Monday, November 12, 2012

Exceeding Your Dreams

Even though the year is not over with, I have already meet or exceeded my running goals. This is big for me. To understand better, you need to understand last year and where I was when I set my goals for this year.

In March of 2011 I was in the middle of training for a 1/2 marathon and a full marathon when I was struck down with blood clots in both my lungs. Thanks to the fact that I am a runner, my recovery was very fast but that did leave me on blood thinners for 6 months. As I started coming off the drugs, I came to a bit of an epiphany about my running. You see I started running in 2008 as a life sport: That is something I would do for the rest of my life to help me stay in shape and be healthy (I was definitely not healthy when I started running). However, any time I would get an injury, I would use it as an excuse to not do any exercise. And truth be told I have been plagued with injuries every year I have been running (mostly foot problems). I knew that if I kept it up the way I was going, I would end up stopping running and become unhealthy again. That was unacceptable. So I had to figure out how I could keep running but stay healthy and injury free. Of course I had no idea how to do that. Then I read an article about an older gentleman that runs about a marathon a week. My first thought was how in the world can he do that? I can barely walk after running one. I kept reading and the article later said that his faster marathon ever was 4:30 but he mostly run 5+ hour marathons. That's when it hit me: he doesn't race, he runs them like an LSD run.

At the same time, I was reading a book called "Chi Running" and it really talked about your running form. That's when it hit me: the two biggest reasons for running injuries are 1) running form and 2) pushing faster than we are ready for. This gave me an approach to the next year (2012). I made my primary goal of "Run more, run healthy." In order to meet this goal I was going to really focus on my running form and I was going to treat all races like LSD runs (and to little to no speed work). 2012 was going to be a year of building miles and proving that I could run without injuries. As more tangible goal, I was going to try to run a 1/2 marathon each month of 2012 and finish by doing the Goofy challenge in January of 2013. The Goofy Challenge is a 1/2 marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday. That would prove (to me) my fitness and how stayed healthy through the year (because if I had an injury, I would not run and thus would not be in shape enough to run a 1/2 followed by a full). At least that was my plan.

As December of 2011 began to come to a close, I began reading from my friends about trail running and a trail race come up in January: the Wilson Creek Frozen 50K. After a little looking I found out that there was a 10 mile race (as well as a 20 mile and the full 50K). Since I was unable to find a 1/2 marathon in January, the 10 mile race looked kind of good. My big concern was that I had never run a trail before. I knew there would be a lot more hills in trail running and I sucked at running up hills. That was when I found out that it is normal for trail runners to walk up hills. I liked the sound of that so four weeks before the race, I ran my first trail run 6 miles. After that run I signed up for the 10 miler at Wilson Creek. I continued to run trails on the weekend, even running 10 miles the weekend before. Now the name of the race is the "frozen" 50K so I was prepared for the cold. What I was not ready for was the mud. It turned out to be a warm, wet January and the trails were very muddy. Worse was that the mud was like clay and stuck to your shoes. Not only did you not have any traction, but it added an extra 5 pounds per shoe. On the 10 mile course, all the mud was on the first 4 miles of the course. But by the time you reached the first aid station (which was at the highest point on the course) you were totally beat from trying to run in all that mud. I finished the 10 miles in just over 3 hours, and that was even after stubbing my big toe so hard I broke it. Truth be told this would have been my last trail race ever had it not been for my experienced trail running friends say that this was one of the hardest races they had run because of the mud. I went from feeling beaten to feeling unbeatable. The mud had not beaten me, I had beaten it.

Wilson Creek Frozen 10 Miler: 3:05:00


Crossing the finish line of the Wilson Creek 10 Mile

I could find not races in February and all I could find in March was the Les Bois 10K trail race. I had signed up for two 1/2 marathons in April and a full marathon in May. This put me on a marathon training plan. The Les Bois was the first time my new philosophy of not running fast was put to the test. When the race started, everyone took off at a pace faster than I wanted to run. It was a test of will for me to accept running in last place (I wanted to keep up with everyone). I managed it mostly by convincing myself that many of these people were going out to fast and I would pass them. I called this the Pepé Le Pew school of running. Sure enough, I soon started passing people. This was an out and back course where you climb for 3 miles and then come back. The worse part was that the camera guy was right at the steepest part of the course so he caught most people walking. I tried to walk so the picture would look like I was running. At least he was still there on the way back so he got good pics of downhill running.

