Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Blood, Sweat & Beers Relay to End the Season

It's official...the last race of 2014 is in the books! I had debated racing the last Ohio Outside trail race again as well as the Run Santa Run 5K in Mentor but decided to have some fun with things and make my last race of the season a relay! Northeast Running Club (NERC) hosts an interclub relay race at the end of the season and I've always wanted to run it so this year I got a team together for the co-ed division consisting of my speedy husband Steve and my speedy friend Jillian.

The race, which is free to run simply requires you to sign up and show up that day ready to run with your team and maybe to help make some chili for the chili cookoff. The race takes place at the West woods park in Russell Township/Newbury. It's a gorgeous park with some challenging and fun terrain.

Me, Steve and Jillian prerace
Steve and I got in a little mile warm up on what I thought was the start of the course, which was a good little climb up a hill. Fortunately the start wasn't uphill! We met up with Jillian for a quick team pic as the hubby had designed some fun shirts for us to run in.

The relay consists of an 8-mile leg, 5 mile leg and 3 mile leg for a team total of 16 miles. The starts are staggered with 3 minutes between each group so the 8-milers go first, followed by the 5 milers followed by the 3s. Steve volunteered to do the 8 mile leg, which I hear is pretty brutal! I did the 5 mile leg and Jillian did the 3 mile leg.

My race didn't go as well as I hoped but it went okay. I woke up battling GI issues and just loaded up on the pepto and tums and made the best of it. According to my Garmin I did 5.11 miles in 42:15 so about an average pace of 8:17. That's not bad for the trails but I was shooting to come in around 8 minutes flat.

Fortunately Steve and Jillian both did better! Steve came in just over 56 minutes in 2nd place for the 8 miler (fortunately for us some of the speedy men got lost!). And Jillian did around a 21:50 for the 3 miles.

post race team pic w/ our award!
Our team goal was to break 2 hours and we sure came close at 2:00:07! This was good for 2nd place in the co-ed and we won a custom award made out of wood. After the race we enjoyed some hot cocoa and chili and hung out among friends.

It was a nice way to end the season and I will definitely plan to do this again either as a co-ed relay or female relay! Thanks to NERC, especially Guy Gadomski and all the volunteers including my good friends Melanie Lynn and Christopher Miller!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

2014 Lake County YMCA Turkey Trot 5K Race Report

Steve and I had opted to do the Lake County YMCA Turkey Day 5K race instead of the downtown Turkey Trot since it is in our local community and was easier for us logistically. For it being a local 5k, it is a fairly big race with about 1200 runners coming out each year.

I was not happy to wake up to snow on Thanksgiving morning as I knew this would slow things down for the race. On our mile warm up my feet got wet and my warm up clothes were drenched in wet snow. Luckily Steve and I had both brought trail shoes in case the conditions were bad so we both changed after the warm up. This proved to be a good decision as the roads were snow covered for much of the race.

The race starts at 8:30 in front of the Painesville YMCA and heads east down Mentor Avenue towards Lake Erie College. It is a flat and fast course but with the snow it slowed things down some. I saw a few people slip and fall including one woman that tried to pass me around the halfway point. It was a cold, wet run but it went super fast. I wanted to break 22 minutes but I ended up being just over with a 22:07, good for 10th of 670 women and first in the 35-39 age group. Steve ended up running just over 20 minutes and winning first in his age group as well. Neither of us had a PR but in these conditions I think most people were close to a minute slower than usual.

Post race with our hard-earned pies!
The YMCA does an excellent job with the race. It is well organized and they give awesome awards! The age group winners received pumpkin pies and really nice travel coffee mugs so Steve and I each earned a pie and mug, which was awesome! We shared the pies with our loved ones but the mugs are ours! After the race we went home to cook a delicious Thanksgiving meal and enjoy spending time with our families.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Some Advice for Training For Your First 140.6 Iron Distance Triathlon

My life this past summer pretty much centered on training for the Rev3 Cedar Point Full, which was my first 140.6 iron-distance triathlon. It was a life-changing experience and I am looking forward to tackling a new 140.6 next fall. 

