Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Desert Solstice - Hot Times, Cold Weather

I have been to Phoenix three times.  Each time, it has rained… a lot.  This year the Desert Solstice 24-hour track race was no different, defying the weather forecast.  Predictions were for cool weather and some light showers between the hours of 10:00 AM-1:00 PM.  I was very impressed with this precise forecast wondering, how in the world could it be so accurate?  I now know that it was hogwash, as light rain started at 10:00 AM, followed by steady rain, followed by hard rain, etc. finally stopping around 8:00 PM….  OK, so they were off by a few hours…… 

Flooded infield, although track stayed "mostly" dry

Yes, it DOES rain in Phoenix - a few puddles from the rain
So I was back at the Desert Solstice, which is billed as an elite invitational 100 mile and 24-hour track event.  I didn’t exactly feel elite as I was merely attempting to qualify for the US National team, since my last two 24-hour efforts were not that impressive.  Going into the race, I had all sorts of excuses not to train, so I didn’t.  I ran one marathon in early November as my long training run.  I was hoping my training from the World 24-hour race in September would be good enough.

The race was “full” with 20 runners, many of them friends but also amazing shorter distance runners trying their skill at a track event.  And yes, the race was on a 400 meter high school track.  When I tell people this, they think that’s crazy and must be awful.  Having now run two track timed events, I can say that it actually has many advantages (you get aid every two-plus minutes!) and you really don’t notice that you are running on something so short - REALLY.  You constantly see runners so that keeps it interesting if you’re paying attention (many times I’m not – hours go by that I’m not even aware of).  The downside is that there are lots of turns, although not sharp ones and the direction of the race does change every four hours to balance out your body.

My lofty pre-race plan was to run 71/63 12-hour splits for 134 miles.  The start of the race was cool, mid-50s and perfect.  Everything was uneventful except the computer was not displaying times so I didn’t know what lap splits I was running since I decided not to wear a watch.  After chatting with Carolyn Johnson for the first hour, I retreated into my own world and didn’t talk to anyone much the rest of the race.  As with all of these races, much of it was a blur, lots of rain and people bundled up like it was cold outside.  One of the benefits of menopause – hot flashes – yes, I was actually warm for much of the race although the temperature did dip into the mid-40s overnight.  When the rain was heaviest, Carolyn’s husband, Tim, insisted that I put on my rain jacket.  Note to self – replace 20-year old rain jacket as there is no Gortex left in it.  So I ran for awhile in a sopping wet rain jacket just waiting for the rain to stop so I could peal it off.  Around 8:00 PM, I was able to change into a long-sleeve t-shirt and vest and get on dry clothes.  What a relief.

Soaking wet but in the zone
In the middle of the rain, I became aware that there were fewer runners passing me…. They were dropping like crazy.  Then, it was announced that Jon Olson was going for a 100-mile American track record and would everyone please give him the inside lane when he passed?  This kept my mind occupied for an hour or two trying to figure out where he was on the track.  He was flying and unfortunately just missed the record by minutes but an amazing performance of 12:29.  Mike Arnstein also was unbelievable, running faster at the end of the 100 miles than when he started and getting a sub-13 hour 100.  Pam Smith was also smoking the course, finishing with a 100 mile time of 15:01.

I hit the 100-mile mark at 16:52, which was about 20 minutes faster than I ran last year at this race and was a new age group American Record.  I was pretty happy with that but I really started slowing down after hitting 100 miles.  Around 18 hours in, I had to switch shoes.  Both Joe Fejes and Suzanna Bon, US National teammates, swear by Hokas and so I thought I would give them a try.  As I was running I vaguely recalled them both mentioning something about the toe box of the shoe that became more obvious the longer I ran.  By hour 18, my toes were smashing against the tops of the Hokas.  It was such agony that I was forced to stop to change into my normal Brooks running shoes.  Things did not look so good when I saw blood on the outside of my shoes.  When I gingerly peeled off my socks, I had blisters under most of my toenails from the constant pounding from the shoes.  My boyfriend, Roger, hunted down a medical person who popped the blisters.  This took awhile and I started shaking because of the cold.  One of the aid station workers lent me his wind pants to wear since I hadn’t bothered to bring any (that’s a full service aid station!) and after awhile I gritted my teeth, put on my other shoes and trudged off.  There was a huge difference in the spring of the Brooks shoes compared to the Hokas.  The Brooks shoes felt like I was running on cement. For my next 24-hour race, I am definitely going to take Joe Fejes’ advice and cut off the toe box on my Hokas.

