Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lost Dutchman Marathon - Random Thoughts

These are a few of the thoughts and observations I've had during and since the marathon:

*I think the first 6 miles being on dirt helped my legs not be so beat up during the marathon and after. Sure, they were tight and the quads were a little sore going down stairs but all in all, they felt pretty good.

*My legs also seem to enjoy a rolling course vs. a flat one. I think I do better with hills in a race. Makes it more exciting.

*The article that Jason sent me on how to run downhill helped a lot. I am getting better about running down hills more fluidly.

*Wearing a crazy outfit while you run a marathon gets you lots of attention and encouragement. One of the aid stations voted me best dressed! And my running skirt was a big hit with little girls.

*I felt a bit like Xena, Warrior Princess, while I was getting dressed before the marathon and I feel that if an outfit makes you feel good, then it's all good. Even if it is wild! Maybe especially because it's wild. I am a little irreverent when it comes to cycling and running wear. First it has to be functional but then I like colorful and different. Why be the same as everyone else?

*Wearing compression gear helps me more mentally than physically. Because you know, losing 150+ lbs at the ripe old age of 42 means that things aren't as *cough* tight as they should be. But that's one of the hazards of losing weight I will happily live with as long as I can always run in a good pair of compression tights or shorts!

*Only once during the marathon (after I realized I had the blister) did I ask myself why I was doing it. I just said to myself "you know why!" and kept running.

*I actually don't remember much inner dialog going on. I think I was in the zone and just running and watching and looking. I'm kind of a nosy person and always curious about what's going on around me.

*I never contemplated stopping or walking. I was totally focused on getting to the finish.

*I enjoyed talking to other runners before and during and I wish more people ran without their ipods.

* I passed a few people in the last mile and that was a great ego boost.

* I didn't have any stomach issues during or after and that's probably the thing I was most worried about.

*I take that back, the thing I was most worried about before the marathon was that I was going to have to go see Gnomeo & Juliet that weekend with my niece. But it never worked out and I was very relieved. If that makes me a bad aunt, so be it!

*I lost a few seconds in mile 15 because I dropped one of my waffle halves (I ate a half a waffle at miles 4, 8, 12, & 16 and that would have been for 20) and turned around to go back and pick it up. No littering! But I said "what are you doing, get back in the race!". And felt guilty for a while about it.

*I was so happy it was cloudy and cool but I kind of wish we'd been able to see the sunrise out there in the desert. I heard from previous years that it is spectacular.

*I love the desert. There's nothing like a big, wide open sky to make you feel like you are a part of something bigger. And though some people think the desert is ugly and boring, I find it beautiful. It's a harsh beauty and I think that makes it all the more interesting. It would have been nice to be running with my friend, Libor, who is a birder so he could tell me about some of the birds I saw.

*I think I ran a smart race. I've been asking myself if I could have run even faster and I don't think so. Yet. I think I gave it my all without blowing up and that was what I'd hoped for. I was good and tired at the end and I have to say, that is a great feeling.

*One thing that helped going into the race was this article, "Why You Should Expect The Worst", by Matt Fitzgerald for Competitor. I really loved what he said at the end:
Going into races with confidence in your ability to achieve your goals is a good thing, because true confidence is inherently realistic. But going into races expecting to feel any better than wretched in pursuit of maximum performance is a form of self-sabotage. Expect every race to hurt like hell and you will race better.
I reminded myself of this before and during the race. It's not supposed to be a cake walk. If it was, everyone would do it. I think the "hurt" during the race, makes the PR feel that much sweeter.

*Finally, I am proud of myself. Even though this was my third marathon, I feel like I can finally say "I ran a marathon". Not just survived it, not muddled thru, but ran. I trained hard for this and worked with Jason to make it happen. I got a new PR and beat my goal for the race. February 20th at the Lost Dutchman Marathon was definitely a day to remember!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lost Dutchman Race Report

PR! Woo!

