Glass City Half Marathon: Race Recap

I wasn’t sure how to write this race recap because it took me a while to process the race. I’ve PR’d twice at GCM before, but this year, it was not my goal race. Last year I worked my tail off to PR in the full marathon and I had a lack luster day at the races; this year coming off of LA training, I really wasn’t training very much more than to finish the race. So going into race day, I was not sure what my expectations were.

Race Week Training

I. Did. Not. Taper. You read that right. No taper. And if you read my 2015 PR Race Recap of Columbus, then you’ll recall I did the same thing. My mileage since LA has been low, so there wasn’t much to taper. I ran every day what felt good,  and I didn’t run when I didn’t want to.

Training Review

This year I transitioned from training for LA to training for GCM, while substitute coaching for Dave’s Running Marathon in Training program. During this transition period, I noticed that compared to this time last year I was running on average a minute/mile slower.

Race Day Wake-up

Sunday morning’s wake up came at 3:30am. Breakfast was a oatmeal with blueberries and peanut butter, and coffee. I used my morning walk with Addie to help me determine what I would wear for the race. After our walk, I packed my bags and we headed to campus. After a quick photo op with the Oiselle Volée flock, there wasn’t much time for a warm-up so I headed to the Start Line.

Start Area

I still had no game plan. I decided to start with the 1:55 pacer, except I couldn’t find them. I had set my watch so I had to manually lap each mile, and I was hoping this wouldn’t have me watching my garmin too much during the race. As I waited for the race to begin, I had 3 Raspberry ProBar Bolts and 2 Margarita Clif Bloks to start the race off.

Miles 1-3: 9’00″/8’41″/8’43”
I wanted to keep it relaxed early on since I really had no idea of my racing capabilities. I saw a fellow Dave’s MIT coach pacing her group, so I began with them as my rabbits. Shortly before Mile 1, I spotted Cory and Steph, hoping I wouldn’t regret trying to catch up to them early on. I stuck near them until right before Mile 2. I grabbed water around Mile 3 and decided to try to drink while running (and hopefully not choke!).

Miles 4-6: 8’40″/8’35″/8’31”

I was expected to feel fatigued and slow down at this point. Around Mile 4.5, I ate 3 Raspberry ProBar Bolts and 2 Margarita Clif Bloks. I was pleasantly surprised that my legs felt fresh and I had energy enough to sustain my current effort. I was pretty happy so far in the race. I was seeing my dad multiple times and Bob, one of the head coaches for Dave’s MIT, which helped keep me up beat being able to spot them along the course. (Side Note: this made me super excited to spectate the Cap City Half Marathon the following weekend.)

Miles 7-9: 8’32″/8’44″/8’39”

Around mile 8, I wondered if I had the potential to PR. I knew there was plenty of miles of the race remaining, but focusing on the possibility kept me moving forward. I was pleasantly surprised about how I was doing as we made the “turn-around” on Central Avenue and headed back towards campus. I forgot to fuel so I grabbed it around Mile 9.5.

Miles 10-13.1: 8’40″/8’19″/8’31″/8’11”
I passed Steph around Mile 10 and I knew she was struggling. I wanted to open up at this point in the race, but quickly realized I didn’t have the legs for a huge push. I knew without it that a PR was out of reach, but I would be damned if I wasn’t going to hang on and try for at least a sub-1:53.

Finish
Official Finish Time 1:52:30 (only 47 seconds off my PR)
Average Pace 8’35”

Holy Batman! My previous races at GCM had me working hard for my finish times. Relatively speaking, this race felt like a cake-walk. I was reminded why Ottawa Hills is called “Ottawa Hills” but really surprised (and absolutely amazed) how my body handled them and my pace.

Pros:  It was the perfect weather (probably because it was almost the perfect “date”–you can laugh if you’ve seen Miss Congeniality and know what I mean). GCM still isn’t my favorite race or course, but I’m trying to learn to see why so many people do love it.

Cons: I can’t get it out of my mind but I think there are some major security issues with this race (yeah I said it).

I’m done racing for the time being while I train for a GORUCK Heavy! If you’re interested, you can find all of my Race Recaps here!

Thanks!

Jes

LA Marathon: Race Recap

LA was my 4th (fourth-that’s right) full marathon in less than 11 months; this doesn’t take into account that I ran an ultramarathon in December 2015. That’s a heck of a lot of running, for me. I know there are marathon maniacs that are practically running a race every weekend but that’s not my life. I’ve taken a few days (okay a week) to process my LA Marathon race experience. I’ve already recapped some of the usual pre-race things such as the Expo in last week’s Friday Five which can be found here. So let’s get into discussing Race Day!

Wake-up: I slept very well and woke up before my alarm at 2:30am. I prefer having some time to relax, drink my coffee and eat breakfast, instead of sleeping in then having to rush.

Weather: Leaving my hotel I noticed that it was cool (55 degrees F), and a bit humid (around 90+%). I wore a pair of throw-away sweatshirt and sweatpants, plus my Oiselle Pom Hat.

Goals: I didn’t have any to be honest. I hoped I could break 4 hours, so I started with the 4:00 pacer. But I knew that my training period had many rough spots, so enjoying the course was my primary goal.

Shuttle: I was scheduled for a 4:30am shuttle from Downtown Santa Monica, but I arrived early around 4:10am and boarded a bus immediately. Approaching our exit for Dodger Stadium, we realized the exit was closed by CHP, so we were diverted to the general traffic entrance. Once arriving, we were turned around by traffic control. Many people on our bus were not very happy about this and a few wanted off the bus right there. It was barely 5:00am so we had plenty of time, and there really was no reason to stress (yet). I was sitting inside Dodgers Stadium by 5:15am.

Start Line: There was a lot of room at Dodgers Stadium, plenty of bathrooms, and free bananas, water bottles AND Clif Shot Bloks, which was perfect because I accidentally forgot to remove my second breakfast from my gear bag before checking it after I applied my body glide and sunscreen.

