2015 New Bedford Half Marathon Race Report

As a Boston runner, there’s just certain iconic road races that come to mind. Boston Marathon, of course. Falmouth Road Race…which is pretty much the celebrity running party of the year, and New Bedford Half Marathon. The 38th annual New Bedford Half Marathon was held on March 15th, 2015 at 11AM. Race registration started at $50 and goes up to $70 the week of the race. The race generally sells out and there is no race day registration; however, this year the race director made an exception.

The race calls itself a fast course, but I think that might be because some of the fastest local runners are running it that day as part of the USATF competition, and it’s an optimal Boston marathon prep race.

For a while, many of us wondered will the race go on? As mother nature and global weather change dumped 100+ plus inches on Boston, races were dropping of the schedule one by one… in fact another race that was rescheduled for the same day in NH, was cancelled instead. New England runners have just become accustomed to race day cancellation disappointments. Luckily for me and all the other runners, New Bedford race director, volunteers and the City of New Bedford were fully dedicated to putting on this race! Cancellation was not even a thought that crossed anyone’s mind.

But first the beginning:

Back in January with my eyes full of hopes and dreams, I added New Bedford Half Marathon to my schedule as a goal A race… I really thought that with decent speedwork and dedication, I could focus on a major PR for my half marathon time. Then my plantar fascia drama started and I just tried to hold onto any fitness I have. The snowstorm after snowstorm did not help my training. And because I’m just THAT lucky, a few days before the race I happened to catch my annual cold nightmare of the year. I drank cups and cups of tea, honey, lemon, orange juice and rested hoping to get better by race day.

So there I am on race morning trying to convince myself I’m not sick. It worked for about as long as 8AM when my friend came to pick me up for our drive to New Bedford where I asked if we can do an emergency pharmacy run as I loaded up on more advil, sudafed (already had) and nasal spray before our drive down south. New Bedford is about a 70 minute south of Boston from us and for the most part on that day we hit no traffic going there or coming home. I proceeded to cough medicine myself up to the point of being a zombie.

We got to the New Bedford YMCA where number pick up was really easy. I expected it to get a bit crazy with so many runners, but the race volunteers had multiple tables set up based on race number for pick. The race had strong security but not overwhelming and annoying. They quickly scanned through all bags that would go into the Y and were only allowed in the locker rooms and not the gym part. The locker room was toasty to say the least, but there was a good amount of lockers in there for the girls. We showed up about an hour early as due to snow there was limited parking and we wanted to make sure we had no problems. Got lockers, changed, got bibs and were all set and ready to run. They had many bathroom options from the YMCA indoor to porta ones outside.

10 minutes before the start, Sonia and I left the safe warmness of the Y and walked the two blocks for race start that was already packed with runners. I know the race had pace groups, but it was hard to find as the excitement took over. We took a photo and parted ways.

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At this point, I still had delusions that I could run a decent race, not a PR race, but a decent run. And then the gun went off. Immediately I felt like a cliche in a movie… you know that scene where someone busts their face on the floor and slows down to slow motion… well don’t worry I didn’t fall, but every step from the start felt (and was) in slow motion for me. My limbs and mind just felt fogged as the days of lack of eating and drowsy meds took it’s tool.

Within a mile, I changed my goal from time to just trying to finish. There was the option to drop out, sure… but here’s the deal, I love running races and even when I’m not racing per say, I like finishing. The idea of dropping out just because I knew my time was going to be terrible felt ridiculous to me.  The other things that went through my head was the city and volunteers put a lot of time and effort into clearing the snow off the roads so we could all run, so of course I should take advantage of the offer. And most importantly, this was 13.1 miles, only half the distance of a marathon and if I was ready to drop out, what am I going to do next month when the Boston Marathon comes up? There is not enough time to train and catch up. It’s just not possible for me this year. The only thing I could do is embrace the suck, endure and get it done with. The pain and perseverance is what makes us runners, and ultra runners sign up for things that most people consider crazy. Or maybe it’s the masochism.

The course is quintessential New England. It has rolling hills, crazy winds and a beautiful seaside view. However, unlike many New England small races, the course is closed to traffic. The locals and police were super encouraging! Even when I was half crawling in my walking break, the police would stop traffic to give me priority.

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New Bedford as a town/city has its charms and troubles. There’s lovely old architecture with cobblestones, churches and other signs of how historic the city is. And then there’s the uneven road and giant potholes that turn parts of the race into obstacle courses with fast food chains that can be anywhere middle America.

The course is a single loop from what I can tell and a good chunk of miles are on the ocean side. This helps balance out some of the rolling hills that hit you in the first and last few miles, but it will not serve as much protection from the wind.

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Aid stations were every 2 miles with water, but I didn’t see anything that looked like calories/fuel. I did see a medic table at many of the water stops, so I’m sure if I needed something I could have asked. I didn’t feel hungry (or pretty much any thanks sudafed!) but it would have been smarter had I carried some fuel for this race.