At some point I got another age group record for 200K and then came the final few hours before the end.  The sun actually peaked out from behind the clouds with an hour to go but I was reduced to walking at that point.  I knew though that if I just kept walking "quickly" I could hit 130.  I ended up with a little over 131 miles.  Joe Fejes had a fantastic performance with 156-plus miles while Nick Coury was 2nd with 139 miles.  Connie Gardner won the women's race with 132 miles.  Not her best performance but she is inspiring nonetheless.  Jenn Aradi stayed strong the entire race and had a PR of 128.  I'm expecting her to break into the national team arena any time!

Three of my national teammates had to drop out, Carilyn Johnson, Phil McCarthy and Mike Henze.  Sometimes when you’re not having a good day, best to drop out and regroup for another race.  Mike and his wife Jill were very kind to stick around and crew, which really helped, especially Mike's encouragement at the bitter end.  Carilyn was a life-saver to lend us her hotel room for a quick shower before racing to the airport to catch our flight on Sunday.  Thanks, guys!!

I’m now waiting around to find out if I’ve made the US team for the 2013 World race in The Netherlands.  The qualification period ends mid-February…. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fall-Out From Hurricane Sandy

So I had signed up a month ago to run the Inland Trail Marathon, starting in the outskirts of Elyria, Ohio.  Elyria is a small city west of Cleveland in Lorain County.  The title of the marathon is a bit of a misnomer as the "trail" is a paved bike path. The race starts at a local school and veers quickly onto the bike path for 13.1 miles... where you turn around and come back.  Not much to see but usually the leaves are still on the trees and it is a pleasant enough race and is quite flat and fast.

I checked the website after the online registration deadline two days before the race.  Only 41 runners signed up. I was using the race as a training run but I was still hoping for a few more people to keep me motivated to run. 

In the meantime, Sandy hit with full force on the East Coast and a fair amount of destruction and prolonged power outages reached Cleveland. The Inland Trail Marathon coincided with the date for the New York City Marathon so on race day I found not 41 runners but instead 129 runners! A number of runners were wearing NYC marathon shirts and a few wearing NYC bib numbers.  As the race progressed, I gathered from the chatter of the runners that many of them had been signed up for New York but signed up last minute for Elyria when New York was canceled abruptly.

The race was uneventful although Sandy had blown all of the leaves off of the trees.  It was cold and cloudy so the lack of cloud cover didn't matter.

At the race finish, I discovered that the women's winner, Meredith Hale, worked with a friend of mine and we got to chat.  Meredith had driven to NYC, checked into her hotel and then found out that the race was canceled. She stayed overnight and drove back to Cleveland Saturday night and then came to Elyria to stretch out her legs.  Meredith managed a 3:12, impressive time to say the least.  It turns out that the men's marathon winner was also a canceled NYC marathoner, with a 2:47 time. Obviously the whole timing of the NYC Marathon cancellation was unfortunate but it was cool to see the impacted runners shake off the situation and tow the line at Elyria.  I'm sure this was happening at many other races on November 4th.  Runners have the best attitudes!!!

 Meredith Hale (women's marathon winner) and me after the race.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

GOLD - Race Recap of the 2012 World 24-Hour Championship

Team gold medal and finisher medal
Wow!  Who would have thought the US women would have pulled off a Team Gold Medal.  I must confess that I did not harbor such illusions before the World 24-Hour Championship this past weekend in Katowice, Poland.  Looking over the roster before the race, I thought it was going to take a Herculean effort to get any team medal.  In my mind, the race favorites were surely Japan (with Mami Kado, 24-Hour World record holder at 158 miles), France (Gold medal team for the last several years with six very solid runners and Anne Ceclie Fontaine, who consistently hits 150 plus miles) or Italy (again a deep team with  Monica Casiraghi, recent best of 142 miles).  Talking over the prospects with teammate, Suzanna Bon, I predicted that we would need at least two US runners over 140 miles to have a chance at a medal….  Of course, I would not be running 140 miles so I told Suzanna that she would have to do it.  HA!  Suzanna has been running well at 24-hour events but had not yet cracked the 140 barrier.  I knew it was only a matter of time and told her she needed to do it in Poland!

Before I discuss my pathetic performance, I must congratulate Mike Morton (172.457 miles) and Connie Gardner (149.368 miles), both setting new American Records and earning individual gold and silver medals respectively.  Both Mike and Connie ran so effortlessly and it was truly inspiring to watch.  Suzanna Bon also PR’d with 143.5 miles, at least 5 miles better than her previous PR and good for 5th place.  Anne Lundblad rounded out the US women’s scoring with 138.6 miles.  Not quite a PR but an impressive performance nonetheless and good for 9th place.  Anne battled cramps and stomach issues early in the race but hung in there.  Way to go!

Now the race details.  The race took place in a very pretty park, with lush green trees, ponds and statutes.  I usually don’t notice these things but had a fair amount of time to look around when I was walking (more on this below).

