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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tri the Swamp Rabbit Triathlon Race Report

Spoiler alert:  sprints are still HARD!  And they are really, really hard when you are not prepared.

As I have written about in my last couple posts, triathlon has been taking a back seat to well, pretty much everything.  I am not complaining; sometimes it is good to take a break from a hobby or passion to recharge or re-energize yourself, but this has been an unusually long break.  I have been doing this sport for almost 13 years which is pretty long in the life of triathlon.  There are only a handful of people I know who were racing when I started and are still competing.  Life happens and since triathlon is a very selfish, time consuming, and expensive hobby, it is understandable that people gravitate in and out of the field.  I don't think I have reached the end of my triathlon life span, but I do think that I am ready to pull back some and explore other options.  Several red flags have been popping up as of late, and I am realizing that I cannot ignore them any longer.

I signed up for Tri the Swamp Rabbit and really, really dreaded just registering.  Red flag #1.  I had a hard time forking over 70 bucks for an hour and a half of my time.  But I did it, and figured that I would be glad of my decision once the race was over.  Red flag #2:  getting ready for the race was another thing I dreaded.  I have enjoyed swimming this year, but that is because I have simply been swimming for fitness and not for any set goal.  Sometimes I swim 1,500, other times I swim 2,500 broken up into sets.  There is really no rhyme of reason to my swimming other than how I feel that day.  If I feel like doing speedwork, I do.  If I just want to swim slow continuous, I do.  And instead of swimming three times a week religiously like I usually do in tri season, I swim once or twice a week, just depending on how I feel.

The bike is an entirely different story.  I have always loved riding my bike.  I am good at it, and I enjoy the social aspect of riding with friends and being outside.  But this year has been different.  For one, social media has made me painfully aware of the number of drivers who feel that cyclists have no business being out of the road.  Furthermore, the number of comments that imply cyclists deserve to be hit, should be hit, and threaten to hit cyclists are scary.  In the past, I was blissfully unaware of how many people hated cyclists, but now every time I see a car, I find myself wondering if this will be the one that is going to take me out.  That has really put a damper on my desire to get out and ride. This summer I have pretty much only been riding my bike once a week.  That's it.  No three or four times a week like I used to.  And when I ride now, I am only riding a couple hours, not the four to five hour rides that I used to ride and I haven't been climbing anywhere near what I used to.  This has put a severe handicap on my cycling fitness; I can definitely tell a difference in my speed and in my endurance.  So I was going in to this race with limited training, like insanely limited training.  Last year I was training for Lake Logan Half doing two a days and splitting my time between swim/bike/run evenly.  This year I am barely doing one of three sports.

Fast forward to the morning of the race.  I drive to the race with a stomach ache.  Probably because I ate breakfast (I am not a breakfast eater, even before workouts) and probably because I was realizing just how miserable I was going to be in this race.  At the race, I visit with friends and find myself getting that usual pre race nervousness that makes me feel sick.  I took that as a good sign that my heart was still with triathlon or else I wouldn't have cared enough to be nervous.  The swim start was actually perfect for me.  I was seeded between two swimmers who were in perfect sync with me.  I never bumped into them and they never bumped into me.  I started feeling cocky in the water as I cruised those 250 meters.  This will be a piece of cake, I thought!

Swim including time to run to transition:  4:57 (faster than last year)

On to the bike, I sailed out of Furman feeling good and thinking I was going to own this bike.  Red flag#3:  my legs hurt.  Bad.  I was trying to ride in my big ring, but it was really hard.  The hills on the course seemed really steep and long.  I found myself having to switch into a little ring, something I normally don't have to do.  Ben, who last year I was able to chase for almost the entire bike, passed me around mile three and I literally could do nothing in retaliation.  I just watched him disappear.  I knew my bike would be slower, but I was not expecting the level of effort I was having to produce to try and ride a solid race.  I kept trying to tell myself to slow down and save my legs for the run, but my competitiveness refused to let me back off.  I might have a slower bike time, but I wasn't going to have THAT slow of a bike time, or so I thought.

