snow and the roads weren’t bad on the way down. We used a regular map to navigate to the site since there was little cell phone reception there and wanted to avoid small dirt roads (which apparently google WILL take you down if using regular GPS), thanks to the emails and race guide for that headsup! Overall the race was excellent for sending out emails and having information ready. Even the facebook page was regularly scanned and questions answered within a few hours. Very impressed by that.

We arrived in the dark, wet snow falling was turning into rain now. Starting temperatures were in the low 30s. I went to pick up my packet, headed back to the car to put on all the gear, and then back to the start with 3 minutes to spare before the race began at 7am sharp. I was in the back, fine with me, it was DARK, pitch black out there. My plan involved me taking it easy at the start anyhow, and doing more the second half. Yeeeah.

This was my first dark start. First time with a headlamp (the last time I ran 4 miles on a trail in the dark in the evening, I used a flashlight, bad idea, and then a 5k at 2am in a pretty well lit area), brand new out of the box. I didn’t have a single issue there. I was a little surprised it wasn’t as bright as I had imagined, but for a last minute purchase at REI the day before knowing I needed something more weather-proof, it did its job. NOTHING NEW ON RACE DAY, nah bruh, I never listen do I? This is how I dressed: I made a plastic grocery bag “hat” liner to go under my hat to prevent heat from escaping and wind from getting in (needed a ball cap style to keep as much rain off my face as possible, but this might have been in vain since it was constantly precipitating sideways due to the high winds), this is a cheap technique I used before during my previous cold rain run the last year. Moving down, I dressed in a long sleeve Inknburn tech and my expensive water/wind jacket on top, Altra buff around the neck, Inknburn capris as my base layer (which was great because it was more flexible than something warmer would have been), and my Altra heatzone pants on top. I had some wind proof gloves in my drop bag which I eventually used on my 2nd loop (see course description next). I used Injinji socks and Altra Temps Trail shoes along with my first time using their trail gaitors. I had my trusty Orange Mud Endurance Pack full of 2L of Tailwind, gels, nutrition bar, music (which I actually didn’t use much), and phone (also not used much).

The course was slated as being the toughest race in Indiana, with 4400’ of elevation gain. I thought, ok, good hill training, my first 50k was over 5000’. The course was designed in lollipop style, meaning there is a “stick” portion and then a pop (calling these the loops). The 50k course (and for the first two loops, the 50 mile course) went out on the stick, and did a counterclockwise pop. Aid station A was at the intersection of the pop and stick. Aid station B was about a third a way into the loop up on a hill. You were required to check in at each aid station. Aid station A had the drop bags. The aid stations had jelly beans, chips, pickles, M&Ms, orange slices, tailwind, and later in the day soup and grilled cheese. I really wish I could figure out how to eat during races! A grilled cheese sounds so good now! Moving on, the 50k’ers would do two complete loops around, and then at the top of the stick would go back to the start/finish area, turn around once there and checked in, and head back out on the stick and do a mini loop then return from Aid station A back to the finish for the final finish. The course was very well marked, and I gratefully followed all the candy cane colored flags.

Moving out on the stick portion, my feet got wet immediately. The course was pure mud from the start. Snow covered the ground. It was raining. It sucked. But not as much as the mud! Literally, the mud would suctions you to the ground if you were not careful. Multiple people reported lost shoes even in the first 8 miles.

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One Example of Trail conditions.