Just one of many interesting sights at the park.
The race started at noon, which I thought could pose a problem with potential heat.  That did not happen as race start temperatures were cool and there was a smattering of rain.  Perfect conditions.  The race course was basically a rectangle, one long and short side was asphalt and the other long and short side was brick.  The brick on the long side was new but the short side was not in the best shape.  I kept thinking I might trip on that section but never did.

Interesting running surface
At the start, my plan was to run around 9:20 per minute miles for three hours, then run 9:45 for three hours, etc.  I hit my three hour pace and felt so good that I made the decision to keep pushing.  For the next three hours, I was at around a 9:30 pace and then between hours 6-9, I was at around a 9:45 pace.  I was at 50 miles a little after 8 hours.

Carilyn and me early in the race.
I'm still not sure if running too fast caused my demise or something else.  Around hour 9 my outside knee started hurting.  Almost at the same time, my quads started hurting.  I thought maybe a massage would help, went into the aid station but we really didn’t have anyone qualified to administer a proper massage.  My quads got pounded on for a few minutes and then I was pushed out of the aid station to keep running.  I ended up with bruises on my quads from this so probably was not a good idea….  By hour 10, quads still sore and knee hurting.  I again went into the aid station and was given 2 Ibuprofen, got another pounding on my quads and sent back out on the course.  This was now 10:00 PM and I think I was already not thinking too clearly.  I continued plodding along, the Ibuprofen did seem to stop the knee pain short-term but my quads progressively turned into cement.  By hour 12, I was at 70 miles but I had really slowed down and was incredibly stiff.  I continued plodding along, every few laps trying to stretch on the course but I think this was too late as the stretching could not get rid of the muscle soreness.  By this time, the US team had a few casualties.  Early in the race, Carilyn Johnson had tripped on the bad brick road, wrenched her knee and passed out from the pain.  She was only passed out momentarily but the race officials said she had to walk for an hour so she dropped, very disappointed.  Serge Arbona was running well early but was struck with GI problems and forced to stop.  Phil McCarthy and Jonathon Savage both suffered from severe foot pain from the brick road and alternated between running and walking.  In the middle of the night, I would periodically walking with them and then decide I need to “run.”  With about 7 hours to go, I started walking.  At this point, my running was not much faster than walking.  The four US women were looking strong so I didn’t feel too guilty being reduced to a walk.  With around five hours to go, I hooked up with Jonathon and we walked together for the remainder of the race.  It was a long five hours but enjoyable with Jonathon’s company.  We cheered every time a US runner ran by us hoping that our efforts were helping in some way.  I ended up with around 111 miles.

Harvey Lewis, Joe Fejes and Lana Haugberg all had PRs and Harvey and Joe helped the US men get the Team bronze medal.  Way to stay focused!

Oldest (me) and youngest (Lana).  Relaxing after the race.
I have now had a little time to try and analyze my problems.  After several e-mails with Dr. Andy Lovy, I have narrowed it to the following….  Maybe a too aggressive pace but the quad failure was most likely due to either low potassium or the Ibuprofen.  Once the quads starting giving me problems, I should have been eating bananas.  I should have also been stretching more frequently too.  I think I stopped for my first stretch break at 7 ½ hours.  Again, I was feeling so good that I didn’t want to stop.  In hindsight, I need to stretch when I’m feeling good so I can keep feeling good!

While definitely a disappointing race, it was an amazing experience.  My teammates were great and I am proud to be part of Team USA.  While I was the oldest runner on the team, I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel on international competition.  I would still like to run a decent race this year and so expect to see me running a 24-hour race before the end of 2012…  

I like this spot!  On the podium with Team USA taking GOLD.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Packing for a 24-Hour Race

