Race Report: Jingle Bell Run 5K 2017

Official Results:
Time: 31:41 (2:20 slower than my 2016 race)
Pace: 10:12
Placing:
Overall: 62/148

Watch Results:
Time: 31:47
Pace: 9:53
Distance: 3.21 mi
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 29:59

Food:
What I ate the night before: Qdoba burrito bowl
What I ate on race day: nothing (I had the burrito bowl at like 10 PM so I wasn’t hungry)
What I carried with me: Nothing

Gear:
What I wore: hoodie, t-shirt, arm warmers, tights, buff (as headband)
Gadgets: GPS watch

Discussion: This race is confirmation that I need a break. It was even slower than last week! I do have some suspicions that the course was a bit long. Well, either the course was long, or the course last year was short. Either way, the turnaround was at the top of the first hill into Leif Erickson park, rather than at the base of the hill as it was last year. I really hope this course was long because otherwise my PR is invalid. Who cares, it’s not a world record. I’ll stick with it.

I didn’t run the day before the race (well, except for like 0.3 mi on a treadmill at my local running store – I bought a new pair of road shoes yesterday and tested them out with a quick run on the treadmill), but I had gone through a streak of running 10 days in a row. It wasn’t hard running, but I normally do not go that long without a rest day. I doubt it made a huge difference, although my hips were a bit sore by Wednesday or Thursday.

This morning I woke up and really didn’t want to get out of bed. I did manage to arrive in Canal Park in time to run just over a mile to warm up. The warm-up felt slow and my stride didn’t feel effortless. So, bad sign.

After I finished my warm-up, I met up with friends inside the Sports Garden. This is one of the nice perks of the event – an indoor place to gather beforehand. It was already like 32 F so I had decided to forgo gloves (last week my hands got really warm about 2 miles in), and I actually felt a little TOO warm even with only lighter layers on, after just a warm-up.

We were busy taking a picture when the race started – we thought we had more time, but as we were trying to move up in the starting line, we realized the race had already begun. I ended up being walkers again for the first 0.08 (by my watch) miles. Oh well.

I thought I was doing a pretty good job of running hard, but not too hard. This was my first time on this section of the Lakewalk since it was heavily damaged during a storm in October. It’s sad to see there’s still so much work to be done to restore parts of it. The path did have some rocks (and broken glass!) on it in spots, although I can’t say it affected my race trying to avoid the detritus. I just sucked.

I really thought I gave a more even, more sustained effort, but I guess I didn’t. I am tired, but last year I set my PR even though I had a cold (a cold that ended up knocking me for a loop the next couple of days, causing me to have to go home sick from an all-week work training in Edina). I’m frustrated that I’ve backslid so much on my speed, but it’s a learning experience. If I want to race middle distance races, I either have to do some occasional speedwork, or adopt a different attitude toward races.

I’m taking 2 weeks off from running now, starting tomorrow. Hooray!

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Race Report: Gobble Gallop 2017

Official Results:
Time: 31:29 (1:02 faster than my 2015 race)
Pace: 10:08
Placing:
Overall: 962/1937
Sex: 509/1214
Age Group (F35-39): 54/146

Watch Results:
Time: 31:33
Pace: 10:04
Distance: 3.13 mi
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 28:59
B: 29:20

Food:
What I ate the night before: Qdoba burrito bowl
What I ate on race day: Triscuits (I didn’t plan ahead for food)
What I carried with me: Nothing

Gear:
What I wore: hoodie, long sleeved tech shirt, tights, buff (as headband), gloves
Gadgets: GPS watch

Discussion: LOLOLOL. I stink at 5Ks.

I arrived early enough to warm up for about a mile. I didn’t get a good sense of how my legs felt because I had to be cautious in my warm-up. It snowed just a little bit overnight and some spots on the sidewalk and roads seemed slippery. When I finished my warm-up (just over a mile, so a real one!), I ran into my friend, her daughter, and her parents, which was the highlight of the race, I have to say.

A lot of what happened in this race can be attributed to where I lined up. It is really a challenge to gauge where I should line up for 5Ks when there aren’t pace groups. It usually involves a lot of sizing people up. I want to stay out of the way of faster runners, but not get into the groups. When I ran the race in 2015, everyone had to go through the blow-up archway in order to go over the timing mat. They did not do that this year, and I have to say, the other way was better. While it took forever to get through the arch, it was significantly less congested once we got through. This year, they moved the arch out of the way and extended the timing mats. This meant that people got through the start faster, but it was so congested.

I respect that people have different ideas about the purpose of a Thanksgiving 5K. Some people want to win, some people want to wear crazy costumes (one person ran the entire Tough Turkey mile wearing an Angry Birds head), some people want to run with family and friends, some people are running their first race. However, people need to have some situational awareness regardless of their goals. I lined up too far to the back and ended up behind people who were walking from the start, people who brought their dogs (not allowed), people who started with strollers (there was a designated stroller wave, but I guess this person was too good to follow the rules), people who were walking with young children, people who were in a group and running 5 abreast, people who were texting/otherwise on their phones, people having conversations, etc. And it didn’t let up until I was probably halfway through the race. I wasted a lot of mental energy getting frustrated by that, and decided I’d rather act like a big baby and “quit” (I was still running, but not pushing it hard) than try to make up time in the second half once the congestion let up.

