Friday, March 30, 2012

McKay Hollow Madness 25K Trail Run 2012 Race Recap

There is a saying I have heard other runners use: "The only limits we face are the ones we place on ourselves."  You never know what you are capable of unless you give it a try.  What if I had said, "There's no use trying to race a tough 25K only one week after the Virginia marathon?"  Then I wouldn't have known that I could do it!  I am glad I gave it a try, and I encourage you to try something a little out of your comfort zone too!  Here is my story.

My friend, Julia, was also running the race and agreed to give me a ride up there.  Rick and the kids would meet me at the finish.  We arrived at 6:30 a.m. for a 7:00 a.m. start, but no worries.  The line for the bathrooms was short, and we already had our race numbers since I had gotten them from Fleet Feet the day before.  The weather was nice (50s) and PERFECT for racing.

Here is a picture of Julia and me right before the race began.

Before the start (Katie in black, Julia in white)
Photo by James Hurley
Now, you may remember from last year that the race was cancelled due to lightning, but I ran the course that day anyway.  Who runs the course in a downpour with thunder and lightning?  In my case, someone who is stubborn and fiercely determined.  Someone who doesn't take no for an answer.  This is one of the qualities that I hope to be remembered for.  In fact, I am ashamed of myself when I am not this way.

I was even more hungry to run the race hard today since I didn't get the chance last year.  I won the race in 2010 because I loved the course and felt it suited me well.  I wanted the chance to prove that I was still capable of running it well today, in spite of the fact that I'd run a marathon a week ago.  I wasn't going to let that stop me.  And, truth be told, I actually felt surprisingly well and fairly recovered, all things considered.

The Race
I started near the front and really ran hard for the first mile.  I loved the feeling of racing, the beautiful weather, and the knowledge of the trails ahead of me.  I was eager to begin the race that I wanted so badly to run last year.  A couple of young girls started really fast (and toed the start line with the elite men, too!), so I figured they might be competition.  Turns out they are a pair of sisters, 16 and 17 years old.  Pretty tough pair, and they run 100Ks and many other events as well.  I quickly decided to make a slow gain on them (my first mile was a 6:59, and I wasn't into going faster than that knowing what was ahead!).  I passed them easily on the first hill once we hit the trails, around 1.5 miles.

My goal for myself was to beat my pace from two years ago, which I had figured out to be a 10:02 (2:36 for 25K).  What I had forgotten and didn't learn until the end of the race, however, was that the course was only 14 miles in 2010.  Oops!  It didn't really matter though, since the downhill and flat parts were much faster than a 10 minute mile, but then the climbs were much slower.  It is very hard to predict overall pace with this variation, so I just tried to run my best.

I enjoyed the course and was in a good position.  I was not passing or being passed much at all.  I liked the muddy trails and sloshed happily through the puddles.  I enjoyed running with some guys who called me a "downhill specialist" because I take my downhills pretty fast.  I liked the challenge of the hills.  I was pleased to hear people out there really cheering for us (like one woman around mile 9 who was clapping loudly for each person who passed, even though we were pretty spread out).  And it was fun to get photographed going under the big tree limb seen below.

Going under...when everyone else went over!
Photo by Gregg Gelmis
I later saw this picture in a facebook album and was shocked to see that I was the only one in the album who went under the tree limb and not over!  You can see how high it is!

I really don't remember a whole lot of details about the race.  If you have never run trails, it is hard to imagine what it is like.  You certainly get gorgeous views and see all sorts of beautiful things (we all saw a deer bounding past us at the start!), but you are also really focused on the ground in front of you.  I saw lots of rocks, mud, and sticks.  You have to watch the ground really closely so you won't land poorly!  One wrong landing can be the end of your race.  I find it refreshing to focus on the task at hand.  You don't have too much energy left to think about other things.  You are kind of lost in your own world, and for much of it, you are alone and kind of feel like the only person in the world!

Mile 14 was very slow and tough.  It is a huge hill (an over 700 foot climb) that we crest as we head towards the finish.  I covered it in 17:30.  Fellow Fleet Feet teammate Timothy Pitts tried to chide me in a very good-natured way to get me to speed up: "I'm coming for you, Katie!!!"  But I could not go any faster, and he passed me on that hill.

Once I saw the finish line, I started running as fast as I could.  I surprised myself with a 2:30:34 and another first overall win!  The crowd was loudly cheering, but the voice I heard above all was my daughter's.  What a special moment!

Sprinting in!