It was neat running in the dark, and actually was the part I remember passing by in time the fastest. Being on the EDGE of the eastern time zone, this locations’ sun rose at 7:45am, and the race started at 7am. It remained pretty dark even after sun rise because of the weather conditions. As promised, there were stream crossings, but these ended up being a chance to rinse the mud off shoes for a split second! I felt like all there was was mud in my shoes. You couldn’t actively avoid any of it, you could try and avoid the worst of it (almost calf deep sections of mud), and you had to power your way through it or risk getting stuck. I stuck to one part of the plan: power walk up hills. I don’t even remember the hills being there or overly difficult because the course conditions were so poor. I remember there were two or three hills that you really could not get a good grip on in the mud and risked falling backwards/forwards/sideways (potentially doing the splits, nothing there to stop your momentum), and I ended up finding sticks nearby to jack into the ground and pull myself up and balance with. The problem with traction came from the lack of rocks and roots along the trail. Normally I am used to just finding things embedded in the ground to use, but there really wasn’t any. I jokingly started using the term “spartan super super mud race” because no one could avoid getting totally wrecked by the mud. I met up with another girl, April, who was doing the 50 miler. We stuck together for the two loops (up to mile 19/20).

She fell, I would offer help to get her out, and eventually I fell backwards from being suctioned down and it was so deep I couldn’t get back up. The only ways I can describe how the trail felt was the following:
1. Cow pasture near a flooded creek pitted with hoof tracks the size of an elephants’
2. Trying to run knee deep in the ocean being pulled by the waves
3. Trying to run in a creek
4. Quicksand that was the consistency of soft serve ice cream (and temperature to boot)
There was NO dry part of the course, and only continues to deteriorate as time went on. The most frustrating part is when I decided to run the few yards I could run, one foot would slip out sideways and I would stop and then walk, every 3-5 steps! It was like wet glass.

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I almost fell taking this one picture…

Who knew the forecast went from Winter storm watch to Winter Storm Warning mid race? The rain eventually turned into sleet pellets and they hurt. Some would make their way into my ears, and that was no bueno. I ended up putting in my headphones just to protect my ears from the sideways ice. This started by the time I got to Aid Station B (mile 11/13 or so, I kept very poor track of time and distance as 100% of my attention was to the trail and where to step).

Somewhere around mile 9, I looked down at my watch and it read something like 2:41, and I was like, I haven’t even run this slow during my worst half marathon! I had no way to communicate to Rich that I was not going to make 4-5 hours estimated back at the start/finish (approx. 22 miles). I felt bad about that. At the aid stations, the volunteers commented that my running friend did not look good and was losing a lot of salt. I was completely aware and ok at this point, and knew at this point so early in the race, this was a really bad sign. I took it upon myself to stay with her to make sure she made it around safely. It turned out she had a puncture in her water pack and all her preferred electrolyte was gone, and she didn’t like tailwind, so she wasn’t taking anything in. Bad. She was eating half sandwiches at the aid stations, but nothing high in sodium. By the third time at an aid station, I made sure a volunteer made her eat chips or pickles, SOMETHING. I’m not sure the timeline when all this happened so I’ll move on for now.

The first loop provided one section half way between aid B and heading back to aid A that was rocky, and a section section that was more covered in pine needles, and was the most sturdy ground all course. Feet felt blessed. For the most part, my impression was this having seen the whole course: Start/finish to Aid A, I couldn’t even remember because it was dark, this was about 2.7 miles total.

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Ice on my hat, this was about mile 11? Aid B

Aid A to Aid B was awful (about 2.5 miles), having two of the hills that were just hard to climb because of how steep they were with the water running down them and absolutely no traction on them, and what felt like running through a swamp. Aid B back to Aid A was the longest section of trail without aid (I want to say like 7 miles?) and started out a lot like A to B, but then let up a little and had one part that was pretty exposed and a view that was similar to one of that of the Barkley Marathon with the powerlines stretching across a cut forest/field area, so many hills…this part was windy, no thanks…let’s head back into the woods. Eventually, B back to A had a few short stretches that were “runnable”.

