Sunday, May 30, 2010

More Cowbell Please

Pineland Farms 50 miler in Maine is one of my favorite and least favorite races. I had run this race two years ago and was amazed at how I could run the entire course hard, as there are no long hills or technical sections, but rather rolling fields and double track. For me this type of course is challenging because I am not extremely confident in my leg turnover. The lure of this race for me is the atmosphere. The race directors do it up right with everything from a canine cross race to the 50 miler. Also the scenery, live music, food and wonderful volunteers make it worth the trip.

Before the race I checked in with teammates Chad Denning, Amy Lane, Serena Wilcox and Ben Nephew to see what shoes they would be racing in. I knew that if the forecast looked good I would race in my flite 320’s pk’s. There would be no need for me to have a lot of tread underfoot on this course so the less resistance the better. As we lined up for the pre-race announcements I discussed with Chad my plan for the first loop (The course consisted of a 5k mile loop followed by three laps of a 25k loop). The cowbell rang and off we went. Chad and I stuck to my plan for the first three miles in an attempt to not be overzealous. Now that we were onto the larger laps I felt a little sense of relief. There were four male runners in front of us and no one in sight behind. We could see one of the male runners in front of us, but I tried my best to stay on my pace and give the race time to unfold. As we ticked off miles I checked my watch to see if we were overreaching early on. Within a short period of time the answer was yes we were, so every once and a while I would tell Chad our splits and we would tone it back. Having Chad racing by my side was helpful as we could talk about a plan for particular sections of the course and remind each other to fuel. Luckily the sky remained overcast for the first full lap, but that changed.

As we lapped through I asked my husband for an update on females behind me. With a bit of a cushion Chad and I decided that we would slow our pace and cruise the second lap and then push the third lap. I grab a new bottle and a piece of a vegan cookie. I forced a few bites down and then had to throw the rest in the woods. Within minutes I had an upset stomach and I had to go to the bathroom. Now my stomach was not on my side. We continued to run and eventually I got a GU into my now empty system. For the entire second lap my stomach was touch and go. Despite this we maintained our desired pace and I just focused on trying not to allow my stomach to shut down. Other then that it was an astonishing calm lap. I would listen and hear nothing but nature, not a rumble of a large truck, a car horn or even a voice. Before we pulled back to the lap area Chad asked me if I was going to grab more cookie and just thinking of cookie I wanted to vomit. Just 25k to go, but my energy was on the downswing.

Again we grabbed new bottles, GU and got an update from George. Our lead over the next females was still growing and now we had about 20 minutes. I remember asking Chad if that was enough of a cushion or if I should run harder. I was worried. The sun was now getting more intense and I was drinking water like it was my job. I ate a GU and then remember saying allowed “ok GU, you can kick in now”. Finally my energy level was back but Chad’s wasn’t cooperating as well. With about 15 miles to go Chad and I parted ways. I could once again see one of the male fifty mile runners in front of me and slowly tried to reel him in. I finally caught him and we spoke a bit before I passed him. I knew I would see George again at mile 45 and focused on getting to him. Eventually I got there and grabbed a new bottle and got an update as I ran away. He yelled I had a 30 minute lead and then changed it to 25. This change made me worry that maybe he really had no idea how much of a lead I had. All I knew was I had 5 miles to go. I hadn’t yet looked at the race time on my watch and wasn’t ready to do that yet. I told myself that once I got to the final last 5k I could look at my watch to see how my overall time was shaping up. I ran a faster pace on the downs and flats and then slowed a bit on the up hills. I was starting to feel a bit overheated and starting to feel like I was ready to be done. I started dreaming of the shower I could take at the end. Looking back I can calculate that I ran the first 2 miles in under 15 minutes, but that was the easier portion of the 5 miles. When I looked head at the 5k to go mark I saw the third place fifty mile male in front of me. I slowly closed the gap and said hello. I tried to stay calm and just keep my pace consistent. As I finally hit the last aid station I had one mile to go and knew I still had the legs to really run it in. I crossed the line with a new personal record, a new course record and a sense of relief that I could now join the spectator party at the finish line.

It was a great day to be out running and so wonderful to share that day with fellow runners. I really enjoyed having so many Inov-8 teammates on hand at the event knowing that they would be there to support me if I needed anything. It was also amazing to have so many runners on course tell me how much they love their Inov-8 shoes; everyone seemed to have their favorites on.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother’s Day 6-Hour Race – A Different Mentality

On Sunday I entered a 6 Hour Mother’s Day Race which was a fund raiser for breast cancer. The course was a 5k loop that consisted of a variety of terrain. I saw this as a great opportunity for a supported training run. The prerace report was that the trails were fairly dry so I decided to try out my new f-lite 320 Pk’s. A four arrow shoe with a low key outsole that still provides underfoot protection seemed like a logical and ideal choice.

Before I knew it we were off and running. The first three hours ticked away without worry and I didn’t find myself looking at the race clock or my watch. My stride felt good and I was feeding off other people’s energy. At this point I had enough laps in to know what was around every corner and it was nice to know what parts of the course I could push slightly harder. Thirty three miles into the race I began to process the idea that my typical mindset of “the faster I run the sooner it is over” wasn’t going to work today. Today I had to pay attention to the clock which was difficult. With thirty nine miles behind me I told myself I would call it a day at forty two. With the mindset of one last time I hammered the loop, I had a renewed sense of energy with the thought that the end was near. As I finished the 5k loop and once again approached the clock I realized I still had a half an hour. Before my mind knew it my legs had taken me back on course again. I found myself now thinking “the faster I run the sooner it is over”. Again I pushed the 5k loop and found myself back at the start/finish line with the clock reading 5:53. This time I stopped dead at the line. The race personal informed me I had time to knock out another mile to add to my tally. I politely, but clearly declared no more. While driving home I felt disappointed that I didn’t finish the full time allotment. Perhaps I was mentally defeated by the 6 hour race.

As always Gil’s Athletic Club out of Massachusetts put on a great run. I learned that a timed race requires a much different approach then a set distance course and I commend those who can mentally handle it.