Saturday, December 18, 2010

Pacing to a PR

The Ghost of Birch Bay marathon is held in December every year close to the Canadian border in Birch Bay State Park, Blaine, WA.  The weather is cold and last year it was pretty nasty, that coupled with the speeding ticket I got on the way up made me want to make sure I ran it this year with a buddy.  I only decided to run this race the weekend before the marathon thinking that I felt pretty good from the Quad.  I got my great friend Karen on board the Monday before the race which was pretty exciting considering there are not too many out there that can and will just jump into a marathon with you for fun. 
So Friday after work, with me being delayed by tons of meetings, we finally made our way up north.  We had fun on the drive up making friends along the way at various stops.  And got to our hotel to continue the sillys! 

Race start was not until 9am so we slept in until 7am, felt great!  Sometime over the course of the night before I had suggested to Karen that she let me pace her to a sub 4 hour finish as her PR just did not line up with what I knew she could run.  I figured she would not be too hot on this idea because really that’s a pretty big leap of faith.  To my delight Karen was game.  I knew she could do sub 4, but this was not an easy course- big hills, and self serve aid stations.  Still I wanted to make a go for it and took us out at flat 9  min miles letting us drop to 8:50’s at times.  I knew we would need a bit of time for the up hills and aid and was not sure how much we could make up on the downs so I was running it by gut feel with only a few checks of the watch. 

We ran the first loop pretty well and were looking right on track.  This worried me because I knew we needed to at least run flat splits and at best negative split the race.  So when Karen plowed up the hills and rode the downhill on the second loop I let her go thinking any time she could make up here was good, and I didn’t let her pull us out too fast.  We were doing well but I started to see cracks around mile 21.  My happy friend was hitting the rough spot and I knew this could be a very difficult last 5 miles.  My goals were to keep her positive, keep her moving, and get her mind off any pain.  So I started talking.  A lot. 
Up until this point in the race we had been on and off talking flowing seamlessly between joking and jamming out to our own ipods.  It was a great comfortable mix and I think we were both flowing.  Once I saw the pain starting to set in I really tried to distract while keeping the pace steady and not losing her.  She was running low on water so I made sure she had the rest of mine and was still good on calories.  I just kept telling her she was doing awesome.  She was a rock star.  She was doing great and was right on track.  She was strong.  She could do it.  And that I was so so proud of her.  All of these were true.  I also gave her the option to tell me to shut up at any time as I felt myself willing her along with my words as best and as much as I possibly could.  I knew this dark place she was currently in and I wanted to do everything in my power to pull her out.  Self doubt is a horrible monster that can sneak out of nowhere and suck you in.  This monster was not going to get my girl, not this time, not on my watch for our race.  She would be PRing today whether she believed it or not.
We were within 3 miles and had to hit roughly 9:20’s to come in under the 4 hour mark and I thought this is going to be close but if I can just get her to hang on we can do this.  Well I was not successful in getting her to hold pace, a lot happens in the last 3 miles of a marathon.  She pushed herself to the breaking point and that is all I could ask for.  What happens on the road stays on the road and I am just extremely proud of my girl for coming across that line in 4:05 and smashing her old PR. 

This was my 53 marathon/ultra and one of the most rewarding races I have run.  This is only the second that I have run fully with someone and I really liked it.  Helping Karen gave me more strength.  You stop your internal dialogue and just focus on that other person.  It’s not about you or your race anymore it’s about ensuring that you are there for that other person and helping them in every way that you can think of.  I have been blessed to have some amazing pacers be there for me and feel privileged to be able to have been there for Karen.  Love ya girl!  Here’s to our latest running adventure and many more to come!  xo

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Q it!

Enjoying my favorite chai tea with steamed soy while I sit in a big comfy chair and reflect on last weekend of running 4 marathons over 4 days, Quadzilla, up north in and around the Seattle, WA area and it is just now sinking in that wow we really did that!  It was a pretty amazing running weekend and such a rocken way to kick off the 2010 holiday season.  The marathon maniacs were out there in full force across the 4 events which made it even more special to be surrounded by my running family (aww barf, but I do love these guys)!  So let’s jump into the good stuff!

