Twenty Six Point Two

run, rest, eat, bitch, buy things, cross-train, blog, repeat.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bell Ringer 25K Race Report

The race was held at Montgomery Bell State Park which is about 45 minutes from Nashville. The Park was offering a package deal for room and meals the night before the race and since the race started at 7am in the morning, the decision to stay there overnight was a no brainer. The KoB and I actually managed to escape work a smidge early and got to the park before it got dark.

We checked in, got our race packets, and then headed to the buffet for an early dinner. Now, I was fully prepared for there to be VERY little on the buffet for me to eat. Particularly since it was advertised as a Pasta Buffet and I try to steer clear of gluten before long runs/races. However, I was pleasantly surprised. They had a really well stocked salad bar and delicious baked potatoes. They even had a veggie lasagna dish that was low on the pasta and high on the cheese. Since it wasn't a goal race, and I cheated and had a little bit of it. No regrets. And the best part of all.... SOFT SERVE ICE CREAM MACHINE!

This is what I do to Soft Serve Machines.

So, yeah, the food was great. The rooms? Ehhhhh... You know when you are watching an episode of Dateline and they show the motel that the "innocent" husband stops at as he was fleeing going out of town for an "impromptu" trip? Yeah, that's what the room looked like. Except it did have a great view of a lake. And it was clean. 

It was worth staying in a 1974 decorated motel room to be able to just leave 15 minutes before the race started and head to the start line, though.

My friend Liz had signed up for the race as well and so we found each other beforehand and started the race together. The race started with a long stretch on the road, which I always welcome, as it gives people a chance to get warmed up and fall naturally into their paces (after their initial take off too fast pace). After the road, the trail was still pretty wide, so it made for a really nice first few miles of the course. 

When we finally did hit the single track trails, the first thing I noticed was how nice the trails were and it dawned on me that they had actually taken the time to blow the leaves off the trail. It was amazing!!!! 

Liz and I stuck together and ran and chatted non-stop for the first 11 or so miles. (My apologies to anyone around us who had to hear us blathering on and on about radon and family Christmas plans). We were having a blast. The trails were pretty easy and we took our time and when we hit the aid station around mile 9, I couldn't believe that we had ran that far already! 

Me and Liz killing it.

And then a couple of miles later... the inevitable happened. I BONKED. And bonked hard. I started to feel it coming on and I ate a couple of fig newtons at the aid station, but at that point, it was probably too late. I started to slow down significantly. I got a little foggy headed, regretted not carrying a handheld or any food, and on one of the steep uphill hikes, my calves started to twinge like were wanting to cramp. 

I still managed to push myself and run as much as I could. But slowly. There were few people during this stretch (Liz smoked me around mile 10 or so) and it was a struggle to stay in the zone mentally and physically. 

 Yeah, it looked like this.

I finally finished and immediately ran back to my hotel room where I was just completely out of it for about 20 minutes. I tried to lay in bed (although I just could not get comfortable or concentrate on laying down) and I forced myself to eat a little popcorn and drink some water. I didn't take a shower, because I knew I didn't have the energy to blow dry my hair and there was no way I was going out in the 40 degree weather to spectate the 50K with wet hair. Eventually I started to feel a little bit better. I put on about 15 layers of clothes and headed back outside. 

When I finally recovered, I was actually pretty happy with my race. Sure, it wasn't pretty at the end, but I pushed and I never just gave up and decided to hike it in. I kept at it, and ran/shuffled whenever I could. I was also pretty encouraged by the fact that the finishing times were slower than I had thought they would be, so the trail was tougher than it felt. 

The KoB finished the 50K well and when I saw him come out of the woods, I KNEW he was 3rd male overall, so as I tried to run behind him to the finish line, I told him that and then someone else told me that I had forgotten a guy, so he wasn't. OOOPS. Sorry. (And according the results there were a couple of other guys in there. But there is no way I forgot 3 guys finishing. But it doesn't matter, anyway). 

A race pic of The KoB and the KoB's brother.

