Friday, September 30, 2011

You Go Girl Half Marathon

You Go Girl Half Marathon
September 18, 2011
You Go Girl Website

How awesome is this?  I had a Chocolate Covered Runner's team for this race!  Forming a team for this race grew out of the incentive to save a little money and have the possibility of earning a free Captain's warmup jacket.  The word was spread to my Facebook friends and after some cajoling, I soon had more than 18 women signed up on the team, guaranteeing me my jacket.  We contemplated team names, shirts, etc. and I decided we should provide our own chocolate-themed shirts to save money.  The women seemed okay with the team name and finding chocolate ideas isn't too difficult.

Race morning arrived and I was wearing a Hershey's cotton t-shirt from Walmart with "Chocolate Covered Runners" in puffy paint on the back.  Our team agreed to meet at 8:00 for a team picture before the 8:45 start.  Tony Seabolt was there to capture the moment.

The weather was mild but had some light rain.  I worried about my t-shirt and prayed I wouldn't chafe anywhere.  We lined up for the start and next to me were Mary Hannah and Judy Fisher, and then Kristi Houke stepped in next to me.  Here I am, surrounded by local running heroes.  I told Kristi, who probably doesn't know ME but I know her, that she should line up at the front.  She said, yeah, if it was a 10k, and I said something like, no, you could win this!

My goal marathon was the next weekend and my pacing was a little up in the air.  Of course I wanted to run fast but I also didn't want to chance any injury or minor ailment a week before the big one.  I told Mary Hannah that if I could maintain a 7:30 pace, I would be happy.  We took advantage of the slight decline in the first mile and had a mile split of 6:47.  Mary had been running next to me and chided me about my predicted 7:30 goal.  Mile 2 was 6:50.  We have some great out and back sections where you can see all the runners.  During mile 2 as we faced the onslaught of runners behind us, I was overwhelmed by how many people were cheering me on by name.  I think it annoyed the women I was running with and to be honest, I didn't know so many people knew me.  Some must have just heard my name and joined the crowd.

I'd forgotten about mile 3, THE long hill.  I remembered the hill going up to Wright Park, but not the mile long ascent leading up to it.  Mary was just in front of me as we entered the park.  Miles 3 and 4 would be the slowest of the race at 7:31 each.

The rest of the course is fairly flat and ironically this can actually feel worse than moderately rolling hills.  My legs begin to feel the monotony of the road and that treadmill feeling sets in.  Just after mile 7 and the gel/aid station, the course goes up to the right and then back down a long, flat stretch along Ruston Way.  Unfortunately for Mary, another woman, and myself, we continued straight and added a little distance before realizing we'd gone off course.  I was behind them so when I saw them turn around, I headed back, putting me in front of them, temporarily.  They both hit high gear and soon overtook me once again.  I told Mary later that I would have felt guilty if I had beat her because of that mistake.  We both agreed, though, that if I had, that's just the way racing goes.  It's not perfect.  Stuff happens.

I remember last year my legs were toast by mile 10.  I had finished in 1:35 and it hurt!  I knew I was feeling better than that and kept my pace fairly even.  The last mile includes a little uphill before turning left towards the finish line.  I powered up the hill and once I hit the downhill to the finish, I felt like I was flying!  I wasn't but it felt good.  The clock read 1:35:57 and my Garmin had 13.43.  If I hadn't gone off course, and assuming I had the same pace, I would have finished around 1:33::30, a very good time for me.

After getting my breathing back to normal, I grabbed some goodies and headed back to get my dry clothes.  I finished 6th overall, 2nd master.

Labor Day Half Marathon 9/5/11

Labor Day Half-Marathon
September 5, 2011

This is the song I listened to while I was in my running euphoria (thanks Scott Gaines for the suggestion):
Tell me this doesn't make you smile!

Formerly the Super Jock N Jill Half Marathon, the renamed Labor Day Half Marathon starts at the Redhook Brewery in Woodinville.  There is ample parking at the winery as well as other locations.  This event draws a huge amount of participants compared to many local races and with an 8:00 a.m. start, I needed to get on the road by 6:00 at the latest since it was a 90 minute drive.  

I arrived at the start by 7:15 a.m. and headed over to pick up my packet and get in line for the porta-potty.   Mary Hannah was also getting her packet and we waited together for our turn in the big blue box of horrors.  I had time to return to my vehicle to drop off my bag and take off my outer layers of clothing before heading back to the starting line.