This was one of the most crowded 5Ks I’ve ever run, and I think if I run it in the future, I’m going to have to line up a lot closer to the start than I am comfortable with. Of course, if I’m not going to run hard and put in an effort the whole race, there’s probably no point to lining up closer to the start, but that’s not supposed to happen every race.

I’m doing the Jingle Bell Run next weekend and I’m hoping that will be a better experience. I will certainly try to prepare better for the race. After that, I plan to take a full two weeks off from running before beginning training for a big spring ultra, so it’ll be my last “hurrah” for the season.

Race Report: Fall Back Blast

Official Results:
Time: 8:14:42
Pace: 15:55
Placing:
Overall: 21/21
Gender: 8/8

Watch Results:
My watch died at 6:12:19.

Goals: 
A: 8:00
B: 8:15
C: 8:45

Food:
What I ate the night before: hummus and vegetable sandwich, two bagels w/cream cheese
What I ate on race morning: bagel w/cream cheese (I like bagels, come at me)
What I carried with me: gels

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt + arm warmers (instead of a long-sleeved shirt), semi-waterproof jacket, lightweight running tights, trucker hat, buff (as headband under hat), gloves
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker, hydration vest

Discussion: I started and finished a race! It’s a freaking miracle.

FBB50K

I drove down to Eau Claire on Friday night, which was a harrowing experience. For about 45 minutes, I was driving in snow that was obscuring the road AND the reflective signs on the side of the road were not catching my headlight beams for some reason. Fortunately it was not slippery, but it was still terrifying. I kept thinking I was going to drive off into the ditch. I considered turning around and going home, but I white-knuckled it. Partially because I was closer to Eau Claire than to Duluth, and also because I did want to run the race.

I made it to my hotel room, listened to the men’s hockey game (they lost), and then got my stuff together for the next day. I realized that I had forgotten an entire bag of gear — and that there was nothing in there that I needed. (It was extra clothes for a potential drop bag, as well as a spare pair of shoes). Close call. I set out my clothes and packed up everything I could in a more organized fashion, as I knew I’d be schlepping everything to the car in the morning and I didn’t want to have to spend extra time packing. I went to bed and of course couldn’t sleep. And that made me anxious, not just about the race, but about driving home after the race. The idea of running a 50K on no sleep isn’t that terrible anymore, but the driving part has been worrying for me. It’s what kept me from running the Birkie.

I must have fallen asleep somewhere between 4:15 and 6:15 a.m., so I got maybe an hour and a half of sleep. It wasn’t great, but it was still better than no sleep. I need that reset. I woke up, hit snooze for about 20 minutes, then got up and got dressed, hauled my gear down to the car, and drove about 10 minutes to the race start. There was plenty of parking and it was easy to find, even in the dark. I checked in, got my shirt, bib, and timing chips, which they told me I needed to pin to my hips. Then I went back to my car and sat there until maybe 7:40, eating my bagel and farting around on my phone. I put all my gear on, went back to get more pins, and confirmed that yes, I was pinning these dangly chips to my sides. I thought maybe I had misheard, it was early and I was tired. Apparently they are normally put on shoes, but in a trail race that’s just a bad idea.

Everyone huddled around the fire at the aid station while we listened to the pre-race briefing and the national anthem (why?), and then everyone lined up. It’s a loop course with four races: 12.5K, 25K, 37.5K (new this year, but why the heck not?), and 50K. Each loop is 12.5K, so you can do the math there. I’ve never done a looped distance race, and I wasn’t sure if I’d like it. It was nice to have a mass start, though – I’d definitely recommend this race for groups of runners – drive over with your friends, and choose your distance. Everyone can run the first loop together, and then the longer distance runners just keep going.

I’m not really sure how to write a race report for a looped race. It all sort of blended together. I’ll try to describe it both chronologically and spatially, and it will probably make no sense at all.

Loop 1 (1:57:24, loop pace 15:06)
Loop 2 (1:58:54, loop pace 15:18)
Loop 3 (2:07:12, loop pace 16:22)
Loop 4 (2:11:11, loop pace 16:53)

I settled in to the back of the pack fairly quickly. It was in the mid 30s F at race start, and the air was damp, with some off and on drizzle/sleet. I was glad to have my trucker hat as it kept my glasses from getting too wet. The course started out on a gravel road leaving the fairgrounds, and then snaked its way through a grassy field. After the race, when I was looking at my data, I panicked. I realized that I had only gone through the grassy field once, instead of four times. I’d cut the course! This PR was illegitimate! I was a cheater! But I was only following other people, and the course seemed really well-marked other than that piece, so how did I let that happen? By accident, I clicked on the race map today and saw it showed that section only for the first loop. So I didn’t cheat, or cheat myself! Hooray. On the final loop, I actually ended up briefly overtaking someone who I hadn’t seen at all during the first three loops. He slowed significantly during the third loop, so I caught up with him and actually went ahead of him for a little while. I wasn’t a huge fan of this guy because I saw him throw a carton of milk on the trail after he finished it. This isn’t a road marathon, dude. Pack it out.

