Monday, September 5, 2011

Best Day Ever!

This summer has flown by. I have been to the desert, the cool rain of Washington, on my bike, AND in the WATER.

I have missed the water.  I have missed swimming, and decided in May that I would endeavor on a swim event to get back into it.  This 4 mile swim event, well it is not just an "event" it was a journey, an adventure, and such a gift.  The best way to share is with a video of one of our training days (I am the one in the blue swim cap) and a video of the swim (my first attempt at making a video). 

On Friday, what would have been Colin Holst's 8th birthday, I swam 4 miles in Lake Austin from the Pennebaker (360) bridge to Hula Hut.  It was incredible!  We were painted with our generous donor logos on Thursday evening (thank you: Drymax and NOW Foods), and painted with the Got2Swim logo (I got a bonus Dory on my back)...such a cool way to represent.  I am honored to be part of representing water safety and drowning prevention programs and will take all I learned and share with as many as will listen!

So much more to share on the summer, which I will with pics, but these two videos are the best way to summarize the "Best Day Ever."



video

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thank You

Dear Western States 2011,

I have spent the past few days reflecting on the gifts, memories, lessons, and experiences of this past weekend and what crosses my mind the most is just how thankful I am.

It all starts with an incredible trail.  I feel so fortunate to know and love all the miles of beauty.  While I didn't get to enjoy every step of the trail, I got to see the miles through someone else's eyes and see the trail at different times of the day.  I am forever grateful for my runs on the trail with Dana Gard, and learning every special detail that comes to mean so much when you are out there counting down the minutes to the next aid station.  As he said to me on Friday, while we were remembering my first runs on the trail, it just takes a few runs with someone who knows the trail and open eyes and ears to fully absorb.  I was a sponge on those runs, and will forever remember every detail. It is in those details I fully appreciate just how special this trail is.  But, on Saturday it was even better!  I caught myself looking around as we were running, just in awe of the incredible sights.  I would look down at the river, and have to stop myself from telling Aliza to look, as I didn't want her to fall.  No Hands Bridge is everything I love it to be, even when you are rushing across it.  Thank you WS trail for never disappointing in all of your glory!

It happens because of an amazing husband.  I love that Paul embraced the idea of being out on the Western States trail, and that we could coordinate to be there for both of our runners.  We got the best of all worlds: some time to ourselves to run and enjoy time together, and time to be with and help friends!  What an awesome way to spend the weekend and I am so thrilled that he is such a part of this world with me.  So lucky!

The appreciation is rounded out with a day with friends.  Getting to catch up with old friends, making new friends, and sharing a singular passion and focus to be there for people you care about in the most incredible place.

And, in the end, it is all possible because of the strength, fortitude, and desire of a runner!   Our stories and memories on the trail will not soon be forgotten, but it wouldn't be a true thank you without detailing some of the time we shared:
- for letting me push her to drink and eat to get back on track. 
- for knowing how to manage her ability and pushing through pain, even when an easier option sounded more appealing

- for going against her personality to "make everyone happy" and remember that Saturday was HER day!  I know this was a tough one for her, but in the end doing what was best for her race was the reason we were all there to support her!
- And, for trusting me...even with things she hadn't touched in over 10 years!
- And, mostly, because she is just so damn tough!  Two of my favorite stories to ilustrate this point:
M: "time to take an electrolyte"
A: "ok"
a few sec later
M: "did you just spit out your pill?"
A:"I can't swallow them anymore so I have been chewing on them and spitting out the empty capsule."
This continues for every 20-30 min from approx. mile 65-98 (I had her take more electrolytes for the final push up from No Hands).

For the final approx 2-3 miles of the race she was incredibly light headed and her heart rate was up.  Unfortunately, for fear of how close someone might be gaining from behind it was time to put her head down and run up the climb no matter what.  She gave everything she didn't have left in those miles, but didn't get passed!  After finishing, it was time to put the pieces back together.  As we thought she was in the med tent getting an IV, Paul and I walk over to see that they have turned her into a pin cushion.  It was a scene.  The final straw for me was when "med" folk #3 was digging a needle around in her hand saying, "her vein keeps moving on me."  Seriously?!?

