Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Burning Old PR's

What: Five Trails Half Marathon

Where: Leavenworth, KS

When: May 15, 2011

Alrighty folks, I finally did my goal race for this year, and RAWKED IT. I also smashed my previous PR of 2:09 (set in December 2009 at Palm Beach), burned it, and stomped it into the ground. My new personal best is now 1:59:14.

I will rewind all the way back to last Friday to set the stage for this key race. Friday afternoon, DH and I took off for Kansas City, MO, to take part in the Fitness Summit It was a small conference covering topics pertinent to fitness enthusiasts & professionals: nutrition, recovery and of course, training. It lasted into Saturday, and it was such an amazing experience. I learned so much about training smarter, and found physical therapy resources that I hope to incorporate with my mom and her current condition. It was also terrific to meet with people who are just as excited (probably more, actually) about being fit and healthy. It was simply nice to be with those who "get me." Some of you will know what phenomena I am referring to. Whenever fitness enthusiasts (runners included) share tidbits about our training, or sit down to a meal with family/friends/co-workers, it seems that our choices are sometimes maligned. We're seen as "too rigid" and "obsessed" with eating right, and aren't we over-exercising ourselves into a tizzy? By working out a few times a week? It was simply great being able to discuss my fitness interests without getting raised eyebrows and silly judgment calls.

Sorry for the digression, and back to the race. Got up Sunday morning a little before 6AM to get changed, and fuel up with black coffee and sugar, and a cinnamon raisin bagel with natural peanut butter. The java's really important, as it guarantees I don't remain klutzy. We arrived at the race location within 15 minutes (we live very close to the area, so it was a breeze getting to the start/finish).

As for the race itself, it isn't a trail one, as it implies. It is purely road. However, it's backed by the Leavenworth County Historical Society, and the name refers to the five trails pioneers took during the US's westward expansion of the mid to late 1800s. The course is hilly, about 815 ft. in elevation gain. The nastiest part starts around mile 2.5, and lasts for nearly another mile... Though strangely, that didn't get to me today. It was the rolling elevation towards the end that irked me. I used the downhill portions to my advantage and revved up whenever I was on them. However, I've also developed a good running pattern to help me cope with the uphills, and I ran them with gusto, much more than in any other hilly race that I've done.

The race experience went fast. I felt like I had constant momentum. I was also in a giddy mood. I think the positive energy from the Fitness Summit really rubbed off on me. I just kept on yelling out to the race volunteers "Thank you!!" because I truly appreciated them coming out on a chilly (well, it was 48F chilly), overcast Sunday morning to make sure we racers had support. I will have to be a race volunteer one of these days myself, because it was fun being happy & enthused during a race for once!

Other notes: Five Trails is very no-frills. They didn't even have ankle-band timing. Timing was done the old-fashioned way: recording bib numbers as we crossed the finish line! There was probably in all only 400 participants, which was great. It meant less people to contend with on the course. But this race was so together in its organization. It started without a hitch, parking was easy, and the course had more than adequate water/Gatorade stops. Fun, fun, fun.

So I am now a runner who has accomplished her goal of doing a sub-2 hour half. I am incredibly thrilled to see that my somewhat-obsessive training finally paid off! I did it!!!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Inspiring & the Sketchy Sides of Marathons

And both happened at this past Sunday's Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati.

The Great Stuff: Legally Blind Woman Wins Marathon

And the Low-Light: Naked Runner in Flying Pig Marathon Pleads Not Guilty

Racing is a very eclectic world indeed.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lost and Found

Why do some people INSIST on creating a running course that has multiple twists and turns? I got lost while running with the half marathon training group in town this morning. The markings that were supposed to be there weren't there. And, I had to do various right/left/right/left twists and turns on the last part of the stretch. Which is why I got lost for a few minutes, enough to fluster me. I had to finish the rest of my loop at a local track, because I also shortchanged myself 1.35 miles by taking a wrong turn.

So this all made for an incredibly annoying 11 miler this AM. Whatever!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Free State Trail Run 2011 Roundup

Welcome to another boring race recap, after a blogging absence of over a month.

