All [I] Need is Just a Little Patience

goals, races, running, training, triathlon

I mentioned last week that I was seriously considering running the Freak 50k at Run Woodstock instead of the Hippie Half. I ran sixteen miles and planned out two more long runs and figured it would not be pretty, but I could get it done. I still stand by that. I know I could get it done. But I do not want to just get it done. I want to get it done well.

I had a plan. I wanted to do a mini-triathlon in Coldwater, Michigan as a replacement for the sprint triathlon I had planned for late September. I thought very seriously about training for something more, a marathon or a 50k. But then decided against it. Running has been going so well. I did not want to jump the gun. I wanted to have patience.

Patience involved going shorter instead of going longer. Rather than find some later fall marathon or 50k, I found Michigan’s Holiday series trio of races (schedule permitting — but you know I want that magic mug!) – a Halloween 10k, a Turkey Trot 5k, and a Christmas 5k. Rather than focus on endurance, which I know I have, I wanted to focus on speed. It would be a literal change of pace.

Then the possibility of this 50k came up. It isn’t like visions of grandeur popped in my mind, but as I said, I have been wanting to be an ultramarathoner since I graduated college. This is a life goal, like finishing my Ph.D. or writing a book. The temptation to put a “checkmark” next to it is strong.

But honestly, as I told Bruno, it would not be the same. I do not just want to run an ultra. I want the process of training specifically for an ultra too. I want to think about the training and hard work I put in while running. I do not want to break the ultimate running commandment: respect the distance. I don’t want to blow up at mile twenty and have to walk the last eleven miles. I do not want to injure myself. I want to do this right.

So, I picked out a 10k plan. I have a time goal (more on that later). I’ll do my first triathlon in a little less then two weeks. Then, I’ll run the Woodstock half and have a good time listening to classic rock. I will celebrate that I have been able to run this year. I will have gratitude instead of trying to push it.

I will eventually run an ultramarathon. Maybe the next year. Maybe the year after. They are not going anywhere. I’ll take it slow. It will work itself out fine. All I need is just a little patience.

xo, Ali

 

Race Report : The Legend Trail Half-Marathon in Laingsburg, Michigan (August 4, 2018)

races, running

This race report begins with a first. As a couple, we decided to make our first camping trip together at Sleepy Hollow State Park, the location of the trail race. We received a tent and other camping equipment for Christmas, so had been planning all year to use it, but had yet to find the perfect time. This race seemed to be it. So on Friday (procrastinating as usual) we grocery shopped, packed our things, and with a few trips back to the house to grab things we forgot, we eventually made our way to Laingsburg and Sleepy Hollow.

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Bruno shows off our domain.

We eventually managed to set up our tent (we didn’t practice at home). Then we walked over to registration and received our shirts and bibs for the race. I will say this. It was super convenient, maybe only a nice eight minute walk from our campsite. We finished setting up, Bruno bought some wood, and I started making dinner: Turkey and swiss sandwiches cooked over the fire and mashed sweet potatoes. Nothing fancy. I was more concerned about making sure I got plenty of carbs, thus the sweet potatoes.

Our human neighbors were initially noisy, but nothing obnoxious though. By ten pm everything was mostly quiet. It was perfect. The bugs were a different story. Loud. Obnoxious. I wished for them to be eaten by some wild predator. I put earplugs in and eventually fell asleep.

We woke up at 6:30ish. This was one of the best parts of staying in the campsite. After a few 4am wake ups with long drives to races, it was nice to just be there. Bruno made coffee and oatmeal for breakfast. We walked over the starting line around 7:40 and met up with some friends. It was all pretty relaxed, no rushing around, and no problems. I was grateful. I am grateful.

And now, the race. They announced the waves and I could actually hear the paces. This was nice, because the last few I could not hear the paces and I think in Trail-half started further back than I should have and ended up stuck in back-ups a lot the time. This did not happen to me once during the entire Legend race.