Aliza with her new friend
As we had been running earlier I had told her the story of our friend, Stephan, and his adventures of drinking IV fluid so he wouldn't get pulled during an Ironman (kids don't try this at home).  I kind of politely asked the woman digging around in Aliza's hand to take the needle out, and looked over at Aliza and asked if she could do it.  She knew what I meant, and I asked the med folk if they would pour IV solution into a cup for her.  Before she even questioned it, she started drinking it down.  From there, we started breaking electrolyte pills into water (warm water thanks to Paul in effort to get her warm), and she drank that down, too.  In a matter of 10 minutes her color was coming back and she was up and headed to the hotel for a shower. 

I got to be witness to what is so deep in the heart of a true champion.  She holds such grit and determination, but this is in addition to such a genuine heart of gold and a great great soul. 

Western States - maybe 48 hours in complete duration, although I know for many it is an everyday to make it what it is, but always a memory that you can store for an entire year.  Thank you so much for filling my memory bank for another year!  Can't wait to see you again!!

 mer

Monday, April 18, 2011

Trailrunning Family

Let me start by saying that Paul is a much better runner than he is a race report writer.  I can't capture exactly what his race was to him, but I can paint a picture of just how tough he is.

Rewind a few weeks...unless you are living under a rock in the Ultrarunning world, you know that Lake Sonoma was unfortunately cancelled due to weather.  John and Lisa made the call early enough so that we could cancel all of our reservations.  As Paul laughed about later, this cancellation opened the flood gates to me adding in a few extra races.  Take one out, add three more :)  But, for Paul, he was wanted to run his first 50-miler.  He didn't want to wait until the end of the month, and after all of his marathon pacing he didn't want to run another "marathon" as part of the 50, thus eliminating AR50.  So, we decided to stay local and he got excited to race Hells Hills 50-miler.

Hells Hills is a great race in Smithville.  It has kept the low-key feel of early ultras, while growing and still having all of Joe's first class pieces.  I love the race more than anything because it is one of my favorites to volunteer at.  The trails are on a closed ranch, so it is safe and night running by yourself is not daunting.  Two years ago Jason and I started running at 2AM and then hooked in with the racers at 5.  Last year I used it as a good night run for WS, and spent the night in the woods hanging glowsticks.  This year since I didn't need to be out until the middle of the night, I waited for the sun to set and Flyer and I set off to hang glowsticks.  It was a beautiful night, and just so enjoyable.

After we finished, before midnight, we tucked into the car for sherpa duty the next day.  I woke up with Paul around 4ish and sent him on his way.  Spirits were good, and he had folks to run with.  Our friend, Steven Moore, was running and would hopefully set the pace of experience for Paul. 

Loop 1 - The guys came in about 6 strong, all within a minute.  They looked good and sweaty.  It was not hot outside, but the humidity might take a toll later.  Paul and I had a quick transition and he was off...smiling and with ease.

Loop 2 - Paul comes in from loop 2 and asks how far back he is.  Oops...I never saw another guy, hmmm.  complete failure on the sherpa duty.  I yell some encouragements to Paul, and folks laugh about how strong he looks and that he probably could follow my encouragement to "pick it up."  Steven comes in about 10 minutes later with cramps in his legs.  I hand him a handful of electrolytes that he tries to pick through, but I insist that he take them all.  He gets enough in to rally the third loop and finish strong. 

When Sandi, his wife, comes in from the 25K she tells me that Paul was about 9 min down on the 1st place guy.  I tell her about my not seeing the guy, and not being able to give Paul any info.  We chat and watch racers come in.