On Saturday April 23rd, I ran the Free State Trail Run Half Marathonin Lawrence, KS. It's home to Clinton State Park, which was the theater* for this race. There were 3 other races going on that day as well: a full, a 40 miler, and a 100K. So unsurprisingly, the event is primarily billed as an ultra. It's also rather low-key, with approximately 300 runners in all participating, and give or take a few dogs.

Because I am such a doofus, I didn't take any pictures at the event, so bear with me. Besides, I'm sure you can paint a (somewhat fuzzy) image in your mind with the (limited) verbiage provided here.

Free State was a "C" goal race for me. The half marathon I SO BADLY want to PR on, and have been training for in the last few months is scheduled for May 15. So being that Free State is less than a month away from my May 15th shindig that's the Five Trails Half,** I figured it would be best to handle it as a training run, not as an all-out event. I know I've been a wuss in treating nearly all of my 2011 races thus far as "non races," but honestly, it's been working for me. I need to conserve my mental reserves for one to three races per year, tops. I hate putting pressure on myself where it's not necessary. I already do a great enough job of that in other areas of my life.

Now, here's the nitty-gritty on Free State 2011:

-The course is... uh, interesting. Quite rocky. This video clip from someone who ran its 40 miler last year nicely illustrates the course's rockiness. Fast forward to the 1:38 mark and you'll see why I don't want to look at another rock for a day or two. My feet were pretty sore yesterday, meh.

-Course notes, part deux - there's constant elevation. Rolling. But it's not bad. The hills aren't really hilly, they're just right. My Garmin calculated a total elevation gain of 998 feet, so it's low-key. And I honestly cannot believe I'm typing that, because if I'd done this race a year or two ago, I would've been like, "You're shitting me, right? A 1000 ft. elevation gain is A LOT!!!!!!!!!!!!! WTH???!!!"

-Final time, as posted by Race Day Timing Solutions, was 3:15:16.

That brings me to another point: I'd set up the not-so-terribly ambitious benchmark of completing 13.1 miles in under 3 hours here. I'd figured that my trail inexperience, mediocre running and challenging course would produce that number. And I technically met my goal! I crossed the 13.1 mark at 2:54. In grand trail race tradition, the course measured out to be more than half marathon distance, heehee. My Garmin picked it up as 14.57 miles, though honestly, I dunno if that's accurate, either. But yes, it was definitely over 13.1. I spoke with fellow Garmin-armed racers and they had recorded distances over 14.5 miles.

Other observations & random thoughts:

-I went into and came out of this race feeling strong. For the last 2 weeks, I've been monitoring my training because I've been posting some pretty great numbers. Thing is, I'm also one of those folks who's skeptical of singling out an excellent training session. For example, the other day, I ran 6 miles, then did a "fast finish" of 4 miles at tempo pace (~8:46 min/mi). And felt good afterward. I looked at the runs I did prior to, and after, that very robust workout and it's been good all across the board. But yesterday was going to provide the final confirmation of, yes, training is coming along the way it should! I compared my average pace on Free State with the other trail races I've done this year. I shaved off 4 minutes and 20 seconds from my first trail race's average pace, which was a 5K.

-A major shout-out is due to the Kansas City Trail Nerds. They have done such a phenomenal job in organizing KC metro area trail races, and yesterday was no exception. Their volunteers are always gracious, the courses at races are well-marked, aid stations are stocked to the gills, and they just have their overall act together. Some race organizers should follow their lead and take logistics lessons from the KC Trail Nerds.

-If you want great post-race chow, volunteer for, or do, an ultra-centric event such as Free State. They have all the stuff runners want after slogging it out for a few hours: hot dogs, lentil stew, fresh fruit, Coke, brats, potato chips, pretzels, Nutella and PB on tortillas, and that carb & electrolyte-replenishing drink of champions.... BEER. :D Oh gawd, the Michelob Light I had post-race yesterday was the best-tasting brewski I had all day, LOL.

