Race Report: McDowell Mountain Frenzy-5th 50K & a PR!

….and My Story Runs On….

I still can’t believe this was my 5th 50K!  Last year this was my 2nd one and I blogged about that one too.

This was a training run for my first 100K.  My training plan called for 20 miles on Saturday and 10 on Sunday so I combined them in one day (although these were “Aravaipa” miles so it was actually 32.2 on my TomTom).

Since I had some trouble with this one last year (you can’t really try to PR (personal record) different trail races due to the variety in the terrain) and I was redoing the same one, I decided I really wanted to do better than last year. As I set this goal in my head, I was also detached from it.  If I did PR, great but if I didn’t, I knew there would be lessons to learn (always!) so that took some of the pressure off.

One of the hardest things for me to do is run my own race. I tell people to do this all the time but as a coach and someone who knows a lot of runners, it’s hard not to get caught up in hanging with friends and helping them out.  So I had to make a decision that this was going to be MY RACE.

This is what I have on the back of my The Running University shirts ;)

This is what I have on the back of my The Running University shirts 😉

Leading up to the race, I did a lot of mental preparation.  Since I knew the course, I reviewed it again, reread my blog from last year and started making a strategy. Thankfully I didn’t have the “girlie” issues from last year so that would shave some time off for sure.  I also looked at the aid station locations and I remember running out of water on the toughest part of the course. I decided I wasn’t going to stop at the first aid station and I would run as much as possible on the easier part of the course so I could hike the big hill. I took the day off before the race and relaxed and got mentally psyched up (McDowell Mountains are one of my favorite places to trail run).

I started the race with my friends Katie and Mitzi (it was their first 50K!) and Will. We had nice pace going and it was fun to start out relaxed with friends!  I told them that I had a plan though and that I wouldn’t be stopping at the first aid station. We split off at mile 7.

They finished their first 50K! They are now ultra runners!

They finished their first 50K! They are now ultra runners!

I remember staying very focused on my ChiRunning form a lot (as always!) so I could be as efficient as possible. I made sure to refill  my water so I wouldn’t make the same mistake as last year since there was an 11 mile gap between aid stations and it was the hardest part of the course.

The one thing I don’t like about trying to PR, is that I tend to be much more tied to my watch.  I’ve had some of my best runs when I’m not paying attention to it as it can be mental stress added on that keeps you from relaxing. Knowing this, I tried not to be too focused on it but I had an average mile that I wanted to keep to reach my goal so I was more engaged with it than usual.  I knew I had to stay ahead of the game because the hill was coming. The trail started getting rockier and I remember this from last year. Not my favorite terrain to be running on as it’s harder but I know I need to keep practicing this for my 100K race.  I ChiWalked the entire hill with a few spurts of running when there was a little flat area or a little downhill.  I used my arms so much to help me up the hill that my biceps were sore the next day! I’ve never had this from a race before but this is part of the ChiRunning strategy. Use the arms more and legs less. The downhill was rocky so I wasn’t able to go as fast as I normally like to.

Hills...

Hills…

More hills...

More hills…

I got to the aid station at mile 24 where I got so see my friends. I love our local running community and there are always so many familiar faces either running or volunteering! I was still pacing to PR but I was definitely getting tired at this point.  More rocky uphill and then some good downhill that was rocky on and off. My pace was slowing down between the rocks and being tired.   I always go back to my ChiRunning form as soon as I start feeling tired. Outside of always checking in on my postural alignment (first thing to go when you are doing long distance running is your posture), my cadence is what really helped me out.  Every time I felt my legs get heavy, I would increase my cadence (strides per minute or foot turnover) and I immediately felt a relief.  There is a magic number of 170-180 (not unique to ChiRunning but recommended by just about every running form) and harder to maintain on trail. Most people run at lower cadence and this wastes a lot of energy because you are holding your body weight on each leg for longer periods of time which is inefficient.