The first guy comes in 6:59 and change.  He says that he has been running scared thinking Paul would catch him.  Paul comes in 7:02 and change like he had taken a jog through the park...wow, did he make it look easy!  The only downfall of the day was that he set his feet on FIRE, and Asa (Liza's son) had to extinguish the fire.  See her blog for the fireman reference :) 

It was an awesome day with friends, catching up, and watching Paul make it look easy.  Oh, I guess I should rewind just a little bit more to the 130+ bike ride he did the Saturday before...nice taper, huh?

Last weekend...as if the 50-miler wasn't enough to warrant rest Paul rode 90 mi on Saturday and was going to "run" the Loop 30K trail race.  I am thinking that he will be tired and take it a little easy...I thought I was the race/mileage junkie of the family?  Not so much.  He follows his 50-miler with a win at the 30K.  There was a funny incident of odors and claims of Paul in the woods, but I will leave that story to be told in person.  It would lose it's effect on paper :) 

With all of Paul's trail racing, I was thinking of retiring to solely road running...just to be different in the family.  Just kidding.  Although, I have been enjoying my running crew and they have been dishing out a good beating to me regularly!  It keeps my schedule on target, and keeps me very honest with running hard, vs. slower than I am capable of.  I am so appreciative of them for the early morning company!!

This past weekend I headed out to Hogs Hunt 50K.  It was going to be a good training run for Quicksilver.  I have had two big weeks leading up, so it was going to be easy to keep things at a training pace.  I will start off by saying it was definitely not my finest, but nonetheless I held things together and ran decent.  Here is the quick breakdown:

A couple of things (aka excuses):
- I slept 30 min Friday night
- with the above just felt sleepy and that weird "I haven't slept nausea feeling"
- am NIGHTBLIND...running fast in the dark on trails is HARD!
- don't take your glasses off mid-race. It takes your eyes too long to adjust...again not a great idea on trails.
- don't chase a girl that passes you when she has never run a 50K. Experience is useful in this sport.

I did not run a smart race. I took off and was out of breath trying to focus in the dark, and find my pace. I was happy to hit the jeep road, but didn't settle down. After the first aid station, things didn't improve when I saw a girl not far behind. I just kept pushing the pace. (Larry - I don't know what the heck y'all were running on the jeep road, but my geek-o-meter review ranged from 7:20s-7:46...and y'all were minutes ahead :) )

Fortunately/ unfortunately, the girl caught me about 10 miles into the first loop. She was in from out of town for a wedding, and had never run a 50K. She picks up the pace, and takes off...literally out of sight. In my head I tell myself that she will blow-up, and I should just run my race but it bugs me that she took off and I proceed to pick up the pace and chase, chase, chase...to the end of the first loop. Yup, one loop left to go.

I get my lead back after the first loop, but I feel that she is close. Again, I run hard to the first aid station and see her on the turn-around. She is making me work!! I run strong on the jeep road, but am definitely getting tired. I have gone too hard too early, dumbass...I know better.

Now I just have to hang on. I am in good spirits, but definitely slowing. I just have to hope she is too, but won't know until the finish. And, then, I have to go to the restroom...ugg. I get back on the course and this guy I had passed was right in front of me. I ask if she passed and he says no. I plug away, and a few miles later...back in the woods. At this point, again, I don't know if she passed or not. So I push, and convince myself to push to the finish. I catch back up to the same guy, and, again, I am stll in the lead. I still continue to push. I am ready to be done. I had a solid 5 mile close after 6 miles or so of bathroom/tired legs/stupid early running.

My first loop was 2:08 (25K) and my 2nd was 2:18 (with 2 restroom stops)...not great, but I will take it.

The only plus is that since this was a training run/effort I am not sore at all.  And, even though the above "excuses" are out there...they are not actual excuses as they didn't stop or hinder what my body was able to do on raceday.  They are just thoughts I need to work through for the next race!

It has been amazing to share training and racing with Paul (and Flyer).  I feel so fortunate to be able to share so much with him, trade-off sherpa duties, and enjoy the rewards of work eithic and a healthy lifestyle.  I love that we have 7 years of kisses during and after races, and look forward to many more!!

