Monday, December 31, 2012


Before my children were born, I ran mostly for the social aspect of it.  I never did speedwork, I never did long runs without other people, and they were pretty much run-walk gossip sessions with my girlfriends. In 2010 I did get into triathlon (by default, after breaking my foot), and I enjoyed them, but my goal was always just "to finish."

Following Jack's birth, I was 40 pounds overweight and running slowly wasn't getting me anywhere in that department.  I even trained for a sprint triathlon, which I completed when he was ten weeks old, but I hadn't lost a single pound since leaving the hospital.  I started monitoring my diet and doing intervals, which I read were great for weight loss.

Apparently they were also good for improving my speed.  A month later I went out for an easy 5 miler and was amazed to see that I, a former 10 minute miler, did it in 45 minutes.  I started training for a half marathon with the goal of breaking 2 hours.  I'd never really had any running time goals before, partly because I was afraid I wouldn't meet them.  That Thanksgiving I raced a 5 miler in 40 minutes -- an 8 minute mile!?!? - and just before 2012 I met my time goal and broke the 2 hour barrier - by 9 minutes!

2012 was e a year of goal-setting, goals I set throughout the year.

Goal #1: Break 4 hours in the marathon.
Goal #2:  Break 6 hours in a Half Ironman
Goal #3:  Do an Ironman.  No time goal.  Just do it.
Goal #4:  Win your age group in something.
Goal #5: Qualify for the Boston Marathon
Goal #6:  Do an trail ultramarathon.  No time goal.  Just do it.

So... a lot of miles, a lot of early mornings, and a lot of hard work went into the past 365 days. In March I did a marathon in 3:54.  In July I finished a Half Ironman in 5:34.  In August I did an Ironman.  In November I won my age group in a 5K and came in 2nd overall.  In December I qualified for Boston with over 3 minutes to spare and two weeks later I ran my first trail ultra.

I ran 2039 miles.
I cycled 2069 miles.
I swam 101 miles.

Of all my goals, I am proudest of #5.  You'd think it would be the Ironman, but it isn't.  Why?  Because I always knew I could do an Ironman if I put in the time to train.  But I never, ever in my wildest dreams thought I could qualify for Boston.  When they changed the qualifying standards from 3:40 to 3:35 around the time Jack was born, I just rolled my eyes and figured, hey, what's another 5 minutes when your best time is 48 minutes slower than a BQ -- why not make it 53?  Even when I lined up at the start for the race, I didn't really think I could do it.

This year has changed me in so many good ways.  Some might call it narcissistic, all the training I put in.  However, I believe it makes me a better person all around.  Conquering these goals has given me confidence I never knew I had.  I have found my runner's high, and that makes me happier, and a much better parent/ wife/ teacher/ etc.

Goals for 2013?  Let's see:

#1.  Do a much better job of cleaning the house.
#2.  Sleep more than 6 hours max per night.
#3.  Cook healthier food and stop eating Clif Bars for breakfast.
#4.  Limit Facebook to 4 times a day and stop leaving it on when cleaning the kitchen after dinner because then the kitchen never really gets clean.
#5.  Clean out the closets.

Oh wait, fitness goals?  I have some... not sure what they all are yet.  I'l save them for another post.  Til then...

Happy New Year -- May 2013 bring your good running, good times, good laughs and good company.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Race Report: VHTRC Magnus Gluteus Maximus 50K

This is another great event put on by the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club, the same group who does the trail half marathon I ran in September, and the Bull Run Run 50 Miler that I didn't get into (lottery) last year.  All these runs are on the same course, but obviously the 50K and 50 miler use a bigger section than the half marathon.

This is a low key event - you show up, you run, and you write your time down when you finish.  If you don't want to finish, you turn around early and tell them you didn't do the whole thing.  They have aid stations that you hit four times, so like most ultras you need to carry some hydration.  There is a big party with pizza and beverages at the end.  And they request that you run in seasonal colors.   Here's a video of the start, right before we get on the trail-- you can see me run by about halfway through.  I'm on the left, and have a green shirt and a Santa hat on.

