Monday, April 20, 2015

Seneca7 Relay Race Recap - Part 1

Seneca7 - I love it.

There really isn't much more that I need to say about this race than that, but of course, I will!

This year, Mike and I ran with a completely new team. We put together a mixed team and we called ourselves, "Girls in Skirts, Guys in Shirts". Three of us had done the race before and four people were completely new to the race.

After some contemplation (and stressing over, I'll admit) our team pace, we ended up with a start time of 9am. Our team order this year was me, Jamie, Erin, Greg, Heather, Liz and Mike. I have a goal to run each runner position of the race, so it was my turn to go first!

 Wearing a skirt per the team name!

Greg, Jamie, Mike and I carpooled in the van to Geneva. We met up with Erin, Liz and Heather shortly after 8am. We saw some of our other friends who were starting at 8:30am and 9am, and everyone looked like they were ready for a day of running around Seneca Lake!

 Two thumbs up for Seneca7!

 Chatting with other runners before the start

Right before 9am, I went over to the start line to wait for the start of our wave. We had put 8:00 average pace for our team, so I knew that everyone in our wave was going to be fast. After chatting with some other runners, we were told that we had 90 seconds until the start.

Then, after what seemed like forever, we were off!

 Cheese face!

I took off really quickly, but I knew that I wasn't going to keep it up the entire 3.8 mile leg (and honestly, I was really worried about how I would perform at this race since I have lost some speed due to 50K training). The start of the race takes you out of downtown Geneva and immediately we were greeted with a small grassy hill. I made my way up it with the majority of the pack and then I told myself to let everyone go and settle into my own pace.

We ran along the sidewalk for awhile, before we ran down a hill and onto the road. This leg was described as "rolling" and there was a pretty decent climb during the third mile. I started to pass some of the people who started off too fast. The van drove by me at one point and cheered me on as they continued down the road.

My pace slowed a little during the third mile and I told myself to just hold on until the exchange point (my splits were 7:59, 7:55, 8:14 and 7:33 pace for the final .8 of a mile). There were still hills but they were smaller and they didn't slow me down too much.

Eventually, I could see a lot of bright colors in the distance. I figured it was the exchange point and it was - I could see it for almost a mile!

I got to the exchange, handed off the slap bracelet to Jamie and then made my way to the shuttle bus (vehicles aren't allowed to stop at the first exchange to try to help reduce congestion in the beginning of the race). The bus brought us all to the second exchange point and I found my team.

I ran the 3.8ish miles (my watch had a little less than that) in 29:30 at 7:57 pace! Not a bad start to our day.

Soon we saw Jamie come in and our team continued to make our way around the lake. We were making good time and were holding a consistent 7:50ish average team pace.

 Jamie and Erin's exchange

Erin and Greg's first legs

Heather and Liz's exchange

And then before I knew it, Mike was heading out for his first leg of the day. Since he was our 7th (and final) runner, that meant it was almost my turn again!

Mike making his way out on his first leg after his exchange with Liz

We got to Glenora Winery, where our exchange would take place, and I used a real bathroom (yay for being able to wash my hands) before heading over to the exchange.

And right before 12:30pm, I saw Mike making his way down the road toward us.

You'll just have to wait to find out what happens next!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rally Round the Valley Race Recap

This past Saturday I participated in the inaugural Rally Round the Valley 18 mile race. I used it as a training run for my 50K rather than as an actual race, sometimes it is nice to have a supported training run!

The race location was in Honeoye, New York about an hour from our house. Mike wasn't racing so he was able to drive the course and cheer me on, which I really appreciated! Our friend, Heather, was also running this race and we found her right before the start.

 Ready to tackle 18 miles!

 The Finger Lakes area is gorgeous!

When I found out about this race I really liked the idea of running around Honeoye Lake. Mike and I have ridden around this lake, but we have never run around it. You could either register for the solo 18 miler, a 2-person or 3-person relay or a 9 mile walk.