Huge thanks to Olga for the race photos and wonderful chats at the races these past few weeks (I wish there was a pic of the two of us..).  Thanks to Liza for letting us play with Asa - the fireman, and to all of our trail family (Joe, Joyce, etc) for making this journey so much more fun!!

Hugs!
mer

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

88 Steps

Paul and I headed to Waco this past weekend for a 50K race/training run.  Springtime is in full swing, so I was looking forward to running in warmer weather.

It was a breezy morning, but I was excited to run this race again.  Cameron Park is such a hidden gem in Waco, and RD Tim really goes out of his way to maximize the best of what the trails have to offer.  Last year the trail was under construction, so a few miles of each loop were on the road.  It was still a tough course, but nothing like this year.  As a mountain bike trail, you are either running up or down the whole time.  There are very few sections of running flat for more than about .5 mile.  The highlight of each loop, this year, was a climb called Jacob's Ladder.  Last year we didn't have the bonus treat at the end of the loop.  The "ladder" consists of 88 concrete steps.  They are not just stair steps, but mini climbs for someone with short legs.  There were some other trail bonuses, but I will get there in a moment.

Right before the race started we got an awesome surprsie of Chris!!  She is someone we met at Transrockies this past year from Flagstaff.  She was originally from the Waco/Austin area, so she used the race as an excuse to visit folks.  I was thrilled for her to be there because I knew that she would push me.  I knew she was an incredible runner from her performance at TRR (she and her partner were 3rd or 4th in the open mixed and Aliza had told me how awesome of a runner she was as the week in CO went by), but I had not seen her climbing in action until Saturday.  We take off, and Paul is out of sight in a moment.  We hang together in a group of about 4.  We have moments of not knowing where the course is, but we seem to be finding our way.  We go through the first aid station and then spread out.  We continue on, and at some point I pass mile 4 and 5, keep running and then pass mile 4 and 5 AGAIN!!  UGG!  What have I done?!?  After about 10 minutes I get to the perimeter trail and take it thinking I would just go back to the aid station.  Fortunately on the road I see the RD and he heads me in the right direction, and then proceeds to remark and fix the course.  After I get the next two loops correct I realize I added about 1.5 miles...oh well, this is supposed to be a training run.

I have no idea where I am compared to the others, so I just push on.  As I turn on the road to hook back to the last .5 of the loop I see Cris heading out on her 2nd loop.  She is about a mile ahead of me.  I head up the steps and then around the corner to finish loop one. 

I head out for loop two.  As I am about a mile into loop two I see the RD and he asks if I have any prob with the turn markings.  I said, "all good."  Then a little before mile 2 of the loop someone is standing on the trail and points for me to climb up a bamboo jungle.  I look at him funny and he says that most folks missed this on loop one.  We were one of those groups, hmm.  Sure enough as I start scrambling up the bamboo I see a trail marker.  WOW, crazy route and climb :)  His fixes were great because this loop went much smoother.  I had many less pauses to make sure I was going the right way.  I appreciate him getting on the course and making those during race corrections. 

With the trails the way they were set-up, it was nice to be able to see Chris and a guy in a green shirt ahead of me.  I could tell I was catching up, but didn't know how close I was.  It was when I hit the stairs I saw them both just ahead.  On the way down to the start finish I caught the guy, switched out my bottles, and headed out.

Up the bamboo again, and I saw Chris right ahead of me.  When we got to the top I saw her stop.  I thought she was stretching a cramp, so I asked if she was ok.  She asked me if we were headed correct, and I told her that I had done the bamboo on loop two.  She said that loop 3 was her first time to be sent that way.  We laughed at the fact that we had both messed up the course as one point or another.  Off we went together.  We hit one section that was a long, not steep, uphill.  She slowly pulled away from me.  I kept seeing her, but with the uphills I couldn't stay with her.  UGGG!  I am not a strong uphill runner :(  I was able to stay not far behind, but just couldn't stay with her.  I caught back up to her as she was refilling her camelbak at the last aid station.  I was able to run through, and started one of the last long uphills...of course she caught back up again.  I was able to stay right ahead of her on the flats and downhills, but she would pull away on the uphills.  She was just so smooth on the ups.  She got to the steps about 20 sec ahead of me, and I pushed the road down to the finish but finished behind her in about 5:24. 

