Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A2A Race For Mercy Marathon

In shocking news, I'm behind in blogging.

My 30th birthday was fantastic. I didn't freak out as I was anticipating. I did, however, enjoy a trip to Texas to visit family and so I could get up and run the A2A Race For Mercy Marathon in Oklahoma the next day.

Things that were awesome:
- Celebrating my birthday with Champagne
- Celebrating my birthday with my family
- Triple Garlic Fettucini (Yum.)
- My first marathon as a 30-year-old
- Meeting several fellow Marathon Maniacs
- Seeing my new friend, David, who I met at Post Oak
- Successfully using a marathon as a training run.

Things that were not awesome:
- Marathon morning hangover (stupid, stupid, stupid)

Things beyond my control:
- My sweet daughters being unable to sleep well when we're not at home (I was up no less than 10 times the night before)
- 25 mph headwind on a point-to-point course (Wow.)
- 65 degree, overcast start...80 degrees and sunny by the end (Holy sunburn.)
- Hills

Lessons Learned:
- Wind is fantastic mental training.
- Wear sunscreen.
- Do not drink a bottle of champagne the night before a marathon.
- Being 30 isn't all that bad.

The run, overall, went very well. I took walk breaks and walked uphills after a certain point, in preparation for the Brew to Brew Ultra this weekend. Honestly, the wind and heat just sucked the life out of me, so I couldn't have done anything stupid even if I desired. I finished in 4:38:02 - right where I wanted to be for my training run.

I highly recommend this event. Everything was very well run, and it was a blast to finish a marathon on a track. The heat and wind were beyond the control of anyone. The volunteers were very nice and I felt especially sorry for them being out in the wind! It was a beautiful way to see parts of Oklahoma, including the Arbuckle Mountains. I would definitely do it again, if it works out with my schedule.

Countdown to my first Ultra: 4 days!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

30 Miles Before Age 30

My goal, when I started running in preparation for Rock 'n Roll Seattle with Team in Training last year, was to finish just one marathon before my 30th birthday. I had no intention on doing any other marathons. I just wanted to raise money for a good cause, and to hit a goal I thought was just a pipe dream.  I had 3 kids in less than 5 years, and had stopped any sort of working out. (Despite being a personal trainer. Whoops.) And I wasn't getting any younger.

Fast forward to now, and I've actually completed 7 marathons and my 30th birthday isn't until Saturday! Pretty wild the changes that went on for me mentally and physically in the last year. I'm so pleased. Marathon training isn't for the faint of heart. It takes lots of time. I'm just so thankful to have a supportive husband, and three little girls who love their time with Daddy for a few hours on Saturday/Sunday mornings. I am also thrilled to have a training partner who has a family and multiple other obligations, so he "gets" that we need to start early - really early - and be done early.

When I posted last time about an upcoming marathon in Oklahoma, I neglected to remember I had my first "more than a marathon" distance scheduled just a week before the marathon. Nice taper, right? It is funny how different it is to use marathons as training runs, and in preparing for Ultras.

Coach Scott and I started off at 3am Saturday morning (told you he's willing to start early!) for our 30 mile run. The weather was just about perfect. In the 40's, very little wind. There's not too much exciting to report during, but overall, it was fantastic. I don't think it could have gone more perfectly. (Other than me forgetting my gels for our first 10 mile loop.) I ate half of a PB&J at every 10 miles. Took gels at 5 mile marks. Felt great the entire time.

We joined up with the Team in Training group for the last 10/11 miles. It was nice to have their support, and they were very sweet and excited for me. I hit 26.2 with little fanfare, but that was ok. Every step beyond that point was thrilling and exciting, as it was a distance PR. That hadn't happened in about 9 months. I was taken back to those moments of training for my first marathon, where I was amazed each week with the fact I was running 8 miles, 10 miles, etc. It felt awesome to do a distance that I had not yet accomplished. Relish those moments if you're in training for your first run of any distance. It is such an awesome thing you are doing, whether you're up to 2 miles, or 12 miles, or 22 miles. Be thankful that your body can do such an awesome thing.

Hip flexors were a little tight after, and my quads were more sore than I anticipated, but I did a recovery run of 10 miles Sunday morning. No joint pain, nothing odd. I'm just so happy and pleased with the run. Very fun that I got a 30 mile training run in exactly one week before my 30th birthday. Love it.