Mile 1-5: Within the first ¼ mile we were so bottlenecked we were walking. Within the first ½ mile men were breaking off to the trees for a potty stop. Our first mile overall was a wee bit slower than a 4 hour pace, but it was comfortable. Besides that first mile and sometimes at water stations, the course wasn’t very congested; you looked ahead and it was a sea of runners, but there was always sufficient elbow room thankfully. For this race I actually turned off auto-lap on my Forerunner 230, and manually lapped myself each mile marker to get a more accurate mile-by-mile split times; I only forgot three times because that’s how quickly this race flew by despite how slow I was running/walking. I knew there were some rolling hills but I underestimated these inclines (I should’ve driven the course!) and that’s saying a lot from someone who has run the Flying Pig (Cincinnati) and Pittsburgh Marathons! Mile 2 was my second fastest mile of the day at 8:44, but it didn’t feel uncomfortable; the pacer did slow down to a 8:58 for Mile 3, but as we hit Mile 4 I lost them because of the Hill. This was also the start of walking the water stations to allow my legs a minute of recovery.

Mile 6-10: I wasn’t quite hitting 4 hour splits, but I was happy with my pace. I had decided to walk inclines to save my legs because let’s just admit it now, I wasn’t in the best shape for this course. Around Mile 6, we passed Echo Park Lake. At Mile 9 I stopped for a potty break. I was also on the border of being too thirsty and worried that I would be overhydrating in the weather. It was sunnier than expected and I was regretting not wearing a hat. I was still pretty positive at this point, but a bit sad that the course was going by too fast and I was certain I was missing some touristy type sights.

Mile 11-15: Around Mile 11, I ran passed Hollywood & Vine, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and Grauman’s Chinese Theater. I was excited to see these landmarks because I felt certain I had missed them. I don’t remember where it was on the course, maybe somewhere around here, but you get an amazing view of the Hollywood sign. Just as with Detroit, most of this part of the race was a bit of a blur; although I was in a much better place physically and mentally than Detroit. I think during this part was when Jen from NYC passed me, and when I noticed a blister on my foot. I also noticed that almost every mile appeared to begin with an incline which had me walking for almost a ¼ mile. I was probably too cautious at this point with the walking, but mile 4 pretty much tormented my quads and too a lot out of my legs.

Mile 16-20: I knew that I needed to learn how to push myself at this late in the race. But I was comfortable and not really thinking at all about my finish time at this point. It was during this stretch that I entered Beverly Hills and was running down Rodeo Drive. I really wanted to stop and take pictures but I was focused on putting one foot in front of the other because while my finish time wasn’t a concern (yet) I didn’t want to waste more time on my feet.  Despite how slow my mile splits were, the miles really did seem to be flying by!

Mile 21-23: Somewhere between Mile 20 and 21 I caught up to Jen and asked her if she wanted to run together. At this point, I was feeling good and knew I could pick it up. But I had been wanting to run with someone else for most of the course, so regardless of my desire to pick up the pace, my desire to run with someone else was stronger. Eventually around Mile 23, Jen encouraged me to keep going. I passed the Oiselle Cowbell Corner around Mile 23.5. I wanted to stop for a photo-op but my legs were just carrying me at this point and I knew that I had to dig deep to get in under 4:30. The only reason 4:30 even was a “goal” at this point was because I had caught up to the 4:30 pacer and suddenly I began calculating my estimated finish time.

Mile 24-26.2: In order to break 4:30, I had to hit a 9 min/mile for the last two miles. I had taken it too easy for most of the course, and with the hills being over I had that kind of kick left in my legs, but physically I had been on my feet for over 4 hours so sustaining that pace took a lot of mental focus to keep the physical drive alive. Contrary to the elevation map, I didn’t notice that lovely decline into the finish.
Finish: My watch said 4:29:53. I never noticed the clock when I crossed the finish. There was no 26 Mile Marker, and spectators aren’t allowed in the last 0.2ish of the actually finish line, so it was pretty lonely and a bit confusing because I’m not a very visual person when it comes to estimating distances. I saw the finish line and knew I was within seconds from not breaking 4:30 (not that it really mattered). Immediately after crossing a volunteer came and walked with me. I probably didn’t look good. I got my medal, took a picture, and texted my mom. Apparently I didn’t actually cross the finish line when I stopped my watch (there were at least 3 “timing” mats at the finish) so I didn’t quite break 4:30 this time around.
Official Finish Time 4:30:32
Average Pace 10’19”

Summary: Each marathon has been a learning experience. The distance is very humbling. Random fact though is that my pace was exactly one minute slower than my pace at Pittsburgh.

Overall: If I lived closer, I would probably run this marathon annually. But the cost of travel isn’t cheap and that will keep me from making this trip. I enjoyed the course, and the volunteers were freaking amazeballs. The course entertainment and spectators didn’t come close to Pittsburgh or Columbus, but the views made up for it. I didn’t have issues with the Shuttle to the Start line, but if you read my blog often you know I’m a planner and I prefer to be early rather than late. For my first point-to-point race, I thought the logistics were very smooth. Compared to Columbus, Detroit and Pittsburgh, while LA did have constant contact via emails, and social media, they are not as responsive to posts or interactive with guests as the others. The coolest feature of LA was the Students Run LA (SRLA) group, they just brought a whole new energy on the course that was contagious.

You can find all of my Race Recaps here!

Question: Have you ever run LA? If yes, what was your favorite memory of the race?

Jes

Detroit Free Press Marathon: Race Recap

This race was not my race. It was for the most part a great course and a well run marathon. To start the Expo was a little basic in my opinion, while they had a lot there, there was just some things I was looking for that were absent.  Then again I’ve been to worse expos. My favorite thing was the Run Detroit booth with the course preview video. It was pretty fun using the people mover and seeing the billboards next to the start/finish line. I wish I would’ve gotten pictures, but I didn’t. We hit up the Expo on Friday, but came back on Saturday after checking-in at our hotel. Due to pre-race jitters, the only thing that sounded remotely edible was pizza so we enjoyed a salad and a deep dish pie at Niki’s; normally not my go-to be for a race meal, but when you have zero appetite for 2-3 days, you go for what sounds appealing because at least then you might eat some of it.

Hotel: The only downside of the Detroit Free Press Marathon is trying to find a hotel close to the start/finish line. No only do most of the local hotels require a minimum two nights stay (except the Casino a mile away at $499/night) they are at least $300/night stay. Another downside of a city-stay is the traffic-noise throughout the evening/night. But the plus-side was being able to walk to the start, and having a 2pm check-out after.

