One thing I like to do is set goals and intentions for each race and mentally prepare my mind for the battle it will have to undertake on race day. Having a mantra or quote really helps me stay strong mentally when I’m in the pain cave.
Let’s just say my interest in ultra running is officially piqued and Cory Reese is one of the reasons why. Although I might not be ready to bite off training for an ultra distance quite yet, I jumped at the chance to sit down with a local ultra runner, who had just completed Badwater.
The first time I heard about Badwater, known as the world’s toughest foot race, I was listening to the book Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall. The second time I heard about Badwater, was in Scott Jurek’s book Eat and Run, as he described the 135 mile journey from Death Valley to Mount Whitney as one of the most difficult races he ever completed. The third time, I heard about Badwater, I was sitting at a McDonalds in Washington, Utah listening to Cory’s first person account of this grueling race. (You can watch a documentary about the race here, it’s called “Running on the Sun,” and it will redefine what the words hard and tough actually mean.)
That’s Cory Reese on the cover of UltraRunning Magazine. Cory is known for his jump shots and amazing photography that captures spectacular moments like this. Cory has become a local running celebrity, even though he’s much too kind and humble to take notice of praise like that. Here are a few other exploits that, in my book, launch Cory to legend status. Last year during the St. George marathon, Cory ran the course 4 times (up and down and then up and down again) for a total of 104.8 miles. But that’s not even close to his distance record. Cory also ran the “Across the Years” race in Arizona, logging over 200 miles in 72 hours. Anyone who has run these kinds of miles and has battled their way through these kinds of distances has figured out some things about running, and I wanted to know what.
I asked Cory a lot about his training, here are some of the nuggets of wisdom he shared with me. Even if you don’t run ultras, these tips will help your training:
*Cory averages between 70 and 80 miles a week, and his longest training run will be anywhere from 30 to 50 miles, but most days he runs about 10 miles. I honestly thought his miles would be higher, but it’s reassuring to know training for the ultra distance doesn’t necessarily mean training to that distance.
*Cory treats each of his long runs as a “science experiment.” I thought this was genius. He explained that he uses his long runs to not only test out and try new products, but to test his limits with fueling and try to gauge how far can he fill or deplete his body to find that sweet spot of feeling fueled but not stuffed.
*Cory has trained his body to run, if need be, on liquid calories alone. Explaining that in each ultra there will come a point where the body will not be able to tolerate actual food, so it must be able to “run” on liquid calories. He admits that sometimes it’s better to feel a little hungry than sick on a run. Cory credits Tailwind (which he uses in all training runs and races) for saving his Badwater experience when his stomach could no longer tolerate food.
*Cory saves music for the end of his races, you know just a mere seventy miles in, because it’s something that gives him an extra mental boost.
*Cory chose not run Badwater with his Garmin. He explained that when he was deep in the pain cave, he didn’t want to look at the number on his watch and feel discouraged at how slow the race was progressing. I thought this was such a great reminder about the journey that any race represents, especially in a 135 mile one. All you can do sometimes is focus on the step you’re taking or the mile you’re running, because you’re still headed in the right direction.
*In describing the emotions you face when running an ultra distance, Cory has said, “the high’s are high, and the low’s are low.”
*Cory credits his family as one of the reasons he is able to accomplish these challenging races. He admitted that it’s easier to balance running now that his kids are older. His family often accompany him on races and are an integral part of his crew for these events. When you read his recap of Badwater, he writes about walking the last mile with his wife Mel while she reads him letters from their kids, be sure to grab a tissue. It’s one of the most moving stories of a beautiful partnership, and a testament that with the right support behind you, anything is possible. Read about it here.
*Cory, a self-described ‘non-athlete’ in high school, has taken on and accomplished some of the most difficult races in the world which left me wondering how he chose the ultra distance and more importantly why. Cory’s answer was that running challenged him to think bigger, and his running philosophy was engrained in a willingness to try. Because somehow within that desire to seek out and discover what your physical limits are lies ones of life’s greatest rewards. It is a truth that all runners know, whether it comes with a medal or a belt buckle, there is nothing like the satisfaction of knowing you gave it everything you had.
