50 Miles of Gratitude: (12) Training & XTERRA Events

….and My Story Runs On….

I am still determined to finish my 50 blogs posts about my first 50 miler that happened almost a year ago! When I blog about a topic that I can relate back to it, then I just keep adding to it!

Yesterday, I did the XTERRA White Tank 20K “race”. I put race in parenthesis as you know I normally use races as training runs for my bigger races (first 100K in 6 weeks!). I already blogged about Aravaipa races awhile back.

This race is no joke from an elevation profile. Their website describes it as:

“For those who prefer a course with pain and punishment, the long course is 20k of grueling single track with over 1500 feet of climbing. Starting from the group campground, runners wind their way up Ironwood to the Waddell trail. Once you reach the first aid station be prepared to go up, the next three miles are all climbing….”  You can see my Tom Tom results here.

Cheryl Miller from Miller Endurance Coaching is one of their sponsors and she hosted a preview run a few weeks ago that I was able to attend. I actually did this race back in 2012 when I was training for my first marathon but I can’t find my results anywhere. At any rate, I knew what I was getting myself into…

Which is why I wanted to do it!  Hills are part of most trail races and I love to train on them to keep improving my ChiRunning technique.  White Tanks are also a great change of scenery for me so I was excited to do this one.

First I want to thank XTERRA because a portion of their race proceeds go to my favorite local charity Girls On The Run Maricopa County (GOTR-I’m currently on their board of directors serving as Secretary). If I’m not racing their events, I’m volunteering because I really appreciate their support!

Now on to my learning lessons from this race!

The more running story develops year after year, I have found that I prefer to preview runs if I have a chance. This gives me a chance to get familiar with the course and know what to expect vs the element of surprise that I used to like more before. Even though I did part of the course backwards on the preview run, I knew what I was getting into!

Even though this was a “training” run, I wanted to race it…my version of racing it 😉 My race strategy was:

  • Bring my hydration pack so I wouldn’t need to stop at any of the aid stations.
  • Power hike the uphills and run as much of the runnable part as possible
  • Focus/improve upon on my ChiRunning hill technique (runnable/non runnable hills, uphill and downhill. I just taught a ChiHills class yesterday so it was all fresh)
  • Continue to get more out of my comfort zone on rockier trails and improve my technique there
  • Get myself mentally psyched up and excited for this race no matter what (this has become a regular strategy for me. Why got all worked up and nervous?  I start thinking about the friends I will see, that I’m getting to spend a “few” hours in nature, getting some ME time, burning some calories, etc.  Literally think of as many positive things as I can to get pumped up for the race to get positive energy flowing)
  • Last but not least, as much as I don’t like always setting time goals for races, since I did the preview run in 3:17 and I wasn’t as racing, I was shooting for a 3 hour finish.

It was a beautiful day! I got there in plenty of time to pick up my packet and run into many friends including GOTR volunteers/board members.

holly

Holly is our Vice President and was racing as well!

I started running right away knowing that the grueling part would be around Mile 2. I had to stop momentarily at the first aid station to get this selfie with Bob and Cindy Hansen who are huge supporters of GOTR and I love seeing their smiling faces!

bobcindy

Bob & Cindy Hansen, GOTR volunteer superstars! Love the rays of sun shining on us!

Then it was all uphill so I started power hiking and using my arms, core and obliques more (which are all sorer than my legs are today!) I knew I was at the back of the pack already but OK with that. Every time there was a wee bit of level terrain or not too many rocks, I ran a bit…however if I know I can power hike it faster and use less energy, that is my strategy. (one of the many things I love about trail running as it’s more “acceptable” to walk due to the hills.) I had several more friends at aid stations that called my name out as I ran by which is always motivating!

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We are pretty high up there! Pictures don’t do it justice for sure!

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If you look closely, you can see the trail on the other mountain going down hill…

It was finally time to come downhill!  Was cruising in several locations but the trail was rocky so this slowed me down more than I wanted.  I was really trying to focus on relaxing as much as possible as I know any tension mentally or physically slows me down (which is why I get pumped up before a race too…to keep from having mental stress!). I almost tripped a few times but never fell.

I hate looking at my watch to reach a time goal (again more mental tension) but at this point I could tell that I was close to my time goal. I had conserved my energy so I knew the last 2 miles should be pretty easy. I didn’t realize mile 11 was a wee bit of an uphill and I started walking a bit.  I knew I was cutting it close on the time goal so I decided to put my playlist on speaker just to change up my energy and get some motivation.  Funniest thing was that I turned it off in less than 2 minutes!  The music was too distracting. I was in a really good zone (had been for the entire race between my ChiRunning/ChiWalking form focusing, being present and truly enjoying the beauty of the trail.) On a side note, I find it interesting that as my running story continues to develop, I used to only be a social runner. I couldn’t run unless I had company and someone to talk to.  Now, my solo runs hold a special place. I can’t describe it but there is something to be said about being alone with yourself for hours in nature, running on a trail.  Time flies by somehow…Mile 11 was my hardest mile of the entire race and I started thinking I wanted it to be over with.  With 1.5 miles to go, I got it together and started really focusing more on my form and breathing. Before I knew it, I could see the finish line and was getting excited. I was at 2:52 and knew I would make it on time if I kept my pace…..and I did! My official time was a 2:57:37! (and my fastest mile was my last one!)

