Friday, May 15, 2015

Outrun 24 Hour Trail Race - Conquering the HILL

The winter has flown by and between work and curling I didn’t have a lot of time to run this winter.  Feeling like a slug, I started looking around for a 24-hour race this spring that fit my work schedule and jump-start my running.  Lo and behold, I found the Outrun 24 hour, just a half-hour's drive from my house.  How convenient!  The only problem was that it was designated as a “trail” 24-hour.  Hmmm….  I was intrigued.  Just how would this work?

I tried to sign up online only to discover that I was waitlisted.  There was a cap of 175 runners and it was SOLD OUT.  Obviously, a popular race.  I was assured by the race director that a spot would open up and I got “accepted” within a week of registering.  Now, time to TRAIN!
I quickly signed up for the Canton Hall of Fame Marathon to get my long run in, which was one week before the Outrun race.  I finished the hilly marathon in 3:47, so I guess I was ready. 
I next thought I should check out the course since I was nervous about the “trail” part, not having run on a trail in a VERY LONG time.  I took a drive after work to run the course, a 1 mile loop on a hiking/cross-county ski trail at Chapin Forest in the Lake County Metroparks. 

Gradual downhill section of the course
We would be running the “parcourse,” which had a gravel path with few roots, a wooden bridge and a short stretch across the asphalt parking lot.  The trail terrain could best be described as a roller coaster.  While the trail started fairly flat, there was a steady climb before reaching the dreaded HILL.  Now, this is one big HILL and it didn’t take much convincing to decide there was no way I was going to run up this HILL for 1 loop, not to mention running it 100 times.  My plan then was to always walk the HILL.  On the downside of the HILL, there were two short fairly steep descents, then some ups and downs before a gradual downhill to the starting area.  Since I would be walking the HILL, my real concern over 24 hours was the steep downhill parts.  I knew my quads were going to be trashed; it was just a matter of time.  Also, after running just 5 loops on my “practice” run, the bottoms of my feet were already hurting from the gravel paths.  My Brooks running shoes weren’t working so I hoped my padded Hokas would provide sufficient padding.
On race day, the weather was beautiful.  Cool at the start although it did get a little warm during the day.  We were spared extremely hot and cold temperatures.
I didn’t wear a watch thinking there would be computer timing.  Well, there was manual computer timing (no chip timing) but with my old eyes I couldn’t see the screen very well.  For the longest time, the only thing I could read on the screen was the clock with the time of day displayed, not even my lap counts.  I think there was also a computer leader board but I couldn’t read that screen either.  Oh well, this was more of a casual race so I decided to just run/walk how I felt, go with the flow, and not bother “racing” or hitting pre-determined split times.

Although with 175 runners the start was crowded, within a few minutes, everyone spread out.  I ran most of the time by myself, which was surprising given the number of runners.  Fairly early in the race, I felt in the mood to listen to my audio books.  I immediately got engrossed in “V is for Vengeance” by Sue Grafton and then “Everything I Never Told You” by Celeste Ng.  The hours flew by.  I had set up my own aid table and periodically stopped for water, gels, and Perpetuem.  I ended up bypassing the official aid station altogether.  It was a bit off course and seemed like too much work to get to it.  My own table ended up being pretty handy as it was right after the start area and a few feet off the course.  This was my first race where I did not eat any solid food, not even orange slices or bananas, and it worked out well.
On the downhill at Chapin Forest
Hokas worked great on the course.
Finally, after 23 hours, I hit the 100 mile mark.  I was very tempted to stop but I had about 40 minutes left so I thought I could get a few more laps in.  Plus, I wasn’t finished with my audio book and was dying to find out how it ended!  Out I went and stopped at mile/lap 102 with about 10 minutes to spare in the race.

After I packed up my stuff, I swung by the breakfast area to see about getting a race shirt.  Larry Orwin was kind enough to give me an extra breakfast ticket.  Not being too hungry after ingesting  non-stop nutrition for 24 hours, I managed to eat only one-half of a muffin!  I then checked out the results and found out I was the 2nd female (first female had 104 miles).  Got a cool trophy, mug, Mountain Hardware hat and socks.  After a quick nap in the parking lot, I drove home and mowed my lawn.  A successful and productive day!

