Free State 40 Mile Trail Run

This is my longest race to date, only the second race beyond a half marathon. After Psycho WyCo, I had high hopes for this race. But to be honest, I was dreading this race in the weeks beforehand. My training had not been anywhere near what my plans had called for. I only managed to get two 20 mile runs in for my long runs. For a marathon, that would be fine, but I was "running" 40 miles. Oh well. I figured even if it wasn't pretty, I was going to finish. I haven't DNF'd in a race yet, knock on wood.

Each race, I tend to have a different mantra in my head that helps me through. This race was "Keep your eyes on the trail and your feet moving forward." It seemed to work.

All photos courtesy of Dick Ross http://www.seekcrun.com/

The 40 mile and 100k runners started together at 7 am and the trail marathon runners started an hour later. The first few miles were slow while everyone tried to figure out their place and started to spread out. That was fine by me, I was actually hoping to do more walking than running in the first few miles anyway.

I ran with just a hand-held water bottle. I like to run light, and I just haven't found a pack that's comfortable. My bottle can hold serveral salt caps or a key, but that's about it. I'll usually wear clothes with a pocket if I need to carry more than that.

John and I ran the whole thing together, since his preparation was about as good as mine. Our strategy was to start out slow and taper off. This race was all about HR and energy management (and I anticipated damage control as well). It was overcast and humid, and the humidity was reflected in my HR. I averaged 161 for the race, which is about 10 bpm higher than I would have liked, but I was feeling good so I didn't back off.

I focused on eating a lot, drinking often, and getting plenty of salt. I think I took somewhere around 15 salt caps in 8 hours. I was taking about 1 every 45 min, plus I would take another if I noticed my hands starting to swell up. That worked well and I had no cramps or stomach issues.

We ran the first few miles with several other Nerds and that helped pass the time. They passed us, we caught back up, and by the second lap John and I were on our own again. We ran the first 20 mile is 4 hours flat, right on our goal time. We both felt good, too, so we wasted very little time at the aid station and kept moving.

The manned aid stations were fantastic. The volunteers had everything set up like a full-service gas station, except unlike gas station attendants, they were clean, attractive, and pleasant smelling. Unless you've run an ultra, you can't appreciate someone taking your water bottle from you, discarding the body-temperature contents, and replacing it with an ice-cold beverage of your choice. In the early part of the race, this is a nice perk. At the end of the race, this was crucial for my hydration, but also for my mental state. Ice water never tasted as good as it did at mile 25 of this race. I felt better each time a manned aid station came into view.

I made it a point to eat at each manned aid station, typically a rice crispy bar, half a chocolate chip cookie, a few orange and watermelon pieces, and a salt cap. Each time I got to our drop bags, I stuck 2 GU in my sports bra to carry on the trails if I needed a pick-me-up. I maintain that is what sports bras are intended for - snack holders.

As the day got warmer, I had to increase my salt to about every 30 minutes and I ditched my shirt. With the humidity, John and I were both getting warm and I didn't want to overheat. We were very lucky in that the sun never really came out. I think runners would have been dropping like flies had we been in full sun.

At the aid station at mile 30, someone told me I was the 3rd female. We had passed a few women, but that was not even on my radar for priorities. That gave me a little more energy, and John said if i didn't take third I had to ride in the trunk on the way home. We both still felt good and kept up our pace. That changed quickly and by the time we hit the last manned aid station, we were both feeling tired and John started to have stomach issues.

The last 3 miles were some of the hardest miles I've ever covered. Somewhere during the second lap I lost all concept of time and distance, and I would have sworn that they moved some of those aid stations. We walked more in the last 2 miles that anywhere else. Without mile markers, we had no idea how close we were and we were starting to get frustrated. Exhausted is an understatement.

When we came out at the gravel road that led to the finish line, I actually starting singing the Hallelujah chorus. We walked up the steepest part of the hill, then ran for the finish line. I was surprised at how good I felt. I was tired, but I didn't feel like I had been run over by a bus. That was a victory in itself.