So now I look ahead to turning 30 on Saturday. And Sunday trying out my new age group at the A2A Marathon in Oklahoma. It will be a training run, mimicking how I will be running my first Ultra (eating, walk breaks, etc.) with a medal at the end. Staring this weekend everything gets pretty wild. The marathon Sunday, then a week later the Rock 'n Roll Dallas 1/2, and then a week after that is Brew to Brew, my 43 mile Ultra. Here's to lots of rest and lots of fun (and no sick kids) between now and then.

Have a great week!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Post Oak Challenge: Part 2

To recap: We finished our trail run. Yay!

After cleaning up, we enjoyed a few hours in Tulsa for Abuelos and a visit to the local running store. We made it back in time to rest a bit before heading to night two of pasta dinners at the Lodge. Had some time to visit with our neighbors, as well. Such nice guys. Again, I love runners.

Pasta dinner did not disappoint the second time around. Lasagna was on the menu, including a very delicious vegetarian version. I was very well fed. Dessert was awesome. Randy Ellis spoke the second night as well, and this time talked about many of the runners who were there that weekend. (Including a woman who had brain cancer, previously. And a woman who was a breast cancer survivor. Think you can't do certain things? Well, you can. True story. So inspiring, what people overcome.)

After the dinner, we sat around and talked with many of the runners we had met previously. I cannot hit on the fact, again, that this weekend was set up so wonderfully. Especially if you were staying on property. It was awesome to spend an entire weekend seeing the same people, hearing their plans for their runs, and also getting to talk to them about everything afterward. Did I mention I love runners?

I was finally able to visit with Johnny Spriggs, the race director. He was so kind. As I mentioned in  Part 1, I had been in contact with him via email several times pre-Post Oak Challenge weekend. We really connected when he told me he has done Heartland before, and he had some really wonderful things to say about the event. Michele was able to talk to him some about pacing me during my last 17 miles of the 100 at Heartland, and he was just an all-around nice guy. His wife was very nice, as well.

Nickki, Michele, Myself, Johnny Spriggs
We also stopped to look at the race maps. All races for Sunday were out and back, so really the marathoners had it easiest, as we at least had mostly-flat to "rest" for many miles. The half marathoners (including Nickki and Michele) had a little less flat, and the quarter marathoners really got spanked by literally going down the hills, and then turning around and going right back up. Ouch.

Saturday Trail Map/Sunday "Troad" Map
We went back to our room and started getting settled in. I heard Nickki and Michele talking about something, and then Nickki said, "Hannah? Are you afraid of bugs?" I walked into the room, and I saw my newest roommate, a scorpion. Gross. Out. At this point, we turned back into the non-trail running wimps that we are, and Guy and Rick came to save the day. Gross. Gross. Gross.

Our Roommate
Despite the scorpion incident, I actually slept very well Saturday night. I woke up every 2 hours on the dot, but was able to get right back to sleep. I hadn't noticed too much soreness after the trail run, until I got up to the bathroom. I took a step and thought, "Oh crap. This marathon is going to hurt."

We got up and got ourselves ready for Day #2 of the Post Oak Challenge. We again debated based on the weather, as it was currently 56 degrees at 7am. What the heck? And 86% humidity. Ouch. I kept thinking I wanted a short-sleeved shirt under my outer layer, but they assured me a tank-top was the better choice. They were so right.

 Nickki and Michele joined me at the main Lodge to bid me farewell, despite their run starting later than mine. Such sweet friends I have.

Nickki, Myself, Michele. Matchy-matchy-matchy, all unintentional.

I told my friends Jenn and Scott that I planned to either PR or run myself so hard into "the wall" that I was reduced to walking the last 8 miles of the marathon. Obviously door #2 was the likelier event, given my current level of soreness.

We started off fast, as it was downhill. But, it was steep downhill. Very steep. Steep enough I was pretty sure I was going to fall. I talked with a woman from Iowa who had done the 25k the day before, and kept in pace with her for a while. She was feeling way stronger than I was, so I fell in pace with a woman named Laurie from Colorado. It is easy to make friends while running. We talked about marathons, about 100 milers (Laurie has paced several people through the Leadville Trail 100), and anytime anyone mentions any 100 miler, it causes me to geek out. I was giddy, and she was a fabulous person to keep my mind occupied.