Going back out to loops two, nothing was familiar ground, literally. The course was worse, and more flooded. By this time, sleet pellets covered a lot of the ground and you couldn’t tell where you were stepping. 29693625_1603904379663651_506044212_o (1) I would often just sink into the mini potholes of mud. Even if you tried stepping where there weren’t puddles, the mud was just soft and you sank anyway. Runner friend was walking a lot more and a lot more slowly. I still stuck with her.  She was having a hard time with her hands. I had to get her back to Aid A at least, where I would have to leave her to fend for herself. I kept waiting for the “runnable” section…it was gone. The rocky section (which was a short section of fireroad, probably 0.25 miles or less), was now ice covered and hard to navigate. All the trees now were covered in a layer of ice, you could hear tree branches snapping everywhere. I eventually came to a fallen tree, I don’t believe I came across a fallen tree on the first time around…

Made it back to Aid A. My hands were freezing. I grabbed my drop bag and took my gloves. This was mile 19 or 20 or so. I told the volunteers to take my bag back to start/finish, I was done with it. I stayed at this aid station longer than I wanted…my feet needed heat. My feet started feeling cold at mile 17/18 or so (like I said I had no perspective of time or distance). I knew I needed to run more to try and get blood flowing to them more. So I took off for the start/finish on my own and tried to “run” more. Despite trying to run, I only managed at 17:00 min/mi pace at best. I tried to shake the feeling I was being “slow” and just press forward.

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Even at 7pm at night, this is the radar.

My motto that day was Relentless forward motion. That phrase never meant much until today. The terrain was terrible heading back, a lot of stream crossings, but I just couldn’t get my shoes to drain because I was constantly in water/mud. I was desperately trying to get feeling in my feet. My shoes were not an issue, it was literally just the trail and weather. I couldn’t get my heart rate up and I was getting colder. The second loop had stolen a lot of my heat with the high winds that pierces my ears and nose, hands, and feet. I pushed hard. I arrived back at the start/finish, I briefly saw Rich and headed back again. I just kept drinking my tailwind, but I knew I was in a calorie deficit. I had had ONE honey stinger gel and one bag of chews, a few orange slices, and maybe 3 jellybeans? I had at least been through 2.5 L of tailwind by this point. Never got cramping. I still probably had a little too much salt, fingers were slightly swollen.

I made it back to Aid A. I warmed my feet again. I probably stayed too long, and hurt my overall time a bunch by this, but in the end, I don’t regret that decision, especially the effort it took post race to re-warm (more to come, keep reading!). It was told to me that the short loop was just a mile or so. That was a lie. It was like 3.5 miles or something, I ended up hitting the lap button on my garmin checking the time of day, and messed up my mile laps there. The trail this time around was substantially worse, and I didn’t recognize any part of the trail. I was crying due to the cold air against my face. My gloves were now wet and freezing my hands. I wanted nothing more than to be done. No way I was going to quit at mile 26. I managed my way back to Aid A for the final time. I stayed there for a record of probably 5 minutes or so just to warm my feet. The small fire was making my clothing steam up. I thought I caught them on fire! Then I was off with the words of a volunteer “2.7 miles, you can do that in your sleep!” I remember one ran with me for a bit, and then headed back to the tent. I’m pretty sure 2.7 miles would take me an hour. That thought stuck to me the wrong way. All I could think about were my feet. I would sip on my tailwind, thinking maybe it would help somehow. No.

On my way back, I saw a robin, the first creature I saw the whole race. The bird perched atop a small mud mound, and I followed it. It got up and flew forward along the trail a few times, it seemed like it was showing me the best way through the mud creek. I felt blessed. I made it back to the finish, walking and moving forward as fast as I possibly could. I couldn’t even run anymore, not because of some wall, I energy wise felt fine, it was my feet, and each step hurt. All I could think about was getting back to Rich (picturing him waiting for me, I didn’t want him to worry), and FIRE. There was a fire waiting, and new clothes to put on. I made it back to the finish in 9 hours and 28 minutes.

I had placed 3rd female, but that’s irrelevant, anyone who finished should be very proud of what they got through. I constantly wondered how many of the 50 milers would finish. 4 people ended up finishing the 50 miler.