My goal for the Lost Dutchman was 4:20. My previous best was 4:40:13 at the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon last October and I was hoping to better that. I was determined and I hired a coach (Jason from Strength Running) to help me make that happen.

And it did!

But first, the details...

The Lost Dutchman is in Apache Junction, Arizona. I have family that lives in Arizona but they live over an hour away so I had planned on picking up my sister and my niece and we would all stay in the host hotel. I drove over on Saturday thru an insane rain storm. It was pouring and windy and so not fun to drive in. It wasn't supposed to rain on Sunday but I was a little worried that the start of the marathon would be a muddy mess. The first 6 miles of the marathon was on a dirt road and could make it an adventure.

We got to Apache Junction in one piece and mostly dry, went thru the expo so I could get my bib and my goodie bag, then checked into the hotel. We picked up some groceries at the store and sandwiches at Subway and then played Yahtzee until it was time to go to bed.

On Sunday, I woke up at 4 after a restless night and ate my pre-race breakfast (2 mini bagels, a banana, and some Gu Brew). I dressed, packed my drop bag, and left at 5:10 to catch the bus to the start. We drove out in the dark to the Peralta Trailhead. It was no longer raining but you could see water spray up from puddles as the bus went thru them. There was no moon and it was a little surreal to see the landscape with only the bus' headlights. The saguaro seemed to be watching us like ghostly desert sentinels. The atmosphere got even better when we arrived at the trailhead. They had dozens of mesquite campfires going with mats around them to keep us warm. What with traveling on a school bus and the campfires, I felt like a kid on summer vacation. They even had hot chocolate waiting for us (and coffee, tea, & water). I was looking for the marshmallows but alas there weren't any. I have to say that was the best race start I've experienced so far!

After hanging around the campfire for a while, I packed up my drop bag and dropped it off and then hit the port-a-potties. They had plenty so we didn't have long waits.Then at 10 to 7 they had us gather at the start line and we all made our way over.

The Marathon
The gun went off a little after 7 and we were off through a beautiful, but gray desert landscape. There was a little mud but we were mostly able to find paths that weren't too bad. Like I said earlier, the first 6 miles were dirt and mostly downhill and I planned on taking it easy.
I think I did okay in not getting caught up in the excitement. I wanted to make sure I had enough in me to get through all 26.2 miles running. I told myself as we started out that I didn't care how slow I ran, but there would be no stopping and no walking. No excuses, no "deals", no compromises - just running! So, I ran at my easy long run pace thru this section and my splits were still pretty quick (around 9:15/9:20). I was a little worried I'd done them too fast but I just couldn't run any slower.

After we hit the road, it continued downhill and then the course flattened out for a bit before heading uphill. The rest of the course was rolling but there weren't any major hills. Still, I knew that I didn't want to attack any hills so I tried to just relax and not worry if my time crept up on them. Around mile 10, we went by the hotel and my sister & my niece were out there cheering for me. The crowd around them joined in and all the cheering gave me a great boost. I was feeling really good at that point.

Right after that, I realized that my shoe was a little too loose. I decided not to stop because I thought as the race went on, my feet would swell and it would be fine. That would come back to bite me later!

The section after the hotel went through a residential area and the crowds were sparse. I am okay with small crowds because I'm more of a sight seeing runner and the views as we went back up into the hills were great. There were some huge houses in there! And anyway, the aid stations more than made up for the lack of crowd support and going thru them was always a little pick me up with their cheering and encouragement. I wasn't taking anything from the aid stations because I was carrying my own Gu Brew and Honeystinger waffles but I made sure to thank them anyway as I was going thru. Their encouragement was plenty appreciated.

So miles 10 through 17 were pretty uneventful and kind of passed in a blur. I was feeling a little tired as we went up the next hill (miles 18 & 19) but I was ahead of my target goal so I didn't stress about the creeping times as I slowed. There was a little out and back to just past mile 19 and then we would turn and head for the finish. The rest of the course I knew since the half marathon and marathon shared the last 6.5 miles and I had done the half marathon last year. I knew after that, there was just one more hill and psychologically, I always get a burst of energy after a turnaround. As we went by mile 20, I decided to look at my Garmin to see where I was and it said I was at 3:13. I did a quick systems check and felt like I could definitely make 4:15 and that's what I set my sights on. I didn't turn on the afterburners or anything. I just made sure my pace didn't drop.