It can be tough to figure out what to pack when you’re traveling to a foreign country for a 24-hour race.  Luggage space is at a premium, given all the baggage charges and general hassle with multiple suitcases.  Besides the obvious stuff like team uniform, shoes, gels, and protein/carb powders, I do have a few must haves that will be in my luggage for the 2012 World Race in Poland:
1. Drymax socks. The USATF has provided us with uniforms emblazoned with the Nike swish.  We were given written instructions on how to pin our bibs to our uniforms so as to NOT obstruct the Nike swish (no such instructions on covering up the US flag on the uniforms!)  We are not permitted to wear anything but Nike products with the exception of our shoes and socks.  This is a good thing because I am packing my Drymax maximum protection socks.  These socks have gotten me through many races and Drymax was kind enough to ship me a fresh supply for the race.  Thanks, Drymax!
2.  Watch. You never know what information you’ll get during the race and so I like to keep track of my lap splits as well as my lap numbers.  It’s hard to find a watch that can record 150 laps that I CAN SEE!  Garmins don’t work for me because their display is too small.  I just bought a HUGE men’s Timex watch and will try it out for the first time at the World race.
3. Ginger chews.   I prefer Ginger Ale but if we can’t find any, these will due for mild stomach issues.
4. Cranberry pills.  General kidney health.
5. Bandana.  I only want one in a race when I don’t have one.  Good if the weather is hot to wrap around your neck.
6. Sponges.  Same as No. 5
7. Sunscreen.   It seems rather obvious to bring, but not to me.  I rarely run when the sun is up.  I feel like a vampire.  I’m either running before sunrise or after sunset.  I usually forget to put any sunscreen on during these 24-hour races and pay for it later.  
8. Duct tape.  You never know what you might need it for.  I’ll be marking all my stuff with it (a nice hot pink color) as the crew will be trying to keep track of 12 runners at once in a very small area.  I’m sure before the race is over, someone will need the duct tape for something else!
9. US Flag.  Good to hang in our aid station so it’s easy to find.  This year, there will be 36 countries, which means 36 aid stations.  Since the aid stations are set up alphabetically, the US is usually last IF the host country is using the English spelling.  In any event, it’s always nice to have a reference point every lap.
10. Good luck charms.  These change with every race but I have a few packed.  I will post pictures of them after the race if they bring me luck!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

2012 World 24-Hour Field Announced

The roster of runners competing at the World 24-Hour Championship in Poland has been posted on the IAU website.  In spite of  being cancelled last year, the World race continues to grow in popularity.

In 2010, when the last World 24-hour race was held in France, runners from 30 countries participated.  The number of women's teams totaled 16 (a team must consist of 3 runners from a country).

This year, the field is currently set at  256 athletes from 34 countries and close to 100 are women.  Importantly, the women's teams have increased to 20 (there are 24 men's teams)!  Countries sending women's teams are: Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Latvia, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Ukraine and United States.

In 2010, the French women took the Gold medal, following by Italy (Silver) and Australia (Bronze).  The current US women's team has four different runners from the 2010 team and we are all excited to try and bring home a medal.

The US men also have four different teammates from 2010.  In 2010, the US men finished in the medals, locking up the Bronze along with a 2nd place finish for Scott Jurek.  This year, Scott won't be running but the US men's team is super strong.  I am expecting them to secure a spot on the podium.

Good luck to all and see you soon in Poland.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Epilepsy and 24-Hour Training

I'm finally getting to the "home" stretch in training for the World 24-hour race with less than one month to go.  I have to admit I am getting a little bored with running so much and I am probably the slacker among all of my teammates.  My crazy team member, Carilyn Johnson, has been racking up 140+ miles a week.  I cannot even fathom that!

In order to keep some of my sanity while training, I've started listening to audiobooks.  I have learned that there is an art to picking the right audiobook book, not always the most literary book is the best one to listen to for hours on end.  My mind tends to wander as I'm running so if the plot is too complicated, I get hopelessly lost.  In the last few months I've listened to the following books that were good listening "reads:" The Double Bind and Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian, Goodbye Columbus by Philip Roth, Wild by Cheryl Strayed and A Free Life by Ha Jin. 

When I am not wrapped up in audiobooks, I've been out running for the Epilepsy Association.  Again this year, we are sponsoring a program called "The Virtual Runner."  You can sign up at the Epilepsy Association website.  From August through October, you log your race miles (can be run anywhere in the World and any length).  At the end of the race period, the runner with either the most miles run or the most money raised wins a prize.  We are looking for more runners, so please sign up if you're looking for a way to give back to a charity through running!

We kicked off the Virtual Runner this past Saturday with a training run at Edgewater Park, the home of the North Coast 24-hour race. 

Enjoying cool temps at the beach at Edgewater Park 
Everyone ran some loops (some running 20 miles while I opted for 6-ish miles) and then we chowed down on breakfast.  It was awesome getting to meet new runners and get together for a good cause.  While listening to audiobooks passes the time, this is a much more rewarding way to run!

Friday, July 27, 2012

24-Hour Race As A Olympic Sport?

A lot of people have asked me, “Why isn’t the 24-hour race an Olympic event?”  Of course, I have no idea but I have a pretty good guess.  Politics.  We ultrarunners just don’t have “juice” with the Olympic committee.  How else can you explain such Olympic events as pistol and rifle shooting?  While it would definitely require skill to be any good at shooting at targets, in my mind it just isn’t a “sport” when a lot of who wins comes down to how good your weapon is.