I arrived in the tent. I was greeted with a round of “Happy Birthday” by the half drunk volunteer crew (very very friendly, I loved them all), and they wanted pictures. I wanted to smile, but my upper lip muscles were completely frozen and it felt like I had botox injected (I guess that’s what it’s like?). A volunteer took my shoes off, I have no idea how, the mud was seemingly caked permanently on, and I took my socks off which was super painful. I also didn’t want the clean people in the tent getting dirty because of me! I had driven a hole in my socks :/ My toes were all bright red. I could not feel the heat. I was worried. I could feel pain though. I could feel them put my new socks and shoes back on, and it was a super bad feeling. I don’t know how else to describe it other than “bad”. I was allowed a seat. I tried to get my feet warm, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Eventually I decided to leave the tent and head back to the hotel. I shuffled along, I was getting the bone chill freeze now. Down to the core freeze. Finishing temps were not higher than starting temps, but wind chills were below 20.

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Really cool hand made finisher medal. ❤

It was quite rough getting back to the hotel. It was a careful 20 mph drive. The roads were now in terrible shape, and plows hadn’t been out recently. We made it safely back to the hotel. I took probably what was an hour long shower, just trying to warm my feet and hands. I inspected myself, and I didn’t have but one tiny little blister on the side of my big toe. I had at some point kicked a log that was hidden under the mud with my foot, and had some nail damage to the side of the bed, but nothing I’m worried about, my foot was pretty swollen there for about 24 hours, now better. My toes tingled painfully after the shower though, and I could not get rid of the feeling. What I had gotten was basically pre-frostbite, called frostnip. Nothing that causes long term damage, but it a huge warning that you’re about finished off. It took until 24 hours after finishing for the nerves to calm down.

The total elevation gain recorded (I had my garmin on high accuracy) was 5,078.7 feet. My fastest mile was mile 1 (14:39) and mile 8 (15:14), with an average of 167 feet of gain per mile (each mile was pretty even with gain and loss). The trail continuously got worse, so the speed up I had planned on never happened. I do not blame the course conditions on the race. It was just a really hard training day, and something to brag about getting through. I couldn’t imagine having a worse race condition. Hopefully my bad luck has run its course (lol course), and Zion is looking warm. The warmer the better. I’ll embrace the sunshine with wide open arms…too bad the race will have me running at night too haha. Speaking of which, Zion is my A race this year, and April 20th, and my next race. I have 10 more days of harder training, and then it’s taper time. Overall, OPSF505 was a very well run race, nothing logistically could have really been better. It was not chip timed, but it didn’t need to be. One day I will run an easier 50k.

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Picture of shoes!

Signing off for now, my next post will be about Zion whether it’s a finish or DNF.

Little Rock Marathon

Little Rock Marathon and 10k
March 3-4, 2018

A lot of this report will be from experiences outside the actual marathon, as I had a lot more fun outside of it than actually doing it. Stay tuned to find out why.

Last thing I did was the surf city marathon, it went well (see previous blog), despite not training properly for it because it’s winter and I’m hibernating. February took a turn for the worse, as it usually does out here in Wisconsin, but most of it was heavy snow and some ice, making running outdoors difficult to say the least. So what did I do? Nothing. I played ITG in my basement and worked on the upcoming girlpocalypse tournament. Two weeks prior to the race, I did a 6 hour live stream trying to raise money for the tournament, and it was hard and took a huge toll on my body (I did not refrain from harder songs). So it’s not like I was inactive during this time. I biked a little and swam a little, but really didn’t run.

Off I went, the Thursday before, on my 11.5 hour drive down. Yes, I drove. It saved a lot of money and in the end wasn’t actually that bad…or well, there were some things that weren’t so good.