The miles were clicking by, quickly. I think some of our miles were fast because there were so many big dogs roaming the route. They were unchained and not fenced in. What the heck, Oklahoma? Scary stuff. (Actually, the guy Nickki and Michele ran with was attacked by one of the dogs. Not terribly, but nonetheless, a dog got up on him. Scary.) I would occasionally look down at my Garmin, call myself a total dumbass for running the pace I was running, but ignored it and kept going. We hit our first half in 2:02:something. Wow. I was pleased with that (and scared for my life). Our previous few miles had slowed some (9:30-9:40) and I was questioning my sanity, but was positive about my stupidity. It was very very very muggy, very hot, very windy, but overall still enjoying the pain.

At mile 17 I stopped to use the bathroom. It cost me a lot of time, though I am not sure why. Maybe I just needed the break. I sent Laurie on, and told her I'd catch up. That didn't really happen for a while. I was still sub-10, until I caught Laurie at mile 19+, and that's when it all started to go downhill.

Mile 20 was my first mile over a 10/min mile. We came to a water stop at mile 22(ish?). I was not feeling good at all. They had pretzels, and I took a handful, and sent Laurie on. I told her I would be walking the rest of the way, and if not walking, I would be dying. She hesitated going ahead, but ultimately the walking was just to rough on her body. She told me to try to alternate walking and jogging, just to try to get there faster and off my feet. The world was spinning around me. I was at the worst possible place on the course to be weaving and not with it, as there was absolutely no shoulder on the road. I was walking on the white line at the side, cars whizzing by, and I really couldn't do anything about it other than to not close my eyes and lay down like I felt like doing.

The pretzels (and another gel) helped. So did chugging water. I wanted to keep walking, but I came up on a volunteer who had stopped traffic for me, and I felt like I could at least attempt to speed up, just for their sakes. So, I jogged, just to get through the intersection. Then I walked. A while later, I saw another volunteer who asked me if I was ok. I was around mile 22.5 or something, so I was pretty sure I was going to finish, even if it meant walking the rest of the way. I could see Laurie way ahead, and just kept her in my sights. Before we turned the corner to head toward the Lodge (mile 23?) we had yet another dog run in. I could see the guy ahead of Laurie about to get eaten by the giant beast, I saw him pass and he kept a lookout as Laurie passed the rabid mongrel, and then I realized there was no one watching to see if I got eaten. I decided to cross the road, pray that cars would drive by, and attempted a slow run. It was very helpful, and felt pretty good. Plus, it got me away from the dog a teeny tiny bit faster. (Seriously, Oklahoma. What is up with there being large dogs roaming around and freaking people out. Not ok.)

As soon as I turned the corner to head toward the Lodge, I knew it was uphill from there. Rather, rolling hills and then an enormous uphill. At this point, I knew that it was the perfect time to practice for my ultras. I walked every uphill and jogged the flats and downhills. It was fabulous mental training, and for that I am very thankful. I was even bargaining with myself and picking spots on the road, knowing I could stop running at those spots. Notice how there are no cute pictures in Part 2? That is because I couldn't take any. I was running too hard before I got bonkalicious, and at this point, I was way too woozy. I did text Nickki to tell her where I was, and that I'd be walking. I misspelled every word, but I think she got the point...that I wasn't doing well. My face was caked with salt.

I was still thanking every single volunteer I came upon the entire time, even when I was walking all crazy and seeing stars. Seeing them was amazing, as I don't think there was one spectator on the course. It wasn't bad at all, but it did make me even more thankful for those who had given their time to be out there for us. Dogs do not count as spectators, even if they do weigh more than me. 

By some act of God, I did end up catching up to Laurie after we turned onto the road at the Post Oak Lodge. This was where the hills went from rolling to just plain mean. There was even a sign that said, "The Hill from Hell". Laurie and I hiked up it, which was a welcome change for my quads, as I thought they would explode at any moment. They were not ok. But my glutes were ready for some action, and that is the only reason I made it up that bad boy. We finished all smiles, and with hand-holding. Yay!

