Pocatello Marathon Recap

 

It was a beautiful, late summer day, the blue sky was filled with cotton candy clouds and my husband and I were looking forward to having a little time together by ourselves on the drive to my marathon in Pocatello. In fact, this was the first time we’d been more than an hour away from our kids overnight, and even though the oldest is now 13 and the “baby” is 5, I felt a little misty-eyed kissing each of them goodbye as we left for the weekend.

We hopped into our little Escort and started driving to Pocatello for my 5th marathon – the first one where I felt that my training and preparation meant that I had a shot at qualifying for Boston. For those who are unfamiliar with the process, those runners who want to run in the famous Boston Marathon can’t just sign up, pay the fee and show up to race as in most marathons around the country or world. Instead, you have to first run a “qualifying time” based on your gender and your age in another certified marathon just to have a shot at going to Boston.  So, this was my first attempt at “BQing” as other competitive marathoners refer to it.

In May, I ran the Famous Potato Marathon in 3:48:32. Since I’m turning 40 this year in November, I need to run a marathon in 3:45:00 or faster (which works out to about an 8:35 min per mile pace for 26.2 miles) to qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2013. I had chosen the Pocatello Marathon specifically due to the course having 1,550 feet of elevation drop in the race, since I have always ran faster and stronger on downhills and figured this course would help me shave off those 3 1/2 minutes from my time.

The day was lovely and Wayne and I were relaxing and taking in the desert scenery as we drove from Boise to Pocatello. About an hour into our trip, the car started giving off a bad odor like burned oil or the smell a car has when you leave the emergency brake on and drive down the freeway. We pulled into a rest stop and Wayne inspected under the hood and even pulled off the left tire since the bad smell seemed to be coming from around there.  While he did that, I took the opportunity to stretch out the legs by doing laps around the parking lot. When Wayne couldn’t find the cause of the trouble, he put the wheel back on, checked all the fluids (which were looking good) and we headed on our way, hoping there’d be no more trouble ahead.

Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of our car troubles.  We decided a couple years ago that we were tired of having a car payment and so we paid cash for our little, white Escort wagon ($350!) The car has had trouble here and there, but each time we’ve had minor repair we’ve reminded ourselves that we were saving a bundle by owning our older, used car. So, it was not a huge shock when our cheapy, high-mileage car started acting weird. Too bad for me, though, it was on my marathon weekend, so I was trying not to panic!

We started having a hard time getting the car up to freeway speed. Wayne realized it was the clutch going out and we were trying to decide what to do. We were kind of in the middle of nowhere and were able to maintain a consistent speed of about 40 mph, so Wayne turned on the emergency flashers and he started driving along the shoulder, keeping us moving forward towards civilization but out of the lanes of faster traffic. Each time we’d pass an exit, we’d look at one another and say, “Go on or pull over?” and we’d both say “Let’s keep going until we get to a bigger town!” And, on we putted.

We made it to Jerome, Idaho before the car just couldn’t do it anymore. Thankfully, we weren’t far off a freeway ramp, so we pulled over, parked the car and got out and started walking towards town. Since Wayne and I do not have web service on our cell phones, I texted my running buddy, Ryan and asked if he could look up a few car rental places in the area that we could call. I was incredibly grateful to him and his wife Michelle for being so helpful during our little crisis!

On the walk off the ramp, I spotted something shiny and leaned down to pick up a lucky penny! Wayne said, “You’re going to get us killed! This isn’t the time for that.” I said, “I think we could use a little good luck right now, actually!” Surprisingly, I found one more penny that was totally scratched up and banged up before we arrived at a gas station. I pocketed the two pennies in my running shorts’ pocket and believed in my heart of hearts that it meant everything would turn out just fine in the end.

We called Enterprise first since their motto is, “We’ll pick you up!” They said they were all out of cars for the weekend. Darn it! Then we called another agency. That call went straight to voice mail. Finally we called Hertz and both breathed a huge sigh of relief when they said they had cars and we could rent one! The only catch? They were 14 miles away in Twin Falls and were standing at a Shell station in Jerome. Thankfully, my friend Sean and his family were coming the same direction from Boise and when I told him about our dilemma, he said not to worry and that he’d give us a ride to the car rental agency! The best part was that he was only forty minutes or so behind us! Yay!

Sean and his family arrived shortly after, we climbed into the car and enjoyed some fun conversation as we headed into Twin Falls. Sean was excited since his 21st birthday fell on race day and he was hoping that the good luck from that coupled with his hard work in training would bring him a BQ, too! We talked about the race and soon we were at Hertz. We thanked Sean and his family and happily paid for a working car to get us to Pocatello!

I have to admit that I breathed a giant sigh of relief when we were finally cruising down the road towards the race again.  And, it didn’t hurt that we were doing it while sitting on leather seats! Whew! Disaster averted! Onto the MARATHON!

Once we arrived in Pocatello, we checked into our hotel (the Super 8 that I’d scored a room in for $30 less than the host hotel fee) and then we headed across the street to the host hotel to pick up my packet. I had heard so many rave reviews about this race and it’s schwag! And, I was not disappointed! I was given a nice, sports bag, a cute, technical, long-sleeved tee-shirt and a sack of Idaho Potatoes and a little carton of hash browns to boot! It doesn’t get much better than that! I will also say that I was very impressed with how well organized the packet pickup went. We were in and out in about five minutes and every single person I encountered greeted me with a smile!

It was getting close to dinner time when we got back to the hotel, so Wayne and I ate, I took a bath and then I laid out everything for the race so it would be easy to find in the morning. Then I set an alarm, laid back on the bed and fell asleep while Wayne watched the BSU game.

I slept well and woke up before my 4 am alarm went off. I had heard rain pounding on the windows during the night, but by the time we headed out to the host hotel, it had stopped. It was a chilly, but lovely morning. I hopped on the first bus and we took off shortly after towards the start line. I was so happy to find my friend April on the bus, so we sat together and tried to calm each others nerves down. April, also had Boston dreams, so we talked about our race plans for the day.

We arrived at the starting line and it was really unique. We were out in the middle of the country, on a farm! There was a red barn with adorable baby goats to pet and many runners were huddling in there to keep warm in the early morning chill. They had set up huge lights, which was really nice and there were two long rows of porta potties and a table with bottles of water for hydrating before the race. It was really well organized and I had a nice time walking around and mingling with the other runners as we waited for the 6:15 am race start.

