Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 ~ Year in Review

Wow, 2010 flew by in a flash! While this blog certainly hasn't seen much activity this year, it was definitely a busy and happy one for me. I didn't clock nearly as much mileage this year as I did last year, even with training for my first 50 miler. Sometimes I wonder how I pull off running long distances with lower mileage. ;-) I ran 11 "official" races and a few CHUG fun runs to make it a full year. Here is a 2010 recap:


My 2010 race bibs hanging on my cubicle wall at work

March 21 ~ Shamrock Shuffle 8k ~ Chicago, IL

I have run this race many times -- it's sort of a "first race of the season" tradition as it is for most of the Chicago-area road running community. It was great to have my sister, Cindy, run it. Though we didn't run together, this race was the beginning of a great year of racing for her, and a nice barometer of fitness for me. I finished in 46:25, which was under my goal of 9:30 pace. Not a PR, but I was happy with it. It was also great to have Geof and Paige come out and cheer with Brian. A fun day overall!

My sister, Cindy, and me

My sister, Cindy, and me before the race

March 27 ~ Clinton Lake 30 Mile Trail Run ~ DeWitt, IL
This trail race was my second ultra. After just one loop I wished I had done more (some) hill training for this race, but I got it done and felt good the whole time -- just slow . It was great to see so many CHUGs and also fun to run the last loop with Brian. Here is my detailed race report.

On my last loop
During the last 10mi loop, still smiling

May 1 ~ Illinois Marathon ~ Champaign-Urbana, IL
I had grand plans of speeding up after Clinton and having a good showing at this marathon. Well, it didn't happen because my mind was focused on wedding planning instead of running! I still was content with the result, finishing in 4:53. If training went better, I was hoping for around 4:30. Ah well. It was a fun race (albeit a little warm and humid). Brian also ran it and decided that it would be his last road marathon. He likes the trails much better. :-)I had caught up to him around mile 20-21 and we ran most of the rest together. 

May 22 ~ We got married! ~ Clearwater Beach, FL
I couldn't NOT put this wonderful, happy event in this recap! Nope, we didn't run any races while we were in FL, but we did have an amazing time with close family and friends as we got married on the beautiful sandy beach of Clearwater. Best, happiest moment ever!

June 12 ~ Streamwood Stride 5k ~ Streamwood, IL
I enjoy running this 5k because it's where I went to high school and the organizers do a great job with this race. It's inexpensive and you get a nice pancake breakfast afterward. I've actually won AG awards at this race, but not this year. I came in at a sloooow 30:44. Ouch! This was shortly after getting back from our (runless) honeymoon, and my legs had no speed to them at all. It was nice to see Christie and others, though, so it was worth it!

June 13 ~ North Shore Half Marathon ~ Highland Park, IL
This was the day after the Streamwood Stride 5k, a fun double-race weekend! I ran with my sister, Cindy, and brother-in-law, Dominic. I hadn't run this race in a few years and the course is different and much better. I felt great the whole race and it was fun to motivate Cindy and Dom, both first timers at the distance. They did awesome out there! I'm a very proud sister. :-)

Finish line shot with Cindy and her kids Tyler and Hannah

June 25-26 ~ Beer Run 100 ~ Elgin, IL to Kettle Moraine State Park - Eagle, WI
This was the second annual Beer Run, another CHUG fat ass event and a great way to spend my birthday! While I didn't meet my goal of running 33 miles, I had fun and got in about 22 miles.


The fun is about to begin!

July 17 ~ Sunburn Six in the Stix ~ Bartlett, IL

This CHUG fat ass run was super hot but it was fun to have everyone come out and suffer through some miles together. I ran with Dom for most of the run and ended up with 20ish or so miles for the day. A big congrats to my friend, Christie, who got a distance PR with over 23 miles! Someday she will kill it at the marathon distance. :-)


Me and my sweetie on the trail

July 25 ~ Chicagoland Inline Marathon ~ Hoffman Estates, IL
Nope, not a running race, but an inline skating race! This was my first skating race, might as well make it worth it and do a marathon. :-) I didn't train much for this, but did pretty well considering my amateur-level skates. A special kudos to my friend Christie who also did the race...with two different skates, hehe. Seeing the pros skate -- wow, they are flying! My time was 2:18...which is slower than what top runners do running that distance. The finish times ranged from 54 minutes(!!) to 3:18.  It was such a fun experience!