Bonus mug for running for 24 hours
Trophy with the "Leg" on top - People took turns running with "Peg Leg"

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hot in Cleveland - 2014 US National 24-Hour Report

Yes, I realize that I am several MONTHS late with this race report.  And it seems somewhat crazy to even bother now that the snow is starting to fly here in Cleveland.  But maybe to remind myself that cold weather isn’t so bad after all, here is my recount of the 24-Hour National Race this past September.

The race was held at Edgewater Park, close to downtown Cleveland.  Since the Park has been taken over by the Cleveland Metroparks, the facilities, beach and overall grounds are in much better shape.  This was the first time I’ve been back to the race since the Metroparks take-over and it was definitely an improvement.
As seems to happen every year, the weather forecast was all over the place in the days leading up to the race.  But on race day, it was fairly warm but not oppressive.  The wind was not blowing too hard.  I felt well trained and ready to run some big miles.
Before the race - running to support the Epilepsy Association!
As can happen in 24-hour races, however, what you plan doesn’t always happen.   I made mistake number one by using brand new shoe inserts.  I had just received them in the mail and noticed that they looked different but didn’t try running with them before the race.  It turns out that the company who makes the inserts changed their construction, making them “harder” so they would be more durable.  (Yes, crazy!)  By hour 4, my feet were very sore from the inserts and I had to stop to change into different shoes with my old inserts.
Early in the race, running with Beth McCurdy
I’m not sure if that started the domino effect or not.  But shortly after my stop, I started getting very severe cramps in my calves.  It was to the point that I almost fell over a number of times and I do thank all of the runners would literally stopped me from falling over!  It was frustrating.  I saw Dr. Andy Lovy on the course and asked for advice.  He said to eat bananas and drink cranberry juice, tonic water and ginger ale, which I did on each loop.  I also stopped at the medical tent to get a massage but my legs were cramping so badly that I had to get off the table and start walking again.  This went on for hours, which was very discouraging.
At this point of the race, I had to try to find something positive to keep myself going.  Usually, this is something that has to come from inside.  As it turns out, there were plenty of pleasant external distractions to keep me interested in moving forward.  Let’s just say that the atmosphere felt somewhat circus-like.  There were the “strong men” at muscle beach, the tight-rope walker (aka slack line guy), honey hut ice cream cones, and fire lanterns at night.  Added to that were picnics, yoga practitioners and friends stopping by. 
While all the Park activities were all good, I was still in running hell.  Finally, Dr. Lovy pulled out of his bag of tricks a potassium pill.  I took it and within minutes the cramping went away.   Wow!  I could start running again.  Of course by this time almost half of the race was over and I was way off the miles I wanted to hit.  When having a bad day, it is always very tempting to pack it in and I did toy with the idea.  Fortunately, several friends and my boyfriend, Roger, had already planned to stay the night so I didn’t want to spoil their fun!  Onward I ran.
My crew chief, Courtney, kept watching the standings that were conveniently available through an app download on her phone.  To get me motivated, she would let me know when I was within sight of passing a woman runner.  Throughout the night I started climbing up through the ranks.

At around 4 AM, an amazing storm rolled in off of Lake Erie.  I don’t think I’ve been in such torrential rain before.  The running paths were immediately flooded and we had to slog through ankle deep water for a period of time.  Just as quickly as it appeared, the rain stopped and we were left very soggy but quite refreshed.  After one more brief rain shower, the rest of the race was uneventful.  I ended up as the third place woman and just shy of 119 miles. 
Many runners seemed to struggle but, like myself, I’m not sure why as the weather wasn’t ideal but it wasn’t bad either.  One standout was newcomer, Isaiah Janzen, a 28-year-old from Iowa who ran 154-plus miles.  Also congrats to women’s winner, Jenny Hoffman, who hit 127 miles and second place Eileen Torres who ended up with 123.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Canton City Marathon

With two weeks to go until the North Coast 24 hour race, I wanted to schedule a marathon training run and the Canton City Marathon fit the bill.  It is hard to keep track of all the marathons that have been popping up in Canton the last couple years.  I just ran one in the spring but this one was put on by a different race group.

The Canton City Marathon started in downtown Canton and was a two-loop course with one out-and-back section. The race description was upfront that it was a "hilly" course and it in fact did have a number of ups and downs.

Race day temperatures were perfect, starting at 7:30 a.m. with mid-50 temps. We were lucky with cloud cover for most of the race so even when the temperature climbed it was not unbearably hot.