The running party started on Thanksgiving 7am for the inaugural Wattle Waddle marathon in Maple Valley, WA.  It was snowing the couple days before and it was covering the ground and still coming down when I woke up Thursday morning, but we had been assured the race was still game on, no matter the weather.  So this AZ girl got her butt out the door early to drive to the race start in the crazy cold and managed to arrive safe in one piece!  It was my first time ever driving in real snow, with it still coming down and it was so beautiful that I was pumped to start this party weekend!  We gathered at the start line as the snow was falling and the sun had yet to rise and we were off to start our Thanksgiving and for many the journey of 4 marathons. 

The snow was really hard to run in- like sand on the beach, but much colder!!  I started off running with Sara, an awesome runner that has just done a marathon in S. Africa as well as a rocken time at Cascade 100.  Sara and I spent the first 13 miles running together catching up on past races and life in general as well as marveling at how incredibly beautiful this course was with the feet of snow all around us and covering the trees.  I’ve always wanted a white Thanksgiving!! 

After the first half of the marathon the snow running was taking its toll on both Sara and I.  Sara had to drop out with some knee pain and I somehow tweaked a nerve in my back that was sending shooting pain down my left leg each step on that side.  I lay down in the snow and Sara helped me stretch out (life saver) and then I headed back out.  Running alone out in the show was very peaceful.  I took some time to think about all of the many blessings I have in my life to be thankful for on this day of giving thanks and this train of thought really redirected my energy from focusing on the shooting pain in my back and legs to just joy and appreciation for being able to be out there.  I would have never thought a few years ago that this would be my life now and that I would have the opportunity to go out and do these amazing running adventures and be here in the NW loving it!  These thoughts made the second half fly by and the poof the run was done in just a touch over 4 hours, good enough for second woman overall!

Post race I had to lay back down and get my back to stop being crazy!!  I think I need to work on my running in snow form.  But it eventually settled down and I ate the most delicious sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie that I have ever tasted!!  That with the hot coco made for the perfect post race celebration with the other 80 or so runners that did this race.  Major props to Betsy and Matt for putting on this race this first year and enabling all of us crazies to go out there and do a quad!  The snow had stopped and it was time to head out to the next place to get ready for race #2 in Gig Harbor. 

Wish Bone Ultra was the second race of the Quad in Gig Harbor, WA starting at 7:30am.  The snow had stopped so the trails were just wet with muddy, icy puddles for us to play in (perfect!) Registration was held in RD’s, Bill’s, house- A-L in the family room M-Z head to the kitchen!  Awesome ultra family feel to this race no doubt. 
We headed out on the trails for the 4 loop course and of course had to have a little fun with the camera at the starting line.  Yes I apparently love to goof off while the RD is going through instructions, but I figure I can’t mess it up too bad, I just run and follow the course markings, I mean it’s not Zane.  ;)
It felt great to be out on the trails, and not in the stores, celebrating our black Friday.  I spent most of this race running alone as the field stretched out and I felt really good about this because there was so much to admire and take in.  Each loop I noticed many different things to the point that each loop felt like a totally new race and I was never bored.  The sun even came out to greet us at points during the run.  The ice and mud puddles made for a bit of adventure and I was even lucky enough to not fall, which is usually a given for me on any kind of trails! 
Post race we hung out in the aid station tent and I talked with other marathon maniacs out there.  They were cooking up some amazing huckleberry pancakes which were soo very tasty.  The hot food post race in the cold weather is just a treat!  I also met the only canine finisher we had of the race, Katie!  If I ever get a dog it will have to be an ultra dog like Katie who is running like a pup at the age of 11!! 
This also happened to be marathon/ultra # 50 for me since Jan 2008, taking 9 months off during that time as well.  Not prego, just went off to be a dancer for a little while and had some auditions and classes to attend to before I came back to my senses and realized I am a lot better runner than dancer!!  But that’s a whole other blog post!