July 29 ~ Terrapin 5k ~ Chicago, IL
Another company-sponsored race (Shamrock Shuffle is the other one), it was nice to come out for this even though I was still not in good 5k racing shape. My sister, Cindy, also ran the race. Luckily I did end up running a sub-30 race, finishing with respectable (for me) 27:56. One day I'll work on getting that 25min 5k! ;-)

September 11-12 ~ Rio Del Lago 100mi (Brian) ~ Granite Bay, CA
I was Brian's crew/pacer for this race, it was definitely a highlight for this year. It was Brian's 5th attempt at the 100-mile distance and he finished! So proud of him! We travelled with GnP, which is always fun. :-) Congrats to Paige for finishing another 100, too!


What a finish!

Brelly and GnP :-)

September 19 ~ Rock Cut Hobo 50k ~ Rockford, IL
I never thought I would run a 50k race as a training run, but this race was just that -- a solid training run before the Lost Boys 50 mile coming up in October. It was fun to run with fellow CHUG Ian the first five or so miles of the race. I ended up finishing in 6:44, not bad for what was an easy-paced run. I would definitely like to "race" this sometime as it is a pretty flat-ish course and within an hour's drive from home!

October 10 ~ Chicago Marathon ~ Chicago, IL
This was another "training run" for me and it was a great opportunity to run with my brother-in-law, Dom, for his first marathon! I love running this race, it was my ninth time since my first in 1997. Congrats to Dom for finishing his first marathon! Now he wants to try ultra distances, too. Someone is hooked! :-)
October 23 ~ Lost Boys 50 Mile ~ Pinyon Wash to Green Valley (east of San Diego), CA
This was definitely the highlight of my 2010 racing season - finishing my first 50 mile race! I was fortunate to be able to run with my sweetie Brian. It was a super tough race, but I loved every moment. It was a beautiful course and I'm sure I'll be back there someday! Here is my detailed race report.

November 7 ~ Canal Connection 10k ~ Utica, IL
This was my last official race of the year and was part of a fun couples weekend with Christie and James. I finished in 59:49, which I was very happy with considering the all the slow running I did this year. It was a fun way to cap off the 2010 season!

With James and Christie after the race

November 20 ~ Deer Grove 32.4 FA ~ Palatine, IL

I didn't run much at this CHUG fat ass event, but it was a fun time cheering on the rest of the runners! The CHUGs are a great group!

As for should an even better year, focusing on health, getting out there and being active! Happy New Year, everyone!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lost Boys 50 Mile Trail Run - My First 50 miler!

I ran my first 50 mile trail race last Saturday, the Lost Boys 50 Mile Trail Run. It was 50 miles of beautiful, challenging trails and I was able to run it with my husband, Brian. What an EPIC day!

This run is held on trails in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, which are east of San Diego, CA. It is a point-to-point course over rugged terrain, climbing nearly 10,000 ft and descending 7,000 ft, making it a net 3,000 ft climb to the finish. A perfect race for a first time who lives in the flatlands of the Chicago area! ;-)

I had run my first 50k a year ago, and since then I hadn't really thought much of going farther. I figured I would stick to the 50k distance for a while. The turning point to changing my mind was when Brian and I were making "life plans" and with hopes of starting a family soon, I thought about ending my race season this year on a big note. The 50-mile distance scared me a little, and the search for my first was a thoughtful one. I used a few criteria to help with the decision -- it needed to be after the Chicago Marathon (10/10/10) since I would be pacing my brother-in-law at this race for his first marathon. I also wanted it to be a trail run, so I wasn't interested in running the Lakefront 50mi which is the most convenient and "easy" (not that 50 miles is ever easy!).

Brian and I were planning on a vacation to San Diego, where I was tentatively planning on running the Noble Canyon 50k. While looking for my first 50 mile, I saw Lost Boys 50mi on the Ultra Running Calendar. So, our vacation shifted as I decided that Lost Boys would be my goal race. Brian was planning to crew/pace me, but then as I looked at the LB course being point-to-point and that we didn't know anyone else there, logistically it would have been hard for Brian to run with me from a later point on the course. So, I suggested he should run the whole thing with me, and he was game. :-) I remember my heart racing as I clicked the "register" it was time to get ready!

I had pretty solid back-to-back long runs during the summer but unfortunately didn't do nearly as much hill/strength training as I had hoped to for Lost Boys. In reality, there isn't really any comparable trails within an hour of where we live that would fully prepare me. I focused on getting in miles and avoiding injury. My weekly mileage was lower than expected, peaking only in the mid-40's, but I felt strong and mentally ready to go. In addition to running the Chicago Marathon a couple weeks before LB, I had run Rock Cut Hobo 50k a few weeks before Chicago and felt like I could have run longer. That was a big confidence boost for me.