 Waiting for the start

I don't like running or anything

The race got started right at 9am and I tried to settle into a comfortable pace. I thought that 9:30 pace would be good, but of course I started out around 9:00-9:10 average for the first 9 miles.

 The one complaint for this race was the plastic cups used at the water stops

Still making my way around the lake

The race started at the Honeoye Central School and from there we turned down West Lake Road. This side of the lake the terrain had longer, but gradual hills and downhills. I was able to keep up a good pace and Mike stopped to cheer me on two or three times on this side. The temperature was in the upper 30s, which was pleasant on this side of the lake.

As I made my way down a longer hill, I could see the halfway point in the distance (and a downhill skiing area that still had snow on it). I was starting to feel a little bit tired, but I still felt good at this point. After going through the water stop (which was also the 2-person relay exchange point), I turned left onto East Lake Road. Immediately, the conditions changed.

It was pretty windy on Saturday, but it wasn't that noticeable during the first half of the race. As soon as I made the turn to start the second half of the race the wind was in my face, and it didn't let up until the finish line. I started to slow down due to this, but I kept on going.

I hadn't seen Mike in awhile, but I was hoping that I would soon. The east side of the lake the terrain is constant rolling hills, which isn't too bad on a bike but it was starting to take its toll on my legs.

I just kept telling myself to keep going and not to walk. I was just using this as a training run so my finishing time didn't really matter that much to me.

 You can tell I'm getting tired and I put my gloves back on since it was so cold!

After a water stop, I saw Mike in the distance. When I went by him, he told me that I was doing great and I said that I was starting to get tired. Then I had to run up the worst hill of the race, which Mike asked me about when he drove by me. I still hadn't walked and the downhill after brought a little bit of relief to my legs.

At the final exchange point for the 3-person teams, I saw a co-worker getting ready to run her leg. I said hi to her and told her that this kind of sucked, ha. She told me I looked great and I kept going on my way.

At this point, I could kind of tell who the two-person and three-person relay runners were. It was hard not to be envious of their fresh legs! I saw Mike one more time and as he drove away, this woman running next to me started to talk to me. I asked her if she was a relay runner and she told me no that she was doing the entire thing. I said that I was too and that I was a bit envious of the relay runners at this point.

We chatted for a little while before we both settled in for the final two miles.

Eventually, I could see the road crossing that we would need to make before turning back into the school for the finish. There was a final uphill and then I started to make my way toward the turn into the bus circle for the school. Mike was cheering me on as I crossed the finish line.

 Yay, I can stop running now!

I finished in 2:54:20, not too bad considering the conditions!

 Successful training run, complete!

After hanging around for a bit, Mike and I made the drive back to Rochester. Overall, I really enjoyed this race and I would be interested in doing it again - either solo or as a relay!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Being Proud of My Accomplishments

I know that I have been down on running and triathlon lately. I can blame the winter, I can blame my weak mind, I can blame my not-in-Ironman-shape body, but really I have accomplished a lot over the years that I should be proud of - and I am.

April 12th will mark our 4-year running anniversary. We started running using the Couch-to-5K program and haven't looked back since.

Even though it is hard and there are struggles, I wouldn't change our lifestyle for anything.

This past weekend, I set the ambitious goal of running the entire length (out and back) of the Seneca Trail. That trail is my favorite, it has just a little bit of everything, and I made a goal this year to run the entire length. Unfortunately, the entire trail isn't open all year round because of hunting.

I wanted to use this 27ish mile run as a training run for my 50K and because of races and hunting season this past weekend was the only opportunity to do so. I was a bit worried about the conditions of the trail, since our snow still isn't 100% gone.

 Here I go!

Saturday morning at 7am, I set out to start making my trek along the trail. Mike dropped me off at the start, because you can't park there, and then he went to one of the places he could stop and park. I had four other friends meeting me about a tenth of a mile down the trail. As I came running up a hill, I saw them in the distance cheering for me.

The five of us continued on our way and we saw Mike in a few places before he went to get ready to join our group.

 Running down the hill at Valentown

Another downhill around mile 4

This photo makes me laugh, we're all doing something different!