We finished in about 8:09. That put our second lap only 9 minutes slower than the first, which I thought was fantastic for 20 mile laps. Without the last few miles, our pace was probably dead on the rest of the race. We milled around for a while, drank lots of water and stripped off our incredibly muddy socks and shoes. I'm still not sure what my official time was or what place we each took, but that doesn't really matter. (John didn't make me ride home in the trunk, either) We ran a consistent race at a challenging yet sustainable pace. We couldn't have run a better race without better training.

Thunderstorms and tornado's rolled in later and lots of 100k runners weren't able to finish. I'm glad we finished before the weather, but I can sympathize with those runners.

We were both pretty sore afterwards. My feet felt the worst; they were water- and mud-logged, and completely battered. My quads were pretty trashed, too, but I chalk that up to poor training. By Monday, I could go down the stairs without leaning on anything and today I feel fine. I have been eating like a horse, too. Hopefully that will taper off soon.

Thank you to all of the organizers and volunteers. Bad Ben, Sophia, and the Trail Nerds really do put on a helluva race.


Good News!

I have bad knees. I tend to ignore it, but in the last few weeks it was getting much worse. So today I went to the doc to have them looked at, expecting the worst. Yes, I purposely waited until after Free State, just in case I was told to take a few weeks off.

Things were much better than I had expected. My pain going down hills and stairs is due to patellar tendonitis - no big deal. I need to get back on the bike and stretch more, but I was told there's no reason to decrease my running at all. He also said based on my x-rays, the reason for the family history of problems is that I have less space between my patella and femur than "normal" people which makes my knees more prone to rubbing and grinding, but right now everything looks good.

That is also why road running causes more discomfort than trails - more impact means more of a chance of bad contact within the joint. And the bad genetics will only be helped by exercise and keeping a healthy weight. He said I should expect much better longevity out of my knees than my family members as long as I keep it up.

His exact words: "No reason to stop running unless you want to, and I really doubt you want to." There's a reason I found a doc who is also a runner! Looks like I better keep running and doing triathlons - doctor's order. :)

(Free State RR and photos coming soon)


Shoe Fetish!

Is seven pairs too much? I could make it 10 if I add my cycling shoes and rock climbing shoes. I've been thinking about climbing lately. I need about 6 more hours in a day for that to fit in right now. Anyway, after buying my last two pairs of shoes I realized I had quite the collection. I have more running shoes than dress shoes, which I think means I need more dress shoes.

The black pair are my new Saucony trail shoes, a picture of clean ones are below. So far, I've put two 20 mile runs on them, plus 12-15 additional miles and so far, I really like them. I can't say for sure that they don't give me blister. I had a large blister left over from my last shoes and it's so deep I'm starting to think my right big toe is actually just an over sized blister with nail polish on it right now.

The have a more narrow last than the Mizuno Wave Ascends I was running in, and that seems to really help my overall fit. They're very breathable and they drain quickly after water crossings. Traction and feel are good. They feel much lighter than my last two pair of trail shoes (the Mizunos and Salomon XT Wings) but maybe that's because I've been running through so much water the mud hasn't built up.

I am a supinator, so I always wear neutral shoes and these have been great. There is good support, but not too much. Too much of an arch support and my form gets worse. I would say the toe box is roomy enough for a normal sized foot, but not overly large. If you have a wide foot, you probably wouldn't have enough room.

The sole seems comparable to the Mizunos, which was one thing I was looking for. They also have a metal ring at the front of the laces, which work perfectly for hooking my gaiters to, whether or not that was the intention I don't know.

The sales guy didn't know anything about trail shoes and when I joked that I wished there were some hills I could run up and down on, he told me I could jump up on some boxes. Roadies may think we trail runners are a little off, but I think the roadies are just as weird.

My only "complaint" is that I really like the textured laces a lot of companies have gone to, and these laces are normal. I suppose if my laces becoming loose is an issue, I can always replace the laces.

Overall, these are my favorite trail running shoes so far. I'll be wearing these on Saturday for the Freestate 40 mile race, and other than being under-trained, I'm excited for it.


Sunday, Bloody Sunday

With the end of the weekend, I have another 20-miler in the books. I read on Rick Mayo's blog:

Trail Runner's Manifest
If you're not cold you're wearing too many clothes

If you're not thirsty you're carrying too much water
If you're not hungry you're carrying too much food
If you're not bleeding, muddy, and exhausted at the finish line you didn't run hard enough.