I kept my run walk method where every mile or so I would need to walk to catch my breath… as runners would run by me and pat me on my back telling me I could do this. I must have looked really pathetic? Or runners are just that friendly. It was great to spot many familiar faces from TARC events and other running events! Makes you remember just how small our running community is even in a sea of so many faces!

I don’t know how, but eventually I got to the final 2 miles and I said to myself, there, that wasn’t so bad! Except the final two were on a hill with a headwind! With enough panting and determination, the finish line came in and I pushed my little heart and lungs and stubby legs all the way across.

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I ended up finishing 1:57:12, 27 minutes slower than my January goal and 20 minutes slower than my average half marathon time leaving me completely wiped out for the next two days.

The post race food was pretty neat. The city is known for fishing so the post race fuel included clam chowder and fried fish sandwiches.

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and the race shirt was neat, as green is my favorite color when I’m not wearing pink.

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Overall while I would rate my own performance a C, the race would be an A in my group. It has great swag, post race food (although I would have liked a non-fish option), seltzer! (polar was a sponsor), closed roads with supportive police at intersections, small but big feel (local race with many runners!) and an overall great vibe. Sure, I would like to flatten most of the hills and create a wind barrier from the wind, but then it wouldn’t be a New England race. Plus if history means anything, it’s one of the few races that we can rely to not get cancelled due to weather with full local support! Something that’s getting a little rare lately, (yea looking at you Hampton beach, Hyannis, Salem and all the other canceled races).

Hopefully next year I can run a redemption!

Weekly Recap and an updated MRI results

So I whined and I whined and eventually I went for an MRI to try to figure out what exactly is going on in my heel. And all in all, only thing they found is a very angry inflamed plantar fascia, so I am now officially, one of the many runners plagues with the horror and nightmare that is plantar fasciitis.  I didn’t want to believe it since the pain wasn’t in my arch and was just staying in a very acute place in the heel, but I guess MRIs can’t lie.

Speaking of MRIs, have you ever been in one? It’s one of the most archaic looking devices. It reminds me of what the 1960s thought the future would be like! Now the less, they are pretty cool. Most of the human body is made up of water molecules, which consist of hydrogen and oxygen atoms.. During a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, you lie in a strong magnetic field and radio-frequency waves are directed at your body. This produces detailed images of the inside of your body. It took about 30 minutes as I tried my best to lie still and not move my foot. It would make these loud beeping sounds, about 5 different kind, and each of these sounds represented different images it took.  It was a pretty cool experience! Yay for health insurance!

Anyway back to the foot…. PF it is and it is one of the most frustrating running issues in the world since once your half it, it can get soo chronic and just refuses to go away! A PF flare is usually the result of tight muscles around the calf. I think when I was cross training on the arch trainer and bike trainer, I let my calves get tighter then I would normally running and when I went back to running, it probably resulted in a flare up. Or as the nasty Physician Assistant lady put it, “an error in my training.”

I know at some point, I will have to take a running break, again! I’m not looking forward to it. In the meantime, I am trying to stretch as much as I can. Foam roll. Ice and cry in pain. Do my toe and calf exercises. Use my little ball thing on my foot and just hope that it magically goes away. If there’s one thing there’s no shortage of on the interwebs it’s PF advice, half of which contradicts the others. Wear more cushion, go barefoot, don’t go barefoot, stretch, don’t stretch.. everyone is full of opinions when it comes to PF… but I prefer to sticking to listening to people’s experiences instead.

Races and running.

I am still running Boston.

It’s going to be very ugly, not as ugly as 2012, but it’ll be a tough race.

I am going to run Wisconsin marathon two weeks later because I’ll be in Chicago for work and the opportunity to get another state is too good to pass up. Speaking of which, come run it with me! Code LIANA15 gets you $5 off either the full or half marathon!

I might be passing on Fargo after a tough decision. Short story is that I applied and got an “elite” entry into the race. It’s not so much elite as probably more complimentary. With that, I was hoping to break 3:15 in a marathon. I have a 1:31 half (unofficial) and on a full flat course, I really believe I have hope of that in me. That was before my PF struggles and 105 inches of snow destroyed the city I am in.

Long story short, while I really hate giving up this entry, and another state, the expenses of flight and lodging might not be worth to run a race in pain. I’ll give myself a bit more time to find a reasonable flight, but if I can’t, it will have to be moved down to another time when I’m running fit again. I know that’s somewhere in my future, I just don’t know if 2015 is it.

So for the most part, I’ve still been running in my attempts to train for Boston. The treadmill running for the most part doesn’t hurt too much, but running outside definitely flares me up more. So maybe more cushion and stretching is the way to go for me? I’m still debating.

Anyway, the on and off weekly recap. Please note the times are faster than my running in the past, because the treadmills I used now versus at my old job are easier and less “inclined” or maybe, my old treadmill was more “inclined.” Either way, less inclinement, faster time.  I use the 3 setting at healthworks and on my home gym, while 2-3 at Planet fitness, but who knows what that even means.

Monday8 Miles, average pace 7:45 was a more eased in run after my 10 mile race on Sunday.

Tuesday10 Miles, first 8 at 7:33 pace, last 2 at 8:45 pace for cool down. I find that adding a few slower miles has really helped when I do my “Faster” runs.

