I did something bad

So, I had this great race schedule all lined up. And then I had to go and add to it.

When I posted what was up next, there already was a half marathon in the line up. The VIA half marathon is in September and I was already registered for it.  But as the summer wore on, I raced a bunch of random races in July. Three consecutive weekends – a 15K, open water swim, and a pretty serious 15K trail race. It was great. Most were the types of races that took me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to race with no pressure. I loved it. The first one even ended up being a surprise trail race (they changed the course!), and was an awesome fitness test. Nowhere near the intensity of the last trail race I did, but it was a good tune up for it for sure.

So August is right around the corner and all I have is an Olympic triathlon on my schedule.  I started to get antsy. Until I heard about this half marathon that I think of doing every single year, but I never do it. The Perk Up Half Marathon. So what do I do? I went and signed up. It’s one week after my triathlon (dumb, dumb, dumb).

There’s just one other thing:

perk up halfIt’s kind of a nasty course. I thought it might be a good training run for my September half, which is much kinder.

My goal going into this one isn’t going to be a time goal. I haven’t raced a half marathon since 2010. My PR for that distance is a 1:35 (from 2010) and someday (soonish? maybe?), I’d like a sub-1:30. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the race for that but I’m excited to race a tough course and a distance that I haven’t had a chance to have fun with in a long time.

My goals for this particular half are not about PRing, but more along the line pacing:

  • Starting conservative since I can’t seem to pace myself to save my life anymore
  • Running more by effort, and to trying to run negative splits

I’m not tapering for this race, either. As long as things keep going the way they are currently going, I have a 17 mile run and some track work planned for earlier that week. It’s also exactly a week following my triathlon. But like I said – I don’t expect a PR, and in my past I always ran better marathons when I was racing more often.

I’m sure the last thing my schedule needed was an additional half marathon, but whatever. Half marathons take me out of my comfort zone because I don’t do them often. It sounds so stupid to say this out loud, but the marathon is my comfort zone. While it’s always completely unpredictable and I’m constantly getting my ego busted up on it, I know what to expect. I know that I’m going to hurt to the point where I don’t think I can go on, and still have a significant way to go. I struggle with shorter distances – including half marathons – because I feel like I need to sprint the whole thing. It’s arrogant, and it needs to stop.  Running a half marathon is going to be really good practice for pacing. So I’m less than halfway through my summer/fall race schedule, with the following races now remaining:

  • Race Street Run 15K, July 4th
  • Steelman Open Water Swim, July 12th
  • Quadzilla 15K Trail Race, July 19th
  • Steelman Olympic Triathlon, August 9th
  • Perk Up Half Marathon, August 16th
  • VIA Half Marathon (Lehigh Valley Marathon), September 13th
  • Celtic Classic 10K, September 26th
  • Hartford Marathon, October 10th
  • Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, November 7th

What races take you out of your comfort zone? Ever add a race to your schedule with no plans to taper? Ever do a race where a PR was not your ultimate goal?



What I’m Working Out to Wednesday


20131107-131103.jpgAt the beginning of the summer, I downloaded as many albums as I could (some were not released yet) from AltNation’s Alt-18 Countdown list. I don’t have satellite radio anymore, but when I did I LOVED AltNation and still frequently keep my iTunes library up to date by visiting their countdown.

One of the albums I downloaded was VHS by X-Ambassadors. I’m still making my way through the album, but I’m totally loving their hit song from the album! It’s not like it’s the most upbeat jam ever, but I like cruising to it while I’m running for sure. The rest of the album is definitely catchy, and worth a listen!

What music is on your radar this week?