I thought it might be helpful to those considering taking on their first 140.6 next season to impart some of the things that I have learned and found to be helpful in my prep for Cedar Point:

  • Swim, bike and run often. Even in the off season you want to make sure that you’re engaging in at least one session in each discipline each week. This helps ease you into the training plan when it is time to get serious.
  • Have a plan and work the plan. An iron-distance race is too big of a task to wing it. You need to be both mentally and physically prepared. While no athlete can commit to 100% of the workouts (life gets in the way on occasion) you should commit to 95%. The plan will keep you focused even through life’s little setbacks.
  • Build endurance early on. But don’t overdo it in the training. Keep it easy on most days. You can challenge yourself by selecting a spring endurance event that you can focus on and it’s also a good idea to race a 70.3 half distance triathlon somewhere between 6-12 weeks out from your 140.6 race.
  • Seek the advice of elders. Never be afraid to ask your experienced peers that have already completed this challenge for advice. Most of the time they will happily share what they have learned along the way.
  •   Have some fun along the way. One of the best things about triathlon is the people you will meet and train with and cheer for. It is a fun and social sport. Make sure you have some fun along the way and don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • Be well. When taking on a challenge like 140.6 it is so important to be well. Make sure that you eat to fuel your body. Treats are okay but eat the good stuff too…lots of fruits and veggies and lean proteins and whole grains or alternative grains like quinoa, buckwheat, etc. And sleep well. Aim for eight hours a night especially during your build periods. Don’t be afraid to nap or kick your feet up when you can. And take vitamins and supplements like probiotics and vitamin C to keep your body’s immunity up.
  • Don’t forget recovery. With such a physically demanding challenge you must allow your body some time to recover as well. Designate a day to rest and stretch each week especially during the build periods. For me it works out well to take Mondays off after a long weekend of training. I sleep in a little and then get up and stretch well for 20-30 minutes. If you’re really restless on recovery days you can always allow yourself a short one or two mile walk.
  • Be Flexible on race day. It's a long day of racing and things may not go exactly as you've planned or envisioned. It's okay, your real goal is just to get to that finish line. Forget the time goals or doubting yourself if one leg of the race doesn't go well. You have done the training and you can do it. Stay mentally strong. Focus. The finish line awaits!

If you decide to go the full distance know that it is okay to have moments of frustration, worry or doubt.  Just don’t let those let those little worries hold you back because you can do anything you set your mind to if you follow a good plan, take good care of yourself and believe in yourself. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

2014 Salt Fork Challenge Race Report - 10.4 miles and 1900 feet of rocks, roots, mud and beauty!

Years back the Ohio Outside Salt Fork Trail Challenge was my first trail race. Steve and I actually ran it together for fun and ended up walking a good deal of it. This year we both wanted to race it and see what we could do.

For a 10 mile trail race it is a very challenging race! Salt Fork is full of hills and single track and mud and beauty! I loved this race and will most certainly do it again!

Shot of the park on drive in
Steve and I had planned a little get away for the race so we headed down Friday afternoon through some yucky Cleveland weather to the snow-free trails of Southern, Ohio. Salt Fork is located close to Cambridge, Ohio, which was about a 2.5-3 hour drive for us from Mentor. We stopped for a smoothie at Robeks on the way down and checked into our room about 4:00. On the way into the park I couldn't help but snap some pictures so I could share this beauty with my friends and family back home.

After unpacking and relaxing for a little while we went to pick up our packets and then headed to dinner at the restaurant in the lodge. The beer selection was not too great, which was no big deal as we had come prepared!

Salt fork hoodies!
It was a relaxing and fun night and we were able to enjoy some of our own hoppy beers after dinner as well as some tasty snacks. Our Salt Fork hoodies came in very handy as they were nice and cozy to wear around that evening and post race! We were also able to sleep in since we were onsite already, which was an awesome bonus!

