Friday, April 30, 2021

Amazing April

April 2021 in review!  

Total mileage for the month: 307.1
  • March 29-April 4: 101.6
  • April 5-11:  92.0
  • April 12-18:  72.6
  • April 19-25:  52.5
  • April 26-May 2:  60.2
I take my best professional
race photos in training races

Though this one from mile 21 at
Frisco came out well #runhappy
Races:
  • April 17: Clinton Historic Half Marathon in 1:24:37 for 1st overall female, for a fun training race and $200!
  • April 24:  Frisco Railroad Run 50k in 3:34:41 for first overall person, the open female Missouri state record, the course record, the top female 50k time in North America in 2021 so far, and my ultra debut!
Top right photo - Colin's urgent care bracelet the
day after a dog bit him on our 22 miler
Bottom right photo - Abby gave me a 24 pack of
my favorite discontinued gels - I was SO excited!
Workouts:
  • April 3:  4 mile progressive fast finish on the tail end of a 22 miler in 6:54, 6:34, 6:27, 6:02. This whole run felt great and flew by.  In December 2019, I did a 21 miler with a 3 mile fast finish at the end of a 100 mile week, and I could not hit my paces, so to have them come comfortably on this run when I'd seen 106 on my rolling 7 the day before was a nice confidence boost.  I wasn't aiming to run as fast as I did - I just planned to drop 10-15 seconds/mile from where we were at, so more like 7:10, 6:55, 6:40, 6:25 - but Christian pushed the first mile and then I wanted to keep progressing from there!  I decided I wanted to run the final mile at MGP (6:15), but Colin pushed me to go faster. It's good to have fast friends!
  • April 7:  15 x 1k with 1:00 recoveries in 3:37, 3:38, 3:35, 3:34, 3:40, 3:34, 3:37, 3:38, 3:42, 3:38, 3:44, 3:41, 3:41, 3:37, 3:42 (that's 5:45-6:00 pace, average was 5:52), 14.7 miles total with warm up and cool down.  It's been a long time since I've run a workout PR, and this was one so YAY!  At the end of February I did 12 x 1k and averaged 6:00 on a perfect weather day, so though initially my goal for this workout was to run the same pace or faster, when it was 64 degrees with 18 mph wind on workout morning, I was doubtful.  My stomach was also bothering me a bit and I nearly switched it with the 50k pace work I had scheduled for April 10, but Christian was running 6 x 1k and encouraged me to stick to the 1ks and I'm glad I did!  She ran the first 6 with me and got me out a little hot, then I really wanted to keep it under 6:00 for the remainder and I almost did (the 3:44 one - 6:00 pace exactly - had the most headwind and incline; I fought for it but couldn't quite do it).  I had the workout 12-15 x 1k about 2.5 weeks before I ran the Indy Monumental Marathon, and I stopped at 12 that day and averaged 5:54 pace, so to improve on that workout not only in pace but with more reps and in non-ideal conditions was really, really exciting to me (description of that workout on Oct. 22 here)!  I ran the same course both times, and it was windy both times, so it's very comparable.  Although, I called the 2019 workout mediocre and think this one was fantastic.  I was mad at the marathon for a bit, but after my recent workouts and what I ran at the T-Town Half under not ideal race conditions, I am salivating to run one because I think I could really nail one (i.e., PR) right now.
  • April 10:  18.2 mile long run alternating 1 mile easy/1 mile at 50k pace, on the Frisco trail (which my April 24 50k was on).  Splits were 8:10, 6:47, 7:29, 6:40, 7:21, 6:48, 7:31, 6:33, 7:21, 6:37, 7:29, 6:42, 7:27, 6:42, 7:23, 6:34, 7:37, 6:41, and the run felt great.  My heart rate was between 143-156 on the 50k pace miles, which seemed promising, and I was reminded that the Frisco trail has a lot of long inclines and is kind of a wind tunnel...not really the best characteristics for a race course, but aiming for 6:45 pace on it still seemed much less intimidating than trying to run 26.2 at 6:15 pace!
  • April 13:  6 mile wave tempo alternating 0.5 at marathon pace/0.5 at tempo (3 warm up, 3.1 cool down).  My goal paces were 6:15/5:55 and half mile splits were: 3:05, 2:58, 3:08, 2:52, 3:05, 2:57, 3:08, 2:58, 3:03, 3:00, 3:04, 2:52 (average pace 6:01 for the whole workout), so I was a little under target paces. I felt like I could have run several more miles of the 0.5/0.5, so I allowed myself to speed up on the final bit. It was great to finish this workout, which I consider 6 at 6:01 The Hard Way (uneven pacing), with some left in the tank.  My possible lifetime best workout was 10 miles alternating 4:00 tempo/2:00 marathon pace in 2019 (detailed under Oct. 15 here), and I think I could have matched it on this workout day if I'd have had more miles on tap. This workout was the icing on the cake of for this delicious training block.
  • April 17:  The Clinton Historic Half Marathon was kind of like a mystery workout where I didn't know what pace I was going to need to run until I was doing it!  It ended up being 13.2 at 6:24 average and a pretty negative split.
  • April 20:  Final little workout of 3 miles at 50k pace (6:43, 6:43, 6:38), 0.5 easy, 0.5 hard (2:49) (3 warm up, 3 cool down).  50k pace was much like running-easy-runs-too-fast pace; 5:38 pace felt good to stride out, which is how I know I'm tapered.
  • Strides:  April 6, 9, 12, 16, 23, 30.
  • Doubles:  April 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 29.
  • Strength Training: weekly totals of 3:01, 3:05, 2:00, 1:03, 2:30.
Twinning + photobombers (Elise wore this
shirt a few days later, see photo collage above)
Never a dull moment with this crew
Long Runs:
  • April 3:  22.2 miles (7:28), mostly easy plus a 4 mile fast finish, described above.  I ran a 9 mile loop then a 13 mile loop, so had several friends in and out (Rebecca, Derek, Casey, and Christian), and Colin did the whole 22.  I felt strong and smooth the whole way, and the progressive fast finish came pretty easily (vs. having to fight for it as I have many times in the past).  A dog bit Colin about halfway through this run, although none of us realized how bad it was until afterward, so that was the downside of the day!  We thought perhaps the dog had been mistreated by men, because it ran right past me and Christian and sunk its teeth into Colin's leg (at that point in the run it was just us 3).
  • April 4:  14.3 miles (7:56) that felt fantastic on Easter morning!  Casey and Colin did all 14 and Abby did 12 for another great group with great conversation.
  • April 10:  18.2 miles (7:07), with a workout described above.  Christian and Casey ran the first 14 miles with me, and I'm at the point where 18 feels short.
  • April 11:  12.2 miles (7:57), which wrapped up my back-to-back long runs for the season, which I was sad about because I loved them so!
  • April 17:  16.3 miles (13.2 at 6:24), which was probably both farther and faster than I should have run, but see race recap for rationale.
  • April 24:  31.1 miles at 6:54 pace!  I came through 13.1 in 1:29:19, through 26.2 in 2:58:10, felt good until 27, and then fought to keep moving (7:20-7:45 final 4 miles), but am still proud of this debut on a dirt trail.  Details and links to more details here.
When you run farther you miss the official photo