Alright, here's one picture from yesterday for the books, courtesy of

The one on the left is me crossing the finish. The question is, am I photobombing the other woman's finish, or is she photobombing mine?

Until the next time!

*I'll use my hubby's Army terminology to help me describe my race experience, heh.
**Despite its name, the Five Trails Half is strictly a road race, not a trail one. BTW, its race director is a cool chick and she is working hard to provide a good experience for this year's participants. That's why I love home-brewed races - there's not a lot of corporate BS, and it's all from the heart.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Ides of March

Alright, so it's not yet March 15 here in my corner of the Midwest, but I'm not blogging tomorrow (and since when do I blog on a regular basis anyway?). So I figured it would be appropriate to post it here.

(And by reading up on the Ides of March, I found out that the Rome Hash House Harriers celebrate it with a run. See, there IS a connection between Julius Caesar's assassination and running somewhere...)

Switching gears, my running has been coming along OK. Well, OK is too understated. I think it's been pretty darned GREAT. I like taking it easy on most days, and saving the hard work and exertion for tempo workouts. It's been working beautifully so far. I was doing Jack Daniels' Red Intermediate Plan for the past 2 months, but switched to half marathon training mode this week. I needed a specific program that will move me closer to my goal time (2 hours). And I got one via Runners World, hehehehe. We'll see how I do on it.

Oh, and last Saturday, I ran part of my goal half marathon's course. Did an easy 5 miler, and I started slow, and ended with a fast finish. Felt FANTASTIC. As much as road running and racing are fun, I think the trails that I've done recently have really flipped a switch in me. As in, I'm feeling more fluid and at ease when I'm running.

On the other hand, that could all very well be due to the fact that I've dropped 5 lbs. Losing flubber helps. :P

Friday, March 4, 2011

Moving Right Along

I thought I had posted it here, but I guess not. Anyway, DH and I found out where we will be headed to next. It is the Land of the Rising Sun... Otherwise known as Japan.

DH got his 3-year assignment about a month ago. We will relocate there by the end of this July. I'm incredibly thrilled, excited, and at the same time, feel bittersweet because I'll be far away from my family. Especially my mom, who is facing a myriad amount of health problems as of this writing. So that's going to be quite hard for me. But I am also looking forward to the challenges that this will bring.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

PsychoWyco Run Toto Run 10-Miler

A few weeks ago, I decided to do the Run Toto Run 10 Mile/20 Mile/50K race that the Kansas City Trail Nerds organize each year in Wyandotte County Park in Kansas City, KS. Frankly, I've been finding it quite hard to stay motivated in my running. Especially on the weekends. Now that I don't have a marathon to train for (I have a half to prep for that's in May, but that's another entirely different story...), I'm just "whatever" when it comes to long runs. So I signed up for the 10 miler since it would keep me accountable. And besides, trail running is fun! It's all about the experience, the camaraderie, and accepting the fact that you'll inevitably fall at some point. But you just gotta "go with the flow."

All the (slightly) nutty folks gearing up for the race:

Weather conditions were incredibly gorgeous on this Saturday morning. Temps started in the 20F range, and quickly warmed up to around 40F. Hardly any wind chill was present, either. That presented a mixed bag, however, because while it was easy to warm up, the sun started melting the snow. Kansas and most of the midwest got quite a bit of snowfall in the last few weeks, and it hasn't gone away yet. So while the snow was packed down, it quickly turned into a skating rink under these conditions.

We're shuffling off to Buffalo...

Around the 3 mile mark, I found fellow runners I could keep easy pace with. Most of us were in the "let's walk this" category, mostly because the paths were slippery, and at some points, were either steep vertical climbs or downhills (and I mean REALLY steep - there was rope tied to a tree somewhere in the last half of the 10 miler). There were parts where I actually hoofed it, and quickly, though.

I don't want to sound callous, but I like passing people in races. Even on a "fun run" like this where time wasn't the goal, I feel good when I do this. And I did this a few times at this race. But there were lots of folks who passed me as well, so it all evens out.