Hartford Marathon Training: Week 4, 7/20 – 7/26

This was a rough week for me. I was coming off of a tough trail race, ended up with some of the worst blisters of my life, came down with a case of poison oak that landed me at the doctor’s office, and the end of the week was full of social obligations. The only saving grace was that when I train myself for a marathon, after four weeks of solid training I always give myself a recovery week. I reduce my mileage (wherever my mileage is, high or low) by 10% and take the focus off of pace. No tempo runs, no track workouts – just reduced, easy miles. My next scheduled recovery week starts on 8/24, and it’s really convenient because it also ends up being my first week back to work for the new school year. Perfect timing when I need to ease myself back into a work schedule. I had to front load a bunch of my workouts because I knew I had another busy weekend coming up.

I’d been steadily increasing my mileage since Grandmas marathon – starting with 32 miles the week after the race, then bumping up to 43, 47, then 50. Before the marathon, my highest weeks topped out in the upper 50s but I haven’t seen mileage like that since the end of May. By last week, I got myself back to running 6x per week – something I haven’t done consistently in about a year. After hitting 50 miles last week and running 6x/week, combined with three weeks of racing (15K, open water swim, 15K trail race), my legs were shot. I’ve been “training” for my triathlon on top of all of this (I use that word very loosely, I’m really just going for rides and swims when I can), attempting to swim and bike twice per week. Once I hit that 50 mile mark, it all started to catch up with me. I’ve never needed an easier week so badly in my life.

Monday, 7/20 – 2700 Meter Swim + Strength/PT/Core + Yoga
Started the week off with no running after my crazy weekend of miles lat weekend and my body was thankful for the break. I headed to the gym and did a sprint workout for my swim (short distances, fast paces) and followed it up with my usual strength routine. I did a bit of yoga to stretch out at home and tried another new video, which was decent but not as good as my Yin Yoga video from last week:

Tuesday, 7/21 –  General Aerobic 11 Mile Run  + Pole Fitness + 18 Mile Ride + Core + Yin Yoga
My legs still felt pretty heavy but so I headed to the Plainfield Trail for an 11 miler. Figured after the extreme elevation on Sunday and the high mileage weekend, I should go somewhere flatter to give my poor legs a minute to recover. It was a good call, because I felt clumsy and awkward…and my blisters from the weekend, OUCH! I have three, and they were all bleeding again by the time I finished the run. My legs felt pretty whooped, so I kept the pace pretty even and consistent, but managed a fast finish mile. Overall pace, 7:52. Headed off to pole class since it’s conveniently located eight minutes from the trail head! I’m working on a few new tricks, but the newest concept – inversions (like the picture I posted of me upside down on the pole) – is giving me a hard time! That workout is no joke!

If you can’t tell, I went into a bit of panic mode early on this week about my missed bike ride last week and upcoming triathlon. I didn’t plan to ride at all, but I got home and started thinking about it so I grabbed my bike and headed out for about an hour. I was glad I did, because even though it was a little hot out there, it was a gorgeous ride. Finally snapped a picture of one of my favorite barns that I always pass:

imageI think it’s so cute but it’s actually kind of on a main road so I never want to stop! I didn’t feel terrible riding, but about 10 minutes after I finished riding, a HUGE thunderstorm rolled in – glad I didn’t get caught in that! So weird because if you look at my picture above, there is nothing but blue sky and fluffy white clouds. I went home and did some core/MYRTLs/drills and the yin yoga video I posted last week to stretch it all out. I realize the ride was probably overkill. I also realize I have a triathlon on 8/9 and I still keep waiting for my bike legs to show up to the party…although I guess if I wanted them, I should have invited them. I should have been more serious about getting on my bike a few months ago. It’s been tough since I’m more focused on running and getting my mileage to where I want it to be.