I finally texted my friends that were at the finish line and told them I had 3 miles to go and someone please make sure I had a beer at the finish line 😉  I get to the last aid station and the guy said I had 3.2 more to go! What?! That was one more mile than a 50K.  I forgot to put this in my blog last year so I forgot about this…I was a bit irritated and it made that last few miles harder mentally.  I don’t normally listen to music but I put my playlist on my phone on speaker so I would be a bit distracted.  At about mile 30 you can hear the finish line and it’s a mind f%$k because you just want to be done at this point.  This part of the trail was up and down and it finished with a nasty steep hill.  My friend Bill was at the top yelling “hammer it” which really helped me push through it!

I could hear my friends cheering me on and I crossed the finish line (Chris, thanks for the Koffee Kolsch!) with a huge smile on my face. I didn’t have the official results but I knew I had PR’d. It was about a 34 minute PR which translates to a minute a mile for 32 miles of improvement!  Pretty proud of that! I will say that I was hoping to do better but I will take it!

One of the coolest things is that my friend Jenni even made me a medal!  She was making one for Katie and Mitzi. Some people run for bling and I normally don’t but I knew she was making a few for them and I wanted in on it too.  At Aravaipa races you get a pint glass when you finish (I have a bunch of them) but getting a homemade medal from Jenni was the icing on the cake! (and she isn’t crafty either!)

Love my medal! The only one I've received for a 50K ;)

Love my medal! The only one I’ve received for a 50K 😉

Running never ceases to amaze me! So much to keep learning about myself and the sport.  Having a plan doesn’t always pay off but I feel the mental preparation ahead of time was crucial to my success. As always, ChiRunning and the advice my nutritionist gave me for my 50 miler were two key components to my success.

What is your strategy when you want to try and PR a race?

These are the results from my TomTom.

3rd aid station with more friends!

3rd aid station with more friends!

Terry and Raul at the 2nd aid station!

Terry and Raul at the 2nd aid station!

Ila!  She is 70 years old and I've blogged about her before.  After this 50K she was driving to Santa Monica to do a half marathon the next day!

Ila! She is 70 years old and I’ve blogged about her before. After this 50K she was driving to Santa Monica to do a half marathon the next day!

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

My Next Big Running Goal on my Birthday Weekend!

….and My Story Runs On….

This is one of the many things I love about running.  Of course everyone has their own running story and you should NEVER compare yourself to any other runner.  But for me, I love the idea of continuously pushing myself to the next level.  As they say, life begins at the end of your comfort zone and I can attest to this!  Earlier this year I did my first 50 Miler at Antelope Canyon the day after my birthday.  Even though I finished dead last, I felt strong and really enjoyed it (I know, crazy talk)…so of course the next goal is to push myself to the next distance level…sooooooo

I’m excited to announce that I will be doing the Black Canyon Ultra 100K!
Why did I pick this one? In no particular order…

  • 100K is 62 miles so it’s the next step after a 50 miler.
  • It’s on 2/18/17 which is the day before my birthday and I love doing crazy things on my birthday to remind myself how grateful I am for every year I am on this Earth.
  • It’s an Aravaipa event and they are one of our local ultra/trail racing company. I’ve been doing their events since 2011 and they know how put on a good race!
  • I get a buckle! I’ll admit to feeling a bit weird about this because usually you get a buckle for a 100 miler…the other funny thing is that I really don’t wear belt buckles at all (I spend most of my days in workout gear!) but a buckle is like a rite of passage in some strange way.

bucklebc100k

  • It’s a point to point race which means I get to cover 62 miles of our beautiful AZ landscape. One of the reasons I love ultra running is the ability to visit places I’ve never seen before and enjoy Mother Nature.
  • Aravaipa is hosting training runs on the entire course over 3 months which means I’ll get to preview the entire course before running it.  Last Sunday I got to run the first 19 miles and loved it.  It was mostly single track downhill.  The hardest part for me is being afraid of heights. Some parts of the single track were very close to the edge of the canyon but the more I practice, the easier that will get….I hope!
  • There is some cool history about this trail:  “This historic trail is of national significance, following a route used since the times of pre-historic Native American travelers and traders.  The Department of the Interior officially established the route as a livestock driveway in 1919, when it was used by wool growers from the Phoenix area to herd sheep to and from their summer ranges in the Bradshaw and Mingus Mountains. The Black Canyon National Recreation Trail was originally designed as a livestock driveway. Many segments of the trail roughly parallel the old Black Canyon stagecoach road between Phoenix and Prescott.”