Are we in Narnia? Photo courtesy of Dick Ross, SeeKCRun.

Strangely enough, I found this to be one of the easiest races I've done yet. I don't know if it's because I've become more comfortable with snow running, or because it's liberating NOT to run for a PR or a certain goal time. And I'm not going to minimize the challenges that this race posed. They were significant enough that one of the runners I was with slipped pretty hard, (I helped her get up, and while she may be black and blue later, she was able to run it OK the rest of the way). We had to tread very carefully at certain segments, too. But at the same time, it was so pleasurable to walk in the snow, and take comfort in knowing that crossing the finish line was going to feel like a million bucks.

As for my time, I clocked in at 2:46. In typical fashion, I forgot to turn on my Garmin at the race's start, so I'd covered nearly a mile before I'd realized the goof. Oh well. But I crossed the finish feeling like I'd barely done anything, LOL. Seriously, it's good to end a race not feeling all banged-up and tweaked. And as a matter of fact, I had enough of an appetite to enjoy hot coffee, Nutella sandwiches, lentil and chicken soup, and pretzels. I don't know about you guys, but after a race, I'm all about the salty snacks!

This was my first and last Run Toto Run race, since I won't be staying in Kansas. Who knows, though, maybe one day I'll be nuts enough to do its 50K some time. It was a well-planned and executed trail race, and if you're a Midwesterner endurance-weenie who wants a fun, challenging and friendly running experience, I totally recommend this. I loved every moment of it, even when I was slipping downhill.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Trial by Ice

My first race of 2011 kicked off with another "first" - a trail race! And a bona fide trail race it was. The Psycho Wyco 5K Ice Version was the real deal: no paved trails, lots of loose rocks, sudden elevation drops and climbs. And since the Kansas City area got 7" of snow last Monday, we also had snow and ice to contend with. Sweet.

It took me 46 minutes to complete the course. The fastest runner today clocked in at 20:34 - even at a regular paved race, that would be a very solid time. But in this race's context, that's amazing. The majority of us ran it anywhere from 30:00 to 1 hour, to add a bit more perspective.

Personally, I love that I had to walk or even slide down through certain stretches of the 5K. I think it's the first 5K where I didn't cross the finish line huffing and puffing. :-)

Since I didn't bring my camera with me this morning, here's a good roundup of today's race photos, courtesy of Dick Ross. However, they don't come CLOSE to capturing the fun we had out there, romping in the cold and snow. I am definitely signing up for another trail race as soon as I can!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Post-Christmas 2010 Dispatch

The Great Holiday Season of 2010 left me feeling pretty drained, though it was fun. I spent much of it on the road with my hubby and cat, which provided for some interesting moments. If you can put up with a cat who yowls nearly nonstop from New Jersey to Kansas in a cramped sedan, you've earned bonus points in my book, just saying...

I ate and drank a lot while I was on Christmas break. I tried Slovakian moonshine for the first time, and man, did it nip any potential bronchial issues I may have had, right in the bud! And my running went down the drain the two weeks I was in the northeast. I could blame it on the freak Nor'easter that went down late December in much of New York, New Jersey and New England. (As an aside, it was shocking to see my relatives' homes buried under mounds of snow - we are talking 30 inches - and they live in the Jersey Shore, which always gets rain, but never a shitton of the powdery stuff! Meanwhile, western NJ and eastern PA, the areas that usually get frozen over with snow, barely got 5 inches. Strange.). But honestly, that wasn't the case. I just didn't make the time to run and as a result, it didn't happen. On the bright side, however, I feel much better rested and relaxed. All that lack of activity actually brightened my spirits.

But now that I'm back at the homestead, it was also back to (running) work. I hammered out a brisk 1 mile this afternoon, 8:52 split, followed by an easier-going 1.5 miles. Honestly, however, my lungs were on fire and it felt pretty bad. So I have some catching up to do on the cardio front. But it's a terrific start to a new year. Cheers to everyone, and I wish you a splendid New Year.