In his spare time, when he’s not working full time, training for ultras, or working on his blog, Cory wrote a book. I love this title so much, it’s exactly the type of honest and witty running truisms you’ll find on his blog. I can’t wait to dive into this read, I have a feeling I’ll finish it in one setting. You can order your copy on Amazon today!
Since Cory is the jump master, I asked him for a bit of a jump intervention. He said to keep the camera lower to the ground and to lift your legs, not just your arms. My bad (insert “monkey covering his eyes” emoji.).
This one is a blooper.
Finally, we nailed it!
What’s the farthest you’ve ever run?
Would you consider running a 50K, 50 miler, or 100 mile race?
What question would you ask Cory?
The thunder shook my house, in fact, it woke me up just before my alarm was set to go off at 3:15 am. My sleepy and slow senses began to calculate the impact of the torrential downpour that accompanied the rumbling. Pouring rain on a race day always reminds me that there are worse things than being simply tired. I had planned on heat, but not a storm.
I drove what felt like a snail’s pace of 30 miles per hour on I-15 with my hazard lights flashing to meet up with friends, jump in their van, and drive about an hour to Parowan, Utah. It was a prayer filled drive and thankfully we made it safely. We had just enough time to grab our packets, jump on the buses, and catch a ride up to the start. It began to rain again as the buses pulled into the parking lot next to the Yankee Meadows Reservoir and I began to worry this would not be a day to attempt a personal best.
I always head into a race with specific goals. I like to have an A goal and B goal, that way I’m able to make adjustments if the conditions don’t merit my hopes. I had missed a key workout the previous week of an 8 mile, all-out, 6 minute pace tempo run, so my A goal was to complete that workout and use this race as a training run, but my B goal was to continue the momentum and fight for a strong finish.
The Parowan Half has all the charms of a small race including the “Okay runners…GO!” start. No gun, no horn, just go! The first 3 miles felt forced, almost stiff, like the effort I was giving was not reflected in my mile splits and I really thought about quitting. Not like dropping out quitting, but I thought about slowing down, turning around, and just running with my friend. I’m so glad I didn’t. Sometimes it’s good to just let yourself think it through. I thought about how I would feel if I gave up the fight and just ran this one for fun, and that feeling of disappointing myself was enough of a kick to get my legs moving and refocus on the work I needed to do.
As soon as my mindset changed, the miles started to click. This course has some serious downhill assist and my splits ranged from my fastest at 5:40 to 6:10. Once we were out of the canyon I knew even the flatter parts of the course would feel like an uphill, so I banked a little time with those extra seconds on the downhill portions. I was running as third female and I could have stayed there, but by mile eleven I wanted to dig deeper and see what happened. The last mile is an incline and with my quads gassed from all the downhill pounding and my lungs burning with the elevation I felt like my legs were just dragging. I was able to stay focused on ticking off that last mile one tenth at a time and even moved from third to second female. I was surprised to go back and see on my Garmin that the last mile was actually a 6:49, even though it felt like a 9:49. It was one of those good reminder to press on. Sometimes it feels like we’re not making any progress, but really, we’re doing so much better than we think.
After the finish line, I sampled some of the fare and I loved that they had freshly popped popcorn popcorn, the salty snack really hit the spot for me and I helped myself to two big red cups. I also saw this genius idea, why is this the first time I’ve even seen hand sanitizer wipes? They need to be at every race. The teacher in me wanted to begin handing them out.
When I got home that afternoon my husband asked me what I ran this race in last year. I had to go back and look it up. Last year, I completed this race in 1:24:48, one year later, I finished it in 1:21:29 (Garmin shows me coming up a little short on the distance). That difference was larger than I was thinking and it struck me that despite those time differences, each time I ran this race I had given it my all. Our “all” or our “very bests” won’t always be the same. I love the quote from Don Miguel Ruiz, he says, “Your best is going to change from moment to moment.” That is so true. We grow, sometimes we slow down to enjoy the journey, we change, life changes, even our motivation changes. But that’s what I love about races, we all get the same medal for doing the most important thing and that’s to do our very best in that moment. That sense of self satisfaction is the real reward of racing. Happy running friends!
What do you like better? Halfs or fulls?
What is your favorite post race treat?