Finally I reached Furman.  There was a long downhill and then a steep uphill leading back in to campus.  On the downhill, my chain dropped!  By the time I was able to back pedal it back on, I had lost my momentum on the hill and really struggled to get up the last hill.  I rolled back in to transition a whopping FOUR minutes slower that last year's race.  I was pissed, but could only be mad at myself.  When you bike easy once a week, this is what happens.

Bike time:  56:13 (four minutes slower than last year)

But there was the run to save me!  Running was the one thing I had been doing all summer.  In fact, I had run some of my fastest runs in the week leading up to this race!  I was killing myself running....which in hindsight was probably red flag #4.  Red flag #4: I was killing myself running. I spent the week leading up to this race running with Lauren, who runs about 1.5 minutes faster than me.  But I was trying to run with her, so I was redlining in every workout.  I didn't count on how much strength and stamina that week would take out of me.  There was no taper, no easy workouts, nothing.  All my energy that should have been reserved for this race had been used chasing Lauren all over Travelers Rest.  As I started to run out of transition, another feeling came over me.....dead legs.  WTF???  The run was supposed to be where I killed it!  But when this race is literally your first transition run of the season, it hurts.  My legs were already screaming from the hard bike and the agony they were in now was insane.  I figured they would come around once I got going, but red flag #5:  a cramp!  Remember how I said I had a stomach ache before the race?  Add a bottle of Gatorade (that I had not been using in training, whoops), and feeling like there was a balloon in my stomach and you get the side cramp from hell.  It hurt so bad that I wanted to stop and walk, but I kept trying to breathe like I was having a baby and push it out.  It wasn't until mile 2 that it started to subside, but by then my morale and anything I had left in the tank was gone.  I finished the race feeling like I was a complete failure.

Run time:  25:27 (faster than last year)

Overall time:  1:28:51 (two minutes slower than last year. Fifth in age group/third in age group last year)

Final thoughts:
I am definitely my own worst critic.  I expected to have the exact same race splits as last year and the year before even though I had not put in the training.  I started to beat myself up over my dismal performance, but then I had to try and rationalize the amount of training I had done versus previous years.  This made me feel better, but not a lot.  The other thing that bothered me was the lack of fun I had.  I didn't ENJOY this race at all except for the swim.  Now perhaps had I been trained better, I would have enjoyed the race more, but that's not all there is to it.  I didn't have fun.  And fun is what I always want from a race.  Even when I kill myself during a race, I still have fun and am glad I did it when it is over.  I didn't feel that way this time.  I almost felt something like regret for having done it in the first place. And that is the biggest red flag of them all.  Not enjoying or having fun during a race goes against everything I believe in racing.  I can puke my guts up after a race and cry from pain and need an IV, but I loved every minute of it. I didn't feel this way for this race.  Now, that is not to say I will feel this way at another triathlon, but this feeling is so novel that I find it utterly alarming.  I do believe that if I had been better prepared I probably would't have been as unhappy, but I really have no desire to prepare for my next race any more than what I am already doing.  The thought of biking three times a week does not appeal to me any more than swimming three times a week does.  So there you have my conundrum; is this lack of interest in the sport I love a natural ebb and flow, or is it something more definitive?  I plan on doing one other triathlon race this season.  Perhaps I will feel the way  I always have about the sport and return next season fully invigorated, or perhaps I will realize that taking a break is the right move for me.

Until next time,
don't forget to be awesome!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Firecracker Frolic 5K

With the start of July comes the reminder that the year is already halfway over!  So far this year I have run 555 miles; last year I logged in 1,000, so it is looking like I will exceed last year's totals pretty easily since I haven't even begun to marathon train yet.  I have never been much of a numbers person, but I am enjoying the ability to track total mileage on my Garmin as well as log in all my training miles in my running journal.  It is a good feeling to be able to look back on my year and see all that I have done, especially on days when I am beating myself up over a race or a workout that didn't go as planned.  Running is definitely becoming my favorite sport.  I am completely surprised by this as cycling has always been my strong suit, but I think that as I continue to grow as an athlete and person that it is good to pursue other interests and passions.  I love triathlon and will always want to race at some level, but I also realize that triathlon (and Ironman, specifically) does not solely define me.  Running has my heart right now and I want to continue to nurture this new love I have for it.  I certainly don't know how long it will last, but becoming a better runner will ultimately help me become a better triathlete, so I view this detour as a benefit in more ways than one.  