Wednesday, 7/225 Mile Hill Run + 8.5 Miles Hiking
I woke up and got my run in early so I could go hiking with some friends. Since I had to run from my house, my choices are running on a relatively flat main road or running over a mountain. I chose the mountain since my runs were all pretty flat last week. But running the mountain is no joke – my 5 mile run climbed 966 feet, and the elevation profile looks like this:


The first climb starts out my back door and ends at the 1.25 mile mark with no relief – it’s crazy! It’s great to practice running uphill, but also to get some time running steep downhills. Your quads need that because it’s easy to burn your quads out in races that have a crazy descent in the course. I haven’t done this run since late December – the last time I did it was around the time I hurt my Achilles. I actually like to do an eight mile version of this run – I keep going and climb an extra hill – but since I haven’t done the run in a long time I kept it at five. Overall pace, 9:41. Not really a run you do for pace – it’s more or less a strength workout. I really only wear my Garmin so I can see the pretty elevation chart (also because I’m a huge geek with data). I did my MYRTLs and drills after.

I’ve been friends with Jenny and Kate for most of my life – since fourth grade. We’ve stayed in touch and though we don’t see each other often, we are still very close. We went to Alaska together a few years ago when I ran the Mayor’s Marathon. Jenny used to live in Vancouver, BC but just moved home. We took a day trip to hike a bit on the Appalachian Trail. I thought we were hiking 4-5 miles, so all I brought was some water and a protein bar. Oops. Ended up being an 8.5 mile hike! I was starving by the end, and limping from my stupid blisters being stuffed into sneakers between running and hiking, but it was such an awesome day!

Thursday, 7/2311 Mile Fartlek Run w/12×30 Seconds @ 5K pace + Pole Fitness + 18 Mile Bike + Core

Basically a repeat of Tuesday without the yoga. I headed out a little later than I wanted to get started on everything, but the weather was great so it was fine. My current 5K PR pace is 6:15, but McMillian says I should be able to do 6:09 based on my 3:06 marathon, and 6:25 based on my more recent Boston marathon time. So my range for the day was 6:09-6:25. I managed all of my intervals to be in the range or faster except for the second one, but I don’t remember being off pace or feeling like it was hard. I don’t even remember looking at my Garmin and thinking that I was off pace. At any race, my paces for each interval:

1 – 6:01
2 – 6:34 (???)
3 – 6:02
4- 6:03
5 – 6:10
6 – 6:14
7 – 6:17
8 – 6:20
9 – 6:07
10 – 6:19
11 – 6:07
12- 6:12

They are only 30 seconds, but I was happy with them. Honestly, I was still feeling pretty fried and 30 seconds was all I could handle anyway. My legs still felt heavy so after my run, and I felt DONE. But I hopped on my bike and had an awesome ride, managing to average 16.5mph which had me stoked. I thought last week was a fluke.

I promised one of my sister in laws that I’d go to pole class with her. I was pretty beat, but I went anyway. When I got out of the shower and started getting ready for class, I noticed the streaks of itchy redness on my left forearm. Uh oh. I knew what that meant…poison something. It didn’t seem too terrible so I swabbed it with alcohol and went on my way. Class ended up being great, and we nailed a few new tricks:

Friday, 7/245 Mile Recovery Run + 10×10 Second Hill Sprints (.5 miles total)

I woke up super cranky and irritable, thankful that it was just a run on the schedule. I had plans to swim only if time permitted, but I wasn’t so concerned with the swim. We leave for vacation this Friday, and we go to my husband’s family lake house. I’ll swim every single day on the lake there, and that’s actual open water swimming – better than swimming in a pool, anyway. I was so cranky about my foot – the damn blister on my toe was just not getting any better – and I was developing poison all over my legs, arms, and stomach. I did a slowwww 5 mile recovery run, still feeling like absolute shit, and called it a day. Overall pace, 8:43. Before heading out to my run, I had been catching up on the blog world. The super speedy Hollie, from FueledbyLOLZ, posted an awesome article by elite runner Tina Muir about running easy. I’ve posted about easy running before, and believe running significantly slower than what you think you should be running on recovery days is key. It just doesn’t make sense to push the easy days, especially when you are trying to build a base, and the article Hollie posted is awesome! Check it out:

3 Ways to Run Easy

The coolest bit of information in this article was when she talked about how she goes out and runs with elite women who average 5:20s for a 10K and they run at an 8:30 pace. Um, my 10K PR is about a whole minute slower than that and I am running 8:30s on my easy days. Should I be running even slower?! This just reaffirms how I feel about easy running, and as I move forward with my base building and training I’ll be focusing on this just as much as I will be focusing on running hard on my hard days. I’m secure enough in myself and my paces to be able to go out and slow myself down, and I don’t need to answer to anyone anymore about my paces so I don’t feel guilty if I go a little slower. I think I lost sight of easy running when I was working with a coach.