So, fast forward to getting on a plane to San Diego...I was so nervous. We got to SD on the Tuesday before the race and spent a few days leisurely exploring the area. On Wednesday we had a fun early morning run with Keith Kirby at the San Elijos Lagoon and chatted with him and other area runners afterward. My legs felt great during that 10k run. A good sign. On Friday we headed to El Cajon, east of San Diego, where we would stay before and after the race. I was so glad the race was finally here! I still was so nervous and could not wait to start the race so that I wouldn't be nervous anymore. :-)

On Saturday, the alarm went off at 2:45am...race day was finally here! I felt good in spite of the early wake-up time. We got ready and headed for the finish line where we would get shuttled to the start. It was an hour-long ride on the shuttle to the start. I think I even slept a little bit on the way. We arrived after 5:30am and headed over to get our bibs and make last minute preparations. Finally we were here, ready to run! I wasn't nervous anymore. We mingled with the other runners (nice to meet you, Dax!), and then the race began at 6:00am!

Ready to run!
Ready to run 50 miles!

The first several miles of the course is in the desert (Pinyon Wash) on a wide path. Recent rains there made the sand a little bit better to run on, but my shins and calves could still tell we were running on sand. :-) Most of the runners ran ahead, while Brian and I hung in the back. I didn't look behind me at all, but Brian did and saw that we were second-to-last. I didn't care that we were in the back, 50 miles is a loooong way, and if we were dead last at the start, that was ok with me. Brian usually starts out fast during ultras, and I always take it easy as it takes a good 3-5 miles for my legs to feel good. I wasn't racing others today. I wanted to finish the distance within the cutoff (for 6am starters, that was 14 hours). That's all that mattered to me.

Beautiful sunrise
Colorful desert sunrise

The desert was beautiful...the first few miles flew by and the pace was pretty good on this subtle climb. Pretty soon we were at the first aid station at 5 miles where we met Zach who was volunteering there, hanging out with his family. He snapped a picture of us on the way out. It was a quick stop, which was my goal for all of the aid stations. I didn't think I would have time to spare, so I wanted to spend the time wisely by constant forward motion. :-)

Brian and me at mile 5 (Photo by Zachary Johnston)

Hello boulders!
Time to climb...literally!

Just after the aid station, we got to "climbing" part of the run, a dry waterfall that we would maneuver up. Wow, I thought, what a race! After that initial dry waterfall climb we had a couple more "boulder-climbing" sections, then more "regular" uphill sections which required us to walk a while for the first time of the race. I was actually pretty happy with our pacing so far, so this was fine with me. Then, a couple miles later, as we were continuing our way through the desert washes, following the course by looking for the orange tape tied to cactus plants. We also ended up walking some of these sections even though it was pretty runnable -- it was still uphill and I could feel it. I actually felt a little doubt creep in about whether 14 hours would be enough time....and we were only 7 miles in. Yikes! I tried to ignore those feelings, knowing that it's a long race and I was just going through a little rough patch (albeit a little earlier than expected). After 10 miles of gradual climbing (3000 ft), we finally hit some downhill. Yes! It felt good to switch gears and RUN!

Beautiful view, awesome downhill
Awesome views, having fun downhill after 10 miles of uphill

The next aid station at mile 12 came by quickly. I got my pack refilled, grabbed some food and we were off for more downhill. The views during the section were awesome. I think we ran a sub-10 minute mile during this section, compared with the 13-15 minute miles we were running at the start of the race. After few miles down the jeep road, there was a turn off onto a "trail" which actually seemed more like weaving between cholla cactus plants. It was here we met Melinda, who was also doing her first 50 miler here. (Congrats, Melinda!) We ran together as a pack for a little bit, but then Brian and I let her and the other runner near us pass by. It was early and I wanted to make sure I running at a nice, easy pace at this point.

Then came the mile 17 aid station at Blair Valley, another great group of volunteers out there to help us runners. I grabbed a few chips and m&m's and kept walking. Brian stayed back and hovered over the buffet and caught up a few minutes later. This next part was a fun, mildly rolling desert trail, and I was in a groove. We passed a couple more people during this section.