They called us to line up a few minutes before 6:15 and I heard the most angelic version of the National Anthem being sang. The woman hit the high note on “free…” and it just floated, perfectly in tune way up in the sky. It was beautiful and gave me shivers! Then they yelled, “GO!” and we were off!  I had planned to run the first half of the race in 1:51 or better, assuming the downhill would make it the same effort that I had ran a 1:52 first half in May. I held back, tried not to let myself go out too fast and tried to just tune into myself and run.

The scenery was spectacular! We started high up on a mountain and there were lush, pine trees all around. The air was fresh. The temperature perfect. I felt pretty good and made sure not to “race” anyone who passed me. I thought I was in control and though I felt good, I did not feel quite as light and feathery as I’d expected to early on.  But, my Garmin started ticking off the first miles like this:

Mile 1: 7:53, Mile 2: 8:13, Mile 3: 8:17, Mile 4: 8:15, Mile 5: 8:13.  Things were going steady, smooth, strong and I wasn’t even breathing hard. I thought I was playing my hand smartly. I knew I could run those downhills faster but I held it back and just tried to ride the wave of gravity, never pushing, just coasting along — or so it seemed….

I walked through every single aid station, taking Powerade or water, taking a GU and and S Cap every hour just like I’d done in May at the Potato when my race went so well. I had my IPod playing loudly and just tried to zone out and run and hoped I could keep up the pace I needed to qualify for Boston by the end.

At mile 7 or so, there’s a little spur on the course, so it was fun to see the smiling faces of those runners up ahead of us coming down the little hill as we went up it. This would be the first of many little (and not so little) hills in the race. I was honestly surprised how many times I was climbing, especially after mile 10.  As I was coming down the hill, I saw my friend, April and we high-fived. That put a smile on my face!  Mile 6: 8:06 Mile 7: 8:07, Mile 8: 8:14, Mile 9: 8:30.

The course levels off around mile 10. There’s an elevation loss of 1,500 in the first 13 miles, but most of that is done by this point. There’s only another 150 of loss the whole rest of the way and lots of little ups and downs and plenty of flat especially towards the end. The prettiest part of the course is the first ten miles or so. Then, as it levels out, we were running through the industrial part of town, with factories here and there and railroad tracks running parallel to the road. My legs went from feeling fairly good to fatigued around this point. I was able to still hold the faster pace, but it became harder as the course leveled out and the thrashing my quads had taken on the down took their toll. Mile 10: 8:18, Mile 11: 8:22, Mile 12: 8:02, Mile 13: 8:50.

I was running strong, feeling ok and realized I was coming up on the half point in the race, when I looked down at my Garmin and realized that I was in fact going to be on target with a 1:51 or better. In fact, my PR at the half marathon officially is 1:53:05 from about two years ago (the last and only time I’ve ran a flatter road, half marathon), though I have ran a nonofficial half in training in 1:51 and did the first half of my May marathon in 1:52. Imagine my thrill when I saw a 1:47 at the half point!!!!!!!! A PR by several minutes! Woo hoo! I was running with the 3:40 pace group at this point (who were all ahead of pace!) I started feeling hopeful, but reminded myself, “You still have a LONG ways to go! Do not get overconfident until you see the finish line in sight and have a BQ pace on your Garmin!)

Around mile 14, the marathoners around my pace (about 8:15 average) caught up with the half marathoners. Suddenly the road was swarming with people and just like that I could not see my pace group! And, the hardest part was we’d caught up with the walkers at the back of the half marathoning race, so mentally I went from running on pace with only other marathoners also going my pace to suddenly being swarmed by those going a much slower pace.  There were also crowds cheering along the streets here and lots of cars drivnig in the lane next to us. I tried to dodge the walkers and get around them, but they often were talking and having a nice time in rows of 3-4, so it made it really hard to get by without heading into traffic.  Mentally, this section really got to me. The half marathoners also had pace groups, so while I was looking for the pace sign above the crowd to help me find my same-paced marathoners again, I was confused to see other pacers from the half in the crowd.

Mile 14: 8:28, Mile 15: 9:32, Mile 16: 9:22

In what seemed a blink of an eye, I went from feeling pretty good to feeling pretty fatigued, to having cramps in my calves and hamstrings, deep soreness and exhaustion in my quads and the realization that after all that downhill running, I needed to find a bathroom asap! I finally saw my husband for the first time at around mile 14. I had been eagerly looking for him along the way and got my hopes up many times when I’d see other people cheering along the side and mistakenly thought it might be him, only to get closer and realize it was someone else, cheering for another runner.  By the time I saw him, I already was starting to fall apart physically. I know myself and how I am supposed to feel at that point in a marathon and I knew I was not going to get Boston by that point. I was still holding onto the proper average pace through mile 17, but the wheels were coming off and I knew it. It wasn’t going to happen and I knew I had no choice but to stop and take a bathroom break, which would only make it harder to catch up to the pace I needed again. I gave my husband the “thumbs down” sign when I saw him. I rarely speak when I run road races, to conserve energy, so this has always been our way of communicating when he sees me along the course. A thumbs up means I feel awesome and am on goal. A thumbs down means, well, it means “Today sucks bigtime!” I had tears in my eyes when I made the signal and saw the sadness reflected in his eyes. He knows how much Boston means to me, how much I’ve talked about it and dreamed about it over the years and we both knew that this was likely the best chance for me to qualify this year… and I was watching the paces on my Garmin get slower and slower with every step and it seemed there was nothing I could do about it, but keep moving and just accept my fate.

Mile 17: 10:05, Mile 18: 11:20, Mile 19: 11:29, Mile 20 13:02

I finally found a porta potty in mile 20. There was a line. Coming to a stop and waiting for the bathroom was symbolic. I was having a crappy day! Everything hurt. I was suddenly so tired. I just wanted to lay down and be done with it. Finally, I had my turn and went in and sat down to take care of business. Within a minute, I heard a rapping on the door and an anxious man saying, “CMON CMON! HURRY!” That stressed me out, so I didn’t “finish” what I needed to do and hurried out of there and back into the race.  But, my stomach was saying, “I don’t mean to be a bother, but we weren’t really done back there! You’ll need to make another pit stop up ahead if you don’t mind!” Ugh!