Wednesday – Rest… I got paranoid that I was pushing too hard so I took a rest day

Thursday – 9.2 Miles I ran first 8.15 in an hour, 7:21 pace, and did a cool down 1.05 in about 8:34

Friday – 8 Miles another 7:45 average pace run. I was planning on only running a 10K but then decided to go for 8

Saturday – Rest day, I wasn’t planning on it, but the early 5:30-6Am wake ups caught up to me and I just ended up napping away half the day.

Sunday – 15 miles, average pace around 8:15 which includes walking on icey patches.  My friend invited me with him on his run in Newton on the carriage roads. It’s pretty much that most runnable place in Boston and part of it is along the Boston Marathon course.  It’s about 3.7 miles out and 3.7 miles back. It might go longer, but we (or maybe just me/I) weren’t sure where.  Ran 7:50-55 average pace for about 7.5 miles together and then I took it easier on a second loop alone. Surprised that I was able to run without music, but the company on half the run helped a ton!

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Total Miles – 50 miles and one tight left foot with a fiesty heel from Sunday’s run

 

And I will almost end this post on the fact that every time I type plantar fasciitis, my computer wants to auto-correct it to plantar fascist… which seems to be a more accurate description. Happy thoughts!

Tell me something you’re looking forward to this week? I’m going to a foodie blogger event at Ostra on Tuesday that I’m super hyped up for! 

Five College Realtors 10 Miler Race Recap

The Five College Realtors 10 Miler Race took place in Amherst, MA on February 22nd, at Noon. The cost was $45 and while the price of being able to finally run outside was priceless.

This wasn’t on the race schedule and this wasn’t planned, so how did I end up running a 10 miler on Sunday February 22nd in Amherst… a good 2 hour drive away?

Well… a friend mentioned that she’s running this race earlier through her running club and I looked at it, noticed it was too hours away and decided I was saving a bit up for a few other destination races, so I passed.  Then weeks (although it feels like months) of snow and ice and the terrible winter of 2015 that is happening in Boston occurred…. and after realizing that I literally haven’t stepped outside in over a month besides a half block walk to the gym from my office and two block walk from the car garage to the office, that I should try to get outside no matter the cost. Boston and Malden sidewalks are pretty much icey death traps unless you’re in a shopping area.

I just wanted to run outside and not worry about falling on the ice that has replaced all the sidewalks in my hood. Rumor had it that Amherst got inches compared to our feet of snow and the photos I looked were runnable.

So there,  I found myself texting Sonia on Saturday night wondering if she has extra room in her car the night before a race. She was driving up with a few running clubmates and they had just enough room for little ole me!

The Five College Realtors 10 Miler Race was race # 1 in the USATF New England Grand Prix race championship. What exactly does it mean? That I am surrounded by some of the beset and fastest runners in New England. And yes there was nothing more humbling than seeing my results post race. But back to the story from the start.

The night before it snowed as it seems to be everyday lately, but luckily the drive up was easy.  We stopped at one point at Dunkin and I picked up coffee and an egg white flat bread with cream cheese.  Note ideal pre-race meal, but I had more than four hours before guntime and I really didn’t want to feel hungry mid-race. We got there at about 10AM, giving us enough time to mingle, me to sign up for the race, and all the bathroom breaks I needed. The race start was next to a school and we got to hang out in a warm cafeteria with plenty of bathrooms for all the anxious runners.

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If funny… when you get to a race two hours early, it always seems like you got forever to go before gun-time, and yet it still sneaks up to you.  I edged myself in a comfortable 10 lines to the front. I knew I wasn’t in any shape or even league as a lot of the runners to weasel my way to the front like I normally do.

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The first 2.5 miles or so are pretty much a down-hill ride. I was trying to keep it easy, but saw myself slipping in and out of 6:30 on the downgrade. The race had mile markers so it was nice to see my pace as I didn’t have complete faith in my Garmin after not using it for over a month.

It was nice to start off fast, but I reminded myself I’m going to really regret this downhill part when I have to climb this back up to the finish. The race is what they call a lollipop loop so what goes down, will be coming back up to smack my heart right out of my chest.

Mile 2.5-7.5 – They say this course is hilly and that’s not a lie

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It was up and down for a bit and somewhere in the middle around mile 4-5 we hit the dirt path.

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I was a bit worried that it would be muddy or slippery because of the snow, but for the most part it was perfect.  Only a few parts that were more snowy than others and felt like running on a sandy trail.

After the nice break, it was back to rolling hills for a bit. I started getting into a groove and enjoying them a bit. My pace even started to drop around 7:20s.

And then the last 2.5 miles came… It felt terribly hard… I forgot just how hard running a real hill is. Nothing to make you feel even more out of shape than hill. It felt like my heart was going to explode straight out of the chest as my brain went into an aneurysm. I spent a great dealing of walking in parts of it as I watch my pace tumble into slower times. And the whammy of it all as it took its toll was a stomach cramp .4 miles from the finish line! I tried to kick, but instead slowed to a jog/walk as I tried to make it to the finish line in one piece.  I saw the clock say 1:16 and I fought my way through to not break another minute! Success.