I think a 24-hour race would be a fantastic addition to the Olympics.  Television coverage would never have a dead spot for an entire day and night.  Think of all the advertising the TV network could sell!  Think of all the tickets that would be sold (well, maybe that’s a stretch)…  My friends, however, who hang out at the North Coast 24-hour race, love to come to watch.  They say it is like witnessing a train wreck.  There is something about watching people implode that is fascinating and horrifying at the same time…. You want to look away but can’t.  I think it could be TV at its finest.

Running these 24-hour races for a number of years, I have seen it all.  The super-human running efforts of the leaders and the total collapse of others.  Something like the old ABC Sports mantra of “The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat.”

But, with the Olympics starting this weekend, I am cooling my heels in the USA, a spectator, not a participant.   I will have to settle for the World Championship put on by the IAU in Poland this September.  To prepare for the World race, the USATF has sent out our uniforms, hand-me-downs from the 2008 Summer Olympics.  That is as close to the Olympics as I will come, at least for the foreseeable future.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bad to the Bone - Badwater Memories

Last week, as I was sitting in my air-conditioned office and swilling beers at night to keep cool in the Ohio “heat wave,” some of my US National 24-Hour teammates were tearing up the course at Badwater.  When the dust settled, Mike Morton had an amazing performance, missing the course record by a heartbreaking 76 seconds.  He covered the 135 mile course in 22:52:55.  Harvey Lewis was 4th overall with a time of 26:15:31 and Phil McCarthy was 6th overall with a time of 26:52:01.  Way to go guys!

The last place finisher’s time was a mere 47:08:14.  The field this year was super fast.  Each year, the times just keep getting faster and faster.  This takes me back to 2002 when I actually ran Badwater – 10 years ago.

I had only finished a few ultras before I decided to tackle Badwater, after first hearing about the race from an interview given by Kirk Johnson, author of a book about the Badwater race called To the Edge.  I thought the whole idea was so crazy that I had to see if I could actually do it, given that I absolutely hate hot-weather running.

Badwater poses many obstacles, the first of which is conning (I mean convincing) people to take vacation days and travel to the desert to be your crew.  My obvious victims were my boyfriend, Roger, and my sister, Sue.  Neither were runners so my crew was looking kind of bleak until I recruited two California runners I did not know from the Badwater message board, Kelly and Shawn.  This would be a very good thing.

At the start with my awesome crew, Kelly, Sue, Roger and Shawn
I, along with all the women and the “old” men, started at 6:00 AM.  Other male runners started in either the 8:00 AM or 10:00 AM waves.  The temperature was already unbearable.  The air was so hot that I could hardly breathe, and this was the cool part of the day.  As we started, Roger commented that he hadn’t taken a photo of the runner in a pink bunny suit (yes, someone had a full-bunny suit on like the Energizer bunny) but that he would get a photo when the bunny/runner ran by.  Now, the only way he would get a photo was if the bunny was ahead of me because a runner’s support team was always ahead of their runner.  There was no way a bunny was going to pass me, so that became my number one goal…. Beat the bunny.  And in fact the bunny dropped out before even getting to the first check-point at Furnace Creek.  My second goal was to run the race in under 48 hours so I could get a buckle.  My final goal was to be in good enough shape to hike up to the top of Mount Whitney after the race.            

For much of the race I felt like I was running in a blast furnace.  At some point, I actually put pants on because it felt like hot irons were being applied to the back of my calves.  But the scenery made up for the pain I was feeling.  I was surprised how beautiful everything was and strange to me at the same time.  I passed such locations as Devils Cornfield and Devils Golf Course and got caught in some Dust Devils.  According to the race report, the high temperature for the race was 126 degrees.

Running the the white line, coolest part of the road!!
Running up and down two mountain ranges was another new experience for me being form the flatlands of Ohio. My quads were trashed by the time I hit Panamint Springs about mile 72.  I took a shower there with all my clothes on and then started back out on the course.  My clothes dried almost immediately.  As I neared Lone Pine (around 120 miles), my crew calculated that I was actually way ahead of the 48 hour time goal and quickly had to arrange for accommodations in Lone Pine a day earlier than planned. 

As I hit the Portal Road for the last 13 miles of the race, for the first and only time in an ultra I started hallucinating.  This was actually entertaining because I knew what I was seeing was not real so it was a bit like watching TV.  There were people crawling along side of me (not really there) and flowers and plants jumping out at me along the road.  I had to quit looking at them because it was too distracting!  I had to finish the race!  I finally crossed the finish line in 42 hours and 21 minutes.  I ended up as the 5th female and the 16th overall.  Contrast that time to the 2012 race:  5th female time was 35:46 and 16th overall was 31:04.  In 2002, the race cut-off was 60 hours, now it is 48 hours. 