Finishing first!
Photo by James Hurley

Fist-bump with Rick (and look at those muddy legs!)
Photo by James Hurley
It was fun taking pictures with some of my teammates and the other winners.  I really like Race Director Blake Thompson's sense of humor.  He called us "McKay Hollow Madness victims, I mean participants" in an email to us all, and his prizes are always crazy too.  Here was are posing with my mad snail lawn ornament prize for first place.  The shirts have an enormous snail eating people on them.  Crazy!

2nd, 1st, and 3rd place (left to right) with Race Director Blake Thompson
(click on picture to see the blood-red snail eyes near my hand!)

And here I am with fellow teammates Christy Scott and Lynn Curry.

Photo by James Hurley

A 25K is supposed to be 15.5 miles, but my Garmin said the race was only a little over 15 and others agreed with that distance.  My pace, ironically, exactly matched my pace from 2010--a 10:02.  This was just a coincidence!

Gorgeous views!

Official time 2:30:34 
1st overall female, 15th overall
Race website here

Good blog about the race and its difficulty: Ultra Kraut Running

Saturday, March 24, 2012

McKay Hollow Madness 25K 2012 Quick Update

Official times have not yet been posted, but I finished 1st overall female!  I finished in about 2:30:33.  Here I am with the 2nd and 3rd place finishers (left to right).  Fellow Fleet Feet team member, Lynn Curry, is the 3rd place finisher.  My daughter, who is behind us and to the left in this picture, was able to see me finish.  She was cheering so loudly that I could easily distinguish her voice from the crowd.  I was so happy to hear her!  When I finished, she shouted, "You won again?!?!"  It was pretty neat to be able to say, "Yes, I did!"  Two first place finishes a week apart is something new and special, and probably once in a lifetime!  I will post a recap later.

2nd place, me, race director Blake Thompson, and 3rd place (Lynn Curry)
Blake is presenting the giant snail lawn ornament "trophy!"

Friday, March 23, 2012

Instant Classic Trail Marathon: A Weekend of Firsts

My 25th marathon -- a weekend of firsts!

Preparing for the Instant Classic Trail Marathon involved finding childcare (my mother) and making the route as child-friendly as possible.  We decided to leave around 2 p.m. on Thursday, March 15th to travel about 8 hours to Roanoke for the night.  Then on Friday we would head to a children's museum about an hour away in Lynchburg, VA before finishing our drive to Richmond/Chesterfield for a total of about a 10 hour trip.
Thursday's car trip was exciting for all us of since my son lost his first tooth!

First lost tooth!
On Friday morning, the children's museum, Amazement Square, was very adequate at burning some of the children's energy off!

Playing at the museum
Then it was on to lunch and then Carytown to get the race packets at their local running store, Roadrunner Running Store.  It was in a cute little shopping area in Richmond.  We got our packets and signed shirts for the race's beneficiaries (Fisher House-McGuire Hospital), and then it was on to ice cream at Sweet Frog.

Roadrunner Running Store, site of packet pick up

Signing shirts--our daughter added the happy faces :)

At Roadrunner

Sweet Frog Frozen Yogurt
The kids were ready for the pool as soon as we arrived at the hotel.  I really wanted to relax and then go out for a nice carbo-loading dinner.  I settled for taking the kids to the hotel's indoor pool while Rick got the food to-go from Carrabba's.  He brought it to the pool for us to eat there.

Spaghetti from Carrabba's
Then it was time for bed, and since the race started on Saturday at 7:45 a.m. their time (they were an hour ahead), we all went to bed at the same time.  The hotel didn't have a room with two beds available, so Rick reserved two rooms.  Mom was able to sleep next door and come over in the morning at 6:30 a.m.  I had to knock 3 different times to wake her up---I was getting worried that something was wrong!  She is usually an early riser!

Gear and clothes all ready!
The race started at Pocahontas State Park.  We arrived with plenty of time to park and walk down to the porta potty line.  The start/finish line area was in a wide open field.  Runners were mingling there and in a small nearby parking lot.  We dropped our stuff back at our car and headed back to the start.  It was nice out--in the 50s--so were started in singlets and shorts.  It would warm to a hot 75 degrees by the finish though!  For that reason, I carried water/gatorade in a handheld bottle (not usual for me).
The Race 
The start was done in waves, and Rick and I were in the first wave of number 1-49 (we were numbers 2 and 3).  Rick and I planned to run 8:00's or a little under for the first 15 miles or so.  At least that was the plan!
I found a pretty funny blog entry from another runner (the guy in the blue), and I got this picture from his blog (you can see me next to the guy in orange).  This is shortly after the start of the race (we are still in the big field where the race started and ended).  I liked this guy's blog because he joked about the weird signs marking the course.  They were everywhere (for every turn).  Read his post on the link below for more. He also describes the terrain of the course well.

picture from here
Total Photography was on the course taking pictures.  This one was from the file called "Marathon Start," but I am not exactly sure what mile we were on. 

