Category Archives: Races

Brazen Racing’s Hellyer Half-Marathon

We have a goal to race at least once per month this year, and most of those adventures will be on the trails of California’s Central Coast! Brazen Racing showed us a great time (and thorough a**-kicking) with our first trail half-marathon last September, so we’ve been looking for the right opportunity to cross under their inflated Start/Finish arch again.

Hellyer Half Starting Line

BR’s head honcho, Sam, offered me a free entry to the Hellyer Half-Marathon, so I convinced my main squeeze to join in the fun. There’s no better way to distract yourself one week before standing at the altar! We happily joined in for some sunny  and supported paved-trail miles.

Brazen is known for trail races around the San Jose area, but this course wouldn’t typically be filed under that category. That’s 100% fine by these legs – it was the perfect chance to see how well my fitness has bounced back from the knee chaos that was. It was his chance to snatch up that 1:29:xx PR that he’s been chasing (successful!).

Hellyer Half-Marathon:
Flat, out-and-back (no surprises!) and well-supported!

Hellyer Half Trail

His goal was to practice starting SLOW (relative term here) and building up to a successful negative split. My goal was to simply make it through 13.1 miles with “ease” and finally feel like the injury is behind me.

The first few miles were a little rusty – remembering how it feels to race for endurance, warming up, getting my stride to a comfortably-hard effort. I settled into an 8:30 pace and turned on auto-pilot. The first half was spent in this zone, with two very happy feet and one happy ego. I practiced my race-fueling strategy (taking a tip from Dean Karnazes and trying out dark-chocolate-covered espresso beans), ran without tunes (ah, the zen…) and snapped a few pics along the way.

Mile 7: We turned around  and headed straight back. Around mile 8 I decided to turn it up a notch and see what happened. That felt fine, so I picked people to chase and started passing them. I also spent a lot of time doing head-math, which most runners know is just a way to a) distract your mind and b) feel like you’re pretty dumb. It’s effective all around. For mile 10 I decided to drop into sub-8s, and from mile 11 –> the finish I found my 7:30 stride again (oh, it’s been a while….).

Mike was hangin’ out around mile 12.5 with his paparazzi hat on – and hopped in to run through the actual home-stretch with me.

Hellyer Half Marathon_mile 12

I came in just under my 1:50 goal (1:49:46 – 4th AG) and for today, that wasn’t all easy breezy. But damn it felt so good to get out there again, without “what ifs” but with a healthy system that’s happily building up the machine (as Coach K would say). 

Hellyer Half Marathon Finish_DOTR

OOTD: TAD visor & TAD Squadra running singlet.
Fuel: 12 oz water + OSMO active, espresso beans (4), 3 shot bloks
Shoes: Mizuno Wave Rider 17

There’s a lot more to come this year, and this was the perfect way to open my eyes to what I’m ready to chase. (For now, we’re just glad we made it out unscathed and in top shape to walk down the aisle this week…)

Thanks for another great race, Brazen! We’ll see you again soon.

3 Comments

Filed under Races, running, running gear

10 ‘Tips’ for Trail Running & Racing [Newbies]

For my first ‘race’ of the year, he found a group of distances happening on a trail conveniently close to our Monterey Bay digs (led by Inside Trail Racing). Contrary to most of the trail runs we’ve done in the past seven months, this wouldn’t require a 6am departure, or even more than 25 minutes in the car. We’d even get a view of the wilderness not-so-hidden in the backyard of our quaint city. Win!

10 tips for trail running_DOTR

He went for the 25K, while I kept it safer with the 10k option. And after a 3+ month hiatus from the trails, I had to remind myself that this trail-running game reads from a very different playbook! So far, this is how I get by, with a little help from the aid stations & color-coded flags:

1) LOOK AT THE ELEVATION CHART

If you’re a poor race planner, like myself, this one really needs to be in all caps. It’s almost a given that you’ll have to walk up/down at some point, but strategize and be ready for those moments. Know what’s coming and when– it will matter.  For example, this particular 10k course looked like this:

image

Thankfully he plans ahead, and handed this to me for review on Saturday morning as I munched on my pre-race banana. Well…that’ll be interesting. It’s the total opposite of how 99% of trail races’ elevation rides, but it allowed me to just barrel down those first 3 miles, because I knew there’d be some walking in the last 3 miles, either way.