I lined up with the masses and soon we were headed toward the Samammish River Trail after running on local roads.  Immediately  before the start, I realized I needed to go to the bathroom again but there was no time.  I had hoped there would be porta-potties in the early miles but I never found one and by mile 5, I must have sweat the urine right out of me because I didn't need to go anymore (haha).

I carried my Ipod and settled into a nice rhythm.  I felt surprisingly strong after Saturday's 10 miler and pushed my pace to see what was in me.  I wasn't going to risk an injury with my upcoming goal marathon so I  paid close attention to how my body was responding.  

The race is very flat and the Samammish River Trail is a beautiful place to run.  It had many walkers and runners, as well as bicyclist, most of whom were very polite but some gave no warning of their approach and nearly took me down.  Not. Cool.

Because of the large number of runners, I had no indication of how I was doing in the field but felt happy with my pace and was on target to be under 1:40.  I had noticed a couple of women ahead around mile 10 who seemed to be running my pace.  I made an effort to pick up my pace a little and see if they could get any closer.  I inched my way toward them and felt they were slowing just a little.  My music was awesome and in the last two miles, I felt that happy feeling, like the world was smiling at me and so I was smiling at the world.  Yes, I know it's goofy.  I can't help it!  There are just moments when I get this euphoria while running and I will not let it pass me by!

I passed the two women with a big grin because of how weird I am and not because I was being mean and let that happy feeling pull me to the finish line.  As I drew closer to the finish, the spectators multiplied and when they saw me, they gave huge smiles.  Sort of off-topic:  Did you know babies copy faces?  If you smile, they smile??  It was like that.  You're grumpy, they're grumpy.  You smile, they smile.  I dare you to try this out today.

I finished in 1:35:33, good enough for 2nd in my age group.  Beautiful weather, great friends, flat course.  What do you think?  Of course I'll be back!
Half-Fanatics Team Picture
Glass and Certificate for 2nd in age group

Tall beer glass award!!!  

bib number:307
location:Port Orchard, WA
overall place:103 out of 861
division place:2 out of 79
gender place:22

Avg Pace

Over The Narrows 10 Miler

Over The Narrows 10 Miler
September 3, 2011

Last year was the inaugural running of this event and I knew it would be on my list of races to run again.  It's close to home and on a weekend that normally is guaranteed to be game-free for my daughters' sports. 

My goal was to race it and attempt to run a 7:15 average, the pace needed for a 3:10 marathon.  Not that I thought I could run a 3:10 at the the time but it was my goal nonetheless.  The course starts at Uptown Gig Harbor along Point Fosdick Drive and finds its way across the Narrows Bridge before returning to the start.  The first mile is a gradual downhill and I wanted to go out faster than 7:15 to make up for the elevation gain over the bridge and in the last mile.  

I arrived at the start in plenty of time to warm up with a slow mile around the parking lot.  Lots of running friends helped the time pass quickly and soon we lined up to start the race.  I'd been getting so nervous before races lately and was feeling nauseous again.  This was a new race day "symptom" for me.  You know how when you're getting sick, you start to feel tired, have a scratchy throat, etc.?  I always know I have a race because I have symptoms:  restlessness, poor night's sleep, predisposition towards clumsiness, stomach "issues".  So let's add nausea!  

Finally we took off and I knew within moments the female race was on between two other women.  I kept my goal wrapped securely in my mind and pushed onward.  If I was having a perfect day, I would aim for a 1:10 finish.  The possibility was there but it would require perfection from my body and mind.  

We headed out along Pt. Fosdick and I had a 6:41 first mile.   We made our way to the bridge, having to climb one "big" hill.  The last aid station before the bridge gifted me with my friends, Lori and Bill, and I'm sure there were more friends but I get a little bit if tunnel vision when racing.  Here we go to the bridge!
***Now I'm wondering if I am thinking of the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon where I saw Bill and Lori!  Doh!!***

The thing about this bridge is it is a gradual uphill to the center, gradual downhill to the end.  And then we headed uphill to the end of the offramp after the bridge before turn around to the start.  The wind can be ferocious on the bridge but today, it held off and we made our way without fighting the invisible element.  I was feeling strong but not at the top of my game.  Once again the slight elevation gain sucked the life out of my legs and I had to pull myself out of the whining zone.  Running back toward the start gave me a boost of energy as I saw friends cheering me on and I tried to encourage others.  Honestly when I'm racing, I've found it takes too much energy to do more than give just a little raise of my hand.  I see you and I love you cheering for me!!  It helps!  I'm just focused on keeping my cadence and not letting my breathing go out of control...unless it's the last mile or two and then it's do or die time.  