Major bonus to have her there because I ran stronger than I would have on my own.  Even with the harder course, 3x88 steps, and bonus mileage I actually finished the same time I did last year so I was pleased and her to thank for it!

Paul, of course, won.  He said that he didn't feel great, but he didn't have anyone to run with or push him and had a huge week of training leading up...this is also two hours longer than his last race :) 

Sunday morning we headed to Bastrop for a soft run.  I am so proud of him for the back to back run as I know he would have rather been on his bike.  I know he will thank me at Sonoma!  I don't know if all of this running is for him, so we might have to find an adventure together that offers a bit more variety.  But, it is such a treat to do this together! 

Pics to come soon!  I know, for sure, there is one of Chris and I. 

Happy Springtime!!
mer

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Picture

This picture is the example of: celebration, courage, trust, selflessness, and memories to last!

Paul wanted Desiree to have her moment, but she pulled him into the moment to share.  They had shared many miles together.  Paul told her to dig in, do this because so many were cheering for her, do this for her mom, and do this for her.  It was not her goal for the day, but the win was still hers.  Paul backed off from the group he was pacing (2:46) as he knew they were in good hands with Scott, and stuck himself to Des.  He blocked the wind, cheered her on, and kept her strong. 

Our friend, JP, sent this pic to my phone and said, "your boy is a stud."  Dang right he is! 

mer


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Running With Elvis

(as edited by Bryon Powell for IRUNFAR) Paul and Ian ran the North Face 50K in December and finished 2/1. Afterward, Ian wrote a great report and was quite kind to Paul. From there, Paul saw the RR was on Ian’s race schedule and sent him a note and said that if we are out there he would love to pace him. The stage was set… in December.


About 3 weeks ago I decided not to race the 50, but go out and do course set-up for the 2 days before the race. Again, we reached out to Ian, but this time offered him the service of pacers for the last two loops, which he graciously accepted.


Thought it would be fun to share a quote on his pre-race plan: “My race number is 6 and I’m planning on running somewhere between 13 and 14 hours, so should hit 60 miles very close to 8 hours into the race (should be easy to pace that bit, it’s just the last 2 laps that’ll be hard). Aim is to stick to 8 min/miles if I feel it’s possible later on, plus there’s now so much competition in the race that it’d be a shame to not try to give those guys a race.”


We also told him we would crew for him at the aid stations. It would be a good way for us to pass the time and get to see the race play out. :)


After I arrived and ran the course on Thursday I sent Ian a note to tell him that the course was in the best condition I had ever seen it and that the weather for Saturday looked to be perfect. We made some final coordinating to meet at packet pick-up, as I hadn’t met him yet, and that was it.


Thursday night/Friday morning… snow in Texas. :) I ran the course again, and aside from very icy bridges the course was still in perfect condition.


I met Ian at packet pick-up, and we talked about what he might need and then just small talk. What a laidback guy. I think we talked less about the race than about random stuff. I went to meet Paul to hang glowsticks on the course for the next morning and told him that Ian was going to have a special day with that calm.


What we didn’t tell him is that Paul had a streak to hold up: He has paced the last 3 race winners at Rocky: Jorge Pacheco, Jamie Donaldson, Greg Crowther. He was also coming off pacing the Olympic Trial hopefuls at Houston last week. He was to pace the 2:39 group, but when all the women slowed he slowed with them to bring them in for the “B” standard. And the last time I paced at Rocky was when Jenn Shelton ran 14:57. No pressure, yet!