Wake-up: I didn’t sleep well. Shocker I know. My shoulder was bothering me most of the day, and made it impossible to sleep. So I got up and had to foam roll it before I could attempt any sort of rest. I was in and out of consciousness most of the night, waking up around 2:30am thinking I was never going to fall back asleep; then my 4am alarm happened and all I wanted to do was go back to sleep. It was strange because Friday and Saturday I was a ball of energy doing everything possible to sit still and conserve, especially since I had a nervous tummy and my appetite was all but gone. Waking up Sunday morning, I had nervous energy but I felt exhausted.

Weather: Leaving my hotel I noticed that it was warm (66 degrees F), and humid (around 90+%). The wind which was supposed to be 10-15mph felt wicked strong.

Goals:  I set out with a pace goal for a 3:50 finish. My GCM time was 4:00, and I felt positive that I was in better shape than the Spring. I did make the decision to start out with the 3:45 pacer to help me make it over the Ambassador Bridge and through the Tunnel.

Start Line: I arrived to the start line around 6:15am, and it wasn’t very crowded. I noticed how small the corrals were too, but was happy to find the 3:45 pacer almost immediately. She was friendly and chatted with those of us around her; she commented that the course was long at 26.4 miles. I saw some familiar faces from Dave’s MIT. Around 6:45am the corrals closed, and we got ready to run.

Mile 1-5: Starting off I noticed we were fast, my watch was ready 8’29 pace, which was not at all what I had planned for. But it felt comfortable so I just ran with it. When we hit the Ambassador Bridge I was expecting the elevation change, but knew it was early enough in the course that it shouldn’t be too rough. I was wrong. Combined with the headwinds I slowed to almost a 10’30 mile. Coming down off the bridge I fell back into a 8’50 pace, but I knew something was not right.
Average Pace: 8’51”

Mile 6-10:  I had the 3:50 pacer pass me, and then the 3:55 pacer pass me and I knew I was in trouble. But looking at my watch and the Mile Markers, my watch was almost 0.22 off, which I was expecting considering I knew the course was measured long. Miles 6 and 7 came in around a 4:00 finish time. Mile 8 was almost completely in the Tunnel, and when I read that its hot and humid in that Tunnel–its so very true. I was sweating profusely, and very concerned that I was going to be in a medical tent before the end of the race. My Garmin FR230 had me at a 9’53 for that underwater mile. After the Tunnel my legs were not cooperating with me and I had consecutive 10’50 miles.
Average Pace:9’58”

Mile 11-15: To be honest, most of this part of the race was a bit of a blur; I remember stopping to walk because I was mentally checking in with my body to see what was fixable to try and salvage this race. I was hoping to be back on track for at least a 4 hour finish. At fluid stations I was taking two cups hoping to re-hydrate from the fluid loss in the tunnel. I texted my mom who I knew would be around Mile 13, so she would know when to expect me. I stopped briefly when I saw her to give her my passport and then headed back out on the road. I crossed the half marathon mark at 2:06:55. Now I was hoping to hang on for a sub-4:15 finish. At this point I knew I needed another packet of fuel, but my stomach wasn’t feeling it so I stopped at a fluid station to eat and drink before heading back on the road.
Average Pace: 10’33”

Mile 16-20: Approaching Mile 17, I was approaching familiar territory. But I was still struggling. I was motivated to pull through, although feeling the affects of too much water too quickly at the fluid stations. Shortly after Mile 18, the 4:15 pace group passed me. I fell in with their pace and started to feel really strong again. Then we turned onto Jefferson and hit a headwind. I knew it was time for another baggie of chews, so I stopped at the next fluid station to eat and drink at Mile 19. Then we turned into Belle Isle, and another headwind, but thankfully not an crazy elevation change. My legs were feeling okay, I saw Terra from Detroit Body Garage coming from the other direction; this made me happy because after the Start and my mom, I hadn’t seen anyone else I knew.
Average Pace: 11’07”

Mile 21-25: When they say Belle Isle is windy. Its not a joke. It wasn’t windier than the rest of the course, but most of the course had buildings providing relief and on Belle Isle it was just you and the wind. You could see the storm coming in. I was doing some quick math and determined I really needed to pull out some speedier miles if I wanted to cross that finish line before 4:20. I passed a much speedier Dave’s MIT runner who seemed to be having a rough race just like me, after some words of encouragement, I was back on my way. At Mile 23, I noticed that my watch was now surprisingly 0.55 off the mile markers. Right as we turned onto the Detroit Riverwalk the rain began. I knew with the rain and wind, it was going to take something fierce to get me to that finish line in time. I never saw Mile Markers 24 or 25, so I had no idea where I was compared to my watch. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but I felt a bad headache coming on during these last miles.
Average Pace: 10’27”

Mile 25-26.2: Around Mile 25.6 there was the last fluid station, each fluid station had a distance marked until the next. I saw 0.6 miles to the finish and I felt a little relief because I had missed the last two Mile Marker signs and wasn’t really sure where I was anymore. We made a quick right and then left and while I couldn’t see the finish line (yet) I knew I needed the fastest legs of this race, thankfully my legs finally decided to cooperate.
Average Pace: 9’10”

Finish: As I headed towards the Finish Line, I saw a crowd of runners ahead and knew I needed to pass them otherwise they would slow me down right near the finish. Once again my legs didn’t let me down and I had the best kick in of my life. I guess when you run one of your slowest marathons (and 20:30 slower than your last marathon).
Official Finish Time 4:24:57
Average Pace 10’06”

Summary:
-Fastest Mile: 1(8’28”)
-Slowest Mile: 17 (11’33”)
-Number of Miles under 9 minutes: 4
-Number of Miles under 10 minutes: 11
-Number of Miles over 10 minutes: 11

Thoughts: To be perfectly honest, this race was not as mentally challenging as my last two Glass City Marathon performances, but physically I fell flat. Most of the race I tried to rack my brain and figure out what went wrong, so that I can fix it for next time. It could be partly due to training, or cross-training; my body felt as if this was more of a cut-back week in training than race week (you know what I’m talking about, the week when your body feels like sludge and you’re thankful it’s cut back week). I’ve run a lot more this summer in hot and humid and even stormy weather, so I thought I was prepared for race day conditions, but my body didn’t respond as if it was prepared at all. I did hear afterwards that many Marathon runners had rough races that day (including those in Columbus); heat and humidity might have gotten the best of many runners, although I did hear a lot of great races from the Half Marathon runners. This was my fourth worst marathon performance since I began running (followed by my 2nd Marathon in 2012, my first in 2010, then Dopey in 2015), but it was also my third marathon this year. I also ended with a horrible headache that kept me nauseous and on the couch until the following morning, typically I get these from allergies, dehydration or heat-sickness, all of which could have lead to a crappy race performance. If you gave me another week or two, maybe I could pull out a better finish. I have one more marathon on my schedule next spring then I think I’m going to take a break and focus on building speed at shorter distances for a while; something I feel like I’ve said before and never followed through on, but this race might have proven that I need to refocus for a while.