I still can’t believe I am doing it but as crazy as it seems, I’m very excited. I’ve already started training and have already changed a few things from my 50 mile training:

  • I’m spending even more time stretching and foam rolling.  I’ve added more strength training to my weekly routine.
  • I’m also varying my running workouts more than I did last year.  This course has a net downhill elevation profile with about the first half being downhill and the 2nd half will include uphill climbing as well as several river crossings (which I used to be afraid of before but having done this several times now, I’m much more comfortable with it).  So I am doing more speedwork and hill training. I’m also planning on doing more night trail running as I know I’ll be out there at night time.
  • I still take 2-3 runs a week and listen to ChiSchool on shuffle so I can continue to improve on my ChiRunning form (my running form had the biggest improvement last year when I did this for the 50 miler). And I will continue to use the same nutrition advice I got for my 50 miler.

One of the other big motivators for me is that I’ll be raising money for Girls On The Run Maricopa County again via their SoleMates program. Last year, I raised $2100 so I want to bump that up to $2300 at least.  I am on the Board of Directors and this organization means so much to me.  If I only had this program when I was in elementary or junior high school! I want to help as many young girls as possible be part of the program so they can learn to dream big and activate their limitless potential!

What is the next challenge you are taking to get out of your comfort zone?

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From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

Pass Mountain 25K Race or training run?

….and My Story Runs On….

This morning, I did Aravaipa Running’s Pass Mountain 25K (15.5 miles).
I picked it for a few reasons:

  • I needed mileage as I train for my next big race (another blog on that later)
  • I happened to be available on this Saturday to do it
  • Most importantly, this race was my inaugural debut into trail races back on 11/19/2011 and I haven’t done it since.

I remember back in 2011 how scared I was to do it. I was training for my first marathon (Lost Dutchman, it fell on 41st birthday 5 years ago) but I had also just come back from my first ever ChiRunning Instructor weekend.  It was my first time meeting Danny & Katherine Dreyer and the first time I got to meet a bunch of other ChiRunning instructors from all over the world.  Needless to say, I was geeked out on ChiRunning and was excited/nervous about my first trail race. (I honestly can’t remember if I did any training on trails at this point. I want to say I had but I was not as experienced as a runner or coach at this point so not sure!)  I remember how hard it was…but my favorite part was getting to the last 1/2 mile that was on road and seeing my Dad there with his bike as he rode by my side for that last little bit!

dad

My Daddy and I!

Fast forward to this year.  Not sure why I haven’t done this more often since 2011 but this year was my first time back.  The course was slightly different (it was a 26K in 2011) but most of it was the same.

So my first dilemma was:  do I go and preview the course in advance or not?  I decided to do it and here is a quick 2 min video about that experience:

I am so glad that I did it now!

I didn’t preview the first half of the course because I knew it would be easier but grateful that I did the 2nd half as it proved to help me a lot today.  Not so much physically but mentally.  

  • I knew when the hard parts would be so I conserved my energy on those by ChiWalking more. (yes, I have no problem walking in races either!)
  • I knew one of my bigger challenges would be part of the end of the course because the single track trail was very close to the edge and I am afraid of heights.
  • I also knew that the last 2-3 miles were runnable downhill miles and I was ready to crank on those as soon as I could.  Ironically, my fastest mile was my last one!

As a running coach, I hear people get nervous about races all the time.  I remember I used to do this a lot more…I’m sure some of it comes with experience.  For me it was my frame of mind….I never felt I was actually racing when I did this run today.

I was hanging out with my friend Heather, got to chit chat with a few other people along the way, took some pics (see below) and we just took our time knowing we had plenty of it before the cutoff.

The great thing about treating a race like a training run is that there is no pressure. I also love races as training runs because there are other people out on the course (instead of running alone), they are supported so I know I will have aid stations with water and food (best aid stations ever!) and I get a shirt and pint glass! (50 Miles of Gratitude: (9) Training & Aravaipa Running) I didn’t have to pay for this race because I volunteer with Aravaipa quite a bit so I get race credits…so for me, it was a win-win for sure today.

