Monday, January 31, 2011

A Brief Recap of my Cloud Snapple Half Marathon

Running along the snow covered C&O Canal towpath going downriver along the Cloud Snapple Half Marathon, 2011.

This is the second year this race has involved snow...last year the race started out super cold (teens as I recall), then significant snow accumulated as the day progressed. Unfortunately the weather in 2010 was predicted to be a light dusting to 1-2". By the time the 2010 storm finished there was nearly 6 inches of snow!

Although plagued with snow, this race is very well organized, very cute and located within about 10 miles of my home.
Being awarded my finishers medal.

I love events in which you get a finishers medal, even if I have only run for a few hours!!

The volunteers were super at this event at all the aid stations as well as the start/registration as well as the finish line.

I thought it was really cool that they placed the medal on each finisher.

In this picture notice my new glasses..I am not sure I like them as they transition to sunglasses even without much (any!) sunlight. This created a moderate issue under the bridges.
Here is my friend Rosy H who I met last year at this event.

We have kept up with each other and I was thrilled to be able to run with her for a bit.

This was her second half marathon, her first being last years Cloud Snapple Half. One day this race has to not involve significant snow, right?

She is really enthusiastic, has been improving as a runner and is even getting ready for her first marathon this coming March.

I am so proud of her and I know she will do GREAT!!!

Here is my new friend Liz S who I met alog the course.

Liz was great company to help me build more miles as I tried to get to run >15 miles for the day (I ultimately ran about 17 miles by retracing my steps from the finish line to find runners/friends).

Liz has run other marathons but she suggested this was one of the toughest (which I strongly agree!).

She is thinking of running a 50 mile ultra and I know she has the determination and strength to do this. Perhaps we will share the course at an upcoming JFK50 miler:-)
My friend Laurie drove up from Philly to participate in this race. Several years ago Laurie ran 100+ events in a year with nearly all of these marathon or greater distances.

This year to raise $$ for Ovarian Cancer, Laurie is running predominantly half marathons.

It was great to see Laurie and to catch up...sadly recently I have missed Laurie at events, but she has seen my husband and even stolen a few hugs and kisses!!


This past weekend I ran a very snowy but very fun Cloud Snapple Half Marathon. I ran the inaugural half last year and let's just say in my world I am going to refer to this race as the race that must involve snow. Last year snow occurred during the event with ultimately those of us who did not leave until ~4 hours after the start digging our cars out of about 5-6 inches of snow. The drive home was interesting and I considered myself lucky that my entire drive involved me facing in the direction I was supposed to. This was more a matter of luck and 4 wheel drive then any skill in winter driving that I might have (although my dad did teach my sister and I to drive in parking lots and since my birthday is in winter quite a few of my lessons involved ice/snow...with a stick shift!).

The Cloud Snapple Half Marathon starts at the Carderock Recreation Area. The course is an out and back course that goes downstream along the Potomac River on the C&O Canal towpath towards the Chain Bridge/DC. After 6.55 miles the runners turn around and head back to the finish line.

I was supposed to try for a 1:55 time. I am not sure my legs could make this time even on a perfect weather day. But with 5-6 inches of snow that was partially melted with divets of footprints, crusty snow mixed with fluffy snow made for difficult footing. Last year under better conditions I finished in 2:22 and less then 2 inches of snow had fallen by the time I finished. This year I was very pleased with my time of ~2:18. And I even had a negative split with my first half in 1:10 and the uphill return was in 1:18. Some of this was because I had figured out where the good footing was and partly because I did want to push myself.

Throughout the race my mantra each time I wanted to give up, slow down or leisurely walk was "this could be the first 20 miles of Western States....I NEED TO TOUGHEN UP". This kept me going although quite a few times I felt like Bambi and my legs were going every direction except forward.

Getting to the race I knew I had a few friends running. My friend Laurie from many, many marathons including the Disney Marathon, B&A Trail, George Washington Birthday, Bob Potts and other events was running this half marathon. And my friend Rosy who I met last year at this event was running it for the second time as her second marathon. Tristan drove me to the race, stayed for a bit then headed off to Difficult Run in VA for a hike. He could not make it to the starting line because of significant ice. I almost did not but decided to walk very slowly stooped over to ensure I did not fall.

After getting to the start, after just a few moments, the star spangled banner played. Then it was time to start. I ran pretty hard both directions taking only a few pictures. Most of my attention was spent trying to focus on not falling. As with every event there were a variety of paces and limited guidance on where to line up. My first 1-2 miles was spent trying to pass runners which was quite challenging since there was very limited decent surface to run on. And in some area's there was no good surface to run on. I really feel bad for the front runners because clearly they were trail blazing at some points. I grabbed sports drink at each aid station and profusely thanked the volunteers. They were so awesome!!

At the halfway point there were a few tough spectators with DUNKIN DONUTS, YUM! It was great. I took a chocolate frosted chocolate donut and munched my way for a few miles. It was so tasty and what a nice unexpected treat.

Heading back to the start I simply kept repeating to myself, "this could be WS100!" and kept trying to run as fast as I could. I wasn't exactly out of breath but I definitely was pushing hard. Pretty soon I was under the I-495 Bridge. This was good because it meant less than 1 mile to the finish. But it was bad because I recently got new glasses that transition to sunglasses. They do not change back very quickly so I had to choose between seeing clearly or seeing at all. I sort of pulled my glasses down and pretended I was wearing spectacles. It was not very satisfactory but luckily the bridge is short.

The finish line was slight off the C&O Canal so it was only when we were pretty close did it register that the race was nearly over. I was thrilled when I saw my time was under 2:20 since I thought I had slowed down since the half and thus had figured my time would be close to 2:30!