Running Highlights:
  • I set a new rolling 7-day mileage PR of 106.1 miles from March 27-April 2.  I won't be bettering this record for awhile, but perhaps some day....
  • I learned a lot this season; details here.
  • Taper crazies hit in full effect during the final week before my 50k.  My fun race on April 17 helped me from going nuts that week, even though 72 miles felt pretty light.  During the final week I ended up with a steeper taper than planned, because on April 18 my right TFL (tensor fasciae latae) muscle started bothering me.  Long story short, it felt completely fine during my 50k so I think I made the right call by taking some extra rest before it...either that or the pain was caused by not running enough and the 50k fixed it, bahaha!  More details on this whole thing here.
Really only 11 runs (2 days of splitting up warm
up, race or workout, cool down)
Life Highlights:
  • Jon and Albani gardened a lot; I helped a little.
  • Albani continued her track season, with her favorite event being the 100 m.  I loved going to meets!  She didn't get to run in many meets due to the size of her team though.
  • My parents visited for a long weekend, including my 50k and an extended family BBQ that afternoon.
Each of these 2 just keeps growing!

Nugget helping with plant starters

It snowed on April 20th...

Not amused
Books:
  • Bravey by Alexi Pappas
  • Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
  • Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness
  • The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain
  • Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain
  • Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
  • She Believes: Embracing the Life You Were Created to Live by Debby Lindell
  • The Champion Mindset: An Athlete's Guide to Mental Toughness by Joanna Zeiger
  • Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
Theme for the month:
Fitness and never taking it for granted.  This month I began matching or bettering PR workouts from 2019, which was beyond exciting.  I had a minor TFL issue during my 50k taper, which was a very acute reminder that nothing is guaranteed and if you're not healthy fitness doesn't matter!  I thank God for the reminder, for the progress, and for my health.
This one's a great workout buddy!


Frisco 50k: Zero chafing gear

Consistent with my "marathon plus 5 miles" thinking, I dressed for the 50k just as I would for a marathon.  I ended up with NO chafing, which I found amazing considering that between light rain and sweat, everything I had on was soaked for most of the 31 miles, so I thought these items deserved kudos.  This is what I wore:

Runners Love Yoga Citrus singlet - I also get a lot of compliments on the cuteness of this top.

Oiselle Roga running shorts - The ones I wore are an older version, but I have some newer orange ones that are also awesome.  They have a small pocket with a zipper in the back that's great for a gel or key. I recommend sizing down on these - they run big.

Underarmour Heat Gear sports bra - The ones I have are older models than the one linked, with a slightly different back, but otherwise they are the same.  These are absolute favorite sports bra and I own multiple colors.

CEP compression socks - I love compression socks of all kinds, but CEP are my favorite for long races, with a little thicker padding in the toe area that helps prevent blisters for me.

Nike Vaporfly shoes - These are the first version of Nike's super shoes, and my pair has almost 400 miles on them.  I've read that they don't give much energy return after 100 miles or so (I've even read you can only get two good marathons out of them), but I don't run any faster in them so they seem to still be just fine for me.  The primary benefit I've seen from them is that my legs feel quite a bit less beat up after running long races in them, as compared to if I race in other shoes - and that was why I chose them over my Hoka Cliftons for this race.  My legs felt decidedly less beat up than after a road marathon, but I think the dirt gets that credit since I have raced marathons in these shoes.

I have no affiliation with any of these companies; I was just really impressed by their products!

Frisco 50k: Nutrition lessons

I had really good plans and intentions on my nutrition for this race, but not the best execution!  In hindsight I see this was an area I really lacked in my training.  I trained with the nutrition products that I used on race day nearly every long run, but never in quantities near the amount I aimed to take in on race day, and...spoiler...that was a mistake!

The race had 11 aid stations, approximately every 2.5 miles.  Since I take in 4 gels (about 400 calories) during a marathon, I decided I'd aim for 900-1000 calories in the 50k, to account for the extra 5 miles.  The body will hold enough glycogen to run about 20 miles, so in a marathon you're fueling for the final 10k and in the 50k for the final 11 miles.  There are many experts much more knowledgeable than me on this, so don't take advice from anything I write here and consult a sports nutritionist if you need help with a plan for yourself, but I know what works for me in marathons and tried to extrapolate that to the 50k (actually the end of that sentence describes pretty much my approach to all aspects of this 50k).

I planned to take in 100 calories at each aid station, with the exception of the final one where it would be too late to get any benefit.  I prepared five 8 oz bottles of UCAN for the 5 stations on the way out, then five 8 oz bottles of nuun with a gel taped to each one for the turn around station plus 4 stations on the way back.  I labeled all of the bottles with aid station numbers, and gave my crew very detailed maps and instructions.  Race rules specified that you could take aid from your crew at aid stations only (as opposed to a marathon where you're not supposed to take outside aid).  My crew executed perfectly!  Jon always moved to whatever side of the trail I was on to hand me my bottle at each station.  Me, on the other hand...