I really had no idea what to expect, other than I knew the course was tough.  I came in 24th out of over 250 at the at the half marathon and my pace was 10:13.  There are a lot of ups and downs.  Here is an elevation chart of the entire 50 mile course (we did 31 of these miles in the 50K) that I stole from someone else's blog:

As you can see, the course begins with an insane descent.  I fell for the first time here.  The ground was frosted, there were leaves everywhere, and the rocks were wet underneath them.  I realized right away that I apparently need a better pair of trail shoes, and that most of these runners were a lot more experienced on this terrain that me.  They were flying on the downhills.  

At about three miles in we reached a section along the river that wasn't really run-able.  There were steep rocks and we were walking single file.  Everyone was chatting to each other.  Totally a different atmosphere than road racing.  I started talking to a girl who just moved here from Seattle.  She was a very experienced trail runner.  After we got out of the rocky section, I chatted to her on the flats and the uphills, but when we got to the downhills, she flew.  I couldn't go that fast - I was afraid I would end up with stitches -- so I was alone for a good stretch.  I caught up to her at the first aid station, and barely spent any time there, but lost her again within the next mile.

About one hour in, I started hearing a guy behind me talking about the Chesapeakeman Iron Distance Triathlon, about doing the Bull Run Run 50 last year, and about recently qualifying for Boston at the Marine Corps Marathon.  I realized that this might be the co-worker my husband is always talking about who is crazier about endurance sports than I am, as I knew he was signed up for this.  I waited to see if the friends he ran with called him Jim.  They did!  I turned around and said "Hey!  I'm Jamie's wife!  You work with my husband!"  And then I had a running buddy for the next hour!  Wahoo!  Jim wasn't doing the whole run, though -- he and his buddies did about 23 miles total -- so I bid him farewell around the 11.5 mark (maybe. I honestly have no clue what the mileage was anywhere on the course) and ran alone for a little ways.

At the second aid station, I filled my bottles with Gatorade, grabbed some cookies, and kept on going.  My old boss, who has run the Bull Run Run 50 every year since it began, said that people waste a lot of time at those aid stations and you have to plan what you need to do before you get there.  I think I only stopped for 90 seconds.  Long enough to drink some cola and grab five oreos.  

Finally we made it to the "Do Loop."  They warned us that people always get lost on this section, which is right around the halfway point, and that we should run it with a veteran.  I was with a big group of people, but none of us were veterans.  Sure enough, we got lost.  I think we probably went an extra .4 or .5 miles.  Ugh.  BUT on a positive note, we were in a group.  It was at this point of getting lost that I met Dan and Elena, who actually seemed to run about my pace, and we stuck together for the entire second half.  So in a way, the rest of the race was a bit less mentally challenging than the first when I had sections I did all alone.

I thought I was a little bit crazy for running 70 miles a week during my last training cycle.  The great thing about running an ultra is that you meet people who are crazier.  In a good way.  Elena runs 70 miles a week pretty much every week, but she does it ALL on the trails.  Dan has done 50 milers and 100Ks and told me all about the last race he did, on a course in southern Virginia that was tougher than this and 62 miles long, that he finished in the dark.  I have no clue how people can run these things in the dark.  I was falling at least once an hour, and it was broad daylight,

When we hit the last aid station, 4.5 miles from the finish, I realized this was the longest I had ever run at one time.  I remembered 8 years ago, when I trained for my first marathon, every training run I did was the "longest I have ever run."  I hadn't been able to say that for awhile.

I looked at my watch and realized that I could probably finish in under 6 hours.  There were a lot of tough sections coming up, and it would be close, but I made that my goal.  It kept us moving.  We got to that rock scramble section at the river and had to take it slow, but the run on the dirt section was at a 9 minute pace.  Then we hit that crazy descent from the beginning, except this time it was straight up.  Like straight up a cliff. What kind of cruel joke is this?  I walked every step of that "up."  And then... remember that nice flat section in the video from the start?  I knew that was all that was separating me from lots and lots of pizza.  I also knew I was really going to have to book it to finish in under 6 hours.  I ran as fast as my legs could carry me (which wasn't all that fast) and pulled in at 5:58:23.

I walked in, entered my time, and then I ate one... two... three.. .four... maybe five slices of pizza.  Okay, maybe six.  Then I drove home.