Next the course starts to climb again towards Oriflamme. We steadily hiked up towards the aid station at mile 23. One of the volunteers there mentioned that there was a 4.5mi climb ahead followed by a nice section in a meadow for about 1.5 miles leading into the next aid station at mile 28.7. I felt great during this part, hiking well up the switchbacks and along the ridges, while admiring more awesome views. We were almost halfway! Brian was struggling a little bit on this climb -- the early 20's are usually when he goes through a rough patch during an ultra. I slowed down a little so that we stayed closer together. I was less concerned now about that cutoff...confidence was building in me.

Looking behind us in Oriflamme Canyon

Oriflamme Canyon, almost to the ridge and the end of this 4+ mile climb

As we climbed higher, the weather started to get a little ominous - the wind was howling and the sky threatening us with rain but luckily we stayed dry. When we finally reached the top of that 4.5 mile climb, we were happy again to switch gears and start running. I was thinking about the blustery conditions here, thinking that I'd rather have 50 degrees and breezy than 85 degrees with the sun beating me up. We made it to the next aid station (where the volunteers looked like they would prefer 85 degrees!), we loaded up again and were on our way.

Fun single-track, mile 30

This part of the run was on really fun single-track in the prairie. We entered the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park, where remnants of a large 2003 wildfire remained and gave our views a "Halloween" feel, but still beautiful. I was so happy to feel so good after the 50k point, going past this distance was new to this body. :-) Brian was still feeling a little rough but being a trooper. I think he was still in recovery mode from his 100 mile finish just 6 weeks prior.

30mi in, feeling good, so dang beautiful out here!

After a few miles, things changed. Ah, gotta love the peaks and valleys of a long distance run. :-) We were anticipating the next aid station (and working bathrooms) at mile 34.5, the first cutoff point, but no aid station was in site as I looked at my GPS watch at that distance. I know that these watches can be off, but it had been spot-on all day so I started to get worried. Did we miss it? Did we make a wrong turn? The course was marked very well, so it was really just a little paranoia setting in. Physically, I was fine, but I allowed myself to get freaked out about the cutoff as I saw the time get closer to the 3:30pm cutoff. Brian started to lead the way, and gave me encouragement to help lift me out of my funk. FINALLY, we did make it to the aid station, with my GPS watch showing 36 miles. We got there with about 20 minutes to spare. I made a quick stop at the bathroom, and then switched watches and grabbed some soup on the way out of the aid station. This was our longest stop, probably a few minutes. I remember looking at the watch and seeing 3:15pm.

Around mile 36, eery scenery with the fog and burnt trees

As we got higher, the weather was definitely more blustery and foggy. I was out of my funk and we were able to run a little bit before climbing to the next aid station a few miles away. After a short visit at that aid station, the course lead us in a loop around a ridge where we would return. It was slow-going on the climbing part of the loop, but we switched gears and ran well back down to the aid station again. This was the second cutoff (41.4 miles) and I was happy that we came in with an hour ahead of the cutoff. Ok, single-digit miles until the finish! Awesome! We had just one more climb, 1000 ft in about 2 miles. Piece of cake! it wasn't. ;-) It was tough and this was probably the hardest I had to push physically. My legs were getting tired and I was getting clumsy maneuvering around the large rocks that made up the trail. We clocked a blazing 29 minute mile on this part. Brian was great in providing support, telling me that he was so proud of me, and in general saying all the right things. :-)

Last climb, rough and slow going (Photo by Barry Baldwin)

The course took us up a paved drive for a short time and we saw the last aid station! What a huge rush of happy energy I felt seeing that aid station! Another great group of volunteers greeted us and gave us the good news that the remaining 6-7 miles was downhill with a flat last mile. Yes! Time to run! Brian and I zoomed down the trail, I was so dang excited that we were going to finish. We zipped by some other runners whose quads were shot and were walking. There were a couple of guys walking down, and one of them patted me on the back as we were navigating around them and yelled "go get it!" which gave me a little bit of extra energy. It was now getting dark out so the going was a little slower. After a few miles of downhill, my legs were starting to feel ready to be done. :-)

The last couple of miles felt long, and while I felt like we had plenty of time before 8pm, I wanted to see that dang finish line! During those last miles, I kicked a piece of burnt wood on the trail and felt one of my toes take the brunt. Ouch! I had to pause and take a couple deep breaths after that. (I'll be losing that nail!) Usually when I trip or fall, I like to act like it didn't happen and keep going. Not too much after I kicked that wood, my knee buckled -- probably due to tired quads -- and I fell in the grass to the side of the trail. I was very glad that we weren't in a rocky part at that point. :-) We crossed a driveway and a guy told us that there was just over a mile to go...ahhh, almost there! I kept asking Brian when he saw trail markers or glowsticks to make sure we were still going the right way. It wasn't very rational to ask since the trail really was simple to follow and was well-marked when it wasn't.

