Dawg Gone Long Run

Dawg gone that was a long run!
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Early on Saturday morning, just after 3:30am, I started my trip south…first to meet one of two companion runners for the day, then on to Caesar’s Creek State Park, located about a 90 minute drive southwest of Columbus, OH. He was driving, and thank goodness! I’d managed a 3 solid hours of sleep the night before. Pretty normal for me prior to a big race. And this was big. My first 50 miler!
I’ll admit the Dawg Gone Long Run (DGLR), hosted by ORRRC, wasn’t in my original race plan for the year. I HAD planned on pacing during the Mohican Trail 100 two weeks prior. When my runner decided to drop to the 50mi distance, thereby eliminating the need for a pacer, I was out of a job. And yes, I likely could have picked up another runner to pace, but my lack of experience made me more nervous. Add in the hand injury from a few weeks prior, and I didn’t know how much help I could really be to a stranger. In the end, I chose to volunteer all day (and night…and the next morning) at the Covered Bridge Aid Station, and learned some invaluable lessons from that experience. I was also able to see many folks I know press on, dig deep, and finish a great race…one I’ll be adding to my schedule for the future.
So here I was, fully prepared to run 50 miles (or so I thought), without a race in sight. My next big event occurs in September, and is a completely different monster. A friend suggested DGLR, and it seemed perfect: timing, terrain, and distance all fit the bill. I stalled as long as possible to register, but I finally I pulled the trigger. 50 miles. I couldn’t get my head around the distance.

The race:
Caesar’s Creek is a great place to run. The course was just shy of 17mi of single track, the self-proclaimed “best single track in Ohio.” The trail was normally very runnable, save a few hills and the nauseating stairs (running down stairs at varying depths throws off your equilibrium). There were a few road sections, mainly to cross over the Lake, and a couple boat launch access roads. The last 6 miles of the loop were the most technical with roots and a few short but steep climbs, but the rest was mainly smooth, rolling hills. There was one true creek around mile 1.5 of the loop, which we crossed three times. On the first loop you barely got your feet wet as there are flat rocks you could use to cross. By loop 2, it was ankle deep. On loop three, I was wet to mid calf. But by then I didn’t care. I contemplated sitting in the creek for a minute, but feared I wouldn’t stand up. A valid concern after nearly 35 miles.
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There were two manned Aid Stations: the first was located at approximately mile 9, and the start/finish area served as the second. They were stocked with typical trail/ultra foods including PB&J, cookies, pretzels, pickles, watermelon, oranges, plus water and gatorade. Sadly, not a banana nor a potato in sight (good thing i brought my own). Three unmanned water stations filled in the gaps: mile 3, 6, and 14.5. The race crew was wonderful at keeping these jugs full of water and ICE! What a lift you can get from a few sips of ice-cold water.

My plan:
I need a plan? Remember this was my first 50 mile run. The longest single run I had completed recently was a 50k (~31mi). The longest ever was last September, and that wasn’t much further (60k or ~37mi). I didn’t know what would happen after that!

I had two friends agree to run along with me which was a life saver. First off, they did all the driving. Don agreed to drive down and run the first loop before heading back to Columbus. Doug would meet us there, run the 2nd and 3rd, then drive us home. What a blessing! Pre-race I was a bundle of nerves. Post-race my legs were twitching and my brain was fuzzy. They didn’t so much keep me to a pace, but rather provided companionship for what would otherwise be a long, lonely day. In fact, I carried my iPod the entire 50 miles, but never turned it on. A true testament to great friends. I was in charge of the pace, and carried my own fuel and water always…save twice asking Doug to “hold my banana” so I could get situated. Thanks buddy! 🙂
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The second part of the plan involved the miles themselves. There was no way I could comprehend running 50 miles. Now 10 miles? That I could handle. So I ran five 10milers. And celebrated each one at completion.
We also celebrated a few other milestones along the way:
Don’s trail Half Mary.
My longest single run time-on-feet at 8:30
My longest single run distance at 38mi
Doug’s longest single run distance at 32mi

