Friday, January 18, 2013

Run for Regis Race Report

If ever a race was about the training and not the actual race, this race was it.  I believe that I enjoyed training for this race more than any race I have ever done. 

Pre-race, the most notable thing that happened in the morning was that I couldn’t find the wrist strap for my garmin.  I threw things around my apartment like…well, like an endurance athete who couldn’t find the wrist strap to her Garmin.  I spent about 10 minutes scouring my apartment until I found it already packed in my workout bag.  I love giving myself panic attacks before races, it seems to be a trend.

Usually, pre-race instructions are pretty blah, but the race instructions for this race had that incredible combination of being quite funny and very inspiring.  Often, while training for this race, I would make the comment that we are so lucky to live here, which is kind of surpring to hear me say.  I mean, I often say things like “moving to Australia, going back to the DR,” but the bottom line is that living so close to a National Park with all of its miles of trails and beautiful roads, we are just lucky.  Adding to that the story of Regis and his fight with cancer hit a little close to home and made me appreciate the life I get to live.

The course had two loops: an orange loop and a green loop.  The orange loop was about 8.4 miles the green loop was 4.7, making a half marathon.  The people running the full or the 50k started on the green loop, the rest of us started on the orange loop.  In training, I had run the orange loop several times, but I had only run a very small portion of the green loop, so I didn’t quite know what it had in store for us.

As our wave started, I made my left turn and listened to the advice a friend had said before the race, “I am going to run so I can finish.”  The course is 1) pretty hilly and 2) was extremely muddy.  At times, the mud was so thick, I couldn’t help but walk, there were other times when I was running in the mud, and it literally sucked my shoes off my feet. 

For the most part, I ran flats and downhills, walked steps, muddy downhill steps, and places were the mud was just non-negotiable.  This plan of attack seemed to work pretty well.  Often, the side of the trail was the easiest to navigate so I was usually running there.  Having been in the 4th wave, I passed quite a few people, something that still surprises me in running races.  I would try to make jokes, pretty stupid and cheesy, like “Hey, I think you have some mud on your shoes.”  I always feel like it is important, especially in a race like this one, to say something encouraging to people either passing me or to people I pass.  I do this pretty much anytime I run: in a race, in a triathlon, or even when running on the towpath or Sand Run. 

Early in the race, I was on some pretty muddy stairs, and someone grabbed my arm to catch her balance.  She apologized, and I said that it was no big deal, I made a joke about how I had grabbed a friend’s hips when I slipped on the ice a few weeks back, and that was much more embarrassing.  Just as I finished that story, the hand of the man running in front of me hit me in a…let’s say more embarasssing location than the hips.  With the mental, “oh geez,” I hurried out of there.  Note to self: don’t stand around telling stupid stories, get out of people’s way.

There was one section that I knew was pretty flat and upon thinking about the course beforehand, I thought would likely have standing water, which turned out to be the case.  I was slightly over-dressed as I feared getting too cold if it had rained, but I kind of found the water in the shoes refreshing. 

As I approached the first aide station, I saw a teammate heading back to the trail.  I gave him a high five and made my way out.  I was pretty happy when I got to the first aide station.  I was surprised that I knew almost everyone there.  Espeed, from cyclo-cross glory, grabbed by water bottle from me and filled it for me, and after posing for a from another Elizabeth and saying hi to a few others, I made my way out of there.  Although I probably could have used a bathroom break, I opted to get out of there quickly.

I was feeling good, thinking I was running pretty well and continued around Kendell Lake to make my way back up to the Ledges.  Now, this portion of the trail has always been kind of a problem for me.  If I have been trying to stay up with Janet and that crew, it’s about 5 miles into the run that my body reminds me that I am not meant to run with these people and start to fade (more than I already have).  I started to notice that my pace was starting to slow.  I told myself that I needed to eat and while I feared how my stomach would handle it, I knew it was not a negotiation, there was still a long way to go and breakfast wasn’t going to last as long as this race.  I ate some citrus shot blocks (still from my winnings from Tour of the Valley), and my stomach let me know that a bathroom break would be in order at the next aide station. 

A little bit later, there was a bit of confusion on the course.  The course wasn’t marked, and I, along with two others, went to the right.  After about a minute, they yelled that they were sure it’s the wrong way, and we all turned around…and I am glad they did.  As it turned out, many people continued down that way, including Jen P and fellow teammate Gary B. 

Jen P then passed me around mile 7 or 8 and was pretty upset that she had indeed gone off-course, but man, did she fly by me!  Shortly after that run-in, I made it to the next aide station.  I saw teammates Gary and Ben standing there, so I said hi as I got my final water bottle fill and made my way to the restroom.  Yes, the stomach was officially unhappy, but the slower pace of trail running seemed to make it manageable.  When I got back out, Ben had already made his way to the next loop and Gary was still standing there.