There are no medals in this race similar to a lot of local races, but you do get a fairly nice, but not gender specific long sleeve shirt to add to the collection.

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Additionally, the race advertises showers, but by showers they mean two small dark stalls in a high school locker room that forever reminded you why high school kids are smelly… yea, needless to say I skipped the shower and just changed out of sweat clothes. They did have some refueling with bananas, bread, soup, cookies and candies.  Calories.. calories… calories. Maybe beer sponsor next year?

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My ending results:

Time:  1:16:44

Pace: 7:40

Overall Place: 288/565

Gender Place: 76/221

Division Place (0-39): 58/106

I felt like I did a pretty good job despite it being far from my half marathon PR.  But with fighting injuries this year and all the snow, you take what you can get and enjoy it the most. I think I could have put a harder effort in it. Since I’ve been mostly running marathons or 5Ks, I haven’t figured out a great way to pace myself on these middle distances.

If I lived closer to the area, I would definitely do this race again! I wouldn’t mind if the cost was a little lower since it’s so far away, but the roads were mostly clear of cars. I only saw like 2-3 drive by and all drivers were really nice to the runners. It was also nice to warm up in the school before and after the race.  All in all, a well-organized race!

No Rest for the Cranky Heel

Soo, I’ve been quiet.

You would figure with all the free time I have from not running, I would be blogging up a storm… however, without running, I am losing my blogging mojo with it.

To recap…

Heel pain that’s been making running distance or speed pretty uncomfortable, not painful but severely uncomfortable happening since December.

Went to the doctor… told me nothing is broken, that I have plantar fasciitis and that I should try Physical Therapy…

I didn’t believe him, but decided why not, let’s try this PT…

Went to PT… was very not impressed and after learning some calf and hip strengthening exercises decided that even though it’s covered by my insurance, twice a week visits were not really it.  I have nothing against my therapist but just got this vibe that she hasn’t worked with my heel problem or my type of runner often.  Plus it took her 3 days to email me the stretches that she told me she would. Either way, I just didn’t feel like the solutions worked for my problem.

Went to my chiropractor who was able to find where the heel issue was in my heel and confirmed that it has nothing to do with planter fascitis.  My PF has no inflammation and is happy as ever.  Science has never been a strength of mine but basically something happened where my Gastrocnemius, Soleus & Tibialis Anterior, basically the muscles that run up and down my calf/ankle area all came into a party and had a massive rager rave in my heel.  Now it’s in a constant state of hangover. Made sense to me since my left leg and side overall has been insanely tight overall. So he’ll be using I think a mix of Graston and ART.

Anyway, I can’t say my heel is feeling happy this weekend (even though I haven’t done much running) but hopefully with treatment and lots of stretching I will get rid of. I’m trying to be hopefully and not freak out about the stupid goals and races I held onto.

Boston is 12 weeks away

Wisconsin is 14 weeks away

Fargo is 15 weeks away

From everything I read, I cannot find anything concrete on how to make it go away as even rest is not helping.  A few things I read:

  • Myth ~ Inflammation is the cause heel pain.
    • Fact – inflammation is the natural healing process of the body. It’s a ‘signal’ of tissue damage and that the body is trying to isolate and heal the damaged tissue. It’s the result of repetitive stress onto the heel that prevents incomplete healing.
  • Myth ~ Rest is the best thing for the heel pain.
    • Fact – rest will only minimize the irritation of the irritated tissues. The scarred tissues will not go away on its own. It’s best addressed with a pro-active attitude with ice, manual therapy (e.g. Active Release Technique, Graston Technique, Shock Therapy etc.), proper stretching and strengthening exercises.

I’m trying to keep positive as I’m sure even the elite go through periods where something is off, have a terrible, or low season and return stronger, better and PRed more than ever.  I’m trying… but it’s so hard having a issue that can’t seems to resolve itself on its own.

This too shall pass… I’m healthy and I’m running more than many other people wish they could… Plenty of marathons left in my future.

Weekly Recap – Why I ignore injuries

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I really hate admitting it, but I’ve been a terrible follower of my own advice. I hate admitting injuries, and taking the steps to fully recovery versus elevating them to a higher level. Absolutely hate it, and unless I am getting sharp pains, I pretty much have been ignoring issues for months now.

For those who have followed me for a while, I’ve been a “runner” for over 7 years with half marathon/marathon running over 4 years now. Sometimes, I feel like a complete newbie, but yes, it’s really been that long! For those 7 years I’ve been incredibly lucky, where although I was a really uncoordinated kid growing up, picking up running as an “adult” has come incredibly easy for me! I ran my first 5K 25:28, not elite, but pretty well for a girl who spent most of her childhood being inactive and chubby. My first marathon in under 3:25 and while not always following the all righteous rule of gradual increase, I have led a very injury-free running life. The most was maybe taking two extra rest days to rest out some soreness and a cranky piriformis from lack of stretching.