On that note…

2) Be humble with your distance of choice

My first soiree into this world was a 10-miler (the first sentence of that post is basically this lesson learned). The course wasn’t too challenging, so we lucked out. But those 10 miles felt like 13. And the half we did last Fall? That felt like 20. If you’re just starting out, note that your road-racing PRs mean nothing on the dirt!

3) Bring Hydration. ALWAYS

Would I normally carry water for a 10K race? Nope. But you never know how long those trail miles will take – they seem about twice as long as a road mile, and the aid stations usually seem way too far apart. You will need hydration, either way, so make sure you bring your own.

2015-01-31 07.53.49-1

My drink of choice: OSMO, for always.

4) Assume you’ll Overheat

I have started many a trail-race in long sleeves, only to curse the decision with gusto as I climb my way up the first major incline. Yes, you can usually count on some tree cover to cool you off here n’ there. But you can also count on some bare, uber-sun-exposed, sections. And your cardio system working overtime to help you climb. Also see: hydration!

trailhoghalf_H_13mi

No shade. No water left. Not close enough to finish line. So hot right now.

5) Protect your precious skin

Sunscreen and a hat = must-haves! Take it from the girl who just doesn’t think January weather warrants sunscreen (unless you’re on the slopes – in which case, of course you have sunscreen! Why does this logic not translate??), and didn’t have a lick of SPF on Saturday. But I did have a visor! 1 for 2.

6) Invest in trail shoes

I run in the Mizuno Hayates, but prior to that would just destroy my road-running shoes (and feet) on my inconsistent adventures. Trail shoes aren’t all stiff and unrelenting; the Hayates move and shake similar to my Wave Riders, but they’re ready for more challenges. See: rocks, (slippery) dirt, creeks and climbs.

2014-07-17 08.24.42 2014-07-17 08.25.10-1

7) Embrace the downs

In road races, you run a fine line between barreling down hill to gather some speed and gain some cushion on a goal time, and/or destroying your quads. But out in the woods, muscles pretty much get destroyed anyway. You have dramatic ups and downs, you will probably walk (unless you operate in full-on beast mode), and when you do get a downhill? You will want to fly.  

This does go back to point #1 – know what’s coming and when! I’ve even had a few down-hills so steep that I walked, because otherwise gravity would have wreaked havoc.

On the downhill: shorten your stride to avoid killing your knees; stay light on your feet (as much as you can…); don’t fight it; know your (speed) limits. (Of note: this tip comes from someone who hasn’t run more than 13.5 miles on a trails – any full / ultra runners out there? Chime in!)

8) Walk…but not for long

As I’ve now mentioned multiple times, the likelihood of walk ‘break’ is 10x higher on the trails vs. the road. A few reasons for this: the inclines are so steep that you’ll waste too much energy trying to run them all, you heart may explode if you do, and sometimes you just flat out cannot run certain sections (for various reasons of nature’s choice).

BUT! Don’t walk for too long. It’s just as dangerous out here as it is on a road – you give yourself too long a break, and it becomes exponentially more difficult to get going again.

2015-01-31 09.13.52

Photos never do justice to the up, up, UP.

My rule: if I’m walking uphill, I have to start running the very inch in which the incline starts to flatten out or give.

9) Leave the tunes (mostly) behind

Again, I can’t speak to the experience of running anything over 13 miles here – maybe after 3+ hours you’re just flat-out done with absorbing nature’s magic – but I am strongly in the no-trail-tunes camp. For safety, and for bliss. There is so much to take in, no matter what trail you’re running.

10) Wipe your PR (expectation) slate clean

Have no expectations. Just as with road races, every trail is oh-so-different and the challenges you’ll face will never be the same twice (even on the same trail). You never fully know what you’re in for, and there’s a lot of fun to be had with that.

2015-01-31 10.24.37

BONUS!  ENJOY ALL THE FOODS.