The Race
The first time we saw Ian was as he was running in from lap 1 (mile 20). The plan was for us to refill his Camelbak and give him goodies (nibbles as he calls it) from his little bag, which he had left. Oh, and take clothes as he took off layers. Simple enough.


Well, he comes through in second and his Camelbak has frozen. He hands it and a layer to me and says he will the pack later. At this point, he is without a hydration source, which (as someone who specializes in ultra nutrition) I didn’t like. His plan was to have nuun and water in that source. So we go into crew action. I have a tiny bottle (10 oz) that I am going to fill with a nuun and water and give to him at the next aid station: Nature Center (mile 23).


We meet him there, but he graciously doesn’t take the bottle. I figure I will just keep having the bottle and his Camelbak which we thawed. Hopefully, he would take one eventually. We see him next at Park Road (mile 36) and he takes the bottle. He is eating and drinking well, but I am happy that he is now carrying something. Now, I know he will hold strong!!


He comes through the 2nd loop (mile 40) in first and looking smooth and happy. We refill the bottle and get him out. Aid station stops are about 30 seconds, if that. The year I paced Jenn, I also crewed for Anton Krupicka, so we know how to NASCAR crew! Paul and I love this stuff, and Ian was super gracious and happy to have us move him quickly when we could.


We have been waiting for the others to go through the aid stations, but we haven’t been sharing the splits. It just doesn’t seem important or something Ian needs for motivation. He is definitely doing his thing and we are happy to be part of it.


By loop 3 we have our job down, and Ian is just in what seems to be cruise mode. Although his cruise mode is a sight to see, WOW!


We are meeting him at all aid stations we can and just keep the machine on target. Again, he is so on top of his eating and drinking.


As he approaches mile 56 aid station, I notice he still has some layers on. As he goes through, I asked if he wants to take off layers (hat, gloves, long sleeve) just to put the bug in his ear that they need to come off and he says he will in 5 miles start/finish.


As he comes into the start/finish of loop three (mile 60), he has removed the extra layers to toss to me. (We have been drying these layers just in case he needs them later.) He and Paul head out together and he says, “let’s go for 8 minutes per miles.” He doesn’t have a Garmin on, but is so in tune with where he is, how long stretches are between aid stations, and how long each stretch is taking. It is just such a testament to how on top of his nutrition and game he was. Incredible!


Paul said that the loop was awesome. Ian set the pace and they just chatted away. Paul noticed that he was breathing a little harder on the “hills,” but still so strong. I actually waited for the next guys to come through as we had missed them at the last couple of aid stations. I noted that they were 20 minutes behind him. His lead was building. My friend Mike pointed out that they would have to increase their pace 1 minute per mile on the last loop to catch him. WOW!


I had my friend do some quick calculations for me, just in case, to see what we needed to do to maintain the course record at this point. He needed at least a 3 hour loop, even with cushion.


Right before 10 hours into the race we have a Team Terranova hand-off!


Ian and I start down the trail and he tells me that he just wants a 3 hour loop. I say ok, but let’s just kind of relax and see what happens. We don’t take lights so the real goal is to get to Park Road, 4 miles from the finish, during daylight.


Conversation is almost as light as his feet. I tell him stories of folks who have sent well wishes his way on my phone, and talk is light. Let’s be honest, I am not running slow for me!


We see Anton and Hal and we guess that they are about 30 minutes behind. Take note here!! Ian says, “Yhey are about 28 minutes behind.” We are later told that they come in 27 minutes behind. Almost 83 miles in and he is THAT on is game and that clear in his mind!


We get to the aid station and reload him.


I ended up needing to hit the woods and took an alternate route to me back up with Ian. The best part, as it turns out later, is that Ian says that this is actually a great thing for him. He was able to relax and cruise. He ended up about 40 minutes without me. We head back to the aid station and this time it is a bit of a frenzy. Everyone is taking tons of pictures as I fill his bottle and he “nibbles.” (I am getting such a kick out of his description of aid station eating.)