After the grassy section, we headed into some single track in the woods, and then came out and wound our way around a mound of sandy dirt (called Ant Hill, appropriately). It wasn’t too steep so I ran it on three of the four loops (I walked it for the second loop). One the first loop, I could hear people behind me groaning over the incline. This is where living in Duluth is an advantage – there are very few flat places to run. A gentle incline isn’t going to fell me. After we went through Ant Hill, the trail continued out in the open. This section was kind of muddy – not watery mud like I encountered on the Superior Hiking Trail, but it was slippery, and the trail was sloped to the side a bit, so I had to be careful where I stepped. The trail went into pine trees after that, for one of my favorite sections. It was flat, covered in pine needles, and very easy to run. I ran this whole section all four loops. In the first loop, a line of people had settled in behind me, and the woman right behind me kept saying “root” or “mud” or calling out whatever other slight obstacle might appear. It was driving me crazy so I kept pushing a little harder to try to distance myself from her. It’s a trail run. There are roots and rocks and mud and other things. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. On the final loop, this section is where I was overtaken by the littering guy for good.

After that section in the pines, the course went through a straight section that had several tiny (but muddy) hills, and then into the woods again. I ran the hills the first two times but walked them the third and fourth loops, because I was getting tired and the mud was wearing down my legs. This section was a bit more hilly, but still very runnable. There was a very muddy, steep incline in this section of the trail, and I ended up just planting my feet and skiing down. It worked ok.  On the third and fourth laps, it was sticky enough that I felt under control, instead of just pointing my toes down the hill and hoping. This section also had a short boardwalk which I walked across, since it was wet and potentially slippery. I headed back up a switchback (more mud), which I slipped on the second time through. There were a few more hills in this section (each with funny signs!), a two-way traffic bridge, and then a winding section that cruelly went past the first aid station, which was still slightly less than a mile away!

There were two larger (for this race) hills right before the aid station, and I was thrilled to get there. The first two times through, I was right on time for an 8 hour finish (I forgot my pace chart in the pocket of my jeans, but it was pretty easy to pace out an 8 hour finish – 1:09 to the first aid station, 0:51 to the second, repeat), but on the third loop, I really started to slow down. I was in and out of the aid station each time – everyone was so friendly and helpful, and they kept offering me hot cider and quesadillas, but all I wanted were cookies and sports drink (they had pop on the 3rd and 4th loops, thankfully). The section leaving the aid station was also nice and smooth, and I learned after the first loop that I didn’t want to waste that smooth section walking and eating, so I spaced my food out a bit more. On the final loop, I overtook another runner who had slowed significantly. He fell in behind me and I reeled him along to the finish.

After the flat section, we went through a more technical section, with a few more boardwalks, one of which I slipped and fell on, and one of which I refused to cross because it was too steep (I hopped down and crossed the small stream, then climbed up the little bank), and then had some more ups and downs and switchbacks, and then hit a sign that said “this is the last hill.” What a lovely sign (although there was what I would consider a hill after that one, it was the last biggish hill), even if it had little meaning the first three times through.

After that last hill, the trail heads back toward the fairgrounds, but while the finish line/aid station is visible through the chain link fence, there’s still almost a mile to go. It’s kind of disheartening, but it’s not a difficult section, just one larger incline. It does feel like the section gets farther and farther from the finish line, and goes on forever, but then after a last little hill, the fairgrounds come into view, and there’s just a short grassy section to the DJ and the timing mat. Toward the end of this section during the last loop, the guy who had fallen in behind me thanked me for helping him get through the end of the race, and then went on ahead of me! I’m not sure if this is a faux pas or not, but I was happy to let him pass me by and earn my DFL (after having my dreams dashed back in April).

One of the volunteers at the end remarked that I was still smiling, and that she’d seen me smiling and looking really happy on the second loop. I like to smile during races because the alternative is whining or crying, and that’s not as fun. I was also grinning during the end of my second loop because the DJ was playing Judas Priest when I came through the timing mat, and it was highly motivating.

Some overall thoughts:

  • The weather was a little bit colder than I would have liked. I had my jacket unzipped halfway during the second and third loops, but I would get chilled when I stopped. I think I was wearing the appropriate amount of clothing, but I didn’t like that I had to wear that much clothing.
  • I am not used to running that much during a race. That sounds insane, of course, but most of the long races that I run have had natural walking breaks (usually due to large hill) or have had forced walking breaks (like when I got sunscreen and salt in my eyes at Chippewa Moraine, or when the heat got to me at FANS). There were very few natural places for a walking break in this race. I liked it, but it was also much harder on my body than I expected. I was moving very slowly and painfully on Sunday.
  • Both the cold weather and the runnable nature of the course combined to give me some nutrition issues. I didn’t want to eat during runnable sections, but that meant I wasn’t eating enough. I also didn’t eat any of my gels. They seemed too messy for all the gear I had on, and I didn’t want to have to take my gloves off. That is really stupid but it’s what happened.
  • I pushed myself through the first two loops and told myself on the third loop, I could be gentle. I still tried to push myself through the course, and I’m pretty pleased with how many times I made myself run when I’d prefer to walk. Somehow the mud on the fourth loop took more out of me than I thought. I was hoping to speed back up on the fourth loop, but my legs didn’t want to. Also…
  • …when my watch died, that killed basically all of my will to speed up on that final loop. I had no idea what pace I was running, how far I had left to go, or what my overall race time was. The watch was fully charged when I started, and it’s lasted through longer races without charging, so I am guessing it’s a battery issue. It was really frustrating.
  • I wanted to quit a lot, and I didn’t. It’s very easy to quit in a looped course. I’ve done it before (FANS), so I know how simple it is. Some of the race staff seemed a little surprised I was going out for that final lap – maybe they were hoping I wouldn’t? I was a little worried that I was, like, an hour behind everyone else and was inconveniencing people, but then I got out on the course and ran into those other two runners and felt better about it. And even if I was an hour behind everyone else, it was my right to run the darned race.
  • The loop distance and aid station placement was perfect. 7.75 miles/12.5K is really not that bad. The first aid station is 4.5 miles in, which means the second part of the loop is just over a 5K. That seemed very doable. The second loop was the most frustrating for me. I wasn’t loving life at that point, and I still had such a long way to go. I kept questioning what the point of running ultras was, and thought maybe I should just give them up, and what business do I have thinking I could step up to a longer distance, etc. But after that loop was done, I was halfway done (you don’t say!), and then I hit the aid station on the 3rd loop and had hit 20 miles, and then I was in single digits, and then I was on my last loop, and then there was only 5K to go, and then I hit the “last hill” sign for real, and then I really was done.
  • The weirdest thing about ultra runners isn’t the actual running. It’s that when we’re done, we’re handed a bowl of sketchy chilly and we totally eat the whole thing and it’s delicious.
  • The course was really well marked, with orange plastic “tape” blocking off any wrong turn. There were also lots of funny signs, which served as unofficial landmarks for me (“ok, I’ve hit the ‘and another hill’ sign, that means I’m almost to the aid station”). Unfortunately, a volunteer got a little overzealous and took down a few of the sections of tape before I had run through on my last lap. I ran into a few other volunteers after I luckily went the correct direction, and asked them to please not take down any more sections of tape until I was through. Yes, it’s a looped course and I’ve been through three times already, but I’ve never had to make a decision on where to go!
  • I’m definitely running this race again. I want to run it when it’s not muddy, because it’s got the potential to be a really fast course. The mud sucks up a lot of kinetic energy from my stride, plus it’s slippery. If the trail had been dry and the boardwalks hadn’t been slick, I’m guessing I could have run about 10 minutes faster. Plus everyone was so friendly. At the finish, because I was last and by myself, I had a lot of people fussing over me, I got hugs, they offered me all kinds of food and drink (including whiskey), and I felt very welcome. I asked someone to take my picture and practically started crying because of how helpful everyone was.

After the race was finished, I knew I needed to get somewhere warm quickly, so I took my bowl of chili and hobbled back to my car so I could get the heater on blast. I had an entire change of clothes (besides undergarments) so I didn’t have to drive home in sweat-soaked gear. I changed into a t-shirt, sweatshirt, track pants, and a pair of slip-on shoes and felt a lot better. I wolfed down the chili, drank one of the ginger ales I had in the car, and left to drive home.

I still don’t think it was a great idea to drive home. I was pretty amped on adrenaline, so I didn’t ever feel like I was going to doze off, and I didn’t go straight to bed when I got home like I have after other races, but still, it would have been better to have 1. slept the night before 2. carpooled or 3. stayed overnight. Ideally I’d like to get to a place where I can count on actually sleeping a decent amount the night before a race, but I just don’t seem to be able to. I need to figure out how to discharge my adrenaline capacitor.

This is my last long race for the year, and I’m happy about it. I feel better about Wild Duluth and the Birkie now; before I felt like I had unfinished business that I’d be stewing about all winter. I also am glad to ramp down my mileage, finish a couple of 5Ks in the next month, and then take a little time off before I look at training for something big and scary in the spring.

Race Report: Wild Duluth 50K 2017

I’m leaning against a tree, probably only 400m from the Grand Portage Aid Station, feeling my heart thudding against my chest. This isn’t normal. Last year, I spent a minute at this aid station. This year, I spent probably 5 minutes there, drinking pop, trying to slow my racing pulse and calm my breathing. And here I am, minutes after leaving, the aid station still in sight through the trees, wondering if I should turn back. Take more time there. Pack in the race. I’m sweating, not an exhilarating sweat from a hard race effort, but a panicky, sick sweat. The kind of spontaneous, uneasy sweat that usually means I need to sit down, immediately. But I’m standing.

