Friday, June 29, 2012

North Olympic Discovery Marathon - June 3, 2012

June 3, 2012 - North Olympic Discovery Marathon
Sequim to Port Angeles

This is THE marathon I have been training for these past four months.  Why this marathon?  Because, as Marathon Guide put it:
"Ginger Gruber, 42, who claimed the runner-up position 
in 2008, 2009, and 2010, broke through at the 2012 event, winning the women's title in 3:28:15."
(Yes, I added the emphasis).

Runner-up...3 years in a row!  We can just skim over 2011 as the only good thing about that race was that I got to run it with Terry Sentinella.  He at least made my misery entertaining.

A few weeks before the marathon, I checked the confirmation list and freaked out when I didn't see my name.  Oh, the irony!  I had reminded others to register before it sold out and here I had not registered myself.  Is that a clue that I am signed up for a lot of races?  It's time for me to create a spreadsheet of my races and status of registration, locations, etc.  Thankfully the race hadn't sold out and I registered online, missing out on all the early bird discounts.  Yikes.  

A few weeks leading up to this race, I had spent most of my time working around the house, cleaning, fixing and beautifying all those areas I have neglected.  My daughter would be graduating from the Running Start program through the local junior college and we planned an open house for June 9th.  I spent a lot of time outside trying to get our dirt to look prettier.  

The day before the marathon:  I was stressed because I wasn't sure about my fitness.  I hadn't done as much running since the Tacoma City Marathon and had been eating too much junk food.  My upper body was exhausted, however, from shoveling dirt and bark all week.  Emotionally I was a wreck thinking about my daughter getting ready to leave our home all too soon, and this was also THE marathon.  As I worked outside on Saturday, IT happened.  The straw.  The moment when something seemingly small happens and you find shall I put this?  Irrational?  Yes, that could be it.

I found myself in tears, lying in wet cat litter staring at the sky with a rickety wheelbarrow mocking me.  The short story is I have 4 cats and scoopable cat litter is tossed over an embankment along with weeds, compost, and on this day, ME.  I slipped (on the litter that was under grass clippings), the handle went down as my leg flew up.  Result:  shocking knee pain and panic.  I hobbled in the house, decided I didn't crack my patella but was furious at how badly it hurt.  The day before my goal marathon.  Because of cat litter.  

A few hours later, emotions under control, spaghetti dinner eaten, Jeff asked me to spray bug repellent on his back as he was still outside working.  Stepped outside, sprayed, took a step back indoors and immediately ran to the bathroom and puked. No, it's not a pretty word.  I'm guessing the spray set off this reaction.  I decided I needed to just go to bed before I did any more damage.

Race morning!  I left on time to meet Sharon and Erik at 6:15 a.m.   I chose to wear Maniac red and had a new playlist ready on my itouch.  I couldn't find my sweatpants for after the race but did have top layers ready to keep me warm.  We made it to the start by 7:45, plenty of time to use the bathrooms, get ready and think too much about what we were in for.  My goal marathon.  Sharon and Erik's Maniac qualifying race.

I parked myself in the building to stay warm and lightly stretch.  With 15 minutes to race start, I checked my bag, adjusted my itouch and slowed jogged for half a mile.  Five minutes to the start and I made my way to the 7-8 minute pace sign.

Don't freak out...but where are the front line women?  I thought as I stood and looked around.  I AM the front line woman.  What?!?!  My goal for this race was a 3:20 or better.  I have follow up goals for every race because it sucks to fail so I set myself to never fail.  The Tacoma 3:22 finish gave me confidence that I technically could get back into the 3-teens range.  That might be fast enough to win.  It certainly wouldn't guarantee a win but I'd love to get close to a personal record again.

Miles 1-4:  The course starts at Carrie Blake Park and runs through the streets of Sequim.   A gradual incline in the first mile kept me from rushing the course. The mile markers seem to be off throughout the course but I know my Garmin has been reliable.  7:31 first mile is good but part of me wished I could have run a comfortable 7:15 to start. The sensible part of me says a slower start means I can pick it up in the end.  Miles are clicking by, no women in front of me from what I can see.  I have been wrong in the past so I don't assume a woman hasn't snuck in front of me. I also don't see any women when we round corners as I  spied the field behind me.  The first relay exchange was around mile 4 which gives the runners a lot more cheering.