I forgot to photograph my bottles when I made
them, but got a quick shot of them on the floor 
of my car on race morning!

Also on the top of my car, hah!

The first 2 bottles went down fine, at miles 2.5 and 5.  I drank each one gradually after picking it up, aiming to finish it just before picking up the next one.  I had small bottles that easily tucked into the band of my shorts or my sports bra when I wasn't drinking from them (I had done this in training many times).  I really didn't want to drink more when I got my third bottle, but I forced it down because I knew I needed to stay on top of my calorie intake.  I decided there was no way I could take bottle 4 though, so I gave it to Andrew who had dropped a gel.  I got through a little of bottle 5 but I was so full!  I thought I could drink UCAN all day without having stomach upset - and I could, my stomach was never upset - but I didn't think about having 32 oz of fluid in my stomach within less than 90 minutes, and I certainly never practiced with anywhere near that much.  I had 1-2 total bottles of UCAN during long runs, so it was pretty ludicrous that I thought I was going to take in 5 bottles within 15 miles of this race, but hindsight is 20/20!

At the turn around when I switched to gels I hoped I would stop feeling like I'd just eaten Thanksgiving dinner, but from the first swallow I was forcing them down.  I didn't drink but a sip of any of the nuun bottles, and in total I got in about 2 gels.  I was dropping bottles and gel wrappers with Jon each time I picked up a new bottle, and he saved everything I dropped so after the race I was able to determine how much I'd taken of the gels I opened.  I hate wasting food so hated dropping gels that weren't empty, but I wanted to switch to caffeinated gels when I got to them towards the end.

In total I got in 500-600 calories.  I never had any stomach or GI upset, but the fullness was just too much.  I ended up starting my period about 12 hours after the race, so I think that probably contributed, but I think my nutrition could stand a lot of improvement!  I should have just mixed the UCAN heavier - putting a serving in 4 oz of water instead of 8 oz - but I didn't think of that until after the race.  UCAN just came out with gels, so I will probably use those in the future for the first part of long races, before switching to typical gels.  I also need to take a higher quantity of nutrition in training to teach my stomach to hold that much while running.

Race morning I ate oatmeal with half a mocha gel in it along with a small glass of water at 3:30 a.m., sipped down 16 oz of water with nuun energy from 4:00-5:00 a.m., and drank 2 scoops of UCAN in 16 oz of water at 5:00 a.m. before the 6:00 a.m. race start.  All of the foods were fine, but the main issue was too much liquid!  Next time I'll do better with that and get in more calories during the race, which will hopefully help with those final 4 miles.  When I've slowed at the end of marathons, it's always been due to pace (I believe that is why 90% of marathon slow-downs happen, but people prefer to blame nutrition), but in this race I think my issue was a combination of nutrition and it being my first time to run this distance.  Next time I'll have the distance in my history and a better nutrition plan in place!  I'm thankful for the chance to learn in a low-key situation like Frisco.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Frisco 50k: Aftermath of the dream

The first several minutes after the race are kind of a blur.  It felt really, really nice to stop running, but my legs didn't feel pounded/beat up like they do after road marathons.  My main feeling was depletion!  My family found me soon after I finished and I went from holding onto Derek to holding onto Jon.  I revived pretty quickly, and I spotted a photo backdrop and was determined that me, Colin, and Andrew needed a photoshoot by it, so Jon and Derek pulled Andrew off the ground and we took some fun photos.

Physically, I've recovered faster from this race than any road marathon I've ever raced.  I hypothesized that my soreness level would be similar to what it is after a marathon afterward - with the trauma from the extra distance being canceled out by the dirt terrain - but I ended up not even getting sore!  I felt like I'd done a hard long run workout, and a lot like I did after running the T-Town Half plus 10 miles after for a 25.7 mile day; a state of fatigue and depletion that I knew would take me several days to come back from, but none of that I-can't-handle-stairs post-marathon stuff.

I think I'm still processing the race and the exciting aftermath, but my biggest take-away so far is that ignorance was bliss!  In my naivety, I thought that running 6-something pace for a 50k seemed reasonable, but it really was more of an undertaking than I thought and apparently not something many people do.  I was aware of the Missouri state record, but I didn't know about the North America ultra rankings list or really what any times meant.  For so long I had this very, very specific marathon goal that I was very, very aware of when running marathons, but this experience was so different.  I kind of didn't know what I was doing or any of the implications of it, and I think that was a really good thing!

I hope to run another 50k, but I still have some scores to settle with the marathon.  My current plan is to run two fall marathons in 2021, then run a 50k on a fast course in spring 2022.  As per usual, after finishing this race, I knew that I could do it again, faster. ;-)  But, wow, am I thankful for the experience and all of the gifts God gave me along the way!  My heart is so full.

Frisco 50k: Back (Miles 15.5 to 31)

The "out" (miles 1 to 15.5) part of the story is here.

I knew that after we turned around for the second half of the race, we were in for a 4.5 mile climb.  No part of it is steep, but it is unrelenting - a loooong incline.  Per Strava the elevation gains were 43 feet in mile 17, 62 feet in mile 18, 69 feet in mile 19, and 62 feet in mile 20.  It was early enough in the race that it felt fine, and our pace slowed slightly but when the splits are considering in combination with those from miles 12-15, we were right where we wanted to be .  Since the course was out and back, after we began our trek back we started passing runners going out, although the first we passed was around our mile 16, therefore he was a mile+ behind us.  Based on past results I'd been suspected that the 3 of us would be significantly out front.


I'd had to pee since early in the race (first noticed around mile 5, I think?), but I made myself wait until after the turn around because I sure wasn't stopping to go twice!  I decided I'd go in the middle of the long incline in order to split it up, so when there was a break in runners coming from the other direction, I stepped to the side of the trail and went around mile 17.5.  Strava tells me I stopped for 14 seconds (I kept my watch running), but it was definitely worth it because I never would have made it 13.5 more miles without going.  All my fast peeing in ditches during training runs finally paid off!