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Pitstop in Illinois for this amazingness

I took it over two days, saw from friends from Champaign, and on the second day while arriving in Arkansas, some egotistical manic thought because the car beside me in the left lane (going about 85 mph, and myself going 80 mph) wasn’t going fast enough that he took the liberty to use the fading lane from an on-ramp to pass ME on the right! I saw him approach in the rearview mirror and “are you serious?!” eyes wide open freak happened. I mashed down on my brakes, but even though his speed was topping 100+ in his wide/deep tire white American Ford F-250 with antlers on his chrome grill manly MAN, he did not pass me soon enough and ended up going off the road in a pile of gravel (which could have ended VERY badly for all of us), but instead only ended badly for me. The rocks kicked up by his tires hit my windshield in several places (and at this point I had slowed to 55mph or so). I was so mad. No cracks appeared in my windshield until about two days after, when it slowly started creeping horizontally across. Now I have a massive crack that “I” have to pay for now. 😡

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Regardless, I continued on to pick up my friend Sarah from the airport. I got to fetch her, and off we went to the expo downtown. Little Rock is not really that big of a city, not even mildly large. It was fairly easy to navigate, but parking was horrible. I didn’t note any parking garages. Heck, even my city of Roanoke has parking garages and lots. We found one lot. But they only took cash which you had to insert into tiny little metal mailbox like slots. This was totally archaic to me.28829398_1587050284682394_338393398_n

The expo was decently large, but nothing too exciting. Shoutouts to garmin who replaced my ugly black band on my watch with a nice yellow one! They were the best at the expo in my opinion. I bought some replacement body glide, which I had planned on doing when I got there anyway (I did not forget, I just ran out last month). I was also convinced to get my first sparkle skirt. I still have to wear test it and review it. I’ve always been curious, but don’t see myself getting more. Check in and picking up bibs was easy.

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Interesting Expo Items

Off to the hotel we went. The only issue there was, we had a smoking room. It didn’t even occur to me that properties allowed smoking inside anymore anywhere. We spent two hours probably working it out so we didn’t have to stay in a room filled with horrible smoke. They were just sold out of other non-smoking rooms for the following night, but would tell us if there was a cancellation. We crossed our fingers. It was a mess, but I’ve had worse happen so I didn’t stress about it.

Sarah and I got to the room, it was quaint, was clean, so I had no real complaints. We laid out our attire and gear for the next morning and went to sleep. The 10k went smoothly. 28832490_1587050214682401_15144442_nI was happy I got to run with Sarah for the 10k, and she was so patient with me. Sarah is a dedicated run-walker with specific intervals for each. The pace was nice. The 10k course was ok, nothing special, nothing to really “see”. It was pretty interesting to run into a homophobic lady on course though who thought we were “together”, it just never occurs to me that people think about that and care about it. She also kept digging herself deeper and deeper the more she talked trying to be “careful” as not to offend us. It was strange! The weather for the 10k was sunny and a bit chilly. But I would have taken that any day over what we had for the full marathon the next day…

After the 10k, and after realizing I had forgotten to bring more than one sports bra AND socks for after races, we headed to target to pick a few things up. I was having a lot of bad luck haha. I later found out I had only brought one arm warmer for the two of my arms by accident…this also was bad given the forecast for Sunday, but I only found out later that evening. We ate and then headed out for the best part of the trip.

We stopped by this little mill, which ironically was in the middle of this posh residential area, you would have just never know it was there! There were flowers and ducks…and green things, things I would not be seeing again for another few months being from Wisconsin. Things were bursting out into spring. It was a fun little stop, but when I headed back to my car, I found that the crack in my windshield was a LOT bigger. We continued on to the next spot, about a 20 minute drive outside of town: Pennacle State Park in the Ozarks! Heard the hike was challenging and fun. Challenging how did not cross my mind until we were faced with it.

On our way on the hike, we encountered a heard of deer sprinting through the forest. The trail was rather short, like 2 miles round trip. When we got to the real climb, we realized why the time it suggested was more than it should be for the distance. 28829524_1587050351349054_495602306_nIt started with large rocky boulders that weren’t as steep, but soon the rocks grew larger and harder to climb and got steeper. Sarah stopped about half way up, just nervous about potential injury. I understood, and continued on for a while, until it became just too much right near the top.