(Barely) Survived the Post Oak Challenge. Happy!
I finished in 4:27:57. I was very pleased with the time, given the effort the day before, and the giant wall that spanked me into submission. I loved it. I went out too fast, I hurt, I came back and was able to finish. Though I knew there was no way I could drive home.

I am now a huge believer in recovery being an important aspect of any distance event. I was able to eat within 10 minutes of finishing (bring on that vegetarian chili again, yum!) and went from feeling like I couldn't drive, to feeling better and able to drive, to feeling really really awesome. I also discovered that I was first place in my age group. Even more fitting, though, was that I don't like the idea of "beating" I was really really happy when I realized I was also the only person in my age group. Love it.

All in all, the weekend was perfect (my only complaint would be the dogs). Perfect location, beautiful property, great place to stay, food was amazing, events were all well-run. I am very thankful to Johnny Spriggs and all of the people who were volunteers, who helped plan, who were involved in any aspect of the weekend, including all of the runners. We will be back, year after year. It was one of the most fun and enjoyable running weekends I've ever had. It is a fact, I haven't had that many...but this one was truly awesome.

And now, time to get mentally prepared for running another marathon in Oklahoma in less than 2 weeks! Fun, though - I know at least one of the guys running, because I met him at Post Oak. The running world is getting very very small. I think it is awesome.

Have a great week!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Post Oak Challenge: Part 1

What an incredible weekend. Before I even start, I have to wholeheartedly recommend the Post Oak Challenge. February 25/26 next year. See you there.

Michele, Hannah (me!), Nickki

We arrived at the Post Oak Lodge Friday late afternoon, and checked in. We were in Lodge 5 - it had a common living space, and 4 (locking) bedrooms, each with private bathrooms. We were greeted by two of our Cabin-mates, Rick and Guy, from Minnesota. They were awesome and doing the 50k trail run and the Marathon.

The pasta dinner was held at the main Lodge. It was such a beautiful building. The food was delicious! As a vegetarian, I typically expect that my "pasta dinner" will consist of dry pasta (with olive oil if I'm lucky) and vegetables. I was amazed that not only was there a vegetarian sauce option, but that it was  quite tasty. It had mushrooms and eggplant and was so delicious! Two thumbs up. And the dessert was really good, too. We sat with three runners from St. Louis (all doing their first 50k) and one runner from Oklahoma City (also doing his first 50k). Great people.

Our speaker was Randy Ellis, author of the book "Running With Payne". Randy did a transcontinental run from California to New York in 1998. Beyond the book and beyond the awesome thing that Randy accomplished, he was hands-down one of the nicest men I've ever met. Genuinely and shockingly down to earth and kind and it was so obvious that he truly cared when he talked to each person. We enjoyed hearing about his journey, and talking with him after. (I geeked out big-time, and got on the topic of Ultramarathons with Randy - specifically my upcoming 100 miler in October. It was awesome, as he's done the 50 mile at Heartland, so is familiar with the course, and is also a 100-miler himself. I love runners.)

Michele, Myself, Randy Ellis, Nickki.
He's tall. 
My friends and I headed back to our Lodge after dinner, and drifted off to a restless sleep.

Saturday morning we had a 6:15 wakeup - for an 8am race. Our wakeup time even provided us with extra time! Every other race I've done has required being up at least 4 hours prior to the run. It was heaven to know that we had to walk 30 seconds and we were at the start line.

Us at the start line...that wasn't really the start line.
We were all a little unsure of what we were getting ourselves into, as none of us have ever set foot on a trail in our lives. Especially not a trail with the intent of running! (Or, as we would find out...merely attempting to run.) The great part was to be there with friends, and knowing we were all getting a new experience out of the deal, in addition to having a wonderful weekend away from our day-to-day lives. Nickki and I said goodbye to Michele, as she was doing the 10k and it had a start time 30 minutes after ours.

Myself and Nickki - anxiously excited!
The gun went off and the 25k and 50k race started. I say "race" very loosely, as Nickki and I started near the back, and enjoyed the first part of our run across a giant field. The trail switched quickly to mud, hills, trees, branches, hills, rocks, roots, mud, rocks, mud and single-lane trail. (I don't know my trail lingo. But, hello bottleneck!) It was probably very good we couldn't go any faster or slower. Looking at our pace was pointless, both because we didn't really care what our pace was, with nothing to compare it to, and also because we knew we had a long road ahead of us for Sunday's events.