Have you ever seen hand sanitizer wipes at a race food table?
Definition: To exude sweat
As in “She was sweating profusely.”
Oh thank you Merriam Webster for that succinct and yet somehow pungently descriptive sentence.
Yes, it’s summer and I don’t know about you, but we are sweating our way through July. Our high here in St. George? It’s about 110. Our low? 80. My garage, where I keep my treadmill, it’s like a million degrees.
Summer running can be challenging as we battle the sun, the heat, and the humidity, so I wanted to not only share my summer running essentials with you but give you the chance to win them ALL with my SUMMER RUNNING ESSENTIALS GIVEAWAY. To be entered to win you need to be 18 years or older, a resident of the United States or Canada, and enter your email address on the “Keep in Touch” button right here on my website. Super easy, right?
Okay let’s get to the good stuff!
First, hydration. I traded in my small Nathan handheld for this Camelbak one after a disastrous run in Zion National Park. My Nathan handheld doesn’t have an open/close valve so each time I filled it up, the water shook out all over my shorts as I ran. Now I like small pretty, pink things too, but I had to upgrade to a better handheld water bottle. This Camelbak is bigger, but it’s not any harder to hold with it’s adjustable strap. I love that it’s insulated, so it keeps my water colder and of course with the valve top, it’s not splashing or wasting that precious water.
Here’s another fun summer running word-chafing: underneath my arms, my lower back, and my inner thighs, just to name a few. The worst thing about chafing is that you don’t always know it’s there until you shower and then have to scream so loudly your whole family knows it really hurts. I bought this Body Glide at the St. George Running Center and I love it. I just put it on those trouble spots before I get dressed and somehow it magically protects my skin.
Another summer run lifesaver is a good hat. I love this one from The North Face, it’s called the “Better than Naked” hat. It’s an ultralight hat with a low profile brim that helps combat those bright summer rays. It’s super breathable with mesh vents and has quick wicking fabric to help moisture evaporate faster. I also love that I can just toss it in the washer with the rest of my running clothes and it comes out just fine.
With all that sweating it’s so important to be replenishing those lost electrolytes. In the past I’ve used SmartWater and coconut water, but I began adding Nuun tablets to my water and I can really feel a difference. I especially love the new Nuun Energy tablets with the added green tea extract and B vitamins. Plus the flavors are really delicious like Cherry Limeade, so it tastes like a treat with no sugary after taste.
Summer running takes a few more products and a little more planning to pull off, but like all hard things each time we conquer them, we’re better for it. Happy running friends!
Don’t forget to subscribe by putting your email address in the “Keep in Touch” box for a chance to enter to WIN all my SUMMER RUNNING ESSENTIALS.
What helps get you through the summer heat?
What is your favorite Nuun flavor?
Do you prefer a hat, visor, or headband?
I have the coolest running story to share with you!
My friend Crystal is the one in the middle with the cute pink shorts (Lululemon). When I first read about this experience on her Facebook page I was amazed and even got a little choked up. One of her friends commented that is was a real life “Good Samaritan” running story. First, let me give you a little background information.
We’ve all had that race. You know the one that leaves you slightly traumatized for weeks after, like you’re battling a little PTRSD (Post Traumatic Running Stress Disorder), and the pain is only made more heartbreaking when you’ve trained for a personal record or a Boston qualifying time. And here’s the gut wrenching truth all runners know, the one thing we can’t control on race day is the weather.
My friend Crystal had trained harder than ever to get a Boston qualifying time at the Ogden, Utah marathon this past May. Ogden was one of my sub 3 backup plans if Boston didn’t go my way, but at the last minute I heard about the Mt. Charleston Revel Marathon in Las Vegas and ended up running that instead. Unfortunately, the spring weather in Northern Utah is almost as notorious and mercurial as it can be in Boston; to say it rained is a gross understatement. Participants described the monsoon like weather as atrocious with rain piercing my skin and I guess it could have been worse, there wasn’t any lightning this year or the wind was brutal, with up to 40 MPH gusts.