I went home and got myself ready for the wedding. I was too itchy and cranky to add on anything else, and it was a recovery week anyway. Though I ended up barefoot most of the night at the wedding because the stupid blisters KILLED my feet, we had a blast:

Saturday, 7/25 – 8 Mile General Aerobic Run

We got home late from the wedding and had to be back in the Poconos by noon for a whitewater rafting trip with the wedding crew, so I headed out for an 8 miler – no frills, just a run. Overall pace, 8:10 – right at the slower end of my general aerobic range. The bride and groom are huge river people – they kayak, raft, SUP, etc. Though I teach high school with the bride, she and her new husband are also river guides part time. They work for a local company and take groups out on the Lehigh River during the peak months. So as a thank you to everyone for coming to the wedding, they invited the guests to come for a nice paddle down the river the next day. We had a great group, and it was nice to relax on the river for the afternoon:

Sunday, 7/26 – 27 Mile Bike

Woke up in the middle of the night on Sunday in tears – my poison on my arm had escalated to huge blisters that were just nasty, oozing…EW. It felt like my body was on fire and nothing was helping. I was basically awake from 3am, impatiently waiting for the CVS Minute Clinic to open. Side note – those things rock. It was a Sunday, so of course I couldn’t get in with my PCP and I wasn’t feeling waiting for hours at an Emergicare center for some poison. So when CVS opened at 9am, I signed in at the kiosk, and the nurse practitioner on staff took me right in. She took one look at my arm – didn’t even ask to see the other huge blisters forming on my legs and stomach – and said, “prednisone for you”. She couldn’t believe how awful it was. She also confirmed my suspicion that it was not, in fact, poison ivy – it was poison oak. Makes a hell of a lot of sense because I can identify poison ivy and sumac, but I have trouble telling which ones are poison oak. She also told me I could take something like Claritan or Zyrtec to help with the itchiness, and that the only thing she recommends to put on the rash is calamine lotion. After all these years, we still have to resort to calamine and walking around with pink crap slathered all over our bodies. You’ve got to be kidding.

I was so not feeling a bike ride but I promised my brother in law I would take him out riding. He just got a bike and wants to get into it. He did great and we managed 27 miles – I don’t know the pace because my Garmin did this weird thing where it froze and stopped calculating distance, but it was calculating speed and time. So weird. I did a soft reset and it worked for the rest of the ride, but I hope it isn’t time for a new one yet. I’m not ready to part with it! By the time we were done riding, the prednisone and Zyrtec were doing something right because the nasty oozing blisters on my arm had crusted over and the swelling had gone down tremendously. I was still itchy, but I was seeing a significant improvement. Thank GOD. Spent the rest of the day relaxing by my pool and then at a local sangria joint with some local runner chicas for some drinks:

imageSo for me, this was supposed to be a nice recovery week that was made a little more difficult by other variables…but that’s life. Heading into week 5, I will still be base building but the real running starts here. These first four weeks were about getting some kind of a base back, and I believe I was successful. I’ll be adding in some intensity (hopefully – if my body cooperates!) and bringing the focus back to my diet and sleeping habits. I get a little lax during those recovery/base building weeks, but moving into some more intensity means I need all of the other variables to be under control.

