races · running

marathon #10: Fort4Fitness

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At the end of September I ran the Fort4Fitness marathon in Fort Wayne.  This was their second year hosting the marathon and my second year running it (you can see my post from 2016 here).  I like this marathon because it’s close to my house (I get up race morning and drive down), the parking is amazing, it’s pretty affordable, I get to see Kimberly, and last year the post-race food was awesome.  My only complaint in 2016 was the looped course – we ended up coming back around behind the start of every other race (10k, half, and 4 mile), which meant you spent a lot of time weaving around people (including a TON of walkers and strollers for the 4 mile).

I came in to the race feeling really good about my training – I was consistently hitting sub 9 pace in long runs.  I normally don’t have a goal for a race other than PR and have fun, but this year I went in with a sub-4 goal, which I knew would be challenging for me, but doable.

Race morning I drove down with my coffee and breakfast.  I got my packet and sat in the car while I pinned on my bib.  The weather was cool and perfect.  I walked to the start and got ready to run.  I planned to start with the 4 hour pace group and then, if possible, move away from them in the back end of the race.  The first mile in we already hit a snag – the race was being directed incorrectly, so we were running the last loop first.  Not a huge deal, but the last loop is a little longer than the first, which meant that instead of looping around in front of every other race we would, once again, be looping in behind them.  ARGH.  I figured we would probably get directions to do the first loop at the end, but I wasn’t sure and it was annoying to go through every mile marker and split and know I was actually ahead of what it read.  In any case, I saw Kimberly at mile 4 and got to run with her for a few minutes, which was awesome.  I felt strong at that point and it was exciting to see someone I knew.

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We kept trucking around and I was still feeling good and running a bit ahead of the 4 hour pace group.  I love some of the neighborhoods the race goes through – people really show up and cheer and put on music and have signs and inflatables, tissues and snacks, etc.  It’s really great.  Around mile 15 I started to feel like I was flagging a bit and my stomach felt really off.  I tried some gatorade at a water station to see if that would help… it definitely was NOT the right choice.  By mile 17 I felt awful – my stomach felt crampy and I was really tired.  I knew I needed to eat and drink more but my stomach didn’t want anything.  At mile 19 I used a port-a-potty (I think the first time I’ve ever used one midrace?).  I was walking a little here and there but mostly running, although my pace was slipping.  The 4 hour pace team passed me somewhere, but I’m not sure where.  I knew sub-4 was gone, so I tried to focus on just PRing (and really just freaking finishing).  I rolled in at 4:16:29 – a new PR but definitely not the sub-4 I thought I could do.

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Post-race I mostly felt frustrated.  I knew a PR was great and I was happy with it, but I also felt frustrated that I didn’t do all I knew I could do.  Still, it’s one race.  I’ve had a string of great races since the fall of 2012, PRing each time, so maybe it’s just par for the course to have a lackluster one in the midst.  They can’t all be stellar and a PR is still a PR!  Since the race I’ve thought about running a marathon on my own, just to hit sub 4 and prove to myself that I can, but I’m still debating if I really feel like doing that or if I just want to table it for now and go hard for it in the spring.  We’ll see.

As for the Fort Wayne marathon, I’m on the fence if I’ll do it again if they don’t make some course changes.  They did direct us to do the first loop last, so we got the correct race distance, but the looping of the course does not work.  And while the location is awesome and the free race photos are great, the post race food was pretty disappointing this year – generic pretzels and granola bars, bananas, apples, and chocolate milk.  It’s not terrible, but compared to their first year it was a huge difference (and so much worse).

One more thing, I did receive an email from the race saying I won a prize in my age group (I got 5th or 6th?) and that they’d be letting me know more soon… that was a couple weeks ago.  I emailed them again to check in about it or see if it was a mistake and still haven’t heard anything… so that’s neat.

Race #10 in the books.  I have ideas for what I’d like to do for 2018 but nothing definite yet.  Stay tuned…

races · running

another dam 50k

I was nervous going in to this 50k.  It was an all new distance for me, I had very little trail running as part of my training (I think I logged 33.5 miles, total, over 2 separate runs.  All the rest were on roads), and I just wasn’t sure what to expect.  The week leading up to the race was predicting an 80% chance of thunderstorms, so when the forecast cleared I was really happy to see a sunny day, even if it was supposed to be 87°.  We also tapered for four weeks before the race, which was by far the longest taper I’ve ever done.  I just wasn’t sure what to expect.  I knew I could finish, but I didn’t know if it would be ugly, slow, and painful.

