Keeping it steady

Two of my running girlfriends and I were chosen as Pacers for the Lake Michigan Half Marathon this weekend. The race goes along Muskegon Lake and takes a jaunt along Lake Michigan.

Running this race as a pacer is perfect timing for me. While I would love to do another race, I’m not mentally ready to challenge myself for that level of exertion. Pacing is giving me some time to run easy and think about what went wrong at Bayshore and how to better prepare for the next race. I’m hoping that I can also line up at the start of this race without the emotional anxiety that I experienced at the marathon. There’s no pressure to push myself to a PR or a Boston Qualifier. I get to run with some very cool people  and help them achieve their goals.

 

Being a pacer comes with its own challenges. If everything is going well, I’m not too bad at keeping a consistent pace. As a pacer, I need to keep a consistent pace that is a specific pace. Our assigned group pace is about a minute and a half slower than my average, everyday pace. I shouldn’t have to worry about falling off pace or going too slow and disappointing the runners who are seeking personal bests. I’ll be able to encourage people, chat with other runners, and carry the pace sign.

What I’m struggling with is that slower pace and not getting carried away by the race atmosphere. Sometimes while talking (especially if it is about something irritating) I start pushing harder and suddenly I’m running a minute faster than my normal pace. Once I get into the groove of that pace, it’s difficult to slow down. I don’t want ruin another runner’s race by not sticking to the pace they need.

I’ve tried some treadmill runs at the desired pace so I can get a feel for the turnover rate. I plan to wear my GPS so I can check and correct our pace frequently. Certain conversation topics are off limits.

What tips do you have for being a pacer?
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If it were easy, everyone would do it.

Over Memorial Day weekend, I ran the Bayshore Marathon. It promises a flat and fast course along the picturesque Old Mission Peninsula in the Leelanau Bay.

My training had gone pretty well, but I was ready for the race to be over. The months of thinking about my A goals, B goals, and C goals were taking their toll. I needed mental relief.

During May I anxiously watched the weather. A month out, sunny and 80 degrees was predicted. Being a bit of a weather geek, I calmed myself that predictions a month out were never right. It could change a dozen times over the next few weeks. And it did. Temperatures at race time fluctuated between 50 and 70; sky cover moved from clouds to partly sunny to thunderstorms.

 

Then Race Day came. It was 70 degrees and sticky at 7 am. I’m not a hot weather runner, but figured I could stick it out as long as it remained cloudy as the weather app promised. And perhaps, the peninsula would be cooler because it was surrounded by the cool lake water.

But my stomach was churning in anticipation. I hoped that once I started running the nerves would dissipate and I could deal with the temperatures and humidity.

Once we were moving, the nerves eased and it was such a relief, I was almost in tears. I didn’t have to sort over what would happen anymore, I could just run.

 

But the heat and humidity were a factor. By mile 6, I was feeling empty and dizzy. I opted to walk on the theory that going easy now would give me more strength later. Probably a good decision.

My husband met me at mile 11 and walked with me for a bit. I was ready to quit, but he made it sound like I could finish. Time goals jumped in the bay as I focused on the turnaround. At 13.1 miles, it would be a new race. I could forget about the miserable first half and start over.

 

Well, I was completely soaked, so I shed my tank top (sorry onlookers!) and forced myself to keep going. Somehow spots on my sports bra were still dry. I ran and walked. It probably would have been easier to keep running. Each time I switched, my stomach cramped for a few seconds.

While the sun stayed hidden, the heat was affecting more people. More people took walking breaks. We played leapfrog as we switched. I chatted with a man who tore his IT band. He was still walking, claiming the hot and humid weather was his favorite racing weather, proving I wasn’t the craziest one out there.

The spectators were awesome. Many people came to their front yards to cheer. Some had make shift water (or beer) stations. Some played music (although that made me feel old since I didn’t recognize many of the pop songs.) And there was one guy in a too-small wool sweater, a crazy wig, ringing a cowbell. Thank you all for giving me something to smile about.

Throughout the race, I contemplated whether this was my last marathon. Five is a nice number. I’ve run two that were reasonably tough, two that induced tears, and one that was spectacular. Maybe this wasn’t my distance.

I gritted my teeth and pushed through the last mile. After I crossed the finish line, I gratefully kicked off my shoes, happy to not have to run for a few days.

Despite it being a brutal experience, I have some take-aways:
-I need to find better gluten-free ways to carb load.
-I need to do more strength/cross training workouts.
-I need to keep my head in the race. I lost that battle too early.
-Body glide rules! Despite sweating half my bodyweight, I didn’t have any chaffing and only one small blister.
-I got to run with my college roommate for a bit which was really cool.
-It probably isn’t my last marathon. I’m considering a fall one–late fall when there’s no chance of it being 70-plus degrees (although we are talking about Michigan where anything can happen).
What have you learned from a tough race?