The trail conditions were varied. In some spots there was still snow and ice and in others we were trudging through almost knee-deep water. The mud was unrelenting in some spots, but we continued on. There was one water crossing that we did not do, except one of us, because the water was too strong. We had to detour to the road and then connect with the trail again.

 Thanks to these people, I made it as far as I did

 I love this photo!

When we made it to the halfway point, I thought about stopping. I thought about asking one of our friends for a ride back to Mike's car, almost 8 miles away. But, I popped a few pretzels in my mouth, refilled my water and kept trudging along.

We made it back to the barn where a few of our friends had parked their car and finished their run. Our friend, Todd, who had finished at the halfway point was there. He asked if we needed food or a ride.

I joked that I wanted the ride, but would be mad at myself if I didn't keep going. So I took some more pretzels and Mike and I continued on our way.

There was a moment when I thought I would keep going all the way to the end. Then the last stretch before Mike's car really started to take its toll on me. I was worried about doing the last 6 miles by myself (Mike did an almost 16 mile out and back), especially in the area that had the most water.

I stopped at Mike's car. I stopped at 21.27 miles.

 I was too tired to even reset my watch, definitely NOT 10:08 average pace - that's lap pace

At first I was disappointed in myself that I didn't accomplish my goal (even today, I feel like I COULD have kept going). However, this was the furthest I have run in training so far this cycle and I had 5 hours on my feet. I may have been able to make it through the next section, about 2 miles, without injury but there's no way to know for sure. Mike would have had to come trekking through the water to come and find me if it started to take too long, and I didn't want him to have to do that (though I know he would have).

I am PROUD of what I accomplished. I know that without the mud and water (and maybe someone with me the entire time), I could have finished what I set out to do. I still have a little work to do on my mental state with running and training, but I am getting there.

There was no crying, no complaining (alright, there was a little bit of complaining), but I kept moving forward.

And, I have plans to tackle the entire length of the Seneca Trail again sometime in the summer. Hopefully there won't be as much mud next time!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Running Strong - Book Review

We all want medical and health advice from people who are involved in the same sports that we are, which in reality, is sometimes easier said than done.

I was provided the opportunity to review "Dr. Jordan Metzl's Running Strong: The Sports Doctor's Complete Guide to Injury-Free Running for Life" and I jumped at the chance! I have been injured twice in my short running career (peroneal tendonitis) and have experienced the normal aches and pains from intense training.


Dr. Jordan Metzl is a runner and triathlete, as it says on the cover of the book he has completed 32 marathons and 12 Ironmans, and has experienced an injury - a torn ACL. His book "Running Strong" is a great reference with a lot of information about different injuries and how to prevent them in order to maintain a healthy running career.

His book is broken up into five sections: Nuts and Bolts, Uh-Oh: What's that Pain?, Getting the Most from your Machine, Tools of the Trade and His and Hers.

I read the entirety of section 1: Nuts and Bolts. This provided an overview of healthy running and why some runners become injured. I thought that this was an informative review of the bio-mechanics of running and confirmed that I need to keep adding strength training to my routine!

The next section was one that I skimmed. I think it is a great reference for when you are trying to identify why you are experiencing pain and what might be going on with your body. I did check out the section on peroneal tendonitis since I have had that injury twice. This section is divided into nine chapters, eight that focus on specific areas of the body from your feet to your upper body and one that focuses on other aches and pains, such as, blisters. The chapters include diagrams, symptoms, and how to remedy the injury that you are experiencing.

I also skimmed the fourth and fifth sections. I found some of the nutrition information interesting, as well as, some of the differences between men and women (which is a good thing for me to keep in mind while Mike and I train together). The female section went in depth on running during pregnancy, which isn't something that applies to me, so I skimmed this information as well. The two sections are also good references and reminders for maintaining your health as a runner.

 Your body is your machine

The third section was one I was really excited to see. Dr. Metzl included his strength training program IronStrength in this section. I have been working on incorporating more strength training into my routine this year and the other day I tried his workout.