I have another two weeks of triathlon preparations, but once that’s over I plan on reducing my bike miles to just one ride per week, and continuing to try to get in the pool twice per week. As I begin the new school year, my goal for fall is to pick one day per week and make it a complete rest day. The only thing I would do on that day would be some easy yoga. When I was out with my friends on Sunday, I was talking to Megan (the blonde seated on the left). She is the girl with the course record at Quadzilla and also the same girl that won the Steamtown Marathon years ago and qualified for the Olympic Trials. She said her best years running were the years that she took a complete rest day each week, even though she hated it. At the end of the school year last year, I was taking Friday as my rest day and had really good long runs on Saturdays, so I want to try to work that into my schedule. Now, to move forward and put this rough week behind me…onward!!

Swim:  2700 meters ♥ Bike: 63 miles ♥  Run: 40.5 miles

How was your week? Ever have severe blisters? Poison ivy, oak or sumac? Tell me some of your gory stories!

Hot Mess

WARNING: If you aren’t in the mood to hear a cranky, whiny, ranting post then you should definitely stop reading now. You also might want to reconsider reading if you are eating – or planning to eat – in the next few hours. There’s some nasty shit in here.

I’m having one of those weeks – I’m a hot mess. I woke up feeling particularly irritable today. My blisters from last weekend’s trail race are KILLING me – I am SO SICK OF THEM. I need to go for a run soon and I just can’t handle the thought of putting my stupid foot in my sneakers again. I’ve suffered through a few runs/hikes this week where I bandaged up my feet pretty good (like 5 band-aids to try to cover and minimize the pain) only to still be in rough shape. UGHHH. There are three blisters, but the one that sucks the most is on my pinkie toe. I don’t even care about how gross my feet look…or the fact that there is still residue from the band-aid all over my toe. I just need to share the misery of this blister with you:

imageAnd I mentioned hiking. A few of my friends and I hiked part of the Appalachian Trail on Wednesday. It was an awesome day but guess who has something itchy all over her arm now? I don’t know if it’s poison ivy, oak, or sumac but I don’t really care. It itches, and I hate it. This was yesterday, when I first looked down and saw the lovely rash developing on my arm:

imageI’m also not a hypochondriac or one to get too worried about things, but here in PA we have this crazy Lymes Disease epidemic going on – and a TON of my family and friends have been affected. Most recently, my brother-in-law got hit with it and they caught it right away, which is good – but you know what isn’t good? The part where he’s on doxycycline for like EVER right now and CAN’T GO OUT IN THE SUN. AND HE CAN’T EAT FOR TWO HOURS AFTER HE TAKES THE DOXY. I sprayed the shit out of myself with bug spray before hiking on Wednesday but I’m still scared shitless that I’m going to get Lymes anyway. Why is there no vaccine for that yet? There used to be. Where did it go? I was also concerned about getting some sort of poison, and I got that. FML.

On top of it all, there’s something up with my middle finger. On my right hand. It’s swollen. I think I did something to it in pole class…or who knows what I did. It hurts. I tried to take a picture of that, too – but taking a picture of your hands is really hard when you need them to take the picture. The fun part of this is when I get to show my finger to people because I get to give them the finger. Can you tell how mature I am?

I have a wedding to go to tonight. It’s going to be awesome to try to look cute in a strapless dress when I’m covered in poison and calamine lotion. Also, the dress I’m wearing – I am not much for dressing up but I do have the perfect shoes to go with the dress. Only problem is, they HURT MY BLISTER AND I CAN’T WALK. I guess I could go buy new shoes. But I don’t get dressed up that often and would really prefer to spend my money on running sneakers, not dress shoes.

Rant complete. On a more positive note, it’s a gorgeous day outside. Happy Friday.

Recipe: Watermelon Mango Coconut Smoothie

imageI recently hosted a margarita night with my sister-in-laws and bought a ton of frozen fruit (I was too lazy to buy it and cut it up myself) to make fun margarita concoctions. I had a bunch of leftover fruit, and the best way to use leftover frozen fruit (other than to make more boozy drinks, of course) is by making smoothies!