Once I finished I headed back out on the course to go find my friends and pace them to the finish. After about 1.5 miles I came upon my friend Rosy who had taken a fall along the course. She was running strong and seemed in good spirits. We chatted about life, running and how different but no better this years race was...hopefully 2012 will be better (I can't imagine how it could be much worse). I learned Rosy is running her first marathon, the Virginia Creeper. I know she will do great and have lots of fun. With all this catching up, pretty soon we arrived at the finish.

I then headed out on the course for more runners. I went out about 1 mile and my ankle was getting bothersome. I decided at that point I would run with the next runner if they wanted company. I was REALLY lucky to meet Liz S who was running her first Cloud Snapple Half. I was able to tell her this race should be easier! Liz was good company and an experienced marathoner. She is considering running a 50 mile ultra so I was able to give her some pointers and thoughts to consider. Hopefully Liz and I will both be at the JFK50 miler or other ultra in the future! Our time together just flew by and soon enough we were at the finish where she had a friend waiting.

Although this is a moderate sized race (300 participants). I find it has a small race feel. The race directors, volunteers and others associated with the race take really good care of the runners. During this "intermission" one of the kind volunteers brought my drop bag from the post race tent to the finish line. All of the volunteers were so nice, helpful and cheerful even though this race was very cold!

Finally, I headed back out on the course one last time for my friend Laurie. She was back a bit and walking. By this time I also was walking. By going back and forth on the course I successfully had a nice warm down in which I slowly decreased my speed! Laurie and I caught up and chatted about recent events. She saw Tristan more times than I did at the Disney Goofy Marathon...for a hug and a kiss, no less! It was pretty amusing that Tristan misses me at races even though I am dressed in pink, have sparkeley my fanny pack, lots of flowers, and even have my name on my shirt and yet Tristan spotted Laurie in a race of 20,000+ participants.

After crossing the finish line for a third time, it was time to head back to meet up with Tristan, my chauffer. Overall, while a very tough race, it was lots of fun and I will be back!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Challenges in Running: Observations from some recent running events

I try to remain positive, happy and polite in all of my races (and training runs). I am sure I fail numerous times so please do not think I am pointing the finger at any person or any group of runners. As an amateur runner I know that races are supposed to be fun. But sometimes this is hampered by others actions. I assume this is because others are unaware. So this post is primarily to vent and call attention to issues that have occurred more frequently than would be if simple random chance.

My first observation actually started at Marine Corps Marathon last year but then occurred again at Rock and Roll Arizona. Runners lining up in an inappropriate corral. Unfortunately this gets the "slower" run/walkers (which I consider myself) a bad name. Both of these races had honor system for entering the corrals except I assume for the elite runners.

Unfortunately because of slower runners lining up at the front of the corrals bottlenecks in the early miles occur. This creates challenges (and even hostility) to occur for everyone. Even worse is when 3 or 4 competitors will abruptly stop and start walking in a pack rather than single file. I completely support every runner whose goal it is to run a marathon; however, it is unfortunate when common courtesies are not implemented. I admire and respect race directors who remind runners to place themselves in corrals that are appropriate for a reasonable guess of predicted finish time, pay attention to other runners, walk on the right (same side as where slow cars should go) and give a heads up when runners plan to walk.

My second observation has to do with passing particularly in single track events. I have run numerous trail ultras and have not had any issues (and hope I have always been respectful). I indicate if I will be passing on the left or right and ask those passing me which side I should move towards. If I hear a pack of runners I tend to move off and standstill particularly when their approach is quick and imminent.

Unfortunately I recently was in an event in which many times when I came up behind runners and tried to pass, the other runner would speed up. All this would mean is I was on a nasty surface for a longer time period. I understand keeping a steady speed but actively speeding up (particularly when the passing terrain is treacherous) seems unsportsmanlike. If you realize that you have been slowing down, fall in behind the runner, draft a bit and re-pass. But speeding up, especially if you slow down once you have been passed doesn't seem productive.

My final observation is the assertion that runners with headsets can/do hear others. I have numerous times indicated, "on your right", "excuse me" or otherwise made a statement or asked a question that deserves a response (verbal or through movement). Numerous times I have not been heard or acknowledged. This actually caused a medical response to be delayed in front of me at the Disney Marathon. Even with the "sirens" on the EMT bicycles runners with headphones on appeared unaware, oblivious and unresponsive when bicyclists were going to assist an injured runner. This happened for a significant distance as the bicyclists worked their way forward.

This is unacceptable.

I would not want to have a medical issue in which every second mattered and because of runners not responding to clear warning signals permanent damage occurred, nor do I imagine would any runner want this for themselves or a loved one.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My most shocking race to date: Rock and Roll Arizona

With my friend Elaine S. along the Rock and Roll Arizona Course during the first few miles.

I know Elaine from several ultra marathons we have run together including:

Rocky Raccoon 50/100 miler
Javelina Jundred 100 mile/100 km

We have run these races over the past several years so have met several different times.

Elaine has run many 100 miles and other ultra's and I will see Elaine several times throughout the year including Western States 100 as well as Vermont 100.
I am so thrilled to be awarded my marathon finishers medal.

This was a very challenging marathon by the end.

I finished the marathon in 3:52:17 which is a Marathon PR of over 10 minutes for me!

The first miles flew by as I chatted with my friend Elaine. But during the later miles I started struggling with fatigue, pain and all of my recent running I think caught up to me as my legs started feeling like jelly.

It is a fast course because it is so flat, but this also leads to some challenges as you are running using the same exact muscles the entire time.

This year the weather was perfect starting in the low 50's then getting to the mid 60's by the time I finished. I think later finishers did mention it got hot but compared to a few years ago it was not too bad.
My friend John Bingham is an announcer at many Rock and Roll Marathons.

Sadly because of my finish time, he was not at the finish line when I crossed but many other races he does cheer out to me.

I believe our next shared event is the Mardi Gras Marathon in just a few weeks.

John "The Penguin" Bingham has written many books that I think are excellent regardless of your running ability. He believes in every person and really encourages everyone to run to the best of their ability. What a class act!!
After I finish the Rock and Roll Marathon my most important stop is Yogurtini on the corner of Rural Road and University.