Finally, we see lights ahead! The finish! We hear people cheering as we run towards the line, crossing it holding hands high in victory. Yes! I just finished my first 50 miler! We arrived at 7:51pm -- just 9 minutes shy of the cutoff -- after spending nearly 14 hours on a challenging and gorgeous 50.4 mile course. I hunched over, hands on my knees and mouthed "oh my gosh, that was hard" while shedding a few tears and trying to stop hyperventilating. Yep, I was that excited and overwhelmed. :-) RD Kara hugged me and gave me my finisher medal. Wow, what a great race. What an amazing experience that I got to share with my sweetie!

50 miles done - so happy!

After the race we headed back to our hotel to eat and sleep. Felt good to be off my feet! We spent a couple more nights in San Diego before returning back home. I was walking a little stiff and sore the next two days, but have recovered well since the race. I am so glad that I took on this challenge. I am quite the happy ultrarunner :-) and look forward to fun and exciting things to come!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

CHUGging Along at the Clinton Lake 30 mi Trail Race

Last Saturday I ran the Clinton Lake 30 Mile Trail Race, located in central Illinois near Dewitt. What a rewarding finish it was. This race has a fun, hilly course, great race organization by Chris Migotsky and his devoted support staff, and lots of familiar faces in the race and volunteering. I would definitely recommend it!

Brian and I drove the few hours' drive down after work the night before and stayed in nearby LeRoy with fellow CHUGs Bill and Leslie. After an amusing conversation that night about pacing and numbers, I figured that I could muster 2.5 hour loops, a reasonable 7.5 hour goal. I still was unsure of my abilities on this hilly course -- I have only run a loop at a time here and know that the hills will be a challenge for my untrained legs. This winter has been rough for me to get motivated so I only had a few long runs and averaged about 10-15(!) miles a week. Yeah, not really the best mileage for ultra training! I modified the race plan to just enjoy the day and be ok with anything under the cutoff of 9 hours. I also had been sick with a head cold all week, so I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself.

We got to bed fairly early but it took me a while to get to sleep...I was starting to get nervous! I did finally fall asleep, and then a few hours later, I awoke from a dream that I had signed up for two races in a day. The races were near each other so I could run one and then walk to the start of the other one. Well, it turns out that after I run the first race, I found out that the second race (which was the target race) was an hour's drive away! Even though it was chip-timed I wouldn't be able to start late and still finish within the cutoff time, so I had to miss it. So weird and funny to have those types of pre-race dreams!

We awoke at 5:15 and got ready. After we left our hotel room we found that the hotel had put out breakfast items earlier than expected -- a nice bonus! We hung by there for a little while. I still ended up eating my pop tarts because my stomach was in knots and as much as I love eggs, bacon, and a bunch of other tasty breakfast items on display, I didn't want to take any chances. After breakfast, we drove over to the start. We got there with about 45 minutes to spare, and while I really wanted to chat with all the others we knew were there, I was freezing and ended up hanging out in the car until just before the 7:30 start time.

Leslie & Me

Leslie and me before the race

We walked over to the start where RD Chris was giving a pre-race talk. I then lined myself up at the back, the race started, and we were off! The nerves faded away and were replaced with an excitement to be on this beautiful trail around Clinton Lake.

I tried to take it easy the first few miles on the trail, stepping aside to let other pass me so that I could just run at my own pace and not feel pressure being in a line of runners. I ended up getting a little scratched up letting a guy pass at one point – I had stepped aside and ended up backing into a thorn bush. I didn't realize it until I got back on the trail and there is a branch stuck in my leg! Ugh! I pulled it off my leg and saw that I had some lovely puncture wounds and scratches. It stung for a while, but then the pain went away and became an afterthought. Trail battle wounds!

Pretty soon I was alone on the trail, quite the difference from running with 30,000 people at Shamrock Shuffle last weekend! I wasn't even sure if there were any runners behind me. I didn't care much about that at this point. I just wanted to settle into a good rhythm and enjoy the day. It was a really nice day, the temps were cool but not freezing, and the trail was pretty dry with the exception of a few muddy spots. I hit the mid-loop aid station, got my bottle filled, grabbed a few peanut M&Ms, and was on my way. I made it a goal to not spend too much time at aid stations – I need to use that time being on the trail making forward progress. I regularly took S-Caps and GU chomps, too. Just past the aid station I caught up to Juli and Val Aistars and was able to run with them for a while – such great people! It made the miles fly by.