As we made our way on this loop, Gary told me about his frustrations of going off-course, adding a few miles to his day.  Upon hearing that, I had two thoughts: 1) you have to be a steller athlete to be able just to add a few miles to an already long run and 2) THANK GOD that wasn’t me!

Gary quickly ran up ahead of me, but then we got to another part of the course, and I had to yell at him as he had gone the wrong way.  He righted the ship and off he went.  I was pretty much in “get this done mode” but found it kind of cool that at one point, Gary was about 10 yards ahead of Ben who was then 10 yards ahead of me.  We stayed that way for a bit, but I could tell that both Gary and Ben were running out of steam.  About half way through this loop, I passed Ben, but I never made much ground on him.  While I would slow down and walk uphills and/or really muddy sections, Ben just kept on running, passing me a time or two.  It was about this time that Eddie P, who was officially lapping me, on his second green loop, flew past me like he was born to run in the mud.  It was shocking to see how fast he was able to move.

I was basically running with Ben when my watch beeped for the 12 mile mark.  I had told a friend that I had expected to finish between 2:30-2:45, hoping I would be closer to 2:30 than the latter.  I knew I wasn’t going to break 2:30, but I knew I could still keep it close.  Then, I thought about my friend J. Mack who ran with me at the Cleveland Marathon 10k who said that he had a rule about no walking in the last mile.  I told myself that I had nothing else to do today other than finish this race and that running wasn’t going to take that much more energy than walking so I started running and stopped when I hit the finish line.  I ended up finishing in 2:33:40.  Ironically enough, it is NOT my slowest half marathon, that title still goes to the half marathon at Musselman in 2011 when my stomach was oh so ticked off and the closest I have ever come to DNFing a triathlon.

It was a great way to start the 2013 racing season!  It was kind of cool that I was kind of bittersweet the race was over as I had enjoyed the training for it, but then Joey reminded me that many of us had signed up for Barry-Roubaix in March and that we would need to plan training for that race.  Sweet!  Goodbye mud, hello gravel!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ramblings of a debate coach

As a cyclist and as a triathlete, 60 degree days in January are like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow…so exciting that you can hardly contain yourself, unless you also happen to coach debate and find yourself trapped in the confines of a Middle School building listening to students talk about the dehumanization of rehabilitation. Yeah, it didn’t make sense to me either.
While I did at least ride my fixie to and from the bus garage, the 10 miles only whetted my appetite to ride all day, but instead I would check Facebook to see more and more people bragging about their enjoyment of their day outside. I hated to you all very VERY much.
I can’t really classify them as debatism, but here is what kept me entertained.
During judges’ instructions, one coach felt it necessary to say:
“Make sure to turn on the lights when you go into the classroom.”
Upon reading the text that I sent her, my mother described this little nugget of wisdom as “pure genius.” I will say that sometimes teachers go into teacher mode and forget that they are talking to functional adults, but sometimes it is a bit demeaning to have someone feel compelled to give you such an instruction as though you would have walked into a dark classroom and have been completely perplexed as to what to do.
I did have at least one round off in which I entertained the other judges by reading portions of an article from GQ titled, “25 Least Influential People of 2012.” While the article started with four different pictures of Mitt Romney, the one that made me laugh was “Jerry Sandusky’s lawyer.” Now, I am not mocking the horrendous crimes Sandusky committed, but instead, I agree with GQ’s description of the brilliance of his lawyer:
“Let us take a stroll through the razor-sharp legal mind of Joe Amendola: ‘I know! I’ll have my client go on national TV prior to his trial to be grilled by Bob Costas so we can all witness him declare, ‘I enjoy young people,” after searching blankly for the proper response to the question ‘Are you sexually attracted to young boys?’ as if Costas just asked him where he put his car keys.’ How can this possibly go wrong?
For this laugh out loud moment, I thank you GQ writer Drew Magary.
I should mention that another judges’ instruction is not to give low point wins. In debate, we have what are called speaker points. They are kind of a misnomer as they aren’t really speaker points so much as debating points. Often, a student might not speak very fluently, but have a better handle on the arguments than his opponent. 999 out of 1,000, the student who won the debate should have higher speaker points. The 1 out of a 1,000 is called a “low point win” and has to be justified to those running the tournament. In the 10+ years I have been judging, I have given a total of 2 low point wins. The first was for a gross misuse of a theory seven years ago, the second was on Saturday…
I was judging a round in which the Negative’s case had an inherent contradiction. I had noted it quite early in the round, but it’s not my job to debate the debater so it didn’t matter unless brought up in the round by her opponent. Debate has a rule that you are not allowed to bring up new arguments in rebuttal. You can advance an argument, but if your opponent cannot respond to it, then it is not permissible to bring it up. Well, the Affirmative, who has the last speech in the round, spent the entire last speech bringing up this inherent contradiction. While I felt that she was winning the round before going into this speech, she still had to respond to the points made by her opponent, but didn’t because she spent the entire time focusing on this inherent contradiction and why it should win her the round.
I HATE ROUNDS LIKE THIS ONE. I opted to give the Negative the win with fewer points because the Affirmative had done a better job throughout the round, better case, better argumentation, better advancement, but she screwed up. It was a clear case of the Affirmative losing the round as opposed to the Negative winning it. Had it not been for this gross violation of the rule, it would have been an easy round to judge. As it were, I gave myself and the entire tab staff grief in order to justify my decision.
My other debatism occurred while judging in a room labeled as the “Gifted Services” classroom. In this room, there were all of these small posters with prominent people from history: Amelia Earhart, Mahatma Gandhi, John Lennon, Albert Einstein, etc. There were seven or eight of these posters around the classroom, and they had one sentence on them: “Think Different.” I wanted to put little post-it notes up on every single one of them adding an –LY. “Think DifferentLY” people, think DIFFERENTLY!!! Why are even gifted instructors dismissing the value of adverbs. How is that being different! Let’s adverbalize America people! You are not “doing good, you are doing WELL” unless that is you are helping the homeless or feeding the hungry, then you are in fact doing good.
So while all of you were out there riding your bikes, I was enjoying the intellectual absurdism that is high school Speech and Debate.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