It has super yummy yogurt with lots of different toppings.

And of course the interior is decorated in my favorite color mint green!!! I know others might think my favorite color is pink but in reality I am a mint green/turqouise green girl. It is just that there is very few running cloth that is in mint green so I have to go to my second favorite color and embrace it with GUSTO.

You can see our frozen yogurts in the foreground (mine is the big one) and Tristan trying to look like he is hugging me while simultaneously avoiding touching my stenchy/sweatiness!
After a brief rest and a treat at Yogurtini, it was time to attempt to summit Hayden Butte.

This is how I always end my Rock and Roll Arizona Marathon race day. At the top you can get a view of downtown Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe and thus see the majority of the race course.

It is cool to see the entire race course and nearly all 26.2 miles I have traveled.

And for the first time in a while Tristan was definitely walking a lot faster than I. Although in my defense I had PR-ed in the marathon with a sub 4 hour, 3:52 marathon!!!


I have been running marathons since 2004. My first year I ran only one marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon, in a time of 5:15. The next year I ran MCM in 4:50 followed by the JFK50 miler in 12:25. In 2006 I started running a marathon a month (or greater). In 2006 my average time was 5:30. The next year I improved slightly with times in the low 5 hours. In 2008 I continued to run many marathons with a modest improvement in my time. Finally in 2009 I started seeing improvement in my time with an average marathon finish time of just under 5 hours. 2010 was a great year with PR’s in nearly every distance I ran starting with the Disney half marathon in 2:02. In nearly every other race I PR-ed for the course or the distance including 100 miler, 100 km, 50 miler, 40 miler, 50 km and the marathon distance. Some of these improvements were significant including a 2+ hour improvement at both the Umstead 100 miler and Vermont 100 miler.

The Rock and Roll Arizona Marathon is a flat fast course. The marathon includes about 5,000 runners which is not too large but not too small, thus can be optimal for a PR. Prior to the race it was suggested that I finish the race between 4 hours and 4:15. This seemed manageable, a good time goal and would boost my confidence for my upcoming goal of a sub-24 hour Umstead 100 miler (as well as my quest to finish WS100 and the Grand Slam). I felt 4:00-4:15 was a reasonable and manageable goal if I focused on the finish line and ran strong throughout the marathon.

Rock and Roll Arizona Marathon is a point to point marathon. Runners can park by the finish line and take a shuttle to the start or can park by the starting line in downtown Phoenix and take the metro/light rail back after finishing. Of course one can also choose a hotel near the finish line and walk to the shuttle. This is what I have chosen each year, although this year I was lucky enough to hop a ride with my husband Tristan who was heading to Sedona for the day. Other years I have had a bit of shuttle irregularity but this year the shuttle driver quickly and efficiently got us to the start area.

Upon arriving at the start, I wandered around aimlessly. I had many layers on and was trying to stay warm and out of trouble. I had eaten my usual breakfast of snowballs and diet mountain dew so I did not need to partake in any of the pre-race treats, although I did cap off my water bottle. About 30 minutes before the race start I meandered to the Private Brooks Race Potties. I had purchased way too much race stuff (which I need no more than a hole in the head, but still get—and this time it was so worth it!).

The Brooks potties had running water, perfume spritzers, lotions and were clean, warm and had no line! I was in heaven. I made use of the potty since my 3rd diet mountain dew was hitting my bladder. I also used this time lurking in the bathroom wisely to rearrange my outfit. The predicted high was to be the upper 60’s or low 70’s. But it was about 50 degree’s at the time. I decided the appropriate outfit to wear was simply my tank, running skirt, sneakers and of course seamless bra, seamless underpants and drymax socks. Because of the chill in the air I elected to keep my moeben sleeves. Of course sparkeley my fanny pack was going to join me with all the proper accoutrements including: cell phone, camera, back up batteries and memory stick, lip balms (yes plural!), sunscreen stick, single pack wet wipes, poncho, meds including tums, pepto and two ibuprofen. Somehow in my recent running I had inadvertently not replaced my medpack (and while I haven’t been taking meds recently I share them with others depleting my supply).

Once I decided on my outfit it was time to drop my bag in the UPS truck. I put this off as long as I could particularly since I was still happily loitering in the potty. One last bathroom break and I was ready to head back out to the cold. With just about 10 minutes to race start, I arrived in my corral. I placed myself near the 4:00 pace group. I was delighted to see my friend Larry M. and chat briefly. Pretty soon the Star Spangled Banner played and it was time for the starting gun. Hearing the Star Spangled Banner gets me prepared and psyched up for any race. I know the importance of the freedom associated with our national anthem and how lucky I am to have the freedom to do something I love. After the starting gun goes off there is a small bit of movement. But then we abruptly stop. I am near the 4 hour pace group but realize my shoes are not properly tied. What I do not realize is that this is going to cause me some confusion later. Tying my shoes takes a bit of time, but then I reassimilate into the runners.

Crossing the start line I take a quick picture. This will end up being one of my 10 pictures taken along the course. My lack of pictures is one of my few disappointments in this race.

My first mile I try to take it easy and get warmed up. My friend Dan R. suggested this is a good race strategy back when we ran Richmond Marathon together. It seems to work and ensures the beginning of the race is not run too fast (Thanks Dan!).

Approaching mile 1 I see the timer suggests my time is about 11 minutes. I am not sure how long it took me to get over the starting mat or if the mile marker is accurate but I feel I am running a comfortable pace. As I had approached mile 1 I had heard my name being called by a female voice. It is always an odd and surreal experience to hear my name during a race far away from home. Sometimes I am a bit oblivious and assume it is some other Tammy. This time it was for me and was my friend Elaine from Rocky Raccoon and Javelina Jundred 100 over the past few years. Elaine is a little faster than I and has finished (and started) more 100 milers than I. She had caught up to me and I figured I would run a bit with her then let her go on ahead. Oddly enough we ran together until about miler 10.