Post wishbone I headed into Seattle to grab registration for the Seattle Marathon on Sunday, the anchor of the Quad.  The streets and expo were so packed with people it was a little overwhelming coming from running around and playing in the forest for hours that AM.  Nonetheless once I got there I was excited by the extreme running energy that radiated though the entire expo.  I picked up my bib and went to look around and ended up doing a little x-mas shopping for me.  te he I am such a sucker for running gear!
After the expo it was on to my hotel to get some rest.  I had a wonderful dinner and relaxing night preparing for race #3 the Ghost of Seattle marathon.  I found though that my body was in overdrive trying to recover and my heart was racing and I could not get to sleep at all.  I also ended up waking up at midnight completely starving and realized that I had to get up and eat or I was not getting back to sleep.  This was crazy after a normal dinner, but I listened to my body and put down some crackers, felt better, went back to sleep, and felt rested and not depleted at the start of the next race.  I guess running 4 in 4 requires a lot of fuel!
The Ghost of Seattle Marathon started at 8am on Saturday and runs in Seward Park on the original course.  The race has grown every year and this year there were a ton of people!  Due to this we had a slight delay at the start as everyone was checking in so of course took the oppty to goof off and take more fun pictures and be silly with some of the other Q kids!

The Ghost put on by Scott is a flat fast course and a BQ cert course, so I figured what the heck let’s hit this one hard today and figure out the aftermath tomorrow figuring the crowd energy would make up for pushing the pace today.  So I went after it from the start and was actually feeling surprisingly good, umm well up until about 10 miles in, then I realized my legs were really just frozen and burning up like crazy.  Coming through the half way mark at 1:53 I was just thinking wow that felt more like a 1:30 than a 1:53- me calling this out and telling Sarah D. that I needed to be reminded how silly of an idea this crazy quadzilla was!
Still I ran hard and had a lot of fun and came across the line in 3:54 in change, which was good enough for third woman overall.  Post race I grabbed some other MM’s and we did a quick finish picture and then I headed off to the lake. 
The water was freezing, which was exactly the point, so I jumped in up to my chest and sat there on a rock for 15 minutes.  The first 2 are the worse and the initial shock just made me scream, literally, which was probably pretty amusing.  Tony and I had a great chat while we suffered together hoping that the legs would be better for the running tomorrow. 
After getting out of the wet clothes I sat around the heater with other runners while Scott cooked us up some remarkable post race food.  Veggie dogs covered in veggie chili steaming hot and magically delish!  With the great food, friends, and fun it was a perfect Saturday morning/afternoon playing and running and I realized that I could seriously do this every day.  Time to find a sponsor or sugar daddy- now accepting applications ;)
The final race of the Q, the Seattle Marathon, started at 8:15am, love how each race start got later and later as we went BTW, and it was packed!  I lucked out on parking getting there an hour early and scoring a spot 1 block from the start.  So I pulled out the sunggie and snuggled up for a nice pre race nap.  Woke up 5 minutes before the starting gun went off and strolled over to the coral and found more Q runners and we let out a cheer for the final adventure.  We headed out nice and easy as, well it felt like I was running my fourth marathon in 4 days!  I ended up chatting with many other NW runners in the first few miles which took my mind off the soreness over my entire body and added some laughs and smiles to the start.  Prez ran up around mile 4 and caught this live action running pict below.
 TK was out there taking awesome pictures as always and it was a great boost to see him on the out and back over the floating freeway.  He caught some funny pictures- I swear I did not throw my hand bottle at anyone!