Race Morning:

The wake-up call came at 7 am and I felt well rested. Steve brewed us some coffee and we ate some breakfast, got dressed and headed out for a warm up mile before the race. It was really cold early in the morning by by the race start at 9:30, it had warmed up some. In fact I ran back to our room to change my shirt so I didn't overheat.

Steve and I lined up together and chatted for a minute before the race. The race starts in front of the lodge with a fast, downhill trek through the parking lot and then quickly heads off road into the grass and through some bushes heading into the trails of Salt Fork. I tried not to go out too fast as is often my modus operandi because I knew the later miles were going to hurt. The footing was tricky due to heavy leaf coverage and I managed to trip and fall early on within the first mile. I was right back up before I could even be passed but this instilled in me very early into the race to use light feet.

With it being a technical trail with a variety of terrain and conditions as well as elevation, it's not a real fast course so you can't really plan to just go out and run an 8-minute mile. Some sections are fast like that but most are slower going as you have to really watch your footing and what lies ahead. I really love this aspect of trail running because it is NEVER boring as it can be running on the road at times. You can't just zone out. This makes for a very zen and interesting run.

There were some muddy sections and I even passed a woman who had lost her shoe in the mud around mile 3.5 or 4.
Muddy feet after the race!
I used that as an opportunity to try to distance myself from some other women. I wasn't sure what place I was in until just after the road leading to the aid station where a man yelled to me "third place female". This gave me a boost and I was prepared in advance of the aid station as I had taken in my gel and just quickly stopped to throw away the packet and sip some water. I took off on the road because this is a strong spot for me and I wanted to gain some advantage over the woman right behind me. This worked well as I glanced down at my Garmin and saw that I was running in the lower 7's for that section.

Of course once we headed back into the hilly grass section things were not moving as fast. A young woman came out of nowhere around mile 7 and took off ahead of me. She was soon out of my sight and I was in 4th and just trying to stay steady within myself. The fatigue was starting to set in for me and the end of the race is not easy. I really started to feel myself weaken and fade in the last mile of the race and another woman had passed me but I would not allow myself to get into a walking pattern and throw it all away. My thoughts of food, beer and Steve kept me moving.

My Award!
The last section is challenging straight uphill through the grass and a woman tried to pass me but I was able to fight her off and push through to the end of the race. It was a painful finish but it was a nice feeling to cross the finish line and be handed an award for 2nd in the 30-39 age group and 6th female.

The 10-year age groups made it difficult as Steve didn't place in his age group of 40-49 but was the first over 45. In looking at the results it was a competitive race. I would have liked to have held onto my top 3 status but better luck next time. It was still an awesome race and a hell of a good workout!

Our other award! Yakima!
We had to get back quickly for my cousin's funeral so we were not able to enjoy a beer right away but we did stop for a quick bite to eat at Einstein Bagels on the way back. After the funeral we headed to Ray's Place in Kent for a hoppy beer and dinner. Then we stopped at World of Wine in Mentor to fill the awesome growler we bought with some Columbus Brewing Yakima Fresh Hop Ale! Yep, that was worth 10.4 miles and 1900+ feet of running and climbing!

Ohio Outside does a great job with their races and I definitely recommend this one if you like a challenge on the trails!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

2014 Autumn Leaves Race Report

This was my second year of racing the NERC Autumn Leaves 5 Miler at the Lake Farmpark in Kirtland. This is a grassroots cross country style race with a fun vibe and some solid competition. It is definitely not a PR course but a great race to challenge yourself and have some fun. Each year the course is altered some, which also makes it interesting.

Steve raced also so we were able to eat breakfast and get in our warm ups together. It was a chilly morning so we did our best to stay warm up until the race start. The start is fast as it begins with a downhill section and quickly winds down through some of the dirt roads within the farmpark before heading into some lengthy sections of pasture. The grass was long and muddy from rains the night before. As usual this made for some slower footing. After about 2 miles the course winds through a corn maze. This year the maze section was longer. The twists and turns through the maze and the slippery sections definitely make it a challenging part of the course. If a corn maze won't get your heart rate up then I don't know what will!