I was then effectively 14+ seconds behind Colin and Andrew, so I started working on reeling them back in.  Andrew had wanted to let up a little on the incline, so I caught back up to him pretty quickly.  I wanted to catch back up to Colin before the next aid station so that my family didn't think I was fading if they saw me behind him.  In hindsight, I shouldn't have worried about that at all, since it was easy enough to just tell them I stopped to pee, but at the time it seemed really rationale.  I was also still under the delusion that I was going to keep all of my miles of the race under 7:00, so I pushed the pace at that point, and that is my one regret during the race.  I ended up with a 6:52 split, so 6:38 run time, up 62 feet of gain, so it was closer to marathon effort and heart rate.  The mile after was similar, marathon effort.  It wasn't necessary and I now wonder if I could have squeezed out another good couple of miles at the end if I hadn't done that.  I also lost Andrew, because he was more intelligent than me in that moment and decided not to push (another reason I regret my pushing is because if I hadn't, Andrew and I could have run together for many more miles than we did, which would have helped us both).

I gained on Colin but couldn't quite pull him back in, though when we passed mile 20 I breathed a sigh of relief that the incline was over and ended up with a 6:34 on the first flat mile.  I also thought, "only 11 miles left!"  I started to wonder if I just wasn't going to catch him, and then started thinking that if I couldn't be the overall victor in the race, it would be nice to say that the only person who beat me was someone I coached.  Just as I was close to catching Colin to regain a pace buddy, he stepped into a porta potty at the mile 21 aid station, and like that I was leading the race.  I'd expected that the 3 of us would separate at some point late in the race, but I didn't expect it to happen like it did or as early as it did. 

Mile 21 aid station

Around this point I was also feeling really confident about cranking it in.  I thought "only 10 miles left" and focused.  I started using my "I'm on fire" mantra.  The marathon started at 7:00 a.m., so I was passing a lot of marathon runners on their way out, and many were very encouraging!  I was fully high on endorphins and ready to nail the thing!  This video is from the mile 23.5 aid station, where my dad thought I was "feeling it" and Jon thought I still felt great (Jon was right).

At each subsequent mile, I told myself, "only 9 miles left", "only 8 miles left", etc.  Around mile 24.5, I passed the half marathon turn around and suddenly found myself in seas of people.  The half started at 7:30 a.m. (90 minutes after us) and somehow I managed to hit their turn around when a lot of people were going out and a lot were coming back.  As you can see from the photo below, the trail is not suited for running more than 2 abreast, so the situation became not ideal real quick.  Whenever I was passing people who were running on the singletrack part of the right side of the trail, there were people coming out on the left side, meaning I had to somehow strategically weave around everyone or jump into the grassy uneven median.  Initially I didn't mind it because passing people gave me a boost, but it got old real quick.

However, I felt really solid and nearly jumped for joy when I saw my marathon split of 2:58:10ish - sub-3:00 marathon accomplished!  I really couldn't believe how great I felt having just run that, and I focused and kept grinding through the seas of half runners.

Then shortly before mile 27, fatigue really hit.  One minute I was ready to crank it down to 6:30 pace, and the next minute I started worrying I was in trouble.  Also refer to the elevation chart again - after the marathon mark we were on a pretty steady incline to the finish.  I knew I was going to finish the thing, but suddenly my negative split plan seemed a little too ambitious.  Once I saw a 7:07 split, I stopped looking at my watch and just focused on getting in as quick as my legs would carry me.  I was also still forcing down some of my last gel, hoping for a caffeine boost.  In marathons when I've struggled at the end it has felt like it was due to pace, but this time it felt like it was due to distance.  The pace never got hard, but around 27 my body was like, "hey, we always stop by now!"  I also lost all of my patience for going through the half marathoners, although I was in for that through the end.

Around 26.5, slightly before I wanted to crawl


This elevation profile is from the half, but it
illustrates the incline that is the final 5 miles well

From 27 to 29, I mostly focused on getting to the final aid station, around mile 29.  I'd given Jon a bottle and chews to hand me there but told him that I most likely wouldn't take them; in fact, it was a better sign if I didn't take those emergency supplies.  I still had half a gel in my hand and had been struggling with getting nutrition down since the turn around, so I really had no need for it, but I tried to rationalize that it was also good I wasn't dying enough to think I needed it. 

I couldn't quite run a straight line but I was smiling

My friends Casey and Christian were at the final aid station along with my family!  This was their first glimpse of the race, and they were phenomenal enthusiastic cheerleaders (video evidence at the end of my dad's video here - also evidence I was having a hard time running in a straight line).  They even yelled at some of the half people to move, "50k coming through!"  They ran up ahead to mile 30 then waited for me, and when I passed Casey said, "maybe you can qualify for something in the 50k now" as a very Casey-esque encouragement, and all I could think of was, "I'm qualifying for death!" so that's what I told her!

The final 2 miles took a lot of willpower to grit through, and I felt like I was running in slow motion and through sand, but I also knew I was going to make it in running.  The closer I got to the finish, the more I heard Sara-specific cheers.  All of my mental tricks and mantras were forgotten - it was just fighting to get in.  I was nearing the parking lot finish and knew I was going to win the thing!

Parking lot finish

I rounded the final corner into the parking lot still weaving through half marathoners and also through people who were walking to the finish food that was at a bike shop a bit down trail.  Due to the congestion, my finish was pretty anticlimactic, although the announcer said, "Here's our first marathoner!", and I somehow had enough energy to yell, "50k!", so he then corrected (it would have been a 2:34 marathon, so I'll consider his mistake a major compliment).  I saw the finishing clock at 2:34, and knew I'd run 3:34, although I didn't know exactly what that meant because I'd mostly been considering average paces vs. total time, but I knew I was well under the overall female state record of 3:59.  My dad's video of the finish is here.