The biggest hill of the course happens after mile 21. It’s steep. Traffic is thick through this section. It was hot and everyone I could see up ahead was walking. It was a low (though elevationally high) point. I slogged up the hill, eyes scanning the road up ahead for the glorious turquoise color of a porta potty.  Mile 21: 13:28. Mile 22: 15:38

Finally, I spotted one and aimed straight for it! Shutting the door and sitting down, I had the urge to just pretend I was no longer in a race at all. I just wanted it to be over. I did what I needed (thankfully without any rapping on the door this time) and then slowly stepped out of the loo and back into the race.  My brain is a little fuzzy on the details, but somewhere around here there was this darling little old lady standing outside her mobile home, pointing to a mister that had been set up to run under. She offered and I thanked her and walked under that pleasant coolness. It was a nice touch! That’s when I realized that I needed to make the best of things no matter how slow I was going. I turned off my IPOD and started looking every volunteer in the eye and saying, “Thank you so much for being here today!” I smiled and cheered for each runner who passed me the rest of the way. I gave a thumbs up sign to the band playing Eye of the Tiger alongside the road. I giggled when I saw the aid station worker dressed up as Elvis and took a hard candy at the table and thanked them all for their help. I wasn’t going any faster, I still wasn’t going to qualify for Boston or even PR or break 4 hours, but step by step, I started to enjoy the race again.  I spotted a woman in a Pulse shirt and struck up a conversation with her and I felt much better, much happier just talking to people and walking and willing my legs to just keep moving towards the finish line.

Mile 23: 12:19, Mile 24: 13:54, Mile 25: 14:33, Mile 26: 13:41, Last .31 – 9:08 pace.

My husband had parked the car and walked back up the course to find me at about mile 25. It was so nice to see him. I yelled out, “There’s my pacer! I’ve been hoping you’d show up, but you’re about 10 miles too late to save me now!” He laughed and I grinned. We both knew it wasn’t my day but I was ok with it. He said, “Your buddy April is back there.” I didn’t believe him. April is a much faster runner than I am and I assured him that he must have seen someone else back there who looked like her.  But, he was right. Within a short while, April caught up to us and we hugged and shared our sad stories. April had stomach problems for much of the race so had not been able to run her usual pace either. We both said we were sorry for the other, but both also agreed that misery loves company and we agreed to finish it up side-by-side.

When we finally could see the finish line, my heart lifted again. I knew it had not been the day I’d dreamed of, the day I’d hoped and trained hard for.. not even close — but here I was with my husband running ahead and snapping pictures and saying, “Good job, ladies!” and my friend by my side running stride for stride with me, that the day was not a loss. The marathon had been the master and I was once again the student, coming away with lessons about what NOT to do in future races, but at the end of the day, everything was going to be ok.  We picked up the pace to about a 6:45 as we grabbed hands and started sprinting towards the finish line, smiling and lifting our hands in victory. It had been a tough day. A difficult course. But, in the end, we conquered. We finished what we started. And we did it together!

Finish time: 4:27:01 – about 42 minutes behind my “goal.” And, if you’re wondering about the splits. First half: 1:47. Second half: 2:40.  This, kids, is what NOT to do in a marathon! Negative splits are much prettier to look at!!!! 😉

I’ll find that Boston time. It’s in my blood. I can feel it. My May race was just 3 1/2 minutes off of the time I need. It’s here in me and it may need more lessons on other tough days before I finally have my magical moment and cross that finish line with a shout of “YES!!! I FINALLY DID IT!!” Because when it happens, it will have not come easily. I will have worked very hard and fallen down many times, dusted myself off and got back up again to fight again. For isn’t that really what the marathon is all about — never, ever, ever giving up. Finding out that down deep you are stronger than you think. You run with your heart. You don’t quit. You hold your head up and you keep moving no matter what!

Sean was waiting for us in the park as we finished. We all hugged and congratulated one another on running a difficult race. Sean ran a 3:23, which was a PR for him! He didn’t get his Boston time either, but it was still a pretty sweet birthday race for him – especially when he found out he was 2nd in his age group!

We showed off our medals, which I have to tell you, were the HUGEST medals I’d ever seen! They are awesome and they were worth the fight out there! I have it hanging proudly on my Marathon display rack and it makes the other medals feel insecure and puny by comparison!

My husband shared this with me today and I think it’s perfect! I hope you are inspired by it too!

A Winning Attitude

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.

Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!” ~ Sylvester Stallone in Rocky Balboa

No BQ — This time…..

The short story. I did not qualify for Boston. Not even close. I did have a plan and I stuck with it for the first 15 or so miles, then the wheels fell off. PR’d at the half marathon distance by several minutes (1:47) which was awesome. Felt like I was holding back at that point, running strong and steady but not pushing too hard. Guess I was wrong. Soon after, my quads protested loudly, my legs felt like heavy tree trunks that did not want to move (and kept cramping up despite plenty of hydration, powerade and S caps along the way) and then my stomach started giving me problems that sent me to the porta potty lines repeatedly. It was a death slog to the finish. Could NOT muster the ability to run even a 12 min mile for several miles. Wow! Lots of lessons today on this course. I run to better myself – to have new experiences. I’m not sad. I learned several things today. No Boston 2013 for me, but I’ll keep tinkering with the training and I do believe I have Boston in my blood and will get there — eventually.

The best part of the day was having my friend April catch up with me in the last mile and finish hand-in-hand, smiling as we crossed the finish line. We both had BQ dreams that didn’t come true today, but having a friend there by my side to the bitter finish brought a silver lining to a pretty difficult day. We’ll both get it, April! I know it! Just not this time.

Dealing With Taper Madness

Whilst struggling with taper madness today, my adoring husband witnessed my pacing and disgruntled mood and offered to take us on a family outing! He said I could choose the activities, so I chose paddle boating at Julia Davis Park with the five kids, a visit to the nearby playground, a stop at a local fruit stand (where everyone got to choose something yummy and healthy to take home and eat) and Wayne (being the doting Daddy he is) also added in a stop to Fred Meyer’s bakery so the children could choose a special treat (three chose cake pops, one chose a cookie, Wayne and I split a slice of Napolean cream cake and Rebecca chose a chocolate coffee cup!)