And then 2014 came with a string of discomfort that just couldn’t be resolved with two extra days of rest and for a while I refused to believe it. I ran my official 50 miler on what I highly suspect was a stress fracture. I still don’t regret it, because I’m not sure when I will take the time to train for a 50 miler again, but in the grand scheme of running things, I’m sure it was not my best move.

And recently, as I am coming back into training and running, I started ignoring another pain. My heel… which has been on and off problematic probably since October. At first the back of it bothered me and now the outer right side is. The outer pain went away and the side pain came sometime when I was actually not running and cross training in December. And while the pain is dull and easily ignored for a bit, and boy have I done a great job of denying it’s existences; it has come to a point where I can tell it’s alternating me gait and my walking… terrible signs.

So yes, once again.. I am taking a short running break. Hopefully it’ll be only a week break.  I’m seeing a doctor on Wednesday to do an X-ray because while after enough poking and testing, I’m relatively confident it’s not a heel stress fracture, there is definitely some inflammation occurring and I have a terrible guess it’s a heel spur, but maybe it’s just a weird case of plantar fasciitis where the pain is on the side of the heel versus the arch? Either way, I am trying to stay optimistic and positive about what I can expect from my spring races. I am trying to contain my anxiety about lack of performance at Boston because while I would love, love to PR on that course, I can also have a blast running it for fun. I’m also hoping for a quick recovery so I can resume training for a sub 1:30 half marathon in mid-March giving me about 6 weeks of training left.

After two days of easy paced “short” runs, my heel is feeling less inflamed; however, I am resting until official diagnosis and this is giving me hope that I will be okay. So why am I writing this whole speculative analysis of my injury when my appointment is two days away? Because if there’s nothing more; runners love talking about their running, and when they’re not running, they will go on and on analyzing what is keeping them from running. It’s a fixation, maybe not the healthiest, but also not the worst one either.

So my week of training where I ignored all my issues Monday-Friday and then finally googled MDed myself into a panic attack Friday night.

Monday – 8 Miles 7:08 pace.. my first “speed” workout where I did 4 x 1.5 Miles at 6:55 my Half marathon goal pace with rest in between

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Tuesday – 6.2 incline 3; 7:74 pace + Tabata 1 hours

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Wednesday – Rest

Thursday – 10.1 Miles 8:19 pace with heeling feeling weirder than usual

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It was literally negative 3 degrees Fahrenheit in Boston on Thursday morning!!!

Friday – 8 Miles 7:37 pace on incline 3, still doing a great job of ignoring potential injury

Saturday – Fun Run with Somerville Road Runners club at Casey’s 4.1 miles.  Casey’s Tavern provided a stellar brunch offering post run!

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Sunday – Fun Run with Slumbrew in Assembly Square where I ran with old friends and new. 3.1 miles

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Weekly – 39.6 Miles

Making a return, the weekly recap post injury

That’s right for the first time in weeks, I am excited to bring back the weekly recap!

Why? Because I am finally feeling good. Hitting double digit runs isn’t leaving me gasping for air and I have officially hit 50 miles this week!

Monday 3.25, 24 minutes 7:23 pace followed up by Bodypump & core for 75 minutes at Healthworks

Tried Body Pump for the first time and feel a little mixed about workouts with body bars and the load it puts on my shoulder since it’s separated and all that fun stuff.

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Tuesday Tabata at Healthworks

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Lots of cardio in there, but yet still left my muscles feeling like Jello through Friday.

Wednesday 10.1 Miles, 1:24, 8:19 pace Felt nice and light

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Ending the year on a run… because I can.

Thursday – Yea, I did nothing… it’s how I start the new year.

ZZZzzzzZZZ

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Friday – 6.71 miles in the Fells with a friend at an easy get lost and look for trail markets pace followed by some road running 7.4 miles at 8:06 pace

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The trail high… priceless

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Saturday – 12.2 Miles 2:00 about 9:50 pace on relatively easy trails.

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My friend and I joined in midway at the GAC Fatass 50K where I ran two 10K loops with one tiny hill in a loop. I wasn’t sure how far I would run since I was there with a friend so kept an easy pace in case there was time for more miles. Either way. I was happy to be around company and trails.
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Sunday – 11.15 Miles, 1:31, 8:09 Average Pace

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It snowed, it rained, and it turned into a beautiful slippery sludge by the end of the day so I took the run easy until I would find small bursts of cleared sidewalk.

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Total Mileage – 51

Reflections– Lots of trail running this week which is a bit unnatural but I had the opportunity to run with friends. Also the trails were still clear of snow, which is like unheard of January in New England, so I had to take advantage.

I am still working on my 2015 racing schedule, so stay tuned!

QOTD

How was your weekend? Any days off? I had Thursday off and worked from home Friday allowing for some flexibility in daylight running hours!

2014 Stonecat 50 Miler Race Recap

I signed up for the stone cat 50 miler way back in July… but the idea of running Stone Cat has been festering for well over a year after my first 50 miler DNF at TARC 50 that ended up being a 25 mile swim. Unfortunately the 2013 Stone Cat was the same day as the NYC marathon… So I waited again and tried another TARC 50 miler on a different course… with the same DNF result… In July, I signed up for the lottery to get into Stone Cat and got in! I wasn’t sure what to expect for a fall race since historically Fall is busy time of year for my job where I end up working most Saturdays until 10/15… However, I ended up switching jobs and for the first time in a while, I had weekends opened up to get some of the long runs I would need to get myself ready for this adventure… I can go into more about my training, but I think it warrants a post of its own since it wasn’t the most traditional of plans.

