Monday, July 28, 2014

PA Grand Canyon Half Marathon Race Report

Week 9 of my marathon training plan called for a half marathon. This also happened to fall on the weekend of my dad's 70th birthday, and I had plans to go home to PA to celebrate. So I searched around for a half marathon and low and behold, found this one, in Wellsboro, PA which is about 90 minutes from my dad's house - basically in our backyard by rural PA standards!

I got out of work a bit early on Friday afternoon so that I could drive the 2.5 hours from Rochester to Wellsboro to pick up my packet (race morning packet pickup was not a thing for this race). Then I drove the 90 minutes to my dad's house (stopping at glorious Sheetz in Mansfield on my way). Basically got home at around 8, took a quick shower, and went to bed because I had a 3 am wakeup call the next morning.

3 am?

3 am??


So the race starts on the rim of the "PA Grand Canyon" which is basically a big gorge. I don't recall ever being up there before (apparently I have been) - it was quite nice. ANYWAYS, there was no parking allowed at the start, so everyone had to park at Wellsboro High School and ride a bus for ~30 minutes to the start. Because I registered late, after they had opened additional slots (I found this out after I emailed about a waiting list because the race was closed) I was obligated to take one of the earlier shuttles that they had added to accommodate extra runners. Basically, all shuttles before 5 am were fair game for me. I had no idea if they were policing this but I did NOT want to show up late, not get on a shuttle, and have gone to all of that trouble to have to turn around and drive home. So I woke up at 3, got dressed, got coffee, and left by 3:30. I got to Wellsboro at about 4:45 (driving time is less when no one is on the back roads!) and got on a school bus.

It was pitch black at 5 am, the bus was driving 3 miles per hour up this long, winding hill.. it felt like we were being driven out into the middle of nowhere to be murdered. The bus dropped us off before 6 am (still dark out), in the middle of the woods, by a row of porta potties with a handful of other runners standing around. One tiny light. It was crazy. I kept thinking "WHAT kind of race is this" - especially since there were no porta potty lines, EVER. I hung around until about 6:30 and then I walked the 5 minute walk up a gravelly hill to the rim where the starting line was.

Luckily I had brought a small sling bag with flip flops and I was wearing a long sleeved shirt (it was 50 degrees out) so I didn't freeze too much, and I was able to check my bag. I wasn't even sure there would be a bag check but I figured I could stick my bag somewhere in the woods and probably no one would bother it (maybe a bear would be interested in the Larabar I had stashed in there).

My Garmin would not locate. I had heard this rumor from other runners and it was true. So I guessed I was going to have to run without knowing my pace - I didn't want to take the chance of my Garmin signal dropping in and out mid run. This was worrisome since I have been gunning for a half-marathon PR for this whole year which would be more of a challenge to do if I couldn't see my pace. I switched my Garmin to inside mode (AKA glorified $400 stopwatch mode) and hoped there were mile markers so that I could at least manually lap my mile splits.

We lined up and started promptly at 7 am. I was in 3rd right from the beginning and 1 woman dropped back after about a mile. It was pretty downhill from the start and I was leap frogging for first with another woman. After about 2 miles, we did a 180 around a cone and she dropped me. That was the rest of the race - me in 2nd. The race was very downhill through mile 7 or so. There were some intermittent uphills but I remember thinking "this is going to be trouble when we have to go back up." I am not a great downhill runner so I am sure I lost some time due to that. I also had one mile in there where I ran an 8:30.. which is basically unacceptable but I am sure I just zoned out and wasn't actively "racing" the downhill which I need to force myself to do. I didn't realize it until I hit lap on my watch and saw it. Most of the race was on dirt roads (do you Rochester city people know what those are?) which are fine but traction was not always awesome. The scenery WAS beautiful though! And the weather was perfect. Mid-50s, cloudy, through the woods, with a bit of rain at the beginning. Exactly my type of weather!

I wear my sunglasses at night on overcast days
At mile 8 we doubled back on the course and I could see just how far behind #1 I was (a lot). I could also see that #3 and #4 were not super far behind me so I started to pick it up. I really hammered miles 9-11 and then I started to die a little, plus by this point the whole race was basically uphill. I knew by mile 10 that I would not get my sub 1:40 (AGAIN) but I was determined to stay in 2nd place. I saw the #3 girl right behind me out of the corner of my eye but managed to hold her off and crossed the line about 10 seconds before her at a dead sprint.

I bet that guy was pissed that I sprinted past him
It was pretty cool being the 2nd place woman. People were congratulating me left and right. Also, I guess I stuck out because I was wearing my sunglasses (just out of habit by this point).