It was a lovely family day and it was a wonderful distraction to my taper madness!!!

P.S. Operating a paddle boat is a pretty good workout on the legs!! Mine felt all warmed up and stretched out after half an hour! Niicee!!!

Last Medium Run

I have a dream – a dream to run 100 miles and qualify for the Boston Marathon before my 40th birthday on November 2nd. So far this year, I’ve achieved half of my dream by running the Buffalo Run 100 miler on March 23rd. This Saturday, I have a chance to achieve the second part of my goal – to qualify for the Boston Marathon. It won’t be easy. I need to run a 3:45:00 or faster to “BQ.” My last marathon in May was a 3:48:33. Close, but not close enough.

Today I ran from my house down towards Lucky Peak Lake. The first mile is fairly flat and I took it easy, warming up, relaxing my muscles and allowing them to warm up good (which I believe will be key on race day as well – either by walking or gently jogging a mile before the race or by taking it a bit easier on the first mile in the marathon. I haven’t decided which yet.) The second mile is a crazy steep downhill with about 230 feet of loss! It’s a rush!!! I’m a good downhiller and practicing one more time, nice and easy on this hill is excellent practice for what awaits me on the Pocatello Marathon course where there is a loss of elevation in the first half of the race of 1,400 feet!!!! I’m nervous and excited to see how I race on such a course since I’ve only done fairly flat marathons in the past. I’ve read plenty of race reports about Pocatello and some say they ran out so fast and hard in the first half that their quads were thrashed by the second half. In the mountains, when running trails, I’ve often heard others say similar things when they run long stretches of downhill. In my experience, I usually have felt really strong even after running miles downhill at a pretty quick clip, but…. this is a marathon. It’s different! Can I do a fast pace downhill for several miles and still have what it takes to bring home a Boston Qualifying time in the last half? That’s the big question!

I ran that second mile today in 7:37, feeling like I was gently gliding downhill, taking it easy, letting gravity pull me along and never fighting it. (This, I have often believed is the secret to successful downhill running – relaxing and leaning slightly forward, staying fairly perpendicular to the road, never braking or locking the quads, not pushing the pace at all – just riding the “wave” down, letting gravity do the work, while you catch your breath and enjoy the breeze blowing past while the Garmin rewards you with a faster pace than you can normally comfortably hold on the flat!)

Once I was off the highway and onto the Boise Greenbelt, I turned towards Lucky Peak Dam and found a strong headwind. I settled into a pace I felt I could manage until the turnaround and just enjoyed the views of the black, jagged canyons jutting high into the air on either side of me, high atop hills of golden grasses and sagebrush and scree – the crazy piles of broken rock fragments at the bases of these mighty hillsides – a trail runner’s Russian Roulette for a sprained ankle (or bragging rights!)

The jagged canyons on my right reflected in the Boise River, which is fairly still past the dam – like a pool of dark amber glass -still, motionless, lovely. The day was warm, nearing 80 degrees, sunny, not a cloud in the sky, though the sight and smell of burning forest fires hung like a wet blanket over the city of Boise, preventing fresh air from coming or going. The stagnant air was oppressive, heavy. I longed for a breath of crisp, clean, fresh air but it was not to be. I was sweating more than usual and regretted not bringing any water.

I ran the two miles out to Sandy Pointe Park, stopped the Garmin for a few seconds and turned on the water faucet in the picnic section and drank a few gulps of lukewarm water. As I turned on the Garmin again, I swallowed and the taste of licking an old metal pipe was strong in my mouth. Ugh! Next time I bring my own water!

I turned at 4 miles and headed back, the wind still in my face. This happens every time I run down in the canyons. It seems coming or going the wind is in my face! It had a slightly cooling effect, but made getting my pace up more difficult. At about this point the song, “Top Of the World” by the Carpenters came on my Ipod. It made me smile and these two lines stood out to me:

Something in the wind has learned my name
And it’s telling me that things are not the same
In the leaves on the trees and the touch of the breeze
There’s a pleasing sense of happiness for me

As I stand on the cusp of my race with some solid training under my belt, I hope I can carry that sense of happiness and joy into my race on Saturday. Sometimes when I have a big goal, I can get carried away with the “whatifs” and worry myself silly – so much so that I’ve sabotaged my own races at times by not being able to sleep for days before or having my inner critic at the ready whispering, “You can’t do this!” over and over during the race. I’m committed to NOT allowing that to happen this time! I’m going to eat well, rest, stretch and mentally get into my “happy place” before the race this time. When the gun goes off, I’m going to run by feel – not by fanatically obsessing over my Garmin’s pace or distance. I believe that if my body is ready and trained well enough that it will all work out on race day.

My last marathon wasn’t supposed to go so well. It was a benchmark marathon. I had been to the chiropractor three times that week with IT band problems and I had 2 fifty milers on the horizon that were my “key races.” In fact, the first mile I ran with friends and chatted and told them all, “I feel like I’m showing up to a final exam on a class I didn’t attend even by BEING at this marathon!” since I’d been running trails and racing ultras for the previous year and a half and assumed I would have lost what little road speed I had previously — when my best marathon had been a 4:20:59. My only long-shot hope was to break 4 hours and I’d written in my log book that morning, “Breaking 4 is unlikely since I’m not trained for this. I’m expecting a 4:10 or so.” I ran by feel, racing smart, holding back, eating more frequently and drinking more often than I had done in my previous 3 marathons. And, it worked! Relaxing, running steady, eating, drinking, staying mentally happy brought me a 32 minute PR! I was stunned! I felt like I hadn’t even “tried” and yet – maybe that’s the point! Running long distances in the mountains seems to have strengthened my legs and my resolve. I can go for hours and hours and suffer many discomforts and never, ever want to quit. And, by contrast, not having to worry so much about spraining an ankle or doing a face-plant on a sweet, technical downhill meant I could relax in a new way, and the pace was much faster than I can manage on mountainous, rocky terrain, so it felt good. Maybe it was a fluke!!! Maybe that 3:48:33 was the best race I’ll ever run! I don’t know yet. I’ll find out soon if I have it in me to earn that sub 3:45 and the coveted BQ to reach my dreams before that 40th birthday sneaks up on me in a couple of months.