Overall, I loved the race. The aid stations could have had gels and the trails could have been marked a little better. Also, I could have done without the controversy of the park rangers giving runners lifts after they had gotten lost. But, it was the first year of the race and the fact that they blew the leaves off most of the trail was HUGE to me. 

I will definitely be back next year and I'll fuel better AND I'll run the 50K.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bell Ringer 50K Rant

 UPDATE: So, the results have been posted online and it looks like all has been rectified. I'm not sure how it happened. But, I'm just really freaking glad it got fixed. I think it's pretty ridiculous that this whole ordeal went down the way that it did, but at the end of the day, they got it right (finally) and that's all that matters. I MIGHT take this post down... but, for now, I'm going to leave it up. 

I ran the Bell Ringer 25K this weekend, and I will post a full race report of MY race experience another day this week. Spoiler Alert: It was AWESOME until it wasn't.

After I had recovered from the race, I put on about 15 layers of clothing and headed outside to watch the 50Kers finish.

After 2-3 men finished, a woman came blazing up the steps. We were all cheering for her and watched her run up the hill (the finish to this race was just ridiculous) to the finish line. I was happy for her, but admittedly, a little disappointed that my friend, Meredith, hadn't been the overall female winner.

I didn't have much time to think about it though, because pretty soon I saw a familiar red shirt and blue cap start weaving its way through the woods and I started screaming my head off... It's the KoB, it's the KoB! So I ran over and started yelling at him. And then, right behind him was another guy. So, we started yelling at The KoB to run faster, there was someone behind him!!! He ran by our little cheering section and I started jogging/waddling behind him all the way to the finish. He even pussyfooted around on his way to the finish line. When he finished and turned around and saw a guy immediately behind him... he was... like... "Oh, I thought you guys were kidding."

And then he looked at me puzzled and said... "I've been watching my back for the last few miles... no one was behind me... where did he come from?"

We stood around the finish line for a little bit and then our friend and Sonofabitch, Jeff, finished. And he was pretty fucking pissed. He said that the guy that finished right behind the KoB had been let out of a Park Ranger's truck about a mile back.

I immediately was like... ohh... well, he must have just DNFed or something. Although, it did seem weird that he was running pretty hard on his way to the finish. And, if you had DNFed, why would you even run through the finish line?

After another minute, The KoB asked... where's Meredith? And I told him that she hadn't finished yet. And he was like... "ohhhh shit. She took a wrong turn." She had been in front of him the whole race and he had never passed her. So, he knew she had gotten off course.

Sure enough... a couple minutes later, she came up the hill and finished and she had gone the wrong way at an intersection. She ran on that wrong trail until the trail dead-ended and she realized her error and ran back to the intersection and got back on course.

Damn, it sucks, but ya know... it happens all the time and not just in trail races. How many times have you heard of the head of the pack runners either getting off course on their own or even being led off course by a the pace bikes that ride with the leaders? It sadly happens all the time.

When the awards were handed out, we found out a shocking discovery...

The Female Overall Winner had also taken that wrong turn. (Not the shocking part).
And a Park Official picked her up in a truck and dropped her off further down the trail ("where she would have been if she hadn't gotten lost" they said). She then hopped out and finished the race. And won.

I'm just going to let that soak in for a minute.

The Obvious:
If you ride in a vehicle during ANY part of a race. Ummmm... that should be an automatic DQ. You shouldn't even be allowed to have a finish time, let alone be the overall winner.

The Esoteric:
What trail runner actually ACCEPTS a ride in a vehicle and then just finishes the race and accepts her finish time and her award? WHO FUCKING DOES THAT? You know, I once got into a van during a race. And that race was a DNF for me. Anyway she was PISSED. She was pissed that she had gotten off course. Well, you know who else got off course and didn't get a ride? Ummm... the REAL Women's winner. The person who actually ran the entire way.