1:42:20, 7:49 min/mile, 21st OA, 3rd F, 2nd F30-34.

Turns out.. they did places according to net time, not gun time, so #3 actually beat me. It's frustrating because I spent the whole race in 2nd, and the whole time before awards thinking I got 2nd, and then when they gave out awards, I got 2nd in my AG, not 1st (they only did overall awards for first place). Kind of a disappointment, especially grouped together with another failed PR attempt. To be fair, the course was wicked; I am not surprised that I did not PR, but I am seriously going to freak out if I can't get a sub-1:40 half-marathon before 2014 ends. I diligently took mile splits and I wore my HR monitor but I feel that the data is essentially useless without the elevation profile.

1st, 2nd, 3rd F 30-34

After the race, I stuck around for my award and a post-race massage, and then I walked (gingerly) down the hill to where the shuttles were picking people up. This is where the race experience started to go south for me. I stood in a line for over an hour to get back on a bus to take me back to my car. I tend to be pretty laid back after races, and I was in no hurry, but an HOUR?! I was sweaty, cold, hungry, alone, and my quads were completely wrecked. I just wanted to sit down (not on the ground) so the hour wait was ridiculous. I have never been so happy to get into a hot car when I finally got back to mine. Made the 90 minute drive home, barely able to keep my eyes open by the end! Took a glorious post-race nap in my disgusting running clothes because I was too tired/lazy to change or shower. Then I went out for pizza with my dad for dinner and did some homework before going to bed at 9 pm, again. Oh, the eventful life of a runner. :)

I can tell how bad the hill were for that race because it's been 2 days and my quads are still toasted. It's good, but ouch!

After that race, I am debating a bit of a schedule change for the rest of my season, but I need to really think about it and try to make smart decisions based on my goals for this year.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Boilermaker 15K Race Report

Back in June, I won an entry into the Boilermaker at the Real Beer 5K. I was 3rd, but the first two women didn't want it. Earlier in the year I had been talking about the Boilermaker with my friend Kerry and her husband Joe - she was doing the 5K and he was doing the 15K - but it was sold out. I managed to nab this entry with the thought of being able to race with them! Kerry is one of my closest friends from home but since I don't go home that often, I don't get to see her as much as I'd like. So this was a perfect opportunity, plus, Joe has family that lives in Rome, NY which is basically the town over from Utica, which is where the Boilermaker is held. Perfect. A place to stay! Joe was nice enough to pick up my packet for me during the day.

After my 16 mile long run in the heat on Saturday, I spent the afternoon attempting to recover with my compression socks on, AC blasting, and replenishing fluids. I left at 5:30 to make the 2 hour drive to Rome to meet Kerry there. It was fun to meet some of Joe's family and to hang out a bit before we headed down to the basement where we were sleeping. I did not get much sleep.. I was feeling uncomfortable and I couldn't put a finger on why. When I "woke up" at 5 am, I knew something was amiss. I had definite UTI symptoms (if you're a woman who has had one before, you just KNOW). There wasn't much I could do about it as it was 5 am on race morning so I got dressed and opted to drive myself to the start (so that if I still didn't feel good after the race, I could leave and not have to ruin everyone else's fun). We dropped Kerry and Joe's mom off at the 5K start and then Joe, his dad, and me proceeded to the 15K start.

Joe's dad and Joe before the race

me before the race
I ended up completely losing both Joe and his dad in the porta potty lines. I came out and neither of them were anywhere to be found. Apparently Joe experienced the same thing.. said he felt like he was in the twilight zone. After trying to find them for 10 minutes, I gave up and peed again and then went into my corral. I talked to the people standing around me which was fun, and then eventually the race started. I had briefly thought that I might *try* to PR this 15K (since the only 15K I have ever run is Spring Forward Distance Run in Mendon Ponds Park which is both early in the year and quite hilly), but after about 15 seconds of running, I KNEW it was not going to happen. So I settled for Plan B - enjoy myself and try to execute my workout that was on my training plan - 8 miles (ok, 9) at marathon pace which is 8:09 for me.

It was a struggle of a race. It was extremely muggy out, I was uncomfortable from the UTI, and my legs were DEAD from the 16 miler the day before. But I persevered.

Finished in 1:16:33, 8:13 min/mile, 63rd in my AG (F30-34), 342nd female. My Garmin had the course a little long (of course, lots of people to weave around) and subsequently had my pace to be 8:09 min/mile. So this will be something to plan for in the actual marathon.. need to run faster than the Garmin is saying, or manually lap my splits to match the splits on the course. I could do this with my regular Timex watch or I could turn off autolap on my Garmin. Not sure what I will do yet.