Seriously. The post-race spread is unbeatable. They really know how to feed a runner’s appetite.

2015-01-31 09.36.48 2015-01-31 09.36.59 2015-01-31 09.37.18 2014-09-06 10.57.58

—–

For Californian’s in the Bay area looking to branch out to enjoy one of these many adventures, check out:

Inside Trail Racing

Brazen Racing

West Coast Trail Runs

——

Calling all trail experts and enthusiasts: anything you’d add to the list?

1 Comment

Filed under Races, running, running gear, trail running

{His} CIM Race Report: When a 45+ min PR Isn’t Quite Enough

Moving across the country together didn’t seem to up the ante enough, so we added household coaching to the mix. He signed up for CIM in July and handed the reigns to me: “Let’s see what you’ve got, Coach”. His previous marathon PR didn’t come close to justifying his running capabilities, so I set out to change that. MAF-style.

Here’s how round 1 turned out, from his perspective…

——-

Most of the time a PR is cause for celebration, confirmation that the effort, training, long runs, watching what you eat, and staying in every weekend was all worth it. But sometimes that excitement and satisfaction is accompanied by a nagging “what if.” What if I had taken it out slower? What if I had just pushed through the pain? What if I hadn’t let the pain win? What if I had trained just a little bit better?

This was how I felt after the California International Marathon in Sacramento.

 2014-12-06 12.34.57 2014-12-06 12.32.39

I was ready for this race. I had trained for 6 months. I had PR’d my half marathon 6 weeks earlier on a challenging course. I had mostly listened to my coach (aka Heather, aka “dietitianontherun”). I had stopped just going all out every run, and learned to train strategically. I thought I was ready for that Boston Qualifying time.

I needed to break three hours and five minutes, or run 26.2 miles averaging 7:03 per mile. I ran 3:10:26. At the end of the 26.2, I was relieved, happy even. It was over. I had crushed my previous PR and actually felt okay doing it.

But days later, the more I thought about it, the more disappointment crept in. Should I have listened to my coach (and her coach) and taken the first 10K a little slower? Would it have made a difference?

Mile 1: I went out and patiently ran with the 3:10 pace group—ironically the pacer who would rush past me in the last half mile of the race. I let everyone else take the first mile fast (it was all downhill), while I cruised, found a rhythm, and didn’t trip. I kept my pace, even when the competitor in me said “don’t let that guy pass you!” I stayed patient for the first 10K. After that I slowly upped the pace, reaching cruise control at just under 7:00 minutes per mile. For the next 10 miles, I thought I could hold that pace forever.

2014-12-07 08.25.48

My breathing was controlled, even as I passed people already laboring. My heart was cool, calm, and collected. Peaks on the rolling uphills, calm on the downhills. It was echoing what my coach would say, “easy peazy man – you’ve got this.” I got a boost seeing THE dietitianontherun.com (and Katie) at mile 12 where I swapped water bottles (with Osmo).

2014-12-07 08.54.40

Mile 13.1: At the halfway point, the 3:05 pace group was within sight.

Then the race before the race started. Miles 15-20: not quite close enough to think about the end, but you’ve been running for 15 miles and you’d like it to be over soon. Those around you are starting to labor. You start to wonder if, in fact, the miles are actually 1.2 miles long. You don’t see many smiles among your fellow runners at mile 18; you’re a little tired of all the people encouraging you on the side of the road, they look comfortable and happy. The number of racers on the side of the road stretching out tight muscles – or walking – is rapidly increasing.

Fortunately, the miracle of Osmo, dates (yes, real fruit!), Clif Shot Blocks, and good ol’ fashioned H20, kept my body from completely revolting for this period, and the entirety of the race.

When I had the pleasant surprise of seeing Heather again at mile 20, I gave her a nod and a “We’ll see,” recognizing that 10K was a long way, and my body was starting to ask “can we just lie down?” Since this was marathon #5 for me, I knew – and every 7th sign along the race course said it –  it’s a 20 mile warm-up followed by a 10K race. But, man, you are never ready for that race.