Things have definitely changed at Badwater from the runner in the bunny suit in 2002….. And while compared to today’s standards I wasn’t too speedy, I did make it to the top of Mount Whitney.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Connect with 24-Hour Running on Facebook

A new group on Facebook has been started by 24-hour runner, Phil McCarthy.  The idea behind the group is to discuss, swap stories and celebrate the art of 24-hour running. This includes, but is not limited to, the upcoming IAU World Championships in Katowice, Poland.

After starting this group about a week ago, there are already 152 members.  The group is open to all interested runners and fans, not only in the US but worldwide.  Please join us by searching Facebook for the group "24 Hour Running" or copy and paste the following link:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

IAU Releases Details on 2012 World 24-Hour Championship

The International Association of Ultrarunners just posted the GIS (General Information Sheet) for the World 24-hour race in Poland.  The race definitely feels real now!

Katowice is the city hosting the race, about 70k from Krakow.  The GIS includes pictures of the race course, which is just shy of a 1 mile loop (1,554m).  The race will take place close to the city center in a park setting that has a pond in the middle of the course.  The loop is circular but since it is quite large hopefully there will be no issues with stress on the side of the body that is taking the turns.

Map of race course

The course looks nice and shady although there does seem to be some cobblestone that we will have to contend with that could make things interesting.  The shade is important because the race starts at noon so we will have both days with potentially warm weather.

View of the course with cobblestones

Another viiew with smooth asphalt
The Final Information Sheets aren't due until August so I'm not sure if the rosters of the participating countries will be listed before that time.  Looks like they are expecting a large crowd as there are no open entries allowed. 

I guess I now have to start training in earnest and practicing my Polish!  How do you say "beer" in Polish??

Thursday, June 21, 2012

2012 24-Hour USA National Team - Poland Bound

USATF recently sent out the official invitation to runners qualifying for the 2012 USA National 24-Hour Team.  The Team is scheduled to compete in September at the World 24-hour championship in Poland.  The runners are:

Women (Qualifying Mark- 120 miles minimum)
1.         Connie Gardner, 144.72 miles, 9/17/2011, North Coast 24 Hr, Cleveland, OH (AUTO)
2.         Debra Horn, 134.45 miles, 9/17/2011, North Coast 24 Hr, Cleveland, OH (AUTO)
3.         Sabrina Moran, 147.90 miles, 5/6/2012, North Coast Spring 24 Hr, Cleveland, OH
4.         Anne Lundblad, 140.26, 12/31/2011, Freedom Park 24 Hr,, Morgantown, NC
5.         Suzanna Bon, 136.67 miles, 5/6/2012, North Coast Spring 24 Hr, Cleveland, OH
6.         Carilyn Johnson 130.92 miles, 12/17/2011, Desert Solstice 24 Hr,, Phoenix, AZ

1.         Lana Haugberg, 128.71 miles, 6/3/2012, FANS 24 Hr, Minneapolis, MN
2.         Lisa Bliss, 125.98 miles, 9/17/2011, North Coast 24 Hr, Cleveland, OH
3.         Anna Piskorska 122.82 miles 12/29/2011 Across the Years 24 Hr, Phoenix, AZ

Men (Qualifying Mark-135 miles minimum)
1.         Serge Arbona, 156.49 miles, 9/18/2010, North Coast 24 Hr, Cleveland, OH (AUTO)
2.         Philip McCarthy, 153.37 miles, 9/17/2011, North Coast 24 Hr, Cleveland, OH (AUTO)
3.         Jonathan Savage, 146.28 miles, 9/17/2011, North Coast 24 Hr, Cleveland, OH (AUTO)
4.         Mike Morton 163.90 miles 9/24/2011, Hinson Lake 24 Hr, Rockingham, NC
5.         Jon Olsen, 158.53 miles, 5/6/2012, North Coast Spring 24 Hr, Cleveland, OH
6.         Harvey Lewis, 142.86 miles, 6/3/2012, FANS 24 Hr, Minneapolis, MN

1.         Joe Fejes, 142.08 miles, 5/6/2012, North Coast Spring 24 Hr, Cleveland, OH

We are now just waiting to see who has accepted the invitation and the "final" USA Team will be announced.  We have also gotten some initial information about accommodations in Poland from the IAU so it is starting to feel like the race will actually happen this year (the 2011 World race, scheduled to take place in Switzerland, was cancelled).  Stay tuned for more information as I receive it from USATF…..  And in case there was any doubt, of course, I did send in my acceptance.  Can’t wait!!

Picture of me at the 2009 World race in Italy - It's posted on the IAU website!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Canton Marathon Scores a Touchdown

I thought I should start ramping up for the fall 24-hour race season and registered the week before the Canton Marathon (race date 6-17-12).  Canton is a smaller city about one hour south of Cleveland.  What possessed them to start up a marathon and schedule it for mid-June?  Not sure but the timing worked out well for me so I got sucked in to signing up!