I decided to stick with a goal of a 3:45 finish time and so made my way to that pace group at the start of the race.  The race was very small, with about 120 marathon runners.  We did start with the half-marathoners the first loop so that added a few more hundred runners to make the race feel bigger for the beginning miles.  The number of runners, however, was a bit thin, so the 3:45 pacer, Randy, felt like my very own personal pacer!

As I said, the course was a bit hilly.  Especially for the last loop, Pacer Randy would run up the hills and I would lag behind.... only to catch him on the downhills.  Water stops were plentiful and lots of race volunteers.  Given the small number of people running, crowd support was decent with a few bands thrown in to keep things lively.  I did try out my pair of Sure Sport compression calf sleeves.  I love the different colors instead of boring white or black.  I have previously wore a different brand for my longer races.  These sleeves felt great and they passed the test.  I will definitely be wearing them at the North Coast race.

One of my free photos
I had a little left in the tank at the finish line and "sprinted" for a 3:44 finish.  It was good enough for 6th place for women and 1st in my age group (although I was the only one in my age group!)  I didn't stick around too long at the end but did manage to collect my two free beers.  Also, as an age group winner, I am getting a gift certificate for free Brooks shoes (AWESOME!)  Another nice touch was free photos from the race.  When does that ever happen?
At the finish line

At a time when the "major" marathon entry fees are going through the roof (over $200 for NYC, $175 for Boston, $185 for Chicago!!!), this marathon is a real bargain.  Free parking, free shoes, free beer, free photos, no hassle and the registration entry fee was only $60. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Two Dawns and a Dusk - Philly 24-Hour Track Report from May 31 to June 1, 2014

Having run a few marathons this spring, I thought I was in good enough shape to tackle a 24-hour track race scheduled for the end of May outside of Philadelphia, in Sharon Hill.  That reasoning proved to not be exactly accurate but I digress.
The Dawn to Dusk to Dawn 50K, 12 hour and 24 hour track race was resurrected this year after a several year hiatus.  Previously, the race was run on the Academy Park High School cinder track…. Fast forward and the track has been replaced with a rubberized track and that is what we ran on.
Co-race directors Bill Schultz and Josh Irvan did a super job of organizing the event.  Due to three events going on simultaneously, we started the races with over 30 people on the track.  I was wondering how congested the track would become but there wasn’t ever an issue and things ran smoothly.
I started out the day with high ambitions.  Looking at the 55-59 American age group records, I though a number of them were within reach if I had a decent race.  When the race began, I ran a little faster than I wanted – about 9:15 minute miles -- since it was cooler and the temperatures were predicted to get warm.  After an hour, I settled into a 9:30 minute mile pace for the next couple hours before dropping down to 9:45s, etc.  Well, not having run in any warm weather for about six months, I soon started melting under the sunny skies, no shade and temps in the high 70s.  I had a bandanna with a pouch for ice that went around on my neck and tried to cram ice under my hat.  I pressed on but I was not loving it!

The race is starting to heat up in more ways than one!
Yes, it's still WARM!
Early in the race I knew this was not going to be my goal race.  By the 6-hour mark, I was already behind the mile schedule I was aiming for.  It is always tough when you realize you’re not going to have a great day to keep going.  At the 12-hour mark I contemplated quitting.  Since I’ve quit the last few ultras I’ve run, I willed myself to keep going, even though I was barely running at that point.  Through the night, I mostly shuffled and walked.  The heat of the day quickly turned to downright cold.  Of course, if I’d been running, it was probably perfect weather!  Once I hit the 100 mile mark, with about 1 ½ hours to go, I called it a day.  The race had a concession hut where I went to warm up and wait for the end of the race.

Congrats to John Cash, overall winner, and Keith Straw, 2nd place. And thanks to Bill and Josh for a fantastic event.  This is definitely a race to add to your calendar for 2015.  I will be back but promise to be better trained!!

24-hour finishers

Cool trophies

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Hall of Fame Marathon Race Recap

In keeping with my goal to run all Ohio marathons, I was compelled to sign up for the Inaugural Hall of Fame marathon in Canton this past weekend.  Now, you may remember that Canton did have an “Inaugural” marathon two years ago.  It was held in June and over a very hilly course.  For reasons not explained (at least publicly), that version of the Canton marathon was also the “last” one.