And the plan mostly worked. Sure…I had a few dark miles…mostly in the 40s, but I expected that. Doug listened, or was just ignoring my grumbling. Either way, he didn’t acknowledge or address it, and let me have the time to work through it. The rain that started during loop 2 only added to the already soaked trail from the deluge they had the night before. On loop 3, we choose to “embrace the mud” as trying to avoid it was even more treacherous. It slowed the pace, but we moved onward. We said goodbye to a few tough hills and the nauseating stairs. I was excited to not run them again…that day anyway. I saved enough energy to run the last grassy area towards the finish. Doug ran ahead to get my picture. And I cried. All the way to the finish line.
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The race director this year was fantastic. I had emailed Julie Blair prior to the race to let her know this was my first 50miler, and that I’d likely be close to the recommended pace and finish last. She was more than encouraging. After each loop, she was there cheering for me. She was excited when I made the loose cutoff to start loop 3. Her voice was the one I heard cheering “You did it!” And “Smile!” as I ran to the finish. Thank you Julie! You made me feel so special!
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A note on nutrition.
After feeling like I couldn’t eat during my last 50k, I needed a better plan. And it was going to include forcing myself to eat. I ate my ENERGYbits after each 10 mile segment which worked out perfectly. I was just starting to feel my energy wane at that point. Amrita bars, PB&J, pretzels, and a banana rounded out my food for the day. I couldn’t touch the watermelon…I may never again after a few (possibly unrelated) horror stories I heard about food poisoning. I also drank 4L water just from my pack, and a cup of water at each Aid Station. By mile 30, the hunger feeling was gone. I felt only nausea. And it seems, for me anyway, that’s what hunger feels like after running that far. So I ate and drank through it. And it passed.

Just one negative comment…
I was slightly disappointed at the amount of trash discarded on the trail (outside of the Aid Station areas) that was obviously from the race: gel packets, paper cups, and a potato chip bag. I felt bad enough leaving my cup at the first unmanned water stop since the crew hadn’t left a trash bag (a task remedied by the second loop). But not to worry. Race or not, my team picked them up and threw them out for you. I’d like to assume it accidentally fell out of your pocket. We’ll go with that.

All in all, a wonderfully trying day. I’m relieved it’s over, and I’m excited looking forward to my next event. It’s now Day 3 post-race, and I can say with confidence that I was ready. I have little-to-no muscle soreness. No walking down stairs backwards for this girl! No ravenous hunger. No energy drain. I’m feeling refreshed and happy.

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ORRRC Marathon Part Two: The Longest Half Marathon

Like I said in my earlier post, Xenia was scheduled to be my race to shine.

There’s that word again: scheduled. My plan for the spring was to drop back to the half marathon distance to focus on getting faster, without having to worry about longer mileage. Sounds smart. But it didn’t work. I was miserable. I wanted to run long forever. I’d finish the prescribed mileage and think “That’s it?”

Five weeks ago, I changed my tune. You can read about that here. That meant I had no nerves when I arrived in Xenia. None. Not one. I felt like I had forgotten something. After the race, I figured out what it was. I forgot to get nervous. What a great feeling!

I was happy to accept an invitation to carpool with a friend (Thanks Scott!), and we only had to turn back once…my phone is hard to find at 5:30am. The ride was relaxing, and I started thinking about Kate while drinking my coffee. She was running her first marathon at Xenia that day.

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And though I wasn’t nervous, I did have a plan:

I would run the first seven miles at an even pace with the group (Anne and I were running the half, and Kate would stay with Angie for the full) until the two courses split. Anne and I would finish the half, then we’d head back out to pick up Kate and Angie around mile 22, and run them to the finish. Knowing the last miles of the race would be the hardest for her, I was happy to volunteer for this task. That meant over 20 miles for Anne and I, which worked out fine with our 50k training.

Fast forward to the start. I still had that strange feeling…something is missing. I checked my supplies once more…time to go.

The neighborhood loop was nice. We did get to see Jamie, who was still recovering from injury and couldn’t run with us that day (She’s back to running as of last night!), and a few others who came to spectate. We talked with some local folks running the race, including Tylar, a guy I had met on Twitter the day prior, who was running his first half marathon. Congrats to you friend!
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Off to the bikeway…
Kate was in great spirits, and I stepped away from the group for a mile or so to think…or not think…let my mind wander. It was a great morning. It’s going to be hot. We can do this together. Back in the game.