Watermelon Mango Coconut Smoothie

  • 1 cup cubed mango, frozen
  • 1/2 cup of cubed watermelon
  • 1/2 cup vanilla almond milk
  • 1/3 cup watermelon juice (it was in the bottom of my already cut up watermelon in my fridge – if you don’t have that, use extra almond milk or some coconut water!)
  • 1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice

Put all items in your blender and blend until smooth. For a little extra sweetness (mine didn’t need it!), you could add about a tablespoon of sweetener (honey, maple syrup, agave, etc). Serves 1.

Or, to stick with the original margarita theme, add some tequila and triple sec to make a nice summery poolside beverage. Pour in a margarita glass with either a salted or sugared rim (I like sugared rims for fruity margaritas, salted rims for traditional margaritas). Probably wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world…

Enjoy! xo



What I’m Working Out to Wednesday

Modest Mouse
Lampshades on Fire

20131107-131103.jpgIf you are already a Modest Mouse fan, you might be aware that they have a new-ish album out: Strangers to Ourselves…I love that title so much. it’s been out for a little while now. What prompted me to share this song this week was that they performed at the SteelStacks in Bethlehem this past Monday – about 5 miles down the road from me – so of course, I went. They came to the SteelStacks last year, and though I’ve been a Modest Mouse fan for years, it was the first time I saw them in concert. They were so good that I went back this year, and it only seems appropriate to share one of their songs with you this week.

Most likely, if you know the group you’ll know this song – it was the one they released as their first hit single from the “new” album and I first heard it on one of our local alternative stations. It isn’t actually my favorite song off the album – if you like this one, check out Wicked Campaign, or The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box. I mean, really they’re all spectacular songs and I highly recommend the entire album.

While I’m at it, this venue deserves a mention. If you don’t know Bethlehem, PA because of the Runner’s World Half Marathon and Festival, you might know it because of Bethlehem Steel. It used to be the second-largest steel producer and largest ship builder, but it’s been closed for years. The property was sold to Sands BethWorks, and it’s home to a large casino. I’m personally not a fan of the casino at all (or any casino), but the site of the company’s original plant is also home to SteelStacks, an arts and entertainment district.

The plant’s five blast furnaces were left standing and serve as a backdrop for the new campus. SteelStacks currently features the ArtsQuest Center, a contemporary performing arts center.. The area also includes three outdoor music venues – Levitt Pavilion, a free music venue featuring lawn seating for up to 2,500 people, Air Products Town Square at Steelstacks, and PNC Plaza, which hosts concerts featuring well-known artists. Modest Mouse played at Levitt Pavillion on Monday night (the tickets were not, in fact, free) and here are a few shots from the show – you can see the blast furnaces as the backdrop:

If you still don’t think that’s interesting, BuzzFeed designated this venue as one of the 19 Insanely Weird Concert Venues to Visit Before You Die – it made the list as #11, citing:

“It used to be the home of Bethlehem Steel, one of the biggest steel producers in America, but now houses a festival called Musikfest every year. It’s the only venue I can think of where it’s cooler to sit far from the stage, because you can see the mills in the background!”

And of course, we had a great time at the outdoor event listening to this awesome band play at this sweet venue:

And now that you’ve made it through all the random useless information about my hometown, here’s what you should rock out to today (or everyday):

Enjoy! xo

Modest Mouse fan? Coolest venue you’ve ever been to?