This book has another really cool feature: it utilizes the Blippar app (which you can get for free) so that you can view numerous videos for more information. I used the app while trying out the IronStrength workout when I was unsure about a specific move.

 Checking out the Blippar app during the IronStrength workout!

I did modify his workout (shortened some of the sets/reps), but overall I really enjoyed it! I am going to continue to incorporate this workout into my strength training routine.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It isn't one that you read in its entirety in one sitting (unless you really want to), but it is a great reference with a TON of information. The Blippar app just increases the amount of information that you can gain access to in order to keep yourself healthy while running.

If you would like more information about Dr. Jordan Metzl, here are some resources:

Dr. Jordan Metzl's website
Twitter (@drjordanmetzl)
Instagram (@drjordanmetzl) 
Facebook (Dr. Jordan Metzl)

If you are interested in buying this book, you can do so here. I would highly recommend that you check it out!

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of "Running Strong" from Runner's World at no cost in exchange for a review. I was not compensated in any other way and the opinions expressed in this post are, as always, my own. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Fools Trail Run 25K Race Recap

This past weekend, Mike and I raced for the first time in a long time! This was my second race of the year and Mike's first, so it was about time for us to join the masses and have a fun time!

When we drove back from our Ironman in August, we stopped at Melt Bar and Grilled (yum) in Mentor, Ohio. Our waiter was talking to us about running and he mentioned the Burning River 100. I must have looked up that race and saw the Western Reserve Racing website. That's how I found the Fools Run 25K/50K.

I thought it would be a great mid-training race and Mike and I registered for the 25K. Our friend, Greg, was registered too but unfortunately he didn't make it to the race because he was sick.

Not quite along the course, but parts of the race looked like this

 Along the first half mile of the race

Saturday we drove the 4ish hours to packet pick-up and then drove to the race start. Since it is a trail race, driving the course was not an option. We did check out some of the trails and I was happy that there wasn't any snow in sight!

Ha, the numbers were an April Fool's joke. My actual number was 36

The race started at 9am on Sunday, which meant that we didn't have to wake up too early. We got to the race start right as the 50K runners were taking off a little past 8am.  After sitting in the car for a little while, we made our way to the port-a-potties before waiting for the start of our race.

Off they go!

A little bit chilly!

 More 50K runners

After a brief pre-race briefing (basically telling us to be careful on the ice), we started right after 9am. I knew that I was going to take it easier since I was using this as a training run, and I am more cautious on the trails anyway.

 25K runners' start

 I'm in the front of this pack in the pink jacket

The race is a giant 25K loop (that you do twice for the 50K) that meanders through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park specifically the Virginia Kendall Park. The start of the race goes on the Cross Country trails and these were nice and wide with some rolling hills throughout. I made my way around some people and then settled in.

At the start of the race, Mike and I thought we recognized this girl from the 100 Mile Tri that we did last year (and that we have volunteered at) and when I caught up to her I asked if she had done the 100 Mile Tri. She said she had and I said that she was pretty easy to spot (she is tall with short hair and has some pretty amazing tattoos). We chatted for a little while and then this other lady started talking to me since she heard that I was from New York.

I told her that this wasn't the furthest we were traveling for a race and that we'd be going to Alaska for a race (and to see Crystal and Joe!) It was nice talking with people but then I started to focus on what I was doing and my footing. Luckily, other than the fact that the mud was frozen with footprints, this portion wasn't too bad.

I skipped the first aid station at mile 2.5, Mike and I wore our handhelds since the race requested people to do so to cut down on paper waste, and then started the next portion of the race.

This part of the race had a few road crossings, which luckily I never had to deal with any cars and one crossing had a police officer there to deal with traffic. This was also part of the race where there was two way traffic, but the trails were wide enough that this wasn't a problem. When we made our way into the first part of the Ledges Trail, this was when I had to start to take things slower. Right before a bridge, a guy in front of me and some other runners yelled, "SLOW DOWN". This part in the woods didn't have any sun and the ice was slick and almost the entire width of the trail. Mike told me later that he fell at this part of the race since he didn't slow down enough while making the turn.