Kimberly and I left Indiana on Friday afternoon, happily joined by Pattie, a fellow runner, Kimberly’s best friend from college, and our designated crew chief for the weekend.  Pattie drove 11 hours to Indiana and another 2 to Ohio so she could sit outside for 6+ hours, hold on to all our bags, and be there when we passed on each loop, ready to provide anything we might need (and I packed it all: extra shoes, socks, shirts, shorts, GU chomps, drinks, etc.).  She took pictures, cheered for us, and was such a steady and wonderfully familiar presence at each of the loops.

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Kimberly and I at the start

Kimberly and I made a plan the night before to run together but to also run our own races, giving each other permission to go ahead or drop behind depending on what we needed.  We lined up with the other 100 or so runners and the race began 3 minutes early, with the race director shrugging and saying, “Everybody ready then?  Okay.  Start.”

The first loop Kimberly and I hung together.  We tried to hold ourselves back, wanting to pace ourselves as we got a feel for the course.  Three miles in, looping over gorgeous, shaded trails, rocks under our feet, I told Kimberly, “this is so fun!”  I realized even as I said it that it might be premature to call a race fun, with still 28 more miles to go.

Here’s the thing: it wasn’t.  I truly had the most fun at this race of any I’ve ever done.  It never lost its appeal for me and even deep into the fourth and final lap I found myself grinning as I ran alone through the trees.  It was the best.

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Finishing lap three with Kimberly

Kimberly and I ran the first loop together, separated for the second and some of the third, and started the fourth loop together.  Kimberly pretty quickly told me to go ahead, as she could feel the heat starting to mess with her stomach and head.  At the start of each loop was the dam, an almost mile-long flat stretch in full sun.  It was long and hot, but I knew once I was over it I could get back in the trails and the trees and play.  Miles 19-24 were probably the hardest, as they are in the marathon, but I never doubted I would finish.  At mile 26 my Garmin died, so I estimated for myself when I passed 26.2.  It was all new distance from here.  I was surprised to find around mile 27 my legs actually felt really good – like they got a second wind.  I thought I would walk more of the last loop but I really didn’t – I found myself wanting to push ahead and keep moving.  I fell once around mile 29 or so and whacked my hip into a rock, but I quickly popped up and kept going.  One last turn through the aid station for water and gatorade and fruit and then it was the stretch to home.  I finished with a huge smile on my face at 5:58:26 and immediately gushed to the timers, “that was the best!”

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I recognize that the race could have gone very differently for me – as runners, you never quite know what the day will hold.  Will your stomach act up?  Will you get dehydrated?  Will your legs just feel tired and heavy?  Saturday was one of those awesome days where everything came together for me and I’m so grateful.  I drank a ton of water (I think I refilled my water bottles 14 different times) and early on could tell the GU was not sitting well, so I was able to switch to PBJ and fruit at the aid station.

I’ve been riding the 50k high all week.  I was pretty sore Sunday evening.  Monday morning I attempted to run to shake out my legs and only made it a quarter mile before I thought my quads were shredding.  But Tuesday a few miles felt really good and I’m excited to get back out there again tomorrow.  It definitely made me eager to keep chasing running goals – new times, new distances, new races, new experiences with friends.  And it was a great reminder of all the things I love about running – the hard work and sweat, the challenge, the reward and the high, the pure fun and adventure, the time outside, the time alone, the time with friends.

Many, many thanks to my friends who logged miles with me, to Dave for fielding kids and indulging my thirst for miles, to Pattie for crewing and cheering and supporting, to Kimberly for always being my friend in running and adventure and life.

races · running

my first ultra

Last week I signed up for my first ultra, a 50k in Ohio.  The was following Kimberly, who had just signed up, and I’m so excited!  Running an ultra has always been on my bucket list and doing it with Kimberly just makes it the best.  So June 3 you will find us at the Another Dam 50k.  The course is some trails, some road and very flat.  It’s not too technical or hilly, which is perfect for our first ultra and also perfect for the terrain we’ll both be training on.  I asked Kimberly what training plan she was going to use and I think we’re both going to be basing our training on this one.  It’s 16 weeks long, so right now I’m just keeping my running consistent.  Most days I do 5-6 miles and then I try to do one run a week that’s a little more, although lately it’s only 7 or so.  I’m so excited!!

races · running

marathon #9 – veteran’s marathon

I signed up for this race after the Fort 4 Fitness marathon, when I got a PR but missed my goal of going sub-4:20.  I felt like with a little more training and push I could do it.  The Veteran’s Marathon is affordable and – bonus! – nearby.  And I did it!  4:18:48!