These miles with Elaine just flew by. We chatted about 100 milers, 50 milers and upcoming races. We both were selected for WS100 although I was actually at the lottery when my name popped up (which was so cool!). Elaine and I have run several different events on the same course including Rocky Raccoon (although she did the 100 mile when I have run the 50) and Javelina Jundred (again she did the 100 mile while I took the wuss out option and ran the 100 km). Elaine is running her first VT100 so she also asked me about the race. I was able to provide an excrutiatingly detailed description of the race (hey we had 26.2 miles of course to cover!). I also provided my insight about pacers in particular about that race. I sadly have had a moderate amount of challenges with my pacer pairing. But I also have had some GREAT luck with inheriting pacers at that race including Pacer Shane who is in my short list of pacers for my Grand Slam (Pacer Iva, Pacer Dan, Pacer Shane and Pacer Ethel are my “go to pacers” but I am still filling up my Grand Slam schedule with pacers, of course Dan, Iva, Shane, and Ethel are known entities and are all considerable faster and have more endurance than I).

In addition to Vermont 100 miler we also talked about other ultra’s including Javelina Jundred (a super 100 miler/100 km race along the Pemberton Trail just north of Phoenix) Rocky Raccoon, where Elaine and I met 2 years ago. In fact Elaine had met my mom at RR100 in 2009 which was really cool. Unfortunately that was the last race my mom was at my race before becoming hospitalized and passing away. It is nice to meet up with runners who knew my mom because she was really special and super supportive of everyone. I miss her lots and through seeing or meeting people she knew I feel close again.

Our conversation made the miles fly by. Pretty soon in the distance ahead of us was the 3:50 marathon pace group! This was shocking to me. I was feeling really strong and happy but I did not realize how fast we were going. At this point Elaine was starting to have some issues and slowed down. Since I was feeling good and knew my Boston Marathon qualifying time is now 3:50 I decided to catch up to the group.

As I caught up I introduced myself to Mark, who I knew was the pace leader (my friend Pati Coury had given me some insight about all of the pacers). He suggested he was going to run until mile 14 then switch out with a lady Monique because of a health issue. I tried to figure out when they started and what their pacing goal was but was a bit confused. It was suggested they were going to speed up in the second half but it was not clear by how much. I think each pacer has a different strategy and negative splits certainly is a good one except if you worry you will lose speed towards the end.

I jog with the group for a bit but after the first water/gatorade station I realize being in this swarm of runners is not ideal. A few hundred meters ahead of the pace group there appears to be a gap. I decide I will push myself to get into this pocket so I don’t have to stress when grabbing Gatorade. As I move forward I pick up a runner friend Chuck who has run several marathons and has a goal of running a 3:45 or 3:50 marathon. We chat for a while and I learn that he is a bartender in Tempe, had lived in Phoenix right off the course previously and is going to be competing in the Ironman AZ in next fall. We pass the halfway point in ~1:55 and know we should be on target for a sub-3:50 marathon. I am excited but know there is 13.1 more miles to go. We talk about a variety of subjects but after a few aid stations it ends up that he goes through quickly while I take my time. It is not intentional but I do want to make sure I am well hydrated. And every so often I have to get 2-3 cups of Gatorade to get more than a few swallows. Sometimes I wish tables/volunteers would indicate if you are getting just a swallow of beverage or a full cup. It is a bit distressing when you hope for lots of beverage and get less than 1 inch of beverage. One time I ended up going back because I knew I needed to get calories and hydration. In addition to ensuring I get enough to drink I also need to walk with my beverages. I am why sippy cups were invented! I cannot run and drink without spilling all over myself. So basically I grab my cups of beverage, get out of the main flow of traffic then walk and drink. This is not efficient but I figure that the time is well spent since I do not want to get dehydrated or run low on calories.

The miles continue to fly by. When I look at my Garmin 305 it suggests my pace is tending to be around 8:30 min/mile or so. Other than aid stations my pace appears to be under 9 min/mile. This means I am maintaining a pace that should qualify me for Boston. I get excited but know there are still many miles until I finish.

About mile 18 or 19 there is a super nice spectator with fresh Krispy Kreme donuts in a box. Although there are probably 50 or 100 runners within a fairly close proximity to me only 2 other runners partake in this treat. The donut is super yummy and I am pretty sure almost warm and definitely soft and gooey. The only bummer is that it is REALLY gooey and sticky. I am right near one of the other donut eaters and state, “too bad they did not give us a paper towel with our donut”. Then I realize I have a wet wipe in my bag. Ha! Pacer Dan, Jamie and others who challenge my need for multiple lip balms, ponchos, camera, cell phone, medications, sunscreen and wet wipes! And people say I don’t need these items!

Unfortunately I end up with donut glaze over both hands and then forget to take a picture of me eating my tasty treat. But trust me it was YUMMY!

After finishing my donut I realize my knee is really, really angry at me. I run about a mile and it is not going away. This is my right knee that was mangled in a car accident in 1995 (I was hit as a pedestrian). It is pretty excruciating and I don’t have any painkiller left. I decide it might be wise to take a painkiller because my gait is changing because of this. I head to the medical tent. Sadly this takes me about 30 seconds while they have a discussion about where the Tylenol is. When they figure this out I am asked about why I need it and if I have taken Tylenol previously. No I haven’t taken any, yes I am happy if they mark up my bib and finally pointing to my 5 inch scar I indicate my surgical site is a bit painful. It tends to be a bit discomfortable 100% of the time but it has morphed into excruciating. They pour a glass of water which I humor them and drink up. Having worked at the FDA I know I want to minimize the challenge to my kidneys (ibuprofen) and liver (Tylenol) by taking plenty of liquids I would have drank a significant amount of water from my fanny pack bottle.