The Stone Cat 50 Miler was held on Saturday, November 8th 2013 at 6:15. The cost of the race is $85 plus fees so essentially $90. The cost to the lottery is Free and while I’m pretty sure the getting picked rate is probably around 100%, the lottery is there to relieve some of the registration stress that seems to happen with races nowadays and servers going boom on the opening hour of registration.

The week of the race I wasn’t traveling for work and unfortunately didn’t get the best rest that I would have liked… It was also that week that I started to feel pain on the side of my leg. Basically the part where my foot connects to my leg in the front. I ignored it for the most part, thinking it was maybe the hotel treadmills and me not getting enough sleep… I got home and ran on Wednesday night and felt okay. Thursday, I went for a 10K on my home treadmill and when I was done, my leg was killing me. At this point, I still thought my pain was muscular and would be gone with a good day of rest. So Friday I worked from home, icing, elevating and the whole RICE treatment hoping that my leg would be good to go by 6:15 AM Saturday.

But first there was the headlamp fiasco… I couldn’t find my old headlamp I used.. and the Fenix flashlight I usually use has had an unfortunate death with Duracell batteries refusing to remove themselves… so I did what any ordinary girl would do… I ordered 1 day delivery from Amazon… only to be disappointed…. Yes, as a prime member, I paid extra to get my delivery in 24 hours only to be disappointed that my headlamp was still in Indiana… so Friday night after packing everything else… we tore the house down looking for the old headlamps because I doubt REI is going to be open at 5AM… luckily we found them.

Initially if everything went to plan, I wouldn’t have needed the headlamp… but as I learned two weeks ago in Ghost Train.. it’s always good to have.

So finally.. I am fully packed with 20 pairs of socks, a few extra layers ready from 100 degrees to negative 100 degrees and more pairs of shoes than most people own in 5 years… yes, when I pack for an ultra.. I pack more than I would for a 3 week trip to Asia. But yes, finally I am packed and ready for bed.

And BAM! the 5AM alarm goes off… I can wake up early… but I really hate it and this wake up with the stress of traveling during the week really felt like a punch in the face. Luckily, the race is only 30 minutes from my house in Ipswich. Tony graciously dropped me off at the race start as we got there around 6:05 AM… Yea probably a little bit late. As I grab my number and shirt from the awesome volunteers, I start to set up my drop back area. My leg feels better, but I can still feel a minor dull ache that I continue on ignoring.

The weather is somewhere in the 30s and I feel groggy and a little cranky as I try to evaluate what layers I need. I finally decide to go with a tshirt and my 2012 Boston Marathon Jacket for some comfort and warmth…Plus it’s bright and orange and makes me happy and reminds me of one of the most difficult runs I ever had. 2012 Boston Marathon was no joke and I’m proud that I stuck through it.  I also kept a hat on which I probably didn’t need but I was just not in the mood to be cold. For the bottom I am wearing a pair of old black Capris I got a few years ago from Express… Yes.. not exactly ideal tights for 50 miles of running… Unfortunately with all the commuting, travel and working from home, I forgot that I pretty much horde a whole closet of workout clothes at work in Boston which is where my three pairs of favorite running capris were currently residing at. Whatever, it’s not the gear that makes the runner… it’s the runner that well fuck it gotta do what she gotta do because a 3AM drive to Boston was not in the cards.

So I am dressed… or undressed from my warm layers… hearing the trail briefing and ready to start when I decide maybe it would be a great idea to take a bathroom visit before I start running. Unfortunately, unlike road races, trail races for some tragic reason (for the almost late Liana) seem to always start on time… so as the rest of the runners start their 50 mile journey, I scurry over to look for the bathroom… which of course is proceeded by a line. So aside from being a 50 miler, stone cat trail races also has a marathon that starts 15 minutes later at 6:30 so all of those runners are being timely. In my head I scream a few expletives about being such a morning wreck and debate the merits of peeing on myself instead of this line… but eventually decide that running with a full bladder or wet pants for 50 miles will probably not be fun.

About 5 minutes later, I am off, joining the first of the pack into the woods. Stone Cat 50 miler consists of FOUR 12.5 mile loops. The aid stations are at mile 4 mile 7.5 and then back at 12.5. I’m used to running 20 miles with no food and water and I decide that at least for the first loop or two, I’m going to leave my handheld in my drop bag. I liked being hands free.

The first mile or so of the first loop is a bit lonely as everyone has had a 5 minute head start and I kinda enjoy the peace and quiet of it all… then I start to catch up and see a bunch of runners but none of whom look familiar and I kind of get a little more cranky.