Overall: I was pretty impressed with the Detroit Free Press Marathon going into race day. Their website is pretty awesome. I love their responses to FAQs. I learned a heck of a lot just browsing around. But the best thing was how speedy they were to respond to questions via Twitter and Other Social Media. I asked questions over Twitter and not even a few minutes later…response! Amazing. I may have not been impressed with their Expo, but for the most part the course brought you through some neighborhoods that really came out to support the runners, and that is always a marathon win in my book. The only advice I would have for future runners would be to get the Passport card to carry, and please wear your bibs on your crest like Race Officials tell you too–so many Border Patrol agents were weaving in and out of runners trying to make sure they were wearing bibs!

You can find all of my Race Recaps here!

Question: Have you ever run Detroit? If yes, what was your favorite memory of the race?

Jes

PGH Marathon: Race Recap

Holy Crap. I ran almost 4 minutes slower this week at Pittsburgh compared to last week’s performance at Glass City, but I feel so much better.

Expo: This was a large Expo. Not many vendors that I was interested in, but definitely something for everyone.

5K (Saturday): I loved that the Steel City Road Runners offered Pacers for a 5K. I wished more 5Ks had this, especially for new runners (or someone wanting to set a PR). I used the 9:00/mile pacer and she was pretty accurate. Until I got sick of the crowds/congestion and broke loose. The course was narrow at points which wasn’t fun. There were a lot of walkers who started too far forward, and so many kids running without adults. Even with the adults, they lacked some common running manners. But you get that with many 5Ks because you have so many newbies who don’t know the proper etiquette. There was one point turn right before mile 2 and the water stop, never a fun maneuver when running. I really tried to hold it back but as I approached Mile 3, I let it go because I wanted to get out of the pack and I headed towards the finish line weaving in and out of runners. Yes I was that guy. The primary goal of this 5K was to be used as a shakeout run for Sunday’s Marathon.
Finished 32nd (AG), 155/1,744 (Gender), and 440/2,777 (Overall).

Wake-up: I had ants in my pants. I was a ball of nerves. I could not keep still. I had to force myself to just sit there and do nothing. I tried not to drink too much water, but I always feel so thirsty the morning of the race I can’t seem to help it.

Weather: The race started in the high 40s and warmed up to the low to mid 60s. Approximately 80% Humidity and a chance of rain throughout. With weather being a factor, I switched out my ProCompression socks for my SmartWools because they offer more cushion and protect my feet better in wet conditions.

Goals: Running two marathons in 7 days was a true test of my training. I didn’t want to go in with “goals” but still with a sense of how I wanted to finish. I set out with a pace goal for a 3:50 finish. I knew with the elevation changes, that this would hopefully put me in PR territory and maybe even break 4 hours. This was really dependent on how the weather played out and how my body responded. After that pace goal, I really just wanted to run a strong, fairly even/consistent race and finish.

Start Line: I arrived to the start line around 6:25am, and it wasn’t very crowded. I waiting around for the 3:50 pacer. Around 6:45am the corrals closed and we began to approach the start line. When the National Anthem played people were still moving forward, but I stopped, took off my hat. It’s probably one of my biggest pet peeves before a race, when people don’t stop (talking/moving/everything), take off their hats and honor the flag. After the National Anthem was over, I had to weave through the crowd to rejoin the 3:50 pacer. And then it started to sprinkle.

Mile 1-5: It started to rain right before the race started and as I crossed the Start Line I couldn’t help but smile and think of how grateful I am to be healthy enough to run. I was also grateful for the rain because I love running in the rain. The pacer started out slower than the intended marathon pace, and I knew when he picked it up, I wasn’t going to stay with the pack. We crossed 3 Bridges in the first few 5 Miles and revisited parts of the course I saw on the 5K Saturday. Despite the rain, the crowd support was alive and well.
Average Pace: 8’53”
Elevation Gain:
Elevation Loss:

Mile 6-10: Once the rain stopped, the humidity started. Thankfully there was a Misting station (and later on there were fire hydrants open to shower us!) Bridge #4 came and went. I felt good about my current pace, even though it wasn’t on target for 3:50. Mentally I was just grateful to be running and feeling good, so physically I was just out for a Sunday run. Overhydration got to me and I had a 2 minute potty stop at Mile 8.
Average Pace: 9’01”
Elevation Gain:
Elevation Loss:

Mile 11-15: The last bridge of the course, and I knew this was were the elevation got challenging. Then the races split, you turned right and saw the hill. I ran a little bit and decided that it was a smart decision to walk and save my legs. I didn’t want to burn out early. I crossed the half marathon point at 2 hours exactly and I had hopes that I could break 4 hours. But that would really depend on how my body responded to the coming miles. Around Mile 14, I saw Krista. This mile last week was where I felt my run fall apart, so seeing her here was the best. Around Mile 15 was another relay exchange point, which meant fresh legs. It also meant some rabbits to chase.
Average Pace: 9’27”
Elevation Gain:
Elevation Loss:

Mile 16-20: By Mile 16, I was walking the inclines. Krista gave me advice for a consistent effort not consistent pace. So I charged up those hills as fast as my legs would allow me walking. Which was a different mentality than last week. This week I walked to conserve and avoid burn out, and last week I walked not because I had to or chose to but because I mentally was quitting. Homewood really was the best neighborhood along the way and this is where I found two rabbits to fall in with.
Average Pace: 9’27”
Elevation Gain:
Elevation Loss:

Mile 21-23: The elevation didn’t quit. But my legs couldn’t have felt stronger. The humidity was getting to me at this point. I was drinking a lot at water stops and pouring just as much down my shirt. I had some gas left in the tank, but I knew it wasn’t enough for a PR. I ran this race conservatively, and I felt despite my pace that I gave a consistent (albeit comfortable) effort throughout and I was happy. The hills will change you as much as the miles do. During most of the race I had my iPod playing, and I was dancing along and singing; this didn’t stop–I was having fun today.
Average Pace: 9’49”
Elevation Gain:
Elevation Loss:

Mile 24-26.2: Some seriously loss in elevation. And during Mile 23’s climb I was worried I would feel like Flying Pig all over again once the decline to the finish came…but I didn’t. I felt great. I wasn’t able to pick it up quite like last week, but I still felt incredibly strong at this point in the race.
Average Pace: 8’52”
Elevation Gain:
Elevation Loss:

Finish: The longest finishing chute of my life (and I thought Columbus used to be long). I wasn’t lacking for anything but I really just wanted to sit down. I was so grateful to have run the way I did, and I was extremely proud of myself. It wasn’t the time that I wanted, but it was the race that I wanted.
Official Finish Time 4:04:27
Average Pace 9’19”

Summary:
-Fast Mile: 24 (8’28”)
-Slowest Mile: 23 (10’18”)
-Number of Miles under 9 minutes: 11
-Number of Miles under 10 minutes: 13
-Number of Miles over 10 minutes: 2
I ran this race incredibly safe and comfortable. Mentally I was 100% and physically too. Personally I feel I ran an even effort race, regardless of my splits. This was not my fastest race, but it most definitely was my favorite performance.
Finished 57/311 (AG), 274/1,449 (Gender), and 1140/3,666 (Overall).

Randomness: During this race quite a few things happened. I developed a few blisters in places I never have before, I rubbed holes in my Trail Toes tape, and apparently I experienced chafing on my back from both my Sports Bra and my Shorts. Though the chafing bothered me every time I poured water on myself, I never even noticed the blisters on my feet during the race.

 

To find out more about my PGH/GCM Training look here. And you can find all of my Race Recaps here!

Question: Have you ever run Pittsburgh? If yes, what was your favorite memory of the race?

Jes

GCM16: Race Recap

16 Weeks of Training. 680.3 Miles. Resulted in a 2 Minute 25 Second PR. Disappointment doesn’t begin to explain how I felt crossing the finish line. While I realize that a 2+ minute is a great PR, it wasn’t what I had trained for (you can view my race goals here).

But first let’s recap the race. It was the 40th Anniversary of the Glass City Marathon, sponsored by Mercy Health.

The weather was perfect. Starting in the low 40s/high 30s and climbing comfortably. The sun was shining. It was a beautiful day to run a full marathon.
We will fast forward through the morning and begin at the start line.

Start: I lined up slightly behind the 1:50 Half Marathon pacer because I couldn’t find the 3:40 pace who showed up right before the wheelchair race began. The corrals seemed really crowded, but I didn’t figure out why until after. The race started almost 8 minutes late (at 7:10am). But there was a beautifully sung National Anthem and a “fly-over” from Mercy Health’s LifeFlight; however, there was a lot of grumbling in my corral because having LifeFlight at a marathon doesn’t exactly give you warm-fuzzies!

Miles 1-6: Once we were off, I realized those crowded corrals made for a crowded first mile, and I quickly lost the 3:40 pace group. My plan was to take the first 3 miles comfortably easy even if that meant not running with the pace group. I wasn’t going to repeat last year, when the pace tried to make up for lost time in the second mile. I was running passed too many walkers, when I realized that because the corrals and sidewalks were so overly crowded they were unable to get back to their actual corrals. At the Mile 2 water stop, I quickly ducked into a porta-potty because I had to go. Around Mile 3, I saw my Dad, and then shortly after I passed through the Girls on the Run NWO water stop. I grabbed gatorade here, which I never do anymore, because my stomach was hungry and I knew this wasn’t good. Of course when Mile 4.5 came and it was time for my fuel, I dropped one chew. I had settled into a comfortable 3:45 pace.
Average Pace: 8’46”

Miles 7-13: I was really enjoying the race. I loved the signs and the crowd involvement. I even “participated” in the race atmosphere by responding to cheers and signs. I may have asked the beer stop before mile 7 where the shots were. I was feeling really good; confident that this was going to be the perfect race. After we headed into Wildwood and lost the half marathoners, I noticed how thin the crowd was. It almost felt like there was a loss in the energy. When we hit the “hill” by the manor and my legs felt sluggish. It should have been an easy. I’ve run that “hill” so many times. When we hit the university trail I noticed my pace was starting to struggle even though my legs felt fine. Between Mile 10 and 11, I thought the 3:55 was behind me and got really nervous, but it wasn’t them…yet. Once that came into my head I saw my pace begin to slow even though I was trying to get my legs to keep on track. It of course didn’t help that at Mile 13 the fresh pairs of relay legs came onto the course.
Average Pace: 8’53”

Mile 14-21: King Road wasn’t my favorite stretch of the course. The road was still open to traffic as the marathon course was utilizing the bike lane. Vehicles were NOT obeying the posted speed limit signs or even or even taking into consideration that there were runners on the road. I walked through the water stop at Mile 14 because I wanted some Vaseline for the chafing under my arms, but none was to be found; my right foot also felt like it was on fire, similar to how it felt around Mile 25 during WDW Marathon. It also was getting difficult to drink on the run with all of the walkers at the water stops. Around 14.5, I tried using my Aquafor to address my chafing issue, but it didn’t work. I was carrying a water bottle, but tossed it around Mile 15 and then pulled out my iPod to start listening to music to give me a little bit of motivation. At the Mile 16 water stop, I stopped for some Vaseline. Right before Mile 17, I felt a hand on my shoulder and there was Krista. I cussed a bit because that meant the 3:55 group was with me. Her words of encouragement and the feel of the pack behind me motivated me slightly to get back into my pace, but it didn’t last long. My legs didn’t want to move faster (although the pace felt really easy). When the 3:55 group passed me at Mile 17, I started walking and the tears came. I felt completely defeated. And mentally I was done. I tried running, but kept stopping to gather my thoughts and get back in the race. By mile 20, I knew my PR was on the line. At the last relay point which was up the hill in front of the manor I was walking just to save my legs I saw a coworker and then a grade school friend. I ran to her for a hug because let’s be honest I needed it. And she was cheering and smiling and who wouldn’t want to feed off that. I left and started running. I took a GU because I was out of chews and didn’t want to bonk when I needed to finish strong.
Average Pace: 9’38”