This one is from Mile 4.  I wish the photographer had gotten a picture of Rick and me together, but I guess there's no way of him knowing that we were a married couple!  You can see Rick's arm in my picture and about half of me in his!

I was first female for the entire race, and mostly in the top 10 also, though the first few guys had a pretty good lead from the very start.  I wasn't wanting to push my pace to try to hang with them--not in this heat!  The course was mostly loose gravel, and the trails were fairly wide.  There were many rolling hills.  See the course elevation below.  Each of the little hills was harder to run on the loose gravel than it would have been on the road, especially since I had opted to run in road shoes and not trail shoes.

Elevation profile for Instant Classic
So, of course, I found it hard to keep my pace consistent, and I struggled with that.  Mile 4 was my first mile over 8 minutes.  It was just too hard to push it early on without knowing what was ahead.  I was very thankful for the mile markers, since Rick was wearing the Garmin.  This is where actually seeing the course beforehand or training on similar trails would have been helpful.  He and I ran together some and flip-flopped for most of the race.  Around Mile 15, he took off, and I said, "Have a good race!" because I thought he looked very strong.  Then shortly after that, I passed him and stayed ahead of him for much of the remainder of the race.
Around Mile 18, I started slowing down to a 9 minute mile.  The miles started feeling like they were taking forever.  I was struggling and unaccustomed to trying to run close to my marathon pace on a much tougher course.  I passed a couple of men and found talking to them for a short time to be a nice distraction.  The last 4 miles were some of the hardest miles I have ever done.  Not walking during them was a huge victory for me.
I enjoyed the beautiful scenery along the way and the friendly volunteers.  I heard many of them shout, "You're first female!" which was very neat to hear!  I was savoring the feeling of winning a marathon.  It was a very special time even though I was struggling to feel good while running.  Isn't that contrast amazing??  To feel so good, yet so terrible!!
I finished the race in 3:36:36 and won a nice prize of a pink drawstring bag from Roadrunner Running Store, a pair of shoes, and a $15 gift certificate to Road ID (I've wanted one of those for years anyway!).

Finish line
Rick finished in what his Garmin said was 3:42 something, but the official results had him finishing in 3:40 and had him listed in front of people he clearly finished behind (we can tell from pictures).  And there were no chips.  So he talked to the race timers via email and tried to get an accurate finish time.  Kind of a strange situation! (UPDATE: He is now listed as 14th overall, with a time of 3:42:38.)
We headed back to the hotel for showers, and then it was on to Carytown so I could get my prize shoes and we could shop some more.  Dinner was at Apollo's, a nice little Italian place with good pizza near our hotel.


Race numbers, a medal, a shirt, and my prizes (shoes were a "dummy pair" and I had to exchange them)

Back at Roadrunner---to get my prize shoes!

Apollo's Pizza
We drove back the next day, and my son lost another tooth on the way!  Two teeth in one weekend--Wow!
First overall female and the first two lost teeth for my firstborn.  What a good weekend!

1 7:54
2 7:41
3 7:24
4 8:17
5 8:39
6 7:44
7 7:39
8 7:03
9 8:13
10 7:46
11 7:27
12 6:19 (this one can't be right??)
13 7:55
14 8:14
15 8:04
16 8:14
17 8:00
18 9:06
19 8:43
20 9:24
21 7:56
22 8:51
23 9:35
24 9:21
25 9:19
26 9:56
.2 1:46

3:36:36 official time
1st overall female
7th overall results here

McKay Hollow Madness 25K Tomorrow!

This quote spoke to me today.  I tend to always be looking to the running, things to buy for the house, etc.  This helps me to remember that everything I have now--husband, kids, house, doggie, marathons--were all things I had once only hoped for.

McKay Hollow Madness 25K trail run is tomorrow at 7:00 a.m.  Not sure how I will do one week out from the marathon.  Surely the trails from last weekend will be good training for this one, right?

Last year, the race was cancelled due to lightning, but I ran the course anyway.  Read about it here.