I stand there for probably 10 minutes. I don’t really know how long I stand there because later I realize I hit pause instead of lap when I left the aid station. I’m only passed by 3 people, since I was already in the back of the pack (though I didn’t think that far back), which means I don’t have to keep explaining myself. Keep saying I’m fine, I’m fine, even though I’m not sure I’m fine. I ran 6 power line hills in July at Curnow in heat with a half marathon in the books already and I cruised. I did two of them, slowly, only five miles into the race, and I’m destroyed. They were slick and muddy from the rain that’s fallen since the race start, and I slipped and fell 4 or 5 times while trying to scramble up and over, but that shouldn’t take this much out of me. What am I doing?

I can’t quit now. I had 5 great miles, slow but steady. I felt good. I walked the uphills, ran the flats and downhills. It’s the easiest part of the course. This next section isn’t bad, but it’s got a few short-but-steep uphills. You can do this. You can take it slow. Put one foot in front of the other. So you’ve stopped, so you’ve just lost all progress you made toward beating last year. You can still rally. Let’s go, start walking. So I do. I feel terrible and am blowing my nose into my hand every 30 seconds, it seems. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m quitting. I’m done. I should turn around and go back to Grand Portage. I see that my watch is paused. It makes me want to quit even more. I’m not even getting a correct pace anymore. I have no idea how slow I’m actually going, and I have no idea how far I’ve gone with the watch paused. Maybe a mile?

Eventually my heart calms down, and it doesn’t feel like my heart is playing a Slayer drum track on my thoracic wall. I even run a little on a nice downhill and some flat sections. I’m not running very fast, but I’m running. I figure I can keep this up, maybe rally a bit more at the next aid station. I can finish this race. It won’t be fast, but it’ll be badass. I remember I don’t have a headlamp, that complicates things if I slow down a lot.

I hit another hill and I can’t handle it. It’s not really that hard of a hill – a steepish grade, but it’s short. It’s one I can power through on a normal day even though it feels crappy. Just keep those legs moving. But I can’t. My heart’s racing again, I’m breathing heavily. I’m stopped. I’m leaning against a tree. I’m crouching on the trail, hoping there’s no one else who’s going to come up behind me. Hoping I won’t run into a 100K runner when I look this pathetic. I’m in last place (second to last, I later learn, as a man hiking with trekking poles overtakes me with a mile or so left to the aid station) and I’m breathing this hard only 7 or 8 miles in? It’s not who I am as a runner. It’s not what I trained to do.

I think about what’s realistic. I think about the logistics of dropping. What do I do? Am I supposed to call someone? I don’t have a crew. My husband is asleep. My dad is probably 30 minutes away. My friends are all busy. Do I have to beg someone for a ride? I need to keep going. I need to get closer to town before I drop. So I keep walking, make it up the hill, let my heart calm down. Ok, maybe I can make it to Magney. That would be good. It’s the halfway point, it’s more than a half marathon.

I start running into 100Kers going the other way. They are so kind, so sincere in their encouragement. It only makes me feel more frustrated, though I paste a smile on my face and wish them well. The trail is slippery due to the intermittent rain. I slip on a switchback and come closer than I’d like to falling down a steep hill. I try to keep sure footing, but my feet still have moments where they could slide out from underneath me at any moment. I grab onto trees and try to stay upright. The trail is going to be a disaster once all these folks come through. Twice.

I go up another hill and realize it’s all over. I am not going to finish this race. I’m not going to go any further than Munger. There’s no point. The climb up and over Ely’s Peak is going to do me in. I’ve completely underestimated the effect that this cold/crud has had on me. I walk it in, slowly, every hill taking me forever and a day. I feel dejected and embarrassed walking into the aid station. They probably thought all the 50K runners were through. The aid station folks try to convince me to keep going. They kind of stop once they hear the baritone cough that erupts from my lungs. I take off my bib and they figure out what to do with me. I have some pop and cookies, and it takes three people to get my Houdini jacket pouch open, because there’s crud in the zipper. I put it on and stand under the canopy as the rain intensifies. I wait while they tend to a 100K runner with a deep gash in his hand. They clean it out, wrap it up, and he goes out. I feel like an idiot. A real trail runner wouldn’t have quit. I feel like a fraud.

Two lovely volunteers take me back to the start, but we have to stop and pick up supplies first. Just as we pick up supplies and head to the aid station, we get a call that they need other stuff. Bread and oranges. So we head back to the store. Go to the aid station. I sit in the car in my wet clothes, semi-wrapped in a blanket, feeling chilled. Feeling like a nuisance. We have a fun conversation in the car, talking about the weather (the worst weather in the young history of this race, by far), other races, all kinds of stuff. I still feel like an inconvenience. We finally go back to the start, I thank them, I get in my car, drive home, shower, and then eventually take a nap when I realize there’s no other way I’m going to get warm.

So, there’s my first DNF. 11 miles into a 31 mile race. It took me 4 hours to cover those 11 miles (20 minutes slower than last year, and that is after running the first 5.4 miles at the same pace [technically faster, but I spent longer at the aid station this year]), and I had given up well before then. Part of me is like, I am so soft. A real runner would have gutted it out. I wasn’t missing cutoffs. There were 13 and 14 hour finishers. Those people are amazing. I am less than amazing. I was angry about a lot of things, mostly around getting sick, staying sick, not doing enough to get healthy sooner, not doing enough to avoid getting sick, traveling too much which led to me being both run down and exposed to germy people in close quarters. Angry that I had already skipped the Birkie because I hadn’t slept the night before, and had consoled myself by saying this was the real goal race.