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I previously ran the Veteran’s Marathon in Columbia City in 2010 (please see that post for a funny video of Dave and Mosie… ah the days when we were young..).  I liked the race okay, but it was pretty hilly and the second half, which looped out in the country, was pretty lonely.  They since reconfigured the course so the marathoners just ran the half marathon course twice.  I liked the course much better this year – it was still out in the country but didn’t feel as tedious or long and the support was better than I remembered.  It was still mostly just water stop people (bless them!) but they were excited and encouraging.  There were still hills but nothing monster.  I walked up one hill, at mile 23.5, and ran the rest (or chugged slowly).  They were bigger than I’m used to, but nothing insurmountable.

The morning of the race was cold (27 degrees!) but no wind and the promise of a sunny day to warm things up.  I wasn’t sure what to wear for the race and bugged Kimberly about it on voxer to maker her help me figure it out.  In the end I decided on shorts, tall compression socks, a tshirt, a long sleeve tech shirt, and gloves.  Waiting for the race to start and the first couple miles I definitely would have appreciated a buff (my nose was so cold!) and hat, but both would have been completely unnecessary after a few miles, so I’m glad I didn’t have them.  I took the tech shirt off around mile 14 and tied it around my waist.

I also wore a hydration belt that was loaded with my phone, 8 fruit leathers, and two bottles of my homemade sports drink (honey, lime, himalayan salt, water).  Once the water bottles were empty (around mile 15) I filled them with gatorade at the water stations.  This worked well because the water stations are a little spread out at the Veteran’s race (every 2 or so miles, sometimes less, sometimes more) and I’ve found when I sip drinks it’s much easier for me than gulping cupfuls.  The fruit leathers worked well as fuel – I stumbled upon this right before my last long training run, when I realized I didn’t have any fuel, but did have Aldi fruit leathers.  They’re flat and pack well, taste great, and digest easily.  I ate one at miles 3, 6, and 9, took a GU from a water stop at mile 12, fruit leather at 15 and 18, then drink the rest of the way in (my stomach felt ok but the thought of eating something sounded awful).  I think I fueled well during the race, but probably could have done better beforehand.  I ate two pieces of toast with coffee at 6am and packed a fig granola bar to eat around 7:15, but totally forgot about it until the gun was about to go off.  So that was smart.  I don’t think it changed the race that much, but still.  Rookie mistake.

All in all, it was a great race.  The course was a little long – 26.3 (even on their website it’s listed as 26.3, which is baffling to me).  I felt like I ran well, pretty consistently (my first half was 2:07, second half 2:11 so I slowed a little, but not trainwreck), and at the finish was pretty certain I could not have pushed more or done much differently during the race.  It was a satisfying race and I was really proud of it.  Coming back to the marathon now with three kids I feel like I’m mentally tougher – I can recognize during a race when I’m tired or want to walk, but it’s easier for me to push through that and just keep going whereas before I might have given in.

This puts me at 9 marathons, which means marathon #10 should be something fun or special, right?  Any suggestions?!?! 

marathon training · races · running

marathon #8: fort4fitness

On Saturday I ran my eighth marathon, my first since the fall of 2012 (post-Leo).  It was hard – harder than I remembered them being – but I came out with a new PR of 4:21:21.  I initially hoped to go under 4:20, but with how I felt and how I had to fight the last few miles, I am really happy with the time I got.

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So let’s back up.

I started running again – consistently – this past spring when Molly (finally) started sleeping through the night.  I had thought about doing a half marathon but wasn’t sure which one to do or if I wanted to put the money into it… and then Kimberly  generously registered me for the Fort4Fitness half marathon!  Around the same time my friend here in town started training for her first marathon and I said I would be happy to run with her anytime.  I jumped in on her long runs and found myself going 12, 15, and then 18 miles easily.  I felt really good.  I started to wonder if maybe a marathon wasn’t such an impossibility after all.  I checked and I could easily switch my Fort4Fitness half registration for the full, so I did.  I ran 22 miles by myself one Sunday morning and felt fantastic.  I realized when I finished that if I had kept that pace for the whole marathon I would PR.  That felt crazy to me and also really exciting.