Wish me luck!!!!

My splits today:
Mile 1: (warm up) 9:20
Mile 2: (downhill) 7:37
Mile 3: (greenbelt) 8:15
Mile 4: (greenbelt) 8:42
Mile 5: (greenbelt) 8:38
Mile 6: (greenbelt) 8:44
Mile 7: (uphill – 233 feet gain against heavy traffic) – 10:24
Mile 8: (hooray – flat reached the top) 8:50

Total: 8.01 miles. Time: 1;10:40. Pace: 8:49. Elevation Gain: 315 feet. Felt: Controlled, Good. Ready to BQ on Saturday or die trying!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Locusts, Lizards and Lack of Water

I woke up this morning without a plan but said to my husband, “I want to run from the house to Lucky Peak and back!” I’ve ran up to the peak and down again several times – but never from my front door (which is about 3 miles to the trail start, so I knew it would add roughly 6 miles to the total, which sounded great since the trip up and down the mountain is always a hair over 13.) I figured it would be a nice, long, slow distance run giving me strength on the steep hill climbs, a chance to run fast on the technical downhill sections and the cushion of dirt instead of asphalt getting me ready for my marathon in three weeks. It sounded like a plan!

I packed my Nathan vest with ice and about 50 oz of water (which might have been enough if I was heading out on an early morning run, but I wasn’t thinking as carefully as I should have and didn’t bring my handhelds as back up.) I also had plenty of S caps, some peanut butter crackers and a mint chocolate GU. And, off I went!

It was exciting heading out. I like to run with my pal, Randy sometimes and I had been curious exactly how far it was via trails and the greenbelt from my house to his. It turns out it’s almost 3 miles on the nose! So, the next time he invites me I need to leave the house half an hour early and run to his before the “run” starts. 😀 Then, run those 3 miles back after! BONUS MILES!!

It was 10 am before I started today, so I was also thinking it would be a great chance to get in some heat training (again – a doh moment – I should have been packing MORE water/electrolyte drink, etc!!!) It was hot. It was hazy from all the smoke in the sky. So hazy in fact, that you couldn’t see as far into the distance or up the mountain as usual, which made it kind of mysterious looking, but the air wasn’t as fresh as usual which wasn’t a good thing. Since it was fairly warm already when I started (about 80 degrees), I stayed conservative — steadily hiking the uphills and even warming up the first mile from my front door with an easy walk pace. I knew I had a long way to go and figured pacing would be the key to a successful and fun run instead of a miserable drudge.

So many locusts hopped out of the golden grasses and onto the dusty trail in front of my feet as I climbed up, up, up Lucky Peak. Five different small lizards – no bigger than three inches from head to tail each zipped across the trail on the climb as well. I considered these things wonderful distractions to my heavy breathing! I could feel myself sweating and it was so humid (which is unusual for Idaho) that it would evaporate off my skin within seconds! I kept drinking but felt the weight of the pack every little bit and realized that I was drinking more than I’d planned to, so I tried to be conservative with the water, which didn’t really help things much since my body was really needing it.

Around mile 8 into my run, I looked up and spotted local rock star Wayne Rancourt coming down the hill, wearing his pack and grinning! He stopped and said hi to me and he asked me if this was my “first time” up the hill today. Haha! Wayne is known for doing hill repeats on this crazy, horribly long hill (Lucky Peak) that has over 3,000 of climb in 6 miles up. It works well for him! He came in 2nd place last week at Wild Idaho 50 miler! I told him that I was just doing “one” hill repeat. Man, that made me feel like a weenie next to him!!!! He said he’s see me again when he was heading back up.

 

By the time I reached the summit and enjoyed what I could see through the smoke of the view of Boise, I knew water was an issue. Randy had told me about a path down the front of the hill that I’d never tried that was a shortcut. I decided this was a good day for that, so I sought it out, found it and really enjoyed the little deer trail down the front that shaved about a mile off of my descent! It also made me feel like a cheater pants since I never go that way – haha!

I ran about a mile, then sipped on my Nathan tube for a drink and ended up getting a big gulf of air instead and started choking and coughing! I was thinking “Great! I need a drink of water to help with the choking but apparently I’m all out and I still have 8 miles to GO!!” ARGH!!

I realized I was in trouble a bit. I was already having headaches and feeling thirsty and figured without water in the heat of the day (which had a high of 100 today) I would not do my body any good by pushing through this, so I grabbed my cell phone out of my pack and texted my husband.

Then, I took off running again. I was running fairly fast downhill through this section when I spotted a bit of blue up ahead – it was Wayne on his way up and when he saw me he started clapping, which only made me run faster and start to grin! (It’s always more fun to have an audience!) He wished me good luck on my “flight” down the mountain, and I wished him well on his climb up. No sooner had we passed one another, when all of a sudden I stepped poorly on my right foot and instantly realized I’d rolled it — not horribly — but still – it was hurting and it was sore! UGH! That’s what I get for showing off! I pulled off of the trail again and dug out my cell phone, almost in tears and looked to see if Wayne had written me back. He hadn’t. I called him. He didn’t pick up. I felt a little freaked out thinking I would have to make it back to the house possibly without any more water and now with the ankle hurting my pace would slow down so I’d be out for HOURS more in the heat! Normally, I would stop and ask for water at my buddy, Randy‘s house, but I knew he was on vacation, so that wouldn’t be a possibility. I tried calling Wayne two more times without success and then just settled in a slow, steady downhill pace trying to get closer to the bottom of the hill (and closer to home!)

Finally, my phone rang! It was Wayne!!! I told him I was out of water and had rolled my ankle and needed him to come meet me on Warm Springs in about 20 minutes with some water. He said he would. I was so relieved!!! Once I knew he was on the way, I picked up the pace, knowing I would only have a couple more miles to run without water before I could stop and DRINK!

When I was about 3/4 of a mile from Warm Springs, I was back in Randy‘s neighborhood, running on a path that has a little bubbling brook right next to the trail. I hobbled right over to it, fell down on my knees and started scooping the cold, delightful water all over my face, arms and legs. It was so refreshing in that heat! I also ran through every sprinkler I saw near the path! My shoes were making a squish, squish sound, my shorts and tank were wet and my face was dripping wet from the washing when Wayne found me on the path. He was holding a water bottle filled with ice water, which I would gladly have paid a king’s ransom for at that point! I barely had time to thank him before I started gulping the cool, refreshing water down my dry, parched through! Ahhhhhhhhh – better!!!!!