At the aid station
After 10 miles, filling my bottle at the aid station

I got back to the start/finish aid station after the first loop, where Brian was volunteering. It was great to see him as always. :-) After getting my bottle filled and a "see ya later" kiss, I was on my way for loop 2. I had completed the first 10 miles in about 2:15. Not bad! I was actually starting to tire already from the uphills, so I was hoping I wouldn't slow down too much. My lack of training was starting to really show as my uphill hike pace was starting to get really pathetic. ;-) The thing about Clinton Lake is that because it's constant up and down, I couldn't really get into a decent stint of running. I start cursing myself for not having done any hill training – we have a treadmill that goes to 15% incline in our basement that I could have used, at the very least! These types of thoughts would come up every so often, but then fade as I look around and appreciate that I'm out there and pushing myself. These trail races are still out of the "comfort-zone" for me being primarily a road runner, but I am realizing that is part of what is great about them! 

During this second loop I came up on fellow CHUG Jason Walz, who after the first loop was going to hike the rest. He has great uphill hiking fitness so in spite of my running the downhills and flats, we were near each other for several miles. I started to get a little sloppy running the downhills, and at one point I tripped and nearly fell down the hill to the upcoming bridge. Somehow I managed to stay upright but OUCH, what a rough almost-fall!

The trail (picture courtesy of Heidi Carpenter)

I could tell I was slowing down, even walking some of the flats after a big hill where I was still out of breath and had legs feeling like jello. Luckily the miles were still going by pretty well time-wise -- I really liked the mile marker feedback even though not very typical for this type of race. :-) At this point some of the front runners were passing me, every one of them saying encouraging words as they passed. Yep, I love this sport. :-) It great to see Kevin Grabowski, after I saw him I remembered that we met at Rocky Raccoon, and also Matt Condron, who I last saw at the Windburn Six back in January. I reached the last stretch and saw Leslie up ahead and was confused by that since I thought she was far ahead of me. Then, just before getting to the road, Bill snapped a pic of me and then I saw Leslie standing there. Huh? She said she had to drop because her ITBS was flaring up. :-( It was a bummer to hear this, but a smart decision on her part. Hope you heal quickly, Leslie!

I ran around the parking lot to see Brian in his running clothes, all ready to run the last loop with me. Yay! I ended up finishing the second loop around 2:30, definitely slower but still around my goal. Off we went to run the last 10 miles. It was great to have Brian with me and hear his encouraging words. I lead for the first part of the loop, setting a pace that I could handle. At this point my running looked more like shuffling. My quads were starting to really feel the effects of the hilly course, so I started to grunt and swear under my breath going down some of the steeper downhills. We zipped through the mid-loop aid station (had a bite of Brian's pizza slice, yum), and in the last miles passed another runner whose knee was injured so he was walking the rest.

Kelly & Brian
Brian and me, almost finished! (picture courtesy of Janak)
Thanks for running with me, Sweetie!

At this point Brian was running ahead of me a little, trying to gently keep me on pace to gut out the last miles. I really didn't have much left, though, but I kept chugging along the best I could. I was definitely ready to be done! As we passed by the mile 9 marker, I was happy to see that I had a lot of time to spare to come in within my goal. Woo hoo!

Fun hills like this
Yep, here's one of the many hills on the 10 mile loop course (photo courtesy of Heidi Carpenter)

After tackling the last big hill, reading that lovely "Are you lovin' the hills yet?" sign for the last time, I hopped onto the road, entered the parking lot and circled around to cross the finish line with a big ole smile on my face. Yay! I finished! I got a hand shake and hug from RD Chris, and fellow CHUG Donna Creditor gave me my finisher medal. My time was 7:21 – well within my goal I had set. My second ultra in the bag!

A friendly question "Are you loving the hills yet?" near the end of the loop (photo courtesy of Heidi Carpenter)

Next up on my schedule is the Illinois Marathon on May 1. Totally different race but as a runner who likes both trail and road races, I'm looking forward to it!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sisterly Pride at the Turkey Trot 5mi

I ran the Turkey Trot 5 mile yesterday, which was held at Harper College in Palatine. The course consisted of 2.5 loops on the circle drive around the campus. My younger sister, Cindy, also signed up for the race. She has been running quite a few 5k races recently, and this was going to be her longest race to date. 

