Sunday, April 29, 2012

Trail Half Marathon Report

Running Fit Starting Line

I had a great day at the Running Fit Trail Half Marathon on Saturday!  My time was slow compared to a road run (of course), but I ran harder than I thought I could through the entire race, so I am very happy.

24th in Age Group, 94th Overall Women, 413/839 Overall Race
2:19:07 Total Time, 10:37 Mile Pace

The hubby and I before the race.  I'm ready to run!

I made it to the state park at 7:30am - just in time to wait in the long packet pickup line and then the even longer porta-potty line.  I emerged from the john just in time for the race start.

The race began at 8:00am in waves based on expected pace.  It was a fun, informal start in which the announcer sort of made up pace groups on the fly.  I started with the 9:23 to 9:48 group, which felt perfect.  I passed some people, I got passed by others.  As our group crossed the starting line, the announcer said, "Here go the 9:23 to 9:48 pacers.  Of course, we all know that pace doesn't mean anything on the trail."  Every runner around me laughed and said, "So true!  So true!" 

Starting my watch

The first 2 miles were fast and chaotic as the group worked to spread out.  Everyone was polite and in good spirits.  That's one of the things I love about trail runners.  A good attitude seems to be the norm.  At around 2 miles, I latched on to a girl in black shorts with green trim.  She was running a speed that pushed me but was sustainable.  The perfect pacer! 

The half marathon followed the pink loop

Constant elevation change!  More hills than I ever run in Grand Rapids!

The trail was beautiful and in great condition.  It was damp and well packed, rocky and rooty.  I love the feeling of flying down hills, bouncing off the sides of ramped up dirt and trying not to twist an ankle on a missed root.  There were also more aid stations than I expected in the race.  I didn't really need them - I carried my own bottles - but the staff support and supplies were great.

Around 5 miles, I sucked down a vanilla gel.  I was feeling tired but thought that I could keep up the strong pace that I was running.  I got a little boost of confidence when at about 6.5 miles, I passed the girl with the black and green shorts going up a hill, and she couldn't stick with me.  I kept saying to myself, "I am strong.  I am tough.  I am doing this."

At around mile 7, I grabbed onto the heels of a guy in a blue shirt and a girl in a blue, plaid running skirt.  They were running together and having a great time.  I had seen the girl take a hard fall a couple miles back, but she was OK and running tough.  Then at about 8.5 miles, I tripped on a root and thought for sure that I was going down myself.  I had that slow-motion experience where I saw myself heading for a tree with an 8 inch line of snot propelled out of my nose ahead of me by the inertia that it maintained as my body suddenly stopped.  Fortunately, I caught myself before the tree and I became aquainted, wiped the flying snot from my face, and regained my stride.  The guys right behind me were so nice, making sure I was OK.

The couple in blue was fast, so I had to kick to catch back up to them.  I worked hard to hold on to them every time they sped up to make a pass, but I did it.  Just after mile 9, they stopped at an aid station, and I kept going.  I saw them again after the race, but they never passed me again.

After the aid station, the trail crossed a road at which a volunteer was stopping traffic.  As I approached, he said, "Hurry!"  I turned my legs as fast as I could, which wasn't much, and replied, "This is all the hurry I've got!"  That made the volunteer laugh.

At mile 10, I was feeling the effects of the hard pace.  I thought about eating another gel, but I didn't feel like messing with it.  I wanted to just focus on the run, and I knew I could keep my energy up for 3 more miles.  Shortly thereafter, I got a little boost from someone who had fed their truck's stereo system through an amp blasting Metallica down the trail.  That put a smile on my face!  Nothing like a little metal to make you feel like a badass.

Through the final miles, I kept saying, "I'm strong.  I'm tough.  I'm doing this."  The mile markers seemed to pass too slowly as I pushed for the finish.  At the same time, I was sad that my time in the woods with all these trail compatriots would soon be over.  I thought about all of the time and work I put into training for the race, and the event itself seemed to go by too fast.  It was both anti-climactic and satisfying.

At mile 12, I started to hear the crowds cheering at the finish line.  I kept pushing on.  Then I suddenly broke out of the trees and the finish line banner was a tenth of a mile ahead.  My mom and the hubby were right there cheering and taking pictures.  They are the best!