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of rolling single track at the start of races… I don’t run on trails often and sometimes it takes me a bit to get into them. Also, I’m not a fast runner but I’m also not a slow runner until the downhill part. So for the majority of it, I am trying to get around runners on the uphill and flat part and having panic attacks as others run around me on the downhill. And while I’m usually relatively social, I found myself in a mood. Maybe, it was subtle stress of my leg, maybe it was exhaustion, maybe it was everyone looking so at ease and me feeling the struggle of mile 1 like it was mile 31, but I was in a mood. The hard part about being in a mood is that I can’t fake being happy but I also don’t want to be a debbie downer. I am so grateful for having these trails so close by but at that point in time, I was cursing every bump, rock and root. I was just not in the mood for trails or people… or maybe anything. Maybe it was my lack of caffeine?

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Around mile 2, I saw my friend Anj and I instantly felt better. Maybe, I just needed some familiarly to comfort myself as I felt so out of place on the single track terrain. I decided to stop looking at my watch, or time, or miles and just take it step by step. So what if I had to walk every downhill, if that’s the break I needed, then I’ll take it and just run a little faster on the flat part. Many ultrarunners take walk breaks and while most don’t do them on downhills, it’s okay, I don’t have to be like all the other children… As I was working on letting go of my insecurities, I hit the first aid station at mile 4 that was playing music and full of perky, happy volunteers. I immediately downed two cups of coke, not because I was thirsty, but because I’m pretty sure I was feeling caffeine and sugar withdrawal. I didn’t really eat a breakfast even though I probably should have. In the next 3.3 miles I started to pass by more familiar faces from TARC and was finally feeling a little bit  more comfortable. I wasn’t an outsider trying to keep up. These are my people and while most of them I only see at trail races, I am constantly in awe of all their accomplishments, just like sometimes they are of mine. Our accomplishments and skills and background might be different, but we’re all here to challenge ourselves and achieve our individual goals. Maybe it was the caffeine kicking in, but in simple terms, I was finally chilling the bleep out.

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The 7.5 aid station came by quickly as I decided to pass it and hold out for the end of the loop at 12.5. Somewhere in those 5 miles there was a volunteer dressed as a clown… clowns and woods… not cool people.. not cool… I prefer the Yeti ;). It was also around this time that the faster marathons started catch up and lapping me. It’s always though on the ego when you get passed and it messed with my pacing a bit. I wanted to run faster, and keep up with them.. but I kept trying to remind myself that I got double the distance and should focus more on finishing the course versus racing others.

Before I knew it, I hit the first 12.5 miles in about 2:27 (minus my 5 lateness minutes)… a little smarter, a little slower than stone cat. I immediately changes out of my jacket and hat into a thin long sleeve. Had a few bits of pumpkin pie, some salted potatoes and moved on. My second loop was meditative… for the most part I was running alone and I liked it. I love the support and volunteers of races, but when I’m running, I like being in my own head and gazing around. Suddenly, a large portion of the terrifying single track seemed pleasant and beautiful. I went from not just chilling out, but really enjoying myself and remembering why I love trail running and ultra running. The second loop went by quickly, and I even started to pass some of those marathoners that flew past me… pacing is a skill that takes practice physically and mentally.

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As I finished my second loop at 4:53 (less 5), I saw a few more of my favorite familiar faces who were waiting to pace their friends. Then I realized, I kind of forgot to get myself a pacer… in TARC races, the 50 milers weren’t allowed to have them and in Ghost Train since you’re running 7.5 miles pack and forth, you don’t really need one on the rail trail… so it sort of slipped my mind that I might want one on my final 12.5 miles.

As I started my third loop, I started thinking whether I wanted a pacer. I was still feeling great. In fact, I was surprised by how much energy I had as I was going into the middle of my third loop. At mile 30 at ghost train, I was fading fast,, versus here, with a slower and more consistent pace, I was keeping relatively steady with my energy level. Maybe this whole pace yourself theory does have some logic. As I continued, I would sync up and chat with a few runners. I loved hearing where people run, how far, and other details. I love that you can run alone for a bit, have a nice little chat and then go back into your personal zone. When people ask if I ever get lonely running for 10 hours in the woods. The answer is no. In a world where I’m so connected via social media, and close coworker cube office environment. I cherish those moments when I’m unplugged and with nature. Plus, I know if I slow down or speed up, I can eventually find another like minded person I can chat with for a bit.

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The great and happy selfie…

On my third loop, around mile 36 just as I was thinking of how great I felt with energy, my left knee gave out. It just wouldn’t take any more running. When I got near the clown, I had to get over my fear and borrow his chair for a stretch. For the first time in a rice, I felt great, my back wasn’t hurting, my energy was on cue and only thing that was stopping me was a sharp pain in my left knee with each step. I tried to do a jog, a run walk and eventually just gave up to walking the final 2 miles of the loop. Before my sudden sharp pains, I was on cue to hitting 37.5 miles in under 7:30. Right on plan with my 10 hour goal. My actual time at loop three was 7:45 minus 5.

As I was in the zone of debating between what to do with my life… because I’m so dramatic… I mean race between loop 3 and final loop 4, I decided to sit down and grab some food. I drank a little noodle, had some hot coco and take a few steps into a warm school bathroom because even though I was running with no hydration, I was definitely downing more liquids than I needed to.