The trail switched between being in woods, to big fields. Though the real kicker was that we would hit an area and be thrilled to see wide trails, only to realize there were still 3,253 rocks to contend with, along with mud that I feared would suck my shoes off.

Hiking up Holmes Peak.
This picture makes us look like wimps.
I swear it was bigger than it looked...
Our friend Coach Scott had warned us that we would have fun, but at some point would say, "Are you freaking kidding me? I am only 3 miles in?!" And that we'd get to a hill and look up at it and just not want to take another step. He was dead on. I think that was the best way to describe it. He also told me that I would use more profanity during the trail run than I will in October when I do my 100 miler. Talk about a pep talk! (In all seriousness, his wisdom and honesty helped us so much, as we knew any defeat we felt was just part of trail running fun. And we really were having fun!)

The views are apparently quite amazing with clear skies!
I had been in contact with the race director, Johnny Spriggs, several times via email. His biggest suggestion was to get gaiters. I am so beyond thankful that we listened. They were awesome, and I cannot imagine if we didn't have them.

We met great people on the trail. Everyone was so nice. Because Nickki and I weren't concerned on time, we would walk, stop, move off the trail to let people by, etc. It was just an adventure. However, we did feel sort of lame when these two little boys passed us looking about 95% more energetic than we did!

Little boys. Seriously.
I did fall at one point. So thankful I didn't bust my face open, but I did slam my knee into a rock, and banged up my hands a tiny bit. It didn't affect me much, except when it continued to get colder out. Though I won't deny that I did feel 74% more badass after taking my first fall on a trail. We debated that morning whether or not to take gloves, etc. Because of the forecast, we decided against gloves. Bad choice, as the forecast changed and ended up colder. I think that was the one time I really really started feeling my knee aching - when I got pretty cold. Felt much better when we kept moving at a quicker (but still slow) pace.

Crossing a creek behind Lyle, a fellow Marathon Maniac.
Per usual, I had to have fun, especially since I wasn't racing and I was feeling good. Therefore, I give you my jumping picture. (Obviously had a difficult time getting off the ground...)

Jumping is fun.
The race photographer was in the middle of the woods, and got a great picture of Nickki and I. Honestly, I think she and I both got to a point where if we weren't laughing, we would have been crying. It was very cold, and we were slow, and the course was marked in kilometers, which jacks with your brain. Or it jacks with my brain, anyway. I swear I spent 25 minutes while on the trail trying to figure out the equivalent of 2k in miles.

Happy and thankful that we can go out and do this!
I had a wardrobe malfunction that become an issue the last half of the trail run. I wore the wrong socks. Yes, I had the correct socks with me (unlike Nickki who completely forgot her pants...she's wearing my extra pair because I am crazy and take extra of everything...) but for whatever reason, I just didn't put them on. Finally, I gave up and took my gaiter off, took my shoe off, and pulled my sock up once and for all. It was a big mental boost to not be annoyed by my lame sock and my apparent lack of smartness to put on the correct socks. Oy vey.

We eventually made our way to the finish. Ahhhhhh. Nothing like running a marathon finishing time, only 10+ miles shorter distance! Though not my marathon time, thank goodness.

Nickki, Myself, Michele - Done!
Michele had a gerat time on the trail, and very much enjoyed her 10k. I am so proud of both she and Nickki, as they hadn't really been running much at all. Trails are so odd, as it was like many many miles running benches at a stadium, combined with lunges, combined with lateral jumping, with small bursts of running. It was fun, and I did succeed in my goal of wanting to walk away understanding why people love trails so much. Nickki and I agreed that we would absolutely do more trail runs, even without having a place to train for trail runs. It was just fun, and mentally challenging, and physically challenging, and awesome. And muddy and wet. Because I'm sure you want to know, we didn't take dead last, but not far from it...our time was 3:36:31.

Trail runners!
I'll be back soon to recap the rest of the weekend, including my 26.2 miles the next day. Good times!