I've run the bridge many times and I knew it was just ahead.  The.  Concrete.  Devil.  It's so deceiving and you don't know what is in store until you are upon the uphill coming off the bridge.  I gathered my courage, gave a little prayer for strength and oxygen and tackled the short section that can make or break a runner.  The top of the hill couldn't come fast enough and the term "sucking eggs" seemed appropriate at the time.  7:51 at mile 7.

As I rounded a corner, I saw a female runner who was currently in third place.  This seems to be my predicaments lately.  I'm close to the front, sort of, and close to another female runner, sort of.  We had about 3 miles to go and she seemed to be running my pace.  Which means, obviously, either she had to slow down, I had to speed up, or both.  Once I spit out the proverbial eggs and could breathe without my lungs hurting, I set my sights on her and focused on a quick cadence.  7:19 and 7:15 for miles 8 and 9.  I wanted to hit a 7 flat but it is what it is.  I was making progress and by mile 9, she was in front of me by 10 feet.  Scott Gaines passed me around this mark.  She heard him approaching and I saw her speed up for about 30 seconds before she realized it was a man.  Thank you, Scott!  I pushed onward and soon could hear her breathing was labored.  With less than a mile to go, I decided I could breathe later and took a chance by passing her.  This has crushed me in past races but it also had proven successful.  After seeing how she fell apart when Scott passed her, I KNEW I could stay in front of her.  

Go go go!!!  I remembered a quote:  Never take the lead unless you really want it, and if you take it DO SOMETHING WITH IT.  (Tom Courtney, Olympic Champion).  I wanted it!

The last mile is the same as the first mile but in reverse.  A gradual uphill and my mile split was 7:28, fast enough to stay in 3rd place.  I rounded the corner into the parking lot and gave everything I had because she could have a bigger finishing kick than me and it's not over until the finish line.  I finished in 1:13:28, slower than last year by about 2 minutes. Others also were slower this year and I assume it was the slight change in the course which added a little elevation.  My Garmin had the distance at 10.12, a little long but not much.  That easily could have been me not taking the shortest distance around corners.

This is another race I would love to run again.  It's hard to say no to races that are so close to home and you know I love my sleep!  I was the third female overall, coming in long after the top two were finished.  

It was time to enjoy the post-race food, friends, collect my award and get home to start planning Monday's half-marathon.

Me alongside the top 2 females.  I'm honored to stand next to these women.

Finishing all alone...notice the finger ready to stop my Garmin?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Winthrop Marathon

Winthrop Marathon
Winthrop, Washington

Winthrop course scenery

Waiting for the bus with Tony Seabolt

Bus ride to the start

Starting Line
The week leading up to Winthrop Marathon, I began to question my training, nutrition, sleep habits, fitness level and whether I could break 3:30 even though my half marathon times indicated it was more than possible. I knew this kind of thinking would not help me on race day so I filled my mind with positive thoughts and forced the bad attitude to the background. My mileage was reduced but I didn't follow a DRASTIC "taper" down to nothing. Some people don't run and it works for them. I'd been following Advanced Marathoning schedule, jockeying between the 70+ and Under 70 miles per week schedule depending on my life's circumstances.

Seven days before the marathon, I ran the You Go Girl Half Marathon and, against the advice of good friends, I chose to race it. I couldn't help myself! My finishing time was 1:35:57 and my confidence in finishing under 3:30 the following weekend improved. I felt if I pushed to the brink of death, perhaps I could pull a 3:20 out of the magical hat. My goal for the week was to do easy, comfortable running since I did my speedwork at You Go Girl. 6, 9, 8, 6, and 4 miles with no run on Saturday. I HAD planned 2 miles but the long drive up to Winthrop took priority. Since I've already lost my streak for the year, I let it go and decided that 2 miles wouldn't make or break the race. 

Friday night brought news that Jeff would be working and couldn't go with me. I knew a group of awesome runners were heading up the next morning and could take me but I felt like it might be a hassle for them (it wouldn't have been and I've been sufficiently chastised!!) since I'm staying at a different location and decided to go it alone. I threw together my suitcase contents and huffed and puffed to get the suitcase into my SUV. You can't be overprepared, right?