At mile 22, I felt a blister on the end of my middle toe! The loose shoe had come back to haunt me. It didn't cause a change in my gait so I didn't stop or slow down. After a while, I was even able to forget about it. Whew. By then, we were on the last hill before the finish. With a headwind (which felt kind of good) but my legs did not appreciate it. It felt like the universe was making sure I really, really wanted to reach my goal. Like it was putting little hurdles in my way to make sure I worked for it! But finally, I reached The Wall! No, not THAT bad wall. Someone in the race committee had decided it would be fun to put a fake brick wall up at the top of the last hill. And they have a photographer waiting to take your picture as you go thru the wall! It's become a tradition for the race. You grumble about how it's not funny while you are running it, but you know what? I knew after that, it would only be two miles to the finish and I knew I was going to make my goal. So while I was tired and grimacing, it also felt good to "break" thru the wall.I did one last system check and everything was still a go. I was ready to finish the race and celebrate!

Which is, of course, when I tripped going thru an intersection! The trooper who was directing traffic there laughed and told me not to lose it now. Luckily, I didn't fall but I reigned it in a little bit so there would be no more mistakes so close to my goal!

Then finally, I was at the last little bump. Once I was up that and around the curve, it was downhill to the finish with a tailwind. As I got closer to the finish line, I saw the clock and knew I was going to beat 4:15! I gave a little burst of speed and took one big leap to land across the finish line in 4:14:26! Woo! I was practically dancing a jig. :) I couldn't believe I had actually done it. It didn't feel real until I saw my official time.

The After Party
I got my medal and some water and got my picture taken with my medal. Then went thru the food line and grabbed some grub. They had the regular stuff - fruit, pretzels, bagels, chips, cookies. And they had burritos. I didn't think I could eat a burrito but I grabbed a little bit of everything else. I was starving! A few minutes after that, the wind got even stronger and colder and it started to rain. I got my drop bag and got my jacket from my sister and the three of us headed to the car to get dry and warm. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at Garage Pizza. Mmmm, that pizza tasted good! After that, we went back to the hotel to rest and so I could put my legs up. They actually felt pretty good. They were tight but not too sore.

For dinner that night, we went to the Mining Camp Restaurant to celebrate. It's a fun restaurant where you eat "family" style on benches in a hall off of tin plates like miners ate in the old west. It was all you could eat and they had bbq ribs, chicken, ham, baked beans, cole slaw, green beans, bread, and oatmeal cookies. Me and the bbq ribs got along just fine. Oh, were they good. Actually, it was all good and the perfect way to end the Lost Dutchman Marathon.

The Lost Dutchman puts on a great race. If you ever want to experience something unique and you don't mind a lack of spectators, this is the race for you. It felt like an adventure and isn't that why we run? For the fun and adventure? And I have to say again that the aid station crews were awesome and very encouraging. And the spectators that were there were fun and encouraging too. Even the horses came out to watch us. Or maybe shake there heads at the crazy humans running by!

My official time was 4:14:26. I was 10/27 in my age group, 78/191 women, and 263/525 overall.I have a few more thoughts about the race but this will do for now. PR, baby! I still can't believe it...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Third Time's the Charm

These are my plans for the Lost Dutchman Marathon this Sunday.

This is the gear I will be wearing/using:

Saucony Kinvaras
Wright socks
CWX tights (these are vented so they are good to go even if it's warmer)
RunningSkirt skirt (to store food & what have you)
Puma tank top
Pearl Izumi arm warmers
UnderArmour hat (to keep my hair from sticking out all over)
Ulitmate Direction bottle - hand held
Nike running gloves (maybe, although they are light enough to wear thru the whole thing I'm not sure if I want to wear them).