I had a plan. I was going to start around 10:30/mile pace and speed up. I did not expect to be able to run under 10 minute pace, because I ran 11:11 at Trail-half and I think over 10 minute pace for the Dirty Duo. I tried to think conservatively. It didn’t work.

My first mile was ten minutes. I tried to get myself to slow down, but couldn’t. I felt good. But I also know that you can’t judge a mile by the first run. So I decided to see if I could keep the pace for the next 3-4 miles and evaluate pace from there. I maintained the pace. It felt perfect. Hard enough to question whether I could hold it, but easy enough that I felt good. I didn’t feel like I was working too hard or was going to burn out. The fourth mile was the hilliest and I easily maintained the pace. I was excited. I began to speed up only a little bit, ten seconds per mile faster. I passed Bruno. Then I passed our friend Mike.

The next several miles flew by. I did not listen to any music, but focused on pace. Aside for my last mile, my fastest mile was mile seven at 9:42 minutes. I tripped several times and fell hard only once. I was ok, but with my ego a little bruised, I hopped back up. Another runner asked if I was ok and I responded, “I’m just so happy to be out here.” I continued to run just fine. Nothing was sore. Everything was going perfect. Until mile nine.

My legs began to get a little tired. I told myself to just ignore it. Around this point I think we started leaving the woods and head out into some grassy areas. It was hot and I struggled during these points only to be able to pick it back up once we ran back into the woods. Mile 9 was a little over ten minutes, mile 10 a little slower, mile 11 even slower, and by mile 12 I admit I was beginning to phone it in.

Here were my excuses: I already am beating my goal time. I already am running faster than I had planned on running, even at this slower pace. I probably already earned myself at least a third place age group award (I researched the paces for age groupers last year and yeah, an age group award was one of my goals). I already (probably) hit all of my “A” goals, so what did it matter anymore?

At this point, with about a mile left my friend Mike caught up with me. I credit him for my strong finish. I cannot remember what he said, but it something along the lines of let’s finish this thing. My pace jumped up. Faster and faster. We ran together for about a half mile, maybe a little more. Then he sped off. I kept the pace, but tried to increase a little bit more, a little bit more. I could not see the finish line so I was afraid of sprinting off and not being able to finish strong.

When I saw it, I bolted. I sprinted in. My last mile was around 9 minute pace. It was my fastest mile and it hurt the worst. As I said, left to my own devices I probably would have ran it at around 10:20 until Mike caught up with me. Shame is powerful, people. Very powerful.

My time was 2:09:10, averaging 9:57 pace. I was shocked. I was expecting and planned for 2:15. That was my race goal and it was almost six minutes faster than what I thought I was capable of doing. My time was only one minute slower than my road half-marathon PR. It was twenty minutes faster than my time at Trail-half marathon, but that could be because that trail was harder (at least in my opinion). I could have cried. I picked up my medal and my huge beer glass for finishing the Serious Series.

Bruno finished a couple minutes after me. I did not have time to regroup after finishing to cheer him in. All of us in our group agreed the race went fine until miles eight and nine. Around then, most of us started struggling. We stood around as they started announcing overall and age group awards. When they began announcing 25-29 women, I was first. I was surprised, but pumped. I love the little age group mason jars.

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Tired and sweaty, but very happy.

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We did it!

Finishing this Series was one of my main 2018 goals. I remember signing up for it and being scared that it would not happen. I was scared that I would get injured. I was scared something would come up and I would not have the nerve for it. I get it. I follow a lot of runners who mainly do ultramarathons or marathons. I’m not fast. I want to do long, but I’m not sure if I am ready for it yet. At the beginning of this year, I was not sure if I really was a “runner” anymore. I had not raced in years. Now I’ve done three races. I’ve not only finished them, but I have finished them well. I have one more trail half on the calendar. I’m still hoping to do a triathlon. I feel like a runner again. I feel like an athlete. I feel strong. These races went better than I could have ever expected when I signed up for them back in January. I’m so grateful.