iBelieve 10k Trail Run Race Report

As you can tell, this crazy single female tried quite a few new things this year: road racing, cyclo-cross, and the latest being trail running. This past fall, I was, to use my high school student’s phrasing, “talking to” a guy who was an endurance trail runner. So, of course, on our first date, we opted to go on a trail run, and I have to admit: I absolutely loved it! My love for trail running has lasted longer than that particular relationship, especially as I have been gearing up to run my first half trail marathon at Run for Regis.

I feel like a little back story is necessary here. I ran my first marathon February 11, 2007 in Birmingham, Alabama. I trained for that race with a wonderful running group, particularly with a friend CL. CL has children my age, but despite a generation gap, we became very close through the training. There is a certain closeness that training partners develop, and there was no doubt that we helped each other out through the highs and lows both in training and in life. The four months that I trained for that race were the best running days I had ever experienced. I absolutely loved the power, strength, and confidence it gave me and then sadly, I was hit by a car less than two months later. I am not going to go through all the highs and lows of the accident, but the broken toe that I suffered created problems with my running gate and eventually led to problems in my hips that still require a great deal of attention. I recall one run in general, right after breaking up with the guy of the month, where I broke down, started sobbing on a run with CL and our close friend AV because I was just emotionally and physically broken. Although I have had some excellent running races after the accident, running had definitely lost its luster.

With that said, it amazes me how I find myself enjoying running again and am grateful to that guy for finding that in me once again.

Now...back to the race report:

Pre-race: I have discovered that if I eat my breakfast as soon as I wake up, I am more inclined to have a more agreeable stomach while I am running.  They had also sent out an email mentioning the limited parking so I got to the race about an hour before the race start so I wouldn’t have a long walk before or after the race.  I picked up my packet, went to the bathroom, then proceeded to sit in my car until about 5 minutes before the race started.  It just felt too cold to stand outside and wait.  I got out, went to the bathroom one more time, then got to my starting place.  I chatted with the guy next to me, also doing the 10k, wished him luck, and thought to myself: it’s quite possible I will get dead last in this race.  Let me explain my reasoning:

1. I believe that 90% of the people were doing the 5k, meaning the 10k was a pretty small field.
2. It was a trail run, not a road race.  In my thinking, trail running isn’t really for the casual runner, so all the other women were likely actual trail runners.
3. It was pretty muddy, and I had no trail shoes.

Race: The race started, and I started making my way through the field, the first quarter mile was on road.  I got to the trail, and it was wet and muddy from the get-go, and I started slipping and sliding.  This course lacked two big things: elevation and traction…and it kind of reminded me of a cross race.  Anyone know what a Proustian moment is?  Well, slipping in the mud was my version of the Proustian madelines, and I was instantaneously racing like I would a cross race and not like I would a running race.  (If Mrs. Korosa happens to read this blog post, I almost wrote macaroons instead of madelines, throwing in a little Ibsen in there, thought you might appreciate that little slip).  Anyway, I was completely focused on picking the line that appeared to have the best traction, chasing down the people ahead of me, and feeling that z5, all-out race effort.