Honestly, I kind of understand the Park Ranger's error here. I mean, if you're not a runner... you might think that if they get lost, yeah, it's okay to give them a lift. It was the first year for this race and to my knowledge, none of the Race Directors or organizers are runners. They all work for the State Parks Dept. (which was pretty obvious during a lot of the race, but, more on that during my race report). So, I could see him offering her a ride. (And apparently others, too, since other people like the guy who finished after The KoB, did the same thing). But she took it. And she's not a first time trail runner. She has ran many trail races before. WTF?

I HAVE to believe, that she was just pissed and delirious and underfueled after the race to have agreed to accept not only a finish time, but the overall winner award. And I have to believe that she got home afterwards and was like... holy shit, what am I doing? I didn't win the race.

The Fallout:
The prizes for 1st and 2nd overall? A four night all-inclusive stay in CANfuckingCUN. I mean, if, the prize had just been like a pair of socks or something.... then, okay. BUT SERIOUSLY? CANCUN???? So, the person who was awarded 3rd place, truthfully, should be packing up a bikini and some flip flops. But, instead, she's stuck with a pair of socks and a plate.

The Insult to Injury:
The woman who was wrongly awarded and wrongly accepted the 1st female award, was also told by the Race Director, that they were so sorry about her getting lost, that they would comp her entry to next years race.

SERIOUSLY?????? I swear to god, it was like bizarro world at that awards ceremony. She was boo-hooing about getting lost and telling everyone about it, like she didn't understand that she was missing the entire point here. She was not the victim. She's going to Cancun, she didn't have to run any extra because she got lost, she got to hop in a truck and take a ride up the trail.

Even a couple of days later, I just cannot wrap my brain around this. 

If anyone reading this has any updates or clarifications about this story, PLEASE SHARE. I am really hoping that I just dreamed this whole thing or got some part of the story (like, the part where she hopped in a truck during the race) wrong. And I will gladly update this post with any information I get!!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Track Break.

One of the things that Coach suggested for this go around* is to eliminate track work. I didn't hesitate one second in agreeing with her.

Now, don't take this the wrong way. I absolutely think that track work builds speed and strength. I am proof of that. And furthermore, I always enjoy track intervals. And I'm good at them (for marathon training at my paces, we aren't talking blazing speeds here). It's fun to whiz around a track and end up out of breath and holding your knees. I love that feeling.

But there are a few reasons I'm okay with skipping it this time around.

1. I have always maintained that for me, track workouts don't build confidence.
I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it's because I don't come from a track and field background. So, I don't just automatically associate certain times with certain paces/speeds. I honestly don't know what's good or bad, so, its' not like I finish a workout and think.. DAMN, I'm so fast. I just think... DAMN, I killed that workout. But then I'm like.... WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

Or maybe it's because I don't have a very mathematical mind. I have a hard time calculating time when I'm running (or, let's be honest... any time). So, I'm not thinking... ohhhh this is XYZ pace. I'm just like... is that the pace I'm supposed to hit?

I will say that 1600s do build confidence, because... (duh) easy math.

2. It's not a weakness.
Generally speaking, I haven't had much trouble in the past getting my track workouts done. I barely ever missed one and I almost always hit my target paces.

Track work is so zen for me. I love how explicit it is. Do XYZ at QRS for T times. It gives me a break from my brain and appeases the part of me that loves order and specifics.

Since I'm not trying to PR at this spring race, I really want to work on my weaknesses and the execution of the long run is really my weakest link. So, I want to focus more on tempo runs, marathon pace runs, and doing specific paces DURING my long run. Mentally, the long run feels like the opposite of track work. Where the track intervals soothe my OCD by giving my brain something to focus on, the long run just feels like a mental mess, where my brain doesn't have something to hold onto, so, it's just out in lala-land and easily manipulates me into feeling like I'm tired when I'm actually just fucking bored.

3. It makes my weakness even weaker.
So, here's the deal. I do my track workout early in the week. It's a specific set of paces, distances, and numbers and so it's easy for me to just get caught up in doing them and I usually get a little competitive with myself and do them faster than I'm supposed to. I nail the shit out of it and then come Saturday for my long run, it's less specific and my brain has time to think and get bored, and since I'm physically exhausted (see: track workout from earlier in the week) and I just get the miles in.