Here’s how my friend described the day:
“This was my 2nd and last attempt at the Ogden marathon. Less than half of the participants finished. A few of my friends dropped out due to hypothermia and I should have done the same. The whole time I really couldn’t believe people were running in 40 mph winds with freezing rain and hail. My hands stopped working at mile 6, so fueling for the race was out since I couldn’t even open the gels. My face was so numb I felt like I’d been to the dentist. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, my hips started to cramp. I kept running but I had to slow down. By mile 22 the weather actually cleared up a little but by then my legs, from my calves to my hips, were completely cramped. I walked and ran the last 3 miles and finished. I was starving, shivering, and before I knew it crying. My husband took this picture about 10 seconds before I finished and my face is pretty accurate.”
My heart just broke for my friend because I know that pain. I lived it during the 2015 Boston Marathon and it also left me in tears.
Here is where the story gets really good. A few weeks later Crystal’s Ogden Marathon race bib surprisingly arrived in the mail, it had blown off somewhere along the course. Here is what the accompanying note said:
I hope this race bib finds you. I was cheering the Ogden Marathon runners from the Pineview Dam when I saw your bib fall off. I know it is tattered but thought it would serve as a reminder of running the Ogden Marathon with the worst storm ever. The wind and rain on the course were awful. I think you guys were awesome to push on and finish the race. Nice job!
I am so moved by this gesture. I know the sacrifices it takes to prepare for race day and I know the disappointment when the race doesn’t go the way you train for, and hope for, and pray for. Race bibs are special, they are tangible evidence of grit, determination, and courage. The more torn, the more tattered, the more they were earned. I’m so glad that Crystal was reunited with a race bib that proves she’s made up of all those qualities. The marathon is a humbling sport, but so is the kindness of strangers. It’s a small reminder that in this imperfect and sometimes dark world, there are still people spreading goodness and light, and that is a very big thing. Happy running friends!
Joan Jett, in true rocker spirit, famously said “I love rock ‘n roll,” and with her raw guitar chords, 80’s mullet, and black eyeliner, you knew she meant it.
If ever running and rock intersected then that was the kind of party I didn’t want to miss. So when my Dad asked if I wanted to run the Seattle Rock’n’Roll half marathon with him I said I love rock ‘n roll so put another dime in the jukebox baby, just kidding.
It was more like, “sure!”
I thought about racing this one and probably drove my parents a little nuts as I waffled back and forth, but I ended up deciding to run this just for fun. I had promised myself that I would take off the month of June from racing and give myself a little break from the stress and pressure that naturally accompanies race day. Since I was enjoying an easy month, with no tempo runs and no speed work, I wasn’t primed to have a strong race. And most importantly, I wanted to run this with my dad and cross the finish line together.
We headed to the expo on a Thursday to pick up our packets (I love a 2 day expo). We also did a little taste testing (I tried out every new waffle flavor at the Honeystinger booth), got in a little product testing (Jaybird headphones are now on my wish list), and even managed a little shopping (I got the cutest Seattle Rock’n’Roll tank top at the Brooks Running expo store). Considering the number of entrants, we were expecting the expo to be really chaotic, but it was very organized and easy to navigate. My dad, a long-time King County resident has a lot of experience facing the vicious nightmare known as Seattle Traffic, so he took full advantage of what the race offered to help mitigate those problems. He paid an additional $25 for a guaranteed spot in the CenturyLink parking garage (worked like a charm) and $10 for 2 red stickers on each of our bibs that guaranteed us a spot on the buses to Seattle Center (not worth the money). I had planned on returning to the expo Friday for the We Run Social meet-up, but sadly the rain and traffic lived up to it’s dire reputation.
We got a really early start Saturday morning so we would have plenty of time to get downtown and it’s a good thing we did. There was very little traffic on I-5, but once we turned onto Edgar Martinez Blvd everything came to a halt. For forty-five minutes we crept along at a snail’s pace and worried that we would miss the buses and maybe even the start. I was googling how far Seattle Center was (2.3 miles) and wondering if we ran/walked to the start would we still make it on time. Finally, the Seattle police arrived and saved the day, positioning themselves at the intersections to get traffic moving again. We parked, grabbed our things, and RAN to the buses. And that extra $10 for red dot stickers, they weren’t even checking.