I then head back onto the course. This long pit stop is a bit of a bummer but I hope it is time well spent. By this time I know that I am back to being about 200-300 meters ahead of the 3:50 pace group. I had a little extra lead before my med break but I know I need to keep moving solidly to ensure I get in and out of the aid station before the pack of 3:50 runners make it. Although I note the pack is quite a bit smaller, I still want to be clear of the aid station when they arrive. It is challenging to move through aid stations when there are lots of runners acting randomly. I don’t know if there is a code of conduct but it seems some runners stop abruptly when they get a beverage, others dart away from the cups and others seem to move seamlessly. I am a “seamless mover” which works until a darter or stopper gets in front of me. Even though my pack is a bit ahead of the 3:50 there still are a moderate amount of runners, but it is thinning out. I realize that if I go to the “far” aid station it is less crowded. I end up taking more steps but the ease in which I can get beverages is well worth it. I think about my friend Dan who observed during the Richmond Marathon that I do not run the tangents. In fact I run some crazy line along the marathon including specifically going out of my way to give high 5’s! This race I continue to do this. I LOVE high 5’s, particularly from little kids and students from schools that have spirit groups along the course. The cheerleaders are so enthusiastic, track and cross country teams know just what say and at the various pep squads are so motivating. I am really having a great race and continue to move along at a fast clip.

At mile 23 my wheels fall off, my tank is empty and I decide I need to take up a different sport! What started out as a great run takes a turn for the worse (maybe I crash my donut sugar high). I am miserable. My legs feel like lead, my knee is still killing me but now a whole bunch of other joints decide to voice their displeasure. My back is bothering me, my arms are tired of moving and don’t get me started on my legs which want to be anywhere but attached to me.

There’s a choice here I can move to the finish or I can hope the finish line moves to me. Sadly without violating laws of physics the second choice seems unlikely to happen!

At this point I am moving as quickly as I can but realize I am really slowing down. A quick glance at my Garmin puts my time at 9+ min/mile. I know I have a bit of a buffer but I am struggling to do this. The 3:50 pace group surrounds me moving swiftly. This is a bit of a bummer but I try to stay positive and keep up with them. Unfortunately approaching mile 24 we get to an incline on a bridge over the Salt River. Heading up the hill I decide I am going to embrace my ultra-running roots and walk this. Actually this is how I justify my walking but realistically there was no way I was going to run up this hill. My hill legs were left on Camelback Mountain the day before. I hope I can catch up with the group on the downhill using gravity to my advantage. Unfortunately the pace group uses gravity as well and stays ahead of me. This is a bit of a bummer. Then they move further and further ahead of me. I look at my Garmin and it says my pace is 10 min/mile. But I am running super fast!!! Stupid Garmin!

As the 3:50 pace group disappears in the horizon I try to think positive. As long as I keep moving I will have a significant PR. I know that I did have a bit of a buffer since I started after the 4:00 pace group so I might still be able to eek out a Boston Qualifier. But it will be close.

I pass mile 25. My Garmin continues to give me bad news. I continue to run a consistent 10 min/mile pace. This is fine for any other marathon but I now really want Boston. I have traveled so far so fast. But then I start thinking. I have so many excuses I come up with during this mile. Camelback the day before (which by the way I would not recommend as a pre-race warm up). My Disney Half Marathon PR of 1:52 surely took something out of me. Then I come up with the best excuse…I just ran 113.4 miles only 2.5 weeks before this race. But I still push as hard as I can because I did push so hard for so long during the marathon. I need to put it all out there and see what happens.

I make the turn onto Rural Road passing Yogurtini. My friend Nick Coury said they would not serve me if I finished in greater than 4 hours. I will be served, wahoo!!!

As I rounded this bend I also was excited to see the 3:50 pace group at the next turn ahead. My best guess is that I am 300-400 meters behind this group, which I guess converts to a deficit of about 2 minutes. This will be close.

I keep putting one foot in front of the other. I think about how this easily could be my finish at Umstead 100, Western States 100, Vermont 100, Leadville 100 or even Wasatch 100 (optimistically) in which I need to dig deep to finish in my personal time goal or the race time limit. I keep moving forward as fast as I can. I have nothing left but upon rounding the final bend I see the time 3:52:XX. I will be getting a PR! I am super excited.

I give a few kids high fives as I round the bend. I don’t have the energy to head to the other side but try to wave to the crowd. I hear a male voice cheering my name. I later learned this was likely my friend Dane R. I was so excited on the inside but I am struggling to finish. This is tough!!

Finally, when the clock gets to 3:52:17 I cross the finish line. For the first time since my first Umstead 100 miler I am barely able to move after finishing. I hunch over and nearly burst into tears. I am so excited, thrilled and proud of myself. I have pushed as hard as I could and finished with a PR. But the big question is: what was my final time?

When I finally get a little bit of energy back I move along. I get my medal and am so happy with my finish. I send a text to Tristan indicating that I finished and my gun time was 3:52. It is a PR. I find the 3:50 pacer and ask if she knows what their chip time was. She suggests they crossed the finish line a few seconds after 3:50. This does not bode well for me as my best guess is that I was 30-40 seconds behind their start time. But I do not know.

I text my friend Nick Coury telling him my gun time and indicate I WILL be going to Yogurtini because I have finished in under 4 hours!!

He responds in just a few moments that my chip time is 3:50:45!


I have never been more excited about celebrating a birthday and getting older. Let the party begin!!! I am so happy!! I am so thrilled to learn about my qualification from a friend. And the tense few minutes when I had no idea of my chip time made me appreciate this victory even more.

It is now time to celebrate by traveling along the course backwards. I have many friends still out there and I want to cheer them in. And of course now I can share my great news! I am so excited! This race was one of my toughest races (particularly the last few miles) but I made it through.