One of the crazy things that running has gotten me doing again is track work.  I hate track workouts, so this should prove how bad the running bug has bitten me.  Before I got sick, I ran a 22:53 5K in 2012, and while I know I will never hit that time again, I am hoping that I can get in the 24 (or maybe even 23) range one day.  I had a triathlon picked out for July to race, but I didn't have any sort of running race on the schedule, and this was causing me to have some major running race withdrawals.  Lisa told me about the Firecracker Frolic 5K in Easley on July 4th and it sounded perfect.  

The temperature at the start was in the low 70s and of course, 90%+ humidity because, well,  it's July in South Carolina.  I knew that the temperature would be an issue but was hoping that the short distance would save me from overheating.  My plan was to run hard and hope for an average pace under 8:30.  I thought I was capable of an 8:20, but really didn't know how the heat would affect me and I didn't know how many hills there were.   I lined up near the front because I didn't want to get bunched up in a traffic jam and figured it was easier for people to pass me than the other way around. A firecracker sounded the start of the race and I took off like a racehorse out of the gate.  You would think I would learn not to do this, but as I felt like I would have a heart attack within the first three minutes I looked at my watch and saw a 7:25 pace and realized why.  I pulled back and tried to settle in, but I kept running way harder than I needed to.  I finally decided when I hit mile one at 7:54 that I would just run this race as hard as I could and see how long it took me to blow up (this is common habit of mine).  Of course there is no way I can maintain a 7:54 pace for three miles, so I knew I would be slowing down, and slow down I did.  I hit a couple short hills and felt them take a toll on my lungs and legs.  My Garmin alerted me to let me know that my second mile was an 8:19.  This was way more my speed, but still fairly fast.  The final half mile of the race was on a slight incline.  Not anything major, but just enough to feel it and knock your pace up bit by bit.  I tried to dig and picture the track workouts I had been doing by visualizing a track and telling myself I had two laps left.  I pictured the turns of the track when to try and kick it into overdrive.  This actually helped a great deal and I hit mile three with an 8:34 average (which is the pace I should have been aiming for all three miles).  One tenth to go and it might as well have been one mile because the finish line was on a hill!  I sounded like a smoker running through the chute, but was pretty pleased to see that I made it under 26 minutes.  25:40 was my official time and my pace was 8:18!  This was better than my original goal and even better than I had thought I was capable of.  I was stoked!  I ended up second Masters and the girl who beat me for first was in the 22s, so I was content knowing that no matter how much harder I had gone, I would not have been able to beat that time.  

I know this time may not sound stellar to seasoned runners who run 8:18s on their easy runs, but being able to hit that pace in July is impressive for me.  It has given me newfound hope for my times once cooler weather gets here and has pushed me even deeper in love with running.  I have been working so hard on trying to get my speed back and being able to see some benefits from it is extremely fulfilling.  I remember how emotionally low I was at the end of May when I had my disaster half marathon, so this has been a huge morale boost.  Cooler weather will be here before I know it and with that longer distance races, so I am excited to see what will happen.  

Monday, June 19, 2017

Sunrise 8K Race Report

My last post in late May was all about my dismal M2M Half in which I walked approximately seven miles and realized that long distance races in the heat are no longer my thing.  I hung my head in shame for a week or so and then eased back in to running again.  While I might not be able to run half marathons in 80 degrees anymore, that didn't mean I had to quit running altogether.

Since this year has been about racing new races, I thought that I would take a stab at Simpsonville's Sunrise 8K run.  The appeal to this race was that it started at sunrise, literally.  I love the thought of any race that starts at 6am, so I was pretty stoked.  Lauren agreed to meet me and race it as well, so we decided to make a long run out of it and run a total of 8 miles.  We would do one mile as a warm up and then do two more miles after the race as our cool down.  While most of the course is flat, the final section through Powderhorn and Poinsettia neighborhoods had hills.  However, the huge trees in these neighborhoods provided lots of cool shade, so I felt it was a fair trade off.  I told Lauren that I would be thrilled with an 8:45 pace, but that I didn't know how difficult that would be since all my training runs had been super slow and there was that horrible debacle of a half a couple weeks earlier.