The HOF marathon was resurrected by a new group of organizers who moved the date to April and remapped the course.  The new and improved HOF marathon was a winner on all fronts.
While a late April date could still potentially be warm, on race morning, helped by unseasonably cold weather, the temperatures were in the 30s.  I do not think it climbed out of the low 50s all day and was perfect running weather.  The 7 AM start was also a plus.

The route was also very favorable to runners. It was fairly flat, just enough ups and downs to keep things interesting.

My pre-race plan was to try to stick with the 3:45 pace group.  I haven’t been running a ton this winter and wasn’t sure I would be able to keep up.  The pace group was fairly large and it was nice to run behind a bunch of tall guys to break the wind (although not a lot of wind).   Water stops were spaced every mile and the miles really went by quickly.

The highlight of the race was around the 12-mile mark.  We turned the corner and the very enormous McKinley Monument was right in front of us.  I have to say it was quite impressive and I want to return to check it out along with the McKinley Presidential Library next to it.  Luckily, we did not have to run up the steps (108 of them)!
Finisher medal - made out of rubber, just like a football!
The race wound through many neighborhoods and quite a few spectators were out to cheer on the runners.  I kept with the pace group until about two miles to go.  Then I started to fade but managed a chip time of 3:45:57.  The race ended at the Hall of Fame football field so we had the opportunity to run where “champions” have run.  With a half marathon held in conjunction with the marathon, there was quite a crowd at the start but everything was well organized by corrals and the large numbers added to the excitement.  This is definitely a race to add to your spring race schedule for 2015.

Bib and finisher medal

Friday, December 27, 2013

Cool Curling Travels

One of the best things about curling is all the cool people you get to meet.  One of the bad things about curling is all the "cool" places you are forced to travel in order to meet the cool people....  Now, there is nothing wrong with the places I have travelled to curl in the last few months... but, face it, my ultra-running travel destinations are WAY cooler.....

So, beginning in November, I've had the fortune of curling in Albany, Schenectady and Fargo.  On the near horizon, I'm headed to St. Paul, Sarnia (Ontario) and Eau Claire, Wisconsin.   Although these places will be downright COLD, I can't wait to get on the ice with my cool teammates!!

Typical Fargo temps!

The reason I curl - my COOL teammates -  Carmen, Connie & Martha

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Can't Shut A Good Run Down - Towpath Marathon 2013 Report

This is the marathon that almost wasn't.  The Towpath Marathon runs through the very scenic Cuyahoga Valley National Park, following the historic Ohio & Erie Canal.  The race is scheduled to take place in early October, just in time for peak fall leaf colors to decorate the flat trail, composed of a mix of limestone and asphalt.  The reason for the near disaster was the U.S. Government shut-down that literally padlocked the trail and facilities.
Can't get much better than this!
The Towpath Marathon raises substantial funds for the Ohio Canal Corridor, which helps build local trails in Northeast Ohio.  Canceling the marathon, then, would be a real blow to fund-raising efforts....
Once sanity returned to Washington, the organizers of the Towpath went into high gear to reschedule the race.  I can only image the hard work that went into that effort.  Once the new date of November 3rd was secured, I felt compelled to help out the race, especially since I assumed that a number of registered runners dropped due to conflicts with the newly rescheduled race date.  And once I saw the "new" design for the shirts, I was "IN!"

New design added to back of T-shirt
Wrong date, right race - recycling the "old" bibs!
Race day was a cool 38 degrees with the sun was peaking out through clouds.  After the start of the race, I soon realized that my legs weren't quite back to normal after last week's 75 mile run in Arizona.  Since I wasn't going to be too speedy, I popped in my I-Pod and listened to tunes, enjoying the scenery and being invigorated by the wonderful cool temperatures.
Since the course is along the towpath, it crosses a number of boardwalks over water, under stone bridges, by marshlands, etc.  There is always something interesting to see.  I have to say there were also a number of amusing signs at the aid stations, including one at Mile 20 that said "You are running better than our Government."  That brought alot of chuckles, I'm sure.
When all was said and done, I finished at 4:01, not great but could have been worse.  It was good enough for 2nd in my age group and a framed photo of the park as a prize.  Very cool indeed.  Not to mention the spread of food at the end - including turkey sandwiches, lots of chips, yummy chocolate cookies, candy bars and lots of fruit.  I can't think of a reason NOT to return to support this very worthwhile race.  Not many races can brag that even the Government can't shut a good run down!

Front design of T-shirt