Canton is the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame… so everything about the race had a football theme… which is a bit interesting for a running event.  The race started by the Hall of Fame and the finish line was on the actual infield of the football stadium.  Likewise, the shirts were designed to look like football jerseys and the medals were shaped like footballs.  Quite unique.

I arrived at the 6:00 a.m. starting line well ahead of the actual start.  Anticipating hot weather, the early start would give us a bit of a break before the sun started scorching us. Apparently worried about the possibility of super hot weather, right after I registered I was given the option of “deferring” until next year.  Hmmm…. I think if you sign up for a June race in Ohio you can pretty much expect hot weather.  I guess they were being EXTRA cautious.

While we all lined up at the Hall of Fame for the start, we were then directed down a hill and by a river to where the real starting line was, about a ½ mile away.  This took a bit of time so we actually got underway about 6:15.  Deciding that this was only a “training run” for me and I didn’t want to suffer too much, I opted to start with the 3:45 pace team (8:35 minute mile).  Before the start, our pacer, Amy, mentioned that there were a few “rollers” at the end of the race….. Otherwise I was clueless about the course.  I hadn’t bothered to look at the elevation or where we would actually be running.

Luckily for us, there was substantial cloud cover once the sun came up.  The race had water stops every mile, which was also fantastic.  And although Canton is not a big city, there were a surprising amount of people out on the course to cheer people on.  As the race progressed, it became very clear that this was not a flat course and in fact we were either running up hills or down them….. Nothing flat at all.  Having done all of my training on flat ground, this was not the best course for me.  My hamstrings were getting very sore toward the end of the race from all the uphills and I started losing steam.  Around mile 20 I started fading from the 3:45 pace team (that now only had two runners with the pacer) and I was just trying to hang on.  At mile 24, the heavens opened and it stormed like crazy.  I thought it might hale!  Within minutes, I was soaked to the bone and I gained 10 pounds of water weight from drenched clothes and shoes.  As soon as it started, however, the rain stopped and it was no longer raining when I finished at 3:51 in the stadium….  While I liked the stadium finish, I could have done without the “up ramp” to get into the stadium.  I had had my fill of uphills by the end!!!   After I finished, there were volunteers with buckets of ice water who dumped a bucket over your head with your permission.  When asked, I said of course, and then promptly screamed when the bucket was dumped on my head.  Boy did that feel good!

For an inaugural event, things were well organized.  Although I was hoping for a faster time, I would run it again but would plan to do a little hill training before the race!!

Finisher medals

Friday, May 11, 2012

Spring North Coast-24 Race Report

What do you get when you cross Cinco de Mayo with the Kentucky Derby?  A wild 24-hour race on the north shore of Lake Erie, of course.

Weather in Cleveland has been crazy all spring, with one day hot and the next freezing.  For the spring edition of the North Coast 24, as race day approached the weather was all over the place.  On the Thursday night before the race, Suzanna Bon from California, flew in for the race.  I picked her up at the airport and we swung by the race course so she could take a look at it.  That night, the temps were close to 90 degrees and the Lake was totally still - no breeze at all.  I told her that by Saturday the temperatures were supposed to cool down and that the prediction was for a NE wind.  I joked that a NE wind would be good as a cool wind would be blowing across the Lake (since the water temp is only 50 degrees right now) just as long as there were no whitecaps.

No, this is not Hawaii, it is at Edgewater Park on Lake Erie
Well, I should not have joked because when we arrived at the race on Saturday morning there were definitely whitecaps on the Lake.  Next door, at the Edgewater Yacht Club, they were registering 25 knot winds (almost 30 miles per hour), not quite gale force winds but pretty close!  Given the direction of the wind, the decision was made to reverse the direction of the course and run counterclockwise.  That way, when we were running closest to the Lake, the wind would be at our back.

Suzanna Bon and I early on in the race.

With the wind, the temperature stayed quite cool, which was good.  Early on it was cloudy but by mid-afternoon the clouds had blown away and the sun was out.   

Sabrina Moran, running west with the tailwind.
Windy day at the Lake.
 My plan for the race was to try to run 71/63 mile splits for a 134 total.  The first half of the race went pretty well and I hit my 71 mile target exactly.  By 10:00 PM (13 hours into the race) the wind finally died down but by then it had worked some damage on me.  I am a bit of a "leaner" when I run normally.  Usually, in the later stages of a 24-hour race I am really starting to lean.  With the wind so strong, from the start of the race I was leaning excessively into the wind.  Over time, I think that had some negative effect on the muscles in my hips.  By 15 hours, my hips were killing me.  Not only were they hurting but they felt like they were locked up.   I went in to the medical tent and got some of Dr. Andy's medical students to stretch me out.  I stopped again at 18 hours (hit 100 miles at that point) and 20 hours for more stretching in the medical tent.  The stretching/manipulation worked for awhile before everything went back into a locked position.    