The next stop was Seattle Center for the start line, being greeted by the Space Needle was pretty phenomenal. I love that we handed our drop bags to UPS truck drivers, I’ve never been more sure that I would see my extra layers and my leftover banana again. We were both a little turned around, but we followed the crowd to the start. The race had an official start time of 7 am, but ended up being delayed 15 minutes. Because there are so many runners, each corral had about a 2 minute separation, so it was almost 8 by the time we were actually running. It was a little chilly for this St. George girl, but I was thankful the rain held off for most of our run.
There was great energy at the start from the crowd and the announcers and even my dad was bobbing along to DNCE’s Cake by the Ocean. I’ve always wanted to stop and take mid-race pictures so that’s what we did. Running along the Seattle Viaduct was pretty amazing, this iconic eyesore is set to be torn down soon although the timeline for the new Seattle tunnel has been shall we say…delayed due to technical difficulties. I have driven the Viaduct a hundred times, so to get to run on it was really, really special!
It’s an urban course with a lot of pavement and highways. Seattle is a really beautiful city and I’m not sure the course this year took full advantage of the best spots. However, it was certainly rocking and quirky. We saw a handful of bands, a few cheerleaders, one group of drummers, and Seafair pirates (a long standing Seattle tradition).
Plus the Brooks Running (Man? Guitarist? Rocker guy? Does he have a name?) was pretty cool too!
The best part of the entire course was the blue mile. It’s lined with volunteers holding American flags and pictures of soldiers who gave their lives fighting for this country. The volunteers are cheering for us the runners and that experience was incredibly moving and humbling. I wish every race added a “run to remember mile” to honor the service and sacrifice of our most courageous men and women.
My dad had a pretty good kick at the end and we ran our fastest mile at mile 12, we crossed the finish line in 2:06 and some change. I would say this was a very true course, meaning that there was never a downhill spot where you would be able to really gain speed. It would not have been a PR course for me, so to see that Jared Ward ran it in 1:06 just blows my mind! There is something really special about sharing finish lines with people you love, I’m not sure how many more half marathons my dad will want to run (hopefully lots and lots), so I’m incredibly grateful to have shared these miles and this race memory together. I’m going to join in with Joan and say it loud and proud, “I love rock’n roll too!” Happy running friends!
Have you ever run the Rock’n’Roll Races? Which one is your favorite?
Have you ever been stuck in traffic and worried you’d miss the race?
What’s your favorite expo activity? Shopping, product testing, or eating?
Whoever said, “I only need a six month vacation twice a year,” was a wise, wise person. There is nothing quite like a vacation to allow the mind, body, and soul (cheesy but true) to reset, especially when the getaway includes sun, sand, and surf. Last January my parents invited me and my little family to join them for a week on the Big Island. At the time, I was elbows deep in teaching 150 sixth graders how to write argumentative essays and summer still seemed eons away. But eventually, I graded all of those essays and then some more, made it through state standardized testing, finished up reports cards, and it was finally time to embrace summer!
I read a great article from Runner’s World about running on vacation here. So if you’ve got an upcoming summer trip planned it has some good tips and is worth a read.
Some people might want to take a vacation from their routine, running included, but I love to run when I travel. It’s my favorite way to connect with a new place, get my bearings, shake off jet lag, explore, ponder, reflect, and feel energized. It’s really all the things that running does for me when I’m home, except I get to do it in new surroundings. I love that running can really be done anywhere, just lace up your shoes and go!
The jet lag had me awake dark and early almost every morning-hello 4 am my old friend! But early is always better because once everyone is up and ready to go, it’s difficult to squeeze in a run. We stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa resort which had a great almost 3 mile loop that took me from road, to resort trails, to sand, and then back to the road again. It was a little repetitive doing 3 or 4 loops each morning, but I was so thankful to not be stuck on the treadmill.
