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