I think spending time focusing on the long run WITHOUT track work during the week, will help me start to build my tolerance of exhaustion for training and make me realize how I'm SUPPOSED to be doing my long runs, and maybe I will take things a little easier at track workouts in the future, with that in mind.

All this to say... I will still be incorporating some fast running in my training. I will be doing progression runs and hill repeats, strides, etc. The fun leg-turnover kind of stuff to build strength and some muscle memory. But, for these 14 weeks of training, I will not be visiting the track. And I actually think that this track break will turn me into a better runner in the long run. (Hahahahha).

The track will still be there when I'm ready for it. But for now, it's time to harden up and get these long runs under control.

What's your training weakness? Any other Long Run Weaklings out there?

*I need a name for this training cycle. Any suggestions?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Week 1 Recap

For the first time in what feels like a really long time, I actually went OVER the mileage that I was supposed to. Which, is kind of the opposite of what I should be doing in the first week. But instead of slapping my wrist (it was only 2 measly miles), I'm stoked that I actually made myself do what I was supposed to without slitting my wrists, whining to everyone I know, or making some dumb ass excuses. 

So. Yay!

There was one drawback, though. I was supposed to do 2 workouts and a long run and I only managed to do 2 out of 3 of those things. I did my long run and I did a 40 minute progression run. I did not do a run with 4 miles at Marathon Pace. 

My kind of math.

Coach and I have decided that it is important to pick a goal marathon time, only because how else do I know what paces I'm supposed to be running? So, we picked one that seems doable and practical. And while, I haven't exactly recorded a bunch of marathon times in that range, the pace seems very attainable given my current fitness level (which, is not too bad for short distances, but pretty fucking terrible for longer ones).

On my long run, I tried to get out of my brain. I realized, that generally speaking, I still love the way running feels physically. Even when my legs feel like shit and the hills seem never ending, my body overall still feels okay. But, mentally... man, I am really struggling. I am just bored as fuck. And I think that's a big part of the big 2014 running cut back.


So, I am hoping that getting back on track with some workouts will help. I've also asked for a new ipod for christmas (my previous one mysteriously disappeared awhile back). I think that once I just get back into my Routine of running, I'll be fine. But, it's getting to that point, that's going to suck.

Anyway, week 1 down and I feel good.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Thanksgiving Weekend

I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving weekend! I spent my Thanksgiving with my family at my Uncle's house. And most of my day was spent keeping an eye out for opportunities to hold my Cousin's 1 year old.

The only picture that I got of him. 
Baby bum! Too cute! Little stinker.

Friday I spent putting up my Christmas Tree and helping my mom put up her Christmas Tree. 

The Christmas Tree is seasonal decor.
The dog and the mess are year round.

And Saturday and Sunday, The KoB and I FINISHED painting his house! It was a glorious feeling to throw the last rollers away (well, at least until it's time to tackle the kitchen and bathrooms). We celebrated on Sunday with a gourmet meal...

Nothing says fancy like a meal of cheesy eggs, potato salad,
a half pint of Old Charter, and of course... The Champagne of Beers.
All served on an aluminum fold up table.

And then to top things off... a ride in the Corvette was in order.

That's Mr. Bloom's... "but, I thought I was going to get to drive" face.

It was a great weekend to kick off the holiday season. I'm officially ready for Christmas and Hanukkah now!

Monday, December 1, 2014

On the Clock- Week 1

Alright, folks. It's December 1st and it's time to start training for a Spring 2015 Marathon.

And while this time around, things are a little different, I've still spent 20 minutes drafting an email to Coach with 9 bullet points about what I need/want/expect with this training cycle.

Possible Coach reaction.