Race morning I got up and got my stuff together, coated myself with coconut oil to prevent chafing, poured coffee in a large mug, and hopped in the car.  I drove down to Fort Wayne and met up with Kimberly, who had graciously picked up my packet for me the night before.  We went to the bathroom and talked and I tried not to be nervous.  It felt really strange to be running a race again after all this time!  We got in the corrals and I saw my friend Richele, who was there to run the 10K.  It definitely helped to see her, too, and to feel her excitement for me.

The first 10 miles I felt really good.  I don’t think I went out too fast but I did feel like my energy started to flag a bit.  Miles 10-20 I held steady and just did the work.  Miles 20-26 were hard – I really had to dig in to keep going and to keep moving.  I knew going sub 4:20 was looking dicey and at mile 23 I knew that I really needed to push hard if I wanted to PR (previous best 4:22:06).  The finish is in the baseball stadium and you run around the bases, which is fun.  I went hard and finished really well, which felt good.

I know there are some things I could do differently in the future – most notably a longer training cycle and better fueling (fortunately Kimberly gave me a GU race morning which I took at mile 20 – otherwise I would have not been carrying enough fuel on my own).  But for being my first marathon back in four years and for a PR I am so incredibly happy and proud of what I achieved.

I watched Kimberly finish her race (4:23 and a PR for her on a run she intended to do slow and as a training run!) and then I drove home.  In true mom-fashion I washed my face with a wet wipe in the car, then stopped at Aldi before I got home so I could grocery shop (I put on a long sleeve shirt over my running clothes so maybe the smell was masked a bit?  Let’s hope?).  Then I came home and cleaned up the kitchen and showered and took the kids for a walk and made dinner… post-marathon looks a lot different with three kids!  I also slept 10 hours last night, which felt amaaaaazing.

The day of the race I couldn’t stop thinking about how hard it was and how much work it took.  And one day later I’m already eyeing another marathon in November, debating if maybe I should give it one more go this year.

On an unrelated note, I just paid $18 to renew my domain again for the year, so who knows, maybe I’ll return to marathons and blogging.  If I did, what sort of things would you come here to read about?

races

dirty girl mud run, indianapolis

On Saturday Kimberly and I participated in the Dirty Girl Mud Run.  Although labeled Indianapolis, it was actually held at a paintball venue in Anderson, which was more convenient for both of us since it’s a lot closer.  I was looking forward to the race beforehand, but as the day got closer and the days got colder, I was a little apprehensive.  How much mud could there be with freezing temps (answer: a freakin lot)?

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shirts read: “If you think I’m dirty you should see my toddler.” Fun fact: we definitely out-dirtied our toddlers.

The morning of the race I met Kimberly in Fort Wayne.  We did 4 fast (for me) miles, then loaded in to the car with coffee and snacks.  The drive to Anderson was just 1.5 hours, which was awesome.  We found the paintball place without any trouble.  Registration and gear check was set up in a big field that was already pretty muddy.

shoes after registering - we thought they were muddy.
shoes after registering – we thought they were muddy.
picking my way across the muddy field to gear check.
picking my way across the muddy field to gear check. now imagine how much muddier this field would be a few hours later and hundreds of people more.

It was relatively well-marked, but also a little confusing.  While the volunteers were very friendly, they didn’t necessarily offer extra information, such as “here’s your bib but you’ll get your safety pins down at gear check,” which meant we did some unnecessary backtracking looking for things.  In terms of “flow” it was a little, ahem, muddy.  Strangely enough, the hardest thing to find was the start line!  We followed a group of ladies and got some help from a volunteer.  It was tucked behind a lot of things, including some tank trucks, and completely unlabeled, from what I could tell.

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start line selfie

We had signed up for the 9:15am wave, but since nobody asked when we had signed up and we were ready at 9am, we just started then.  The first half mile or so was through the forest.  This part wasn’t very muddy – more a trail through the woods.  We tried to run where we could but it was narrow and a lot of people were walking.  The first obstacle was climbing up a huge inflatable pyramid and bouncing down the other side.  The next obstacle was climbing up an inflatable pyramid again… but this time you slid down a giant slide into a vat of ice cold muddy water.  This was actually pretty fun, although it would have been more fun if it was actually warm out (it was about 35 degrees).  A volunteer at the bottom helped you up, which was nice.  It was also smart to place this obstacle early in the race, as it forced you to get wet and muddy!