I prayed for the Lord to grant me favor early in the race.  Normally I would pray for endurance, energy, strength, feet like deer, etc. Today, all I could think was, please give me favor in your eyes.


Miles 4-9:  We continue on streets through Sequim as we made our way to the Discovery Trail.  I always forget how long it takes to get to the trail itself.  The roads are easy to navigate and traffic is never an issue.  The markings are clear and I felt completely safe.  The weather felt perfect for running.  Last year, many runners suffered from the heat.  We had spent months freezing and layering for every run. Come race day, the clouds had dispersed and it became summer in an instant. The lack of acclimation made it a rough day.  Another relay exchange around mile 9.

Miles 9-13:  Long roads ahead.  We run by a small airport on a long straightaway that seems to never end.  As we approached the 13 mile mark, I'm passed by another Maniac who nearly misses a turn.  This was the only spot on the course where there was no arrow or volunteer.  I yelled at him to turn around and we saw a volunteer running back to the corner.  It was just bad timing for a potty-break.  No harm done.  Half-Marathon time is about 1:40-1:41.  Not as fast as I would have liked but a good time was still possible.

Miles 13-16:  I felt a little tired and clocked my first 8 minute mile after 14 miles.  I went through waves of feeling great to tired in moments.  This is fairly normal during an endurance event.  I'd been taking in the sports drink and water at every aid station and had a couple Gu's as well.  

Miles 16-20:  What's this?  My toes on my left foot feel like they are trying to cross over each other.  My right hamstring was starting to tug at me as well.  I adjusted my gait and ran more flat-footed, trying to keep my foot from cramping.  I wasn't sure why this was happening.  I would figure out later that it was my arch cramping, thus pulling my toes into contortionist's positions.  
This was a disappointing moment on the run.  The first of many until the finish line.  I was leap-frogging with different runners, all guys.  I distracted myself with conversation whenever possible but my stupid foot kept trying to mangle itself.  

Miles 20-23:  And the fun begins!  My body had decided to rebel.  I'd been adjusting my running form to keep my foot from cramping, which meant I couldn't toe-off but rather was closer to heel-striking.  It's not what I would recommend for a fast race but I really had no alternative.  A twinge in my left calf gave me alarm.  We ran through the last relay exchange around mile 21. I reached over for some Gu and couldn't get any liquid due to so many walkers in front of the tables.  At the last moment, I reached over and grabbed a volunteer's drink as I ran by and immediately heard howls of laughter.  I'm fairly sure I grabbed someone's personal drink without realizing it.  

Miles 23-Finish:  Cramp!  Toes curling, right hamstring tightening, and left calf turned into a rock.  Just get through this!  Flat feet, run like a gorilla.  That was my motto.  I couldn't believe after all these marathons and ultras I've run, I get my first serious cramping episode when I am in for the win.  I've always loved these last miles along the waterfront.  Not this day.  Each step brings possible disaster.  I continue with my heel-striking, trying to relax and still didn't see any women behind me for the marathon.

The 3:25 pacer catches up to me and I try to stick with him but also tell him my legs are cramping.  I managed to keep up with shuffling until mile 24.5 or so.  A new cramp has reared its ugly head.  It was a short burst of tightness HERE:

Do YOU know how to relieve a cramp there?  I felt like I was hobbling/shuffling along, sure that I would be passed by my entire age group of women any second.  

Mile 25.5:  I can see and hear the finish line.  And yet, there I stood, bent over, agonizing over the pain.  The cramp seized up suddenly and I literally could not take a step. I pleaded with runners as they went by to tell me how to relieve this cramp.  No help until one guy gave me his Gatorade. I truly thought my race would end a half mile from the finish.  I massaged the area, trying to get the muscle to let go.  A male photographer was watching me and I must have given him the "don't you DARE take my picture" look because he didn't lift the lens.  He certainly has a wife or girlfriend who taught him well.

Despite the pain, I began to walk after my muscle loosed up slightly.  Each step was painful but I moved. That's all I needed to do.  I had to finish.  My walk turned into a jog and I carefully planted my feet and told myself to relax, the opposite of how I would like to finish a race. 

The finish line greeted me and one last calf cramp kept me from racing it in.  As I crossed the line, I was both elated and sad.  I had won but my time was disappointing.  Bob and Marci Martin were there to watch me finish and that boosted my spirits!  I found out that the second place woman finished 24 SECONDS after me.  Wow.