Race Recap: Quadzilla 15K Trail Race

imageThis course is a beast! It’s not just some cinder rail trail, it’s a technical trail with some of the craziest climbs and descents I’ve ever experienced. Just to give you an idea, the woman’s course record is held by my friend Megan, who once qualified for the Olympic Trails marathon. Megan’s time (the course record) is a 1:16. For a 15K, that’s an 8:09 pace. It’s located at Trexler Game Preserve, which I’ve posted about before because I sometimes go there to run, but it’s not for pace. It’s for hills and agility. Here’s the elevation profile:

Not only is the elevation crazy, it also features extreme running conditions. There’s mud, loose shale, rocks, tree stumps, creek crossings (nearly waist deep for me this year since we’ve had a ton of rain!), and uneven surfaces. It’s an awesome run, but it’s one of the most challenging races due to the conditions.

I got up kind of late that morning – 5:30 – and didn’t leave my house until about 6:30. It’s only about a 20 minute drive for me, and they had race day packet pickup from 6:30-7:15. I was at the game preserve and parked by 6:50, chatted with some friends, got my bib and was in the line for the bathrooms by 7:20. I jogged back to my car to grab my GU (so thankful I did that) and then to the starting line for a quick warm up. I saw one of my friends towards the front, and the race isn’t chip timed so I headed up front to hang with him. I don’t know that I really belonged in the front of a trail race since I’m not a trail runner, but I’ve run the course before and know where I’m going, so I figured I had that going for me.

The race started promptly at 7:30. I went into this with no expectations, just a hope to get close to my best time on the course. I knew the reality of what I was getting into. I ran 25 miles in the two days before, and I’m mostly a road rat. I was not going into this to “win” – I’m not a trail runner and this was not my arena, so I can’t expect that. My only goals were to run as much as I could (some of the climbs are so steep that you physically can’t run up them), not get hurt, and have fun. I ran the race in 2012 and came in around 1:27, and again in 2013 in 1:29. I went out really hard in 2013 with an expectation to run a PR, and it was a pretty hot/humid day.

I saw the woman who won the race at the start, and she took off. Normally, I would start chasing her, but I told myself to let her go. I had 9 miles to catch her IF it was in the cards for the day, but my focus was not to race anyone but myself. We hit the trail head and immediately started to climb. I was in 2nd place at this point, but I knew it probably wouldn’t last. The trail is pretty narrow and other than the first climb, it actually levels out a bit here so once we got to the top of the first climb, I passed a bunch of guys to get some open trail and let it fly a little. My first mile was my fastest but it was also the one with the least amount of elevation change. My biggest surprise: I felt awesome. No idea why, since I beat my legs up over the two days prior, but hey. Roll with it.

Around mile two, there was a short descent. We were pretty deep into the woods at this point so it was well shaded, and it had rained a bunch in the previous days. The ground was super muddy, and I came around a turn and ate shit – like totally wiped out. That’s when I got passed by what ended up being the 3rd place female. I was fine, stood back up and kept on going – just covered in mud. Before mile 3, another girl came trucking along and passed me – she ended up being the 2nd place female. It was only about a third of the way through the race and these chicks looked like serious trail runners – I had no business chasing them and I told myself to just run my own race. Enjoy the trail, run comfortably, and let the race come to you.

My shoe came untied a little before mile 4, and I considered just letting it go. I’ve run races like that before. I was afraid that I would hit another muddy area or get to the creek and totally lose it, so I made myself stop and tie it – I hate doing that! I took my GU around mile 4 and though I was already having fun, that’s when the terrain goes from hard to extreme in terms of the obstacles you are avoiding. I was having an absolute blast – I was running with a pack of guys, and we kept passing each other in different sections of the course and cheering each other on. I was still in 4th place, and feeling extremely strong.

Although it’s a pretty steady climb the whole way, the really steep sections are at the end. There’s a series of hills with serious elevation changes over a pretty short span of time. And remember – what goes up must come down. Although climbing hills is tough, I think descending on an unsteady surface is much harder and it was where I lost my 4th place position. I actually got through the biggest climb – the one they actually call the beast – and was still in 4th, but the descent was what killed me. I wore trail shoes, I just suck at descending. I need to practice this. The 4th place female passed me on the descent and was hopping down the trail like an effing mountain goat. She also looked like a pretty serious trail runner – damn, where did these chicks come from? I guess I wouldn’t know them since I’m mainly a road rat.