Overall I feel like I was running pretty strong for the entire race, but I really nocited that I was holding it steady around mile 20.  I do not believe I sped up but in the last 10K I ended up passing like 215 runners with only 5 passing me- yes love the stats that they provided from the race web site.  I also beat about 60% of the men out there- gotta work on chasing down that other 40% though!  I crossed the finish in 3:57 and was super stoked to go under 4 hours again for the final race!  I came across the line with Phil and we collected our incredible Quadzilla medals made by marathon freak Steve!  So awesome huge props Steve you rock!!! 

At the post race party we had a MM meet up and had a blast catching up with everyone and taking silly pictures.  It was a ton of fun the entire weekend and this was a perfect ending to an astounding journey.  I am really thankful that I was able to run all 4 races with my running family in the NW- this to me was the perfect way to spend my holiday weekend.  LOVE you guys you are all ROCK STARS!!!  xoxoxo

Monday, November 8, 2010

Grand Canyon and Women’s ½ pacing running party weekend!

I am on the flight back to OR from AZ thinking about my amazing running party fun filled weekend and so happy that I was there and had such a blast, but somewhat dreading getting off the plane in OR.  I loved the beautiful weather (SUNSHINEJ) in AZ as well as spending time with my awesome friends and of course my sister.  It was a great time out there and I always feel slightly sad leaving AZ to go back North.  I did get a speeding ticket on my way to the flight this morning, because I was already running late to get to the flight and then thought, well you know if I miss the plane oh well, I stay in AZ longer, and this really didn’t bother me at all.  But with the ticket (56 in a 40), I was still able to make it in time and I am on my way “home.”  I know I will be excited to get to OR once I do and see all my great friends there in the NW, but the transition between the 2 different worlds is always hard for me and it is not getting any easier- if anything harder.  Ok ok enough sad face; let’s get on to the fun!! 
So I ran the Grand Canyon Marathon on Saturday.  It was BEAUTIFUL!!  I headed up there Friday after work and really enjoyed the drive and seeing all the beauty AZ has to offer in November, especially when the weather is just so perfect!! 
To give a bit of history here, this marathon was my third ever back in 2008 when they first offered this course.  Due to permit issues they were not able to have the race in 2009, so I was glad they let me in for the 2010 version!  The marathon went off at 8am and the weather was chilly, but as soon as the wonderful SUNSHINE hit us it was warm.  We had extremely cold weather in 2008 so I prepared for that and I was just cooking!  I was stripping and ditching clothes at every aid station along the south rim, gloves, beanie, sunglasses, long sleeve shell, rolling my pants up to make shorts, LOL I was thinking about ditching the pants too, but drew the line at making “shants.”  The first 16 miles of the run offered spectacular views of the canyon and I was just soaking it in, so much so that those first 16 flew by as I never once looked at my watch and just was having a great time out there.  After mile 16 we head away from the rim and into the forested area long dirt trail over rolling hills to the finish.  These last 10 miles were pretty spread out as we did not have any more ½ marathon runners with us.  I ended up passing a few people on these later miles as I was feeling very strong and this helped me feel even more confident.  The legs, lungs, body, mind, and spirit were all working together out there on the course.  I had time to reflect about one year ago when I was running the NYC marathon at this time and then the year before when I was running the GCM at the same time and it really made me happy to remember all of these great races, people, and places.  I have had the opportunity to see a lot through these running adventures and I thought about how happy and lucky I am to be healthy and out there feeling so alive.  I was doing the number one thing that I love to do at one of the most beautiful places on earth and really soaked up every second of it and enjoyed the HECK out of it!  The chase to the finish was pretty intense!  I passed 2 women that were still moving pretty good around mile 21 so I knew they would be on my heals, but I was targeting one more lady in front of me who I passed for a bit, but we switched back places as I made an aid stop to get more water around mile 24.  I kept her in sight for the last 2 miles and tried to stay close enough to make a move, but I was really pushing it to hang.  For the last half mile I went for it with all I had left, but the elevation and climbing had caught up to me and what I was pushing for as a “sprint” was not working out so well, so she did beat me to the finish by about 1 minute.  It was close, but I am happy that I was out there doing my best and pushing myself.  I ended up getting second place in my age division and 4th woman overall, which was very exciting.  I also beat my 2008 time by 40 minutes!! 

