Month: October 2013
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous for the entire trek up to Minneapolis for my first 50K. I had a pretty great marathon 3 weeks ago and a pretty solid last double long run weekend after that. However, the pain I had been dealing with (and that caused my training to be 11 weeks not 16) in my lower right leg seemed to be inching it’s way back and I had a new behind the knee twinge that wasn’t making my nerves any better. After arriving to my friend’s house with my little sister/crew we ate dinner and were in bed by 9pm. I slept pretty good and was out of bed quickly at the sound of my 4:45am alarm. I methodically got myself and my gear ready (most of which was already prepped/packed) and we were out the door by our planned 5:45am.
When we arrived at the park the wind was howling and it seemed darker than usual for 6:00am. Packet pick up took a total of 5 minutes so after exploring the start line we headed back to the car for 30 minutes. My nerves are high but I still felt oddly calm. I was more worried about running the trails in the dark then the distance. After a quick briefing from one of the RDs about 100 of us lined up and with nothing more then a “GO!” we were off.
The way this course works is it is a figure 8 you run twice. This gives you access to the main aid station four times and two other stations two times as well as the start/finish area in the middle of the race. I really liked how much aid there was and each station was very spectator friendly, especially the main one.
I could feel I had over dressed for the amount of hills we were conquering in the first 4 miles right away. Thankfully I layered so I was just a matter of stripping down while running and NOT falling on my face. The first Aid Station seemed to come quickly as did the sunrise. I was thankful to be running in the light of day and determined to heed the advice I had read of breaking the run into just getting to the next aid station. The first 3.5/4 miles of this race are a BEAST and all I could think about was “what if the whole race is like this”. I had spent months staring at the elevation profile and I kind of psyched myself out. What followed the hills however was some really runable sections. So runable that I came into the main aid station, first time seeing my sister, a little before my projected time. I was happy with the pace but a bit scared I was pushing too hard 5.5 miles in. I left feeling confident and ready to tackle this thing.
The following miles reminded runnable, if you don’t mind horse poop. There was tons of it! I was really happy that it didn’t seem to smell in the crisp air even when you would see a pile freshly trampled through. At mile 11 I noticed something was wrong. I had been running with some other women, really more leap frogging with them, one of whom had mentioned she ran the race twice before. I was following trail markers and trying to not get into “pack mentality” and just follow. When we came to mile 11 I noticed my Garmin had only read 10 miles but I also knew Garmins CAN be wrong and trail races weren’t always marked to the T. I tried not to think anything of it and pushed on. Through the first half I felt strong. Actually the only time I felt unsure were those first 4 hilly miles. Even through the “fun zone” where I had to duck under trees and climb over others and through “smurf village” where I had to spot trail markers on the tall grass ahead of me to navigate I kept having fun. There is one climb where you literally have to pull yourself up on trees about 2 miles from the start/finish and though it was hard I thought “this is really going to suck next loop but I will be 2 miles from finishing” so I could tell I was in a good mental place knowing I would make it back to that point.
I pulled into the halfway point and began to change my socks. I handed my hydration pack to my sister to check if I needed refilling. She quickly scolded me for only drinking about 10oz of water and I quickly tried to defend myself stating I HAD been drinking my Nuun and coke as well. She was being a great crew member and told me to DRINK UP in the 2nd half. I also realized I hadn’t eaten as much as I expected so I made an effort to down almost an entire pack of cliff shot blocks by the next time I saw her (about 40 minutes later).
For my second loop I pulled out with the same girls I had been with earlier. I knew it was going to be a L O N G 4 miles of hills so I tried to settle in somewhere I could ease drop on them. That lasted maybe 2 miles. I felt good hiking up and plowing down the hills and dropped them quickly (thank you training on the black loop at Lapham Peak). I was happy when the worst of the first half hills were over but noticed my mileage still off. After I pulled out of the main aid station for the 3rd time I felt the odd sense of this looks like a different part of the course and got nervous I went the wrong way. I saw a man in the distance and made it my goal to catch up to him. I plugged along for almost a 1/2 mile before reaching him and asking if he had just come from the station and if we were lost. He assured me it was right and I knew I had seen markers the whole time. We continued on and finally saw the sign for mile 7 so I felt better and pressed on alone. As I turned a corner around mile 10 I knew I had not run through there on the first loop. My heart sank. I was going the right way now but somehow missed this large hay field the first go, even though I kept following markers.This cost me missing a mile in my first loop. I later would find out a lot of people did the same thing their first loop. What I don’t know is if it was re-marked more obviously sometime between when I was first there or not. I tried to remember the course was a “long” 50K at 33 miles so I would still be getting over “50K” mileage today. I wasn’t contending for a win. I was out here to prove to myself I could go the distance.