During the marathon I'll be drinking/eating:
20oz Blueberry Pomegranate Gu Brew (sips ever mile)
2-3 HoneyStinger Waffles (1/2 a waffle every 4 miles)
1-2 S Caps (1 before and probably 1 during)
Water at the aid stations if needed. It should be cool so I'm not sure I'll need the water.

The marathon starts at 7 out in the desert the last email said there will be mesquite bonfires at the start and ground mats to stretch or sit on. They will also have hot coffee, chocolate, tea, and water. And there's going to be a "warming" bus if it's really cold/rainy. So I'm not worried about staying warm before the start which is one less thing to worry about. I probably will wear one of my light jackets and gloves and put them in the drop bag.

As far as my plans for running the marathon go, my goal is a 4:20 marathon so my pace will be 9:56 per mile. The first 6 miles of the marathon are on a dirt fire road and the first 9 miles is mostly down hill. The rest of it is rolling but none of the "hills" are big. This is the profile:

One really good thing is that I did the half marathon last year which was an out and back course so I ran the last 6.5 miles of this marathon course and I know what to expect and that should help with pacing when I get to the last 10K.

The weather should be nice and cool for Sunday. They said there was a chance of showers but since I don't mind running in the rain, I'm good with that.

I feel good. My legs feel good. My long runs w/ marathon pacing this go round gave me a lot of confidence in my training abilities. I've done plenty of hill work this time. And working with Jason has made me stronger and an all around better runner. I think I'm good to go. They say the 3rd time is the charm and I'm hoping this will be the marathon where everything clicks. Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ode To The Tempo

Today's run was a tempo run - 6 miles with 3 at tempo pace. It went pretty well. My times were slightly off than what I'd hoped for but I think that's partly due to the wind this morning and being a little tired from last night's ride home in the wind. And restless sleep the past few nights. I kept waking up with the wind on Tuesday night and then last night I had to get up to pee 4 times! Um, I think I drank plenty of water yesterday. And sorry any guys who may read this, but I also finished up my period so all the water I was retaining made it's way out too.

Anywho...back to the run...the time was 56:15 for 6.15 miles and an average pace of 9:09 per mile. The tempo miles were 8:53, 8:56. and 8:56. I wore my garmin but I don't use it to determine my pace, just to see what it was after. The running geek in me has to know! The weather was cool (around 40F and I wore my Brooks jacket but took it off before the tempo miles) and the stars were out in full force. I love running before dawn for just that reason. And the quiet. There were only a couple of people (the usual suspects) out on the trail so I had it mostly to myself. I finished strong and feeling like I could do more which is always a great feeling. Makes me feel a bit like Wonder Woman. I had done a standard warm up routine before and I did the ITB rehab routine after. Ate, packed my bike bags, showered, and rode to work. A great full morning for a Thursday.

Of all the runs that I do, my two favorite types of runs are tempo runs and long runs. And I think tempo runs slightly edge out long runs in the fun department. I mentioned above that I felt like Wonder Woman and I think that's why I like tempos so much. I use them as a gauge to see how I'm progressing in my training and it's always a blast to see improvements.

The other thing I like about them is that they are good, hard workouts but they don't leave me feeling drained like intervals. And they are fun. Where intervals make me feel like a hamster running in circles under pressure (I have to hit what times for the 400s?), tempos are more relaxed. I'm going places and moving fluidly thru space, none of that run fast and jog thing going on. When I'm done, I feel like I put in a great effort but there's still a little bounce in my step. I've been known to dance a jig after an especially good tempo!

I also like them because they make me focus on what I'm doing. I can clear my mind while I'm doing a tempo and just focus on my breathing and the sound of my feet. They are what I use to determine how hard I'm going. I find that if I lose focus and start to day dream, I start to slow so they teach me discipline and focus which comes in handy during racing. And if I've nailed a tempo before a race, it gives me great confidence going into it. It's hard to beat a confidence building run.