Since my parents are runners they understand my need to get out and exercise. One of them would generously stay back at the hotel with my three year old, who thankfully, needed extra sleep due to the the jet lag, and then they would trade off. So I was able to run a loop with each of them and then get in a few more solo miles. These weren’t hard or fast miles, I really had to scale back the pace because of the heat and the humidity. You humid weather runners are some tough people! While I was still able to get in my miles, I wasn’t able to maintain my strength training, and it’s okay. There were other activities we were off to do, like my new favorite boogie boarding which is now called body surfing. I’m going to stick with the old school term for this sport because no part of what I was doing could justifiably be called surfing. I indulged in ice-cream every day because when it’s homemade, it’s practically a whole food. And now that I’m home, I’m thankful for every mile, deep breath, delicious bite, sunset, sunrise and each forever memory.
I know for me, running on vacation is just a matter of doing my best to stay active, adjusting the intensity, enjoying the company, and taking in the beautiful scenery.
This is one of my favorite vacation pictures.
Where are you headed this summer?
How do you balance vacations and running?
Have you ever been to Hawaii?
I literally had to move to St. George to finally be able to run the marathon. Prior to moving here (we moved from the Seattle area), I had applied twice and wasn’t selected either time, so I still get nervous when registration opens. I cross my fingers, double check my address (I always want to BOLD my city, state, and zip code so there can be no doubt), and still worry that somehow I might not get in. But I am excited to announce that I will be running the 2016 St. George Marathon on October 1st.
St. George is my absolute favorite race to be a part of. It’s my hometown and that of course makes it special. But the best part is training with my friends, sharing our marathon goals together, and seeing the hard work pay off. A lot of runners erroneously believe that St. George is an all downhill, easy race, but it’s not. It’s a course where if you want to be successful you have to be strategic. I’ve had some success on the course, I was able to get my first BQ here, but I’ve also been humbled by this race and it’s never been my PR.
This year after reading through some of the fine print on the website, I decided to be brave and apply for an Elite Spot. The requirement time for the Open Women was a 2:55 marathon or a 1:25 half marathon. My marathon PR is 2:55:16, so I wasn’t sure if that would qualify me, but I do have 3 half marathon times from this year that are below the requirement. Additionally, I had to attach a “Running Resume.” What the heck is a running resume, were my exact words next words. I know…heck (you can roll your eyes), remember I’m from Utah now. So I did what I do anytime I have a running question, I quickly texted my friend Amber who showed me an example of hers.
Basically, it’s a short introduction about yourself, which includes your racing profile for the last 2-3 years, and some references (I used my coach and also the owner of our local racing team).
Here was the response:
Basically, it changes nothing (I get it, 16 seconds is 16 seconds, you have to draw the line somewhere), but it’s always worth asking because you only stand to gain. My plan is to take the month of June easy and build my base back up slowly. Then in July, the real work will begin and I am so excited to see what’s possible. I would of love to get a PR on this course, but I would be so happy to see a 2:XX:XX. I will be working hard on this new dream.
What’s your next race?
What are your summer running plans?
Have you ever run St. George?
There is a learning curve to every facet of our lives and it’s amazing how quickly we learn when we have to. Motherhood was like that; our short but anxious drive home from the hospital holding my daughter’s tiny hand left me wondering, can I really do this? My first year of teaching was the same; no college class can adequately prepare you for the moment you have 25 pairs of eyes staring back at you. No memorized facts or rote book knowledge can prepare you for the dive-right-in-head-first kinds of real life experiences. But of course these sink-or-swim challenges are the things that really help us grow and over time we realize our knowledge has increased and our results have improved and we’ve caught up with the curve a little.
My running “learning curve” has been acquired more slowly, but with the intensity of my training over the last 6 months, and racing two marathons in 20 days, I have plenty of fresh data with which to evaluate and assess my running curve. Here’s what I’ve learned.
Take risks: I love this advice from the book Running Within, “Remember that what’s lost by not trying and what’s lost by not succeeding are two very different things.” If it’s a setback, we will learn from it, a failure really is a gift to figure out how to do it better. My friend Amber, who was the first female at the Mt. Charleston Marathon, spoke with our coach the night before the race. She was so happy that the course wasn’t as steep as she had feared. His advice was to go for it, put it out there, because even if you blow up the last few miles it’s worth the risk. She ran a personal best best of 2:35. We have to war against those fears and remember that racing is about celebrating our own indomitable spirit because in those moments we break out of the limits we put on ourselves is when we achieve our greatest successes.
