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.

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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!

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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!….

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

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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

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

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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!

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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: MASS Gathering Memorial Day Marathon

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….and My Story Runs On….

I guess I’m more likely to blog while I’m on “vacation” since this is my 2nd blog in a week!
About a month ago, I realized I needed to get in 20 miles on Sat and 10 on Sun during Memorial weekend for my next 50K race (Capitol Reef, UT on 7/9/16).  I knew it would be hard to get this is in MA by myself.  My trip consisted of: being in my friend’s wedding in Boston last weekend, 5 days at Kripalu assisting Danny Dreyer, the founder of ChiRunning for 5 days and then a weekend in Pittsfield MA to visit family (my home town). I knew I wouldn’t get any long runs in the weekend of the wedding so I started googling races…lo and behold I found this marathon: MASS Gathering Memorial Day Marathon.
I started looking into it and figured: it’s 30 min from Pittsfield, 26 miles in one day is close enough to 30 in 2 days, it would be my first marathon out of state (7th one), first marathon in my home state and the icing on the cake was that it was benefiting Team RWB (I’m a member of the Phoenix Chapter) and Soldier On. I thought about it for a few days and then decided to go for it.
This past week I tried to follow my training plan but also was on my feet a lot due to teaching and coaching.  Even though I took Thu and Sat “off” of running, I went into the race with some mileage on my legs (61.2 according to my Jawbone but that’s including all my steps so a bit exaggerated…still a lot though).

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I was on tired legs already!

The eve of the marathon, my head starting messing with me a bit.  It was my first marathon where I didn’t have any friends or people that I knew.  I couldn’t find any information about the course and elevation (I used to not care about this but as my running story evolves, I realize knowing this information really helps me prepare for the race and strategize).  I knew it would be a hilly course so that made me feel better since I love hills due to the unique way we go up and down them with ChiRunning technique.  I was also worried about the weather as it was supposed to rain (I’m too used to perfect weather conditions in AZ) and it was going to be humid (I’m used to a dry heat.) I even started googling ‘running in dry heat vs humidity’! Then I started thinking, do I want to “race” this? Could I possibly PR (have a personal record) on this course with the hills (my best time for a full is in Sedona with a 4:58 and it was because of my hill strategy). Then I realized, I was wasting too much valuable energy  so I decided to go run it as the training run it was meant to be. I knew the cutoff was 7 hours (race director said they wouldn’t leave anyone on the course anyways) so I had plenty of time.

My aunt drove me the morning of the race and I was there in plenty of time which is rare for me.  I had 50 minutes to kill so I did my ChiRunning body looseners and found a seat to relax in.  IMG_8642

I noticed a guy from afar doing the body looseners and I knew he was a ChiRunner as we are the only ones who do this sequence (later I talked to him and he had been in the Kripalu class I assisted with last year!)  He was doing the half though. The race started 10 minutes late and I felt good right away going down the gentle downhill.  The race started with 80% humidity which I was not used to.

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My biggest goal in a long race is pacing myself. I had to slow myself down as I knew I was going faster than I should, especially knowing there would be some uphills and I had several miles to go. The course was beautiful!  I was bummed that I couldn’t find a trail race as I prefer that over the road but this race was hilly and nice enough scenery where I felt I could’ve been on a trail.

Roses:

  • Mentioned already in paragraph 3 above 😉
  • Loved the hilly course!  I know this is not normal but I was fresh from teaching ChiRunning.  I worked on my form quite so I could be as efficient as possible and maintain my energy throughout the miles.  I practiced active and passive pelvic rotation on the uphills and downhills; had some great aha moments when my legs felt heavy by allowing my ankles to lift behind me and could feel my legs be more relaxed;  I used my arm swing to help me on the hills and headwind we had on the last 3 miles of the race; focused on nose breathing as much as I could.
  • The scenery was beautiful!  I love all the green and it’s one of the things I miss from MA that we don’t have in Phoenix.  Here are some photos:
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Added to the humidity I’m sure!

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Lots of pretty flowers along the course!

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Honoring Memorial Day

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Love New England scenery!

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Hills….

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More hills…

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Settled in 1750!

  • They said there would be aid stations at every 2-3 miles and there were! This was necessary for me as the day got hotter and hotter and more humid. I poured more water over my head than down my throat! I also kept imagining the scenery with lots of snow on the ground just to keep cool thoughts.
  • RAIN at mile 21 was AMAZING!  I will say I was ready for the race to be over due to the heat and humidity and that rain definitely helped out.
Thank God for the rain!

Thank God for the rain!