When the race started, I immediately went out way too fast, but I knew I would settle in once the crowds started to thin.  After the first mile, I found a pace that felt good but also forced me to push pretty steady.  Lauren was on cruise control, so I just tried to match her strides and hang on.  By mile 2.5, we found the first of the hills and Lauren would surge up them ahead of me.  I was always able to catch back up to her (perhaps she slowed down?), but at mile 3.5, I could feel the wheels coming off.  Lauren surged up the hill and I had no response.  She started getting further away.  I noticed my pace was slipping.  A second here, a second there.  I tried to focus on Lauren and keeping her in my sights, but she kept inching ahead in the distance.  When I hit mile four and saw my time  I told myself that I was on track for a far better race than I had expected, so I better not blow it in the in final mile.  I then told myself that I could do anything for eight and a half minutes, so I just needed to put my head down and fight.

The final quarter mile of the race involved another hill and then a flat stretch to the finish line.  Climbing that last hill really sucked it out of me and I could hear someone coming up behind me.  On the flat stretch to the finish line, I saw a glimpse of yellow and what looked like a woman's leg.  Then I saw a flash of a ponytail as a woman edged up beside me.  I had no idea how old this woman was but I had not seen her at all over the course of the race.  She was clearly getting ready to pass me At.The.Finish.Line.  I dug into whatever reserves I had left and willed myself forward.  It hurt, I ached, but I was able to keep this mystery woman behind me (she may have not even noticed or cared that I was trying so hard to cross first) and I hit the finish line in 41:29, an 8:21 pace!

I was pretty pleased with my race.  I held a faster pace than I thought I could, giving me hope that I could hold this pace for a longer distance.  I won my age group after coming off one of the worst races ever just a few weeks before.  Lauren helped immensely since she served as a perfect rabbit to chase.  She makes me push myself while she just cruises along.  She could have probably held that pace another 20 miles.

Not really sure what is up next.  School is finally out, and I have time to bike and swim more, so I will probably spend more time tri training.  But I am still looking for running races nearby in case a potential race shows promise.  Since I can't handle the longer distances in the heat, I have decided this summer to focus on improving my speed.  I plan on doing some track workouts (my friends will think I am nuts because they know how much I hate track workouts), and really trying to dial in my 5 and 10K times.  My hope is that this will pay off when I start back marathon training in the fall.

Until next time,
Happy training!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Bitter Pill to Swallow: Mountains 2 Main Half Marathon

Even though it is officially tri season, I am still stuck in running season. It seems like the past few years my tri season start keeps getting later and later.   I am swimming twice a week and cycling once a week, but my running shoes still seem to get most of my attention.  Maybe I am turning into a one sport kind of girl, but triathlon has not fallen completely off my radar; I do plan on racing some tris as soon as summer gets here.

Running season for me usually ends in early spring because tri season starts then; in fact, I don't ever remember running a half marathon this late in the year that wasn't part of a half iron distance race.  I knew I was no where near ready to do the half iron distance triathlon for this race, but the half marathon sounded perfect, especially since it would be on familiar stomping grounds.  Another bonus was that this race takes place mainly on the Swamp Rabbit Trail which means with the exception of a couple hills, it would be a flat race. However, my main concern was the temperature.  Maybe it is because I am getting older, or maybe it's because of other mitigating factors, but ever since my nephrectomy, heat really seems to affects me.

As race day grew nearer, the temperatures kept right on climbing.  The start was predicted to be almost 70 degrees with temps in the mid to upper 80s by noon.  I met up with Scottie before the start and as we stood near the start line chatting, I felt like I was already sweating.  The clouds were at least covering the sun (for now), and there was a slight breeze, but the humidity was off the charts.  The gun fired and I started out conservatively since I knew a huge hill was waiting on me before the first mile was over.  By mile three, I knew I would have a bad day, but I thought I could race conservative and just clock in a slower half time.  I pulled back and allowed myself to find a 9 minute mile pace; I figured I would end the race with a pace close to 9:30, which was no where near where I wanted, but I figured it was better than nothing.