I decided to head back down (which actually ended up being easier than going up). What a thing to do before a marathon xD
28832472_1587049964682426_924997790_nWe survived though, went out for a nice conversation and starbucks and then headed to dinner at the Olive Garden, which was packed! (Go figure lol) When we got back to the hotel, I looked at the forecast. Sad face all around. I freaked because I really did not have anything to prepare me for the race weather (which had been forecasted to be in the 50s/60s with maybe rain heading into the afternoon, which I had been tracking for a week). Instead we got low 40s and rain. Day of, it said that there wouldn’t be rain until later, and maybe not much. Ugh. I decided to wear my capris combo I brought, which I knew would not be enough for me given the temps, but I had no other choice. None of my clothing was warm enough (although would have been better if I had had the arm warmers).

 

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Debating what would be more warm…

I had some trouble sleeping the past few nights, and race anxiety never helps. Sleepy me got up and since we signed up for the VIP experience, we got there super early. We got private bathrooms, prerace food and private gear check. It was ok, but I did feel like we were there with too much time.

But time soon ran out too quickly. When we went out and arrived at the starting line, where our corral was, was WAY too crowded, and we literally could NOT get into the starting line gates; too bottlenecked by literally everyone. That part was pretty stressful being crunched into a crowd of people trying to get into the corral, but no one being able to move until the race gun went off. SO the gun went off. The crowd started to slowly move, and we got into the starting gates. It took us 6 minutes to cross the starting line. This day we would not be running together. I had my plan, and she had hers. Let’s mark off Arkansas!

It was cold. I feared a repeat of the Madison Marathon back in November. It was almost just as cold. Starting temps were at 40°F, only 4 degrees warmer than Madison. Madison only warmed up from 36 to 38ish on race day with the overcast forecast there. I’ll spoil it now, Little Rock only went up to about 48°F by the end of the race, I think it only got up to 52°F that day. 10 degrees does make a little difference or I probably would not have completed the race, but I had some close calls…

It was crowded to say the least. Starting pace was above 12 mins/mi. It was ok, I was going by heart rate anyway, just like Surf City – same plan. I don’t think the crowd thinned out for me until about mile 12, where the half marathoners split off (FINALLY). Sharing the course between marathon and half marathon for most of the race is not a good idea in my honest opinion, too crowded and puts unneeded demand on literally everything from volunteers to participants to resources. It started misting at race start, so I kept my phone and iPod concealed in my plastic baggy. It continued to “rain” through mile 12. I really don’t have anything to really comments on as far as the course goes. It was ran downtown and then residential…not very exciting. Miles 3-12, I was having a VERY hard time with keeping my heart rate low, despite my forced walking intervals, and the rain got heavier during mile 8 and I considered dropping because I was so cold. I don’t know why my heart rate fluctuated so much during this time, maybe it was because I couldn’t regulate how I felt. I was not out of breath…so no idea what it was. Whatever is was it was frustrating me because I couldn’t keep with my plan. Didn’t matter how slow or fast I ran, it was always in flux.

I took a gel at mile 7 or so. My second gel was at mile 15, and last one at mile 23. I spaced them out but had one more than at Surf City, and grabbed some on course candy (of which I choked on my own saliva on the flavored tootsie roll) at times. I had my GU gel last, what a regret taking that (it was free from another race and I didn’t want to buy more, honey stinger is really the only way to go for taste). There were a LOT of beer “aid stations” on course, if you drank from them, I don’t know how you’d be sober at the end of the race. There was also a LOT of churches. One was throwing holy water (I assume, I’m not Catholic, and I’m assuming it’s Catholic who do these things), and I was like please no, I really don’t want to be colder and wetter than I am. I appreciate the sentiment, but eeeeeeh. The best church was dancing and handing out gatorade.