Inspiring Running Friends – Jodi South

Please welcome fellow Michigan runner, Jodi South

1. Favorite shoes (please include a picture):

I don’t really have a favorite shoe. I have found New Balance and Nike work well for me. I don’t spend a fortune on running shoes but I do replace them about every 4 months. I still have the silver pair of Nikes I wore in my first Boston marathon in 2010.

2. Favorite race/distance/Bucket-list race:

My favorite race distance is a 25K. More than a 1/2 marathon but not as brutal as a full. My 3 Bostons are the highlight of racing for me. My favorite race was the T-Rex 10 Mile Trail race I ran the last 4th of July and plan to do again. The trail was rigorous and entailed going over, under, across, through rocks, trees, creeks, steep hills you name it. It was very fun and adventurous. Bucket List: Great Turtle 1/2 Marathon on Mackinaw Island, Yellow Stone 1/2 Marathon, Ragnar Relay to name a few.

3. Trails, streets, or treadmill:

I do the majority of my running on the street. A true street runner. But I also love trails and feel trail racing calling out to me….I see more trail races in my future. It’s extremely rare for me to utilize the treadmill for a run.

4. Why did you start running?

I’ve been running for over 20 years. Running is just natural for me. I’ve always been into health and fitness and nothing gives me the workout that running does. Some people have coffee…I run. I feel most alive and free when I run. Running helps me work through stress, keep things in perspective, it’s my time to think, pray or just enjoy music and nature. When I don’t run my day feels “off”. I was born to run.

5. What keeps you motivated?

Keeping motivated is never a problem, I wake up…I run. Different races motivate different types of training and long runs. People tell me my running inspires them so that too provides motivation, it’s a cycle…I motivate you, you motivate me. I consider all who support me to be part of my team as their support pushes me even beyond what I push myself. It’s important to me to help others be fit, I believe in them and I want to help them to believe in themselves. I like the feeling of being healthy and fit and keeping the level of fitness I’ve achieved also motivates me. I hope to help people find a healthy balance for themselves as I truly believe fitness brings and maintains quality to life. #Be fit. #Be healthy. Be happy.

Inspiring Runner Friends – Tom Francis

Please welcome Tom Francis as he shares some of his running motivations!

1. Favorite shoes:

Newton is my favorite racing shoe.

2. Favorite race/distance/Bucket-list race:

5/3 River Bank Run is a 25k in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Spectators form a gauntlet at the six mile turn and line the finishing blocks. It’s pretty cool. My favorite distance is a 10k. You can make up for a bad mile and the distance is not that popular any more. Moab Trail Marathon is currently at the top of my bucket list.

3. Trails, streets, or treadmill:

I prefer trails to roads but in northern Indiana trails are rather tame.

4. Why did you start running?

When I first started running it was all about finding out how fast that I could go relative to other people. After several decades of not running, it became about getting back outside and feeling the the changing seasons.

5. What keeps you motivated?

Motivation comes from my friends from college that run. Surprising I am also driven by FaceBook groups. Before I down my first cup of coffee I find out that I’m losing ground to people I’ve never met. So I find myself adding mileage to catch up. Understanding that I’m lucky to still be running with friends keeps me on the roads.

Hurt the Dirt Half Marathon

I did both this weekend. Separately and together which is what happens when you race on a trail tired.

I’m at the peak mileage weeks for my marathon training, so I was going into this race tired. I rearranged workouts so that I had a day off before the race, but after putting many 50-65 mile weeks my body wasn’t as ready as I hoped to tackle the treachery of a trail race.

When I’m tired on a trail run, I fall… spectacularly. Or at least it feels that way in my head. This one was a pretty hard thud on my left shoulder that didn’t bruise nearly as much as I thought it would. I’m probably lucky I didn’t fall more.

 

Hurt the Dirt is at the Luton Park in Rockford Michigan. They offered a full marathon, which was four loops around the course, for the irreconcilably crazy; a half marathon, for those of us who haven’t fully embraced our crazy, and a quarter marathon, whose participants were looking smarter by the mile.

It’s trail race which  I haven’t done since college and even those were wider pathways which allowed room to pass without sliding down the side of the hill or clipping a tree. The ground was soft and the course was shaded and cool; all pluses in my book. Except for a brief mile or so, the trail consisted of ups, downs, and hairpin turns. None of the ups were especially steep or long, but they were frequent. The hair pin turns meant that you could often see other participants in the race if you dared to lift your eyes from the trail in front of you.

Tracey, from my running group, and I ran together for most of the race, which was great. She was brave enough to look around and could see a few of the other runners from our group and cheer them on. That was one of the best things about the race, being there with my running group. We could help each other prepare, we could cheer each other on, and we could commiserate about the scratches and bruises (I wasn’t the only one who got a closer inspection of the dirt.).