  • The Mom/boyfriend team cheering squad!  These guys kept moving along and cheering us on. Past the half way point, she had a cooler with wet cloths and ice that really helped. I even stuck some ice down my bra to stay cool for a while. I found out later that she was cheering on her 2 daughters (we were leap frogging) who were doing their first marathon together! I love this!  I was able to get a photo of them at the end of the race.
Great running stalkers!

Great running stalkers!

  • There were several home owners along the course that came out with water, oranges, etc which was great (although I think there could’ve been more)
  • My aunts at the end of the race cheering me in!
  • My dog tag medal and local craft beer which is a must at the end of any race for me 😉
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Finisher showing off the dog tag and my Team RWB shirt!

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Great craft beer from Big Elm Brewing. Had the stout…yummy!

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Souvenirs from my training run 😉

Thorns:

  • I could deal with the heat but the humidity sucked!  I wish the race would’ve started earlier but I chatted with a guy before the race who said he did it a few years ago and it was snowing.  The frequent aid stations really helped though!
  • Not too crazy about the cant in the road. I had to move from left to the right side of the road frequently as I could tell my legs were not even with the pavement.  I could feel this in my hips the next day.
  • I was disappointed in the lack of representation from Team RWB folks.  Although I think in Phoenix we have an abnormally active chapter so I am used to seeing at least 20 other RWB shirts and running through the finish line with an American flag.  I think I saw one other person with a shirt. (Although still happy to know that proceeds benefited this awesome charity!)

At the beginning of the race, my pace was good and I started thinking I could PR until the humidity got to me.  I am still happy with my results. It’s my 4th best time out of 7 marathons and considering the amount of running I had done the week before, the humidity, etc. I was happy.

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Placed 56th out of 98 total and 18th out of 38 women.

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Dark blue is the elevation change

I normally judge my “success” on how I feel when I am done and how I feel the next day or two after a big race. I finished strong, I was a bit sore the day after and felt great 2 days after.  My abs and obliques were sorer than my legs which is always a good sign that my ChiRunning form is good 😉

Overall, I would recommend this race! Not sure I would take a special trip for it as I like to experience new scenery and prefer trails… but if I happen to be up there and I’m trained, I would do it again.

What is your favorite race that you’ve done out of state?

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: (1) ChiRunning

….and My Story Runs On….

I think one of the reasons I want to write a post a day for 50 days is because I want to keep reliving this amazing, life changing experience I had! I promised these to be short and sweet.  Please note that these are not necessarily in any order although ChiRunning is in the top 5 reasons why I had a successful race.  How do I measure my success?  Well, not by speed, obviously! I measure success based on how I felt during training, the race and after.  Although there are several other factors that contributed to my success, ChiRunning is a HUGE part of it.

It was just last year that I suffered from plantar fasciitis and had to take several months off from running due to overuse and not listening to my body.

I would never even consider doing this race if it weren’t for ChiRunning.  If you are a ChiRunner already, you know what I’m talking about. If not, I highly suggest you look into it.

First and foremost, it’s about proper running form. Technique is the key to success with any sport.  In ChiRunning, you learn to minimize using your legs to run and use your core and gravity to do the work for you. When you use your legs less, you are less prone to injury and you use less energy which in turn can translate to better recovery time, speed and/or distance.

Most people run upright, overstride in front of them and use their legs way too much! This causes most running injuries and is an inefficient way to move forward.

Most people run upright, overstride in front of them and use their legs way too much! This causes most running injuries and is an inefficient way to move forward.

I had no pain while training and I was averaging 50+ miles a week for awhile.  I had no pain during the race at all even though we were in sand most of the time and climbing because I knew how to use my body properly for these (you learn to adapt your technique to the environment you are running in).  Of course, I did quite a bit of ChiWalking as well!  I’ll admit that the day after my body was a bit sore and I was waddling around but on Monday, I barely felt any soreness. I know this is also due to my conditioning but I know my technique had a lot to do with it.

One of the reasons I love ChiRunning, is that the more you focus on it, the better you become at it. I’m a Master Instructor and have been teaching it for 6 years. I focused heavily on my form on my training runs with my ChiSchool audios and ChiRunning app and have felt a huge improvement in my form and efficiency.  I felt great pretty much the whole time during the 50 miler.

ChiRunning is great for beginners wanting to learn to properly the first time around and also elite athletes that are looking at getting better/faster at their sport.  As we say, “Practice Makes Progress” and you never know how a little tweak in your arm swing or your head position can negatively impact your running form….and when you are running 50 miles, you want to be as efficient as possible.