I came across that finish line SO out of it!  I think the elevation and running hard really get’s to me and I was totally out of it.  Could not walk straight nor did I really understand what people were saying to me.  But after popping a squat on the curb for a hot second I got it together and was good to go.  I hit the post race tent for some food, friends, and a WONDERFUL massage!  I also met Dick (pictured below)
Dick was doing interviews with runners post race and has worked with some great runners in the past.  It was awesome chatting with him and I hope to see some neat footage later on. 
After synching up Jeanie, the RD, about getting my stuff that I left all over the course, I had to jet to get back to PHX for the Sole runners dinner party.  I had a really nice drive back into town and made it right on time to dinner with the ladies!  I haven’t seen my girls in a bit so it was so super exciting to get to Kim’s house and catch up with all of them.  They are so happy and positive and just amazing that I can’t get enough time to hang out with these girls.  They are all so interesting, outgoing, smart, athletic, successful, wonderful people that I just love spending time with these peeps.  Very good peeps!  Oh and Lara found me the best surprise ever- a 100 mile sticker that I have been looking for ever since I fnished my first 100 miler!  This was an added surprise for me! 
As we were heading out I got to talking with Mollie and she offered up her BMW Z3 for me to borrow!  I jumped all over that immediately and handed over my rental.  So now that I had hot wheels and it was 9pm it was time to create some fun!  I swooped up my lil Sis and we hit the town!  This was a ton of fun because we were able to meet up with some old friends as well as spend time together and talk and catch up.  It was a very good night- although getting ot sleep at 2:30am after the marathon and full day was nuts, I was feeling great. 
After 2.5 hours of sleepy it was wake up for race number 2 of the weekend.  I was helping out my amazing running friend Mr. Emmet and being a part of the Sole Sports Pace team leading one of the groups.  So it was off to meet up with the girls to get a ride to the start to meet Em, get clothes, get pace sticks, and start the race.  This was a ton of fun, and I was surprisingly awake and ready to party after my little nap. 
I wanted to make it a ton of fun for my pace group so I dressed up and just had a blast talking with the ladies for the 13.1 miles.  It was sunny and beautiful and we were able to see many friends along the course as we went through Scottsdale and Tempe.  It was fun to have a lot of friends out there running it and on bikes helping the RD watch the course and it was like running and catching up with more friends as I went.  A seriously wonderful Sunday morning run! 
After the race our group headed over to 4 peaks for some post race celebration fun!  It was an amazing perfect day so I was more than happy to cruise around looking for a parking spot with the top down soaking up the sunshine.  Post running celebrations are always so awesome because everyone is so relaxed and happy with the post run endorphins flowing it was a good time to catch up with many! 
After 4 peaks it was on to my next goal for the day- more bling!  So I grabbed my sis and we headed to the shop to get some new additions.  I wanted to add more bling to my ear, and then decided to go for it with the surface piercing on my neck.  I am really happy with both and it was so much fun to go with my sister and get everything done.

Overall it was a really amazing weekend back home in AZ with good friends, family, and of course running!  Loved the adventures that this weekend brought me and I am very much looking forward to many more. 
Side bar- after our flight was diverted today due to bad weather I finally made it back to my car with a flat tire!  So to say what a crazy start to a Monday is an understatement.  Thank goodness for smiles even with the craziest of stuff going on.  Everything is all good and happens for a reason right? 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ultras and x-country, so similar and different!