Mile 22-26.2: My legs and head were still fighting after I left the relay point. But I knew that as long as I didn’t give up, I would PR and maybe even break 4 hours. Around Mile 24, I had to stop and untie my shoes. My feet were swelling and it got really uncomfortable. When I got up, my legs decided they felt like running. I saw my Dad at Mile 25. Right after passing the student rec, I saw my fellow ambassador Lisa, and thought if I could just catch up to her we could finish together, but my legs having finally decided to work I cruised passed.
Average Pace: 8’43”

Finish: As I rounded the last turn at Mile 26, I knew I wouldn’t break 4 hours, but I sure as hell was going to come close. With 0.1 miles to go, I let it all out. Immediately at the finish, I really just wanted to curl up into a ball. I felt like the last 16 weeks were a complete waste and that I failed.
Official Finish Time 4:00:30 (6 Minute 26 Second Course PR)
Average Pace 9’10”

Summary:
-Fast Mile: 26 (7’58”)
-Slowest Mile: 19 (10’45”)
-Number of Miles under 9 minutes: 13
-Number of Miles under 10 minutes: 11
-Number of Miles over 10 minutes: 2

What Went Right: I finished the race and didn’t feel my usual puking sensation. I honestly felt like I could run a few more miles easily afterwards (why wasn’t this a 50K? lol); I felt better after than I did during my last 18 mile training run. I loved the light-weight feel of my Hoka Tracers and was happy to try out my new racers; despite having sore feet and having to adjust my laces because my feet started to swell, my legs felt amazing. There was great support out on the course and I learned to fall in love with the volunteers. My shoulders/back didn’t bother me. Even though I had a mild meltdown that could have completely derailed my PR, I was able to pull it together and pull it out. I finally successfully completed an entire training plan! Let’s be honest, the first three fulls were kinda fly by the seat of my pants sort of things. And this one I gave it my all. I wanted to see what I could really do with the right training- and I learned that while this training made me a better and more confident runner, I have some tweaks to change in the future and I am so excited for what comes next.

What Went Wrong: I spent too much time on my feet Saturday. Partly due to my recent poor eating habits, and my personal habit of overworking, I felt exhausted all week and not having a day of rest on Saturday didn’t help. I was not at my racing weight; I didn’t notice it physically slow me down, but I can’t help to wonder if the mild weight gain I had towards the end of training had any effect on my racing abilities. The weather was perfect, my legs felt great, my heart wanted it so bad, but my head got the best of me.

What Did I Learn: My race pace replicated my long run pace, although I had better long runs; next training period I want my long runs to represent my goal marathon pace more accurately. I need to get my nutrition back on track and get back to a comfortable racing weight. I need to take time off of long distance training and focus on building speed at shorter distances to increase my turnover (which was lacking on race day) and I feel like this will help get my mind and legs together on the same page. Obviously I need to work on my mental game; my PMA (positive mental attitude) carried me far, but not quite far enough!

What’s Next: Currently I don’t have a fall marathon; I really wanted to run Wineglass but I could possibly lose out on a critical month of training and I think I need to use that time to focus on other adventures. I’m looking at shorter distances, maybe a 10K come the fall or even a half marathon.

Closing Thoughts: It was really hard to write this race recap and dissect my performance. I am not proud of how I performed. While a PR is fantastic, I trained for a certain pace and ended up finishing almost a whole minute per mile slower. It’s disappointing to work so hard and yet fail to reach your goals.

Thanks to Toledo Road Runners and Run Toledo for sponsoring such a great event!

To find out more about my GCM Training look here. And you can find all of my Race Recaps here!

Question: Did you race this weekend? How did it go?

Jes

HUFF 50K Race Recap

I ran my first 26.2 marathon to celebrate my 26th birthday, so as I approached turning 31 I decided to run my first ultramarathon, the HUFF 50K.

I’ve already recapped my Training, my Packing List, and my Lessons Learned. Those previous 3 posts were more about my first ultramarathon, and less about the actual race itself. And just like the long mileage of this race, this recap is a bit lengthy, so bear with me please.

First there was Packet Pick-up on Friday, December 18th. I arrived to my hotel and started organizing my gear before heading over to Kountry Kitchen (26.3 miles from my hotel…does that count as an ultra?). Pick-up was fast and easy. My packet contained my bib, a course map, safety pins, a zip tie (for gear check), hand and toe warmers, and a HUFF 50K portable charger.

Friday evening was more packing and repacking and trying to control my nerves. I foam rolled briefly and used my yoga toes, but completely forgot to do any yoga stretching. I was concerned that being next to the highway the traffic noise would bother me so I tried sleeping with the TV on, but that only kept me awake. Once I turned it off I slept very well, only waking up at 2:15am because of night sweats.

On Race Day, I woke up a few minutes before my alarm. I threw my oatmeal in the microwave to warm, and headed downstairs for coffee. I peeked outside and noticed a dusting of snow. I had a bit of difficulty trying to eat my oatmeal, but I ate all of it. I lowered the temp in the room so I wouldn’t get too warm as I was moving about and eventually turned it off when I began to dress. I drove with the heat on as low as my car would allow to keep the windows from fogging.

Reading the race materials, I knew that Race Day Parking was to be the paved lots near the campgrounds with the gravel lot for overflow. I followed the cars ahead of me and was directed to the gravel lot shortly after 7am, and I was a bit surprised that the other lots were already full. None of the parking was far from the start area, which was a bonus.

I stopped drinking water approximately 2 hours before the start to keep any nervous bladder symptoms at bay, but it didn’t help. Upon arriving at the start I found myself in a decent line for the restrooms.

The 27 degree cold Weather was starting to set in. I was happy to find some space in the Main Tent to finalize my gear and stow my sweatshirt in my Gear Bag before checking it. I made it a point to stay away from the heaters because they made me start to sweat. With expected 250+ runners registered for the 50K alone, the tent was decently packed there was no space to do my warm-up yoga routine.

