Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Amazing Race - Part II: Lessons Learned!

Now that the race has really sunk in and I've a lot of time to think about Sulphur Springs, there are a few things I definitely need to work on and items that I think worked in my favour.


I've been adding more miles to my training and that seems to have brought on a constant state of hunger. O.K., it's not quite that bad but I'm hungry a lot. I can go from "gee, I'm a bit peckish" to "get out of my way I need to get the fridge" in about 60 seconds flat. This need for food was certainly evident on race day too. Jeff had made us oatmeal and I ate it in the car on the way to the race. I figured that would get me through my 25K and if I absolutely needed to, I'd stop at an aid station. I'm think I was at around the 15K mark when I was absolutely famished. All I had on me was a bag of  Stinger Chews and the hope of some good food at the aid station, which was not part of my overall race strategy.

So now that I'll be adding longer runs when I can, I'll have to start playing around with fuelling options too. I also have to get my stomach used to eating while I'm running or walking (O.K., hopefully running). Sugar seems to wreck havoc on my stomach so I'm going to have to do some research and see what works for others minus the Coke, cookies, candy, and gels. I'm also going to try consuming protein shakes during my runs (see below) so I'm getting what my body really needs and not what will satisfy it for 20 mins at a time.


Ah yes. The continuing story of a girl who can't seem to remember to drink during a race.  Honestly, I'm thinking of writing it down on my lower arm in permanent ink so I'll remember. I'm up for other suggestions though!


Generally, the great thing about going up a hill is that there is a down hill on the other side. I tried to make my downhills fun. I'm sure people thought I had lost it when I pretended I was an airplane whooshing down a hill but let's face it, some of those uphill climbs were nasty and enjoying the downhills helped to make it worthwhile!

That being said though I need hill training. Serious hill training. I know for ultra distances of 50K or more, it is suggested to runners that they walk the hills. But even walking some of those hills repeatedly needs some training. I'd like to get to a point where I can slowly jog up some larger hills at the beginning of races. Well, one can only dream anyway.

And now for what I believe worked.


Cath and I had done a training run at the course about three weeks previously and I really believe that had a lot to do with how well I ran. Even though I had run the same race last year, having the route feel familiar really helped me. I've stated before that I like running loops of a race course before an event and I am even more certain of the advantages now.  Maybe it's just because there's one less thing to think about or you know where the more difficult stages are and can mentally prepare but it works for me, that's for sure.

The night before the race, I could honestly visualize myself running the course and going from aid station to aid station. I hadn't taken the time to do that before and it just added some security to my mental state!


For all the notes I made above about not eating enough food, I have to admit that I consider myself a pretty good eater. Before this race, I hadn't had a beer or a glass of wine for about a month. Perhaps longer than that. I had barely consumed any sugar and ate a TON of fresh, raw veggies. I was actually averaging about 4 bunches of carrots a week, 2 bunches of celery, and 4 red peppers. As soon as I got those veggies home, they were washed and cut up and put in the fridge. Now on top of all this, I've been following Isagenix since September. Before the race, I had increased my consumption of protein shakes and was taking a daily cleanse solution at night before bed. The skeptics out there can "guffaw" all they want, but I shaved 31 mins off my time from last year and my two major changes for this race, from the year before, were the Isagenix usage and the reduction of sugar in my diet.

I'm really starting to understand the importance of nutrition now and quality nutrition for that matter. I'm becoming much more adept at reading labels and making choices about what is going into my body before a run and more importantly, after a run to aid recovery and healing. Nutritional training will be as important as physical training for my goals this year!

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Amazing Race!

I've spent the past 48 hours making mental notes about Sulphur Spring Trail Race. All the things I wanted to convey in this post about my run, the event, the records that were broken, the inspirational stories; ALL of it! Here's hoping I don't ramble on for too long and I remember everything!

My race rocked. No other words can describe it. It rocked. I'm not entirely sure what factors all came together to make the race so great for me but I have some ideas.

I didn't feel like I had trained enough going into this race and I had mentally come to terms with that. However I was incredibly nervous. I don't remember being so nervous about a race actually. I had run the same race a year earlier with a time of 3:38 and I figured anything faster than that was great. But needless to say, in the back of my mind, I thought 3:10 might be doable. I have no idea why but 3:10 stuck in my head.