Now I can't walk.  But that's okay.  Cause I am an ultramarathoner!!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Guest Race Reports: Jingle Bell Run 5K

This fall, 11 boys trained hard with me every Tuesday and Thursday to run the Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis 5K on December 8.  They each logged over a marathon of miles over the course of 10 weeks.  For some it was their first 5K.  For others, this was a second or third season.  All of the boys did an amazing job and ran a great race!  Here are their race reports.  

My 5K Jingle Bell Race Report by Andrew, Age 9

When I got up three days ago I had to get ready to run a 5K.  I got my running clothes on.  I got my shoes that have jingle bells on them.  It took so long to get to the race.   I got with my running buddy, who is my teacher Miss Van Acker, and I got ready.  It started 20 minutes late.  Since there were about a thousand people in front of me I had to walk for the first five seconds.  I got out of that crowd and then I ran.  I felt relaxed.  In the first mile, though, it felt really long.  At halfway I got a drink of water and I lost my buddy.  From then on my running got faster and faster.  By the second mile, I felt more relaxed than I did in the first mile.  When I got close to the end I did an all out sprint.  When I crossed the finish line I was all out of breath.  I found out later that I was third in my age group!  It was really fun.

My Jingle Bell Race Report by David, Age 10

At the beginning I was kind of nervous.  On the first mile it was tricky because in the beginning there was a big hill, but once I got up the hill it was easier.  I was getting a little tired on the second mile but my Dad/ Running Buddy kept me going.  On the third mile I felt like I was going to pass out.  But once again my dad kept me going .  I felt really relieved when I crossed the finish line.

Jingle Bell 5K Race Report by Gavin, Age 11

We were all cold when we were at the race start, and we had to wait about 25 minutes because some people still were not signed up and did not have their race bibs.  Then when it started, I ran the first mile – A-okay!  I ran the second mile somewhat okay and when I went around the cone and turned the other direction I got to say “hi” to all my friends and cheer them on.  The third mile it started to hurt and I was wearing out when I saw the finish line.  I sprinted the last few seconds.  I wanted to stop but neither me or Shivane could feel our legs so we kept on going to the end.  We finished, finally!  We felt like we needed to barf at the end but when we drank water and ate we were just fine.  When everyone else got to the finish line and it was time for me to go home, I felt awesome!  P.S.  Mrs. Lynch was my running buddy.  I finished in 25:38, twenty seconds better than in June.

My Jingle Bell 5K Race Report by Michael, Age 10

It was six o’clock in the morning and I couldn’t sleep because I was excited for doing my second Jingle Bell Run 5K.  Later when I got to the race with my mom and dad I hoped that it wouldn't rain halfway through the race, and it didn’t.  So when I ran the race on the first mile I was really tired because there were hills in the first part.  In the second mile I was feeling a little tired after the hills.  But on the last mile I was energized because it was downhill.   And I got a time of 36 minutes with my dad!!!

Jingle Bell 5K Race Report by Joseph, Age 9

When I first started my 5K I was very nervous.  I work up at 5:00 a.m. to exercise but I was feeling very sick.  My running buddy was my brother and he said hey, let’s run the whole way.  So we did but the whole way I felt sick.  But when I was done I felt proud and happy.

Jingle Bell 5K Race Report by Sam, Age 9

On  12/8/12 I did a fabulous 5K with one of my best friends, Mr. Stanley! It was my 2nd 5K and I crushed my old time by four minutes! My time was 38:15! If I could say what it felt like I would say that it was the best race of my life.  GUYS ON THE GO ROCKS!!!!!!!!!

Jingle Bell 5K Race Report by Shivane, Age 11

Gavin and I were trying to find our way to the start, and it was so crowded!  I was surprised that we were in the second row of people at the starting line.  We had to wait and wait, but then 15 minutes late, suddenly someone said “GO!!!!”  That was so abrubt!  When we reached the hill that was early on, I started to talk with Gavin and Miss Williams about the pace I should run.  The first mile was a breeze.  The second one was a little tougher.  During the third mile I really felt like giving up.   When it was all downhill I picked up speed.  On the final stretch I sprinted my heart out.  It felt so good to cross the finish line.  The 5K was a good experience!!!