I was bummed when I hopped into the car to realize my potential 20 miler had turned into a dehydrated 15 miler – but it is, what it is! At least it was just a training run!

Elevation Gain: 3,300 Felt: Pretty good until I ran out of water, then not so much!

Wild Idaho 50k Race Report

With a DNF this summer at both Pocatello 50 and Big Horn 50 in the books — both because of running too slow and getting pulled from the courses at 48 miles and then 34 miles respectively — I was in a bad place mentally and needed a good race to kind of clear the slate and give me a positive mindset again as I gear up for the Pocatello Marathon next month, where I hope to qualify for Boston.

One month prior to my 3:48 Famous Potato Marathon in May, I had raced the Weiser River 50k in 5:05 (a PR for that course and that distance for me), so I knew that it had served me well to run this distance a few weeks before a marathon and figured this might help me prepare well again. I decided signing up for Wild Idaho 50k would be just the ticket! I did the 50 miler last year and knew the course and thought it would be a good challenge, with plenty of climbing (it’s advertised as 10,000 of elevation gain)  (and some sweet downhill running which would also be good preparation for the Pocatello Marathon which has about 1,500 of elevation loss on the course) and would also be a lot of fun since so many of my friends would be either racing that day as well or at the aid stations volunteering. So, I signed up!

My husband and five children and I arrived at the Boiling Springs Campground the day before the race. I think my kids were more excited than I was to be there, which was fun to see! There were several other children of the other racers for them to play with and great access to the shallow river that runs right behind the campground, which turned out to be the main highlight of the weekend for them since the temperatures were in the 90s.

We set up our tents just as the pre-race meeting was taking place. I wandered over and heard the basic “Drink lots of water and try not to die on the course” speech.  There was an excitement in the air following the meeting as the racers mingled and said their “hellos” to one another and made their way over to the pre-race spaghetti dinner (which was something new this year!) We had really scored on our tent site since we were literally right across from the camp spot serving the meal! Woo hoo! And, boy did that spaghetti, bread, salad and watermelon hit the spot! It was delicious and served with a smile! And, the best part was they’d prepared enough to allow family members to eat as well, so the whole family enjoyed a tasty meal before settling down around a campfire and socializing with all the runners and their families.

I don’t sleep well before races, so it was no surprise that I’d hardly slept a wink when my alarm went off at 5:15 am. I quickly got dressed in the tent by headlamp and shivered in my running skirt and tank top in the chilly morning, mountain air. I was excited and eager to get started! I ate a few bites of a bagel and drank some Starbuck’s Mocha Frappuccino to get my caffeine boost and then hit the porta potty. Just before 6 am, Ben Blessing (the race director and my awesome cousin), announced that we should all line up and he played a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem on his Tuba.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, then we were off! Right away, I fell into pace with my good friend Rachael. She and I often end up near one another in a race and it was nice to have a familiar face to begin the journey with. Ben had changed the course a bit this year, so instead of starting on the dirt road, we hopped onto this sweet, forested, uphill trail with some fun technical aspects. I enjoyed leaping logs and pushing through trees while yelling behind me, “TREE! ROOT!” to those behind me. It was a really pleasant, fun stretch to get the legs warmed up for the rest of the race and when we popped out onto the road about a mile later I gave race director Ben a two thumbs up when he asked what I thought of the course change!

I had a couple goals. 1. Run a smart race by taking care of my fueling and nutrition needs right from the start and NOT pushing too hard and 2. Have FUN! I really had no other big goals and could have cared less about my pace.  This made the whole event a whole lot more fun for me! I just tuned into my body and let the legs fly when they felt like it (mostly on the downhills) and eased back on the climbs keeping a fairly steady effort level from start to finish. I also made it a big point to socialize, which is always a lot of fun for a stay-at-home Mom of five kids like me! 😀 I think I may have talked to people practically the entire race. It helped me stay at an easier effort level and distracted me from all of the hard climbing. And, thankfully, I had a few people say to me, “Keep doing that! You’re chatting is really helping me out and your positive energy is contagious!” That made me smile!

From the Boiling Springs start, it’s uphill 4.4 miles on a wide, fairly smooth dirt road to the Silver Creek Saddle Aid Station. I checked in, grabbed some Coke, downed it in a couple of gulps and then headed to the Silver Creek Lookout about 2 1/2 miles uphill. I was still running with Rachael and our friend Sam had fallen into pace with us as well, so we relaxed and talked and enjoyed the morning. I kept stopping to take photos of the beautiful mountain views, though the sky this year was much hazier than it was a year ago due to a nearby fire.

Somewhere on this uphill climb I bumped into my friend, Ryan, who was doing the 50 miler and was ahead of me, but passing by me on the out and back. I pulled out my camera to take a photo of us and he pulled out his and told me it was time to do the “No Whining Dance”, which is a tradition in his family before hikes. The idea is to complain like crazy during the “no whining dance” and then you won’t complain the rest of the journey.  Ryan and I looked like a couple of goofballs, hopping in circles, chanting, “My feet hurt! This sucks! I don’t want to do this!” and the grins on our faces clearly say that we weren’t really as miserable as we sounded at all, but it was a lot of fun and put me in a great mood.

I got back to focusing on the climbing and my pal Sam reached the summit first. I have a picture of he, our friend Emily and I at this spot from a year ago, so I knew I was on a similar pace since I was right on Sam’s heels still. I handed my camera to the volunteer taking down numbers at the top and asked him to take my picture (which is a must-do for this race! The view is GORGEOUS up there!!!) Just as he finished, I heard Rachael yell out, “Wait! I want in the picture too” as she summitted. I grinned and said “Of course!!” and the kind volunteer took a picture of us smiling together on top of the world.

Then, it was time to fly!!! This section coming down from the lookout is my favorite downhill running on the whole course! I was comfortably running in the 7-8 min range, relaxed, arms flailing out to my sides for balance and having the time of my life! Rachael was hot on my heels. I realized about halfway down the hill that I really, really, really needed to use a bathroom! I kept muttering to myself, “Don’t poop your pants! Don’t poop your pants!” and luckily, when I got back to the Silver Creek Saddle Aid Station there was a porta potty waiting for me (without a line, which must have been Divine Intervention!)  I heard Rachael pass me outside the door and she jokingly yelled towards the loo “GO Christie, GO!” hahaha!!!!!!! And, of course with encouragement like that, I did!