2014-12-07 09.24.27-2

Miles 20-26: My pace began to slow, first 7:10, then 7:20, then 7:27. The mohawked, neon yellow-clad dude I had passed at mile 15 caught back up. He was shooting for sub-3:00 but had long ago recognized that, today, it was not meant to be; he decided to run with me as we acknowledged “this f***ing blows.” Soon, I was completely off the saddle: 8:00, 9:16, and 8:47. See you at the finish, neon-clad dude (he finished in 3:08). We’ll talk later, Boston.

The 3:10 pacer blew by me, with none of the posse that had been with him over the first few miles. (Where did they go?) Even he didn’t look like he was having fun.

Finally, after another .2 miles, it was over.

2014-12-07 10.11.31-1

image image

My joints survived. My muscles didn’t feel terrible. I was just happy to lie down. It was over, and I had done well.

2014-12-07 10.27.23   2014-12-07 10.31.32

How could I not be ecstatic? I blew away my previous PR of around 3:58 by about 48 minutes. Maybe it was the acknowledgement that there is still so much to learn about running strategically. Or maybe lingering questions if I was, in fact, fit enough. Or, if only nerves hadn’t had my heart knocking 95 beats per minute for the two hours preceding the race, I could have come in 5 minutes and 28 seconds faster.

In the end, my disappointment was not in the result, but in the recognition that – Oh crap, now I have to do this all again if I want to run Boston. Yes, I would have to run another marathon just to qualify to run…another marathon.

—–

After a few days/weeks off of running, and getting to go to CrossFit as much as I want (Coach, you can’t stop me!), I’ll be running the same old route back and forth. It’ll be back to the heart rate monitor, hour-long runs at 150 beats per minute, and nothing but my water bottle plus PTI and BS Report podcasts to keep me company.

I guess I’ll see you in Eugene, with sights set on breaking three hours.

7 Comments

Filed under marathon, Races, running

Charlottesville Marathon Recap: Up, On & Over

“It’s not your grace in victory that defines you, but your response to defeat.”

MC {So wise, this guy.}

—–

I crossed my fifth Marathon finish line, felt more defeated by those 26.2 miles than any other race to date, and processed the ins and outs for 48 hours. Now that I’m over the little tantrum that is accepting a race-gone-crazy, I realize those miles taught me quite a lot.

learn from failure dream a little bigger

cvillemarathon_eve.finishline

This marathon neither hides nor spares nothing. The hills of Charlottesville will sprinkle salt on your ego and chew it right up! In no review of this race will you hear anyone saying “it’s so easy!”, but rather “be ready” for what’s ahead. “It’s a beast.” Know that yes, you can have a great day on any course, including this, but it won’t be handing out any favors.

It WILL hand you a unique and picturesque college town conducive to great eats, beautiful scenery and runners with a lot of heart.

—–

I went into this race with a few goals in mind, but training the way I did left a lot of room for questions.  The Coach and I decided that, if nothing else, I needed to start easy (because that’s what you do when there are at least three hours of running ahead of you!), and see how all systems responded to the course.  Because I’m no newbie to this whole shebang – I know what it’s like to blow-up, and I can expect that and accept it and hope-with-all-hope my legs put up with it – it was also okay to have a lofty time in mind.

After what has felt like the longest winter EVER, we had a 50* and sunny morning for race day. The high was 65 – essentially this was perfect. For a system used to a few more layers and a lot less warmth? This was, uh, new. But that’s what you get with Spring marathons and that’s what we took. No gloves, no ear-warmers, no sleeves – exactly what’s expected when you think of “wonderful Spring” mornings.

cvillemarathon_before   cvillemarathon_startLine

Elevation Chart_Chartlottesville Marathon

“Easy” for today meant sticking right around the 8:45 min/mile pace for at least the first 10K. The course is split by the following sections, though: 1-5 with the half-marathoners, 6-12 loop, 13-18 out-n-back, 19-20 too close to the Finish Line area downtown, 21-23 out along the river, 24-25 UP up up, 26-26.2 finish with whatever juice you can squeeze out of those legs.

I’m at the base of the mountain running uphill
You’re either running for the top,
coming down,
or you stand still.