After a tough run, I had one more surprise… first in my age group. I guess all the other runners my age had better things to do Saturday morning.

Friendly Motivation

In the last year, I’ve been able to connect with runners through social media. It’s a great way to keep motivated and encouraged. I met Ray through a FaceBook group and he is wonderful with an encouraging word when you are going through a tough workout.

I asked Ray to share a little about his running experience.

1. Favorite shoes : I have two types of favorite shoes. For my long run training runs I use the New Balance 1080 Fresh Foam’s. They seem to have the most cushions without compromising rebound and feel. During races (of any distance) I use the Asics Gel Nimbus 17’s. They are lighter and more responsive than all the other shoes that I’ve used. During my other training runs I rotate between three other pair (Asics Kayano 22, Saucony ISO 2, and Asics Gel Cumulus 16 for the treadmill)

2. Favorite race/distance/Bucket-list race: Favorite Distance: I have two. The Half Marathon because I can go pretty much run at 90% effort the entire way and currently that’s the distance I seem to have the most success at it. My other is the full marathon because of the challenge it possesses. There is something about hitting that “wall” thinking your don’t have anything left, ready to just quit and then being able to break through it, continuing on to the end…depleted, exhausted, and victorious. My bucket-list/thorn in my side race is Boston. I’m going to keep trying to qualify (currently unsuccessful twice) until I get to run it or it kills me.

3. Trails, streets, or treadmill: Right now I prefer street running, mostly because that’s what I’ve been racing and that is the type of race that Boston (see bucket list) is. I have run on all surfaces and I do love the serenity of trail running, but it comes with an increased risk of injury that has me currently avoiding primitive trails. (You do not even want to get me going on the treadmill aka: Satan’s Sidewalk)

4. Why did you start running? I originally started running to lose weight. I had joined a gym but got bored pretty quickly. I had never been the weightlifting type (nor was I a runner type, I quit track in high school) and wanted to try something different. Truth be told, I hated running at first….I mean REALLY hated it. I convinced myself, because all everyone was talking about was 5K this and Couch to 5K, so I was going to get to the 3.1 miles and be done with running, but when I hit that plateau something happened when I got there…something just clicked and I haven’t stopped since. It has become a part of me like nothing else has. It’s hard to explain to some people and impossible to explain to non runner but it has ignited a fire in me like nothing else ever has. In addition to the marathons, I’m currently training for a 50 and 100 mile race.

5. What keeps you motivated? What keeps me motivated is the pure passion to run. Running is no longer a want to, or a feel like doing, nor even a weight loss activity…it’s a have to, a must, a need to. Running truly give me the experience of growing physically, mentally, and spiritually. It provides me with a internal “buzz” that no substance or activity has ever come close to.

Ray is also testing for his running coach certification in two weeks. He gets to run in the NYC Marathon in November 2016…How cool is that? You can email him questions at Ray.Jerauld @ gmail.com.

What the perfect race means for goal setting?

When you set goals for a race, you’re told to have A, B, and C goals. A goals are the ones you are training for like a PR, placing in your age group–the ones you can make when you’re feeling pretty good and the weather is great. B goals are times in your ballpark. C goals are surviving with both your legs still attached.

The first year I ran the Sleeping Bear Marathon, my goals quickly spiraled to level C — both legs attached and a passport stamp for every portable potty on the course.

Well, I didn’t get the portable potty stamps. In fact, I had probably the most perfect race I’ve ever had, making those A goals look like C goals.

Training for the race, some of my marathon goals were running the whole race, breaking four hours, and not getting sick on my chosen fuel. Some day I wanted to try to qualify for Boston, but I didn’t think I was ready to attempt that yet.

The weather was perfect that day. I ran the every step. I leap-frogged with a guy who did check out every pit stop.  I passed the woman in first place at mile 19. I broke my previous time by twenty-nine minutes and change, qualifying me for Boston by over five minutes.

Most surprising, I never hit ‘the wall’, I just kept treading along, one step after another, even on the hills.

Whew!

Not only was I too tired to chew my hot turkey sandwich afterwards, I didn’t have any goals left. (I mean qualifying for the Olympic Marathon Trials just isn’t realistic.)

 

Over the next weeks, I wavered between euphoria and confusion. What do I do next? Do I run another marathon? What is there left to prove to myself? It can’t get better than that. Will every other race hurt that much more because I’m comparing it to this one?

So when goals are completed, what do you do next? Quit while you’re ahead or up the ante?

I’m upping the ante, shooting for more marathons and faster times, hoping that at least one more race will feel as good as that one. Never stop challenging yourself.