I knew there was one more climb coming up before the final out and back on the course. It ends downhill, so I thought I would try to keep #4 in my sights until the turnaround and then try to catch her. At that point, we hit the creek crossing. Here’s what it looks like from one of my training runs – when the water was low and we were in a drought:

imageThat was back in May – since then, we’ve had TONS of rain and the water was almost up to my waist! It was pretty tough getting across it but it felt so good. I was splashing water all over my head because it was HOT. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that just yet – the race fell on the hottest day we’ve had so far: mid 90s, 90% humidity, and a heat advisory. It was cooler at the start, but things had really heated up by this point.

As we emerged from the creek, I could see 4th place on the final steep climb. She was pretty close. She began to walk (it’s really steep) and I began to walk, but I told myself that when she started to run again, that I was going to start running again. So I did. I emerged from the woods into the field that you end by doing a little out and back on – it’s the worst part of the course, but necessary to make it that 15K distance. It’s an uphill as you come out of the woods and the grass is so high, making it difficult to run. So I plodded along, and she didn’t gain on me. She saw me at the turnaround and took off, and I did too but I never caught her. I think I could have, but I looked at my watch for the first time during the whole race (I’m usually one to watch my Garmin like a hawk but I made myself not look that day) and saw…1:23??? I was well over 9 miles at this point and heading to the finish – I could hit 1:24 – a three minute course PR for me!

That was enough for me. I ran steady, and when I hit the final stretch, I took off. You come out of the field and get to finish on the road – and my legs felt GREAT, especially when I hit the road. I could see 4th place crossing the finish, and I crossed very shortly after in 1:24:12!!! What?!! 1:24 wasn’t even in my vocabulary that morning. I was looking at my old times and though it would be cool to be around the 1:27 I did the first time I raced this course. My 1:24 was good enough for 5th place and 2nd in my age group – the woman who finished ahead of me was the same age as me. Crap! I was actually more bummed that I didn’t sprint just a little bit harder to bring it in under 1:24, but I’m not complaining!

imageThis was the first race that I’ve run by effort in a long, long, time. When I say I didn’t look at my watch during the run, I really didn’t look at my watch during the run. It was crazy. It was like I forgot about it – and anyone who knows me would tell you that I’m a total clock watcher. I was caught up in enjoying the trail, the people, and the challenge of running something so technical.

The post race food spread is pretty decent, but the only thing I wanted was the watermelon – it’s all I’ve been eating this summer and it was SO refreshing. It was super hot! My feet got wet in the first mile when I hit the mud, and I realized very early on that I paired the wrong socks with my trail shoes. I cooled down by jogging to my car to get my sandals…the backs of my feet were bleeding from blisters:


But the worst was on my pinky toe (don’t mind my dirty sandals and nasty looking feet!!!):

imageOuch! Pretty sure I will be donning band-aids when I wear sneakers for a little while until the battle wounds heal. The awards were awesome – hand painted tiles! The old race director was a volunteer this year and had passed the race onto someone else, so this was a new addition to the event:

Overall, it was a well-organized event that I would highly recommend to anyone! The trail is TOUGH for anyone who hasn’t done serious trail running before, but not impossible – you just have to adjust your expectations. Same goes for seasoned runners. I ran a 15K in 1:06 a few weeks ago, and here I was absolutely thrilled to be crossing the finish line in 1:24. But you can’t compare – the 15K from a few weeks ago was on a trail, it was nowhere near as technical or as steep as this one. It would be like comparing apples to oranges. Many of my friends walked away with age group awards, also:

imageGreat race, great company, great trail, great awards! Couldn’t ask for a better way to spend the hottest day of the summer. I’ll be back again next year!

Have you ever run on technical trails before? Ever raced on one? Want to come run Quadzilla with me next summer?!