Runners did not want to leave the warm Main Tent as they were called to the start line for the 8:00am start. But I was just ready to begin! It was finally our turn. I had set up my Garmin Forerunner 230 to enable GLONASS, to hopefully get accurate GPS tracking on the trails. I headed out early to acclimate to the weather and accomplished a bit of stretching. Looking back now, I regret not warming up better.

Race Goals and Strategy. In a perfect world I would have run a sub-5:30 50K; I feel that I’m currently in that kind of race shape. My strategy was to enjoy the first loop comfortably so that I wouldn’t be taxed, and then push hard through the second loop. I really wanted to finish my first 50K under 6 hours. But since I didn’t know the course, I wasn’t sure what to expect and couldn’t set a realistic goal accordingly.

Start + Miles 1-4 (9’42/10’23/10’29/10’11): I didn’t notice crowded trails early on. I mean there were plenty of runners but nothing to cause an issue. Although compared to how thin it was later on and during the second loop, I guess you could call the first 2-4 miles “crowded.”
With my adrenaline flowing, I didn’t remember the tips I had read about walking the inclines until my legs were gassed after a hill during mile 2. I also decided to start sipping water and came to find out my bite valve was freezing. It took a few miles to figure out a strategy to prevent this (tucking it under the shoulder strap) so I wouldn’t have to keep warming it up in my hand.
As I approached mile 4, I began to notice that stomach didn’t seem happy. Before mile 5 I contemplated the reststop but instead decided to unwrap my first Clif Bar. A frozen Clif Bar. I was trying to warm it with my hands and that helped sparingly. The Clif Bar didn’t go down easily but I finished it.

Miles 5-8 (11’01/10’45/10’41/10’21): As I began mile 6, I saw snow flurries. But they didn’t last long (thankfully). Around mile 8 was another aid station, but even though my stomach was just plain angry at this point, I begged off. Instead I unwrapped another frozen Clif Bar. This was going to be a long day of eating if that kept up.

Miles 9-12 (11’35/11’52/11’26/10’55): Shortly before mile 10, there is a teaser view of the finish area. Then as you enter mile 11, there is another teaser view of the loop back to the finish. Miles 11-14 honestly felt like the longest 5 miles of my life, until I realized it had only been 3.

Mile 13-15.6 (12’06/11’48/11’00): Mile 13 was the only unmanned aid station and it was just hydration. No restrooms. But the mile 11-14 section had probably the most elevation changes of the whole course. I had planned on consuming another Clif Bar at mile 14, but I really couldn’t stomach the thought of it. Right before mile 15, I finally made a much needed bathroom break, and then dropped off as much gear as I could at the main tent. Why carry 4 frozen Clif Bars that I couldn’t eat?
I noticed a good deal of people who were taking breaks between loops, so when I headed back out on the course it seemed fairly deserted.

Miles 15.7-20 (15’18/12’22/11’29/12’52/16’07 ): I walked a bit more in the first two miles than I had planned. I knew that I needed to fuel up at the aid station. I also knew I needed to increase my sodium intake since I was sweating. I had 3 salt caps and planned to have some soup. That thought powered me through.
My GPS was about 1/10th mile off, but I think that was due to the bathroom detour and/or the detour to the main tent between loops.
Once we turned off the trail we began a nice descent up the road to the aid station. The volunteers read my mind and handed me a steaming cup of ramen noodles. I didn’t train with soup or my salt caps; but I trained with extra sodium GU bloks. The chews don’t have enough calories needed for this race, and in colder conditions they are harder to consume. I was trying something new on race day, but I was hoping with proper fuel consumption and hydration that it wouldn’t be an issue.

Miles 21-24 (11’32/13’27/14’58/11’46): By mile 21, I was feeling a dozen times better. Until I hit the wall at mile 22. It’s hard to explain how overcome with emotions I was when I hit the wall. By mile 23, I said fudgesticks, I’m finishing. Somewhere during mile 24, I face planted as I looked up to pass a runner I tripped on something.
At this aid station, I took two salt tabs, tried two frozen gummy bears, two quarters of PB&J and some chicken noodle soup. I took a homemade lemon bar to go. I didn’t consider filling up my hydration pack, because during my 20-mile training runs, I barely consume 1/2L.

Miles 25-28  (17’25/12’30/12’36/12’51): Right after starting mile 25, I ran out of water. The course also got muddy. Probably because of all the people who had traversed it that morning. I started to take extra caution with my steps. I knew that during mile 28 I would pass the unmanned aid station and be able to drink some water. But as I approached I noticed that there were no more cups and shaking the containers they were empty.

Miles 29-31.2 (13’33/11’07/10’27): It was hard to pick up the pace during mile 29 because of the mud and the steep inclines and declines. But my competitive juices were flowing and I started to pick off the people ahead of me. It made me walk faster and more motivated to pick up running instead of continuing the walk between hills. Once we crossed the road, I knew it was the home stretch and took off. I exchanged “Good Job” with ever runner I passed. Seriously, at this point in the 50K I was impressed with anyone who was still standing.

Finish Time – 6:18:30 (Pace 12:11)
First Loop Time 2:56:07
Second Loop Time 3:22:23
Overall 192/377
Age Group 8/19
Gender 41/124

Post-Race: Once I crossed the finish line, my body was in shock to stop moving. It took a minute to fight the oncoming stiffness and move forward. I headed into the Main Tent to grab my gear. It was pretty crowded by then with no place to sit. Makes sense why people brought camping chairs. I lacked the motivation to hike to my car to get my shower bag and then try to locate the showers. So instead I grabbed a cup of soup and walked to my car. My body surprisingly felt pretty good on this walk, already recovery from how stiff it felt when I stopped running after crossing the finish line. I headed to Cracker Barrel for a late lunch/early dinner.

Pros: The staffed Aid Stations were incredible. The volunteers are what really made this race the best. When we stopped, they talked to everyone and made sure we had everything we wanted/needed. Often times they were reading our minds offering before we could get the words out.
The Course was impeccably marked. I don’t think I could have gotten lost if I tried.
There were NO water crossings. I’m not sure if the weather had been different, if this would have changed, but I noticed plenty of bridges that I was thankful for.