My friend Derek (who is a multiple time ultra finisher!) was in the finish chute and it was all I could do to grab onto him before I fell over.  He was kind enough to hold me up for a couple of minutes, and by the time Jon got to me I saw Andrew on the ground in the chute.  I was disappointed I'd missed him coming in, but quickly found out that he was just 45 seconds behind me, setting a new men's course record and single age Missouri state record.  I then asked about Colin, and Derek said he wasn't in yet.  Andrew was surprised; he had passed Colin while Colin was in the porta potty but unlike me he hadn't seen Colin go in so he didn't know he'd won the race!  Soon after, we saw Colin come through in 3:37, which was faster than the previous men's course record and a single age Missouri state record for him.



My longest run on Strava :-)

The story continues here...

Frisco 50k: Out (Miles 1 to 15.5)

The race was off at 6:01 a.m.!  Andrew, Colin, and I were out front from the gun, although there was a man and a woman with us for a bit as we eased down to pace.  I have run the Frisco Trail multiple times before (including pacing my husband in this marathon in 2011!), so I knew exactly what to expect from the start through mile 13.1, which is mostly just a rails to trails dirt trail that looks the same the entire race after the first bit on a paved part of the trail in town.  Our race simply went out 15.55 miles northwest then turned around and came back south.  The wind was light from the north, which was ideal, and it was around 52 degrees at the start - I'd worried a lot about this race being hot and windy, but it ended up being nice!

We got only 2 photos of us 3 together
somehow, & none were good

Andrew made a playlist for the race, which I give him a lot of props for because it was a last minute request (the day before the race), and served as our mobile DJ through the race.  The 3 of us chatted, enjoyed the music selection, and felt like we could run all day at the 6:45-6:59 pace we set off at.  The trail has a lot of long inclines and declines, and while not steep, they influence pace from mile to mile so I knew we wouldn't be perfectly even on our splits.  I generally do not look at my watch in races because I am most successful racing by feel, but I didn't know what a 50k should feel like so I paid attention to most of my splits in this one.  The effort felt very "go-all-day" pace, and spirits were high in our pack!

I told Colin that his hydration pack made me
think of Robocop

My family was armed with all of my nutrition and with plans to meet me at every aid station except for the turn around (my friend Jeff was working that station and took my bottle out there for me, which allowed my family to stay at the most remote station at mile 13/mile 18 for both times I passed it).  There were 11 aid stations on the course, approximately every 2.5 miles.  Much of the trail runs parallel to a road, so my family was able to drive along the road and stop as needed.  The race rules were that runners could take aid from their crew but only at aid stations (e.g., they couldn't give aid in other locations on the course).  I was happy about this because I didn't think I could take 10 gels [insert barf emoji here], so I had 5 bottles of UCAN lined up for my way out and 5 bottles of nuun with gels taped to them for the trek back (spoiler: I only got about half of this down, but I'm going to do an entire post on nutrition and what I learned).  Seeing Jon and my parents every 2.5 miles throughout the race was a huge blessing, and Jon did amazing at handing me my bottles!

All of our hand-offs were flawless!

At some point early on, when Andrew was messing with his phone that was playing our music, I told him that he should take a video, and I loved how it turned out (view it here)!  We were very optimistic early in the race.  It really just felt like a training run.  Marathon pace is never easy for me - in the early miles of a marathon I'd describe it as brisk but very maintainable - but 50k pace was easy!  We engaged in a lot of fun banter, and I just enjoyed myself.  I also kept thinking how great my TFL felt, and how thankful that made me!

The farther we got out on the course, the rougher it became.  None of it is technical trail, but the initial miles were very smooth crushed limestone and farther out became more like a poorly maintained country dirt road.  Although it barely sprinkled during the race, we'd had a lot of rain the night before so it was also muddier the farther out we got.  I still have no idea how much the trail slowed us down (vs. if the race had been on pavement or even if the smooth limestone spanned the entire race), but it certainly didn't help us.

The other non-winning photo of us 3 running
together - I was caught when pointing back
at Andrew & telling Jon to give him that bottle

The miles flew by, and at mile 11.5 we were at the noticeable decline section, which spanned from there to the turn around.  I expected we'd be a little faster going down it, having run miles 11.5-13.1 before, so wasn't surprised when we dropped some splits in the high-6:30s.  I also expected we would slow coming back up it!  We did another lovely video at 13.1, which was the marathon turn around on the course and which we passed in 1:29:19.  The race also had distances of 8k, half marathon, full marathon, and 50 miles, so we'd passed all of the turn arounds except for the 50 mile.

Before I knew it, we reached our turn around, where we also recorded what ended up being our final self video of the race!  There was an aid station about 50 meters before the turn around, but very little fanfare at the actual turn, aside from that we made for ourselves.  Our time was 1:45:10ish at the turn around, so I told the guys we just needed to run the second half 11 seconds faster.  We all felt like that was easily achievable at that point...

The turn around as displayed on the race's Facebook

The story continues here...

Frisco 50k: What's a race morning without a 2 a.m. wake up?

Leading up to the race, I talked with my pacing buddies Andrew and Colin quite a bit about pace goals.  None of us had any ultra experience (unless you count the 26.6 miles I ran at Bass Pro 2016 due to a course mishap), but we are all logical people, though in hindsight I think some of the logic we used may have been incorrect.  I have noticed that I slow down about 15 seconds/mile when I double the distance, e.g., my 10k pace is about 15 seconds/mile faster than my half pace, and my half pace is 15 seconds/mile faster than my marathon pace.  Based on that it seemed that adding 30 seconds/mile to my marathon pace (estimated at 6:15) was reasonable for 50k pace; I was giving 15 seconds/mile for the additional distance ("only" 5 miles more) and 15 seconds/mile for running on gravel instead of road.  Then after Des Linden set the 50k world best with a pace that was about 20 seconds/mile slower than her marathon pace, I felt confident that aiming to average 6:45 pace was the right thing to do, and Andrew and Colin agreed, though we forgot to consider that she was on the road for both.  I should pause here and give both of the guys a lot of kudos for letting me take the lead on things like this and for trusting me, when I didn't really deserve it!