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We did a few more obstacles – a waist high wade through a tub of more ice cold mud water, over some muddy hills, up and over a couple walls and across a rope net.  Then we hit a long, open stretch of field.  The course zigzagged over the field, which would have been fine if we could have run, but the mud was literally up to our ankles, making running difficult or impossible.  We were forced to walk much of this, which was slow and tedious.  In addition, the field also smelled distinctly of cow manure.  We ended up walking back and forth across three or four different fields, with only a few obstacles scattered in between.  This was by far the worst part of the course.  Fighting across shoe-sucking mud got old, fast, especially when it was 3 miles worth.  We saw several ladies who cut across the course and honestly, I can understand why they did.  This part of the mud run wasn’t really fun, except Kimberly and I kept each other laughing.

There were a few more walls to climb up and over, some obstacles to climb under, and a long tube in the mud to crawl through.  Also: more ankle-deep mud.  Then we were at the finish line, which was a quick run through a long vat of knee-deep water.  We finished in just about an hour, which was pretty good considering how slow we had to go through the fields.

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Afterwards we picked up our bag from gear check and headed to the area where you could clean up and get changed.  We were hoping for actual showers, even if they were community, but instead got a line of garden hoses on a tarp.  The water was freezing cold!  We got relatively clean, although it was definitely more of a thorough rinsing and not anything that allowed soap.  Afterwards we changed in a large tent with tarp floors.  Water was already starting to come up through the floors, which made us glad we were there early (I imagine later this was a disaster zone)!  Changing clothes when you’re damp, freezing cold, your hands are completely numb, and you’re trying to balance and not fall in puddles of water is a special kind of challenging, let me tell you.  We ended up keeping our old shoes on until we got to the car, since the venue field was now a soupy, muddy mess (spectators basically were forced into a bit of mud run themselves!).  We cleaned our feet off as best we could at the car and left our shoes in the field, since we didn’t want to put them in the car and we didn’t want to slog back through the mud to put them in the donation bin.

Afterwards we grabbed lunch at Panera (warm soup!  hot coffee!), stopped behind Walmart so I could pump in the car, ran a hilarious errand for Kimberly, then headed home.

Overall, I had fun, but I think this was mostly because I got to hang out with Kimberly, who I love spending time with.  The race itself would have been more fun if it were a little warmer (not their fault!) and if there had been more opportunity to run rather than endless fields to walk across.  There were some awesome-looking food trucks at the venue, which would have been cool to try post-race, but at that point we were just wanting to get out of the mud, not slop around in more of it.

In general, I think the mud run is a great idea.  I actually love that it was all women and that it wasn’t timed.  It felt really encouraging and accepting of all women.  There was a wide range of ages and athletic abilities represented, which was really cool.  It would be fun to do with a group of friends, for sure.  However, the execution felt a little… slapdash.  The venue wasn’t set up very intuitively and the race course could have been more creative.  Facebook showed that others were frustrated by the fields, too, and that past years and other locations had more opportunity for running (which would definitely make it more fun!).  I will say though the obstacles were fun and the volunteers friendly.  The general mood was upbeat, too.

For not running I was surprisingly sore on Sunday morning from fighting to keep my balance in the mud!  I’m not sure I would do the mud run again, although I’m definitely glad I’ve done it once.  And I’m really glad I got to do it with Kimberly!

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Disclosure: I am an ambassador for the Dirty Girl Mud Run Indianapolis, and I was provided an entry to the event free of charge in exchange for a blog post (in March) and a race review. Opinions are honest and written by me.

races

Dirty Girl Mud Run

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I’ve added another race to my calendar and it’s different from any other race I’ve ever done.  I’m going to be an ambassador for the Dirty Girl Mud Run!  Dirty Girl Mud Run is the largest women-only 5K mud and obstacle series in the country.  But unlike other mud runs, Dirty Girl Mud Run is all about empowering women and having fun All obstacles (10-12 in each race!) are optional and all fitness levels are invited to participate.  I love this – that it’s about hanging out with friends, getting dirty, and having fun and not about competition.  If you’re going to be climbing in mud it should be just for laughs!  Basically Dirty Girl just wants women to have fun together and do something unexpected.  I’m especially excited because I’ll get to do the race with Kimberly!  (Bonus: Dirty Girl also has a philanthropic side and supports Bright Pink, which works to educate women on breast and ovarian cancer.)

Dirty Girl has races all over the country, so find the one nearest you and check it out.  Kimberly and I will be slinging mud at the Indianapolis location in May.  Want to sign up for a race?  Use the code BLOGFRIEND and get $10 off your registration at any Dirty Girl Mud Run location!  Let’s get muddy!

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