Cons: I know for this race I was in the back of the pack. But with a lack of cups and hydration at the unmanned aid station around 2pm, I can’t imagine how everyone behind me dealt.
Since there was a lack of rain/snow, I anticipated a fairly dry course and did not consider mud. The first loop wasn’t bad but there were parts in the second loop from the number of runners passing through that made some nice slick muddy parts. I would definitely consider spikes of some kind in the future for traction.
I did not do any recon prior to race day. I should have gotten out to run parts of the course or at least figured out where parking was prior to the morning of the race.
The tracking device took up the whole bib so it was difficult to find a spot that wouldn’t involve bending it. I settled on pinning it to the chest strap of my hydration pack. I also started researching bib belts after the race.

Recovery: The first step I took was changing into my ProCompression socks after finishing. I wasn’t able to foam roll or really stretch after finishing. I did focus on rehydrating.
On Sunday morning, I attended my usual Power Yoga. I also foam rolled. I made sure I was still properly hydrated. And wore my ProCompression socks.
On Monday, I did more Yoga and foam rolling; hydration is key.
On Tuesday, I did my first recovery run. My body felt good, but then again it was also 20 degrees warmer than Saturday.

Post-Race Thoughts: It is sometimes hard to mimic race conditions such as weather. But I learned a lot of lessons from this race. Especially when it comes to trail races and racing in sub-freezing temperatures. Overall, I am happy with my performance. I look back and think of how I could have pushed harder and maybe finished 20-40 minutes faster and I’m not sure I could have. I did my best.
During and after finishing, I thought that this might be my one and only ultramarathon. But give me 24 hours and I was already researching other races.

Conclusion: I would absolutely run the HUFF50K again! But I would definitely come more prepared training-wise.

If you’re interested, you can find all of my Race Recaps here!

Thanks!

Jes

HUFF 50K: Lessons Learned

Since the HUFF 50K was my first ultramarathon, I knew that it would be a great learning experience. With that being said, here are some of the lessons I learned.

Stop when you need to. Often in road races, we push through because it’s probably only a mile or two until we can get what we need. In trail running, if you need to use the restroom you better stop because there might not be another one for 4-8 miles. Same if you need to stop to eat or stretch.

Do Trial Runs. Yes, I meant to say trial not trail runs. Test out your race outfit, preferably on a trail with similar weather conditions at your race pace. Learn if your hydration bite valve will freeze and how to thaw it out. Find out before race day if your gel, chew or bar will freeze and become impossible to chew. Learn what modifications to do with things happen. If the weather gets colder do I have to replace my either outfit or just my socks; if it gets warmer what is the first layer I take off?

It’s Okay to have Music, but it’s probably best to leave one ear bud out. Going into this I read repeatedly that you don’t listen to music on trails because they are narrow, people need to pass and because of safety reasons. While all of that is true, I was surprised to see the number of runners bust out their headphones as we approached the start line. I was thankful I had packed mine just in case (because I train with music), but I left one headphone out. Music doesn’t take away from the beauty of running trails, you’ll still see and experience it, but it was nice when I passed the mile 15 marker to have a great jam to rock out to as I headed in towards the finish.

If you bring it with you, Take it with you. When you’re out in mother nature, you don’t litter. If you have trash, you dispose of it properly. After the second manned aid station, I was surprised to see the runner-related trash on the ground in the coming miles. I started to stop and pick it up but really it was too much. Sometimes we might accidentally drop a wrapper, but remember that this isn’t a road race that has a clean-up crew to pick-up those gel packs.

Plan for the Weather. You’ll be dressed to run for hours, but don’t forget to check the forecast and be prepared. If there’s a chance of rain, pack a poncho or rain jacket. If it’s supposed to be hot, you might want to change out of sweaty clothes if you plan on running after the sun goes down. I wore layers and ended up taking off my Buff and Gloves after mile 2 to avoid overheating and sweating. But I carried my gloves for the remainder of the race because they helped warm me up quickly when I got cold in the shade or wind conditions.

Pack Accordingly. If it’s summer, you might want to include some bug spray or sunscreen (to reapply due to sweat). If there’s a chance you’ll run when it is darker, you’ll want to pack a headlamp (and batteries).

Don’t be afraid to Walk.  Especially on trails, the hills can steep. There is no shame in walking them because it saves your legs for the rest of the course.

Watch your Step. In road races, we look ahead; keep our eyes on the horizon. If you do that (and I did) on a trail run, you’ll probably trip over a root hidden under the leaves. And on downhills, you don’t want to roll an ankle.

Eat and Drink Early and Often. Also known as the Eat-Drink-Repeat plan. This concept is still hard to grasp after finishing my first ultra. In a road race, I’m intaking about 100 calories every 45 minutes and grabbing sips of water every two miles. It’s similar to how I train as well. But during a trail run, your body is doing much more work and needs the extra fuel and hydration.

Plan your Fuel and Hydration. Similar to the tip above and below. Know at which mile or time marker that you will consume your goods, or what and how much you will consume at an aid station.

Remember to replenish your supplies. I ran out of water at mile 25. I barely downed half a liter during my last 20 mile training run, and here I am out of water. Well at least I was hydrating through out the race. But unfortunately the next aid station was unmanned and it had run dry, so I was without until the finish. It was a scary place to be for 6 miles. But I was thankful that I had brought my own water and was able to drink when I needed to during those first 25 miles, instead of only relying on aid stations for hydration.

There is no right-way. I’ve read a few bloggers who take that a hydration pack is unnecessary for a 50K, but I saw plenty of runners out there with them (myself included). Some runners relied solely on the aid stations and others were completely self-sustaining. Then there was a mix that did both. Because I train with a full hydration pack, I didn’t feel that there was any extra weight to carry during the race.

Lastly, Rest and Recover. Make sure you have a detailed plan for how you will recover. Includes making sure you refuel your body, and rehydrate as well as when you will do body maintenance. I included some simple stretching and foam rolling, plus wore my ProCompression socks. I scheduled yoga daily after my race, and knew when I would take my first recovery run. But most importantly was my hydration plan especially in the first few days.

NOTE: Keep in mind that that every race is different, and many factors will change based on the season in which the race is run. So try to learn the special considerations to the conditions you will encounter.

Question: What was the biggest lesson you learned from your first big race?
Comment below!

Thanks for reading!
Jes