The afterparty was RIDICULOUS. I am not really an outdoor festival type of girl, so it really wasn't my "thing" but I was definitely impressed. I didn't drink a beer because of how yucky I felt. I basically found Kerry and her mother-in-law, and then we wandered a bit to wait for everyone else to finish.

Kerry and I are reunited
me, Kerry, and Joe after the race
me, Kerry, Joe, Joe's mom Andrea
After the race I hung around for a little but eventually wanted to hit the road because a) it was starting to sprinkle and b) I wanted to go to Urgent Care to take care of my "issue." Fun. I'm not sure how long they stayed after I left but hopefully in the future I can go back and enjoy myself a little more! Definitely a fun experience!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Marathon Training Week 8

Summary of Weekly Miles

Monday -3 miles, 26:21, 8:47 min/mile. I got asked out by a guy driving his truck down the road during this run. He told me I was cute, asked me if I was married (no), and then asked if I wanted to go on a date. I told him to keep driving. It's flattering, but, no thanks.

Tuesday - 8 miles, 1:13:44, 9:13 min/mile. I did this at 5 am because I had to go to RIT after work to finish up homework that I didn't do Boilermaker weekend. It also poured so I got soaked, but it's good to know that I *can* get up this early and run if I absolutely have to.

Wednesday - 4 miles, 36:09, 9:02 min/mile. Can't remember this run (haha).

Thursday - 4.62 miles, 40:00, 8:39 min/mile, HR 146. tempo run that I did before work. I overslept so instead of driving to the canal path to do it, I just ran back and forth the length of my street (Melville) because it's quiet and there is basically no traffic that early anyways. Not as fast as I wanted (tempo miles were 8:02 and 8:00). Tempo runs have never been my strength.

Friday - off

Saturday - 8 miles, 1:10:29, 8:48 min/mile, HR 151. Seriously, I can't remember this run. I know I did it because my Garmin says so. I know I went to the barn to see Cherry on Saturday. I can't remember running. This is getting ridiculous.

Sunday - 17 miles, 2:30:25, 8:50 min/mile, HR 155. I didn't get a whole lot of sleep the night before this run, and it was kind of dreary out, but I headed out to Mendon Ponds Park in the morning (because I needed a change of scenery). I did NOT feel very good.. which is odd because I felt great the day before. I still had lingering symptoms from my Boilermaker UTI fiasco and had been to the doctor again later in the week to try to figure out WHAT was going on with me. I was planning on running the Spring Forward 15K loop twice because I like training on that loop. Once I started running, I knew that would be a bad idea. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to do the whole run because I felt so bad, and I didn't want to be stuck 5 miles away from my car in the middle of nowhere. I decided to run the 5 mile park loop instead (park at the Beach and then run Douglas-Pond-Clover-Canfield-Douglas) and see how that went. After 1 loop I was in quite a bit of discomfort which was frustrating because my legs felt FINE, so I ran back to my car to text my brother happy birthday (it was Grant's 29th birthday), send a complaining text message to John, and then quit. I thought I would see if I could salvage the run later.. try to go home and drink a bunch of water or something and see if that helped. I had to meet Trisha at RIT at 1 so I didn't have tons of time in the morning to be fiddling around with this long run indecisiveness. I decided to go to the bathroom before I left where I then.. passed a freakin' kidney stone which I didn't even realize I had!!! (I have had them before so I immediately figure it out). So yeah.. apparently that had been the problem for the past week - it must have been mild/small enough to not really bother me much on a day-to-day basis until it had almost worked itself out. (Seriously, sorry for the grossness everyone). I then went and ran 2 more laps of that stupid Mendon loop and added 2 miles at the end for a total of 17 miles! The long run ended up going really well, and I'm glad that I have solved my problem, AND now Mary thinks I am a total BA for passing a kidney stone mid-run and then finishing the run!

Week 8 Mileage: 44.62
Total Training Cycle Mileage: 279.91


This was a stressful week school-wise but I got everything done (homework, quiz, class attended, doctors appointment, and all runs completed). It was definitely nice to be in Rochester for the weekend. I will be happy when July is over and my traveling is reduced! Although I may have more trips coming up than I had originally planned for.. oh boy! As long as I can run and take my laptop, I will survive! :)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Marathon Training Week 7

Summary of Weekly Miles

Monday -3 miles, 26:55, 8:58 min/mile. I basically had Monday off (was working nights this week, Mon 9 pm - Fri 7:30 am) so I went to RIT to finish up my midterm and then did an easy run in the afternoon before a quick pre-work nap.