The course entered Furman campus around mile 4.5 and included the final hill before winding around the lake and dropping runners back on the SRT.  The hill is a steep but short grunt that really elevates your heart rate.  I have run this hill A LOT in training, so I was quite prepared for what to expect.  I knew that while my heart rate would spike on the ascent, the nice downhill on the other side would allow me to recover and by the time I hit the flat I would feel like the hill never happened.  I had done this hill multiple times in the weeks leading up to this race, so when my heart started to thump out of my chest, I thought nothing of it.  But on the descent I noticed my heart was beating even harder than it was when I was climbing.  It was a very odd sensation, so I did notice it, but kept on running and assumed it would calm down.  But it didn't.  My heart kept right on thumping out of my chest like I was climbing a mountain.  I was well onto the flat section at this point and slowed my pace to see if that helped.  It didn't.  I started to get a little panicky; I have never had any sort of heart issue, so this was a first.  By the time I got back to the SRT, Scottie had caught up to me, and I told her that something was wrong with my heart.  She suggested I walk and stop at the aid station.  I did, and my heart rate seemed to drop somewhat, but as soon as I started running, I felt like I was running straight up hill again.  At this point I hit mile six.  I knew something was horribly wrong, so I started walking.  I figured I would keep walking until I felt better and then pick back up running.  My time would be a little slower, but I figured I would feel better once I walked a bit and my heart rate came down.

The only problem was that never happened.  Every time I would try to run, my heart would explode and scare the hell out of me.  I ended up walking the remaining way, over seven miles!  It was humiliating, depressing, sad, and scary.  I watched helplessly as person after person passed me.  I tried desperately to rationalize with myself what was happening to my body and kept coming back to severe dehydration, but since I'm not a doctor or nurse, I couldn't be sure.  I asked myself questions to see if I was coherent.  I tried to speak casually to police officers working the roads to make sure I could communicate.  I shoved ice down my sports bra, under my hat, down my shorts.  I sang along to my music to force myself to focus.  It was a long, dark, and lonely seven miles.

Finally, I made it to the finish line.  Two hours and forty minutes!!!!  My pace was over 12 minutes per mile which I guess is not bad considering how horrible I felt and how long I walked.  I remember grabbing my medal and sitting down on the ground as soon as I stopped.  Then I remember lying down.  Finally medical noticed me and got me in to the medical tent.  I quick check of my vitals showed an elevated heart rate and low blood pressure.  They forced me to down some electrolytes and kept checking my vitals.  After I explained my situation, they agreed with my conclusion that dehydration was probably the culprit.  I was ordered to drink plenty of electrolytes and take it easy.  To illustrate just how dehydrated I was, I didn't urinate until almost three in the afternoon; I normally go every couple hours, but had not gone since 7am and had been drinking fluid steadily since noon.

So what did I learn from all this?  Unfortunately, I came to the realization that heat is no longer my friend.  I have fooled myself into thinking that there were other factors at play, but the common denominator in all my bad runs has been the heat.  I can keep on punishing myself by trying to force myself to finish long races in high temps, or I can be smart and only race when the distance is short and the temps are low.  While I do love competing, I love my body more, and no race is worth doing permanent damage to myself.  This is a bitter pill to swallow, but one that I have had a long time to process and think about, and I know this is the best decision for me.  As I get older, I realize that racing is evolving into more of a "fun" hobby than a competitive desire.  Racing definitely gives me something to work towards and gives me a carrot to chase, so I will never give it up completely, but the need to race in order to compare myself to others or the desire to race and push myself to the very limits of my ability is waning.  I can't quite put my finger on it (maybe it's maturity, maybe it's complacency, maybe it's old age). but something inside of me doesn't feel the need to prove myself anymore.

I will always want to race, and I will always want to do well, but I think my definition of "do well" is evolving somewhat.

I am not sure what race I will be tackling next, but you can count on there being another race in my future.