Visualize Success: I always find some quiet moments to visualize a successful race. I listen to one of my favorite songs and go through as many parts of the race as I can in my mind. I visualize the moment to moment excitement, feeling the flow of a well executed race, and imagining that it’s unfolding the way I have hoped for and trained for. I usually do this the day before or the night of the race to put myself in healthy state of mind. It really helps me to handle the pre-race nerves and set my tone and intentions for race day.
Don’t stress about race water: I used to really get hung up on water. I would coordinate with my husband to meet me on the course with a Smart Water sports-top bottle. In retrospect this caused me more stress. I would worry that we’d miss each other, I ended up ignoring my body’s signals to drink because I knew my husband was only a mile or two away, and I’ve learned I don’t need special electrolyte water. As it turns out, plain old H2O works just fine. And it’s also fine to come to a full stop and drink. I cannot drink on the run, the water gets on my face, in my nose, and very little actually gets in my mouth. Yes, you’ll lose a little time, but without proper hydration you risk losing the race.
No music until mile 6: This was the plan at Boston because I wanted to have time to take in the race, the people, and the energy. In a marathon, it always takes a few miles until I’ve found my running groove, so once the music goes in everything starts to feel like it’s clicking. Music is a great race tool for me and delaying that assistance means that it’s still aiding me when I really need to dig deep at the end.
Plan for panics: These are the moments in a race that can creep up or come abruptly where you question for a minute or a mile, can I keep going? “Panics” feels like the best word to describe these emotions because you can fight through them. Say to yourself this is a panic. Identify and acknowledge what is causing it, for example: My calf feels like it’s cramping up and I don’t know if this a sign of dehydration or if it’s really hurt (Real self talk during the Mt. Charleston Marathon, there may have been a few “s-h” words that followed). Take some deep cleansing breaths, slow down, relax and assess, and hopefully you’ll be able to push through. It sounds simple, but it’s helped me a lot.
Don’t let problems ruin your race: 26.2 miles is a long way and there are bound to be problems. They can be minor things like a dropped GU (but it’s okay because you always pack an extra…I do now), a side-ache, a playlist that is on shuffle, or even a quick bathroom stop. They can also be major things like your Garmin won’t link up, you’re battling a new pain, or you have a stomach upset. We try to plan as best as possible to mitigate those unforeseen obstacles, but the best thing to do is to not allow it to ruin your race. I have adopted the mantra of “This will not ruin my race.” Whatever problem I encounter that is my first response I think it, I say it, I believe it, and it really helps.
Listen to your heart: In the book, The Zen of Running, the author states, “There are no victories except the joy you are living while dancing your run; you are not running for some future reward-the real reward is now!” This sums up the heart of running and racing; the reward is in the moment you conquer fear, you meet a goal, you learn a valuable lesson, you grow, you change. Let your heart and your mind guide your body to do what you trained it to do, that is where the magic is.
And those moments, win or learn, well you just bumped up your overall running curve. Happy running friends!
What’s a lesson marathon running has taught you?
Have you ever faced a “panic” during a race? How did you overcome it?
I love the quote, “If Plan A fails, remember there are 25 more letters.”
Mt. Charleston, part of the Revel Race Series, was Plan B.
Before going to Boston my husband and I had a long talk, I was deep in taper trauma and having one of those “what-if” meltdowns: what if it’s too hot, what if I get sick, what if I don’t sleep, what if it’s an off day. The what if’s were mingled with tears. And my final probing what if was, if it doesn’t happen in Boston then what about trying Mt. Charleston and my sweet, supportive husband said, “okay.”
I knew going into Boston that because of the difficulty of the course, the fickleness of New England weather in the spring, and the toll of travel that getting a sub 3 would be challenging. But I also knew that the oldest and greatest marathon deserved my very best, so that’s what I gave it. Still, I came up short. 46 seconds short (I would have been happy with a 2:59:59). But it wasn’t the heartbreaker I thought it would be because I didn’t see it as missing my goal, if anything it gave me the confidence boost that a sub 3 was possible.
To be honest, when I emailed my coach after Boston, he wasn’t thrilled with my choice to turn around and race another marathon. He felt like it would be smarter to take some time off, that I hadn’t really trained for a lot of downhill, and even warned me against the injury risk that increases exponentially without properly resting my body. But when I explained that my heart was in it, he came up with a recovery/maintenance plan for the 18 days in between the two races.