Tuesday - 4 miles, 36:04, 9:01 min/mile. The first overnight shift is always the worse because I go in on basically no sleep and am just in survival mode all night. I slept ok during the day but felt AWFUL when I woke up. Tuesday was supposed to be my longish mid-week run but I switched it to Wednesday because I felt like such ass. I survived the 4 and not-shockingly felt much better afterwards!

Wednesday - 8 miles, 1:13:32, 9:11 min/mile. Felt much better on Wednesday so this run went pretty well!

Thursday - 6.5 miles, 1:01:29, 9:27 min/mile. Ran to Bay Park West, did 5 hill repeats, ran home. Didn't feel awesome but I did them!

Friday - off

Saturday - 16 miles, 2:24:01, 9:00 min/mile, HR 159. Did my long run on Saturday because I was running the Boilermaker on Sunday. I had a lot of trouble getting up Saturday morning. I was up semi-late (for me) on Friday night and then I was exhausted from the overnights.. it's hard flip flopping from days to nights to days all in a 4 day period. I woke up at 9:30 or so, got around, and headed out at about 10:30. It was ok temperature-wise when I left but then it got HOT and I was baking by mile 10. I stopped at a Starbucks and 2 DDs to refill my handheld which I mostly just dumped on myself to try to cool off a bit. Was really regretting choosing to run in the noon-time heat at mile 12 but I really didn't have much of an alternative. I survived and somehow.. I ran a 9 min pace. Wasn't trying to do this really - just happened! HR was a bit high so perhaps I should have made an effort to go easier. When I got home I changed into my bikini bottoms, went into the backyard and hosed myself down from head to toe! Recovery that day wasn't great. I wasn't feeling awesome so I sat inside with the AC blasting, chugged Gatorade, and fine tuned my midterm before heading to my my friend's family's house in Rome, NY at 5:30 for the Boilermaker.

Sunday - 9.43 miles (according to Garmin), 1:16:33, 8:07 min/mile, HR 166. BOILERMAKER. Race report to follow. Essentially I did this at marathon place (that was my plan B after I realized that *actually* racing was not feasible following that long run on Saturday).

Week 6 Mileage: 46.93
Total Training Cycle Mileage: 235.29


This week went fairly well considering the night shift. I didn't really do ANYTHING other than work, sleep, run, and eat. I didn't touch my midterm at all during the week (or any other schoolwork til Friday night). I managed ok but if I had *had* to do homework, I'm not sure where I would have fit it in. Luckily I only do these night shift weeks about 2x per year. They are lonely and I don't like them. I dehydrated myself on Saturday doing that run in the mid-day heat, and I'm sure I hadn't done a good job at preparing myself in the days prior to the run. Consequently, I woke up Sunday morning pre-Boilermaker with UTI symptoms. Apparently, you can get a UTI from being excessively dehydrated. Which is awful. I raced anyways, felt uncomfortable, and stopped at an Urgent Care on my way home on Sunday to get antibiotics. More on this in the race report. It was pretty stupid of me to do (mostly just not being more careful with water intake). Hopefully lesson learned! On the plus side, I think this might be the most miles I have EVER run in a week and I feel pretty good! :)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

looking ahead

This is somewhat off the norm of this blog, but I feel like it almost goes hand in hand with my (personal) success in running lately. I don't think I have ever felt as good about my running as I do currently. I feel incredibly motivated, strong, and healthy. I have legitimate goals for once, ones that are a bit of a stretch, but I am working hard so that I can pursue them.

Every day that I run, I feel better. It gets easier to run when I am tired, sore, or don't feel great. I find that the more I run, the less tired and sore my legs are, and the easier it is to get myself out the door even when I don't feel very enthusiastic about it. I have been a runner since 7th grade but my commitment level has waxed and waned throughout the years. It was at an all time low last year but I managed to get through the Wineglass Marathon and PR no less.

And then I met a guy who also ran. He ran a lot more than I did, all winter long, while I struggled with motivation and felt lazy. I was happy to do other things outside, mostly hike and ski, but running through the ice and snow wasn't appealing, so I was running maybe 2 or 3 times per week. Frankly I didn't even really care because I was so happy (which was very uncharted territory for me). I had never been so happy, even though other aspects of my life were falling apart.