Miles 1-4: told me very quickly that if an 8:45 felt like this, it would be tough to drop down to 8:15s, but maybe not impossible once I warmed up. Miles 2-4 felt like a pretty steady climb, and my calves started to fight me. We’ll call that Sign #1 that this day would not be totally mine.

Mile 4 was the first family sighting, as we approached the Full-Half split (mile 5) and headed towards our own separate challenges.

cvillemarathon_mile4.2  Marathoners took a turn towards the UVA campus and started up another climb.

Miles 5 – 12 took us around the University, into a neighborhood and back. It was rolling and I fell into a stride and everything seemed A-OK. The photographic-memory knew things would be tough from here on out but I was still in a place of peace with that. Will this be a PR? Absolutely not. But it’s a marathon day, so you fight the battles in front of you.

Mile 13 couldn’t come soon enough – I needed that “halfway point”. When it did show up, I quickly saw “Mile 18” on the other side. And shortly after that? We started down Down DOWN a paved trail that twists and turns and drops you off into another neighborhood. I witnessed Elites coming up the other side, struggling. And a few stopped for water. And I thought, “Holy Whoa, this won’t be easy.”

Way up, way on
Way UP, ON and OVER

Miles 14 – 18 almost broke me. Look at that chart and you’ll know why; it was hard to swallow that we’d have to run it all TWICE (out-and-back). There were switchbacks and long miles and the sinking feeling that you still have 12, 11, 10, 9…miles to go. And that you’re counting.

Then, after that loop has snot-rocketed your ego to the dirt, you still have EIGHT miles to run. And those eight miles ain’t easy either, yo!

Are you sensing a trend?

cvillemarathon_mile20

In more moments than I cared to count, I considered stopping right here at mile 20. I knew I’d see the crew, that he would be ready to hop in with me (after running a freaking killer 1:34 half + hangin’ out for an hour), that Meg would be cheering and that we were only blocks from the  “Finish” area.

Ambivalence defined these moments. I couldn’t even project to an hour after the race, or that evening, or tomorrow and assume that I’d be disappointed. I felt I wouldn’t be. I’m almost always able to convince my mind that it’s worth fighting the moment’s fantasy of fatigue to get the satisfaction later. Not today. There was no fight, no goals, no oomph. It was just the matter-of-fact that I hadn’t trained for this course and it wasn’t “my” day. That happens. It’s fine.

And after all and all and all
It’s just a wheel we’re spinnin’ on.

What’s not fine is totally dropping the ball, anyway.  C’MON SYSTEM, we’ve gotta see this through.

He hopped in here (mile 2o) to join the party that is the last 10k…

This last loop was also the end of the half-marathon, so I got his insight – what to expect and where to expect it. We stopped briefly at the mile 22(ish) water stop, and I did a little mental check. I also got his stories for a much-needed distraction, and his pacing efforts for a much-needed boost.  One thing I knew to be true no matter what the race-day conditions: my legs have been trained for these miles. They’ve been tested over and over and taught to run through fatigue and resist with all they’ve got! Every recovery run after a Long Run, followed by the “one hour easy” Monday run brought me to these last 4 miles. I may not be flying up or down the hills, but I can absolutely run.

Miles 22 – 24 were the flattest of the entire day. We ran right along a river – with shade and cool air from the water, but without crowds – and I passed people as I let the muscles do what they could. We maintained somewhere around an 8:50 – 9:00 pace and that was that.

Miles 24-25 were demoralizing. This is THE HILL. Any glance at this race’s course chart provokes one of those “What the…” reactions – are they really throwing this in at the end?! Rude, man. So. Rude.

Me to him: “And the worst part? You can’t even justify this by telling yourself it’s the last hill. ‘Cause it’s not!”

I walked up this beast (probably just slightly slower than I would have run), until I was passed by the 4-hour pacer. Nope! That wasn’t going to happen. I picked up my feet and convinced them to push off and we ran. And we rolled over the remaining hills and listened to the crowd saying “Almost there!” and “one more hill!” and “just around the corner!” and we kept going until finally there were NO more and that Finish Line was crossed.

cvillemarathon_mile26 So close so close so close SO CLOOOOOOSE.