Jingle Bell 5K Race Report by Spencer, Age 9

At the starting line there were a lot of people.  We had to wait 15 minutes past when it was supposed to start.  When I started I was fast then I slowed down but I did not walk.  On the first mile I ran but had to slow down.  On the second mile I felt good and tired.  On the third mile I was so proud of myself.  I have run since the start of September and all the way to December.  I have run lots of mornings with my running partner Miss Katherine.  I finished faster than I did last year!

My Jingle Bell 5K Race Report by Yusuf, Age 9

I woke up around 7:00am.  The first this I realized was:  

1.  Today is the race and 
2.  I need to get out of bed. 
I have a habit of as soon as I get up I use the computer.  So that’s what I did.  Then I remembered the race again so I used it for only 5 more minutes.  Then I got ready and went to the race.  The race place was soooooo crowded!  Me and my uncle started looking for the group.  We found our group in the longest line ever!  Someone had taken my uncle’s race bib, so he had to get a new one.  We started the race and it seemed fine.  Then people started coming on the other side.   My race buddy saw the turn.  So I started running a little faster.  I started getting tired right before the turn.  We started walking more after the turn.  A quarter of the way to the finish line we started running again.  I saw the finish line and I started running faster.  Me and my uncle crossed the finish line in a time of 43 minutes.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

RACE REPORT: California International Marathon

My alarm was set for 4:45am, but I was wide awake at 4.  I immediately went to the Accuweather app on my iphone.  It was perfectly calm outside -- perhaps the storm would miss us?  Nope.  It predicted the rain would start at 6:00am and last until 11:00am.  Pretty much exactly the time I'd be racing.  Fantastic.  I was pretty upset -- 12 weeks of training, and I'd be running in a downpour and 20mph winds.  I figured Boston was pretty much not happening, but I didn't fly out here to not give it my all.

I boarded the bus at 5:15 and we headed for the start.  Our hotel had a VIP tent with heaters and port-o-potties.  I. loved. our. hotel.  If you do this marathon, you must stay at the Lake Natoma Inn.  It is right on the American River bike trail, a five minute walk to quaint historic Folsom, only two miles from the race start, and THEY HAVE A VIP TENT WITH HEATERS AND THEIR OWN PORT-O-POTTIES!  They have 2pm late check out so you can actually shower after the race.  And did I mention the VIP Tent with heaters and port-o-potties?  It was freezing and pouring when we got there.  Everyone else had to huddle at the gas station across from the start line to stay dry, except for those of us that were in that private tent.  I sat for an hour next to the heater and made some new friends.   The winds were insane.  They were knocking over chairs INSIDE our tent.  Apparently they were up to 36mph.  AND there was a tornado earlier that morning in West Sacramento.  Yes, friends, this marathon has perfect weather 95% of the time, and my sister claims it pretty much never does more than sprinkle around here, except when I come, and then we get the peak of the biggest storm of the season right during my race.  Of course.

I only used the port-o-potty... five times?... during the hour and fifteen minutes we were in the tent.  When I emerged for the final time at 6:52, there was no one else in the tent.  Oops.  Better get to the start so I could find the 3:35 pacer.   I finally spotted him as the gun went off, and I was still a bit behind.  Oops again.  Guess I'd have to catch up.

Except it was SO crowded.  I could not get through.  I have never been in a marathon where it was this crowded at the start -- I couldn't even weave around people.  I tried to move forward and accidentally elbowed someone.  He yelled at me -- "Sheesh, girlie, you've got 26 more miles, you can take it slow here."  "NO I CAN'T!  I CANNOT AFFORD A NINE MINUTE MILE, YOU HEAR ME?  NOW GET OUT OF MY WAY!"  Okay, I didn't really say that.  But I kind of really wanted to.

Eventually I caught up to the 3:35 pacer. His strategy was to go by effort and since this was a hilly course -- not crazy challenging hills, but lots of rollers along the way --  he was going a bit slower than 8:10s on the uphills but really booking it on the descents.  There were tons of people in the 3:35 pace group.  I stuck with him until the 5th mile and then got sick of elbowing people accidentally.  3:35 is the open women's Boston Qualifying time so it was extremely crowded.  I saw that up ahead of him it was pretty clear, so I sped up to get some of my own breathing space.