Some runners were falling during this part of the race, but I took it slow and walked when I needed to. This part was also really rocky so it was almost impossible to run anyway. It was really pretty in there, though, and I wish I had a camera with me!

 We saw a lot of rocks like these

After making it out of that part of the Ledges Trail, we made our way along a grassy portion and then ran through the smallest tunnel that I have ever run through. Mike told me that he almost didn't fit! This led to the second aid station and I grabbed some Heed and one pretzel (ha). I was taking energy chews every three miles and had my water with me so I didn't need anything else. After stopping briefly, I was on my way to the next part of the race: Boston Run Trail.

Luckily, there wasn't any more ice to deal with for the majority of the rest of the race. There was, however, a lot of stairs. And when I say a lot, I mean A LOT. We had already run up/down some of them and there were more throughout the rest of the race. Someone told me to wait until we got to Salt Run and I knew that I would be in trouble then! Boston Run went through the woods and did a little loop, where you could see people making their way out of the trail before you went in. I looked for Mike, but didn't see him.

Another runner fell during this part of the race, but she had other people with her and I continued on. The culmination of Boston Run Trail brought us back to the aid station, where I grabbed some more Heed, and then we went through the second part of the Ledges Trail. I actually almost got lost at this point, but a woman told me to take a right. Luckily she was near me and another runner or we would have gone the wrong way! This portion of the race, Mike and I had walked part of the day before (though we didn't think that it was actually on the race course, ha). This was another trail with rocky terrain so it was slow going.

We finally made it back to the two way traffic portion of the race (only very briefly) and then ducked into the Pine Grove Trail. This trail was also really pretty and I was able to run the majority of it without walking. At one point some other runners that I passed asked me how many miles I had, and I told them 10.6 miles.

I went through the road crossings again and this time stopped at the final aid station for some more Heed. I went straight through another bridge tunnel and started the Lake Trail portion of the race. At this point I was running alone without anyone really near me. I would occasionally pass other runners and sometimes other runners would pass me, but no one was with me consistently.

The Lake Trail was short and took us out into a field, where you could see the finish line. I said to some other runners that I was passing, "that is so cruel". The guy said, "well they don't call us Fools for nothing". After that I made my way into the Salt Run Trail, the final portion of the race.

In the morning we had been warned about this trail being icy, but so many runners had already gone through (and it was warming up) that the ice had melted. Instead I found mud. So much mud that it was impossible to run up some of the hills because I was sliding too much. There were also more of my friends: the stairs.

I said to some runners who were passing me that I had originally thought the 50K would be fun, but that I'm not sure my legs would make it down the stairs on a second loop. I don't think I have ever dealt with that many stairs on a trail run! Due to the stairs, mud and some hills this part of the race was slower for me.

I just kept running when I could, luckily there was a big portion that was runnable, and hiked up the parts that I couldn't as fast as I could. Finally, I saw a sign that said 3/4 mile to the Lake Trail and I knew I was almost done.

After running up a hill and out of the woods, I saw a grassy hill that we had to run up. I probably could have if it wasn't muddy, but I was slipping so much that I had to walk. When I made it to the top of the hill, I could see the finish line and then I saw Mike on the sidelines.

He told me to finish the race and I crossed the finish line 3 hours 12 minutes and 47 seconds after we had started. Since we have never officially raced a 25K that's an automatic PR!

 Not a bad time!

Mike finished the race in 2:41:53, he did great!

We hung around the finish area for a little while and then we changed our clothes. We, of course, stopped at Melt before driving the rest of the way home.

Overall, I am really happy with how this race went and I would love to do it again sometime! I am hopeful that this put me in the right direction for the rest of my 50K training.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Anxious while Running

Lately, I have been experiencing a lot of anxiety whenever I have to go out and run (it doesn't happen with cycling and swimming). You would think that someone who has done an Ironman, four marathons and numerous half marathons would not freak out about a 5-6 mile run, something that I have done too many times to count, but I am.