Les Bois 10K: 1:11:00


Ready to Run the Les Bois 10K

On March 29th, my running schedule had me running 20 miles. It turned out that the Pickled Feet 24/12 hour run was that same day. This is a run where you do a 2.5 mile loop as many times as you can in the time amount you signed up for. So I decided to go ahead and do the 12 hour run and see how far I could get. I was beat when I finished but I did my first 50K (actually was 32.5 miles) in 9 1/2 hours. I will admit that I walked a large chunk of that. I was so tired but so very proud. I was now an Ultra Runner. I was also very inspired by the people that managed to run 100 miles in the 24 hours. It was amazing to talk and run with them. This is also where I learned (from one of those 100 milers) that candy bars make the best and cheapest running food. It turns out that regular snickers bar has the right number of calories you need per out, plus is has carbs, sugars and protein: all the stuff you need for running. Of course snickers also has chocolate and that would be messy on a hot run. That is why I use payday bars. The best part is that you can often find candy bars for $.50 each, a heck of a lot cheaper than the health/protein bars. I find it funny that something is considered not good for you is perfect running food. I especially like candy bars for running food as I do not like the taste of gu’s or jellies or most "running food". I would encourage you to check the stats of your current running fuel and a candy bar, you will be surprised at how close they are.

Pickled Feet 12 hour run: 32.5 miles in 9 1/2 hours.


Somewhere towards the end of the 50K

After the 12 hour run, I began to feel a slight pain in my right heal when I tried to run. Since my next race was in a week, I dropped from the race (health over a race). I also dropped from the other 1/2 marathon I was signed up for in April. I probably would have been fine by then but I was not taking any chances. Plus I really wanted to do my second marathon ever.

Kuna High Speed Pursuit 1/2 Marathon: DNS

Race To Robie Creek 1/2 Marathon: DNS

Since I was side lined (I was still running but a lot less), I started looking around at other races. I found the Silver City 50K in June and signed up for it. I also was looking at the Marathon Maniacs web site (a goal I wanted for 2013) and realized that between the 12 hour run, the marathon in May and the Silver City 50K, I would qualify this year for Marathon Maniacs. Of course I am impatient and wanted it be in it sooner. That is when found out that the Idaho Potato Marathon was two weeks after the Lake Lowell marathon. I had originally thought it was 1 week after. As such, I signed up for both marathons. This would definitely meet my “Run More, Run Healthy” motto if I could pull it off.

First up was the Lake Lowell Marathon on May 5. I was very nervous about this race. I shouldn’t have been since I just finished a 50K, which is farther, but there is just something about a marathon. It is a big mental wall that I needed to knock down. In my first marathon, I hit the wall hard and was down on myself for it. I wanted to run this race without feeling defeated. I started off at my own pace and felt pretty good. I managed to run over 18 miles before I had to start walking a bit. I was really happy about that since I hit the wall at 17 before. Although I did walk quite a bit from mile 20 on, I felt good with how I did. I didn’t set a PR but was within 5 minutes of it and considering how much slower I was running, I was very happy with my time.

Lake Lowell Marathon: 5:40:18


Crossing the finish line at Lake Lowell

After this run, something changed in my mental attitude about marathons. Although it is still a long distance to run, it had gone from a really long/hard race to a distance I can run. This was really apparent in my attitude about daily runs. I wanted to run longer runs. This felt really good. My next race what the Famous Idaho Potato Marathon. This was where I ran my first marathon in 2010. I knew that with having just run a marathon, I was not going to set any land speed records but that was not my goal. My goal was to just finish so I would qualify for Marathon Maniacs. Fortunately this course is very flat. On the bus ride out to the start, I struck up a conversion with another runner. Turns out, she had also run Lake Lowell two weeks before and was running this race to qualify for Marathon Maniacs. This of course made us instant friends. The marathon itself went ok. I kind of gave up running after mile 16. My heart was just not into running but my heart was still into finishing and I was happy with walking. I got to see my new friend Marathon two times on this course (the two out and back sections). I finished the race in just over 6 hours. I was very happy that I finished, but was very disappointed with the race. The web site had promised food at the end but most of the booths had already closed up. I had to ask where to get my finisher shirt and had trouble finding water to drink. It was a shame that they didn’t feel those that finished at the end of the race deserve the same amenities as those that finished before.

Famous Idaho Potato Marathon: 6:03:22


Goofing off around mile 16 of the Idaho Potato Marathon

Now I was a member of Marathon Maniacs. I am now member 5445. I might only be a bronze level member, but I am still a member. That was not on my radar at all for this year.

My next scheduled race was the Silver City 50K. I was nervous and excited about this race. This would be my first real trail 50K. However, during a training run a few weeks before, I began feeling a lot of pain in my knee when running down hill. This made me nervous about running Silver City because I knew it was going to be a very technical course. As such, and in keep with my Run More, Run Healthy, I pull myself from the race. Since I was free that weekend anyway, I decided to help out at one of the aid stations. This would be my first time volunteering at an aid station. This turned out to be a great time. I was manning an aid station that was visited by the 100K runners only. It was so much fun. I was cooking up pancakes, Quesadas, and hot broth. I was also helping by filling up water packs and just cheering on these great runners. I was bummed I dropped from the race but happy I volunteered.