Heading back along the course I am delighted to see my friend Tammy B who I have run GTR50, VT100 and many other ultra’s and marathons. Not too far behind her I see my friend Jackie O who I ran most of the Bob Potts Marathon with. When I get close to mile 24, I then see my friend Larry M. I walk/jog Larry to the finish line and we catch up. Larry is so sweet and such an accomplished athlete having finished well over 100 marathons last year! Nearly at the finish line I head off to the spectator area. I see my friend John Bingham and get a great big hug. John is such a great person and so encouraging to everyone. I am thrilled to tell him I have just qualified for Boston.

I walk the course backwards again and see my friend Maricar as well as Yolanda. After a quick picture I try to keep up but realize my legs are no longer running. But of course I am pleased to share my excuse for being so slow and they are so excited for me. I’m going to Boston!

I head back out onto the course. But my legs are getting tired. So I position myself about mile 26 so I can hear Vertical Horizon playing. It is cool to be able to cheer the runners while appreciating the concert.

Pretty soon it is over 7 hours since the finish. I head to the finish line area and cheer on runners. I call my friend Karen to tell her about my Boston Qualifying time and John Bingham announces my feat over the loudspeaker. I get it on video. It is so cool!

Runners are still coming in. These are the runners who are digging deep to finish. I am so happy for these runners. They are limping, struggling and obviously doing what it takes to get to the finish line. I cheer as loud as I can. Finally the race vehicles comes into sight and the race is over.

After the race finishes, Tristan arrives back from Sedona. We decide to have Yogurtini followed by a climb up Hayden Butte to celebrate my victory. This is how I always complete my Rock and Roll Arizona Marathone. I see a few others runners on the butte, but based on their medal ribbon, they are half marathoners. I am pleased that I am able to make it up the butte. But I am even more pleased that I am, more importantly, able to make it back down the butte!

Dinner is Chompies then it is time for bed. What a great day!

Friday, January 21, 2011

A summary of recent activities

Celebrating my birthday!!

For my "big" present Tristan treated my friends to dinner then for Cupcake Decorating at Lilly Magilly's (a new cupcake place).

We each decorated one cupcake to eat there and one to bring home for later (if it made it home outside of our stomach). When I learned about the party at Lilly Magilly's I was excited to learn they provide Shirley Temples as the house drink!

And of course it was so wonderful to celebrate with so many great friends and family (the blue person right in front of me on the far right side is my sister who traveled from VA to celebrate with me)

I know I am incredible fortunate to have so many great friends both locally as well as all over the country (and even the world).

The Disney half marathon is always so much fun and I love all the characters along the course.

The only issue I have is that I get super distracted by the characters along the course even though I worked at Disney World for 3 years when I was getting my M.S. in Statistics at the University of Central Florida. This does not help my finishing time.

But alas it is cool to hang with characters all along the 13.1 mile and 26.2 mile courses of the Disney Goofy Marathon!

After every Disney Marathon I like to hang out and savor my finish.

There is a DJ in the finish line festival and there always seem to be hula hoops. Each year I spend a long time hula hooping. This year in fact I started my Disney Marathon experience hula hooping at the EXPO.

Going into my post race festivities my stomach already was feeling the burn from my ~1 hour of hula hooping prior to the race (in fact during the race my stomach was a bit tender). But on a positive note I had burned through my birthday cupcake calories:-)
Prior to the Rock and Roll Arizona Marathon I was incredibly lucky to be able to share a lovely meal with the entire Coury family.

From left to right: Tristan, Me, Nick, Nathan, Peter, Jamil, Melia and Pati. We apparently all did get the memo that the uniform was to be a blue or black shirt! In fact nearly everyone was wearing an Across the Years or Javalina Jundred Shirt (which is one of the numerous races Jamil/Nick Coury and their family are RD's/volunteers)

A Summary of the past few weeks--until the Phoenix Rock and Roll Marathon

The past few weeks have been pretty hectic for me. I completed Across the Years in Arizona, flew back to MD had a few days there (including a VERY important birthday) then headed to Florida for the Disney Goofy Marathon, came back to MD for a few days and flew to Phoenix for the Rock and Roll Marathon. In this time period I took off only a few work days and still had to keep up with a bunch of deadlines. With this hectic schedule both professionally and personally I had little expectation for any of my runs being too successful.

But my year did start off well with a PR at the Disney Half marathon with a new half PR of 1:52:51! This cut off nearly 6 minutes from my previous half marathon PR (this Septembers Parks Half Marathon) and even involved a few pictures with characters and feeling great the entire race. The marathon was a different story but I did have a great time during my nearly 7 hours on the course. Of course this involved several rides, lots of pit stops to eat and drink and lots of socializing!

Then this past weekend Tristan and I headed to the Rock and Roll Arizona Marathon for my third running of this race. I really enjoy the race and now have a bunch of friends in Arizona and knew several friends who were going to be running the race (after I finished I learned I had even more friends on the course then even I knew about).

I went to the EXPO on Friday and enjoyed seeing and experiencing the EXPO including attending a presentation by John Bingham as well as seeing my friend Dane Rauschenberg (an author of the book See Dane Run). I also was fortunate enough to see my pacer from JJ100 in 2010, Elizabeth "e" as well as a runner she was going to pace through the race.

Friday evening Tristan and I met up with the Coury's (the Race Director & Family of such races as Javalina Jundred, Across the Years, Pemberton Trail Races and other Aravaipa races). We had a great meal and shared running, hiking, and life stories.

It was such a pleasure to hang out with Pati, Peter (the parents), Melia, Nick, Nathan and Jamil (the children). They are a wonderful family and so much fun to be around. And since Nick and Jamil have run a few of my upcoming ultra's I was able to get some good advice for training and preparing for various ultramarathon courses like Western States and Leadville. I get to see Nick and Jamil in just about 2 months at the Umstead 100 miler where I know they will do great...perhaps great enough to finish then pace me for a lap:-).