I satisfied all of those today, other than the one about being cold. It was in the 50s, with a little sun here and there, so damn near perfect really. John and I ran at Wyco and it was one of the best 20 mile runs I've had. I'm getting better at nutrition and hydration, but I still like to carry the absolute minimum needed to finish my runs. I almost made it through 2 laps without falling in the mud. Almost. In the last mile, I fell down a rocky, wet, and slippery slope cutting up both knees and generally bruising my ego. A little bit of blood, but no harm done.

The last week of training has been good - lots of miles and my first outdoor ride last Tuesday. I managed to pull off an 18 mph average on the hilly road in SMP, so I figured that was good. After this weekend's 40 mile race, I'll be putting in some serious miles on the saddle. Actually, I'm packing up my bike and riding at the airport after work tomorrow. Just a nice and easy 15-20 miles with few hills. I'm supposed to taper, remember.

Unfortunately, my right knees has still been giving me grief. After the first 10 miles today, the downhills were excruciating on my knee. John gave me his only ibuprofen, and that made a world of a difference. Vitamin I, how I love you! I don't like to take meds of any kind and usually limit myself to 1 ibuprofen after a race or cold meds during work hours only. I think this weekend I may have to carry some with. I swear, after the race I'll have my knees checked out. The rice-crispy noise in my right knees has gotten noticeably worse. I'm just glad my doc is a runner so I won't get "running's bad for your knees."

I'm obviously playing with the layout of my blog. I'm not sold on this one yet. Any opinions? I thought it was a little hard to read and feels more cluttered. I thought I'd give it a week. I can't seem to find one I really like.


Unmanly Men

Yet another reason to avoid pavement:

Last night on my run, I encounter several "Manly Men"

1. Guy jogging with two little dogs, slows to a walk. And by little, I mean our 16 pound cat was easily bigger than both of them. I smile and nod, he avoids making eye contact. I trot by in the other direction at an easy 9:30 min/mile. About 3 minutes later, he comes running past me, the two little dogs working their legs as fast at they can to try to keep up. The littlest one was practically being dragged. Once he was two blocks past me, he turned into an apartment complex and walks. Poor dogs. They clearly are not used to running that fast, nor have the stride length to do it.

2. I heard two runners approaching from behind. Their conversation was something about soccer practice and kids until they were within feet of me. Then the conversation suddenly changed and went something like this (along with a general increase in volume):

Manly Man 1 "My St. Patrick's Day run was so much faster than I had planned!"
Manly Man 2 "Yeah, me too. I couldn't believe I set another PR this year!"
Manly Man 1 "I'm just so used to having to run up and down hills and that course was just too easy for me!"

I had caught a little of the previous conversation, so I was curious if this last part was a genuine change in conversation or for my benefit. As they ran ahead, I did managed to hear "...so nice when one of them has their license."

But the topping on the cake was that when the ran past, I noticed they were wearing matching running jackets and black tights! One had on capri-length tights even! I hope they were on some kind of team, but guessing at their ages, I doubt it.

No man should wear capri-length anything. And please be kind to little dogs with 6" long legs. I am not impressed by your speed when your little terrier is bouncing along the pavement behind you. I prefer my men covered in mud.

I did manage to put in 12 miles last night. Pavement sucks.


Clinton in the Springtime

My long run this weekend was a 20 miler at Clinton Lake with the Western Division of the KC Trail Nerds. Besides being overdressed and undertrained, I had a ball. There were about 5,000 runners there at the start. Ok, maybe it was closer to 15, but it was a huge group for a training run. Most of the group was doing 15-16 miles and there were 4 of us who did 20.

That was the first time I had ever been to Clinton. The course we ran is the same course I'll be running in a few weeks for the Freestate 40 mile race. It's much more runnable than WyCo; I would say it's a better version of the trails at Shawnee Mission Park. With all the rain we had last week, it was super muddy.

The group stayed together for the first 8 miles or so, which I thought was pretty cool. A group this size usually splits up after a mile or two. We ran around the lake, through wooded areas starting to show signs of spring with a carpet green plants starting to spring up. I would have liked to look around more, but if I took my eyes off the trail, I'm sure I would have done a face plant.