Happy training!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Reedy River 5K Race Report

This race was a pretty sudden spur of the moment decision.  I had been wanting to race a 5K this season, but couldn't seem to find one that fit my schedule.  My friend, Lisa, had already signed up for this race, so I let peer pressure push me into signing myself up.  The timing of the race fit well with my schedule; I had just finished racing Altamont and had taken a week off of running to allow my calves some much needed rest.  This race would serve as a good test to see if my fast twitch muscles worked anymore, and it would kick off my next block of run training that is preparing me for a half marathon.  However, the week leading up to the race was horrible as I made the difficult decision to say goodbye to Gus, my dog.  Gus came to me as a foster and was really sick with heartworm, horrible skin issues, and was about 25 pounds underweight.  His poor tail looked like an opossum's from lack of hair and he had never been inside a house before.  He had lost most of his teeth and was completely pitiful.   I was undergoing chemo at the time and Gus felt so awful from his heartworm treatment that we spent most of our time sleeping.  We would try walking down the street and we would both be so exhausted that we would crash for most of the afternoon.  This created a bond between us that was incredibly strong since we literally relied on one another to make it through the day.  When Flutie passed away, Gus was there to give me comfort and now that Gus is gone, I have been coming home to a dogless house.  This has been quite difficult for me to get used to, and I am still not used to it.  I have really been struggling to accept not having a dog anymore, but I hate it, and it is way harder than I thought it would be.  I still have three wonderful cats to snuggle with, but it is not the same as having a dog.  We will be getting another dog this summer, this transition has been rough to say the least.

Basically, going into this race I felt awful.  No motivation, I hadn't trained all week due to grieving over Gus, and I wasn't sleeping well.  Plus, it was going to be hot, but I figured a race would take my mind off of things, so I was eager to give it a shot.  I thought I should be capable of doing 25 minutes, but I really wanted to get under that 25 minute mark.

Mile One: It was hard to find a pace because so many people were racing and a lot of these people were not properly seeded.  I had a lot of people just abruptly stop in front of me, small children that I had to maneuver around, and a lot of walkers who thought they should start on the front line.  It was a lot like Frogger for the first half mile.  Finally, the crowd thinned out and I started to get control of my breathing.  Everything hurt so I knew I was either running too hard or was simply not ready for this race.  I checked my watch and my pace told me that I was running too hard.  I dialed it back a little and cruised into the first mile at 8:03 pace, a little faster than I wanted, but I thought I would be fine.

Mile Two:  I really started finding my groove here as the course wound its way through Cleveland Park.  I settled in to a 8:15 for mile 2 which is exactly what I wanted.  I was on track to hit my goal time and although I was definitely hot and thirsty, I figured I could beat the heat before I started to crumble.

Mile Three:  It's hard to run anywhere in downtown Greenville and not have a hill.  The hills we had encountered for the first two miles of the race were few, and they were short, easy hills, but now race organizers through in a long, winding hill that absolutely destroyed me.  I felt myself slowing down.  I saw people pass me that I had passed earlier.  I felt sweat running down my face.  The hill just kept going and my time just kept slipping away.  My pace for mile three dropped to 9:12!  At this point I knew that my dream of breaking 25 was gone and that I would be lucky if I could break 26.  I tried really hard to dig deep to get that last little .10 to the finish line, but my heart wasn't in it and my body had checked out about halfway in to mile 3.  I hit the finish line in 26:02, which really irked me.  The least I could have done was get in under 26 minutes.  But you win some, you lose some, and today was clearly not my day.

I ended up losing out on third Masters, but this gave me first in my age group and 36 out of 730 females.  Unfortunately, the only awards for this race were overall and Masters/Grandmasters, so no trophy for me.  It was good however, to test myself on a 5K course and now I want to revisit a 5K course later in the season to gauge my fitness.  I am enjoying this more laid back race schedule this season.  Training for an Ironman requires so much training that it really becomes hard to do anything but your workouts.  Not having to worry about one has allowed me a lot more freedom in choosing races, stepping outside the box, and flexibility in my training schedule.  I also have a lot less guilt about things; I don't feel guilty if I miss a workout, and I don't feel guilty about missing time with my loved ones and family.  So far, it's a win-win, but I have a feeling I will tackle another Ironman before I hang my racing shoes up for good.

Up next is the M2M Half Marathon!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Altamont Challenge Half Marathon: What was I thinking?