Both Pati and Peter were going to run the half marathon together on Sunday which I thought was so sweet! Pati and Peter ended up finishing with a time of 2:32. This was just Pati's second half marathon and it was a massive PR by nearly half an hour, way to go!!!

After our delightful meal Tristan and I headed back to our hotel to prepare for what ended up being a very long day of hiking. With the Coury's advice and directions we decided to go to Camelback Mtn just north of Pheonix. It is a beautiful mountain but in retrospect not necessarily the best pre-race hike. There is a section in which you must hold a hand rail to climb up 50 or so verticle feet. Then another half mile or so you are climbing and scrambling up rocks that make the Weverton Cliffs section of the AT/JFK50 miler look like childs play!

The hike was beautiful and the views from the top impressive but by the end my knee's and quads were a little angry about the whole hike. In fact towards the end although Tristan was struggling a bit because of his mountaineering accident, I was struggling because I am pretty incompetent at hiking and basically I am a big sissy!

After finishing this hike the least we deserved was a big meal, so we headed to Sweet Tomatoes for dinner. I am pretty sure if that restuarant goes bankrupt it is our fault as we went back numerous times for salads, breads, soups and of course desserts! Chocolate Lava cake=yum!! This was a good way to carbo-load for the Phoenix Rock and Roll Marathon.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Across the Years, a bit of background

Here is the start line of the Across the Years on Dec 29th. This was the first day of the event. There were 3 races going off at this time: the 24 hour race of Dec 29th, the 48 hour race of Dec 30th and the 72 hour race (which had only one start).

There were about 50 runners who seemed to be lurking by the start line but very few runners seemed to be in a hurry to start (so there might have been other runners just loitering).

The day started out fairly nice. A bit chilly but we did not start in the rain which was good.

Here is a picture of the runner status. This screen indicated who had just crossed the start/finish line and their overall status.

The status included:
runner name
lap number
time/split of last lap
bib number

There was a color coding scheme with runners in the 48 hour listed in blue.

It was kind of neat to cross the mat run a few feet then see the screen listing who was coming up from behind.

This was my top standing on the leader board. You can see I was 5th place overall and 3rd female at this point.

I did not belong in this group as I am a mediocre runner at best but apparently I was a bit speedy early on. This was somewhat purposely done as I hate running in the rain. I figured I wanted to get as many miles before the rain came...then maybe I could hang up my sneakers and quit:-)

In face the runners on this board in 8, 9 and 10th place ended up finishing quite well and far ahead of me.

Of course I believe I may have won in the longest lap competition with one lap nearly 6.5 hours over the first night when the weather was really bad. I had gotten up about 2 a.m. but when my friend Jamie D indicated it was lightening out I decided to go back to bed and wait out the storm.

I am really glad I made this decision because a few minutes later there was a massive rain storm with significant wind. Even with two tents, an operational generator and a earplug in I could hear (and feel) the wind. I was glad I was not out in the worst of it!
Here are some of the WONDERFUL race volunteers.

This includes Nick Coury (in black/red jacket) and Sue Norwood (in blue jacket) as well as another volunteer I did not catch his name.

Nick in addition to volunteering at the aid station, helping clear the course of the HUGE puddles by creating little canals and doing other tasks also ran many laps during the race. He is SUPER sweet and so funny! (although he did suggest when he had the shovel creating trenches for water runnoff and I asked if it was to bury runners who complained too much that yes it was to dispatch runners...yikes!!:-)

Here I am on the first night trying to run through the rain awaiting mail. There were no notes so I was bummed:-(

In fact there were some issues in the first day because of electricity issues. The backstretch had no lights because of a short and it was obvious that printing out messages was quite challenging considering everything was damp.

Letters were greatly appreciated and so much fun to receive. I will admit this picture was taken about 10 p.m. AZ time which means most of my East Coast friends and family were probably asleep. But next year you all need to be less slackers!!!

You also will notice that we also recieved a pair of moeben sleeves in our mailbox and for a while I used the mailbox to store my keys as well as a headlamp which once the backstretch was illluminated with Christmas lights I no longer needed.

THE RACE: A description

The weather for across the years was predicted to be pretty bad. Rain followed by wind and finally a cold front would come through with freezing temperatures. And all of this within the first 24 hours.

Luckily I had altered my running goals back in Nov when I developed shin splints after JFK50 miler. I no longer was attempting to run 100 miles in the first 24 hours. In fact by the time I started my goal became to run 100 miles and I figured any additional miles would be icing on the cake.

The start was fairly low key. There might have been 50 people congregating at the start and most of us headed off with a slow jog or walk. We were going to be on the course for a long time so no sense in rushing! Because I was busy taking pictures and chatting I may have been one of the last runners across the start line. This was fine with me.

The course was a 500 meter (0.5 km) track at Nardini Manor. Every 2 hours the direction would change. The first direction we headed started off through a small forest with a cute gazebo. Many of the runners had tents set up in this section. As the rains came this area became quite wet with large puddles a few inches deep! The next segment took us by Nardini Manor a historic manor house. There was a large lawn that on day 2 during the wind storm some volunteers were kiting on. Here was our first turn to the left.

After passing the manor, we went by a stand of fruit tree's including oranges and grapefruits. After the fruit tree's there was a cute fountain area. We then would turn left again and would pass by the maze. I never went in but heard from several kids it was fun! This backstretch was the worst section after the rain as it became extremely muddy. But before the rain started, this is the section I saw a rabbit and met a dog (through the fence). The backstretch was the longest straight away and most exposed as there were only tree's on the manor side (left) while the right had beautiful views of the mountains above Phoenix. A left turn put us by several porta potties on the right and the cars in the parking area on the right. I tried to visit my car infrequently but I would guess I had at least 20 or 30 visits to my car. Sometimes laps in succession!

The final left turn on the course headed us back to the start line by the aid station. This was the most exciting part of the course because this was where the action was. After the aid station on the right was the big tent as well as the warming tents within the big tent. I spent alot of time in the warming tent, particularly on the first night.