We leave the aid station with about an hour of running left. He is just a few minutes behind his last split, and running so well! It is just awesome to be with him. Such a wonderful person. We get back on the single track and I see what I think is Karl. I ask, “was that Karl.” Ian says, “yes,” and we note that he is about 8 miles behind him. WOW! We start talking about the odds that Karl gave him (13-1) and how he wished that he could have taken that bet.


I remind him that this is the last rooted section, then the jeep road, and last aid station. I tell him we will grab lights there and that my light is ridiculous. We have a great run of it. We run side-by-side on the jeep road and have a good push of it. He asks me how much further until we turn and I tell him, “two bumps.” I refuse to call the stuff out here hills, although I am sure he is thinking the opposite at this point.


He and I talk about the fact that it was hard for him to get going again after the last aid station, so I suggest we just run through the last one without a pause. It’s only 4 or so miles to the finish and he should be fine. I encourage him to take part of a gel as we head into the aid station, so he can dump the rest as we go through. He, again, is just so on it and ready to take the gel. AWESOME!


We cross the road, Paul hands me both of our lights, and off we go with maybe a 2 second pause. I hand him his headlamp and put mine on my head. I don’t realize that he is holding his, but at the point when he is about to put his on I hear a clammer and then the most awesome tuck and roll. CRAP! Before I can blink he is up and running, and I find him the best running ground on the right side of the trail.


Oh, side note, he is still running every tangent possible on every turn. Definitely the road runner in him, and when I applaud it he says, “why would I run any extra.”


Back to the tuck and roll…he is up and we are back in action. There is little to no pause in our forward momentum. As we turn back onto the singletrack our lights go on. It takes me a moment, but at the perfect angle I can totally light the trail for him from behind. Yes, my light is that bright. (I am night blind, so I need it…and yeah, forgot to get my glasses.) The goal is to not fall and get past the two rooty inclines. They are short, but not worth the tripping. From there, it is about a mile of smooth sailing to the finish.


I keep telling him what an honor and pleasure it has been to help him and his days of running under the radar are officially over. He picks it up and we sprint it in. 12:44!!


Could not have happened to a more talented (6:01 at Comrades!! and the world record for marathon in costume) guy. He has wheels and a fantastic attitude!

Paul and I loved being part of it!
mer

Friday, January 21, 2011

Bad Weather and Being Uncomfortable

"I'd like to see you challenge yourself from the beginning."  I was further instructed to tap into my uncomfortable zone early, latch onto folks, but not run like a bat out of hell.  What a loaded list to work with.

I was off to a trail marathon last Sunday to make up for missing Bandera the week before.  It was a perfect setting: loop course, flat terrain, soft running, a chance for a quick visit with the folks, and an easy trip.  The only piece I was missing from Bandera weekend was the fantastic weather, and the rocks...which I never miss anyway :)  Last weekend called for 40s and rain ALL WEEKEND.  That would have been fine if my only run of the weekend was the practice pacing run on Saturday, but I had locked myself into the marathon and asked coach if I could count the weather as my "uncomfortable running?"

Saturday morning Paul and I met up with the Rogue pace teams for a "practice" run.  It seems so simple to run slower than your pace for a marathon, but it actually takes practice.  You are constantl monitoring and making sure you are running slow enough.  I pace the 3:50 group.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE pacing.  It is such a joy to share the time with folks working toward a goal like a marathon, and often a first marathon.  It makes you remember what this feels like all over again.  So here we are in 40s and rainy, trotting along, when our group tells us that their MGP segment ends with about 5 miles to go in the run.  There was no convincing them to run an extra step at MGP.  They had their instructions and they were determined to slow.  It actually worked well for Danny and I because when they hit their spot, we sped up to a more comfortable easy run pace.  We were chatting along, and at one point I looked down and our pace was 6:50...hmm probably not pre-race pace.  So we slowed to a more comfortable 7:20 and continued on.  I will admit that running so easily at this pace, in the nasty weather, gave me an extra boost to my fitness for the next day....I needed it.