Another part of me is like, look, you were sick. Maybe another runner would have gutted it out, yeah. But you felt like garbage all day Saturday, and felt pretty crappy on Sunday, too. And you had to get a plane on Tuesday (I’m writing this from Edmonton). What shape would you have been in if you had finished the race, if this is what you’re like after 11 miles? How do people with heroic tales of destroying themselves during ultras get up and to go work a day or two later? In reality, I shouldn’t have started the race. But I didn’t know that. I didn’t know how running would feel so different than just going through my day to day life. I thought I’d given myself enough time to heal, but I hadn’t.

I’m still not completely over it, but that’s mostly because I haven’t raced in a long time, and I’m missing that great feeling of running miles and miles in nature, as fast as I can handle. I’m missing the triumphant payoff of months of training. I have another race in mind (Fall Back Blast 50K in Eau Claire) that I’ll run, provided I’m able to get some miles in this week and next, and the cough goes away. Maybe then the sting of frustration from this race will fade, but for now, I’m still pretty annoyed about it. Now I feel like I have something to prove to myself. I have to show myself I’m not a quitter, that I made the right choice and that under different circumstances, I’d have dug in and finished.

On the bright side, I actually got a couple hours of sleep before the race! I thought at the time that would be a good sign. Silly me!

Birkie Trail Run: DNS

At 3:30 this morning, still wide awake, with adrenaline pumping, I realized I wasn’t going to run this race. I had everything prepared – clothes laid out, hydration pack filled, extra gear packed. But once again, as soon as I crawled into bed, tired from a long day of fun with my family as we celebrated my Gramps’ 91st birthday, I was suddenly wide awake. I only expected to have 4-5 hours of sleep and figured that would be sufficient. Then that ticked away to 3 hours, 2 hours (and I wasn’t even obsessively looking at the clock, I just knew the time was slipping away), and I realized that I wasn’t going to get enough sleep to drive 1.5 hours, run a marathon, and then drive 1.5 hours back. I could have done the race, had it been local, but I didn’t feel safe driving in a sleep-deprived state.

I’m disappointed and embarrassed, but it’s not the end of the world. I went on a short trail run and then spent time with my family – time I wouldn’t have had if I had tried to make the race. Even if I had made it safely back home after being awake for 30+ hours and running a hard race, I wouldn’t have had energy left to have an afternoon, dinner, and fire with everyone. I’d probably have had to take a 3-4 hour nap and missed out.

I have to regroup and refocus on Wild Duluth. I don’t know how to fix this pre-race insomnia – I hadn’t had any caffeine (not even pop), I didn’t change anything about my bedtime routine, I was tired when I went to bed, and I tried to zone out, take my mind off running, and avoid looking at the clock or my Fitbit. It’s frustrating, and is something I’m going to have to fix before I try a longer race than a 50K. I don’t need to go into, say, a 100K that could take me like 17-18 hours when I’ve been awake for a day already.

I’m still tired, even. I got really poor quality sleep even after I decided not to run. My consolation run was ok, but not great. Now I have three more weeks to let this stew in my guts before I get the chance to race again. Goody!

Race Report: Run Like An Animal 5K

No, not a Phish 5K. A zoo 5K!

Official Results:
Time: 31:44
Pace: 10:13
Placing:
Overall: 44/87
Gender: 19/40

Watch Results:
Time: 31:46
Pace: 10:43
Distance: 2.96
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals: 
A: 29:59

Food:
What I ate the night before: Tandoori chicken, saffron rice, roasted cauliflower, and a German chocolate cupcake (fancy dinner for my husband’s birthday)
What I ate on race morning: Clif bar
What I carried with me: nothing

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, trucker hat
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion: If you would like to PR, this is not the race.

zoo5kalt

LOL.

I saw this race pop through my Facebook feed a few days ago. My brother and sister-in-law and my nephew were in town this past weekend, and I figured this would be a fun event. We ran the 5K, my nephew ran the kids’ race, and then we got free admission to the zoo, where there was cake and a bouncy house.

I slept kind of crappy the night before the race, although still way better than I sleep before my longer races. I woke up due to a power outage (something about the absence of sound wakes me up) and it took awhile to fall back asleep, and then my cats bugged me before my alarm went off. Oh well. I was worried about getting to the race too late to get a parking spot, or there being a big line to check in. That was not an issue as there were 87 total runners. I got a spot up close and the only reason I had to wait in line to check in was the people ahead of me were asking a bunch of questions. There is an animal costume contest as well, but since we didn’t sign up til the last minute, we didn’t have costumes. There were some nice flamingos. It wasn’t required, as the race website said “Dress up as your favorite animal and participate in our costume contest or come as your beautiful self.” It’s nice to get an affirmation from a race website.