I had to think back to my prayer about the Lord granting me favor and I gave Him thanks for the win.  It wasn't strength, speed or anything else this day.  It's okay if you have a different view.  

I had such a great finish line volunteer who helped me get to the medic tent where I had exceptional care.  They got me up and walking again after refueling and some light massage.  The local newspapers interviewed me Here's the article! while I rested.

After putting my layers of clothing on, minus sweatpants that I couldn't find, I made my way toward the food.  I ran into a lot of friends and started shivering so badly I nearly bit my tongue.  The awards were still 30 minutes away so I hid in the bathroom until 2:00.  When I came out, I discovered they started the awards early and I missed them announcing my win.  After getting my award, a metal poster that looks like this:  

I found my way to the Red Lion lobby and waited with Erik and Sharon for our bus shuttle back to the start.  A couple guys on the bus were thoroughly enjoyable to listen to and made the trip back go by quickly.  Poor Sharon fell with dramatic fashion in the race and finished her Maniac qualifying race with bandages on her hands.

I'm already signed up to run next year!  I haven't figured out why my body cramped so badly but will be extra vigilant in future races.

Avg Pace
2610:00.71.00CRAMP!! RUNNER DOWN!10:01

Friday, June 8, 2012

Marathon of a Different Kind

Class of 2012

This is the reason I am behind on my blog!  I think it's a pretty good reason.  

My daughter will graduate with honors from junior college on Sunday.  She's 18.  And we home-schooled from day one.  It. CAN. Be. Done. (yes, that was grammatically incorrect!).

She is socialized.  VERY socialized!  She is normal like other teens and has tons of great memories growing up.  She chose to stay home-schooled when given other options.  These years dragged on and flew by all at the same time.  

She is about to leave the nest and start a new chapter in her life.  She will have doubts, questions, uncertainties.  She will also have faith, reassurance and joy.  

And she will have her family.  Always. NO MATTER WHAT.  

I'll catch up on my blog soon. First, I have a little bird to set free.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Portland Rock and Roll Half Marathon - May 20, 2012

The Inaugural Portland Rock & Roll Half Marathon was 2 weeks ago!  Life has been hectic but everyone is fast asleep right now so I will attempt to recap my experience before I go into Mom mode.

Saturday, May 19th, my younger daughter, Jessica, had her second day of soccer tryouts.  I arranged for her to go with her best friend, Bekah (also trying out), and I would meet them there.  I still had packing and we were leaving straight from the field to Portland.  Bekah and her brother, Josh, were also tagging along for the ride and meeting their big brother for a visit since he moved to Portland last year.  I arrived at the end of tryouts, expecting to find out if they made a team but discovered they added one more tryout date for Monday.  I scooped up 3 teenagers and we began our 2.5 hour drive South.

We arrived in Portland about 2:30 and finally found a parking garage across the street from the Convention Center with an open space after circling the block a few times.  Josh and Bekah's brother met us there and we would meet after the race on Sunday.  Jessica and I headed into the expo to get my race packet and meandered around, eating as many samples as we could.  After getting in our free carb-rich lunch, we drove to the Avalon Hotel and Spa along the Willamette River.  I scored a great deal through Living Social that included free valet parking and a $50 credit in their restaurant as well as 2 drink vouchers and 20% off spa services (that went unused).  We had 6:45 dinner reservations so we killed our time by using the spa, sauna and hot tub.  I was in heaven!  I have never been to a "spa" and it reminded me of an episode of "Frasier" where Niles and Frasier go to a spa and keep gaining entrance into the next level of pampering.  Why yes, I would like a robe.  An ice cloth?  Certainly!  Watermelon water while I cool down?  I suppose.

The restaurant is situated along the River and we chose to eat indoors.  My dinner was outstanding and Jessica was truly being spoiled in this adult restaurant atmosphere. Now she knows what a "real" restaurant is and will never be the same.

I slipped in earplugs and wore an eye mask to drown out light and sound before settling in for a restless pre-race sleep.  The race start and finish was at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park and I opted to catch a city bus instead of driving.  Luckily the transit system was selling tickets at the expo and that was one less worry in the morning. I haven't ridden public transit since my college days.