I prepared for the race exactly like I would for a marathon, as far as decreasing mileage and increasing carbs in the days leading up to the event.  Since the race started 35 minutes from my home, the night before the race was spent in my own bed!  I got everything ready the night before, although based on the rainy forecast I was undecided on what to wear while racing.  I set my alarm for 3:30 a.m. in order to eat breakfast 2.5 hours before the 6:00 a.m. start, but I was wide awake with race excitement a few minutes after 2:00 a.m., and ended up getting out of bed at 2:55 a.m.

When your alarm is set for 3:30 &
you're up by 2:55...must be race day!

I ate a bowl of oatmeal with about half a Final Surge mocha gel in it (I'd taken the other half during my race the week before and I really aspire to not waste food!), elevated my legs, got dressed (initially in my Rabbit crop hop), communicated with my running buddies, looked at the weather (90% rain chance throughout the race), did some hip mobility work, and was ready to roll by the time the rest of my family began waking up.  My parents came to visit for the weekend, so there were 5 of us awake at my house by 4:20 a.m.!  We left the house at 4:50 a.m. to drive to the race.

Race day breakfast

I'd decided that my mantra for the first half of the race would be "Fear is a liar" (inspired by this song), and "I'm on fire" was my line for the second half.  I thought about these while riding to the race, but mostly I just felt really happy for the opportunity.  

When we arrived at the race site about 30 minutes before the gun, it felt weird not to run easy to warm up - even before marathons I do a 10 minute jog.  I walked around, peed a couple of times, did leg swings, and did a few light drills and dynamic stretches.  It had stopped raining, so I looked at the weather again and the rain chances during the race had dropped dramatically (20%)!  I then changed my top to the one I'd actually wanted to wear - I hadn't really wanted to wear a crop top, but had selected that earlier in the morning because it was the least material to get wet.

I received last minute hugs and encouragement from my family (except for Albani, who was trying to sleep in the car and kept "shhh"-ing us all).  It was still pretty dark out as we gathered at the starting line, which was very not crowded up front; apparently no one wants the front positions in a 50k or 50 mile start!  Since we were planning to start at around 7:00 pace, it all seemed very relaxed and unintimidating, and being a local race with people I knew, I had zero nerves.

The story continues here...

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Frisco 50k: What's a taper without a crisis?

Heading into the Frisco 50k, I felt fit and prepared.  My training cycle had been pretty seamless, I'd run more mileage than ever before, I'd learned/relearned a lot, and I'd never felt so good!  This was all particularly refreshing not only because it rarely happens, but also because fall 2020 was sure a let down, after I'd had to take 4 months off of running in spring 2020.  I think we can all agree that 2020 was not a winner, eh?

It's rare that things go according to plan, which makes it extra special when they do!  I was beyond appreciative of the 2021 experiences I'd already had, and excited to see what happened after 26.2 miles on April 24. 

I ran the Clinton Historic Half Marathon on April 17, and I ended up running a bit faster than I thought I would need to in order to win the race, and I also ran a little more distance that day than planned (related, because I saw my competition so did a real warm up).  I figured my mileage was high enough that a 16 mile day one week out from the 50k really wouldn't matter, nor would a 1:24 half - and I don't think they did, but it's impossible to completely know. That afternoon I rode my elliptigo with my friend Christian during her long run workout, which was really easy riding but I was still on the elliptigo for nearly 2 hours.  After that, my right tensor fascia latae (TFL) muscle was tight.  I figured it was just from running, sitting in the car, riding, being cold outside, etc.  But when I got up and ran on Sunday morning it was still tight.  Running easy on Sunday didn't make it worse but it also didn't feel better, so...cue taper freak out!  My left hip was where I've previously had issues, otherwise I'd have been freaking out from the start!  I spent a lot of time online reading about TFL releases and treatments on Sunday afternoon, and also used ice and Arnica gel on the affected area, ate the best anti-inflammatory foods, and upped my turmeric intake.

I got this pic after I posted my Clinton race recap, so
I am using it here because finishing photos in which I
look like I actually enjoy running are rare!

I'd planned to run 6 miles on Monday morning and 4 on Monday afternoon, but I took the day off instead, effectively missing my last double for awhile.  This was pretty big progress for me because I could run with the TFL tightness I had, but I hoped with a day totally off it would clear up completely and I could go on with usual programming.  It improved, so I knew I'd made the right choice.  I also made an appointment for ART/Graston, at the first available appointment on Wednesday.  

On Tuesday morning I did a final little workout, and while it felt decent I could still feel tightness, which increased slightly after running.  31 miles is a long way to run when everything feels good, but I started worrying I was screwed starting that distance of a race with something feeling off.  I had all kind of thoughts swimming through my head: Should I just not start?  Can I actually make myself drop out if it gets bad? [this has not gone well for me before and it's really hard to drop out of a race!] What if it's minor now but gets serious if I race on it?  Is this 50k worth the risk?  What if I'm actually fine and just being taper crazy?  I prayed for the wisdom to make the right decisions before and during the race, and I did everything I could to help the muscle.  I felt at peace regardless of the outcome, though, which is really not like me - but I think that originated from my huge appreciation of my training cycle as a whole.  The race is just one day, but the training enhanced my life for months - thought obviously I'm thrilled with how it turned out, and if you're reading this you already know the happy ending.

Wednesday I again did not run and I had treatment on it, which helped.  My chiropractor also showed me some ways to release it myself that were not surprisingly better than I'd found on YouTube.  He said it felt tight when he did Graston on it, but not bad (i.e., he thought I was fine to race).  I started feeling a little more optimistic.  I ran on Thursday morning, and while it had continued to improve, it still wasn't normal.  I just resigned to it hurting during my race.  Running didn't make it any worse at any point, so I figured it would bother me and I'd deal with it, and then I would get it to clear up in my time off after the race.  Friday it had again improved a little more, but was still there, so my plan of accepting it bugging me during the race continued.  I still felt at peace with whatever plan God had for this, and only He could have given me that peace because like I said, it's very unlike me!

The plus side was that my thoughts about my TFL prevented me from obsessing about anything else related to this race.  I barely thought about anything else - not the distance, not the pace, not the new challenge factor, etc. - which in hindsight was really a blessing!