But I know I can't do them everyday so I just look forward to them in my weekly schedule. Besides, I enjoy the other runs I'm doing - long runs, hill sprints, trail running, easy runs. I'm just crossing my fingers that my coach, Jason, won't give me 12x400s anytime soon. ;)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Laser Focus

Someone asked me if I could submit before and after photos of me and what I did to lose the weight I've lost. I have had the hardest time finding a photo of me to submit for the before photo. Which is really ironic considering one of my hobbies is photography. But I avoided being in front of the camera like the plague.

I may use this photo of me from Maui 2008 (I'm on the far right). I'd already lost about 35 lbs by the time this photo was taken so I was at 265. Ugh.

My mom gave me a trip to Maui for my 40th birthday that year. My birthday is in May but we (my mom & her boyfriend & my sister & brother-in-law) went in October. This photo was from a bike tour that I took down Haleakala, the volcano on Maui. I'd already been bike commuting for 4 months so I was pretty sure I could do it. It was a good trip - sight seeing, a luau, snorkeling, beach lounging, and the bike tour. But I didn't do everything I'd wanted to do like taking surfing lessons, zip lining, and hiking. I was not in shape enough for those! So I do regret that my one and only visit to Maui was then and not now, when I can do so much more. Sigh.

Still, better to be where I am now than where I was back then. I have to duplicate that pose for the after. I still don't look forward to having my photo taken but I'm not as adverse to it as I used to be. I wish I could use a race photo though. Like one of these from the Buffalo Run.

As for how I lost the weight...people ask me that all the time but no one likes to hear the answer. It definitely wasn't one thing but the thing they all have in common is laser like focus. I had to make losing weight my first priority and not let myself get distracted. Here's what I did:

1. I let myself eat anything I wanted but counted calories.
2. I started eating healthier - more fruit & veggies, less white bread.
3. I let myself have one weekend day where I could eat what I want for one meal.
4. I ate something chocolate every day.
5. I began bike commuting to work and walking or riding to the store.
6. I added running in to my workout routine.
7. I added some strength training into my workout routine.
8. I kept charts of my weight and workouts.
9. I set big goals to keep me on track.

I tried not to think of it as a "diet". More a lifestyle change (1 & 2) and I used 3 & 4 so that I wouldn't feel deprived while I was losing weight, 5-8 helped me stay on track, and #9 helped when I was tired or discouraged or tempted back to the old ways.

But really, the thing that helped me lose weight was focus and always keeping my eye on the prize. You would be amazed at how often people try to sabotage your goals. "It's just this once." "One slice of cheesecake can't hurt you." But it's not just once - it's Donut Wednesday, and left-overs on Mondays (someone brought in a whole German Chocolate Cake yesterday!), and it's hot cheese dip for so-and-so's birthday, and it's eggs and chorizo for breakfast because it's Friday, and it's the monthly birthday celebration, and it's a bake sale, etc. And that's just at work. And that's not even all of it. I'm telling you, there is crap in here every day of the month! Do you now how hard it is to be "good" when you are faced with this stuff whenever you go into our kitchen (not even in the kitchen, sometimes they set up tables just feet from my desk)? And people encouraging you to be bad? Sometimes they really piss me off.

So I would just say to myself will this (eating a donut, etc.) help me reach my goal weight? Will driving to work make me healthier or riding? Is this cake/cookie/hamburger/etc. worth it? I tried to focus on what I was doing and why and how things I ate or didn’t eat or did or didn’t do would affect my goals. Sometimes, I chose the “wrong” thing but I think I was good 90% of the time. But it took focus.

I think that same focus is helping me with my running and marathon training. No, it’s not all there is but sometimes, if you are trying to reach a goal, a PR, a dream…that has to be a priority and it has to be your focus. That’s just the way it is. They don’t just happen, you have to make them happen. It may not be easy, it may not always be fun. But it is definitely worth it when you’ve had your eye on the prize and you get it.