I didn’t go back to see how I performed in 2011 because it was a different course and really didn’t care.

So my lesson for this race was that I was glad that I choose to do it as a training run rather than race it.  This may not always be my choice but I’m really glad that I did because I had a blast …AND I felt amazing at the end which is always one of my goals: to finish strong and feeling good!

Do you race or use them as training runs? Would love to read your comments below!

Gorgeous views on this course!

Gorgeous views on this course!

Heather and I before we started. Running with friends is always a good way to go!

Heather and I before we started. Running with friends is always a good way to go!

Cholla forest!

Cholla forest!

This was one of the steep uphill parts (I took the pic looking down after I got up it)

This was one of the steep uphill parts (I took the pic looking down after I got up it)

 

 

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

Running Marathons at 70?!

….and My Story Runs On….

Why are you limiting yourself?  These are the words that struck Ila Brandli one day and turned her into a marathon maniacShe heard these words at 62 years old and hasn’t looked back since.  Today, at the amazing age of 70, she has completed 150 marathons/ultras (8 of them are Ultras)! This number keeps changing as I write this blog…I can’t even keep up with her! She’s completed a marathon in each state twice! In February of 2015 she completed 8 marathons on 7 continents in 11 days in a row! (was supposed to be 7 but Antartica was fogged in)

When we started the interview, I asked her about the number of marathons she completed.   She said “Hold on, let me look at my spreadsheets. “ She pulls out her iPhone and has 3 different spreadsheets:

  1. to track her half marathons in different states
  2. to track her full marathons in different states
  3. to track her upcoming events.

I love this lady!

I met Ila at a free ChiRunning clinic I had at REI in Tempe several years ago. Then she reappeared at Running For Brews Tempe (I’m the Organizer).  I summarized the answers from the interview I had with her about a month ago.

Why did you start running?
First time she started running, she was challenged by her boss around the age of 42.  She couldn’t walk a mile without a side ache.  She never did any exercise through most of my adult life.  Second time around, she did it to look and feel better.

When did you start running?
First time: she was challenged by her boss to do her first half marathon (13.1 miles) in November of 1998. She did two 5ks, a 10K and a 12K before that half so she knew what to expect.  Her boss did the half marathon too but she beat him. Her knees starting hurting her and she quit running for awhile.  In 2000, she completed multiple 5Ks, 10K and a 1 half marathon.  By this time, she had found out about orthotics which helped her knee issue…so no more knee pain.
In 2007 she signed up for Team in Training and did first marathon  in Anchorage, AK.  She dedicated it to her dad and swore she would never do one again (because it hurt, she was sore, and had injuries including IT band issues).
A friend from Seattle called and wanted to do a marathon with her daughter before she got pregnant. She called Ila because she wanted an “experienced” marathoner. She survived that one at the age of 62.
2013 was turning the point to “craziness”.  A lady had a jacket that said Titanium 100 miles and asked Ila: “Why are you limiting yourself?”  She looked at her schedule and did 35 marathons that year!  She completed several series including 5 in 5 days.
Her problem is that if there is a challenge out there, she’ll take it. 

How did ChiRunning help you?
She took the ChiRunning workshop in 2013 with Mark Wallis (he was my mentor when I became an instructor!) and told her she was doing everything wrong.  She’s been practicing ever since.  ChiRunning keeps her from getting injured and allows her the additional stamina to do what she does.

What are some of your major accomplishments?
She’s completed 100 half marathons (4 more states and she will have completed 2 in every state. This may have changed since the interview..as I said, I can’t keep up!).
She’s completed 152 marathons (I have to keep checking her record on the Marathon Maniac page because this number is literally changing daily!).  She completed a marathon in each state twice and 11 out of the country.   Her 100th was in Antartica (was supposed to be the Phoenix Marathon).  The one in Chili was 98 and Antartica was supposed to be 99.  She did a 2nd one in Chili to make it 99 so Antartica was 100 and Phoenix was 101.
In February of 2015, she tackled 8 marathons, on 7 continents in 11 days. (knew she could do this already because she had in the US). But the stress is very different, you are flying overnight, then running, then flying overnight again fly at night, etc.
She completed 8 ultra marathons (an ultra is more than a 26.2 marathon). 212 miles in 4.5 days at Across The Years.  ATY was training for the 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days.  She had injured her toe in mid December 2 weeks before ATY. She didn’t go to the doctor because she knew they would put her in a boot (I don’t recommend this!) Her goal was 300 miles but she knew she couldn’t do 50 miles a day with the foot injury and didn’t want to jeopardize the 7 continents marathon tour! She “settled”  for 212 miles which is her longest to date back to back.  She was very proud of this because in 4.5 days she had accomplished 7 marathons within that time with less than desired sleep.  She purposely went over 7 hours to prove you can do it and don’t have to be elite athlete to complete marathons and ultras.