Silver City 50K: DNS


Volunteering at its finest

Since I had nothing lined up for July and August, I decided to sign up for the Idaho Wine Run Marathon at the end of September. I also decided I was going to try to PR the race. I know I had said no speed work, but I was feeling really good and was only looking at 5:30. I started a good plan with a little bit of speed work but not a lot. When September 30th rolled around, I thought I was ready to PR. Sadly, I did not PR that race. In fact, I had my worse marathon time ever. What I did learn was a very valuable and hard learned lesson on hydration. The temperature was not supposed to be that warm and with all the aid stations, I thought I would be fine with carrying any extra water. This was wrong, very wrong. My first mistake was that I was not taking in enough hydration before the race. Then I had forgotten that the little cups of water at aid stations are only 1/4 to 1/2 full. Not enough water. Although the temperature was not that warm, there was no breeze and not shade. The sun just beat down on me and by mile 8, was starting to feel the affects of dehydration. I was walking at this point. When I reached the turnaround, I sat down and just drank, and drank water. This helped some. At the next aid station (mile 15), I drank quite a bit more. However, as I left the aid station, started feeling very dizzy and generally not good. Had someone stopped and asked me if I wanted to quit, I would have said yes. I was seriously thinking about this being my first DNF. Somehow I managed to keep walking and after another mile, all the water I drank started to soak in and I felt better. I even started doing some running (short spurts). By mile 20, I caught up to my friend Ryan and Michelle. (Michelle had started an hour earlier and Ryan, after running the marathon, ran back to run with his wife.) I walked with them for a bit until Michelle said she had had enough and wanted to quit. As such (and after confirming with his wife that is what she really wanted to do), Ryan took off me with. It was nice finishing with him. I was feeling so good that I even ran most of the last couple of miles. As it turns out, Michelle’s friend (and one of the race directors), convinced her to finished, so I waited for Michelle to finish. I was so proud of her. I was also proud of myself as I pushed myself to run at the end where usually once I start walking, I don’t push to run again. I wanted to change that about me and I did.

Idaho Wine Run Marathon: 6:46:48


Only a couple of miles to go of the Idaho Wine Run

Hydration was an important lesson for me to learn and three weeks later for my next race, I didn’t mess it up. My next race was the Foothills 50K Frenzy. Since I didn’t run the Silver City 50K, this was going to be my first trail 50K. In the weeks before the race, I had managed to run most of the course so I knew mostly what to expect. This race went really well. I even powered up a really tough hill that almost killed me the first time I tried it. The only real issue I had with this race was my knees again. There was one section that was very steep, technical downhill and it killed both my knees. As such, I ended up walking most of the last 6 miles as I was afraid my knees would give out completely and wouldn’t finish. It is weird about about my knees  in that I can run flats and do hills just find but down hills hurt. But even with the knees, I finished.

Foothills 50K Frenzy: 10:04:37


Coming to the finish line of the Frenzy

My knees was a concern for me so I made an appointment with a trainer. She knew exactly what was wrong. It is my patella band. She give me some exercises to do and how to change my running form.

Since my original goal was to do a 1/2 marathon a month and I had yet to run one this year, I signed up for the Zeitgeist 1/2 marathon. The last time I ran this race. It was the first hilly race I had run and it broke me. I was almost in tears after the final big hill. My goal this year was to not be broken. I was going to top that final hill and still be happy, upbeat and running. Well I did that. I managed to run all the way up the first two hill and only had to walk a little bit of the big hill.  I was very happy with my performance. I even used my new running form on the down hill sections and it really helped.

Zeitgeist 1/2 Marathon: 2:29:18


Waiting for the start of the Zeitgeist

With finishing the Zeitgeist 1/2 marathon, I had managed to run a 10K, a 10 miler, a 1/2 marathon, 3 marathons and 2 50Ks. Not a bad year at all. But the goals didn’t stop there. At some point I had told myself I wanted to run 1000 miles this year. This would be a big jump in miles as in 2010 I had run 657 and in 2011 I had only run 276 miles. A jump to 1000 miles would be huge. Well upon finishing the Zeitgeist, my total miles for the year was 1001 miles. I still have two months left. The best part is that I did it while staying healthy. My feet do not hurt, even after a long race.

I really think I am onto something with this Run More, Run Healthy. By focusing on my running form and not pushing myself, I have managed to stay healthy while putting in more miles. So what is up for next year? Well I have a plan and have already set even bigger goals. I will post about them later this year.

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