Jumping ahead, but to tie this story together, my TFL was totally fine before, during, AND after the race!  I haven't felt a single twinge in it since Friday; it feels completely normal.  It was really a miracle, and perhaps the pain I had was God's gift to keep me from obsessing about the race, to make me rest a little more, and to keep me thankful for the opportunity (and probably a reminder to not be greedy about the outcome).  It also made me realize that even if I DNFed the 50k, I'd still had a season I was very happy with, which probably also made me less concerned about the outcome.  I have never had any issue that lasted 6 days only to immediately clear up like this.  It gave me a hobby for pre-race week I guess, hah!

The only people who know where the TFL is
are probably some in the medical field &
those who've had issues with it...

The story continues here...

Frisco 50k: Before it all began

The prequel - because I never really wrote about deciding to run this race! 

This is the first post in my detailed race recaps; the short race summary (with all other recaps linked) is here.

I started toying around with the idea of giving the 50k a go back in December.  I'd spent several years chasing marathon PRs, and I realized that while I still loved marathon training I was a bit disgruntled with the race itself, since I'd poured so much into it and didn't achieve my biggest dream goal.  I'd read somewhere that 50k training is just marathon training with back-to-back long runs, which to me really just seemed like a way to make marathon training even better.  Since I was coming off a 2020 wrought with hip issues, I wasn't sure if running an ultra was the most intelligent goal, but I started experimenting with 14 milers on Saturdays followed by 12 milers on Sundays in December 2020 to see how my body responded; a pre-training per sae. 

I didn't tell anyone about my goal initially, because I wanted to be able to stop training at any time if my hip gave even a peep.  For awhile my husband was the only one who knew, but it wasn't long until people in my running group started putting two and two together (or, more accurately, 14 and 12).  I then kind of just got used to my new normal and forgot that I'd never written a post about what I was doing - although people reading my monthly recaps or following me on Strava likely also put two and two together before I really said anything about it.

After one of many long runs

Another piece of this decision was the uncertainty of race cancellations.  I wanted to do races that were for sure going to happen - even more so once my plan A spring 2021 half marathon (Little Rock) cancelled.  I felt confident that Frisco would happen, plus no travel plans were required.

I was quickly hooked on the back-to-back long runs and as my season plans came together I mapped out a training plan (I coached myself this season, which historically has not been an intelligent idea, but which I did really well with this time around).  One of my local training buddies, Colin, was already interested in running a 50k at some point, so it was easy to talk him into training with me for this one.  After we were rolling in training, I also talked my friend Andrew, who lives in Kansas City, into running it.  Both of the guys are close in pace to me in the marathon, and I knew how boring the race trail was so having company on it was very appealing!  We all got very excited about it together too!

Although running 31 miles never seemed like an easy feat, it was always less intimidating to me than running 26.2 miles at 6:15 pace.  Initially I didn't really know what 50k pace I was aiming for, and my biggest goal was always to complete my first 50k, but my goals continued to evolve from there.  I looked up the overall female state record (then 3:59:55) and decided it was achievable, so that goal came next, and achieving it would automatically take care of the course record.  At some point I got it in my head that I wanted my average pace to start with a 6, then I decided I wanted to run a sub-3:00 marathon split, and as the race neared I decided that 6:45 pace was my goal but I'd be happy with any pace average starting in 6 (this was mostly all based on the fact that I thought I was in shape to run 6:15 pace for a road marathon).  In retrospect, there was really a lot I didn't know when this goal arose, but one feeling that never changed was that this was a really great goal for me!  I LOVED the back-to-back long runs, and it really was the marathon training I adore, but even better.

The story continues here...

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Frisco Railroad Run 50k: That was an experience!

The short-ish:

I'm an ultra marathoner!  On April 24, I took on the 50k distance for the first time on a non-technical dirt trail in Willard, Missouri.  I knew I was fit, but I also knew how much could go wrong in a race of this distance!  Lucky for me, things went right for 27 miles and I fought through the final 4 miles well enough to land an overall person win, an overall women's Missouri state record, a course record, and a killer runner's high.  My official time was 3:34:41, which is currently listed as the top 50k time by a North American female so far in 2021, so check out this website before they add Des Linden's time! [update: a friend told me that Des's time won't be included because her event was not a race, but an event set up specifically for her, so I am #1 for the time being!]

Andrew & Colin both broke the previous men's
course record & set single age state records!
Whaaaa?

I ran most of the race with my friends Colin and Andrew, and I definitely couldn't had done it without them...the trail pretty much looks the same for the entire race.  Colin and I did months of back-to-back long runs together to prepare for this day, and Andrew was our mobile DJ with a very fun playlist (I mean, I was singing Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" at mile 14).  We got separated when I stopped to pee around mile 18, which only took me 14 seconds per Strava.  After that when I was trying to chase Colin back down before the next aid station (so that my family, who awesomely came to every aid station, didn't think I was fading) and trying to keep my pee stop mile under 7:00 (because at that point I was still naive enough to be confident that I was going to keep all my miles under 7:00), I lost Andrew.  I couldn't quite reel in Colin until he stopped at a porta potty around mile 21, then when he did I suddenly found myself leading the race!

27 miles of the race felt great, then I ran out of gas.  I will take nutrition differently the next time I run a 50k, because I had 1,000 calories lined up to take in but only managed about half of them; considering I take 400 during a marathon, 500 was not cutting it. I didn't have any stomach/GI upset, but I felt extremely full from so much liquid - like I'd just eaten Thanksgiving dinner! - and couldn't get any more in (my period also started about 12 hours after the race finish, which likely contributed).  I passed 13.1 in 1:29:19 and 26.2 in 2:58:10, which were both ideal because I was aiming to average 6:45 pace for the whole shebang, but my final 4 miles were not so hot (7:25, 7:27, 7:45, 7:47 - although they are also all incline), so I lost my super-amazing-perfect-day goal of breaking 3:30 there, but I made it in!