What is your favorite race?
The most emotional was the Baton Memorial Death March because of WW Vets and the units running together.
Antartica has to have a special spot because of the trouble getting there and camping overnight….and it’s Antartica!

What are your obstacles?
She’s currently dealing with some shoulder issues due to a fall in May. She has issues with heat and doesn’t perspire.  She has to be careful with her feet but doesn’t need the orthotics as much due to ChiRunning and her favorite shoes, Altras. (mine too!)

What’s your advice for anyone wanting to start running?
Find enjoyment in it!  It’s about the accomplishment.  You do it because you enjoy it.  You don’t need to love it because there is a love/hate relationship with running.  There are things you can control and things you can’t and you work on what you can—

How do you plan out your races?
It depends on what her goal is—looks at different websites, will contact race directors to check cutoff times, looks at race results and to make sure there are slower people.  She gets excited when she can do two back to back, she tries to double up when she can to save on travel expenses.

What do you think about when you’re running?
Majority of the time she is working on her form and relaxing. She finds a target: could be a time or a person that she wants to shoot for.  She is constantly looking at the scenery. When she is doing loops like ATY she uses them as speed intervals. Sometimes she is with people.  She loves meeting unique people who have different stories (met youngest gal who did all 7 continents in Antartica. )

What is your nutrition like?
She uses Tailwind but can’t take it full strength. A cold beer at the end is always a good thing! She uses Arnica when flying/driving for swelling.

What do you do in your spare time?
She volunteers for Aravaipa and different races, at the Mesa Art Center, and does taxes for AARP during the tax season. She has raised money for some of her events: she was a Solemate for Girls On The Run when she did ATY and 7 continents.  She is heading to St. George and raising money for GOTR again.

What is your next big goal?
By January 2017, she is planning to have completed 40 marathons and 40 half marathons  in 2016.

So are you really to old to run and achieve goals? Not according to Ila…or me!  I mean I can’t even keep up with her, I just checked her Marathon Maniacs page and as of today (9/22/16) she is at #152!

Here are a few great quotes from AZcentral.com (2014):
She took up running marathons at 62 and recently ran seven full marathons in seven days. Why? “Because I can,” she said with a sly smile, adding, “Sometimes I win the age group because I’m the only one out there.” AZcentral.com

Ironically, this was her original plan when she was interviewed by AZCentral.com on 3/2/2015:
“I plan to run marathons in my 60s, and I won’t be 70 until December,” she said. “I’ll run half marathons in my 70s, 10Ks in my 80s, 5Ks in my 90s and after that, I’ll run in anything they’ll let me into with a walker.”

For some strange reason, I don’t think she’s giving up marathons at 70!

If you’d like to support her: you can make a donation to her fundraising page or come to Running for Brews on Tuesday, 9/27/16 as we host a 50/50 raffle for her.

ila

Found this on her facebook page…”only” 50?? LOL

ila1

You will also find Ila dressed in various themes when running. I think Wonder Woman is very appropriate for her!

ila4

8 marathons on 7 continents in 11 days (Antartica got fogged in)

ila2

We got to hang out while volunteering at Javelina Jundred last year on the night shift!

ila3

When she is not out of state running a half or full marathon on Tuesday nights, she is at Running for Brews!

 

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)

“That’s our running coach!”

….and My Story Runs On….

Yep, first time ever lying in a cot getting help from the medics…..

Not my typical post race beer photo opp!

Not my typical post race beer photo opp!