——-

And just-like-that, it’s over. Relief pours into every muscle fiber to tell them they’re done, it’s time to relax and put on some flip-flops, and they’re still alive.

Charlottesville Marathon – 4/5/2014

3:58:31

Funny story: after grabbing some food, water and other life elixirs, I heard them start to announce AG winners. My name was called for F25-29 2nd place, and I started laughing –  there’s no way – and thinking, that’s your clear sign that this course is no joke!

cvillemarathon_done.us cvilledone_certificates

Left: what?! …I ran a…how is this…HUH?!
Right: Man, what a weird day.

As it turned out later, those announcers were pretty far off! I was actually 7th in the AG. Our AG winner ran a 3:40:xx.

—–

cvillemarathon_Crew   cvillemarathon_watch

Would I do this course again? Definitely not the Full, but maybe the half just for a good hard challenge and an excuse to hang out in Charlottesville again!

I’m glad the box is checked. As I’ve been reminded in the days that followed, it’s not how you respond to success(es) that define you, it’s how you handle, and perhaps admit, the days of defeat. Learn the lessons, take them with you on every subsequent training run, and then the race(s).

Fuel the fire that will light up your legs for
whatever limit you plan to push past next.

Up, On & Over – Bronze Radio Return

11 Comments

Filed under challenges, marathon, Races, running

EX2 Round 3: Fountainhead Adventures

I hereby declare 2013 the year of my affair with EX2 Trail-racing Adventures. Our first run with them was in March, as part of their “Spring Backyard Burn” series, and well – hook, line and sinker – it was love.

Trails are just an entirely different race-beast, energy and feel. There’s nothing to complain about here! You feel the burn on every up and downhill, but just can’t be mad because just take a LOOK around. Like, whoa…

EX2 FBYB_trail

We had the perfect November day for this race. Virginia treated us to sunshine, a high of 50* (why do I continue to think long-sleeves are necessary at these races?!) and the near-peak of fall foliage reds and yellows. The only tricky part was shuffling through the leaves and avoiding a face-plant from hooking a hidden branch, stick or tree root.

We made it through alive, though.

Kate & I opted for the 10-mile race, looping through the 5-mile course twice. The first round was a little tricky since 1) we started about 3 minutes late (um, whoops) and 2) we spent the first 3-4 miles continuously saying “On your left! Two of us…”. We found our groove right as we hit the 4-mile mark and right as I decided it was absolutely insane to be wearing long-sleeves. Rather than waiting for the clearing that I knew had to be coming soon (see above: repeat loop), I decided then-and-there to re-pin my bib onto my tank-top, move my watch and do a wardrobe-change. And as you can probably guess, then-and-there I took my first spill.

Like with cycling, I think trail-running has to come with at least one good fall, right? It’s inevitable. It will happen at some point. Embrace it and hope you get up with all of your teeth intact.

Now that box is checked; no skin or bones were sacrificed.
Thank you, leaves!

The second loop was all clear! I would guess that about 60-70% of people run the shorter option in these races, so when you start the next round you have all the space you need to just GO. The energy? Well that’s a lagging a little bit, but somehow the miles fly by anyway.

Fountainhead provides a great mix of technical trail things like streams, bridges, twists, turns and lakeside views. It has no mercy on your quads, but there’s adrenaline in the challenge.

Suddenly we were greeted with the “0.5 miles to go” sign, which in this particular course means you’re about to CLIMB up, up and up before you reach a clearing and hear the crowd.

EX2 FBYB _ finish Finishing right next to each other, our watch-time (no timing chips here)  was 1:38:35. Far from our fastest 10-mile “run”, but high on my list of favorites anyway.

EX2 FBYB_Group 1

Thank you, EX2, for reliably providing a great course, atmosphere, group of runners and post-run FOOD spread. Check. this. out:

EX2 FBYB_food1  EX2 FBYB_food2
(Not captured: enormous Nutella jar, pizza and breakfast burritos.)

——

It’s safe to say we’ll be back, and we’re counting down ‘til the next adventure!

3 Comments

Filed under DC, Races, running, trail running