Around the 6th mile, we start to head directly south for awhile.  The winds were heading southeast, and that stretch of running put us in the direct line of some serious crosswind.  Coupled with the torrential downpour, my miles around here got a little slower.  Aside from my slow-due-to-way-too-many-people first mile, I'd been averaging about 7:55s.  The winds really slowed my pace here and they were close to 8:15s.

A few miles later, we turned and headed west again.  We went through this cute little town called Fair Oaks that looked like it was straight out of an old western movie -- I was half expecting The Three Amigos to pop out and cheer me along.  We were nearing the halfway point, and I looked forward to getting there so I could turn on my music.  That was my little mental game -- no headphones until 13.1, since the second half is where the real challenge begins.

I crossed the halfway point at a little under 1:46.  I was pretty surprised - I didn't realize I'd gotten that far ahead of the pacer.  The rain was really coming down at this point, so I put on my music and tried to zone out and just concentrate on my foot cadence.  I had to keep an eye on my watch to make sure my pace didn't slow down.  I felt fine, but it took some willpower to keep those feet moving at the speed that felt so easy in the first half.

Around the 16th mile I got my first side stitch.  But I was prepared!  I know these are pretty much always due to a salt imbalance, and I had brought salt tablets!  I took one and felt better within a couple of minutes. Only ten miles to go.  Really.  That's what I was thinking.  Because when you do a run of 17 miles or more every single week, and another run between 12-15 miles in the same week, ten miles really doesn't seem like that big of a deal anymore.

The rain lightened up a bit around the 20th mile.  Was this the wall?  I still was feeling strong.  No wall at 20. I kept on trucking.

When I got to 23, I felt fine cardio-wise, but my legs were starting to ache.  So began my mantra -- you ran a marathon when it was 96 degrees outside after you biked 112 miles.  You can do this.  This is nothing.  I looked at my watch and realized I could run 9:00 miles for the rest of the marathon and still break 3:35.  I started to cry.  All those Tuesdays where I left my house at 4:30 to get in 15 miles before work, all those weeks where I put in over 70 miles -- they had paid off.  As long as I didn't cramp or break my foot (knock on wood -- I'd done that before during a race!) -- I was going to qualify for Boston.

24 and 25 were my slowest miles -- 8:15 and 8:17.   Another side stitch = another salt tab.  My legs were fading a bit.  I tried to kick it when I hit the final mile -- that ended up being 8:05.  And then I could see the finish.  I gave it all I had, and the clock hadn't quite hit 3:33 when I ran over the line.  I knew I'd taken at least a minute to get to the start -- so it was 3:31-something-close-to-3:32.  Still awaiting final chip time, but the unofficial results say 3:31:53.

As soon as I crossed the finish line, it stopped raining.  I kid you not.  The clouds departed and the sun came out for the first time since I had landed in San Francisco on Friday.  Figures. I called my sister to come pick me up (she and my mom had been entertaining Jack for the morning.)  It was 10:40 and I was starving.  I found a cute little cafe and ordered lunch while I waited.  I was still in shock.  How did I finish in under 3:32?

Ten marathons ago, I ran a 4:36.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could do this.  Even when I started today, I was pretty sure 3:35 was not in reach.

I can't believe it.  I'm going to Boston.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Here we go...

Well I'm here.

This is my tenth marathon. My first marathon in Chicago 2006 was cold (starting temps near freezing,) windy, and wet.  The leader slipped on the timing mat and hit his head, causing a big confusion over who actually won the race since his entire body did not cross the finish line.  I personally ended up in the med tent with hypothermia.

So it is only appropriate that for my tenth marathon, the weather forecast brings 20mph winds, torrential downpours, and possible flooding.  It will certainly be a mental challenge.   I sincerely apologize to anyone who signs up for the same races as I do, because my bad race weather karma follows me wherever I go.

I'm having a fantastic weekend with my son, sister, and mother.  Jack traveled well, we had an amazing champagne brunch this morning in San Francisco, and are staying at a lovely resort hotel right near the start line in Folsom.  I had no idea when I picked the hotel, but they offer a free shuttle to the start and a VIP heated tent with (wait for it, wait for it...) private port-o-potties. If you know me, you know how important this is before a race.  So I am feeling blessed.

Here we go.