The course pretty much all looked like this, but I
was well aware of what I was in for

My verse for the race was: "Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." - Joshua 1:9.  Tackling 31 miles for the first time was scary even though I knew I was well trained!  I mostly tried not to think about the distance, or thought it was only 5 miles more than a marathon.

However, I take back all the times leading up to this race that I said, "It's only 5 miles more than a marathon."  I am sure I have a lot to learn about the 50k, but from this one I think it's a very different race!  I thought 6:45 pace was very reasonable given that I only slow down about 15 seconds/mile from the half to full marathon, and I think I'm in shape to run 6:15 pace for a road marathon right now (although this race was on dirt), but the final 4 miles sure taught me a lesson.  My body was like, "wait, we always stop running by now", lol!

Race results are here (type in "50K" under division).

North American 50k top performances are here.

State 50k records are here.

Course records are here, although they also aren't updated yet.

My Strava activity is here.

Detailed recaps:

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Clinton Historic Half Marathon: Sometimes Last Minute Races Pay Off

The short:

I added the Clinton Historic Half Marathon to my race schedule less than a week before the race.  With my 50k being a week after Clinton, I didn't want to run too hard, but I thought/hoped I could win it without running all out.  My running buddies Colin and Brad rode to the race with me, making for a fun trip, and I ended up cruising to 1st overall female in 1:24:37, which was faster than I thought I was going to need to run but still felt comfortable enough that I'm not worried I overdid it.  And since I won $200, my decision paid off!

Official results are here.

My Strava activity is here.

Miles from Mentor crew
The long:

I've eyed the Clinton Historic Half Marathon for a few years, because it offers prize money and is about a 90 minute drive from my home.  The race date has never lined up for me before, and it didn't this year either (i.e., it was 1 week before my 50k), but I decided to do it anyway, and my kind of embarrassing goal was to do the least I could to win overall female.

I drove up race morning with two men from my running group - lucky for me none of the women wanted to race.  Brad was racing hard, and Colin was aiming for a moderate run (6:30ish pace) since he is also running the 50k next weekend.  Based on past results, I was hoping I could run in the high 1:20's and win, but before the race I saw a couple in University of Central Missouri cross-country warm up gear, and told Brad they were probably our competition, then soon after saw the female of the pair in buns (buns = you mean business).  Then Colin spotted a girl in Alphaflys and a crop, so when the race delayed the start for 10 minutes I did a real warm up and prepared myself to run harder than I'd originally thought.  There was only prize money for first overall male and female, so second went home with $0, which made me a little nervous given the circumstances (e.g., I didn't want to kill myself but knew I would if that's what it took).

Start

Initially I got out in first female position, but quickly eased back and waited for someone else.  The woman in buns pulled up with me and I figured she was going to be my competition and settled in next to her.  The effort felt easier than marathon effort, so I felt comfortable with the situation.  Around mile 2 the woman in the crop and Alphaflys passed us, and I left the other woman to go with her.  I could tell the lady in the crop was picking up the pace and she looked strong, but I still felt very comfortable.  The next several miles I ran with or slightly behind her, with Colin a bit ahead of us.  It was nice having him to follow because the course wasn't the easiest to follow!  Around mile 5, the woman in the crop grabbed a water from an aid station and I pulled a few steps ahead and was willing to lead at that point, but she pulled back in front of me so I figured she liked leading.  Nothing too eventful happened; we followed the course arrows and talked here and there.  Several times I felt like she was surging to try to drop me, but I was that annoying girl who sticks on you.  I could tell we were gaining a bit on Colin, and around mile 8 we caught him, so then all 3 of us were running together.  

Running happy early on

Colin knew my race plan, and I knew he was running much slower than he was capable of, so I felt like we kind of had a secret as we were running with the other lady.  At about mile 9.5 she grabbed a water from an aid station and we got a few steps ahead, so I told Colin, "Now is the time to go" and we picked it up for what ended up being our fastest miles (10 in 6:13 and 11 in 6:03).  I then felt pretty comfortable with my lead so backed off to maintain but not push, although per grade adjusted pace I didn't actually back off; as per the courses I keep choosing this season, this one had a lot of uphill in the final two miles, but it was much more pleasant when not running all out (note to self: don't run this one for a PR attempt)!  I told Colin I wasn't kicking and he didn't have any desire to either, so we finished together in 1:24:37, although the results have him edging me by 0.3, so he is the victor.  I told him if they held out a finishing tape for me he should sprint ahead and run through it, then I'd act mad, but, alas, no tape.  The announcer identified me as the first female finisher, and said my name and hometown.

A rare finishing photo in which I don't look like
I hate running, hah!

Celebrating

I sure know how to pick courses in 2021 ;-)

Once we finished and received our paper bags of snacks and finishers medals, we found out that Brad ran an awesome PR of 1:12 for second overall male!  The race director came over to me with my award and cash, and another race official took our photo.  It was the fastest award delivery I've ever had!  A lady in a lion costume (I am still not clear who she was) took of a photo of all 3 of us and sent it to us later that day.  We did a short cool down then had brunch at the Ben Franklin Bistro, a quaint cafe on the Clinton Square, before driving back to Springfield.  I was glad the guys came along; we had a fun drive both ways with lots of stories and laughs.

Post-race mandatory photo

Colin's dramatic reenactment of how
 it feels to get 4th when you could 
have easily won an award

This non-raced race was a nice confidence boost because it felt so comfortable and my average heart rate was lower than it runs in a marathon (which is good considering I like to think I'm in PR marathon shape right now!).  Now for a week of not running much, before I tackle the most running I've ever done in a day on April 24!

Actual splits: 6:44, 6:40, 6:41, 6:24, 6:29, 6:24, 6:21, 6:19, 6:18, 6:14, 6:03, 6:22, 6:16, (6:04 final bit)

Grade adjusted splits: 6:46, 6:42, 6:34, 6:23, 6:26, 6:21, 6:21, 6:19, 6:18, 6:09, 6:12, 6:14, 6:01, (6:02 final bit)

Ben Franklin Bistro

Winnings

The awesome race director