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Next up: RunWoodstock trail half-marathon. This will be a return to Hell – Hell, Michigan that is. I’m not sure how much I will train for it as I am planning on it being a fun camping weekend with a race rather than a race weekend with camping.

xo, Ali

Race Report : Flirt with Dirt Dirty Duo 5k & 10k in Novi, Michigan (June 9, 2018)

races, running

I begin this by noting I have no pictures and race pictures are not up yet. Bruno and I both ran and both left our phones in the truck because of the rain. By the time we finished, neither one of us I think had the energy to run back to the truck, grab a phone, and ask a stranger “hey, can you take a picture of us?” If there was a picture of us, it would look like a muddy, wet, mess. The race was called Flirt With Dirt and indeed I took quite a bit of dirt home with me.

Let me begin with my arrogance, pride, hubris: I read a few race reports online, most runners saying that the race was not so bad, easy even. I researched the elevation gain which did not seem bad at all to me after Trail Half-Marathon. In fact the hills seemed significantly less than what I run here in Hillsdale, so how could it be that bad? I saw one report, just one that said the race was hard. But this was one out of several “not so bad at all’s” so I ignored the warning. I forgot hills are not the only thing that make a race hard. Terrain makes a difference. And while I can do hills. I have little experience with technical trail terrain.

Still, I developed unrealistic expectations of what I could probably time at the race. These expectations probably wouldn’t have been absurd if it were a regular road 5k and 10k (the expectations were slower than my PRs in both these areas), but trail? Cute, Ali. But also, get it together.

I was excited about the day. It was going to be Bruno’s first trail race. We were up at around 4 in the morning. I showered. Bruno made the oatmeal with almond milk, strawberries, chia seeds, and plenty of cinnamon. We went through McDonald’s for some coffee (chain coffee preference in order : Dunkin, McD’s, Starbucks) and were on the road to Novi a little after 5am. It was pouring rain and storming. I kept checking the weather for Novi, but mostly felt ok. Whatever would happen would happen. I was pretty chill.

I was pretty happy that despite by ambitious goals for the race, I maintained that core gratitude of “I’m just happy to be out there racing,” because I needed it later. Race parking and check-in were easy enough. Everything was easy to find, organized. By the time I checked in, waited in line/stretched for the port-a-potties, it was already time for the 5k.

The race starts going downhill and let’s just say that downhill is tricky. It makes going faster seem easier, then a mile later you wonder “why does this feel so hard?” The first mile glided by for that 5k — I ran it in 8 minutes, no problem. I don’t even thing I panted. But I think I ran off the adrenaline and momentum for the downhill, because I went a minute slower every mile after that. By the time I was on the last mile I could not believe I signed up to do it all over again for twice the distance. I finished at 29:50. Almost five minutes slower than I had planned. I was still pretty happy with my time — happy it was under 30 minutes and happy to just take a bit of a break before I ran another 6.3 miles.

I already significantly lowered my expectations for the 6.3, but I was nervous. Like I said, I forgot how hard trail running technically is — even without a lot of hills. I landed strange on my foot and my Achilles tendon was bugging me. My attitude was kind of low. Plus it started raining. The trail was muddy and wet. Bruno made jokes and I would just give him a cursory thumbs up. I was grumpy. I was sore. I wanted the race over with.

About mile three, I had a serious talk with myself: “You could not even do this last year! You could not even do this six months ago!” I took a deep breath and just started thinking about how grateful I was. I was grateful to be on this muddy, constantly twisting and turning trail. I was grateful to be around for Bruno’s first trail race. And I just repeated those things over and over and over again. I was and am just grateful to run. Always.

During Trail Half-Marathon, I still had a little bit of juice to finish fast and strong. I did not have as much for this race. I was beat, exhausted, but at least now, in a much better, positive, grateful mood. We still sprinted up the hill, but it was probably more like a hobble. Bruno and I grabbed hands and crossed the finish line. It was a victory. I went from being a total grumpy 10k runner to one filled with joy and gratitude all in the course of 1 hour and 10 minutes. Miles change you.