5 hour drive was on the schedule and I made sure to pack lots of water and snacks so I wouldn't be stuck eating food that wouldn't settle well on race morning. Seattle traffic held me up an additional 45 minutes and once I escaped the city exits, it was smooth sailing. 4 stops at restrooms were necessary since I was drinking water nonstop in preparation for the race. I arrived in the no cell reception zone and quickly my radio began buzzing and hissing at me. I don't have a connector for my Itouch and ironically I had taken out my CDs to upload them to my Itouch and hadn't returned them."Im a dirt poor son of a..." SEEK..."and my wife, she done me wrong"...SEEK..."the moonshine, it's my friend". station. What to do, what to do?? Ok, kept it on and soon a song came on that referenced "shake that thing to the squirrel" AND I AM NOT KIDDING! Stop drinking moonshine, cowboy!

Highway 20! I was finally on the last stretch of the drive and I now had a choice between honkey-tonk/country, gospel or oldies/classics. Still no cell reception. I was wishing I had time to stop and explore the trails and amazing views. Absolutely stunning.

Signs leading to Winthrop indicated it was a deer migration area and range area and to use caution when driving. I prayed no animal would decide to commit suicide with my vehicle and finally arrived in the little western-themed town of Winthrop, Washington. The town "marshall" greeted me as I passed the red barn, where we would be catching the bus in the morning.

Checked into my hotel (greeted by spider on lamp), drove back to Mazama Community Center and picked up my number and decided to head back to Winthrop since the pasta dinner wasn't ready. I was tired! Red Apple Market for dinner. I found some pasta and a sandwich...alright, alright, and some salt and pepper chips. All nutritional guidelines I fastidiously followed were thrown out the window as I didn't want to load up on anything filled with fiber or complex carbs as this can really mess with my stomach. I also avoided dairy, something I've been doing anyway.

I snuggled up with my dinner, a book and had a much-needed down time. There were 7 channels to choose from on the tv but nothing was interesting. 9:30, lights out! Ear plugs in and even those didn't drown out the noise from above my room. I'm certain there was a bowling alley directly above me from 10:00-11:00 pm. 

I somehow fell into a fitfull sleep, dreaming about driving over a cliff on highway 20 followed by another dream where I could not move my legs at the start of the race so I tried to crawl like a military maneuver under barbed-wire.

4:50 a.m arrived and I turned off the alarms set for 5:00. My plan was to leave by 6:00 and drive 5 minutes to the red barn and catch a bus to the start. Left my room just before 6:00 and was happy to feel the semi-warm air. It was 88* on Saturday and a high of 75 was expected for race day. It felt perfect for a race. I'm often freezing before the start of races and it can be difficult to start running fast when my body hurts from the cold. Deer sighting on the road and they made no effort to move aside.

At the red barn and I quickly spot my running friends, Janna and Tony, along with Larissa and Heidi. We're loaded onto buses and I sat next to a woman my age. I feel silly not to have exchanged names with her (I realized later!) but I'm sure it's Contente from the list of entrants. She and I shared the same sense of humor and it made the time go by quickly. I had my "plan" in writing on my left hand and arm with a Sharpie pen. Contente asked if I had a contingency plan for a bear attack and how would that affect my pacing strategy? We joked that our families really were sending us to a camp to rehabilitate us like they do with wayward teens. After a very bumpy ride, we arrived at the starting line in the middle of nowhere. We were surrounded by forest, rocks and the location of a huge fire years earlier that took precious lives.

We quickly stood in the porta-potty line and were informed the race would start in 5 or 10 minutes and bags were being loaded and to get them to the truck. AWWW!! I needed to go! Would they start the race without us? I had my marathon maniac singlet on but it was driving me nuts how it was a little short and very loose. So I took a poll...should I wear it or just start in my sports bra? I stipulated that since it was a point to point course, no one would have to look at my stretch-marked belly. Having kids is a blessing but they do leave behind evidence. There goes the shirt! I barely made it out of the porta-potty in time before the countdown to the race began.

3...2..1!   I was at the front and took off, looking at my graffiti-filled hand to remind me of my pacing strategy.   Mile splits, half-marathon split, average pace were emblazoned on my hand along with words, "Believe", "Power", "Strength" (in the palm of my hand symbolically), and as a last resort, "Run Happy" on my arm in case all else failed.

I wore my Itouch clipped on my shorts and prayed it wouldn't bother me. This would be a me-and-the-road marathon and I was hoping music would help the time pass by as well as keep my pace. It never bothered me and am happy I decided to have music on this race. I realized my sunglasses were on the top of my head about .2 into the race and pulled them down before they fell. Goal first miled was 7:10-7:25 and I hit it at 7:15...perfect!