Considering all the long and slow running I've been doing this year, I didn't have too high of expectations. I figured I'd be coming in around 45-50 minutes. The weather wasn't very ideal with upper 30's temps, light rain (at least for the first part of the race), and a blustery wind.

I had no concept of pacing so my splits were kinda all over the place, but I did better than expected with a finish time of 45:30. My splits were 8:57, 8:58, 9:28 (yikes), 9:28 (double yikes), and then 8:38 (redemption!). I forgot how uncomfortable the 5mi/8k/10k distance is -- it's short enough that I have to run pretty fast but it's for nearly a whole dang hour. Whew! I had some "ugh, dang, I'm suffering!" moments there...

IMG_2611 copy  
Cindy had a great race and came in under an hour in spite of enduring the blustery conditions and a lingering chest cold. I'm so proud of her!! It was definitely a great way to start off Thanksgiving Day. :-)


Sunday, November 15, 2009

My first 50k!

nfec It's been three weeks since I ran the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k in Wisconsin, but it definitely was an experience to write about -- better late than never! This year has definitely been a different year for me in terms of my training. Training for the TransRockies Run pushed my weekly mileage higher than it has ever been. I really feel that it made me a stronger runner, both physically and mentally. Until this year I wasn't really interested in running farther than the marathon distance. I felt like I needed to be faster at the marathon before I ran farther than that. My marathon PR is 4:17, and my wish is to run sub-4:00 someday! 

But...I have started to really fall in love with trail running and the laid-back nature of trail races. After a couple years of crewing and pacing Brian at trail ultras (Miwok was so amazing!) and becoming more involved with the newly-formed Chicago Ultrarunners Group (CHUG) this year, I had a change of heart. While I was planning my post-TransRockies race schedule, I decided to run the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k. It was held two weeks after the Chicago Marathon, which I ended up running at a relatively easy pace in preparation for the 50k. The marathon was a fun experience, and now I was looking forward to an equally fun but totally different experience at North Face.

Brian and I drove up to Wisconsin the day before, picked up race stuff, and then met up with fellow CHUGs at a nearby Italian restaurant that served some killer giant soaked-in-butter garlic bread. Yum! It was great to chat with everyone and it helped calm my building nerves a little bit. Afterwards, we headed off to the hotel with Paige (who was running the 50 mile) and Geof to start getting stuff ready for the next morning.

After a pretty decent night of sleep, we got up around 6am to get ready for the 8am start. By then Paige and Geof had already left as the 50 mile race started at 6am. It was lightly raining and the temps were in the 30's. Brrr! Luckily the rain did stop while on our way to the race start. We got there around 7am and milled around for a while as other CHUGs showed up -- Deanna was also running the 50k. Several others were there to cheer us on -- Karen, Torey, Jim, Ian. I was freezing and really nervous, but also ready to get going!

Brelly before the start

Me and my awesome cheerleader

A few minutes before the start I turned on my GPS watch which immediately turned back off due to low battery. It must have been on in my bag or something because I had fully charged it the day before. Oops! I put my sports watch back on so that I had a little bit of an idea of elapsed time. This was going to be quite the change from knowing every mile split like I do in road marathons. It's probably good I didn't have it anyway so I didn't run as a "slave to the watch" and instead just run based on how I feel and enjoy the day. My goal was to come in within the 8 hour time cutoff and avoid coming in last. :-) I didn't really have a concept of what I could do, so I didn't want to put too much pressure on myself -- it was my first 50k after all! Crossing the finish line was the main goal.

It was almost time to start and I made the decision to wear my jacket because I was still freezing. I figured that if I didn't want it, I could tie it around my waist and then drop it off with Brian at the first aid station at 6.6 miles. I lined up at the back of the pack and then it was time to go!

Just starting
Time to run 50k!

The first part of the course is about a mile on roads leading to the path. My legs felt good and I took it easy as we entered the trail. Ahhh, the trees were at varying stages of fall colors, so beautiful, and I was glad to be out there. This part of the trail was fairly flat, with some rolling hills here and there. To my surprise, Brian and the rest of the CHUGs were cheering just before mile 2. I was already getting warm with my jacket (as I kinda expected), so I took it off and gave it to Brian.

Here ya go
Here ya go! I don't need no stinkin' jacket! ;-)

Then it was time to run among the beautiful pine trees in the Scuppernong trails. At lot of this part was pretty flat and runnable, and I took it easy and just went with the flow. The trail is wide so I just ran my own pace, not dictated by those ahead or behind me. 