It was still raining, but we checked our times and places for the 5k. Bruno got fourth in his age group and I got third — which, frankly, has never happened to me before — so that was awesome. We received Dirty Duo beer mugs and age group award race jars, and then hopped in the truck, changed (I was soaked), and drove the two hour drive home.

I learned a lot from this race. 1) Have reasonable expectations. 2) Be grateful. Always.

I’m not sure where I will be in June 2019, but if I am still in Michigan, I would love to run this race again. I cannot help but be a fan of a race that humbles me, kicks my ass, and makes me feel grateful all in a few miles. Flirt with Dirt, I think its love.

5k : 29:50

10k : 1:10:21

Dirty Duo Time : 1:40:11 (9.3 miles)

xo, Ali

 

 

Race Report : Trail Half-Marathon in Pinckney, Michigan (April 28, 2018)

races, running

This is long.

Where to begin?

I’ll start with the night before. I’m a graduate student. I live in a college town, meaning I live right next door to college students. The majority of them are amazing, scarily bright, and are some of the best people to share a campus with. Then there are my neighbors who threw a party the Friday night of my race. I suspect this is karma from my own high school and college days. Weirdly, I felt really calm about it. Like, “its ok, I slept well last night” kind of calm. I set three alarms for 4:00, 4:10, and 4:15am for the next day.

I’m not sure what time I fell asleep. I tried not to look at my phone. I don’t think I slept well. But I woke up to footsteps. That wasn’t right. I was supposed to wake up to my alarm. But instead, there was Bruno. “Hon, you awake?” I could hear my alarm going off, over and over again. It was 4:30.

And you know what. I still stayed calm (very different from my marathon, where I was on the verge of a meltdown the whole morning). I felt grateful, grateful that Bruno woke up early enough that I could still get a shower in (yeah, I did that. Lack of coffee does not leave me with much options to wake up). I ate what has been my standard breakfast the last few weeks: ground beef, carrots, bone broth, lots of olive oil. Bruno packed some super plain gluten-free oatmeal for just in case. Like in water nothing fancy. I did not want to have any stomach issues. I had some rooibos tea. I packed a Results tea (tea so good that I am starting not to miss coffee that much) and a water bottle of grape Nuun (the best flavor) for the road.

I had everything packed the previous night, so around 5:45 am we hit the road. The race website said headphones were discouraged, so I played my pump-up jams for the road. Dixie Chicks, “Ready to Run.” LL Cool J, “Mama Said Knock You Out.” Pink Floyd, “Run Like Hell.” Republica, “Ready to Go.” Foster the People, “Pumped Up Kicks.” Toto, “Africa.” Phil Collins, “In the Air Tonight.” Matthew Wilder, “Break My Stride.” I ate half my oatmeal. Drank my tea and Nuun. I had golf balls underneath my hamstrings that I kept rolling around on to prevent them from getting too tight from the drive.

We arrived. And it was cold. I was starting to regret my choice of shorts, but at the same time grateful that I brought gloves. We had only forty-five minutes, so I quickly checked in and got to stretching. About quarter till eight, I took a salted caramel GU and decided to get in one last bathroom (ok, ok, port-a-potty) trip. By then the race was about ready to start.

I could not hear on the announcer the paces for the waves. It was super muffled. I just assumed (correctly) that the first wave was probably not for me. I hopped in the second one when I heard one woman ask, “Do you know what pace this is supposed to be?” And another woman respond, “I have no idea.” I figured, what the hell, let’s get going.

On the drive, I told Bruno I had no idea what to expect as it was my first trail half. If it were a road half, based on my long run paces, I would have probably tried to shoot for under two hours. But I had goals that “if doable” I would try to go for them. They were: a. Stay around 10:50 pace. b. Try not to walk. c. Run under 2 hours 30 minutes.