So the miles are a little bit of a blur. There were a lot of trees, a river, some farmland and the aid stations. I recall passing certain mile markers - which were long from the first mile - and hitting the halfway mark at about 1:36. The time seemed to fly by. I ran the race alone as I couldn't see people in front or behind me most of the time. The first place woman took off like a jet and after the 7:15 first mile, I knew it would be stupid to try and catch her only to blow up later. I was 98% sure I was in second but there's always that bit of doubt since no one was around me. It wasn't until mile 24 that a volunteer finally confirmed my field placement. I didn't give up the possibility of winning as I've been in numerous races where I've passed a leader due to an injury. I wasn't wishing for her to get injured!! It was just in my mind that the race isn't over until I crossed the line.

The half-marathoners were waiting for their start time when I ran by them at 13.1 and it was an adrenaline boost. I was feeling strong and didn't have the dreaded feeling of the wheels coming off. I heard a guy remark to his friend how strong I looked and that just sealed up my confidence for the duration of the race.

As I passed mile 19, I recalled the race director telling us we would be heading left over the river and it would be well-marked. I got nervous as I didn't see where to turn and asked a woman who was walking toward me if I was on the right path. She reassured me it was just ahead. Small races do have the fear factor of getting lost, even on what can seem an impossibly easy course to follow.

I headed out near farmland and was soon at mile 23. There were no walls, black holes, pleading with God to get me through this, never-agains, will this mile ever end feelings or thoughts. I. Felt. Great!

Somewhere in the 23-24 miles, the road opened up and I faced some wind that made it feel like my pace was slowing. It was.  I plowed through it and suddenly I had one mile to run. I passed 2 men during these last few miles and 2 men passed me. I found out later that I was passed by half-marathoners.

Run run run! I kept telling myself to push, stride, power off, whatever would make me get to the line as fast as possible. My time was giving me a little anxiety because I KNEW I could beat my 3:17:11 Boston Marathon time if I didn't lose any speed. And I was hoping the finish line would show up when my Garmin said 26.2. The first mile was long and every mile thereafter was off on my Garmin.

26.2 and look at that!!! 3:14! Where's the finish line???? Around the corner, down main street and I see the clock at 3:16 and I pushed as hard as I could to make sure I was under the 3:17. WHAT?!?!!

How did I do that? If you've been reading my blog, you know I haven't gone under 3:30 in over a year and haven't been in the teens since 2008. The reality of it is still not quite real. I feel like I dreamt it all up because of how fast it seemed to be over, how great I felt, seeing the time on the clock...all the stuff I have envisioned during my preparation but had eluded me for so long.

James Varner, race director, gave me a silver star for second place overall (there's a new sheriff in town) and Tony Seabolt and I walked back to our vehicles to bring them closer to the finish line. Oh yeah, Tony finished in 3:10! And he walked 3 miles!

I took some time walking downtown; okay, that doesn't take TOO long. I returned to the finish line, ordered my mexican food that all finishers received and enjoyed the company of other runners while trying to keep the bees from taking over my food and drink. I did treat myself to two scoops of Sheri's ice cream on the way out of town, too!  I called my family and shared the exciting news!

I would have loved to stay overnight so I could rest and actually have a chance to explore this area. Instead, I filled up the gas tank and head out for the 5 hour drive home.

This marathon, even if I hadn't PR'd, is on my list of "do it again" marathons.
Um...yeah.  See, Janna, this is my race face! 

Rob and Larissa Ralph, Me, Janna Theriault, Heidi Swenland Huber and Tony Seabolt
2nd Overall Female HUGE silver star, finisher's medal and HUGE plate of mexican food!

Avg Pace


total time
26.54 miles

7:24.5 average
17:15.0 1.00 7:15.1
26:59.6 1.00 6:59.7
37:12.1 1.00 7:12.2
47:15.6 1.00 7:15.7
57:24.5 1.00 7:24.6
67:01.7 1.00 7:01.8
77:06.0 1.00 7:06.1
87:17.1 1.00 7:17.1
97:30.8 1.00 7:30.9
107:26.1 1.00 7:26.2
117:40.3 1.00 7:40.4
127:21.8 1.00 7:21.9
137:37.7 1.00 7:37.8
147:22.2 1.00 7:22.3
157:24.2 1.00 7:24.3
167:33.8 1.00 7:33.9
177:32.9 1.00 7:33.0
187:24.6 1.00 7:24.7
197:43.5 1.00 7:43.6
207:13.4 1.00 7:13.5
217:37.6 1.00 7:37.7
227:31.9 1.00 7:32.0
237:49.1 1.00 7:49.2
247:49.3 1.00 7:49.4
257:31.1 1.00 7:31.2
267:25.7 1.00 7:25.8
273:32.1 0.55 6:25.9