Clearly not doing too bad as I’m smiling here but never had this experience before.  Of course, I need to share my learning lessons. I wish I could’ve taken the picture of my peeps all hovering over me, teasing me, “this is our running coach!.”  It was a pretty comical moment…but grateful that I can have these moments so I can be a better runner and coach.  There is always a lesson to learn!

This (Aravaipa’s Javelina Jangover) was my best race last year, I had a great blog/vlog about it too. I hadn’t really been training for this race but I was definitely prepared to do the mileage.  What I didn’t prepare for though, was the plan to PR (personal record) my time from last year.  My little sister, who is a great athlete, decided to switch from the 7K to the 25K to pace me and help me (this was her first 25K trail race!)

It was her first 25K race and at night too!

It was her first 25K race and at night too!

My plan for longer distances is to always take it easier for the first half so I conserve energy…then kick it up during the 2nd half which on this course tends to be downhill. I was mentally prepared to follow this plan but I always know that when I’m trying to keep a specific pace (to PR), I tend to be slave to my watch (some of my best runs happen when I’m not doing this...) and keep checking my pace. I still ChiWalked on the uphills because I conserve more energy and can do it just as fast so might as well be walking.

I did notice that I was thirstier than normal so I kept drinking.  We got to the aid station at mile 8.5 and put more water in my hydration pack. Had a few pieces of potato/salt and a shot of coke and ginger ale (this usually helps with a bit of energy/caffeine boost).  A lot of Team RWB peeps were there volunteering so it’s always great to see your friends and get some energy from them!

The course was now mainly downhill so I started trying to get my average pace up as I monitored my watch.  I was averaging an 11:40 for a bit. One thing I know about myself is that I don’t like being uncomfortable when I run…I know I could probably push myself more (I prefer to use my ChiRunning technique to improve my performance not muscling through it).  And I was very focused on my form: I continued to use the mantra Align & Relax, use by arms for the uphills as well as to counterbalance my forward lean and did as much active and passive pelvic rotation as possible to keep my legs from working harder. This was working great until…..

I started realizing I just couldn’t drink enough water to quench my thirst. My poor sister kept saying “come on, we only have a 5K left” “you can push harder” and all of the sudden my legs weren’t feeling it anymore and my stomach starting bugging me. I felt like I needed to throw up but couldn’t do it. When I realized there was no way I was beating my time, I decided I needed to stop running. At this point I just wanted it to be over.  I was grateful to have my sister there with me and we walked the last mile.

Those of you that know me, know that one of the things I enjoy most after a run/race is a nice cold beer.  You know I wasn’t not myself when the thought of a beer made me want to throw up!

We got to the medics who were amazing.  Checked my pulse and my blood pressure (all good there!)…they lay me down on a cot and elevated my legs so the blood could flow back to my stomach. Thanks to all my friends that came by to check in on me…at least I wasn’t one of the runners getting an IV and being taken away with an ambulance.

So, what happened?  I had to think about my last few days and here is my assessment:

  • In retrospect, I didn’t hydrate the way I normally do a few days before a race.  I was at a Toastmaster contest from 8am-1pm yesterday and only drank half a bottle of water but drank double the amount of coffee that I normally do.  The night before, I was hanging with some friends, had a few beers (not a big deal but probably didn’t help with the hydration issue) and ate a lot of salty foods.
  • I tried pushing too much at the beginning. My fastest mile was the 2nd one and I remember not being able to get my heart rate down until we stopped at the aid station for awhile. (I also had a double espresso a few hours before the race which probably didn’t help either). It was also hotter than I was expecting.
  • Basically I pushed my body more than I should’ve and wasn’t prepared for it physically.

I have no regrets….running is always a way to learn more about your body and yourself and last night was just another learning lesson for next time!  I finished with a 3:32 (last year was a 3:16).

1st half of the race..didn't realize until I looked at this as I'm writing that my 2nd mile was my fastest

1st half of the race..didn’t realize until I looked at this that my 2nd mile was my fastest

 

2nd half or the race..clearly faster than the first..

2nd half or the race..clearly faster than the first..except the last mile!

Any big learning lessons you’ve had from a run recently?

 

 

From My Running Story to Yours….
(if you feel inspired to share your comments, do so below…I want to hear your story too!)