Goals a. and b. went out the window within the first mile. The first four-ish miles we were definitely packed in there. We would come to a hill or a turn and we’d all be waiting to get through. I would start to move and then halt again. I really did not mind. It kind of helped make it feel like a real community event. “Hey, we’re in it together through these hills.”

After around mile four it started to thin out. And I was planning on trying to really pay attention to each mile, just so that I could put it on here, but I didn’t. All I can say is that I was really enjoying myself. I also about ate it several times. Luckily, I stayed upright for most of the run.

On the hills. During training, there was a road I would go up and down just because it was just one mile long hill. I was not sure that it would be enough. I think it was. I mean I still had to hike some of the hills — particularly a gnarly, long one around 11 or 12 miles (so close to the finish too!), but when it was more rolling, as long as I was paying attention to my footing, I could run through it just fine. What I’m basically trying to say is that although the hills were tough (my butt still hurts), the hills were not torture or impossible. Thank God for Mauck Road.

On running no head-phones. I have never ran so long without music or a podcast before. I was surprised when I reached half-way. I was afraid that without headphones the whole thing would be a slog. I do not even remember what I thought about. I just was really in it. It was not until probably around nine miles that I thought, “I could use some music right now.” But by that point, 4 more miles did not seem too bad to be sans-music. Also, I had seen a few people try to pass those with head phones and have to repeat “Left. Left. LEFT!” that I was glad not to be “that” person.

On my body. I felt really good most of the time. As I said, it was not until the last couple of miles that I began to feel mentally and physically tired. I was nervous about my foot and hamstrings going hay-wire, but nothing went wrong. My left foot did hurt a bit for about a mile and then kept quiet the rest of the run.

On nutrition. I had a GU at mile 5 and mile 10. I felt fine. They worked. I’m just not so sure if GU is something I want to continue with out of concern for possible stomach distress. I want to figure out something else. But I felt strong and fueled most the run. Friday night I had salmon, a huge amount of sweet potatoes, green beans, and zucchini for dinner, so that seemed to work for me.

On nature. I know Michigan is beautiful. I mean I see it in the fall and the spring. But this trail is lush. There is plenty to catch the eye (just don’t trip!). My favorite moment was running over the bridge that separates the two lakes. I wanted to just stop and look, but wanted to keep going/not get in anybody’s way.

On the people. I only saw Bruno at the beginning and the end of the run, but there were plenty of people on the trails who cheered. I passed a few high school or junior high (I can’t tell how old the young’uns are anymore) who made high-five lines, an adorable family who were handing out high-fives, the guy who kept shouting, “You look fantastic! You are kicking so much ass right now!” and plenty of people who were just using the trails who had a kind word to say. Not to mention the runners themselves. There was a woman I kept playing leap-frog with and we would laugh and joke with each other each time one of us would pass the other. Plenty of “good job’s” and cheers from other runners if you ran hard up a hill (which I did do a few times). It was a privilege to share the trails with such people.

On finishing. I did not cry when I finished (more on that in just a bit). But I did start to tear up around mile eleven or so. I mean I was so close to being done. The whole race just flew by and I could not believe that I was actually doing it. I had waited so long for the day and it just was turning out perfectly. I was so grateful. The huge hill at the end of the run quickly ended my sappy feelings. But they happened. About .3 or so miles from the finish, there was a dude with a huge boom box blaring “Renegade” by Styx. Confession: I love Styx. I once saw them in concert with REO Speedwagon when I was 11 with my mom. I shouted, “YEAH! STYX!” And then promptly tripped, but did not fall. I knew the race was a little over half distance, so I did not know when to just gun it. But someone told me over the hill it was a straight shot to the finish line, so I just bolted. I bolted hard. I can’t remember if it felt hard or not. I knew I was within about a minute of goal c (which at that point I had kind of forgotten about) I have not seen my finish line pictures yet, but I bet I look something terrible. They will also show me chicking a guy within twenty feet of the finish line, so there’s that. Most importantly, though, I did make my c. goal: 13:4 miles in 2:29:45, average pace 11:15/mile (really, it was ALL over the place).

trailhalfmarathon

We went to the Hell Hole Bar afterwards. I celebrated with a bacon cheeseburger and a Bell’s Oberon. Both of us were exhausted on the drive home. When we got home, I took a lavender sea salt bath, put my legs up the wall, and tried to nap. The rest of the day was spent vegging. I ate some ice cream (I totally blew up my food allergy elimination diet — and have still been paying for it).