For the past two years I have been eyeing the Altamont Half Marathon put on by Upstate Ultras.  I am very familiar with Altamont; this mountain was the site for several years of the US Cycling Pro Road Race Championships and is also home to the infamous Paris Mtn Road Race.  With 1,125ft in elevation gain, runners in the Altamont Challenge Half Marathon summit Altamont (the highest point in Greenville) before heading down the backside of the mountain; then in a real test of endurance, runners turn around and reverse the course, going back over the mountain and down the other side.  While the final three miles are a straight descent back to the finish line, you may find that your quads aren't all that cooperative after being eaten up climbing up the backside of the mountain.

I love Altamont in that sick way that climbers love hills.  I love to ride it on my bike, and I love the challenge of running it as well.  But that was years ago, way before I got sick.  This year marked the first year since 2012 that I was able to actually run Altamont.  Since Upstate Ultras announced this race in 2015, I have dreamed of doing it, but simply wasn't strong enough to take it on.  But finally, I felt enough like my old running self to attempt to tackle this beast.  Lauren and I ran the entire course during training and I had a fabulous run.  Of course that training run consisted of stopping at the summit to rest and regroup, stopping at the turn around to rest and regroup, stopping at the summit again to rest before finally descending down the mountain.  It was also about ten degrees cooler than race day.  So foolish me went into this race with a wishful time in my mind that I thought I was capable of.  I also had a time in my head that I thought was a bit more realistic and reasonable, but I started out the race running a pace that would get me my wishful time.  Big mistake.

Climbing the mountain right out of the gate was hard.  I tried to settle in, but it is hard to do this when you are climbing for the first three miles.  By the time I reached the summit, I was pretty excited and tore off down the back side of the mountain like the devil was chasing me.  This is where most people make a mistake; the downhills really trash your quads and then you have to turn around and run back up all those hills  you just came down.  I was one of those people.   When I reached the CVS, my Garmin showed close to seven miles, so I knew the course would be a bit long.  I tried to knock out one mile at a time, but man was it hard!  When I hit the "wall," a straight up hill about a quarter of a mile long, I realized that I could actually walk faster than what I was running.  So I walked.  As soon as I started walking I could feel my calves and quads.  They hurt!  At the top of the wall, I started running again, but I could tell that today was not going to be my day.  While my time was still on track, I knew I still had two more miles of climbing before I could get a break.  Trying to reach the summit was tough.  I was hoping I would reach the top before my watch hit two hours, and I barely made it.  Relief!  Now it was downhill all the way back to the finish!  Hallelujah!  I could make up lost time and not hurt so much!

I was so wrong.

Trying to run down the mountain was almost as bad as running up it.  My quads announced they were finished; my calves agreed. I felt my left foot start dragging the ground at times and I got nervous that    I might actually fall face first.  Instinctively, I found myself fighting gravity by leaning back into the hills and trying to slow down, a huge no no in downhill running as this takes more energy and strength than letting gravity do the work for you. I really wanted to cry.  I couldn't wait to get off the mountain!  But my misery was far from over since I still had to run down a frontage road in the sun and then run an entire lap around the park before crossing the finish line.  When my Garmin hit Mile 13, I was still on the frontage road.  What?????!!!!  How far was this half marathon anyway?  Shouldn't it be 13.1?  Crossing into the park, I had nothing left.  Any sort of time goal I had was gone; my only thought was making it to the finish.  I crossed the finish line in 2:26, and immediately looked at my watch.  13:57 miles!  No wonder I thought I would never make it!  I really thought for a moment that I might vomit, and my legs started to lock up.  I wobbled over to a nearby bench and sat
there stunned for several minutes.  My head was foggy, my stomach was heaving, and my legs were cramping.  I cannot recall hurting this bad in a long time.  But I had finished.  I had conquered Altamont....sort of.

As if I had anything left to give at this point, I had to walk a half mile walk uphill back to my car! It is a wonder I was not hit by a car because I know I was weaving all over the road.  I actually debated stopping and lying down in the grass.  But I kept walking and by the time I got to my car, I actually felt somewhat better.  My legs weren't feeling completely like jello, but I still felt like I might pass out.  When I finally looked in my car mirror, I noticed my entire face was covered in salt.  I looked like I had rolled in a salt pile.  No wonder I felt so bad!  I guess the heat (50 degrees is not good running temps for me) and lack of proper hydration (I had about four sips of water the entire race and no gels) took its toll.  That explains why I tanked so hard coming down the mountain.