Last weekend at this time I was visiting my family after the 100 mile PR and getting a foot rub from mom as well as the questions of what on earth am I thinking running 100 miles at a time.  Today I am lounging in Starbucks with the feet up on a plush velvet chair feeling totally rested and recovered after my cross country race yesterday morning and relaxed Sunday morning run today.  The contrast between a 100 mile race and a 4 mile race are distinct and in sharp contrast when you compare them on back to back weekends.  So let me begin with my x-country adventure story. 
So the idea started through some emails with the running girls.  I hear about this x-country thing that is going on that our running club Team Red Lizards puts on and will be there.  My wonderful friend Karen asks us all if we want to go out and support it, because she is currently taking a little break from running after an amazing running streak, so we get to talking.  I realize I am not signed up for a race this weekend so what the heck why not jump in and support the team by running in the event.  Well this seemed like a great idea over email.  Sunday morning after a night of dancing out with the girls dressed up like Madonna, the idea was not seeming so hot.  But nonetheless I crawled out of bed with only 4 hours of sleep and headed over to Karen’s house.  Over morning coffee Karen and I were talking and she revealed to me that the message board had been on fire with discussion of what racing spikes to wear for this run.  LOL UMM what?  At this point I realized that this was not my familiar fun happy ultra scene and I was in for a treat. 
We arrived to the race to people warming up all over.  This struck me as hilarious as I realized I have not “warmed up” for a race since high school.  I mean that’s what the first couple miles are for in an ultra right?  So this was all very foreign to me, but I nonetheless headed over to the registration table and signed up officially and received my bib.  Karen and I were just laughing the entire time as I was like OMG what did I get myself into.  Everyone around was looking uber competitive in their split shorts and racing spikes, while I was whishing I had my hand bottle and about 20 more miles to add to this race.  I did see some familiar faces before the race which made it feel more fun and since it was Halloween weekend the costumes helped break up some of the tension.  I declared that I would be a x-country running for Halloween!  After my quick “warm up” it was off to the starting line. 
As the starting gun went off people just flew off the line.  Naturally the first thought to cross my mind was “dear god where is everyone in such a hurry to get to?!?!?”  So I followed along just smiling wondering what I got myself into.  We hit the first hill on grass and my initial thought was, “no ultra running would run up this,” let alone sprint like we were trying to do.  But I followed along and listened to the panting going on around me and thought “wow I hope these people don’t barf on me.”  We hit the first downhill and I was like finally I can open up, as I love rocking the down hills fast.  But as soon as I felt the slippery grass with all the ruts below my feet and realized this was not a carefree downhill and I had to be careful so that I didn’t break something else.  Now I realized what these racing spikes are needed for!!  The warning from my orthopedic doc also flashed in my head “keeping running just stop falling!” so I really tried to stay upright through all the mud and slippery grass for the sake of my shoulder, well and the fact that I was already slow enough, didn’t need a face plant to add to my time out thereJ

It was great to see and hear Karen as I came around the first curve heading into the wooded area of the run.  I was back of the pack, but was getting the loudest cheers out there with lots of cowbell and it just made me smile and laugh and be happy to be able to be out there having this fun, no matter how “slow” I felt and how much the muscles and chest were burning.  Since we did a 2 mile double loop there were lots of opportunities to see Karen and she took some awesome pictures.  On one of my loops I called out to her “wow this hurts!”  It’s not a 100 miler hurt, but a totally different kind of hurt that felt really good to contrast, especially knowing that it would be over in 30 min vs. 22 hours! 
I came through the line just smiling and thinking wow what a blast that was.  Running on grass for 4 miles trying to go “fast” was a great way to kick off my Halloween weekend.  It was a good contrast to my usual ultra running, and really just a bunch of fun out there.  The awards were great with best costume awards going out along with the super fast times.  Although it was a lot different feel than an ultra at the end of the day we are all runners out there and that great running community came through here in the NW.  People were much more relaxed and chill post race, and we had some great laughs.  It was over pretty darn fast and it was a whole new thing to me to head out to a race and finish and still have most of your morning and day still open.  Although I did have the urge to jump out there for 20 or so more miles, I was happy with pushing myself in those 4 and doing something new and different.  Major thanks to Karen for getting me out there to try something new!  I love running all distances and events because in the end we are all runners out there doing our thing having a blast, loving life!