It was such a great day. I am still so grateful for every minute, every mile of it. Even during the hills, I could not help but smile. When I was wavering on signing up for another race (as my reward) later that day, Bruno said, “Just do it. You looked so joyous today.”

Next up: Flirt with Dirt Dirty Duo in June (5k & 10k) and The Legend Half-Marathon in August. That will complete the Serious Series of trail races. It has been easy to future-trip and look ahead, but this trail half-marathon was truly a beautiful beginning of races for me.

xo, Ali

 

Running: A History, Pt. 1

running

This is a history of my running.

It is not a history filled with finished marathons, ultras, Boston qualifiers, but rather it is one with persistence without the glory. And sometimes, I feel, in my more disappointed moments, with little pay off. I have not become faster. I have signed up for more races than I have ran. And strangely, I’ve yet to become bitter. I just keep hoping, trying, and trying again.

I ran cross country when I was in junior high. I ran a 5k and managed to get myself lost, cried, and my pulled the part off part of the bib to make it “look” like I finished. I was mid-pack runner and probably could have been better, but was, frankly, immature and uninterested in hard work.

I began running again about eight later at the age of twenty. While listening to tunes on my iPod (I did not have a smart phone yet!), I would circle laps in my college recreation center. That summer in 2011, I ran a 5k. And I ran it in under 30 minutes, so I was relatively pleased with myself and thought bigger.

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My younger brother, my mother, and myself at the Five at the Fort 5k.

It was my senior year. I ran the Oktoberfest 10k in the fall and felt like a runner. In fact, fall 2011 is around when I began describing myself as a runner. And after the 10k I thought bigger.

Moving forward, still senior year, but spring this time, I happen to take a class with a history professor who is now, seven years later, one of my dearest friends. She sent me in the school mail-box a half-marathon plan. And so, I began training. And I discovered I loved training. I was pretty haphazard about it before, just increasing willy-nilly. But training with a real plan, I began to feel even more like a runner. I ran the Toledo Half-Marathon in 2012 and began to think bigger.

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Preparing to run my first half-marathon in Toledo with my professor/friend Emily.

 

This is where things start to take the turn for the worse. Hurdles begin to present themselves, notably, that I began to get injured. And not just in the same place, but different places all over. That summer, I signed up to run the Columbus Marathon. But had IT-Band problems so badly, that I do not think I made it past three miles the entire summer of 2012.

It was heartbreaking, but by the winter, I began to feel much better. I did little exercises to keep my IT-Band in check. Every time I went to the restroom I would stretch, wall squat, and air squat. For myself, I was intense. I began training for the Dayton Air Force marathon.

Training went well. It was perfect. As with the half-marathon, I fell in love with training. I loved the whole damn process, the whole routine of it. And I felt and looked strong. To this day, I do not think I’ve ever been in as good of shape as I was the summer of 2013.

My twenty mile run went beautifully. The last five miles of that baby where two minutes per mile faster than the first five. I finished that long run strong and felt energized. I was so excited and ready to see what the marathon would bring.

Two weeks later a cyst in my left ovary burst, putting in me in the most excruciating pain I think I have ever been in. I did not, unfortunately, run that marathon. That day was one of the saddest days I think I have ever had. I worked so hard. I was so strong. I was disappointed, heartbroken. I signed up for a marathon the week after, but the cyst rupture still had not healed.

It took me another three months to run again.

To be continued.