I felt like quitting but my crew members, Sarah and Karen, reminded me that if I quit they would have to go home to their kids and they were having so much fun that I couldn't wreck it for them!  Ok, I said, I will keep trudging along....
Almost finished.
While my race was less than stellar, I did have some entertainment.  Both Jon Olsen and Serge Arbona were running like maniacs.  And I swear that every time Jon passed me (which was MANY times), he would say some encouraging words.

On the women's front, early on Jenn Shelton and Emily Uhlig were running world record-plus times.  I was certain they were much too aggressive in their pacing and both dropped early in the race.  Sabrina Moran and Connie Gardner took a more conservative approach and it definitely paid off for them.  I knew before the race that Sabrina could "easily" hit 140-plus... the question was how much over 140 could she run? 

To a slow-poke like me, it looked like Sabrina and Connie were fairly close until that last few hours of the race.  Then, Sabrina must have drank some jet fuel as she took off like a rocket.  She was lapping everyone on the course.  It was an amazing performance to witness.
With a few hours to go, Sabrina getting ready to overtake Connie.

So, at the end of the race, when all the dust settled, I just hit 200K, with 124.6 miles.  This is not my best race nor my worst.  Given my lack of training and hip issues, not a bad training run.

There were stellar performances, however,  First, Sabrina Moran, with unofficial race results, set a new American Record with 147.9 miles.  I can see her hitting 150-plus in the near future.  Jon Olsen had 158.53 miles, just weeks after taking 7th place at the World Championship 100K.  Serge Arbona had a nice run with 153 miles and Connie Gardner, always consistent, again ran over 140 with a total of 142 miles.  We should have very strong men's and women's teams for the World championships in Poland in September.

Special thanks to my very dedicated crew members, who kept me laughing: 
  • Courtney - one week away from delivering her first baby -  "Maybe if I run with you I'll have a Cinco de Mayo baby;"
  • Sarah - "This is fun, I like bossing around runners - they do what I say, not like my kids who ignore me;"
  • Karen - "No whining, I did my part to get you in shape for this race;"
  • Else - "I was going to sign up to run the race but I overslept and so didn't get here until 9PM;"
  • Mindy - "You said not to let you stop so get moving - it's right here on your instructions under miscellaneous."
And of course to Roger, who set up/broke down the tents, made guest appearances and even bought me a new good luck charm from a local garage sale during the day.  I will have to take that one to Poland and give it a real test there.

**Photos courtesy of John McCarroll.  Thanks, John!!!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Glass City Tune-Up

The North Coast 24 is just days away.  Having done few long runs this year, I though I would get in my "longest" training run before the NC24 by running the Glass City Marathon in Toledo on April 22nd.  Toledo is an easy 2 hour drive from Cleveland.  In years past, I have just driven up the morning of the marathon.  This year, two friends joined me so we decided to make a road trip out of it and went to Toledo on Saturday night.

Since I last ran Toledo, the course has changed.  It could only improve because the old course was run on alot of roads with heavy traffic, not alot of fun.

Last year, the course changed so instead of starting and ending in downtown Toledo, the race started and ended at the University and in between meandered through neighborhoods before turning on a bike path and through parks a fairly flat race.  I would give the course a pretty good mark.  There were surprisingly quite a few people out to cheer on runners even though the race started at 7:00 a.m. and the race start temperature had to be in the 30s.

As the race got underway, I was trying to figure out if I should just lope along, try to run really hard or somewhere in between.  I fell in with the 3:40 pace group and thought that would be a good in-between group for me.

It was a bit crowded in the initial miles of the race as there were quite a few twists and turns.  Although I looked forward to the joke that our pacer told every mile, I decided around mile 7 that I needed to get away from the pack so I wasn't fighting to get into position to run the tangents.  I slowly pulled ahead and then kept waiting for the pace group to blow by me at some point.  I also decided to not watch my splits too carefully so I wasn't really sure how fast or slow I was going.  By the mid-point of the race, temperatures were about perfect although there was some headwind.  We apparently ran by Olander Park, which is the former site of many former 24-hour and 100 mile races... although we didn't run inside.

I finished the race at 3:38 so I was able to hold off the 3:40 pace group to the bitter end.  Not a huge race so I was able to get a first place finish in my age group - nice functional award that included an Asics gym bag, arm sleeves and socks.  Each finisher also got a glass beer stein (and nice medal of couse).  Due to the weather being pretty chilly at the finish, we opted to pass on the free beer (shocking) and instead went back to the hotel for a hot shower!  Now we'll see how prepared I am for the NC24!!