At the first aid station at mile 6.6, I waved hi to Brian, Torey, and Jim again, spent just a few seconds at the aid station, and off I went again. My goal was to avoid spending too much time at the aid stations. I had most of what I needed with me anyway.

At the first aid station, mile 6.6

The miles went by pretty well, I was walking up the hills which were more plentiful in this section, and I was taking it easy. I saw Brian again approaching the next aid station at mile 11.1, he is a great cheerleader. :-)

Past the aid station was a really nice winding single-track trail, some ups and downs here, and I was loving it! Being towards the back of the pack, there wasn't anyone around me, but I didn't mind. It was quite the change from two weeks earlier being in the thick of the crowds at the Chicago Marathon. Then came the prairie section of the course, which was exposed to the brisk wind but luckily offset by the sun that finally decided to come out. I tried to run as much as possible during this part as it was pretty flat. Another reason to keep it up was that I could hear several gun shots and saw a few hunters hunting in this area. I didn't want to be a potential target. At least I wasn't wearing my deer costume, hehe. ;-) Actually, I found out later that they were bird hunting. This was also where some of the trail was pretty wet from recent rains. I was hoping to keep my feet dry as I was able to skirt by some flooded parts of the trail, but my efforts turned out to be futile as there was a larger marsh-like area I couldn't avoid. Ahhh, nice cold water submersion. Luckily after a few minutes my feet warmed up again and any concern about it was gone.

Approaching Wilton aid station, mile 16.4

Ever the loyal spectator, Brian was at the next aid station (16.4). I was over halfway there! I still felt great and a smile was still planted on my face. I didn't know how fast or slow I was going but at this point I knew I would be finishing well within 8 hours. After some more prairie running the course went back into the woods for more horse trails. I think I was slowing down a little and might have had a little low point physically, but knew it would pass. I didn't want to let it affect me otherwise. Then I saw Brian along the course -- he had walked towards me from the aid station, and then we ran together for about a mile or so.

We approached the aid station at mile 21.9, I made a pit stop, and got my hydration pack filled. This was the longest break at the aid station, a couple of minutes. My legs were definitely feeling the mileage but I was still enjoying myself out there. I was past my "low" and ready to take on the last 10 miles. Piece 'o cake! :-) After I left the aid station I had passed the Vibram girl, said hi, nice job, and went on my way until I came upon a junction and wasn't sure where to go. I waited for Vibram girl just so that we could figure it out together. The course was really well marked so I was a little surprised that this part wasn't. Luckily we picked the correct route -- not that it matter as a little bit later we saw that both trails lead back into the main trail. Ah well! 

I saw more people on this part of the trail as some of the 50 milers were starting to pass me. It was fun to give and receive encouragement from them. Then I heard fellow CHUG Tony yell my name, who was doing the 50 mile. It was great to see him doing so well! Then we both saw Brian who was parked at a road the trail crossed. After snapping a picture, Tony ran ahead and I got another kiss from Brian. Those kisses provide a pretty good energy boost during races! :-)

Yep, still smiling with about 8 miles to go

I continued on and had a nice conversation with another runner, Jody, from Kansas. It was her first 50k as well. She was starting to slow a little (or maybe I was speeding up), so we parted ways after saying good luck to each other. In spite of some decent hilly sections, I was doing pretty well and saw from my watch unless something  crazy happened I would be finishing under 7 hours.

Approaching the last aid station
Runnin' to the hug! (mile 27.2)

Pretty soon I spotted the last aid station and ran down the hill to see Brian's open arms (run to the hug!). Mile 27.2! Longest run ever! Feeling great, less than 4 miles to go! I passed through the aid station quickly and was on my way again to the finish. After a couple miles I knew I was on the trail that we started out on, on the way back to the finish. I passed by a couple of people and then once we got back onto the road I picked it up even more. My legs, though tired, still felt strong. I took the final turn into the park area, saw the finish line, took a couple of turns and then arms outstretched, crossed that finish line in 6:39!A new milestone, I am an ultramarathoner! 

Winner of the dorkiest finish line picture EVER... :-)

I received my medal, and then my hug and kiss from Brian, then more hugs from the CHUGs who were cheering everyone in. What a great experience! I love this sport.

After getting some warm clothes on, we cheered on the rest of the CHUG runners. I ate some post-race food and then after that more food was eaten with Geof, Paige, and Tony in town. Then it was time for Brian and me to head home, stopping for DQ on the way (yum!), and then finally, home. A wonderful day, my first 50k finish, sharing it with Brian and the rest of the amazing group of CHUGs. This is the life! :-)

View my 50k photos

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