After my bathroom break, I headed up the dirt road towards another favorite part of this race course – a sweet ATV trail that winds through the trees and is very runnable! This little one mile section out (for the 50kers) is a total pleasure cruise! The path roller coasters a bit at the start and then you can just settle into an easy, relaxed, fast stride without taxing the system. It’s just completely beautiful! I passed a few of the fast 50 milers on their way back up and said hi to them, then turned around at the road where the sign said “Turn Around 50kers”, then headed back up the trail.  I pulled out a granola bar here and started munching that as I went. At one point, I saw a woman heading off on another road to the right and I hollered out, “You know the race course is this way, right?” and she said, “Oh yes, thank you. I just need to use the bathroom!”  I headed downhill, through that section and suddenly heard these crazy, loud, crashing sounds coming from the trees and bushes on the mountain to my right. Startled, I stopped and stared up towards the sound and was trying to figure out what I was hearing when this enormous, 6 point buck came leaping onto the trail just a few feet in front of me before bounding off into the trees and brush on the other side! I was so stunned! It was such a beautiful, magical moment – and it also occurred to me that had I been running a couple seconds per mile faster pace, I would have suffered a hit and run by Bambi!!! Yikes!

I arrived at the Silver Creek Saddle Aid Station for the third and last time, downed another cup of Coke, grabbed some cheese-its and then headed down the long, forest service road back towards Boiling Springs. I remember this section from last year distinctly because that’s when I first started having problems with my IT band with all the downhill running, so this time, I let myself run for a mile, then eased up the pace and took a walk break for a bit, then did it again over and over, allowing myself to enjoy the downs but without taxing the knees quite as bad as last year. It seemed to work! My IT band and knees felt great as I pulled into Boiling Springs (which is a hair over 17 miles) at 3:45 into the race. My friend Michelle was there and she asked if she could help. I asked if she’d fill my Nathan with 30 oz of water and I filled the Nathan hand bottle I carry with another 22 oz of water, downed some soda, ate some salty chips, sprayed bug spray on my body (horseflies had been biting me like crazy on the Wet Foot trail the year before so I came prepared this time), dropped off my jacket, grabbed my sunglasses, hugged my husband and was running out of there at 3:50 into the race heading towards the dreaded Wet Foot trail.  My husband commented that I looked strong and I told him I felt awesome! My buddy, Mark and his dog Cali joined me here for a little stretch until I was safely off the road and onto the single track trail again. That was a nice sendoff!

At this point on the course the year before my IT band had seized up and was very painful, it was hot and I was starting to suffer from nausea. This year was a very different experience! I kept the effort steady but never let myself redline or push too hard, I ate steadily, drank often and took my S Caps every hour. I felt WONDERFUL! In fact, I was really surprised that my pace was so good through this section since I had remembered being slug-slow during this stretch before.  Last year I had to stop and sit on logs along the steep climbs or sit in the dirt on the side of the path. I never felt the need to stop at all this time! I felt just fine! Doing the 50k instead of the 50 miler also meant I was climbing this section earlier in the day which helped! There was still plenty of shade out instead of direct sun exposure which was a treat!

I did stop for just a moment when I passed the section of the trail that has a plethora of huckleberry bushes! I had never eaten a huckleberry or seen a huckleberry bush until my 50 mile race last year, so stopping to enjoy a little treat along the way brought a smile this time. I maintained my steady push until I reached the Wet Foot Aid Station at about 22 miles. Last year there was no aid station in this section and it was a hard grunt. I had gone nearly 4 hours from Boiling Springs to Skunk Creek before any aid and that was too long. I happily let them refill my water bottle, gobbled down some sweet, juicy watermelon and made small talk to the aid station workers (a few of whom are distant relatives of mine!) 😀 It was just as I was ready to leave that my buddy, Tony Huff came up the climb and into the aid station, too. I was really happy to see him! He was doing the 50 miler and had even won this race three years ago, so I knew he would be awesome to have in front of me for the next section of climbing (which is pretty brutal!) And, Tony didn’t disappoint! He kept saying, “You’re lagging behind! Come on! Keep up!” I laughed as I tried my best to keep up with Tony.  I was able to keep him in sight for about 3/4 of a mile and it was nice to have that push.  Once he was out of sight, I started hoping Ryan would catch up soon, too, so he could also help pace me up the steepest section of all (two miles of roughly 1,000 of climb each) before Skunk Creek. I was really surprised when I finally sumitted the worst of it and he hadn’t caught me yet.

Just after the summit, there’s a nice flat section, some trees and a glorious view- and to capture it all, my friend and world-class photographer Michael LeBowitz snapping off shots of the runners as they crested!  It was nice to see Michael and he took some pictures of me. Then, I pumped the legs a bit more since I knew I was almost to the Skunk Creek Aid Station at mile 25! They had the cowbells going, several of my friends were volunteering and I could feel the love from the moment of my arrival! My buddy, Jim Updegrove asked if I wanted him to squirt me with a water bottle and I happily said, “YES PLEASE!” He squirted my face and I used a paper towel to wipe the sweat and salt off and I felt like a new woman! Then he walked around me squirting me from all sides and it was exactly what I needed! He then offered me a pancake, which I happily took, along with an orange slice and some soda, while my friend Shanda filled my water bottle.  I was well taken care of, so I waved goodbye, thanked them all, then headed back down the path towards the Wet Foot trail again.  It was here that I finally saw Ryan again! I teased him that he needed to run faster next time to catch me, then I took off.

Now, here’s where the fun part comes in! Hiking up Wet Foot is a grunt for sure! It’s steep, the dirt is fine and powdery and difficult to get a good firm grip in, you’re thirsty, tired, you feel like it’s never going to end and then — wallah – you get to the top, get treated like royalty at the aid station and then you get to run DOWN that stretch which is a whole different story!!!! I made it a point to encourage every single runner I passed on that section, as they were heading up and I was heading down. I stopped and gave several hugs even! I was in great spirits! My buddy, Mark had told me to treat this downhill section like a skier would — easy, loose, letting my feet slide side to side a bit instead of fighting the powdery, loose dirt. And, that’s what I did! I used my arms for balance, got fearless and started really making some good time on the descent! There are plenty of technical aspects of this trail – roots, rocks, trees, loose dirt, etc and I just played with it. I felt like a little kid and I was having  ball!