Before I knew it, race weekend was here…again. We drove down to Las Vegas on Friday, checked into our hotel, and breezed through packet pickup. I couldn’t find anyone to talk to who had run the entire course, so we decided to drive it, and I’m so glad we did. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the course wasn’t as steep as I had expected, that being said, every time I drive 26.2 miles, I really am struck by the enormity of the challenge, it’s a long, long way.
My alarm went off at 3:30 am and I got ready with plenty of time to meet my friends in the lobby at 4:15. Meeting up with my friends turns the nerves into excitement, I am so thankful for the support, laughs, well wishes, and knowing nods of runner friends. We loaded onto charter buses which was a really nice touch and headed up the course. We only had about 40 minutes at the start, so we quickly got in the porta-potty lines, stripped down, took a quick picture, and did a warm-up. The mountains were breathtaking, the clouds sat low and the gentlest of snow began to fall. I wasn’t calm necessarily, but I felt relaxed, more relaxed than I’ve ever been at the start of a marathon. I thought of the quote by Des Linden, “Fast running isn’t forced. You have to relax and let the run come out of you.” I had time for a quick prayer, 3 deep breaths, and the gun went off.
I was so happy be running with my friend Aubree, she and I were able to run together until about mile 12 , it’s always such a comfort to not be running alone. From the beginning I felt a laser like focus on the task ahead of me. I was thinking things like relax, run, drop your arms, fuel, and hydrate. Even though we started with snow flurries, I knew that the elevation and the dry climate could increase my chances of dehydration. I came to a full stop at almost every water stop (about every 2 miles) and drank 1 cup of water. I know it costs time, but failing to hydrate early on will cost the race (I have learned that lesson the hard way). I ran without music until mile 6 and the moment my music goes in, I really get into the groove of running, the run just starts to click. But it’s not all perfect. There are two things that have really helped my to gauge and redirect the challenges that will arise over the course of 26 miles. First, is the simple mantra where I repeat, “This will not ruin my race.” It puts me in the mind frame of problem solving or overcoming the present obstacle, like an unplanned pit stop at mile 9. It cost me time, but it was not going to ruin my race. Second, after reading the amazing Tina Muir’s blog, I learned to identify what she calls “panics” in my race. This time there were 3: a calf cramp, a stomach upset after took Aleve (due to the calf cramp), and miles 22-24. Since I recognized these as panics, I didn’t let them turn to blow-ups. I slowed down, I took deep breaths, I assessed, and then I carried on.
I had been running as third female, but seeing my little family and especially hearing my daughter cheering her heart out gave me the boost I needed to fight for second around mile 21. When I passed the third female, we shared a little moment. I told her she was doing great and I was going to try to push for the next two miles. She was so encouraging and positive. I love that kind of supportive competition between runners.
Miles 22-24 were tough. I was deep in the pain cave and trying to focus my mind on my tempo runs. I was thinking of this part of the race as just another set of 2 mile repeats. I kept repeating in my mind the 6:40 pace that I was hoping for. When I hit mile 23, I felt some relief. I kept telling myself that even if I ran a 10 minute mile, I will come under 3 hours. By mile 25, I knew it was done, I felt my intensity lessen, and I was filled with gratitude and joy. Each step brought me closer to my goal, the finish line, and two people I love the most. When I crossed the finish line I saw Amber, my training partner and the First Female with a PR of 2:35, and more than anyone she understands the sacrifices and the work it took to get there. We hugged, I cried, and then I saw Joe and Megan and my whole heart was bursting with happiness. It was a moment I’ll never forget.
There were a lot of moments when I questioned the merit of this dream, it certainly takes a toll on my life, but I held onto the hope that it was possible.
I can’t help but think of the beautiful words by Emily Dickinson, “Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words, and never stops at all.”
Whatever dreams are perched in your soul, continue to chase them, keep fighting for them, and never ever give up hope.
Happy running friends!
What’s your next race?
What is the hope and dream you’re chasing?
I would LOVE to answer any questions about this race! Ask away!