After we split, it was Gary Henry, a couple up visiting from Texas, and me. Gary was great. He truly is a trail veteran, keeping pace, telling stories, and even breaking into verse. I slowly dropped back - the full sun sections were frying my HR and I had to take a few walk breaks. But I enjoyed the trails and the company. Besides making sure I made it back (I made one wrong turn), Gary also had cold water in a giant cooler in his car. I changed into dry clothes and refilled my water bottles a few times, before heading back to KC.

I wish Clinton was closer and I could make the Clinton run a regular thing. Maybe it will be a monthly occurrence. It is definitely worth it.


Older and Wiser

So far my week looks like this:
Sunday: 6 mile run (crappy weather)
Monday: 11 mile run
Tuesday: 60 min bike, 6 mile run
Wednesday: 2000-3000m in the pool (later tonight, TBD)
Thursday: 7 mile trail run
Friday: rest (maybe 30 min easy spin after I tune up my bike)
Saturday: 20-25 mile trail run
Sunday: 90 min bike or swim (TBD)

Makes me tired just looking at it.

I had originally scheduled another 10+ mile run for yesterday to make up for the 20 miler I missed this weekend. My nagging knee pain had started to return on Monday (I blame the pavement). Training for my first 1/2 marathon, my right knee cap started to feel like it was caught on something, and didn't move in it's natural track. Overuse injury I decided, and all the more reason to keep up tri training. Except this winter I've piled on the miles and let my bike collect dust.

So last night, instead of 10 more miles of pounding, I spent an hour on the trainer and then did an easy 6 miles through the neighborhood. That may not sound like taking it easy, but trust me, replacing 4 mile with 60 minutes of riding did me a world of good. At home, I stretched a little, rolled my legs and back on the foam roller, and iced my knees. No knee pain during the run. Bowl of ice cream with fresh strawberries as my reward. :)

I'm a little short on miles, but I think the bigger victory was listening to my body for a change instead of just grinding through another workout. I'm trying to be better at this, especially since I'm a "little" under-trained for the 40 mile race in 2 weeks. I'm trying to add miles and cardio, but I can't afford a complete breakdown. It's an interesting balance.

On a different note, I'm hungry all the time. One of the many joys of training. It's a good thing we're stocked up on apples, grapes, strawberries, carrots, peppers, and tomatoes. If it's raw and was growing out of the ground, I don't have to worry about how much I eat. Getting enough protein is a different story.


Where did spring go?

My daffodils looked much happier on Saturday when it was 60 and sunny. Yesterday, I could have sworn we were back in January for how crappy the weather was. We helped out Bad Ben at his aid station for Brew to Brew. I think 38 degrees, sleeting, and 30 mph winds is quite possibly the worst weather to run in. Or be outside in, period. But if it wasn't for the weather, I wouldn't have had the latest in trash-bag fashion. I'll post some pics when I get them. (Hint hint, Sophia :) )

Between the rain and the PBR Fairy on Friday night, I didn't do much this weekend. Which was kinda nice, but also means I have ten mile runs back to back this week. I did 11 tonight, and I really noticed how much pavement sucks. My knees were starting to hurt, so I think tomorrow I may ride an hour and then run an hour to give my knees a break. Actually, I'm icing my knees right now. Damn pavement.

Then again, if it's nice out, I may just head to SMP and put in 9 miles on trails, bibke be damned. We did run on Sunday, so it wasn't a complete waste, just not the 20 miles we both had planned. That just leaves me with a small issue - biking. My White Lightning still hasn't shown up, so that's my current excuse. Hopefully before this weekend, and I can get outside.

This Saturday, I AM RUNNING AT WYCO. 2 loops. Hopefully the weather will be nicer. Although after running last night and again tonight, there is something to be said for running in crap-tastic weather. It gives you a much bigger sense of accomplishment, I think. "Did you see the game last night?" "No, I was out running 11 miles in 30 mph wind." Alright, so my answer is always just no, the last part is in my head. But knowing I was out there always makes me smile.

My tulips aren't far behind my daffodils. I'll post pictures when we have some sunshine.