And then we broke up. My happiness was completely shattered and I felt unbelievably lost. I had a giant hole to fill, both in free time and just trying to not be sad all the time. I picked a marathon, registered, and started taking myself and my running seriously again. It took a while; I would say it took about 6 weeks to feel like I was really training and noticing improvements. It took significantly longer than that to get rid of the massive amounts of bitterness and hurt that I felt over the breakup.

It took me a lot of time to go from 13 miles per week (or whatever pathetic amount I was running) to 40 miles per week, and it will take even longer to be at 50 or 60. That is totally acceptable to me and I expect it to take time (although sometimes I don't expect it to take QUITE as long as it does) but heaven forbid it take time to move on from someone that I cared deeply about. The fundamental concept for change is that you have to do something over and over again to form a new habit. You have to run consistently in order to improve. You have to choose to be happy every day rather than wallow in your sadness. And let me tell you, I did a LOT of wallowing. But then I got incredibly tired of wallowing, especially over something that I had no control over. It's a hard process but eventually I had to move past the denial that my relationship was over and face the fact that I had to get over it.

As much as I sometimes wished that I could just erase the whole experience from my brain a la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I'm glad that I can't. It was a learning experience in "wow this really sucks and I don't think it's ever going to go away" and then it slowly faded and things got better and better. Sometimes I still feel some sadness or regret but mostly I am looking forward. It will always be a reminder of my own resilience as I strive towards that goal of 100% happiness. I don't think that is attainable but I am trying to get as close as possible without compromising myself as a person.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Marathon Training Week 6

Summary of Weekly Miles

Monday -3 miles, 28:23, 9:28 min/mile. Somehow I did not get out of bed before work for this run, so I ended up doing it late at night (at 9:30 pm) after I had worked and then met Trisha at RIT to do homework. It was blazing hot out even that late at night but it was kind of fun.

Tuesday - 3 miles, 27:47, 9:16 min/mile. Ran in the morning. Miles are starting to blur together at this point.

Wednesday - 7 miles, 1:03:54, 9:07 min/mile. Ran after work with Richard. He took us on a fun route around Bay Park West. It was pretty hot out but having company made the miles fly by with no problem!

Thursday - 5.61 miles, 43:22, 7:43 min/mile. This was a 5x800 workout. I did 800s with 400 m recovery in between, plus a 1 mile warmup and (almost) 1 mile cooldown. 800s as follows: 3:29, 3:27, 3:32, 3:27, 3:28. Quite happy with this as they went better than last time. I also figured out how to display the current lap time on my watch so that I didn't have to totally wing it. 800s went fine but I had some stomach problems during cool down which had me sprinting into Brighton HS to use the bathroom.. yup.

Friday - off (and off work - happy 4th!)

Saturday - 10 miles, 1:35:24, 9:32 min/mile, HR 144. I did this run with John from his parents' house on Seneca Lake. I went down there on Friday after spending the morning in the lab at RIT working on my midterm. The plan was to do 4th of July things on Friday, run Saturday morning, and then I would head back to Rochester to continue working on my midterm. Turns out, I REALLY needed a break from work/school/life and I ended up staying there through Sunday because there was room for me and I was having a great time which included: a jet ski, a motorcycle, a boat, lighting fireworks, too much wine, Tastykakes, actually enjoying the company of a child (I know, this is massively shocking), seeing Greg and Amanda before they left for Texas, s'mores, etc.

Sunday - 7 miles, 1:00:26, 8:38 min/mile, HR 155. After playing hard over the weekend, I went straight to RIT on Sunday to work on my midterm, then went home and relaxed for a bit before running. I wasn't sure how this would go because I was pretty tired and it was hot out, and it was supposed to be at marathon pace which is 8:09 for me. I didn't quite make it there but this is considerably faster than my normal run pace. Something to work on.. and I think I need to be doing these someplace where I am not constantly stopping to cross roads (I did the Merchants-Winton-Monroe-Culver loop where there are a lot of main roads that I have to cross).

Week 6 Mileage: 35.61
Total Training Cycle Mileage: 188.36

Moral of the story is: this was a tough week with scheduling because I was out of town last weekend and got behind on homework. But I made it through, and it's nice to know that I have friends who notice when I am semi-drowning in my own life and help me out. I didn't realize how badly I needed a "vacation" until I was lounging on a boat in the middle of Seneca Lake and did not want to ever go back. I got all of my miles in, my midterm is mostly complete, I actually got to celebrate the 4th of July like a normal person (usually I am doing some horrible training day), and now I am working overnights this week.