The rain let up at about mile 13, where I got to see the Capitol building. It’s a shame the half marathoners wouldn’t see this. I took some pictures and got my phone out for the first time. I wasn’t sure what to do with my plan, as my heart rate had been higher than I wanted the first half of the race and I didn’t know how much reserve I had. So I took off at mile 14. This is where the real hills began and the course veered off from downtown. Again, strange looks, running up a hill…pffff. I had a lot of energy. With the lack of rain, I almost felt ok, and was drying off a bit.

The hills between miles 15 and 20 were really fun and I did enjoy that part of the course, which didn’t have as many buildings or houses; more trees! It was really funny, when I got to the steep downhill at mile 16 or so, there was another girl in front of me who opened up her arms to the sky and began letting herself just fly down the hill and I heard a very audible “YES”. You go girl. I of course joined her in this, although I ended up passing her, it was nice to know someone else wanted to also trash their quads on the downhills.

Trashing quads….didn’t actually happen for me. Yay strong legs. The course started coming back downtown but along this bike path, you know I love me some bike paths. I was keeping a nice pace, and did not stop at every aid station, a first for me. I avoided all electrolytes too (they had gatorade endurance formula known for making me sick). No cramps, no bad things? No problem! I starting to think I really don’t need to supplement with salts, I think my diet which is normally high in salt (I am a salty girl, not a sweet girl rofl), I really don’t need it on race day at least for this distance. The turn around point at mile 21 turned the course into the headwind, boo. It was chilly.

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I then arrived at my favorite aid station at mile 22. They had coke. SOLD. Had some coke. Beautiful. They probably were the most hype station too. At this point, I was passing another girl who was wearing Inknburn, the Brave singlet. She said, “nice Ink!”, I said, “Same to you, except I’m freezing!” She said, “Wait really?”

As I passed her, I shouted back, “The joke is, I’m from Wisconsin!”

Then I heard her say, “Oh I’m from Minnesota!” Hahaha I am so exposed. I had goosebumps the whole race. I thought I was cold, but oh no, let’s prove me REALLY WRONG.

Mile 23: is that hail?

It started POURING rain, it was hard and it hurt a lot. Each drop was like a unique sting. This lasted only about 7-9 minutes or so, but it sucked real bad. Shoes were soaked, ground was already saturated, so puddles were deep and everywhere. I was grateful for my Altra hat, it stayed strong. I ran faster trying to warm myself up. This really did not work, but I got some speed out of it. I decided at mile 25 I was going to run as fast as I could. I broke into the 9 min/mi pace range, pretty impressed with myself. Then I think the sun was trying to peek out, but nah. As I reached the finish line area, there were people handing out Lipstick (maybe it was maybelline?) and party bead necklaces. Ok. Well I finished in 4:47, Surf City was 4:52, so with no real extra effort and putting off really taking off for an extra mile half way, I was faster (reminder this is a hillier course by quite a bit), and felt a lot stronger.

As I am typing this, I can say I feel very recovered and I did a 13 mile run yesterday too. Things are starting to come together for the Zion races coming up April 20th, which is now my A race ironically. I have a 50k coming up on my birthday to celebrate turning 31 by running 31 miles!

Post finish, I got my medals, and my chocolate milk (yus!). I headed to the VIP area, where they had a lot of food, that I didn’t take part of because my appetite is extremely poor post race, and for the post race massage. We paid $25 extra dollars for the VIP area, and this is where it became worth it to me. I can tell you I had no less than 40 minutes on that massage table. It was amazing.

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So overall, the race experience was meh, and the course wasn’t very desirable or something to write home about, but the VIP post race experience was nice. I also noticed they didn’t have many photographers on course if that matters to people. I was glad to have a cool race experience also with Sarah. We both had a successful race weekend.

Ultra training is going well though! No injuries to speak of and not feeling weak. Looking forward to the rest of the year! Oh yeah, the medals were huge as advertised.