I also noticed a friend of a friend out there taking photos.  As I passed her, I tried to explain who I was, but I figured that it was probably a waste of energy.  I had worn what I thought was an appropriate amount of clothes, but I was pretty warm, ended up unzipping my jacket and wishing that I had worn shorts rather than tights, oh well.

I passed several people on the first loop, made it back to the turn-around and noticed that there was only one woman ahead of me…but then, my stomach decided it was a little upset, requiring a stop in the POP.  It was a waste of a couple of minutes, and I suddenly realized that my stomach was still pretty upset.  After about a half mile, I had to walk to try to calm down my stomach.  In those moments of walking, another woman passed me.  I started thinking about how the race would play out if I continued to let my stomach control my pace, and in a Jens Voigt-like moment, I said to myself, “Shut up stomach, I am not losing because of you.”  I had a flashback of some of the bigger races in which my stomach screwed me over (IM Wisconsin) and opted to keep pushing.  It didn’t take long, I quickly re-passed the lady who had passed me in my low moment, and I refocused by attention to the person about a hundred yards ahead of me.  It took me about two miles to make up those 100 yards, but I finally caught the person and was kind of surprised to see that it was a guy.  I don’t know why, I knew there was only one woman ahead of me, but he and I started to talk as we had about a half mile left in the race, I had clearly spent way too much energy trying to catch him, and he was hurting just about as bad from trying to hard to fend me off.  As we neared the chute, he let me go ahead, and I finished the race in 1:00:12.

After finishing the race, I felt about as spent as I usually do after a cross race and about as equally thirsty.  A lady came over to me and said that I was the 1st overall female, “HUH???”  I could have sworn there was a female ahead of me…and let’s face it, I don’t win running races.  I took the ceremic ornament and was through the roof excited.  Maybe the woman went off course?  Maybe the woman hadn’t registered?  Kept running?  I don’t know…but then the results came out a week later, and I was indeed 2nd overall.  I was a little embarrassed, but 2nd overall is still way better than the dead last expectation that I had set for myself.  As I have said from the getgo, there obviously weren’t that many serious trail runners at this first year event, but you can only compete against those who show up.  I should also say, though, that I have never raced a running race before.  I have never chased people down and never thought about the efficiency of my cadence and of picking the right line.  As much as I don’t particularly enjoy cyclo-cross, I can thank it for this race result.

Thankfully, I have done a few runs with Janet E and her crew in the last few weeks to keep my ego in check.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Hiram Cyclocross Race Report

After some significant peer pressure, I caved and opted to do the Hiram Cyclo-cross race. The race was at the beginning of December so my memory is a little foggy, but here are some of the highlights.

The Weather: what else would it be except cold and rainy.

The Course: Cold and rainy, cold and MUDDY. The course was about 1.4 miles long had a narrow snake section with lots of turns in what turned into sloppy mud. There were turns around the Christmas trees, one curving descent into a pretty steep uphill followed by more turns around potential Christmas trees, another roller which led into an extended false flat. There was also a bump up to where the course was near the road that was 1) unrideable and 2) nearly impossible to run up while carrying the bike. There was also a lap around a small pond, which was the most rideable section of the course, but it had two barracades to break up any potential for speed on the course.

Game Plan: Sprint to get to the front so people couldn’t pass in the narrrow section then hold on for dear life!

What Happened: I managed to out-sprint everyone to the first turn after the start. I was in the lead for probably the first quarter of the first of two loops until I got to a turn in which I just couldn’t get my right foot clipped back into the pedal and was passed by eSpeed who was clearly frustrated by being behind me in the narrow course. I was just unfamiliar with the pedals and wasn’t able to get them to cooperate with me.  I would say the inability to get clipped back in because of the mud was my undoing in this race. In the turns around Christmas trees, I dropped down to 3rd as I couldn't manage to get clipped into my pedals.  I was never able to get the pedals to cooperate, most likely because both my pedals and my shoes were clogged with mud.  The initial sprint also left me kind of fried. It was a horrible race, but I continued to race hard the entire time despite making no apparent ground on 2nd and 4th not being that close behind me. Because of the conditions, we only managed 2 laps, which was fine by me! It was miserable!
Other things: it was in the 40’s and raining so I wore what I would wear for a road ride in the 40's. As it turns out, cyclocross is more similar to dress for how I would dress for a run and not a bike ride. I was wearing tights and long sleeves under my jersey, and I was roasting! With no water during the race, I finished the race and had horrible cotton mouth, and sadly, there was no water to be found until I managed to get back to my belongings where I had left a bottle of water.

I ended up getting third, a nice podium finish to end out the cycling season, but I didn’t feel like race particularly well. I did have fun heckling others as they dealt with the progressively worse conditions throughout the day.

I should thank Andrew Miller for giving me a ride, it was nice not to have to drive all that way for a race.