The race starts in the zoo parking lot, and wraps around the grounds of the zoo. There are actual sections that go through exhibits at the beginning. This is both good and bad. It is good because animals are awesome. It is bad because there are a lot of twists and turns. I’ll take that trade. We ran by the barnyard and had the llamas and goats out cheering for us, and then we ran by the lynx exhibit. The lynx was going nuts and running back and forth, clearly wishing to join in.

There were three big hills, as you can see from the altitude graph above, and I’m not too proud to say I walked 2/3 of them. Good for me. I ran 7.5 miles the day before, my legs were tired. Also I have no grit. We left the zoo and ran through the park where the race ended. My nephew was there with my dad and stepmother, and he was hollering encouragement at all the runners. It was very uplifting! I ran by and complained that the race was hard. We ended up on a dirt trail after than and then a short out and back on the Kingsbury Creek trail, which I’ve run several times, and then the race turned into the home stretch. All the twists and turns messed up my GPS and I actually wasn’t expecting the end so soon. We ran through a short grassy section in the park for the finish. My sister in law finished a bit ahead of me, and my brother a bit behind me, and we headed to the food tent to get some grub. The weather had heated up pretty quickly from when I left the house to when the race began – it was sunny and humid.

The food at the race was fabulous – they had glazed donuts! And goldfish crackers, which I love. My nephew was pretty pumped to get half a donut, a banana, and some of my crackers. He needed to carb up for the kids run. The kids run was fairly long – it started in the parking lot, then went around the perimeter of the park until it reached the finish line flag chute and they got to run through that. The race had various mascots on hand (UMD’s Champ, UWS’s Buzz, the Marcus Theaters popcorn box, and the tiki guy from the Edgewater resort) to lead the way, and our family spread out along the course to cheer our little dude on. He ran the whole way! And still had energy at the finish!

After the race festivities were over, we all went into the zoo. Before we could even get to the exhibits, we had to stop at the bouncy house, strategically placed right at the bottom of the stairs from the main building. Fortunately there was also cake, so we were able to eat cake while my nephew bounced around, and then we finally dragged him away to see the animals. He didn’t seem to see why it wasn’t fun for us to all stand around while he bounced in the bouncy house forever.

This race was really fun! I’ve never done a trail 5K before, and I’m not used to running fast on trails, but I enjoyed it. Obviously if I’d known what the course was going to be like, I wouldn’t have hoped to get under 30 minutes. I look forward to improving on this time next year though!

Race Report: Voyageur 50 2017 (Volunteering)

This was my second year volunteering at the Forbay Lake aid station for Voyageur. It was wildly different than last year for about a zillion reasons, including:

  1. I have actually completed marathons and ultras
  2. I ran the Curnow Marathon (the companion race to Voyageur) this year instead of DNSing
  3. I volunteered with friends, instead of strangers. It just so happens that last year’s strangers are this year’s friends

I showed up at the aid station around 12:40, which was stupid, because it meant I missed the lead runners. In a Darth Vader-Obi-Wan Kenobi moment, it turned out the winner of this year’s race was coached by the runner-up. (I am incredibly jealous – the winner has only been running for 6 years, and went from a 6 hour first marathon to BQs and a 6:56 trail 50 miler. Why can’t I be him?) I didn’t miss too many runners, but I wish I’d calculated better and had arrived at the same time as last year (around 11:45, per my report). I did get to see the first woman come through, on her way to improving the course record by 10 minutes!

We had a huge group of volunteers this year. My friends are part of the Duluth/Superior chapter of Moms Run This Town/She Runs This Town (MRTT/SRTT), and the trail running bug is rampant among those ladies. Several of them were fulfilling their obligation from Curnow ($10 entry fee for Voyageur volunteers), but others were doing it for fun or to learn more about trail/ultrarunning. We had music, vuvuzelas, a Wonder Woman/red, white, and blue theme, and lots of friendly, kind, upbeat faces ready to help with whatever came along. In other words, the perfect aid station.

One of the first people to come into the aid station after I arrived was a shirtless guy with a man bun who announced he was dropping. So that was a bad sign, although he turned out to be our only drop, and he was having serious dehydration issues. Despite the encouragement of a masters runner/total badazz, he did the smart thing and stopped. Another early arrival to our aid station was Doug, 51 year old winner of Zumbro 100 and FANS 24 hour, and Defeat the Stigma superambassador.

Once the leaders came through, most of the rest of the day was spent refilling all manner of water containers (a zillion types of bottles, those horrible prophylactic-esque soft flasks, and several configurations of hydration bladders), coaxing and cajoling boiling hot runners into eating something, pushing salt (not in tablets! just eat it with a potato or watermelon! it works faster! said our resident nutritionist), helping runners dump suspicious-looking white powder from plastic baggies into water bottles, resurrecting people from the dead, reassuring runners that “the next section is easy” and trying to force them out of the aid station while a cloud covered the sun (since the first half mile or so by the river is exposed), and praying that no one throws up 1. in the ice cooler 2. on the food table or 3. all over me.