Sorry for the delay in posting about the marathon (I am about to do it now).  My internet was down until my wonderful husband came home and fixed the problem in 2 seconds!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Instant Classic Trail Marathon Quick Update

Katie 3:36:41 First Overall Female!
Rick 3:42:38 (official time listed is faster than his Garmin, so he claims this time instead)

see results here

Look for a race recap later this week!
State #20 DONE!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Celebrating the Milestones: 20th State, 25th Marathon, 35th Marathon (Or Marathon-Plus) Distance

I wrote an entry about a year and a half ago about an article from our local running club's newsletter.  In the July/August 2010 issue, Harold Tinsley wrote an article called "What Will Your Memories Be When You No Longer Run."  Here is the excerpt I liked:
"Take time to enjoy your accomplishments. They will have a lot more meaning later in life if you do. You ran a PR, or won a race, or won your age group and you had that feeling of accomplishment that you trained so hard for. Did you give it the importance of something you may never do again? Probably not. Everyone expects the next race, or one soon to follow, will be a new and better accomplishment. And early in your running that may very well happen, even frequently, but one day you will have run your ultimate race. Not until later will you realize that." (emphasis added) 

I am quoting this again because I really feel like we should take the time to enjoy our own accomplishments in running, whatever they may be.  While I was having my kids, I though my running days were over.  That's right.  It seemed like I would never be able to get back to running again.  Not "fast" running, just running.  I remember lots of runs where Rick and I would go out for a 4-miler at our local greenway, and I would have to walk.  I remember running a small hill and feeling like I just could not do it.  Rick probably remembers most of these runs, since he was usually with me.  We took the kids out once a week for Family Run Nights, and he pushed the double stroller while I huffed and puffed next to him.  He took me out for long run "dates" when we had sitters, and he walked next to me when I could not run those hills.  Rick was very patient with me and urged me to keep trying.  We found a way to make this running-with-kids thing possible.  We are now one of the only couples I know that run marathons with a young family.  We made it work.  And now I have many accomplishments in running that are post-babies.  I have many, many small victories.  I even have faster times than before having kids!  And, hopefully on Saturday, I will have a few new accomplishments to celebrate.
Saturday's marathon will be our 20th state.  I already mentioned this once here.  It's very exciting to reach this milestone, since it involved so much planning and preparation in order to travel to each of these states.  
But I realized something that will be another accomplishment of mine on Saturday too...this marathon will be my 25th marathon.  It will also be my 35th distance of a marathon or more (10 of these are 50Ks).  I turn 35 this year, so I will have a marathon (or marathon-plus) distance for every year of my life!  I think these are things to celebrate, milestones to be proud of.
I included Harold's quote since I want it to be clear that I am not writing this to brag on myself.  I know that these accomplishments may not seem like much to some people.  But, if you are trying to get joy in doing more than someone else, you will never feel happy.  There is always someone who has done more than you.  You don't have to look far to find someone who has run many more races than me (I remember being blown away by Rob Apple's 573 ultramarathons in this entry).  
I am writing this to take the time to enjoy what I have accomplished (or will accomplish on Saturday, God willing!).  So that one day, when these days are behind me, I will be able to recall them.  Harold writes with the wisdom of his years that none of us knows when that "ultimate race" will be.  So, as he says, give it the importance of something you may never do again!   
If I motivate/inspire you to take pride in what you have been able to do, all the better.  I hope you find a milestone to celebrate.  Maybe you want to run a marathon for each year of your life, or maybe you want to run one in every state.  We all have to take that first step, and, once we have, I simply think we should all find reasons to celebrate the milestones we accomplish. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

UAH Spring 10K Volunteering

Rick, the kids, and I volunteered at the UAH Spring 10K on Sunday, March 4 at 2:00 p.m.  It seemed like a good run to volunteer at since we are marathon training and not as ready for 10K races right now.  And it worked out nicely to eat out after church, change clothes, and head over to the UAH campus.  I feel somewhat of a "burden" when I volunteer with my kids, but then they always end up surprising me with how helpful they really can be!  In the summer they volunteered with me at the A&M 10K (see here) and were great at spraying runners with a water hose and cleaning up the cups.  Today, they were very helpful at filling up water cups, distributing them, and picking them up.  Let's just say that they also added a little something to the aid station too.  Here's the story.

It was a chilly day (low 50s) with a brisk wind (you wouldn't think so from the picture of my daughter, but she was offered tights to wear, and she refused!).  This race is a 5K course run twice, and the only aid station sits somewhere around miles 1 and 4.  When we arrived at UAH, the race director told us to head to the aid station to begin filling cups.  It was a short walk from the start/finish line.  We began filling cups and soon had the entire table and surrounding curbs filled also.

Filling cups--half full!