Paul had already finished breakfast by time we returned, he is pacing the 2:47 group at Austin, and was ready to shuttle me to my car.  I was happy to have run the 13 as my pre-race warm-up.  Iknew exactly what gear I would need for the next day.

In a last minute decision Paul opted to head to Houston with me.  He figured it would be more fun to hang out with me and the fam then be home in the nasty weather.  I was thankful to have him join me.  It always takes my pre-race edge off.

We arrived to Houston to no rain.  For a brief moment I dreamed that I would be running in dry conditions.  HAHA!  We woke up early Sunday morning and headed out to Brazos Bend in rainy very windy conditions.  The course was a figure 8 loop around 2 little lakes (4 miles) and then a long out-and-back and then repeat.  The race was supposed to be 50K start, then marathon, then 1/2.  Thankfully, due to a rain delay they started the 50K and marathon together.  The 50K just had a bonus loop each loop.  I started in my rain jacket and gloves, knowing that I would see Paul after the 4 mile loop.  We took off and one guy flew off the front.  I ran with the eventual 50K winner and quickly we separated ourselves from the rest of the race.  He would get a couple of paces in front of me, but everytime there was a possible wrong turn he would take it and then catch back up.  Nice guy, though.  I gave my jacket and gloves to Paul and off we went for the out-and-back.  At one point during the out and back, a guy in black passed me. I had settled into a good rhythmn so wasn't ready to hang onto him (I would be thankful for this later).

On the way back, we got to see the entire field of people.  Yes, some were running 3 and 4 together and given the wet it slowed things down, but overall people were so friendly.  It was raining constantly and I felt like a little kid splashing in the puddles.  I got to cheer for Linda, Cheri, Jeff, and Greg which is always a highlight for me!  Austin runners are the best!

As I started the 2nd loop, I felt great.  I was behind black tank guy and was debating on whether he was slowing or steady.  I think I actually backed off a little to let him stay in front of me...or maybe I wasn't thinking that hard about it.  I came through the 4 mile loop ready to go hard for the out-and-back and see what was left in the tank.  I haven't run a marathon in years, so my marathon PR of 3:20 almost feels like it's not real...is there an expiration date on a PR? 

Sunday on the flat trail in the ran felt like my chance to see what I could do. As we started the out-and-back I passed the black tank guy, and then ran like hell.  I looked back a few times but he was out of sight.  The lead guy was about 10 minutes up on me, so I just focused on staying strong.  I couldn't believe how much time I had made up on the guy on my way back.  On the way out I saw Cheri and Jeff.  They became my solid target for the finish...run hard enough to catch them before the finish line.  I hadn't known how far they actually were down the trail, but I was going to push until I caught them.  It ended up being a great goal.  At this point, aside from a few folks heading out and passing folks on the way back I had the trail to myself which made weaving in and out of the puddles for the best line easy.  I was filthy, but there wasn't any mud that was sticking so the course continued to be fast.

As I approached the road crossing with a little less than a mile to go, I caught Jeff and Cheri!!  I also looked at my watch and realized that if I could continue to push I would break 3:15.  My legs were gone, but I continued to push...3:13:39 2nd overall and 1st female!!

I have no idea what this translates to on tapered legs on the road, nor honestly do I care.  I am proud that on a rotten day on a wet trail this is what my body was able to do.  I am thankful that Paul was there to keep me moving and share a good result with me, and that is really all that matters.

But, at least for the next bit, when folks ask what my marathon PR is I can say under 3:13:39.  Right now, it feels like where actually am and when convinced what I can push my body to do.  Thank you to Paul, Ian, and all those who help me believe what I am capable of in a parts of my life!!
mer

Next week of the Houston Marathon!  Paul is pacing the 2:39 group.  He is just so fit, happy, and healthy right now!  It is very exciting to see him like this!!