The split came, and we said goodbye to Kate and Angie…See you at mile 22!
Anne and I took the turn, and my thoughts went to Andrea and Stuart. They couldn’t be that far behind us. I suggested that, since we didn’t care about time, when we saw them on this out-and-back section, that we turn again with them, and stay together. We did…and had a blast taking them back to downtown. No worries. No watch-glancing. Running, laughing, smiling. My kind of run.

The finish line brought tons of cheering from our group! And cookies!

A quick glance as the race clock meant Anne and I had about 40 minutes to kill before heading back out to 22. The club updated us on their finishes, and the status of those still running. Before we knew it. it was time to run…again.

With a promise to keep the crew updated, we headed for the bikeway. There was a steady stream of runners headed towards us, most of which told US we were doing a great job! Um…we’re headed the wrong way, but I’ll take it. We joked with a few, saying we couldn’t get enough, and, since the course was still open, we’d do another lap. I thought it was funny. They probably thought we were crazy.

By the time we reached mile 22, we had seen most of our friends…and it was hot! Over 70* now, which normally wouldn’t be a problem, but it was the first day with those kind of temps, and we weren’t ready for summer quite yet. What happened to spring?

The volunteer working the aid station at 22 was fantastic. He chatted us up, and was very encouraging. It helped to pass the waiting time. Anne and I had logged 18.5 miles at this point, and my stomach was starting to protest all this waiting around.

And then we saw them.

Still happy. Still running. After a quick refuel, we started the last four miles. This is the toughest point for a first-timer, and Kate was a trooper. Despite her apologies that we refused to accept, we pushed on, and she kept giving her best. With just over a mile to go, we picked up Goat and Mel, and then we neared the finish.

Four blocks…uphill. You’ve got this.
We dropped back and let Kate take the lead…and she kicked! Nice!

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Tears. Hugs. Mushy stuff.
It was a fantastic day topped off with soup and cookies, and a celebratory beer.

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Congrats to all…You did it!

And I had the best race experience to date.

And none of it was about me.

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ORRRC Marathon Part One: The Facts

I realize I owe you a few race reports. I’m going to start with the most recent (and the biggest), because it’s still fresh in my mind. And it was an amazing experience. But first…the race..

Facts:
The Ohio River Road Runners Club (ORRRC) Marathon (46th year) & Half Marathon (24th year) took place on Sunday April 7, 2013 in Xenia, Ohio.

images-2 The course, for the half anyway, is pleasant enough: start at the YMCA, a quick loop through the quaint town, and off to the bikeway for an out-and-back race. The marathon follows the same course, but spends a much longer time on the bike path, with a road loop to double you back. There are a few easy hills in the town, and there are a few rollers as the bike path approaches cross streets. It was a nice change to not think about cars and traffic. Even at the road crossings, friendly volunteers and police are there to keep you safe.

I ran the half, so I can’t speak to the second part of the course. I’ve heard it’s fairly non-descript, but, if the weather is right, it lends itself to a PR.

Too bad for us, it wasn’t. Although the morning started with great temps in the 50s, it quickly reached 70 by the second hour. Normally that would be tolerable, but I think we still had snow last week…no acclimation period for that kind of heat. Not to mention a strong headwind….tree-lined bike paths make excellent wind tunnels. Sounds great if the wind is at your back I guess. Rough when it’s in your face…for miles. That’s where the full marathoners had the toughest time. The wind can rob you of energy quickly.

The volunteers were great…even the police officers cheered runners along with positive words. There’s real food at the finish…fruit, two kinds of soup, chili, and cookies. Good cookies. Yum.

The price is right too. If you register early, it’s only $25 for either distance, and that gets you a shirt and a medal. Can’t be beat there. It’s a short drive from Columbus, just over an hour, and most of our club made the trip that morning, save a few dedicated souls who stayed overnight in a local hotel.

Our club, RunDMC (dailymile Columbus) brought at least 35 members to the race this year…even more to cheer…and it was nice to see so many familiar faces.

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This was the race where I planned, up until 5 weeks ago, to PR my half marathon.

Xenia.
It was to be my finest (two) hour(s).

As it turns out, it became the most meaningful race I’ve done in a long time…and it had nothing to do with me. But we’ll have to save that for Part 2.