ChiRunning just used this comment in one of their facebook posts and I wanted to share: “ChiRunning and Total Immersion share the belief that you are ALWAYS working on your technique, because you can always improve on some level, whether it’s getting more physically fit, focusing your mind, elevating your mood or learning the art of internal stillness in the midst of activity.”

And for the record, ChiRunning has changed my run but more importantly my life in so many ways! I highly recommend checking it out if you are a runner! Imagine the possibilities!

I personally don't want running to be hard...why would I keep doing it? The easier it is on my mind and body, the more likely I'll keep doing it and be able to do it!

I personally don’t want running to be hard…why would I keep doing it? The easier it is on my mind and body, the more likely I’ll keep doing it and be able to do it!

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!)

Completely Exposing Myself….

….and My Story Runs On….

I’ve decided to just go ahead and let it all out!  I debated whether I should do this or not….I’m a true believer in being authentic and I’ve learned that showing vulnerability is not a bad thing at all.

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So here it goes…..

I’m going to share my personal video analysis and Danny Dreyer’s (founder of ChiRunning) critique of my ChiRunning form.  Keep in mind that I started using this form back in 2009, became Certified in 2010 and have been practicing ever since. (Click here and scroll to bottom of the page to see the evolution of my immersion into ChiRunning).

One of the things I love most about ChiRunning is that it’s truly a holistic practice.  We like to say Practice Makes Progress (not perfect) because we are always looking for ways to keep getting better and better at it.  I always tell my students that you get what you put into it.  Even Danny Dreyer has aha moments as he works on “perfecting” his form.

Anyways, here is the video.  Danny gave me specific directions to

“Be pretty nitpicky. This way I can see how good your critical eye is, and also how good your form is.”

The video is 7:37 minutes but note how many “nitpicky” things I found in my own form.

Here is Danny’s email back to me after his review:

“You did a fabulous job of nitpicking your form! Below are some of my comments to add to what you saw.
Foot splay in the flight phase on both feet. Only very slight in the right foot… not enough to worry about. When you were running in a counter-clockwise arc you were pointing your right foot as it swung forward and you were dorsiflexing your left foot as it swung forward. This was accentuated because of the curve and less obvious when running straight.
Landing on the outside of the feet is fine. It creates a natural pronation and makes a midfoot landing softer.
Much of your leg work would improve if your stride were a bit shorter. This would prevent any overuse of your lower legs, reduce over-pronation and help keep your cadence up around 177 where it should be. It’s a more efficient gear for you.
Good alignment and lean
Right calf is pre-firing and plantar flexing for stability but I don’t see it used for propulsion.
Left ankle is dorsiflexing but not heel striking. On both feet you’re landing below your knees, which is great.
Slight upper body rotation: right elbow comes back behind you. Left elbow not as much. I’d say that the main thing you need to work on is your armswing… everything else is very close to right on. With your arms, let your elbows swing in the direction your arms are aligned. When you’re holding an imaginary volleyball your hands are closer to your centerline and your elbows are wider because they’re angled out a bit. The reason why your shoulders rotate is because your elbows are not following the line set up by the volleyball, but instead they’re swinging directly rearward and not rearward at a slight angle to each side… in a “V” shape. Swinging your elbow straight back pulls your shoulder with it. Swinging your elbow in a “V” shape doesn’t.
A small amount of vertical motion is a good thing. If you had no vertical motion, you’d be walking. It’s necessary. But, we teach pelvic rotation just to insure that people aren’t bouncing more than they need to.
I’m happy to go over any of this with you on Skype, so I can demonstrate what’s happening….. You’re doing a fabulous job in many ways.
Keep up the good work.
Danny”

Yesterday I had the privilege of talking to Danny via Google Hangout to discuss my video even further.  We worked on my right arm swing a bit and now I’m excited because I have some more things to focus on when I’m running.

Moral of the story: 

learn

Just because I’ve been teaching and practicing for awhile, doesn’t mean I can’t learn and become a stronger runner.  It wasn’t easy being vulnerable and having the founder of ChiRunning critique my form but boy am I am re-energized and motivated to keep working on it. The better I get, the more I can help my students get better too!

I do video analysis in my 4-hour ChiRunning workshops.  Students tell me this is the most valuable part of the class. There is nothing like making that mind/body connection by seeing what your body is doing so you can correct it.

Although I was pretty nervous about this whole process, I’m so grateful because ChiRunning has changed my life both professionally and personally.  I continue to look forward to helping injured runners change their form so they won’t be injured anymore AND show brand new runners that running doesn’t have to be painful or hard.

“It’s not running that causes pain, but HOW you do it.” Danny Dreyer

P.S  Not sure if you are Ted Talk fan but here is a great one on The Power of Vulnerability from Brene Brown.

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