 From our first 10K back in 2011

I don't even remember what my first 5 mile run was like. I'm sure that I was ecstatic, because it would have been a new PDR, but what other emotions did I experience? Fear, anxiety, elation, frustration, doubt? I don't know.

As a semi-experienced runner, I should not feel like I cannot do a 5 mile run or that I am going to completely fail while out there. I think part of my anxiety comes from the fact that this training cycle is not going the way that I envisioned, but then again what training plan of ours has gone exactly 100% according to plan?

None.

Even back in 2011 when we started this journey of ours using the Couch-to-5K program we had one failed workout and we had to repeat it. Ironically, as I train for my first 50K, it was one of the last workouts of the program (where you run for 30 minutes straight) and we decided to do it on some trails. That didn't go well and we stopped early before the 30 minutes were up and then we repeated the workout the next day. We had already run our 5K, the way it worked out our race ended up happening the weekend before we finished the C25K program, so really our "failed" run wasn't a big deal.

 During our second 5K back in 2011

As I think about it, all of the times we have "failed" at completing something on our training plan it hasn't been the end of the world. Sure, sometimes races haven't gone the way we wanted but that's what makes us stronger.

All the times we have sat on the side of the road too tired to keep going, or when we got stuck in a lightning storm while cycling and I stood on the side of the road screaming for someone to pick us up, or when Mike crashed, flipped over his handlebars and fractured his mandible. The times when the waves were too strong, even for experienced swimmers, and I stopped us short, or when it seemed like Mike would NEVER get through a ride without getting a flat, or when we've had to call people to come pick us up, or when I have gotten injured, or when I wrote down the directions wrong for a run and we had to walk 5.5 miles back to the car two weeks before our Ironman. To the missed, cut short or rearranged workouts, all of these things and more, have made me who I am. I am an Ironman, marathoner, badass triathlete, and hopefully I can add ultramarathoner to my profile soon.

 This. This is why I do it.

And if not, I won't give up until I can.

Friday, March 20, 2015

50K Training So Far

I officially started training for my 50K back on January 12th (really the 13th because Monday is always an off day) and I am currently on my 10th week of training for Pineland Farms. That means that I only have 9 weeks to go until race day!

As far as training is concerned, it has felt a lot more haphazard than normal. And, I don't like that. This winter was (and still is, even though it's technically spring now) a bit rough. There were so many times that I couldn't get the distance that I wanted and there were a few weeks when almost all of my runs were done on the indoor track. It is nice that I have that as an option, but it definitely does not match the conditions of my race.

 Luckily, most of this is gone now. So much snow this year!

Mike and I are also almost one month into training for the first of two 70.3s that we will be doing this summer. I feel guilty when I can't get in all of the swimming and cycling workouts that I have planned every week. I have felt pretty tired and defeated some weeks, and I often questioned whether I should even be trying to do this 50K or not.

Luckily, I am feeling a bit better with how my training is going. Last week, I was able to get all of my planned runs done and ran a little over 39 miles. I also swam once (missed one swim workout) and biked three times (but did less mileage). I had a total of 92ish miles for the week, a number I haven't seen in months.

While part of me knows that I am strong enough to finish anything that I put my mind to, I am looking forward to when I am training more consistently. This week, I took an extra unplanned off day because my legs were really sore from my long runs last weekend. Since I am injury-prone, I don't want to do anything that will jeopardize my entire racing season. I guess I am figuring out a balance.

 Didn't you know I'm the Flash?

Next weekend should be a good test on how I am doing. Mike and I (and our friend, Greg) have a race next Sunday. It is a 25K on trails, hopefully without snow on them, and I am going to use it to gauge how training is going.

Then the following week, I will be running the furthest I have ever run in my life - 27-28 miles (depending on exact distances). I'll be running the entire length (out and back) of the Seneca Trail. Luckily, friends and Mike will be joining me for part of the run so I won't be doing it all alone!

Overall, while I am not 100% pleased with how training is going, I know that I am capable of anything that I put my mind to and that I WILL have an amazing 50K victory lap in May.