Saturday morning was simply a runner's dream. Well, this runner's dream anyway. Some people felt it was too cool but honestly, considering how the previous weekend had been (hot and humid), I was happy with a bit of chill in the air and sunshine. The conditions were perfect. A few muddy sections but nothing crazy and the trails weren't too soft or too hard. This baby bear felt it was just right! I really enjoy the course at Sulphur Springs. It probably has one of the nicest and most balanced mixes of flat and hilly trails of all the races I've run. And it's so pretty!

Jeff and I stayed in Waterloo the night before the race so we'd only have an hour to drive the next morning. Like usual, I barely slept. Someday I will figure out a way to get a good night's sleep the night before a race. Although I read a great runner's blog last week that said it was better to focus on the week before the race and getting solid sleep then and not focus so much on the sleep the night before a race; add that little tidbit to the arsenal!

Jeff was great, as usual, and got up before me to make coffee and oatmeal. He was going to run training loops during the day and then pace Bill Lovett during his 100-miler in the evening. He just seemed to sense my nervousness and got me ready to go. We drove down to Sulphur Springs in plenty of time and I got my bib and swag and said hello to a few people. I was still debating what to wear under my hydration pack with about 5 minutes to go before race time but I opted for just a t-shirt and I'm glad I did. I didn't overheat at all which for me is a minor miracle. I also used my hydration pack for this race which I'm never leaving behind again. I'm happy to say I'm hooked on hydration packs and won't do a run longer than a 10k without one EVER again.

The 50K and 25K runners all started together at 7:30 a.m. and I was at the back of the pack on purpose. The crowd of runners was large and because of that, those of us at the back really didn't get into a "run" until we were down the "hill of hell" and into a small meadow. This allowed my legs to get warmed up and I really needed that!

Once I got into a pace that I was comfortable at, I seemed to just chug along. I normally start out too fast but I was conscious not to do that. And I was passing people. Which also doesn't happen all that often. And holy cow, was I in a zone. A good running friend, Robin, apparently tried to get my attention and say hi as I passed her but I have no recollection of that at all! Interestingly, another thing I've stopped doing of late is running with music. I like it when I'm on the treadmill but I'm not using it when I'm running longer distances outside. I seem to be focusing better without it!

I ran the 5K spur in 33 minutes which was slower than I wanted but I have to keep reminding myself that running 5K on trail is different that road or the treadmill. Having my watch with me was great and it was useful to just keep an eye on the time. I trudged up that "hill of hell" at a pretty quick pace, blew by the aid station, and let gravity and my legs draw me down that hill again. I was feeling great going into my full 20K loop.

I got into a great pace and just kept on motoring towards Aid Station #2. I ran by that Aid Station too as part of my plan was not to stop unless absolutely necessary. It seemed like a good idea in theory. I love the Main Loop of the trail. Between the ravine, the orchard, and the river, I'd be happy just to run around there all day. Not far from coming back around to Aid Station #2 again and heading back though, my energy went from zippity-doo to zapped. That was something I hadn't planned on. I had some Stinger chews with me (my absolute fave) and literally devoured those in a matter of seconds and that helped until I got to the aid station.  However nothing at the table at the aid station really appealed to me. Knowing I needed energy pronto I did grab some oranges, a cookie, and a cup of Coke. It did help and I was able to get back to a comfortable pace; a very comfortable pace in fact. I kept looking at my watch and taking double-takes!

Once I got to Aid Station #3, I grabbed more oranges and coke. I knew I had the "Three Sisters" to contend with shortly and I wanted energy for that. Interestingly, about five minutes later, my stomach started to roll a bit which has never happened before during a race. I don't know if it was my body starting to react to the pace or the fact that I had been eating so well up to race day and my stomach was reacting to the high-sugar content of the Coke. Regardless, I just kept going. Now the "Three Sisters" has a more suitable name but as I hope my kids will read this blog someday, I'll keep it light. It's an exhausting climb but to be honest I believe the "hill of hell" at the beginning and end of the race is far more tiring. When I did make it to the top of the ravine though it was like a switch went off because I knew that I was on the far end of the loop with less than 5K to the finish line. And I ran; hard.