Out of the woods, pushing to the finish line

I turned on the last burst of speed that I could muster and wheeled my legs down the shore of the lake toward the finish line.  Yes!  I did it!  I finished.  I had kept a stronger pace than I thought I could throughout the race, and it had felt wonderful.  My time was 2:19:07 - a 10:37 mile pace.  Not too bad.  I was very happy with my run.

I walked back toward where Mom and the hubby had been cheering and grabbed a banana and a giant muffin from the fuel tent.  I wore my finisher's medal around my neck.  I put my jacket back on as my sweaty body quickly cooled in the 35 degree F air, and we all walked slowly back to the car - my support squad letting my blistered feet set the pace.

It was a great race.  I love the trails and the half marathon distance.  I definitely need to do a race like this again!  Thanks, Running Fit, for putting on such a great trail weekend!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Trail Half Marathon this Weekend!

The trail half marathon is finally this weekend!  The hubby and I will be staying with my mom and step-dad the night before, then it's off to the state park to run.  I'm excited to have my favorite cheerleaders planning to yell their little hearts out for me.

I've been itching to run all week.  It's the usual taper thing where you have all this energy and fitness and you aren't allowed to really use it too much so as not to wear yourself out.  I'll be ready for a good day on Saturday.  I hope.

It will be cool on race day - around 40 in the morning, so that's a plus.  I'm going into this thing with the goal of having fun and running what feels good.  Hopefully that means a great time.  Maybe an age group placement (though the race is sold out, so that may mean lots of women in the 30-34 age group).  But the main thing is to milk this long trail run in the Michigan woods for all it's worth.  That's why I signed up, and that's what I want to focus on.

I've been trying to hydrate well for the last few days, too.  I picked up some gels at the store.  My shoes are giving me blisters at high mileage, but I'm not changing them right before a race.  So everything is as ready as it can be.  A little more sleep this week would have been nice, but you can't have everything.  :)

Pinckney, here I come!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Out on the road bike

I got out for my first road bike ride of any substantial length this weekend with my friend, Colleen.  She is training for the DALMAC (a multi-day bike tour), so she has been riding lots of miles.  I was a little nervous about jumping right in to a 40 mile ride, which is on the short side for Colleen, but it worked out just fine.  My quads were definitely getting tired in the last few miles, but I was very happy with the pace that I kept.

It was a gorgeous, if slightly cool, spring day.  We took off from Colleen's apartment in downtown Grand Rapids and rode north through Riverside Park up to the White Pine Trail.  It was sunny and dry.  It felt great to push the pace on our road bikes.  This is really the only cross training I've done in my preparation for the trail half next weekend, so it was a welcome break from running.

After the race next week, Colleen and I will plan to ride together once every week or two.  Fun!

This week:

Friday, April 13, 2012
Walked 1 mile through parks in SC taking pictures.

Sunday, April 14, 2012
Run 14.13 miles
I felt like I was dragging sometimes, felt great other times.  The last few miles were tough.  Total time - 2:21:30.  Avg mile - 10:00.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Run at Cascade Park with my coworker, Anagha
Walk 1 mile, run 1 mile, 2x2:00, 2x3:00, 2x4:00 aerobic intervals (total 3 miles), run 1 mile.

Saturday, April 21, 2012
Bike 38.8 miles
Great day to ride with Colleen!  Good pace, only felt tired in the last few miles.

Sunday, April 22, 2012
Run 1.2, walk 0.8 with the hubby
He's slowly getting back into exercising after back and hamstring issues.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Road ID Discount Codes

The Road ID ad in this month's Runner's World contains a coupon code for 10% off through May 20, 2012: pcRWMAY2012

I decided to buy one, and to say thank you, they also sent me a coupon code to share for $1 off in the next 30 days: ThanksMelissa13861902

If you have considered buying a Road ID product, this may be a good time to do it!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Running with a New Coworker

My coworker, Anagha, is fresh out of grad school at U of M (Go Blue!) and is eager to get back into a regular exercise routine.  She asked me if she could go running with me some time.  I told her that I've been running a lot of miles in preparation for an upcoming race, and that maybe she wanted to wait until I was not doing such intense workouts.  But she was happy to just exercise in the same space even if we didn't run at the same pace.

So, I thought that going to a nearby park would be a good idea.  Cascade Park is just a couple miles from our office, and it has a nice paved loop that measures exactly 1 mile.  A perfect place to stay close to each other but do our own things.

We decided to do the first lap together so Anagha could get familiar with the path.  We started out at an easy jog, but Anagha hasn't been running in 3 years, so we transitioned to walking pretty quickly.  We finished the first mile walking together and chatting about life, then I took off to do my planned workout.