The morning went quickly from the moment I woke up 15 minutes before my alarm to the time I caught the bus just a block away from the hotel. The weather was warm enough to wear shorts and a tank and I chose not to carry anything else with me, eliminating the bag check process.  The bus ride was surprisingly pleasant as I visited with other runners and we arrived at our stop by 6:50, plenty of time before the 8:00 start.  I used my time to do some light jogging in between using the porta-potties at my leisure.  The finish line porta-potty lines were non-existent so I opted to stay there as long as possible. The start was only 1/2 a mile away but their lines were never-ending!  At 7:40, I made my way to the corrals and sadly didn't see Kara Goucher who would be running the race.  As I stepped in corral one, I found myself next to Maniac Marc Frommer.  We compared goal times and found that we'd potentially be on similar pace.  I wanted close to a 1:30 but didn't know if I could pull it off.  I figured I could get a 1:33-1:35 and that was what Marc was thinking for himself, too.

As we approached the 5 minute warning, I felt my heart rate skyrocket and my breathing felt labored, while standing!  Nerves were hitting me hard and I tried to act cool and not reveal my inward panic. It felt like my heart was trying to escape through my throat.

"Just relax and run the first mile," I told myself as I've faced these anxiety moments before races and know that once start running, it eases up.  Finally the countdown began and we took off down Nato Parkway and through downtown streets before crossing the Hawthorne bridge, which was thoughtfully covered with carpet over the grates.  A 1:30 finish =  6:52 pace so there is not a lot of room for slacking.  That is my recent 5k average so I knew it wasn't likely.

There were some bands along the course and I enjoyed the distraction, as well as the abundance of other runners and spectators who took time to cheer us on.  I was feeling strong but not as fast as I would have liked.  My first four miles were 7:05 or faster.  A runner ahead of me was joined by her friend and I overheard her say that, "Kara flew by here an hour ago"...okay, so I can't remember how long ago she said but I do remember thinking it was a LONG time before I arrived at the same spot.

And then there were hills.  Yes, I live with hills and run on them all the time. I despise hills. Some love them. They eat me up.  Someday I'll figure out why and fix it (move to Florida or Delaware?)  Mile 5 and 7 were rough for me as herds of runners paraded by my sorry butt on the uphills. I decided I should not kill myself (mistake in a short race) on uphills and then pay for it later.  I think I took it too far and slowed down too much.  As I crested the hills, I made an effort to push my effort to make up some time.  I felt fast but my times didn't reflect how I was feeling.

A guy ran up beside me about mile 10 and said, "You're my hero," which surprised me.  I thanked him (was not feeling like a hero!) and told him he was doing great. He told me he had run the "potato marathon" the day before (Pocatello??) in 3:30 so he was toasty-toast.  He encouraged me to push my pace, which was exactly what I needed to hear.  Squeaked mile 10 in 7:20 and tried to get my legs moving faster.

The next 2 miles were a welcome relief from the rolling hills and just after mile 12, we crossed the Willamette River over the Steel Bridge.  Mr. Potato Head was behind me and with half a mile, he told me to "go for it!"

It seemed like the last mile would never end but at least it was flat.  I gave what I had left in the tank and pushed past the 13 mile mark, my Garmin showing 13.2 already.  I crossed the line in 1:36:04, a disappointing time only compared to my goal; otherwise I would have been okay with it.  That's a 7:20 average for 13.1 and 7:12 average if my Garmin is correct.

Walked through the finish and got a super heavy finisher's medal and found Marc Frommer who finished a couple minutes in front of me. We made our way through the crowds, even getting our picture taken.
We visited for a bit before getting separated in the finish area.  I wrapped up the finisher's goodies in the superhero cape and began a cool-down jog back to the hotel just as it started to rain.  I followed the river and needed to stop and ask directions one time.  The hotel was 2 miles away and I followed a trail most of the way.  This city is amazing for running and cycling!

Waiting in line for Voodoo Doughnuts
Jessica had our room all packed up and I used the last hour at the hotel to take advantage of their spa facilities.  Heaven!  We met up with Josh and Bekah, drove to Voodoo Donuts and waited in line for 45 minutes to partake in Portland's famous doughnut shop.  Totally worth it.

I had a great weekend with my daughter and was proud to represent Brooks at this event.  Next event is the North Olympic Discovery Marathon on June 3rd (tomorrow!).

  • Overall: 293 out of 11036
  • Division: 10 out of 1387
  • Gender: 70 out of 7747

Avg Pace