My mind was racing and I was going back and forth about whether to DNF or not. I always said I would never run on an injury. However, I figured what’s the worse that could happen. I heal fast. At this point, I still thought my injury was soft tissue. Plus at this point, I had more than 4 hours to walk my final 12.5 miles of the course. Should I really DNF because I didn’t want a slower time than my goal? That seemed silly. I was tired of DNFing for all the wrong reasons and while for the first time, I probably have a legit reason, I felt like a disappointment if I didn’t finish this one. I wanted an official 50 miler and ghost train because the loops were 15 miles, didn’t really count as one. I’m also, not sure when I’ll have the time and energy to train as hard again. This had to be it.  I grabbed my Jacket and my head lamp. I wasn’t cold. but I knew I had some serious hours and miles ahead of me if I was going to get through the final loop. I also decided to change my shoes from trail to road because they had a bit more cushion and I wanted comfort for walking vs. the protection and feed back of my Innov-8.

I was definitely not making the sunset cut-off. After chatting a little bit with my friend Mike and walking a half mile. I felt a bit less shaken and determination took over. I can finish in the time I had left and at this point, all my pride wanted was an official finish.

My final loop was a haze. Well that’s a lie. The first 8 miles of the 4.5 was a haze as I was right foot, left foot. My knee stopped hurting but the pain in my leg by the shin returned. Any down step felt like what I always imagined a kick in the balls would feel like. I started to get passed by runners I passed before and there was nothing I could do about it. I was running my own race and they had theirs. It wasn’t about others anymore, it was just me and my battle.

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At one point I saw my friend Anj on her final loop and was really excited by how great and strong she looked! She asked me to run with her, but I just couldn’t get my foot to match my energy and wish her luck on her final miles. It was also at some point that I hit my right toe straight into a rock as I was texting on my phone… and for a bit, the pain in my toe, made me forget about the pain in my left foot and I rain for a few minutes.

I made it to the final aid station with 5 miles left to the course and Tony wasn’t there. I convinced him to walk the final 5 miles with me but he couldn’t find the trailhead and said the road was too rough for our Prius. I continued and only made it half a mile before darkness took over.

The funny thing about sunset in the woods in the November… it sort of happens in a flash. One moment you’re running and you’re fine, the next you’re dependent on a headlamp that you realize has a lot less light depth than you thought before. You’re looking for the trail marks and ribbons, but none seem to be visible. Instead, as you enter single track again, you rely on your footing.. if the footing feels consistent you’re on trail, if things get a little bit more soft, less trimmed, you’re bushwhacking off trail. Amazing how much you start relying on the feel of your footing when you’re visibility is limited to a step or two in front..

For a mile or so, I felt okay… I was slowing down to make sure I was following the trail but I was okay. However, after about 20 minutes alone in darkness, I started to freak out. Out of nowhere, I heard coyotes all around me howling. Now logically, I know coyotes don’t eat people… but my brain is fried from running for 10 hours and it’s dark and I’m in the woods and I just lose it. I start freaking out that I’m lost since I haven’t seen anyone in a really long time and shouldn’t have somebody passed me by now? I try to go on, step by step and finally hit double track again. I know I still had about 2 more miles to go which at my current pace was at least 35 minutes at best.. but at least I could see where the trail was more clearly.

Suddenly, I hear women behind me. There’s two runners and two of their pacers, reminding me that I really should have picked a pacer but I just felt so guilty asking someone to walk 12.5 miles with me. It’s one thing to ask a friend to run with you, but walking? I don’t know. Anyone’s other humans! Inside, I screamed from joy, but the city road runner in me was starting to get really terrified of being alone in the woods in the dark. I couldn’t run but I was walking uphill at a much greater speed than most at this point. I used all the energy and strength to block out my pain and keep up with this pack. Two more miles, at this point, the damage to my foot was done, I just needed to get to the finish line. Being in the company of other runners for the last few miles, made them go by a lot faster than the single mile I did alone. And when I saw the field, I was in pain, but the joy of being done made me break out into a jog. I just wanted to be back in civilization and lights!

I crossed the finish line 11:42 gun time with probably 11:37 or so net time based on my Garmin.

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I found Tony right away and started to pack up all my gear as I grabbed two slices of pizza. I didn’t really eat much the whole day and got most of my energy from soda so finally chewing some food was a really treat!

The volunteers lined the finish area with light sabers and sparklers adding to the excitement of crossing the finish line.

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Instead of finishing medals, we got these awesome gym bags as our finishing prize. Not going to lie, because part of why I wanted an official finish as this bag! And also…

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and the shirts are super cute and when someone asks me about the race, i was to tell them about a finish and not a DNF.

I don’t know if I will have another 50 miler any time soon, but I know eventually I want to return to the course and run uninjured. I also don’t quite know what is happening to my leg. Based on research, I think I have a stress fracture. It’s been a week and still feel pain when I bend it. Going to the doctor this Thursday to find out the damage done before I resume my 2015 marathon goals.