I ended up placing 19th out of 41 runners and sixth female overall.  From what I can gather (there are not age group breakdowns provided at this time), I also placed first in my age group, so that was an unexpected bonus even though there were not age group awards given.  I did get a really cool shirt and patch, and most importantly a victory over Altamont.   While I immediately said never again, I am thinking now that maybe I would like another crack at this mountain.   Maybe.

Up next, I turn to some flatter run courses before cranking up the tri training and racing some local triathlons.  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Greer Earth Day 10K Race Report

My goal for 2017 isn't about setting PRs or placing in my age group.  Instead I thought that it would be fun to race at least once a month for the entire year.  I love to compete because it is the only thing that really makes me push myself and work hard, but I didn't want to limit myself just to triathlons.  In fact, I wanted to back away from triathlons a little bit and focus more on running, something that I have really been starting to enjoy. I wanted to step out of the box a bit and try some distances and races that I don't normally do. Since I don't have a huge "A race" this year, I have a lot more freedom and flexibility on picking what races I want to do and can really let each race be its own separate "A race."  I also don't have to really worry about comparing previous results since a lot of the races I am doing are "firsts" for me or are races I have not done in a really long time.

I kicked off  the month of April with the Greer Earth Day 10K.  I did this race many years ago when it was a half marathon, and all I could remember was that it wasn't flat.  I did do the 10K version of this race when it was in TR, but that was on the Swamp Rabbit Trail and was pretty much flat.  This was in a new location on a new course, so I considered it to be "first".  I had not been doing any sort of short distance training, so knew that the race would be interesting.  I was fortunate enough to have Lisa and Forrest racing the 5K and 10 miler respectively, so we all got to hang out together before each of our races started.  Regina filled in as our official race sherpa and photographer.

The weather was cool, but warmed up pretty quickly once I got running.  I started out with the lead group at a blistering pace, much too fast for me, so started pulling myself back about a quarter of a mile in.  I watched them disappear out of sight and tried to settle down.  However, at three quarters of a mile in, in a moment of incredible irony, a train crossing sign forced everyone in the race to stop so I was able to catch up to the lead runners!  In the distance as I neared the train, I could see the lead runners pacing back and forth in front of the crossing guard watching as the train went hurtling by.  By the time I reached the crossing guard and stopped my watch, the train was almost finished.  I was at a complete stand still for about ten seconds before thankfully, the train was gone and the crossing guard sign lifted up.   And we were off....again!  This time I was careful to not get sucked into the thrill of trying to run with the big dogs, so I settled in to what was a pretty uncomfortable, but not too uncomfortable pace.  Once mile one was done, the hills started to arrive.  There weren't any crazy hills, but there were consistent hills on this course.  Once you summitted one hill you barely caught your breath before you were hit with another.  Mile 3-4 was pretty much one long gradual climb that really made me feel like I should have done the 5K.  By the time I started mile 4-5, I was feeling all the hills and hating life, but by mile 5 I was actually starting to feel better.  I woman passed me around the 5.5 mile mark.  She looked to be in my age group, so I thought I would shadow her and then try and pass her near the finish.  She must have known what my plan was because she kept accelerating and by the time we hit mile 6, my pace was the fastest it had been the entire race.  I never did catch her (she took the 2nd Masters award), but I was grateful that she forced me to really work hard at the end.  My finish time (including the train) was 53:02, but without the train, I would have finished in 52:51.  Not a PR by any means, but the best 10K time I have had since my diagnosis. Considering the hills on this course, I was pretty pleased with my result.

My time, without factoring in the train.  Official race
time is 53:02.
I was able to secure a third place Masters placing in this race which is a first for me.  It felt good to push super hard on a short course especially since normally everything I do is long distance.  Next week's race is Altamont Half Marathon and it will be SUPER SLOW for sure.  Running over a mountain and back is not a half that I expect to have a PR on, but this is a challenging course that I have had my eye on for a while.

Until next time, happy training!

We all brought home hardware!

10K Elevation chart.  Lots of ups and downs!