I passed Cath on my way back and it was great to see her smiling face. She was on her second loop of her 100-miler and she always looks so relaxed and genuinely happy to just be running. It was a good shot of motivation. My legs were starting to feel tired, my stomach was still rolling around a bit, and even my arms were getting sore. I grabbed Heed on my way by Aid Station #3 and just focused on the fact I was about 1K away from the finish line and just had to make it up the "hill of hell".

I did two things wrong at this point. First, I slowed down and started to walk because I figured I could conserve energy for the hill climb. Second, I should have grabbed one more orange because my energy level dipped again. It was hard for me to get back into even a slow jog. I was tired out. However, a quiet voice said to me, "you can make it under 3:10 if you push it to the finish". I looked at my watch. It was possible. So I picked up the pace again as best I could. I was passing people on the hill on my way up and all of a sudden that goal of UNDER 3:10 lit a fire under me. I got to the top, saw those orange pylons and just ran.

I finished with a time of 3:07. I shave a full 31 minutes off my time from last year and ran my fastest race ever. It rocked. I love Sulphur Springs!

I learned a lot from this race which I think I'll write about in another post. Suffice it to say, all races should have some key learnings but this one had some really good ones for me.

The other races were quite incredible to both witness and be part of as well. After my own race was done, I showered, rested for a bit and then got into crewing mode for two of my good friends who were both attempting the 100M race. I have to admit that I secretly love crewing. You get to be part of something incredibly special without actually running! ;) You are also obligated to stay for the entire race which means you can watch some pretty monumental things. I watched many people complete their first 50M and 100M run, which is always so inspirational to me. I also watched the 100M male and female records smashed AGAIN this year and if you are looking to find some incredible mentors that define hard work and determination, I have some names for you!

As always, the Sulphur Springs Trail Race did not disappoint. I love this race and I can't wait to be there next year!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pre-Race Ramble

For those who don't know, Sulphur Springs Trail Run will always have my heart. Sure, there are other events that I do enjoy being at more; mostly because they are smaller events. But Sulphur was my very first running race and trail race - 10km that I will never forget and I never even got a finisher's medal! This Saturday will be my third race at Sulphur Springs and I can't wait to get there!!

This year of racing hasn't been the kind I wanted so far. I wasn't trained for the ICY-8 in February and didn't go. Then about three days before what would have been my first 24-hour race last month, I ended up with a stomach bug that wiped me out and I couldn't recover in time. Sulphur Springs was supposed to be my first crack at the 50M barrier and I've downgraded to 25KM. Part of the reason is because I still don't feel like I've trained enough for 50M. The other part of the reason is that I feel as though I'm pushing myself too fast to get through these "mileage" zones. I would have downgraded to the 50K but they were already sold out.

In many respects the old adage that you need to crawl before you can walk really applies here. I still need to lay down a strong foundation of training and figure out what really does work for me and what doesn't. My IT band has been niggling at me for the past few weeks and I know it's because I haven't been working on my glutes and core training. I need to learn to train properly and I don't mean just packing on total miles during the week. The more I read about and listen to my running "mentors", the more I realize that yes, they have lots of good advice about mileage training plans but they also cross-train. Even if it's mountain biking, yoga, quasi-crossfit, swimming, or hiking, they do cross-train and they all seem to agree that it helps.

Considering my running goals for this year are shelved anyway, I figure that I'll use this summer and the races I have left as a "training" year. I'm going to work hard and pay attention to my body and to my abilities. I want to figure out what mileage increases are good for me and will produce results. I want to work on endurance and speed (although endurance is more important to me right now). I know I need to work on hill-training and I'm absolutely aware I need to work on my mental focus and try to wipe out the negative thoughts that currently plague me during a race.

My goals have definitely changed this year but the more I really think about it, I believe I'm doing the right thing for me. Those mileage barriers aren't going to change but my performance can. So instead of focusing on just getting past those mileage markers, I'm going to focus on becoming a better runner. Now that seems like a reasonable goal!