After a mix of running and walking I was back at the main aid station for the last time and joining my sister were two of my other friends. I told them what happened and they assured me I still was kicking ass. I had asked my sister to fill my hand held and had planned to ditch my pack. The bottle I keep in the front for my Nuun was giving me some problems after 6+ hours of wear. It felt like a lot of effort to take the pack off so I just stuck with it. For the first time all day it was hard to leave an aid station. I knew the most runable section was over and I had some major hills coming up. I also knew I as 4.5 miles away from being an ultra marathoner so after some hugs and high fives I pushed on.
This was probably the hardest section for me because I was an hour and change over the longest time I’d ever run, there were big hills again including the “pull yourself up one” and downhills were pretty painful. I’m proud to say I stayed mentally tough though and kept plugging alone. I passed some people and got passed. I hit the 31 mile mark in about 7 hours and I continued to make the past push to the finish. I loved how the course had you come around a corner to a clearing to see the finish line, it made the last little hill seem a lot more manageable. I was able to get enough gusto to run through the finish and cross the line totaling 32 miles in 7:15 (unofficial). I found my support crew and headed to brand my plaque, the thing that drew me into this race in the first place.
We enjoyed my post race beer (Mikkiller Beer Geek Breakfast) in the parking lot as I recounted the race from my perspective riding a pretty big runners high.
Eat/drink MORE. I returned to the house I was staying completely dehydrated.
I thought I did enough hills and strength. I could have done more to be better prepared.
I had a blast. This is probably the most fun I’ve had running a non-Ragnar race!
Time on your feet matters but back-to-back long runs are a great way to get there!!
Have an awesome crew! I was always so pumped I’d get to see my sister and she stayed positive and attentive through the whole 7+ hours out there!
Smile. It helps!
Talk to people you pass/the pass you.
Practice recognizing negative self talk/dark times. Acknowledge the moment and move forward in your head.
Practice positive self-talk out loud. This seemed to REALLY help me.
I am REALLY proud of myself.
Think you could “never” do a race like this? I did too. I said I would do a 1/2 marathon by the time I was 30. Now I am an ultra marathoner with 2 weeks to go!
Tighten Those Laces – Lets RUN!
As the 2013 Lakefront Marathon approached I was half sure it would be my first DNS. The pain I had been dealing with in late summer seemed to be returning and I had been coughing for the last week. Even with all these doubts I brought my son to the Kern Center on Saturday, picked up my packet, talked to a couple We Run This ladies and patted myself on the back for leaving without buying anything. PRO TIP: Bring a 4 year old to the expo you won’t have time to buy anything!!
I had stayed at my in-laws in Belgium, WI (20 min North of Grafton/Start line) Saturday night because my Mother In Law was kind enough to agree to bring my kids BY HERSELF to catch me as much as possible during the race. The second I put on my shoe in their kitchen Sunday something felt “off” when I toed off. A few strides in the driveway and it still felt weird. My only other shoe option was the 2 year old 500 miles on them shoes I keep in my trunk…. Just, NO! So I headed to Grafton High School to do this thing. I saw Sun from Keep Running MKE and HAD to say hi awkwardly since she was awesome enough to feature me AND is an all-around kick ass female MKE runner! I looked for a couple of other people I knew were running but didn’t find anyone. I DID find a guy I have known for about 13 years who I haven’t seen in at least 7 and had no idea he was running with his husband!
START – Concordia (Mile 7-8)
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it was in the back of my mind that I COULD DNF at any time if I wanted. This WAS “only” a training run. I had a score to settle with this course after my pretty rough run last year but it wasn’t worth sacrificing my main goal race, my first 50K. I wore a headband to warm my ears for the first ½ mile but warmed up quickly so it worked well to wrap around my watch to make sure I’d run by feel. Though every so often I’d see the time at a mile marker (EVERY MILE because Lakefront ROCKS) and think “too fast”. Lakefront is a great course, a course I would run on my own. Some people feel the “lack” of spectator support is hard but as someone who generally runs alone with no music I am use to having to motivate myself. This year it seemed like there WERE a good number of people out, including the famous accordion player around mile 3.5. Concordia University is where the bulk of spectating happens in the first ½ and mile 7-8 would be my fastest at 10:15. It was great to see @msindigo who had written my name on a sign!