Soon the people started running by for the first time (they would eventually pass us four times total).  Andrew Hodges was first, with a pretty good lead which you can see below.  As we started handing out waters, I realized that there are definitely different types of hand offs!  There were many sloshed waters (even though we grabbed the cups lightly at the top so the runners could wrap their hands around the cups) and even a few missed attempts!  Then there were the people who slowed down or even stopped for the water.  It was so sweet to see so many people choose to take waters from the kids.  The kids would shout, "Yes!" if they were able to hand out a water without getting splashed.  I love that they turned handing out the water into a game!

Go Andrew!
After seeing the majority of the runners twice, we filled more cups and readied ourselves for Round 2.  This is when the kids did something that I thought was absolutely adorable and very sweet.  They started gathering flowers to hand out with the waters.  They were placing the flowers gently over the top of the water cups, not in them.  Now since I am a runner who takes her races pretty seriously, I know you may be thinking, "Ummm, are you sure the runners actually wanted the flowers?"  But I found that the people who chose to take waters from the kids really didn't mind at all!  I heard many people exclaim, "Oh!" and "Bless you!"
They would smile brightly and even continue to hold the flower long after tossing the cup.

I saw something that could have been boring or even a chore (handing out water to runners) turned into something that was fun and special.  We were all just smiling and having the best time doing this together as a family.  We enjoyed commenting favorably about each runner who accepted the flowers, and the kids loved running to the grassy area to collect more.  And the runners!!  SO MANY runners called out a "thanks!" to us as they went by.  Manning a water station seems like such a small thing to do, but it was nice to know that so many people appreciated our little job.

Even more surprising was how we used this opportunity as a means to teach our kids about the importance of volunteering, and then they were the ones who taught us how to really reach out in love to those around you as only a child can.  Though this sport has not yet given them much, it has given me a lot.  It was so sweet for me to see them volunteering with such dedication and excitement for something that means so much to me. Today I learned from them the true attitude which we should all have whenever we do something for others. You are never "just handing out waters."  You never know when it might be much more than that to someone.

My daughter handing out water

Our neighbor (running her first 10K) accepts water and a "bonus" flower.

Carrying her flowers after a job well done

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Three needed long runs?

My husband, Rick, and I ran the Mountain Mist 50K on January 28, 2012.  We have an upcoming marathon, the Instant Classic in Chesterfield, Virginia on March 17.  So that puts 7 weeks in between the two races. What would I normally do with 7 weeks between 2 marathon or marathon-plus races?  Well, a whole lot of resting and then maybe a 14 miler in the middle of them.  I truly believe in the "take it easy for a day per mile raced" approach, and I don't ever expect to be fully back until I've given myself this time for recovery.  

What did I do this time?  I tried to follow Rick's Advanced Marathoning approach.  This book's programs are TOUGH.  During Weeks 3-5, it called for a build-up of a 17 miler (February 18), 20 miler (February 25), and then another 17 miler (March 3).  Well, I am glad I tried those long runs!  I actually did my best long runs of the year over the last 3 weeks.  I have done them even while battling a bad cold throughout and some brutal winds during the 2nd week.  I'm not sure how smart this was, but I actually tried to get faster as the weeks went on, and I was able to do this too (it helped that I was over my cold by the last week).  It's fair to say that the 7:45 average for last week's 17 miler can count as my tempo workout for the week too!  

You can do long runs anywhere from 30-90 seconds off of your marathon pace goal.  I am someone who usually leans towards the slower end of the long run range.  I recently trained for a 7:27 marathon with most long runs in the 9:00 range (see entry here).  Since I love the 9:00 pace for long runs, these long runs really took me by surprise.  Where where they when I wanted them for Chicago?  Is it the cold weather that is making them easier or is it that my "marathon season" is already under my belt (3 in this training cycle already)?  Was this a smart approach (3 long runs at a fast-for-me pace), or will I now be more tired for the upcoming marathon?  These are all things that I am wondering.  The marathon's results will really help me understand what part of this training cycle worked for me.

Here are the splits for the long runs:

February 18

February 25

March 3
Ignore the last .01 (accidentally pressed the watch again), so 7:45 was the average for the first 17 miles.
And finally, the results for the last (and inaugural) Instant Classic were very informative!  The times seem pretty slow, but that could mean that the trails are pretty tough.  Mountain Mist will hopefully have prepared me for them, since its conditions are very tough with lots of different types of trails.  I am eyeing the 4:07 female course record and wondering if I have a chance of getting anywhere near it.

The Instant Classic Marathon Trail Run - Results
Chesterfield, VA USA
March 19, 2011
Male Winner: 3:11:37 | Female Winner: 4:07:18
Average Finish Time: 4:42:10