I passed Anagha a couple times sitting in the park talking on her cell phone.  I think she did 2 or 3 laps and then got caught up in conversation.  A great start to getting back into exercise, though!  We met back up by our cars when I finished my run and headed to our respective homes.

This morning, Anagha said, "Don't judge me by my performance yesterday.  I can do more!"  No judgement at all!  She got out there moving for the first time in 3 years.  She did great!  She walked at least a couple miles on a beautiful, sunny, spring day.

I'm proud of my coworker for getting back into fitness after grad school!  I'm honored to help as some small motivator for her.  I look forward to hitting the roads and trails with Anagha again soon.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Turtles at the Park

I made my final trip to Belle Johnston Park today.  This is where I've been doing my speed work during my trip to the Carolinas.  I really wanted to get pictures today, and...success!

There is a nicely maintained sidewalk all the way around the lake for a lap of just over a half mile.

It's a great place to run, but I have also fallen in love with someone at the park...dozens of turtles!

Adorable little friends!

Cool park!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Take this fork back or your intestines will fall out...

Just kidding.  But a fork recall and some abandoned guts are both subjects of this post.

First of all, my mom sent me this notice for a recall of the SR Suntour Suspension Fork used on some GT, Giant, and Trek bikes.  There have been several reports of these forks breaking causing riders to fall and sustain injuries.  If you own a bike with this fork, you can bring it to a bike shop for free repairs.  See the article for full details.

On the subject of guts...  I went out for a 7 mile run today and sort of explored the area around my hotel.  It was a perfect 55 degree, sunny day!  I went to the park with the lake that I have been doing my speed work around these last 2 weeks to try to get pictures of the turtles there.  Unfortunately, the grounds crew was cutting the grass, and the turtles were all hiding in the water.  I'll have to go back tomorrow to try to see them again.

Then, I went to another park near the police station that is home to several baseball diamonds.  There is a nice paved path weaving around the fields.  As I was running along, I noticed a small pile of guts lying on the path.  A perfect little packet of stomach, intestines, liver, etc.  Everything was where it should be - just like a picture in an anatomy book.  There was no blood or gore anywhere around it - and no other body parts, fur, bones...nothing.  It was like some very particular fox caught a squirrel and proceeded to meticulously remove its organs before taking the rest home for dinner.  It was so strange to see these lost guts lying there on the bike path!  I'll have to see if those are still there tomorrow, too.  More likely something will eat them by then.

So far this week:

Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Run 3 miles from hotel to park.  Do 2x2:00, 2x3:00, 2x4:00 aerobic intervals around the lake.  Run 1.25 back to hotel.  Total distance about 7.5 miles (or maybe a little more).  
Total time 1:10:43.

Thursday, April 12, 2012
Run 7 miles including 4x2:00 AI's, 6 strides
Total time 57:12.  Avg mile 8:10 (if my app was indeed accurate on the time)
Perfect cool, sunny day for a run!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Final Love to ASCG

I went for an easy run today at the Anne Springs Close Greenway.  I'm so sad that this may have been my last time on these trails.  Unless I get my butt up early during this next week to drive there for a run before my work shifts, I may have made my last visit.  I really like it out there, and I will remember it fondly.  

I regret not getting pictures of all the landmarks that have become milestones to me, like the old mill and the "trail" that my co-worker and I got lost on (it turned out to be more of a dry drainage bed than a trail).  It would have been cool to have my mountain bike with me for one of these trips, so I could enjoy the trails that way, too.

So, to share my love of the ASCG, here are a few more pics that I took today.

Hey there, old guy!

Lake Haigler


Thank you, ASCG for a great time out in nature!  

Saturday, April 7, 2012

First MapMyFitness App Experience

Along the Creek

I went for an 8-mile run at the Anne Springs Close Greenway in FortMill, SC today.  I decided to try out my iPhone's GPS abilities for the first time and chose to run the MapMyFitness app to track my route.

I hit record on the app and took off for the trail head.  All I knew was that MapMyFitness would use my phone's GPS to track me and give me all the pertinent data at the end.  But surprise!  About 9 and a half minutes into the run, the phone started talking to me.  Suddenly, I knew my time, distance, and pace at each mile, which was wonderful because I didn't have to try to estimate my distance out on the trail.