Mile 8 – 13.1
Right after Concordia I saw my family for the first time. I stopped to hug my kids and my son cried and declared he wanted to come with me. It was cute and sad. Someday I hope he is with me at mile 9 of a marathon! I was really anxious to get to the 13.1 mark. I don’t know why but mentally it just needed to get here. Thankfully the miles seemed to be flying and I kept thinking I was a mile behind so there were many nice surprises of being further than expected. I crossed the mat in about 2:20 and had accidentally caught up with the 4:40 pace group by now. They would walk through water stops and drop back but I would hear them creep up after. I carried my Nathan hydro pack to practice wearing it that long for the goal race so I didn’t stop much. I, personally, get kind of annoyed by pace groups. I like to run my own race and it messes with my mental game to see them/get eaten alive by them. That being said I know they are a life saver for some so it is not that I am against them. I am excited though that the spring 26.2 I am considering does not use them.
13.1 – 17
I was still feeling really good past the 13.1 mark but had to use the bathroom pretty badly. (GUYS MAY WANT TO SKIP TO MILE 17-20) Not only to pee but I had some feminine issues that were starting to feel like chaffing was starting, oh HECK NO! So I finally found a port-o-potty around mile 17 with no line and took care of all my business not really caring I discarded my tampon because I had on black shorts.
Mile 17 – 21
I started to slow for the first time in the race here. I don’t know if it was the stop and go, that my longest road run had been 18 miles (followed by a 10 mile trail run the next day) or what but I know it wasn’t my fueling. I had a plan, stuck to it and never got hungry (it is trouble when I get hungry). The BIG lesson I learned in this spot of the race was how to handle a low point. Even with the slowing pace I recognized I was fading, dealt with it and did NOT let it discourage me. I just kept moving forward. Around mile 21 I tried to eat my last gel and it was not happening. I got down about half of it and for the first time ever could not finish it.
Mile 21 – 24
I knew the BIG downhill was coming. I knew I was a better downhill runner this year. Still moving about a minute slower than my first half I had begun to calculate that I had REALLY only trained for 8 weeks at this point so I was proud/happy to be where I was when I was and started to think of all the people who did not get the chance to even toe the starting line. Aches and pains and a slower last 10k didn’t matter. I was here, running, smiling, talking to who I could and trying to take in every moment for those who could not. I really hope this positivity can translate to 50K day.
This is when you actually feel that downhill as the course flattens out. I did all I could to keep running but I did take a few walk breaks. I LOVE running by Northpoint Snack Shop because I volunteered there in 2011 and that is when I decided to try this crazy thing! Each mile got faster than the last as the crowd came into view. I was right around the 4:50 pacer but she seemed to be all alone so I had no idea if she was on pace or not. By mile 25 I gave in and uncovered my Garmin for good. As I made my way into Veteran’s Park all I could do was smile I saw my family one last time and gave high fives down the finish chute! I had made it there from Grafton 23 TWENTY-THREE MINUTES faster than in 2012! Without marathon specific training, by running by feel and wen a week earlier I wasn’t sure I was going to start!!
I was walked by my friendly local medical student to get my space blanket and food bag, I assured him I was fine and he pretty much told me to “keep walking”. The free noodles sounded SO good when I heard about it but the smell made me feel a little sick in the moment. I knew I wanted beer so I made a B-line for the free Milwaukee Brewing Company brews and text my mother in law. As I waited to hear from her I set my stuff down on a picnic table to take off my shoes and couldn’t help but cry at what had just happened. All the sudden it was really real. It was part pride and part “oh crap” because what if I just derailed my 50K training (I don’t think I did because I pulled a solid 18 mile trail run/10 mile road the next weekend). Once I found my family it didn’t matter! The finish party was awesome this year. A great atmosphere and a nice day. I pulled on my compression socks and sandals (fashion!) and we stuck around for a while.
I love this race and will do it again and probably again. I have no 2014 race plans yet except, of course, Ragnar Chicago another race I love and am excited to run as an ambassador this year! Depending how Saturday’s 50K and subsequent recovery goes I would love to see what I can do in a marathon I train for again and have talked to a few community women about targeting the Wisconsin Marathon as a group! I will keep you updated. For now…
Tighten those laces, let’s RUN!!!!!
Registration for Ragnar Chicago opened last week and many other Ragnars are open or about to and you REALLY want to run. The only problem is you don’t know anyone who needs a team member. Why not start your own team!!! Don’t worry it’s not as scary as it sounds and we are here to help. This step by step guide will give you the skills and tools to recruit, engage, and get your team ready to run! The following strategies have been proven successful for captaining both a 12 and 6 person team.