Near the start finish there was the "mailbox". This was the highlight of my race. I received many messages from friends near and far. These really perked me up and meant alot to me. It was nice to be cheered on virtually. And some of my messages were quite funny! Many runners would talk about and share their messages. My biggest disappointment was that my cats did not send me a message. I know of several runners whose pets did not let their lack of opposable thumb stop them from sending warm wishes!

The volunteers throughout the race were super. They attended to runners every need. Basically you could go into the aid station request something and they would have it ready when you got back a few minutes later. Or of course you could loiter and hang out.

In the middle of the course there also was a real bathroom that was heated and set up really great. There were nice smelling soaps, gum, scope, floss, seating and HEAT!! I have no idea the set up for the men's room but I will admit I spent alot of time in the bathroom hanging out.

At the start finish there were two TV screens with update race information. Typically approaching the finish there was a listing of the current racer standings. And after you crossed the start/finish line you could see what lap you were on as well as the split. You also could see who was just ahead and frequently who was right behind you as the list included about 15 runners information. It was kind of cool to know who was about to pass you before they did. Along the course you could only tell who was passing you if they were talking (and you recognized their voice) or after they passed you, you could see their name on the bib (if it was exposed). During the storms and at night many of us did not have our bibs out as effectively...and it was hard to read in the dark.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

1, 2, 2, 3, ....5? (or perhaps even 6?): The start of my Across the Years Race Report

The sequence 1, 2, 2, 3 (and hopefully 5 or 6) is not a fibinocci sequence. But it does have special meaning to me. It is the number of 100 milers I have run each year since my first 100, Umstead 100 in 2007.

This past week I ran the Across the Years 48 hours race completing 113.4 miles with just over 1 minute to spare. My last mile split was under 10 min/mi and my last lap was in an 8:31 min/mile pace. I had so much energy building during the last hour and so many runners and spectators were cheering me on, I just had to eek out every last bit of this experience.

In fact about 7:30 a.m. (1.5 hours before my finish). I had my last bathroom break, put on blue sparkeley (my fanny pack) and started jogging at a faster clip. Early in the day after my final rest/nap I had been averaging 6-10 minute laps but I knew I had a bit of energy left. I decided I wanted to break 110 miles so I needed to stay focussed and be consistent. Little did I know I would exceed my goal and expectations.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

After nearly being unable to participate in the race, I was able to use my back up plan including a pretty expensive business class ticket bought within a few days of the flight. Luckily this flight went off without any issues. After picking up my rental car, I headed to Chompies and Yogurtini in Phoenix, my two favorite eateries. I picked up a bagel sandwich and then headed up Hayden Butte for a small walk to stretch my legs. I then went to Yogurtini for the meal of champions...a bunch of flavors of yogurt and lots of toppings. It was yummy and I was set for my race.

After checking in at the Host Hotel, the Best Western I was lucky enough to meet Jamie Honeycut who is super sweet and an awesome runner. I knew of her from facebook and observed she had an Arkansas traveler 100 miler shirt. After setting up my stuff, I headed to the race site, Nardini Manor for my volunteer shift. I was working the registration desk with Jim O'Neill and Sue Norwood. Jim and Sue are so nice and I have been really lucky to cross paths numerous times at many races. And this time I got to spend some quality time catching up. Registration was lots of fun and I was able to put my mathematical skills/education to use re-arranging bags in numerical order. It was lots of fun. But all to soon it was time to go head to the hotel to sleep.

A bunch of alarms woke me up about 6:30 so I could get ready. Once I was dressed I headed to the breakfast buffet and was lucky enough to sit with Jamie H. We chatted about the upcoming race as well as about running in general. Jamie H was doing the 48 hour race that started the next day but was going to come out to the race to watch and cheer on runners. Our table was next to Deborah Horne who was also running the 48 hour. Sadly the topic of conversation was dominated by the weather. It was not looking good particularly for the first day.

Across the years is a set of several races run simultaneously or concurrently. There is a 72 hour race that starts on Dec 29, two 48 hour races: one starting on Dec. 29 and one starting on Dec 30 and finally three 24 hour races starting on Dec 29, Dec 30 or Dec 31rst. Those of us who ran on Dec 29th ended up running in "Phoenix's WORST WEATHER IN 10 YEARS!!". It was epic. There was rain, wind and over the night a severe thunderstorm.

After finishing my meal, I checked out and went to the race site. Getting out of my car I saw my friends Jamie & David Donaldson who were running the 24 hour race starting the 29th. Jamie ended up coming in 1rst overall and David ran nearly 80 miles. We chatted very briefly but they still had to check in.

Pretty soon it was time for the race to start. My car was parked about 50 feet from the course ready to serve as my home base and of course there was a well stocked aid station runners saw every 500 meters! Every 2 hours the course would turn around and you would get to see other runners. It was odd to see runners head on after following them for many hours. And since we had our names on our bibs on our back sometimes the only way to recognize someone was through their gaiters or outfit. And because of the terrible weather outfits were changing faster than an awards show host!

My outfit did change a bit but my base layers remained the same throughout the race. My lucky pink Tammy tank, a maroon Tammy long sleeve, my pink marathon girl skirt and a pair of black pants. My shoes & gaiters were changed at mile 100 but they stayed pink themed. And my hat varied from a visor with flowers, a thermal hat with hawaiian flowers and finally my cat hat (which ultimately caused quite a stir).

The competitor list was posted well before the race, so I knew I would be running with many friends over the course of my 48 hours. On the first day I would be running with: Karsten S., Phil R., the Donaldson's, Lynn N., Deb H., and so many other from various ultra's including VT100, JJ100, Umstead 100, the race around the lake, Rocky Raccoon 50. On the second day I would be joined by Maryann R., Phil M., and many others I knew from many ultra's. It was going to be a massive reunion and of course I was going to meet lots of new friends!!