I reached the Wet Foot aid station at 27.7 miles and again took advantage of their wonderful hospitality, getting my bottle filled, eating a little snack and then quickly getting back to business on the trail! Once I left that aid station, I couldn’t stop smiling! I was feeling great, running strong and knew that the finish line was getting closer! I could hardly believe my good luck! I’d had no injuries, no stomach problems, no negative thoughts. I was having a fantastic race!

Once my Garmin reached 31 miles (with a total time of 8:07) I knew it was almost over! I just relaxed, let loose and cranked it all the way to the finish line at 33.67 miles. My time was 8:34 and I could not believe it! That is a PR for a mountain 50k for me! My family was there to see me, my husband snapped a finish line photo, Ben handed me my cool finisher’s prize  – a small baseball bat with the race info engraved on the side and I headed straight for the water to soak in the ice cold deliciousness while I sipped a cold Mountain Dew! It was a perfect day!

I’ll definitely be back to Wild Idaho again next year!!!!

Racing Weight – Where Are You?

When I lost 75+ lbs a few years ago, it happened very gradually. I was not one of those who found the pounds just melting off rapidly. In fact there were months I lost just one single pound at a time. I hung in there, kept running and trying to control my portion sizes and slowly but surely the weight loss continued until I had reached a healthy weight. I remember having to repeat to myself this mantra “Just keep doing what you’re doing.” I knew that I’d gained that weight little by little over several years and five pregnancies and it wouldn’t come off overnight either and that if I just kept exercising and eating better the payoff would be there in the end.  And, I was right. It just took a great deal of patience and a lot of sweat and determination!

These days, I’m comfortably within my proper weight zone, but my running goals have gotten more competitive, so I find myself considering my weight again more — trying to trim down to what I refer to as my “racing weight” before major races so that I can do my best.  In the past month, I’ve definitely gotten sloppier with my eating habits, falling into some of the old traps that got me overweight to begin with — too much soda, too many sweets, too many trips through the McDonald’s drive-through for a quick meal — only to regret my actions later when the scale reminds me of the consequences of my overindulgence.  I’ve put on about 4 lbs in the last month. And, the race that I’m hoping to qualify for Boston at is a mere 5 weeks away! This is terrible timing!

I’ve had some personal struggles I’ve been dealing with in the past few months and unfortunately, I turned to junk food as a comfort. It’s a bad excuse, but it happens. Many of us who were overweight at one point developed a relationship with food that was less than healthy on many levels – and being an emotional eater was just one of them! I’m reminded this week that staying trim isn’t going ever going to be “easy.” It’s a battle that I will be fighting for the rest of my life.

So, how am I going to handle this current extra flab that I’m carrying around? I have to look the problem square in the eye and correct the mistakes I’m making in my eating in order to steer this ship back onto the proper course — the course to a healthier future – and hopefully a Boston Qualifying time at my September marathon!!!  I’m ridding the house of the temptation foods, allowing myself only a “cheat” on the weekends (since I tend to have a difficult time banning any foods indefinitely. This has worked well for me in the past.) I’m getting my family on board to help encourage me to stick to my goals and I’m digging out some healthier recipes so that they, too can benefit from my better choices! I can do it! It will take a renewed focus, drinking water throughout the day instead of sipping Coke or Cappuccino, choosing to go for a walk or a bike ride or a run instead of reaching for another helping of whatever is calling my name – but I can lose this 4 lbs again and get back to “racing weight” in time for my marathon!

If you are struggling as well with a few bonus pounds, make your own commitment to renew your focus on your good eating and exercise habits! We can do this together!!!

 

Final Prep for the Bruneau Beast

My husband, Wayne and I are race directors and this past weekend he invited me to test drive one of our newest race courses out – a race like no other I’d ever attempted before because much of it takes place on enormous sand dunes at Bruneau State Park in Bruneau, Idaho!  Wayne had me run the 5k course. I raced a 5k a couple of months ago in 22:41.  This took much closer to an hour and a half!!!!! It was that hard! Though, I do admit to being overtaken by the beauty of it all and stopping for a few photos along the way too!

The Brunea Beast as we’ve dubbed it, will take place on August 18th with a 5k, 10k and a 20k option for those who really, really want to get their full money’s worth while racing on the sand dunes! It should be a crazy, fun time for all! Looking forward to it!

For details check out our web site at The Bruneau Beast.

Boise Trail Running Videos

“Why do you run trails?” “Is it worth it to run in the mountains versus running on the roads?” “What’s it like to run for hours?” “Is it fun to run with others?” These are some of the questions I frequently hear from others and my answers are usually along the lines of “I really just need to take you along and let you experience for yourself how the whole world looks different from a mountain top, how much pride you can feel in yourself when you’ve pushed so hard to climb steep sections at elevation to reach that lovely summit, how spotting a bunny or a herd of deer or a snake or a chipmunk or a hawk can remind you that this world is full of more life than you ever imagined and had forgotten about while sitting at home in front of your computer or on your couch, how awe and reverence can overwhelm you as you watch the sun rise or set (or both!) while you’ve been running, how coming around a bend and seeing a meadow of wildflowers can make your soul sing, how the smell of pine forests or sagebrush and rain and earth can make you breathe more deeply than you have in a long time, how splashing through a creek or a river can make you feel like a five year old again, how stopping to sit on a log and share a sandwich with a friend can make you feel like you’ve never been happier in your life before.”

Well, now I can also “show” those who ask by sharing these little YouTube videos! I am thrilled that a local runner has taken the time to make videos of a few trail runs on some of my favorite trails to run in the Boise Foothills and at Bogus Basin and I wanted to share them with you since it’s as close as I can come to taking all of you running with me in beautiful Boise, Idaho (and it doesn’t hurt that they used two of my favorite songs in the world as background music!) Just a word of warning, though… you will likely feel inspired to lace up your own shoes and head out to find some trails to run!  Happy running!!!!