I am nothing if not self-obsessed. 
Highlights include:

Emphasis on the Long Run: 90% of the time, I get the long run done. 99.99% of the time, I just lollygag my way through it. I don't practice focusing on a pace, or picking it up (even though a lot of times, I'm instructed to by Coach). This is CRUCIAL. I have really been shortchanging myself with my training, by not giving the long run the respect it deserves. It's time to buck up and start doing it right. I want to get in the habit of the long runs being about more than just distance. I think if I can nail that, if I can do my long runs honestly, my racing potential will skyrocket.

Life Happens, Get Over It: I am no longer the 25 year old with tons of free time, no work stress, or responsibilities. I don't have a 8-5 desk job anymore. I have to work late, work from home, send emails on days off, meet clients early, go to after work hour board meetings and deal with a lot of stress. I also have a dog. There are going to be days that I just either can't get a run in or just don't have the energy to do it. THAT'S OKAY. Instead of letting that just add more stress to my life... I need to just move on and hope for a better work-life balance the next day.

I'm not expecting a PR: I am not delusional. This training cycle is actually more about the training than it is about the race. I want to get into a good rhythm of training again and I want to work on my training weaknesses. I want to show up on race day, in good shape, and run a good race for my fitness level at the time. I want to use this training cycle and race as a springboard for a fall goal race attempt. 

I know the first month (at least) is going to SUCK: It's going to hurt. I'm going to be disappointed by my paces. But, I have to keep reminding myself, there's only one way to go... UP. If I put in the time and effort, it will get better. 98% of the time, running sucks. The other 2% makes the other 98% worth it.

Now, with all those disclaimers out of the way... let's do this!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Week 5: Fearless

Me in January 2010.
I had just finished my first 50K.

The Amy in the above photo was completely oblivious to times/paces/distances. I never did "workouts" and I didn't push myself in 5Ks. I never thought about recovery days or how many miles per week I was running. I just signed up for whatever races my friends were doing, or races where I could knock off a state.

Selfie at the top of some fucking 
mountain in Utah. "Pacing" my friend
Craig at his 50 miler in 2010.

Running was uncomplicated. And that's what I loved about it. Sure, I loved going to a race and getting a PR unexpectedly, but if I didn't get one... I didn't give a shit. I was just happy to be out there doing something that made me feel alive.

Day 3 of the Chattanooga Stage Race.
And then somewhere along the way, I decided that I wanted to push myself. That I wanted to see if I could get faster. So, a friend graciously offered to coach me for a half marathon. And that was something totally different and I completely fell in love with the rush of working for something and then seeing the hard work pay off.
And my little running world was completely turned on it's head. I went from thinking that I was the fucking greatest when I PRed at the half by like 5 minutes... to feeling like I was complete and utter dogshit a couple months later when I DNFed at the Flying Pig.
 No longer on my fridge.
But, I eventually got back up on the horse and started training again and puked my guts out through the Birmingham Marathon, had my guts revolt on me and kill a marathon in Eugene, and had a lackluster, dead leg, cold as shit Baton Rouge Marathon finish. 

For those of you counting...
Eugene: 2 Amy: 0

And I'm not complaining. I don't expect marathon PRs to come easy. But, somewhere along the way, I got really, really scared of racing. And I know that fear is what is really holding me back right now. What if I'm just not a good marathoner and I never reach whatever potential I have? What if I just can't execute on race day? 

The absurdity of it all, is that, I KNOW it doesn't matter. I MEAN WHO GIVES A FUCK?

But, the reality is... it does matter. Because it's really fucking up my head. 

So, my focus this week is to get pieces of the old Amy back. The Amy that signed up for races a little unprepared sometimes, the Amy who finished races with a smile on my face when the sweeper didn't get me, the Amy who was fearless and thought that she could do ANYTHING. 

I feel like if I could mix that Amy with the Amy now, who is disciplined and knows how to train... I could be unstoppable. Now, I've got a coach to help me, a boyfriend to support, inspire, and push me. And plenty of friends to prod me along. 

It's time to figure out how to put it all together. All I know is that the first step... is to stop being afraid of failing. And to just go out and do the work. Races come and go. Speed fluctuates. But running always remains.