Truly a lot of the day is a blur. I encourage all ultrarunners (and marathon runners, or really any runners) to volunteer at aid stations, for multiple reasons.

  1. It provides a greater understanding for all the work that goes into the 30 seconds – 2 minutes you’re there (for those folks whose races always go well, ha). Volunteers are always, always, always doing the very best that they can do serve runners as efficiently as possible. It might not seem that way if your water bottle isn’t filled the very instant you walk in, but it’s really not taking as long as it seems. I know when you’re hot and thirsty, it might feel like forever, though. There’s just so. much. going. on.
  2. It gives an opportunity to see what other runners and crew do, or to see how other people use their gear. I learned that tying a knot in one end of a buff is a great way to make a little ice beanie.
  3. It’s a chance to pay forward the amazing treatment you’ve gotten from an aid station volunteer in the past. If anyone’s ever talked you out of dropping, cooled you down, calmed you down, anticipated needs you didn’t even know you had, taken your food garbage in their hands without question, or had to put up with the stench of your sweat while you sat in their personal lawn chair, aid station volunteering is the chance to give a fellow runner that same experience. And even if you’ve never had any of the above happen (liar!), trust me, the first time someone who has been practically catatonic for 20 minutes at your aid station gets up, heads out again, and finishes the race thanks to your ministrations, you’ll feel a sense of almost parental pride.

Lots of little things stuck out from the blur. One of the top female runners rolled into the aid station and announced to her crew, “I had an epic throw-up back there.” I backed away slowly, though she ended up being fine and seemed pretty proud of it. Why can’t I be one of those people, who just takes barfing in stride? I’d probably be a better runner.

Last year’s winner (and perpetual podium populator), Mike, came into the aid station looking fresh. I chatted him up like we were friends (we are not, but that is the price you pay for being a very talented runner, buddy), thinking he had finished the race, but in fact he dropped out 18 miles in. Oops. But he was back to crew – for his dad! What a gene pool that family has!

The son of our aid station captain was running the race again. Last year he had a rough go of it but still rallied to a finish. This year he had a rough go of it (once again, his entire family was standing around at the entrance to the aid station, pacing, wondering where he was as runner after runner who they’d seen him hang with earlier came and went), but only spent a few minutes at the aid station before his sister-in-law gave him some tough love, got him out of the chair, and spurred him on to squeak in under 10 hours for a massive time improvement.

We had two (well, at least two) major success stories of the day. One guy came in, not sweating, and sat in a chair for a long rest while we force-fed him (not really) and talked to him, until we were satisfied that he had replenished his fluids/calories and was with it enough to continue. (He was “with it” all along, I guess, so it wasn’t a major concern.) He told us “I made the mistake of telling my wife what was going on, and she texted back ‘please stop.'” Whoops, we’re enablers. Another guy came in just miserably hot and nauseated, and I managed to cool him down and revive him with water, paper towels on the back of his neck (a great trick if you don’t have cooling towels!), and a cup of ice to chew on. He finally told me to get him out of the chair in two minutes, and I timed him, then helped him get his hydration pack back on (I even offered to buckle it) and he got out there and finished. I was so proud! *Sniff* So proud I forgot his bib number, name, and general appearance.

Kevin, author of Superior, a book I’ll eventually review on here, came through the aid station hot but otherwise in good shape, and sat down with us for a bit. I told him I read his book and liked it (does that count as a review), which I imagine is a nice pick-me-up and certainly a nice change from “You look great!” or “You got this!”

One member of the MRTT/SRTT crew was running the race, and the whole day, we were communicating with her husband, getting updates on where she was, and recalculating in our minds whether or not that meant she would make the cutoffs. Several women in our group headed back up the trail to find her once they learned she’d left the previous aid station, so they could run it in with her. Once she came charging in, with authority, she received a hero’s welcome. (“I just ran a less than 10 minute mile in my flip-flops,” my friend Rita told me as she came into the aid station with the pack. Yeesh.)

One of the final runners through was a friend of mine, who I also met volunteering! She cruised through the aid station but turned the wrong way, so I ran after her to 1. give her a hug and 2. guide her in the right direction (over the dam, which has a DANGER: KEEP AWAY sign on it, ironically).

25 minutes or so past the cutoff, the race official came charging out of the woods with two water bottles in his hands, telling us we’ve got to get them filled. The last runner was coming and he was going to let her continue, but she’s not allowed to stop. We filled the bottles with the pitchers we’ve got on the table as the runner comes out of the woods. She looked good and was charging hard. As she passed by, she asked if we had any gels. Which we did, but they were packed up in the car. (Hardly anyone had wanted gels all day!) I yelled at her to keep going and we frantically pawed through the box for the gels. I grabbed three kinds and took off after her (so glad I decided against flip flops!), catching her on the dam. She grabbed two of them and took off. That was my run for the day!

I am now extremely jealous of all these runners and can’t believe I don’t have a race until the big one at the end of September – somehow Curnow seems light years ago, rather than just 2 weeks ago. Maybe someday, if I ever get significantly faster, I’ll run Voyageur. If it’s a cool day, or at least cloudy. Right now once through the power lines at Curnow is enough for me.