Watch for part II where we will highlight the actual running of the race.
1)Start talking about Ragnar RIGHT NOW! Talk to anyone who will listen because you never know who would be interested. Get yourself educated on your race by reviewing the race specific page at http://www.ragnarrelay.com
2)Start posting on your social media about Ragnar RIGHT NOW! Be creative and post videos/blogs. Feel free to share the video of team We Run This and our ULTRA journey in 2013 or find videos for your specific race by going to the Ragnar Relay YouTube page. If the video evokes emotion in you it will likely get people’s interest. Encourage your friends to share your posts to find runners outside your circle.
3)Encourage people to join you but be straight forward about expectations. How will you handle drop outs? (see below) How much communication do you except? How much participation/special projects will be involved?
4)Do not let people think they are on your team until you have cash (check) in hand!!! You can invite as many people as you want to your group/e-mail list but only invite PAID runners to the official Ragnar team site! As a captain you will register and therefor have sole financial responsibility of the team. I encourage people not to be scared of this go ahead and register before you have a full team. If it makes you feel better to have some of the money to pay back to your credit card/savings wait until you have a few payments.
Once you find a team – keeping them on track!</p>
We can all agree runners are a … unique… group. Now you have 11 or 5 of them to “manage”.
1)Start a Facebook or similar group where everyone can get/share information.
2)Be straight forward about expectations again in your first couple of correspondences
3)Ask about fitness, experience and how they expect to train and encourage people to be HONEST with you and themselves.
4)Tell everyone they need to communicate any concerns, injuries, etc with you ASAP. The sooner you know you need to replace a runner the easier it will be to find one.
5)Keep your team engaged: posted motivational videos, quotes, pictures. Share your ups and downs in training and others will follow suit.
6)Stay engaged! You will likely be forming a team 6 months or more before race day so make sure your enthusiasm holds strong by scheduling group runs with all/some of the team and hosting team meetings (see below) 2-3 times before the race.
1)Plan to hold 2-3 team “meetings”. These meetings can be in person but they do not HAVE to! If you are using a Facebook group you can chat on Facebook. If everyone has the technology you can use google+ Hangout or another video chat site. If this is not your forte it is likely someone on the team knows about or has a kid that knows about technology.
2)The first meeting (about 5 months out) – BASICS – Get to know one another, review runner distances and start to place people so they know what they are training for (NOTE: Distances can always change, be prepared to run a little more than the assigned distance just in case), VOLUNTEERS – talk about recruitment NOW! If you need more runners talk recruitment of them now as well. Do you want team shirts? Who can/will design/be in charge? Does anyone have a suitable vehicle to use? What kind of vehicle to rent/where from? Does someone have connections for a discount? Make reservations sooner than later! PRO TIP: If you can DO NOT rent at an airport location there is usually extra taxes!
3)The second meeting (2 months out) – Do you still need volunteers? Runners? This is the meeting to really start talking logistics. Make a plan to secure a vehicle. If you want to and haven’t you will need to order shirts ASAP. PRO TIP: It is usually cheaper to go with a local printing company than an online source. Are you staying in the start city the night before? Where? Who can car pool? Are you staying in your end city? Where? What if some of the team wants to stay and others do not? Who will bring what? See our tips for packing for Ragnar here! Remind runners to stick with training but take it easy the week before the race. Plan last meeting to tie up loose ends if applicable.
4)It can be fun to plan social meetings if some of you are in the same town(s). As the captain if it is possible you should plan to travel to another town to meet your teammates. If you all don’t meet pre-race it is no big deal you will become fast friends during the race.
Dealing with drop outs
If you have made your expectations clear throughout recruitment, in theory, this should be easy. You have two options when it comes to a drop out 1- replace the runner 2- do not replace them and have someone or multiple people pick up the distance. Many captains hold strong that once you pay it is NON-REFUNDABLE unless the exiting runner finds a paying replacement. You can decide if you want to refund all/some of the funds if the team has to find the replacements. Some teams split estimated race day(s) costs (food, gas, hotel) beforehand and will have to decide about refunding that or not. I have never done expenses this way. I have always had these paid after.
That about sums it up! You are now ready to choose your own Ragnar adventure at www.ragnarrelay.com make 5 – 11 new friends and have the experience of a life time!
Still have questions? Contact Rachel at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tighten Those Laces! Lets RUN!!