I'm in the pink chasing 1st in my AG ahead of me after the corn maze
Coming out of the maze you reenter the pasture and there are some nice hills to keep that heart pumping. I had been passed by two women (including the one who won my AG) not long before entering the maze but was not able to close the gap as I had hoped. The rest of the race I just tried to run within myself and give what I could that day. After coming off a bad race the week before where I pulled out halfway due to lingering foot issues I wasn't sure how I'd fare a week later, especially in harder conditions. Fortunately the foot held up okay for me.

When we finally got out of the last pasture section and hit the dirt road leading back the finish I felt both happy and annoyed. My garmin had showed 40:01 (a slower time than last year by about a minute) but it also showed the course as 5.18 miles. In my mind I ran as best as I could on a hard course and ended up placing 9th female and 2nd in the 35-39AG (which is where I placed last year). All in all I am happy with the result and looking forward to tacking the the Salt Fork 10 Mile Challenge next weekend.

Post race with our award beer glasses!
Steve had a great race and finished with the same time as last year (33 & change), given the longer course. He placed 8th overall and 1st in the 45-49AG. We both won new glasses, which were perfect to enjoy the tasty IPAs we had that night to celebrate another race in the books.

Monday, October 13, 2014

2014 Northern OH Half Marathon Race Report

I can be stubborn. It's both a good and bad trait to have as an athlete. I had looked forward to the Lake Health Northern OH half marathon for months. I felt like it would be a great opportunity to go for a shiny, new half marathon PR. And it probably was a good opportunity for that; however, my circumstances had changed. Last Sunday I started to get sick and by the time the weekend rolled around I was still sick with a seasonal bronchitis that I tend to get each year with the seasonal changes. I told myself if I felt okay race eve and race morning I would go for the PR. As luck would have it I did feel better although not 100% so I made a judgement call and decided to give it 100% effort.


I had slept pretty well the night before the race and was up at 5:45 to get ready, which really just consisted of getting dressed, using the restroom and eating breakfast. Steve was racing as well and we left the house around 6:30. We parked near the start in Fairport Harbor at 6:45 and headed out for a little mile warm up and to meet my friend Jillian to give her the race packet we'd picked up for her the day before. It was a chilly morning with temps in the high 30s.

Start & First 8 Miles:

I lined up near the front of the pack a couple of rows back on the left side as the course started with a straight away quickly leading to a downhill ending with a left-hand turn. A few of my friends that were racing were nearby as well as Steve. I tried to stay warm until the bullhorn sounded for the start. It was a fast start and the downhill section was a little rough on my knees with the cold temps. My first mile was a little fast being sub seven but I knew I would slow down and settle in soon after and I did. My early splits were all between 7:25-7:35 so about right where I wanted to be. At mile 5 before the aid station I took in my first gel and felt pretty good heading into the little climb up Courdoroy road. I noticed my tempo starting to slow a little as we approached Headlands Beach for the turn-around so I took in another gel here at mile 8.

The Last 5 Miles & Finish:

The sun was out and it definitely warmed up the back part of the race, which I was okay with. I was able to lose my arm warmers and focus on the task at hand. There is some climbing heading back toward Fairport over by Pickle Bills and then again a little later. These splits did not look as good as I had some 8 minute miles in there and I had been passed by one woman. I really just tried to stay focused and not over think those miles. I figured I had some time from the early miles in the bank and knew I could get back on track. I still felt kindof bonkish though and did a final gel coming up before mile 11. That one didn't sit as well in the tummy but did give me a little boost.

The course was changed from last year so instead of crossing the bridge to head back toward the beach, a decent little climb up to a side street was added. This was a little tough at mile 11 and I slowed a bit there but was able to quickly get back on track as my heart rate came down. The last two miles I focused on a nice, fast cadence and trying to hold steady around 7:30-7:40 pace. I did start to wonder if the finish would ever come as I was more tired than usual for a half. Finally made the turn onto 2nd street toward the finish and was happy to be done with the race. I had come up short on the PR with a 1:40:45 but that was good enough for 7th place female and first in the 35-39 age group. It was also a PR for this particular course where I had run 1:42 and change last year.