I felt amazing and was so dang proud of myself when I finished!….

finisher

Thanks to my friend Diane for taking this awesome photo of me finishing! It truly describes how I felt!

board

The GOTR Executive Team..2 of us running and 2 volunteering!

…..Until I started comparing myself to other runner friends….that is another blog post…for now, you can watch my 5 minute facebook live video from yesterday here.

All in all, this was one of my best races from strategy to how amazing I felt at the end.

Do you use races as training runs? Share your comments below!

Click here: 50 Miles of Gratitude: 50 Posts about my first 50 Miler

diane

My badass friend Diane who is an Ironman and did her first 8K trail race!

terry

Selfie with Terry who is an amazing athlete who will be 60 this year and placed first in her age group and 13th woman overall!

sunrise

You know it’s going to be a great day with this sunrise!

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

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!)

“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!)

50 Miles of Gratitude: 50 Posts about my first 50 Miler

….and My Story Runs On….

Here is a list of my blog posts that I am writing after my first 50 Mile race.  It’s combination of what I learned, what I am grateful for and a way for me to keep the memory alive.  It was one of the proudest moments of my life! My goal is to have 50 of these 😉

Race Report: Antelope Canyon: My 1st 50 Miler (with pictures!)
50 Miles of Gratitude: (1) ChiRunning
50 Miles of Gratitude: (2) Nutrition
50 Miles of Gratitude: (3) Training
50 Miles of Gratitude: (4) Massage
50 Miles of Gratitude: (5) My Trail Wife
50 Miles of Gratitude: (6) My Boyfriend
50 Miles of Gratitude: (7) My Epic Finish Line
50 Miles of Gratitude: (8) Altras and Meeting the CoFounder
50 Miles of Gratitude: (9) Training & Aravaipa Running
50 Miles of Gratitude: (10) Burning Out
50 Miles of Gratitude: (11) My Celebratory Tattoo
50 Miles of Gratitude: (12) Training & XTERRA events 

 

I've learned this... #neversaynever

I’ve learned this… #neversaynever

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

50 Miles of Gratitude: (3) Training

Video

….and My Story Runs On….

Another reason for my success was sticking to my training plan.  There were a few times that I was not able to stick to the plan but they were few and far between.  This was by far, the hardest part of the entire process.

It was not the training that was hard but the amount of time it took. I knew it was going to be a big commitment but when you add the mileage, and add driving back and forth to trail heads, it was a part time job.  In addition to the time, it was hard to focus on anything mentally after a few long days of running.  My business suffered a bit from it and I spent less time with my boyfriend as well. Thankfully he is very supportive and that will be another blog post 😉  You have no idea how tempted I am right now to sign up for another 50 miler this year while my body/mind are trained!  But I know I need to get refocused on my business and I truly need to be patient with the process.  I see too  many people get too excited and then things start  falling apart. I want to keep running for the rest of my life and don’t want to burn my body or mind out!

I followed a training plan from Ultraladies. It’s a cool schedule generator so you plug in the date of your event and it spits out a training plan. I started training for my 2nd 50K and then switched over to the 50 Mile training. Here is my spreadsheet (50K on one sheet and 50 miles on another).  My goal was to follow the plan as closely as I could but life gets in the way sometimes. If I couldn’t follow on the specific days, my goal was to try and meet the weekly miles and make sure that I was able to get my back to back long runs in. If you talk to any ultra runner, most of them will tell you that back to back long runs are crucial as it’s the way that you train to run on tired legs.

The other thing to do is make sure to find out the elevation profile of your run and what conditions you will be running in.  Everything I read about Antelope Canyon was that it was 40 miles of sand. So I did quite a bit of training in the sand although the sand was coarser in our park washes than the fine sand in Page. I also made it a point to focus on ChiWalking and hiking. The idea was to get as much time on my feet so these helped quite a bit as well.

I was worried that 31 miles was my longest run and I didn’t know what it would feel like to run 20 more on the same day….but it really did come together on race day.  My legs were tired but no where near as bad as I thought it would be.

I always tell my runners, you can go out and complete a race with little training, but how do you want to feel during and after?  Training is an important part of any race, both mentally and physically.

I found this awhile ago and it cracked me up…if you are an ultra runner, you know you can relate 😉

 

50 Miles of Gratitude: 50 Posts about my first 50 Miler

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