If there was one thing I could improve about the app, though, it would be to have the option to see the distance/time/pace info displayed on the screen instead of the map.  I know other apps do that.  Maybe I'll shop around.

In any case, my workout info is now linked to all the "MapMy..." websites.  Cool!

The other bonus to having my phone with me on the trail was the ability to take decent pictures.  Here are a few of my favorites.

On the Blue Star Trail

Suspended Bridge

Train Trestle

Horses in a Field of Wildflowers

I love it out there!

This week:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Run 3 to park near hotel.  Do 2x2:00, 2x2:30, 1x3:00 aerobic intervals plus 6 strides.  Run 3 miles back to hotel.
It was HOT out there and miserable for the return run.  I walked quite a bit of it.

Thursday, April 5, 2012
Run 6.25 miles
The route I chose was terrible - along a busy road with no sidewalk.  It was also miserably hot.  Not enjoyable.

Saturday, April 7, 2012
8 mile trail run at Anne Springs Close Greenway
The weather was perfect, and it was a great run!  I'm still amazed at how slow I am, but it made me think about why I decided to do the trail half marathon in the first place.  I want to do it because the idea of spending a couple hours running out in the woods makes me happy.  An extended time on the trail is fun!  I want to do it to have fun.  So I should just forget about time and enjoy myself.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Smartphone Virgin

My hero of an office manager finally convinced my boss that I travel enough for the job to warrant a company phone.  A smart phone.  An iPhone.  It will be a super useful tool on the job sites.  People will be able to get a hold of me with emergencies/questions.  I will be able to get on my company network even when the job site does not allow access.  I will be able to find my way around the strange towns that I visit.

And...this is my very first smart phone ever!  I know...where have I been all this time?

As the people around me have explored the smart phone world, I have made mental notes about the tools and applications that they find fun and useful.  So one of the first things I did after adding some important numbers to my contact list and making sure I knew how to use the basic phone functions was to download some fitness apps that I have wanted to try.

One is iMapMyFitness, which works together with,, etc. - sites that I use to create routes for running and biking or to measure new routes that I explore while I'm out moving around.

The other is Fitness Rewards by Plus 3, which links to my +3 Network account and lets me record workouts which translate into donations to charity.

I don't know how much I will use these apps, or how I will choose which one to turn on.  I assume I can only use one GPS-based application at a time, but that may be erroneous.  Until now, I have rarely carried a phone with me on a run, and this smart phone is bulky and heavy.  The most technologically advanced thing I usually have with me for a workout is my basic sports watch.  I plan my routes beforehand, time my efforts, and record what I do online when I get home.

But I think I'm ready to dip my toe into the waters of fitness technology.  GPS mapping.  Time and pace info.  Social networking with other athletes.

Hello, world!

What smart phone apps have you found that you love?  Tell me about them in the comments!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sometimes running hurts

I did my long run yesterday – 12 miles.  After the incredible, fast paced 10-miler I ran with Cat last weekend, which felt so good, I wanted to test myself and see if I could keep a fast pace for 12 miles.  I started off strong but suffered later on.  By the end of the run, I was really unhappy.  I was tired, my feet hurt, and my stomach was cramping.  But I kept running, however slowly.  I guess it was the magic of running with a friend that made last weekend so great.

But in comparison to other long runs recently, I didn’t do badly.  I ran an average 9:10 mile.  My goal has been to run the trail half in 2 hours.  That would be approximately 9 minute miles, so I’m still a bit slow.  I can’t even hit 9 minute miles for a long effort on the road yet, let alone the trails.  I’m starting to think that I didn't give myself enough time to adequately train for that speed.  The distance…no problem.  The speed…I’m not so sure.

On the positive side, I logged this run on Map My Ride, and I noticed that the last time I ran this same 12-mile route was during my marathon training plan, and I ran it 5 minutes faster this time.  So that’s progress!

I have a month of training time left before the race.  With 2 months, I am confident that I could hit my goal pace.  Instead, I may revise my goal.  I still want to challenge myself, but I want to be realistic.  And as I said in my post about flexibility, I will have alternate goals in case the universe is just against me on race day – like enjoying the woods, or maybe an age group placement. 
It’s all about fitness and having fun.  

The numbers help mark accomplishments, but they are not the only things from which to derive satisfaction.

Rest of this week:

Sunday, April 1, 2012
Long run - 12 miles.  Started out fast and suffered in the end.  Total time 1:50:30.  Avg mile 9:10.