Postrace & Closing Thoughts:

Steve, me, Jillian, Courtney & Chris post-race
After the race was not pretty. I walked over to the car and basically coughed up a lung or two. I was pretty exhausted from pushing myself. Eventually I changed into warmer, dry clothes and headed to the finish area to hang out with my friends and get some food. Steve ended up PR'ing and having a great race with a 1:27 and change and my friends Jillian, Courtney & Chris had all PRd also. I was happy for them but definitely feeling disappointed about my own performance. Everyone had things to do or just wanted to go home and relax so Steve and I headed home. I was not feeling well at all and spent much of the day in bed resting. In hindsight maybe I should have either sat this one out or went a little easier given my situation. Lesson Learned. I guess I can't beat myself up too much as I was only a minute and change off from my PR and that was at the Towpath, which is more of a PR-friendly course.

To make up for this race I feel I owe it to myself to try again when I am healthier so I have signed up for the Buckeye half in Akron later this month. It is a pretty flat course and I have run it years back when they held it in the summer. I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do at 100%. Hoping there's a sub 1:39 in me! If not, I may try again in late November.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Lakeland Clock Tower 5K Race Report

It's been a long time since I've run a 5K. In fact I think the last 5K I ran was in spring of 2012. I've just been so focused on endurance lately and haven't been able to fit in many shorter races. When I heard about this race I decided to do it because my daughter goes to college at Lakeland and I wanted to support the college and local community that I live in.

I had no real time to train for speed just coming off the Ironman recovery four weeks ago so I did not have high expectations for my performance. In fact I am surprised that it went as well as it did. Pleasantly surprised of course! It was a chilly day with temps around 45 degrees and some wind. Steve and I got in an easy mile warm up and tried to stay warm until the start. I lined up close to the front as it was not a big race. I told myself to have fun running and just do the best I could do that day. It was nice not feeling a lot of pressure and maybe that helped me to relax and enjoy myself.

The race started right in front of the clock tower that has become the symbol for the college throughout the community. The first mile was a little downhill and winding through the campus. It was a pretty fast first mile with my first split coming in at 6:40. I was pleased with this pace as I was not pushing as hard as I could but did not want to go out too fast and pay for it later not knowing how hilly the course would be when they mentioned running up Garfield Rd to the turn around. Fortunately the course was pretty flat with just one hill but then some gradual uphill heading back through the campus. I was able to see Steve around the half way point and he was in third place and looking strong. I took off after the turn around and hit the 2 mile mark with a 6:45 pace. I definitely slowed a little the last mile with the gradual uphill and wind but I was able to hold on to around a 7 minute pace for a finish of 21:17 (6:51 pace), which I believe is a new 5K PR for me. I was 2nd place female so that was a nice, unexpected bonus on a day where I didn't expect much from myself!

Post race picture with Steve and Lakeland in the background
Steve ended up finishing 3rd male with an 18:37, a new PR for him as well! I am pleased with how much the endurance work and cross training from triathlon has helped us with our running this season!

I got to see my friend Jessica (who I coached this year for Team in Training) and her family at the race. Her daughter Hannah came in 3rd place with a 23+ minute pace at 12 years old, which is so impressive!

Lakeland did a great job with the race and had lots of terrific snacks for the runners as well as a nice upbeat vibe with music and awards. I hope to do the race again and see it grow as this was only the second year they've had it.

After the race Steve and I headed over to Chapin Forest for another 5 mile run on the trails. It was the perfect fall day to run! After that we stopped at the Kirtland Diner and had a hard-earned, delicious breakfast. We of course had some celebratory beers later as well!

Next up is the Lake Health Northern Ohio Half Marathon this weekend! I'm hoping to earn myself a shiny, new PR there as well but have to see what the day and these legs bring. Stay tuned!